Friday, October 24, 2014

Do celebrity backings mean much to pols? Or just to their wallets?

Long-time women’s activist Gloria Steinem plans to be in Chicago on Friday to throw her backing to Gov. Pat Quinn in his bid to get one more term in elective office.

Which might seem to be a bigger deal, except that Quinn has been going hog-wild in recent days on the appearances by celebrity pols and activists to try to draw attention to his campaign.

WE GOT TO see President Barack Obama earlier this week in town for Quinn, although the president seemed to have got more attention for the incident at an early polling place when some guy told him to keep his hands off his girlfriend – who happened to be in the voting booth right next to the president.

Both former President Bill Clinton and possible future president Hillary R. Clinton have been in town to tell us we should vote for Pat come Nov. 4.

Vice President Joe Biden (who deep down has to be miffed that he’s NOT regarded as the automatic front-runner for president come the 2016 election cycle) was in Chicago to be seen with the “Mighty” Quinn.

And now Steinem, who according to the Chicago Sun-Times will be hosting a rally to sway female voters and a fundraiser to collect campaign cash for Quinn.

ALTHOUGH I’M WONDERING if she’s going to get more attention for the fact if she actually shows up for this event.

Let’s not forget that she was supposed to be in Chicago in late September to tout Pat Quinn – only it turned out to be the same day of the incident at the FAA facility in suburban Aurora that knocked both O’Hare International and Midway airports out of commission.

If Gloria Steinem can’t get a flight to Chicago on Friday for some yet-to-be-known reason, should we take it as a sign from the heavens above that she is not meant to be as a backer of the Quinn campaign?

That’s a lot of heavy-duty names to show up in Chicago in such a short time span. Perhaps actor Martin Sheen should have held off a bit longer so he could have been squeezed into this week.

JUST THINK OF how much of a hissy fit Republican gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner could have if all those people had touted Pat Quinn during a seven-day span of time? Then again, he’s managed to throw enough hissy fits about Quinn just the way things are.

Perhaps Rauner wishes he could get his share of “names” to come out and say how wonderful he is. Unless he’s satisfied that newspaper publishers, a usually GOP-leaning group, are all uniting in support of him. Ho-hum!

What has me wondering about these appearances is that I question how much they really work? And I don’t mean just these particular individuals. Do any “celebrity” offerings really make much of an impression on the electorate?

I’ll be the first to admit that they enable the candidates to justify charging ridiculous sums of money for people to attend the fund-raising events that all of these stunts were.

WHICH MEANS THEY have helped Pat Quinn come up with the kind of cash that almost lets him keep up with the tens of millions of dollars of his own financial wealth that Rauner has been able to spend on his attempt to gain a political office.

Be honest. Do you know anyone who seriously would pay the thousands of dollars per plate to attend one of these events? Insofar as the average voter is concerned, what matters is the television footage of the candidate with the so-called “name.”

It creates a trivial impression that perhaps these people really have some contacts with each other. Even though I have found in my own contact with political people that they usually detest each other privately and will say some of the most mean-spirited things about each other when they think no one else is listening!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dozen more days of anti-Quinn rhetoric

You know we’re coming close to an Election Day when the hostile rhetoric gets stepped up; I was swamped in all the cheap talk being spewed these days to make Gov. Pat Quinn into the most corrupt of political individuals imaginable.

I lost track of the number of e-mail messages I got before noon Wednesday taking pot shots at Quinn and trying to make it appear as though Republican challenger Bruce Rauner is our state’s savior.

NOW THE FACTUAL basis that inspired most of this trash talk is that U.S. Magistrate judge Sidney Schenkier issued an order that provides for a monitor to oversee the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Political partisans are claiming that the hiring process for that state agency has been politically motivated by the opposition – as in people getting jobs there because they’re owed a political favor, rather than being actually qualified for whatever position they’re applying for.

The judge’s order provides for someone who will study the hiring practices and who eventually will determine whether there’s any legitimacy to the claim, while also imposing any changes that might be required if problems are found.

That conclusion won’t come until well after the Nov. 4 date for Election Day. But for political purposes, it doesn’t matter – not that there’s no hard fact, nor that it may be concluded that nothing inappropriate is taking place.

