John Kass

Prominent Chicago Democrats have had an easy time with the national media for decades -- as easy as shaking a ring of keys to distract an anxious child in church.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley rode a bicycle in photo ops and put a few plants on the roof of City Hall, leading the national news networks to cast him as the "green" mayor, not as the absolute boss of a broken and corrupt political system that piled debt on the city and drained its future for the benefit of the insiders.

President Barack Obama appeared on the late-night talk shows as the mystical healer of America's broken politics, not as some untested suit who held the hand of now-imprisoned bagman Tony Rezko while learning to cross Chicago's political streets.

And Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff?

He hangs with Jimmy Fallon and they tell jokes about jumping into a freezing Lake Michigan. Emanuel is as cool and practiced a media manipulator as the fictional Frank Underwood in "House of Cards."

But a headline of 82 people shot in Chicago in 84 hours is embarrassing to the mayor, particularly for a mayor who sees the fifth floor of City Hall as a mere stop on the road to his national political destiny.

So he held a news conference on the Far South Side this week, a familiar exercise, full of the necessary archetypes:

Wise neighborhood matrons flanking the mayor and nodding their heads in agreement. Grieving families in support, better there at his side than out on the street asking angry questions.

They talked of the need for everyone to step up to face the crisis, from community leaders to parents, federal officials, judges -- everyone except, of course, the mayor of Chicago.

And he avoided the overriding question, again and again: When are we going to hire more police officers?

"Now, a lot of people will say, 'Where were the police? What were the police doing?' That's a fair question, but not the only question," the mayor said.

"Where are the parents? Where is the community? Where are the gun laws? Where are the national leaders, so we don't have the guns of Cook County, Indiana and downstate Illinois flowing into the city?"

Rattle those keys, Mr. Mayor.

A TV reporter asked him about tired police officers who've been working overtime because he won't hire more. Another reporter asked why New York and Los Angeles have lower homicide rates than Chicago.

thank you (for) your question," Rahm said, launching into a diatribe on gun laws, rather than on police staffing.