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updated: 7/17/2011 8:37 PM

Should Emanuel be fundraising for Obama, or Chicago?

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Until now, Rahm Emanuel has had pretty good timing.

When the halo was still in place overhead Barack Obama, Emanuel grabbed ahold.

When Mayor Richard M. Daley got out, Emanuel got in.

As his Chicago residency was questioned, Emanuel found boxes of personal things packed in his former Ravenswood basement-proving he planned to return home.

During the campaign he said the right things to get elected.

Now, it's been two months since he raised his right hand on the stage in Millennium Park, and Mayor Emanuel and his sensibility clock has gone out of sync.

How else can you explain the mayor's plan to leave town this week on a political mission to New York City?

As Mayor Emanuel is sending out layoff notices to about 625 city of Chicago employees and cutting some city services that they performed, flaming the hides of union leaders who never supported him in the first place, he is jetting to New York Thursday to campaign for his old boss.

"My duty as mayor is to protect our city's taxpayers and be their voice -- not to protect the city's payroll," is what Emanuel said Friday, in announcing the job cuts.

While that may be true -- or at least sounds good and strong -- being mayor is also a full-time job.

Mayor Emanuel began moonlighting last week as an operative for Obama 2012. He appeared at a fundraiser Wednesday for "Gen44" backers of Obama, young supporters who donated $44 to the campaign. The event was held at Chicago's East Bank Club, where Gen44 fashionistas spend a lot more than that $44 to sweat and drink pomegranate juice.

On Thursday, Mayor Emanuel will be the headliner at the president's big bash in Manhattan, which seems to have become Obama's home away from home. He has spent more time there than he has in Chicago since being elected president.

But that is up to Obama, who is president for all the country.

Rahm Emanuel isn't Obama's major-domo anymore. He is Chicago's primo don ... although leaving a town in desperate need of money to go help a candidate who doesn't really need help is more prima donna.

Seriously, Obama has already raised $86 million the past three months for his re-election and the Democratic Party. That has been without Rahm Emanuel's glad-handing.

If Mayor Emanuel has enough daylight leftover from his full-time job to go out and raise money, perhaps he should consider a nationwide campaign to start a fundraising effort on behalf of Chicago, which is more than $500 million in the hole.

With all the displaced Chicagoans across the nation, exiled Chicago sports fans, and Chicago students studying elsewhere, a spirited pass-the-hat campaign could create just the windfall the city needs.

"I have just laid off hundreds of city workers" Emanuel could tell crowds in Topeka. "Please, help the city that works keep working. If Chicago fails ... Topeka might be next."

The mayor's press secretary could then pass a few fedora's through the crowd and Chicago would be on it's way to solvency.

At least Emanuel would be out of town working at his job as mayor instead of what he plans to be doing this week in New York -- working at his former job as White House chief of staff.

It is true that, during the campaign, Emanuel made it clear he planned to do whatever he could to get President Obama re-elected. But things have changed. Chicago needs him far more than Obama. If Emanuel wants to fulfill his perceived obligation to Mr. Obama, perhaps he should just write a big check.

Emanuel may have forgotten that during his campaign he infuriated thousands of city workers -- who now call him boss -- by insinuating that they were lazy. He questioned their mindset as "public servants."

It will not be lost on those he is laying off and their union leaders that Mayor Emanuel has enough time after just two months in office to begin a part-time job as an Obama campaign envoy.

Of course, this is more about appearance than reality. A few hours away from his office on the fifth floor of Chicago City Hall won't cause bond ratings to plunge.

But juxtaposed against what Emanuel said last week as he announced layoffs, a political trip to New York at this time should be a bit embarrassing for the mayor.

"No amount of smoke and mirrors can put off the tough decisions any longer" Emanuel said Friday.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at and followed at