As Bill Clinton hits Chicago today to campaign for Rahm Emanuel, Luis Gutierrez, since 1993 the Congressman from the 4th District, is recording a robo call urging Chicagoans to vote for Gery Chico for mayor—and not to vote for Rahm Emanuel. Gutierrez, the loudest voice in the U.S congress for easing up on immigrants, and, for a time, a prospect to run for mayor, blames Clinton and his point man Emanuel for NAFTA, the 1993 free trade agreement. Gutierrez voted no in 1993 because he predicted NAFTA would kill “hundreds of thousands of jobs in Illinois.”
In a telephone conversation last night, Gutierrez repeatedly claimed that his prediction of 18 years ago has come true.
CF: You are hitting Rahm Emanuel hard on NAFTA. Why?
LG: The chief architect of NAFTA was Rahm Emanuel. I hear him talking in his commercials about how he’s concerned about jobs, jobs, jobs. Wasn’t concerned about jobs 18 years ago, and [I say to him], “You never used your power, your influence to mitigate, certainly what was clear to you… the adverse impact on jobs in Chicago and Illinois.” The Clinton administration and Rahm never… engaged people in a public policy debate around NAFTA. The question always was, “What is it going to take to get your vote? How do… we politically quench your thirst? How do we wet your beak politically.”
CF: Does Rahm get any credit for anything good that came out of the Clinton administration?
LG: In one of his commercials he says he was with Bill Clinton leading the fight for putting cops on the street. You can’t pick and choose that one and then say the seminal economic issue of the Clinton administration, his first huge legislative victory, NAFTA, I had nothing to do with that. You think of me, immigration advocate comes to mind. You think of Mike Quigley [Rahm’s successor in Congress] and reformer, ethics, comes to mind. When you think of Rahm there isn’t a public policy that germinates to your mind. Now he’s attempting in that void, vacuum to create one. You can’t be for all things Clinton when it comes to police officers on the street and…and not be all things Clinton when it comes to the loss of…hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state.
CF: When Mayor Daley announced his wasn’t running for reelection last September and Rahm decided to run, did Rahm talk to you as he did to your colleagues in the Congress, Danny Davis and Mike Quigley, for example?
LG: Rahm calls and says, “You and I should talk. I should be given an opportunity to be heard out.”… I didn’t because I was considering running…. [It was] a very cynical approach to garnering the title of self-fulfilling prophecy of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It always seemed to me that when Rahm spoke to you there was a press release after, and that’s no way to have conversations about the future. They’re all turned into these mini publicity stunts.
CF: Didn’t you work with and get along with Rahm when you were in Congress?
LG: We worked together [but] Rahm always thought about the mechanics of electoral and political victory and always put a higher premium on that over the substance of public policy.
CF: You complained that the Chicago media has “coronated” Emanuel. Why have so many declared this race over and Emanuel the victor?
LG: They have a simplistic view of the Chicago electorate. Twenty-five years behind…Beirut on the Lake. There’s a much smarter, more sophisticated electorate in the city in Chicago. Yes, Chico’s grandpa came from Mexico to work in meat packing plants that Upton Sinclair wrote about, [but] Chico’s message reaches out well beyond the Latino community.
CF: Was Gery Chico always your choice?
LG: I always liked [Sheriff] Tom Dart. I thought he was unique in his blue-collar approach to being sheriff, not evicting people from homes. He and I spoke. [Dart later dropped out. Read what the sheriff told me in our December 2010 chat.]
CF: Are Rich Daley and Bill Daley supporting Rahm Emanuel?
LG: Yes…. I don’t believe for one second that when Rahm Emanuel was on the talk show circuit and said he’d like to be mayor of Chicago one day that that wasn’t done with the blessing [of the Mayor]. You know how Mayor Daley treats people who say they want to take him out of office—not kindly. All Gery Chico said was that the education system could be improved and Mayor Daley went half cocked…. Everyone should assume one thing: that power … isn’t something that you just release, that somehow you just give power up. People always try to transfer it.
CF: Why does Rahm Emanuel want to be mayor?
LG: Because he can’t be speaker of the House.
CF: He sacrificed that ambition then to take a job in the White House because the President asked him to.
LG: I don’t think he saw that two years later Mayor Daley wouldn’t be mayor of Chicago…. It looked pretty good that Chicago would get the Olympics. You think that if Daley had gotten the Olympics, he’d not be running for mayor?
CF: Had Daley run again how would Rahm have regained his Congressional seat to reach his ambition to be the first Jewish speaker? Mike Quigley wasn’t going to step aside to give Rahm his path back.
LG: Only Rahm knows what he knows…. He’s had a plan from day one.
Photography: (Gutierrez) Chicago Tribune; (Emanuel) Esther Kang