WASHINGTON (AP) – A fatal police shot at a black teenager in Chicago seven years ago loomed over former Mayor Ram Emanuel, who is hoping to receive confirmation as President Joe Biden’s ambassador to Japan.
Several liberal lawmakers and House activists have complained that Emanuel’s actions over the death of 17-year-old Lacuan MacDonald, who was shot 16 times while escaping police, should have disqualified him from consideration for the coveted role. They believe the appointment is not in line with the values of the administration, which prioritizes “comprehensive and meaningful police reform.”
The Emanuel administration refused to publish video footage of the murder using a state police dash cam for over a year, and only after a state court forced it to do so. He later apologized for his attitude to the situation, which sparked weeks of mostly peaceful protests in the country’s third-largest city after the video was published.
Emanuel is due to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday at a confirmation hearing on the seventh anniversary of McDonald’s assassination.
The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 am ET. See listening in the turntable above.
Emanuel’s reputation for sharp elbows, forged over nearly 40 years in national politics as a congressman and top adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, is also part of the background as he tries to demonstrate that he has a temperament for international diplomacy, especially in protocol-abiding Japan. …
White House spokesman Jen Psaki spoke out against criticism on Tuesday, saying that “Biden’s commitment to police reform speaks for itself.”
“At the same time, he selects and appoints a number of ambassadors to serve the United States overseas because of their qualifications, whether it be business, government service or other reasons that would allow them to take these positions,” Psaki said.
If confirmed, Emanuel will become Biden’s top envoy to Japan at a time when the two countries seek to strengthen ties as their common adversary, China, has strengthened its position as an economic and national security rival in the Pacific region.
The White House is confident that Emanuel will be confirmed by the Senate, despite harsh criticism from several of the president’s allies in the liberal wing of the party’s House of Representatives, whose members do not vote for confirmation.
So far, none of the Senate Democrats has publicly announced that they will vote against Emanuel. The White House also expects him to enlist the support of several Republicans in the Senate, including those who served alongside him during his term in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009.
Senator Bill Hagerty, Republic of Tennessee, who was former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Tokyo, is due to introduce Emanuel to the committee.
Among Democrats most critical of Emanuel’s candidacy are Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, who called the choice “deeply shameful,” and Rep. Cory Bush from Missouri, who called on the Senate to “do the right thing and block its purpose ”.
The head of the NAACP and a number of police reform activists also spoke out against the appointment of Emanuel, who was also running for Biden’s transport minister.
The release of MacDonald’s video, in which a teenager was repeatedly shot and killed while fleeing police, prompted the city to make a series of changes in police cameras, the use of force, and training policies. A few months before the video was released, the city officials agreed to pay the McDonald’s family $ 5 million in compensation.
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot MacDonald 16 times. was convicted of second-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated assault and sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. The episode exacerbated Emanuel’s relationship with the city’s large black community.
Before the hearing, eight black Chicago city councilors who were allies of Emanuel during his tenure and the former deputy mayor wrote to the Committee on Foreign Relations, praising Emanuel for extending the working day of the city’s public schools and taking other steps that have been beneficial for a long time. abandoned black neighborhoods.
The Reverend Martin Hunter, MacDonald’s great uncle, also wrote to the committee on Emanuel’s behalf, claiming that he “inherited a deeply flawed system” of police investigations that tied his hands.
“There is more to this man than a caricature presented to the public,” Hunter wrote in a letter received by the Associated Press.
After leaving mayor’s office, Emanuel was a staunch supporter of Biden’s success in the White House and worked as a political analyst for television. He also raised $ 13 million in financial filings, largely from his work as a senior advisor to investment banking firm Centerview Partners Advisory Holdings.
In Chicago, a group of activists on Tuesday called on the Senate to reject Emanuel’s candidacy, noting that, in addition to the MacDonald shooting, his tenure as mayor has been overshadowed by the closure of dozens of public schools and several psychiatric clinics in predominantly minority areas. the city coped with the budget shortage.
When he left office, the city was mired in over $ 30 billion in unpaid retirement arrears to city workers, much of it inherited from the administration of the previous mayor, Richard M. Daley.
“I live in the aftermath,” said Chima “Naira” Ikoro, an activist and writer based in South Chicago. “There are students who have been displaced but never returned to school because of this person.”
Norman Solomon, national director of the liberal organization RootsAction.org, said his group is helping to coordinate a letter-writing campaign and phone calls, urging lawmakers to vote against Emanuel’s nomination.
Solomon also criticized Senator Robert Menendez, chief Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, for holding a confirmation hearing on the anniversary of McDonald’s assassination, saying that this demonstrates that many Democrats are in an “ignorant bubble.”
Rev. Ira Akri, a civil rights activist based in Chicago, said Biden’s decision to award Emanuel an ambassador was disappointing.
“What he did was an unforgivable political sin,” Acre said of Emanuel. “But the President and the Democratic Party seem to want to reward him for his influence, what they see as his high political acumen and his extraordinary ability to raise money.”
If confirmed, Emanuel will follow a long line of prominent political figures sent to Tokyo by both Democratic and Republican presidents. The list includes former Vice President Walter Mondale, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff Howard Baker.
However, diplomacy has not always been Emanuel’s forte. His old boss, Obama, admitted during the Emanuel Mayor’s re-election campaign that he can sometimes seem “a little stubborn.”
Emanuel once sent a dead fish into a poll whose work he didn’t like, and he became famous for his harsh – and often rude – communication style.
Yuko Nakano, a Japanese analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that while Emanuel has limited foreign policy experience, Japanese officials are pleased that Biden wants to send someone with an Emanuel profile to lead the Japanese mission.
“His experience in the White House and Congress in the decision-making process is very appealing to the Japanese,” Nakano said. “That qualification outweighs him not being an expert on Japan, or even an expert on foreign policy for that matter.”
Associated Press contributors Darlene Superville from Washington and Sofia Taryn from Chicago provided the coverage.