PERSONALLY, I RECEIVED two e-mail messages from the Rauner campaign – one giving a statement from the candidate to be quoted in news copy. That line about, “A federal judge just confirmed what we’ve known all along – Pat Quinn is corrupt …” and so on.

Then, when the Chicago Tribune managed to quickly piece together a news story Wednesday morning for their web site about the Schenkier ruling (which included Rauner’s ‘response’ at the very end), the Rauner campaign made sure to send a statement pointing out the news story.

Which I had already read on my own. I read the newspapers myself, rather than let others read them for me.

There also was the Illinois Republican Party-issued statement meant to make sure that reporter-type people found out about this particular news happening, and perceived it in the GOP way of the world. Even the Republican Governor's Association felt compelled to e-mail me to make sure I "knew" what was happening.

THAT WAS ON top of the other state Republican statement I got Wednesday morning, letting me know that Quinn would not be present at a Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., campaign event that will highlight Vice President Joe Biden.

Under the headline Brad Schneider to Pat Quinn, Stay Away!, it is meant to give us the impression that nobody wants to be seen in the incumbent governor’s

presence. Just like national Republicans want to believe that Barack Obama is the perennial pariah who takes down everything he touches.

Now I don’t doubt that some people really do feel that way. But whether they’re a majority of the electorate remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that Obama handily won two election cycles for president, despite some of the most hostile rhetoric any candidate has ever faced.

I’m also aware that it is naïve to presume there hasn’t been any political influence in the hiring practices that relate to the state Transportation Department. It probably is to our benefit that we will have a monitor.

BUT I AM influenced by the fact that governments routinely get lawsuits filed against them, are constantly the butt of complaints and have legal entities doing investigations of sorts on any number of issues.

It doesn’t mean they’re all legitimate. In fact, many number of them are politically motivated in-and-of themselves to stir up reactions that people can use to their own advantage.

Truth is usually the last thing that anybody really cares about in these instances – particularly when the claims are being made just 12 days prior to Election Day.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rauner’s Neely talk not as first seems

Thinking back to college, I recall a Spanish class where we had to read a novel en Espanol – a murder mystery entitled Rosaura a las Diez.

As I recall, the story is of a murder that took place in a boardinghouse, and the police are present interviewing everyone who happened to be in the building at the time.

IT STARTED OUT with the account of a long-time resident who talked of how the love of his life had been brutally murdered. But later accounts revealed that the deceased woman barely knew the man – and was far from being his lover.

The man wound up being cleared of the crime, but in a way that made him seem cheap and petty and far from the romantic he described himself to be.

I couldn’t help but sense the same about Bruce Rauner, the Republican running for Illinois governor in the Nov. 4 elections. He’s the man who seems to want us to think that African-American voters just love him. Or at least that they absolutely despise Gov. Pat Quinn so much that they’ll vote for him 13 days from now.

Rauner is the guy who recycled the old news footage of former Mayor Harold Washington explaining why he fired Quinn from a post with the city revenue department some three decades ago.

NOW, HE’S GOING on and on talking about how he plans to make Stephanie Neely a significant part of his administration – should he happen to prevail in the upcoming state government elections.

He threw that barb in against Quinn during the Monday night debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, along with an allegation that Quinn snubbed African-American voters when he passed on Neely for lieutenant governor and chose one-time Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas instead.

Excuse the chuckle I had to suppress Tuesday when I saw the Chicago Tribune report that Neely says she barely knows Rauner, and certainly hasn’t been offered any kind of job or appointed position within state government.

Should we start calling Neely “Rosaura?”

WHAT GAVE THIS particular tale some sense of truthfulness is the stories that have appeared in recent days about how Neely is resigning her elected office as of the end of November. She wants to take a position in the private sector, or so she says.

It’s not likely that Neely would be able to afford the pay cut she would have to take to go back into government at the state level. Unless Rauner thinks everyone in government ought to be independently wealthy enough to afford to comply with the promise he has made for himself – that he won’t take a state salary or pension benefits.

He’s not likely to be able to claim Neely as a trophy to gain votes from the African-American segment of the electorate. Just as I don’t think his use of old quotes from Harold Washington are going to mean much.

