Rahm Emanuel making nice? He must be running for something.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, is set to speak at a big event on cooperation and civility in political discourse. Might he be looking to a mayoral run in Chicago (and would civility help him)?

M. Spencer Green/AP/File
Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel laughs while participating in the annual Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum in Chicago, in this April 27 file photo.

Wow, maybe Rahm Emanuel really is going to run for mayor of Chicago. Otherwise, why would he have agreed to appear on a high-profile panel at the National Cathedral and talk about ways of returning civility and cooperation to US political discourse?

After all, “civility and cooperation” is a not a phrase normally associated with President Obama’s chief of staff. We mean no disrespect here, but it is a fairly well-established public fact that when it comes to political discourse Mr. Emanuel has in the past relied heavily on short words of Anglo-Saxon derivation and hand gestures that symbolize unpleasant acts.

Here’s an Emanuel story we can repeat, courtesy of a New York Times profile in 1997: Following the 1992 election, in which Emanuel served as chief fundraiser for the victorious Bill Clinton, Emanuel and some colleagues retired to a Little Rock, Ark., restaurant to celebrate their victory. Talk turned toward people the Clinton campaign considered enemies.

Revenge was in the air. Suddenly, upon the mention of a particular name, Emanuel grabbed his steak knife and plunged it into the table. “Dead!” he screamed.

He and those around the table then chanted out their enemies list, each name followed by a loud “Dead!” and another stabbing of the unfortunate furniture.

People do grow and change, however, and on Oct. 5, as we noted above, Emanuel will be one of the featured speakers at “Governing Across the Divide,” this year’s installment of the Nancy and Paul Ignatius Program, a high-class annual lecture series. Josh Bolten, President George W. Bush’s former chief of staff, will share the stage with him.

They’ll discuss ways to turn the national debate “from accusation to reflection and purposeful debate,” according to the press release announcing the event.

Emanuel was probably booked for this long ago, so maybe it has nothing to do with the possibility of him returning to Illinois to run for mayor of Chicago, now that incumbent Richard M. Daley has said he won’t run for a sixth full term.

And Chicago being the tough town that it is, a reputation for civility might be a hindrance in that race, don’t you think? As opposed to a reputation for table-stabbing and for sending dead fish to pollsters who displease you. (Another famous Emanuel tale.)

Will he run? He’s said before that Chicago mayor is his dream job. The time is about right – White House chiefs of staff burn out fast nowadays.

So far Emanuel has given little public indication of which way he’s leaning. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the opportunity to become mayor of Chicago does not roll around often, but that he’s sure Emanuel will take some time to weigh his options.

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