Way too many adult voters now weren’t alive back in those Council Wars days, or they weren’t paying much attention to what was happening at City Hall.

NOW I DON’T doubt there are some black people who will vote for Rauner (actually, against Quinn). There’s always a few.

I have spoken with a few African-American Republican-types who contend there is some anger among black people that the whole gay marriage issue was pursued in Illinois by Democrats, and that black legislators wound up being forced to go along with the party rather than the views of their local pastors who were opposed to the idea.

But considering that even Rauner during Monday night’s debate was forced to admit there’s nothing that seriously can be done to repeal marriage for gay couples in Illinois, are those few voters really going to be enough to bolster Bruce’s vote totals?

The end result is either going to be that Rauner gets elected with homophobic-leaning votes (although he’ll never admit it), or that he’s going to wind up being like the boardinghouse resident who was forced to admit his “love” wasn’t legitimate.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Will anyone care Sun-Times may have dumped all over its statehouse reporter to appease a political candidate?

There isn’t much that surprises me about the story of how the Bruce Rauner gubernatorial campaign may have tried to intimidate the Chicago Sun-Times into cracking down on their primary state government reporter for stories perceived as negative.

The notion that some political people are touchy enough to pick up the telephone and scream at an editor about how their reporter is out of control?! Rauner isn’t the first, nor will he be the last. The real issue is more that the paper was willing to consider giving in!

THE IDEA THAT it isn’t the primary concern of the electorate that a reporter may be treated badly while on the job? Some people probably think that’s the way it should be, and the Springfield-based Capitol Fax newsletter points out that this story doesn’t seem to be catching on amongst the public.

And the concept that other news organizations seem to be reluctant to pick up on this story to make sure people become aware of it? That would require work. Particularly from weekend crews consisting of lesser-experienced reporter-type people.

It was just easier to put together a straight-forward factual story that said the Sun-Times was one of several newspapers across Illinois (dailies in Belleville, Peoria and Springfield, to name a few) that added on to the list of publications that are officially telling us to vote for Rauner over Gov. Pat Quinn come the Nov. 4 election cycle – of which early voting began Monday.

As for the fact that one of those endorsements has a questionable backstory? I’m sure some weekend editor types view inclusion of that angle as somehow editorializing or expressing a personal opinion.

BESIDES, GETTING INTO the inner workings of the news business is usually one of the issnes that news organizations do very badly. The fact that Crain’s Chicago Business actually put together a detailed account of how Sun-Times statehouse correspondent Dave McKinney hired his own investigator to look into the circumstances by which the Sun-Times reacted to complaints about his reporting on Rauner makes them the exception.

That story is gaining traction amongst government geeks who take every blow of the electoral process seriously. The rest of the population probably won’t find out much about this issue. It certainly didn't come up during the Monday night debate between the two candidates -- except for Rauner to briefly rant about unfair news media reports without going into specifics.

As for me, I read that Crain’s account. It just seemed way too predictable that the Rauner campaign would react badly to a story that made him look arrogant.

If anything, it is because of this reaction that I have problems with candidates of business backgrounds who think they can run for a top political post and go about telling people how they will run government like a business.

IT CAN’T BE done. Government is NOT a business. And a political person can’t just have someone “fired” for their impudence. Which is how Rauner’s behavior in this whole matter plays out.

The real way a political person can gain favor with a reporter-type is to show that they realize good and bad press is natural, and that becoming all temperamental at a “bad” story is wasted time and energy. Sadly, Rauner isn’t unique in this way!

Reading the Crain’s account about Rauner reminded me of a passage from “Boss,” the biography by then-Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko who summarized Mayor Richard J. Daley’s attitude towards the news media.

“He dislikes reporters and writers, but gets on well with editors and publishers… If he feels that he has been criticized unfairly, and he considers most criticism unfair, he doesn’t hesitate to pick up a phone and complain to an editor,” Royko wrote. “In general, he views the papers as his enemy. The reporters, specifically.

“THEY WANT TO know things that are none of their business, because they are little men. Editors, at least, have power, but he doesn’t understand why they let reporters exercise it,” Royko wrote.

Be honest. If Royko were alive today, he could have recycled that passage in reference to Rauner’s behavior. Perhaps with an explanation about how some things in electoral politics just don’t change.

And if people don’t pay attention, then perhaps the ballots they wind up casting will be nothing but their own fault.


Monday, October 20, 2014

EXTRA: Gubernatorial, el finito

Call me among the pathetic – insofar as the masses are concerned. I turned off my television and chose not to watch “Dancing with the Stars,” instead turning to WLS-TV’s web site to see the final gubernatorial debate live held Monday night.

Those who had no computer access had to wait for the delayed broadcast (at 10:30 p.m., following the late-night news). It reminds me of 1981 – when I listened to the Chicago Sting win the North American Soccer League championship that year on radio because no one would carry the NASL “Soccer Bowl” live on television.

SO WHAT DID we, the people (at least those of us with an interest in voting for governor), gain from this final face-to-face confrontation between Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner?

There’s the ongoing problem of shortfalls in the amount of money needed to fund state-monitored pension programs. Quinn signed a reform measure into law, but the courts have not been favorable to it – and some people expect the courts will eventually strike down that measure.

Leaving Illinois with nothing in place.

Rauner wants to think that Quinn himself is to blame for this mess. “Pension issues are one of the biggest issues we face,” he said. “Quinn failed, then dumped into the Legislature’s hands this issue. It’s the governor’s obligation.”

HE ALSO SAID that Quinn has been eager to point out social issues, “because he can’t run on financial issues.”

Although I know first-hand from dealing with the General Assembly that any governor who thinks he can strong-arm the Legislature is going to find himself thoroughly beaten. Just look at what became of Rod Blagojevich – a Legislature that was more than eager to impeach when the feds began probing his administration.

So Quinn may have a point when he says, “I know how to work with legislators. My opponent demonizes legislators.” He also said, "I have a lot of power, and I have used it wisely," while downplaying the many moments when Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has treated Quinn as though he ranks lower than a legislative page.

There’s also the notion that the General Assembly may consider a permanent boost in the state income tax – the increase that was supposed to be temporary and wither away after this year. But which Quinn says is now necessary just to maintain government.

QUINN HAS CONSTANTLY said he’s going to push this issue in the veto session come November (after the Nov. 4 elections), and twice reiterated that notion on Monday. “He (Rauner) doesn’t want the income tax, he wants the Bruce Rauner tax,” which Quinn defines as, “fees charged on services that apply to regular people.”

Although Rauner tried again (just as in the debate last week) to pressure Quinn to say he would NOT back the increase and would let the state funding wither away. Which came across more as Rauner getting overly preachy with his rhetoric. Move on, already!

One tidbit of interest – it has been reported that city Treasurer Stephanie Neely does not plan to seek another term in office come the 2015 municipal elections. Rauner on Monday said he plans to hire her to be a part of his gubernatorial administration and said Quinn “threw her off the ticket” when he chose former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas instead of Neely to be his lieutenant governor running mate.

If Rauner manages to win come Nov. 4, that is. Otherwise, Neely could wind up governmentally unemployed.

I ALSO GOT my kick from hearing Rauner refer to himself as a “nobody.”

As in, “I’m Nobody that Nobody sent.” As a reference to political science professor Milton Rakove’s famed book about Chicago politics during the Richard J. Daley era – which referred to what he was told when he, as a University of Chicago student, tried to volunteer his services to work for the local ward organization.

Somehow, I don’t think that a venture capitalist was the type of person who qualified as a “nobody” in Rakove’s mind!

Although I wonder if Rauner was trying to compare himself to the Roosevelt and Kennedy families when he pointed out their personal wealth. “You don’t judge a person by the size of their wallet,” he said.


EXTRA: Forgettin’ the home folks

How many votes did Democratic state comptroller hopeful Sheila Simon lose Monday night amongst residents of Illinois' Little Egypt with her wisecrack during her pseudo-debate during WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program?

Both Simon and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka were asked the proper pronunciation of “Comptroller.” Topinka said the silent “p” is a British holdover. Simon agreed, but then added she mispronounces many things, being a Southern Illinois resident.

I HAVE BEEN in way too many quarrels with Southern Illinois residents over how to say “Cairo,” “Vienna” and “Eldorado” – and who are absolutely convinced their regional dialect (KARE-oh, VIGH-enna and ElderRAYdough) is the only way to speak.

Then again, how many Germans snicker at the local “rubes” whenever they hear someone speak of Chicago’s “Goethe Street?” Named for poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (GUER-tah), they find it absurd that a Chicago cop  (back in my old City News Bureau days) once mocked me for not realizing it is spoken locally as “GOH-thee.”


It’s that World Series time of year – which ballclub do we follow in Chi?

I’m amused by the knowledge that Jake Peavy is scheduled to start the second game of the World Series on Wednesday, pitching for the San Francisco Giants as they try to win their third World Series title in the past five years.

For let’s not forget that Peavy also was active this time of year one year ago – he was with that Boston Red Sox ballclub that managed to slip an American League championship in between two last place seasons. He got to pitch in the 2013 World Series.

TWO YEARS IN a row, Peavy is a starting pitcher for ball clubs that have a shot at the top title in professional baseball.

Of course, during the parts of five seasons that Peavy was a starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, he was supposed to be the big game pitcher who would lead the Sox to a World Series appearance.

Only it never happened. The White Sox flirted with playoff baseball during his time in Chicago. But it never was fulfilled for the South Side ballclub and its fans.

So what should we think when Peavy pitches on Wednesday. Are we going to secretly be rooting for him? Or wondering why the big bum couldn’t get his act together for Chicago (a 36-win, 29-loss, 4.00 earned run average record was far from what the White Sox expected).

NOW I’M NOT necessarily wishing ill will on Peavy. I’m just pointing out he’s one of the few ballplayers who will be taking the field beginning Tuesday in this year’s World Series matchup between American League champion Kansas City Royals and the National League champ San Francisco Giants that has a Chicago connection.

One of the few for whom we can scream at our television sets “Why couldn’t you do that here!!?!?” while watching him play the summer game in the days leading up to Halloween.

He’s not the only one.

There’s also Jason Frasor, a relief pitcher who’s on the roster of the Kansas City Royals.

SOME MAY REMEMBER he pitched part of a season (the second half of 2011) with the White Sox. It wasn’t all that substantial.

His connection is more home-bound. He was born in Chicago, raised in suburban Oak Forest and played college baseball at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale – before going into the professional ranks that has seen him pitch in Toronto and Arlington, Texas, along with the Royals and the White Sox.

It will be a first World Series appearance for Frasor – in fact, this is the first time he’s ever played for a ballclub that managed to get into the playoffs.

Thank goodness for all those wild cards that now permit lesser ball clubs to have a chance at a league championship and World Series appearance. Otherwise, the Royals would all be sitting at home, on account of the fact that the Detroit Tigers were one game better than they were during the regular season.

BUT WE DO have these expanded playoffs in baseball, and some people like the idea of these almost-good enough teams getting a second chance. Which the Royals have take advantage of – having not lost a single ballgame during the playoffs. While also giving us the all-Wild Card World Series for 2014.

Beginning with that wild card qualifier game against the Oakland Athletics – who had the guy who many thought was going to be the Chicago connection to this year’s World Series.

After all, the White Sox’ Adam Dunn was traded to Oakland in early September, giving them a big bat (home runs, plus many strikeouts) to bolster the team in October.

Yet his “Super Whiff” characteristics kept Dunn from even playing in Oakland’s one playoff game – in which Kansas City overcame the rest of the team, got hot at the right time and has given us countless moments on television of watching one-time Royals third baseman George Brett cheer on the boys in baby blue as they try to win their first World Series title since that ball club Kansas City had in 1985.

MUCH HAS BEEN made of the fact that Kansas City hasn’t won anything since the middle of the Reagan Administration. Although those of us who will be watching the World Series on television this week and next will snicker at the idea of 1985 being all that distant.

Particularly for North Side baseball partisans – where despite playoff appearances in recent years, there hasn’t been a World Series victory since the days when the U.S. flag only had 46 stars.

Nor even an appearance since (with apologies to Steve Goodman) “the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”