Monday, August 24, 2009

EPA attack is little more than early, but typical, partisan campaign exchange

Did the head of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency just get job security for the next year, despite the fact that his office may not have done enough to investigate environmental wrong doers?

Because there’s no way I could see Gov. Pat Quinn actually going along with the suggestion made Sunday to fire state EPA Director Doug Scott.

THAT WAS THE suggestion made by state comptroller/gubernatorial hopeful Dan Hynes, who tried to cut into Quinn’s attempt at a media stunt on Sunday by holding a stunt of his own to overshadow it.

If Scott were to be fired now, it would create the impression that Quinn only did so because Hynes told him to – and that is the last image he wants to create these days.

In Quinn’s mindset, the news story from his office for Sunday broadcasts and websites and more thorough writeups in those Monday ayem newspapers was to be the governor signing into law a measure that would require local residents to be told if there was the slightest chance their local water supplies were tainted.

It also would call for tougher criminal penalties for people who get caught trying to cover up activity that causes such pollution.

YET NOW, THERE are going to be those people (mostly broadcast types) who will make the story into Scott deserving to lose his job because of the perception his office didn’t do enough to root out pollution and find evidence that the state attorney general’s office could turn into a criminal prosecution.

In a sense, it is obvious that this would happen.

A “fire the bum” story – particularly since the name Blagojevich got dredged up because Scott was hired by the impeached governor – is a nice peg for a campaign story in these early days of the electoral race for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor in next year’s elections.

Hynes hopes that he can knock the historically pathetic campaigner Quinn off the pedestal that his campaign gains just by being the incumbent.

IF HE CAN turn Quinn from mighty into a stumblebum early on, there is the chance that his own fundraising abilities and strong support from organized labor (some unions already haven endorsed the son of one-time state Senate President and Cook County Assessor Tom Hynes) can make him the front-runner throughout the primary season.

There’s also the fact that the Quinn bill signing in and of itself kind of deserves to be knocked around.

This particular bill was the Illinois General Assembly’s attempt to make it seem like it was reacting to the situation in southwest suburban Crestwood, where there is reason to believe the local water supplies were tainted with carcinogenic substances for nearly two decades.

There is a degree to which Quinn’s Sunday press conference/bill signing was little more than a stunt – one that was meant to make Quinn look less stumblebum and more mighty.

IT ALSO WOULD reinforce the impression that this IS the governor, who has the ability to do things for the people right now. And if you like what you’re getting now, vote for Pat come February to get four more years.

In short, it’s all about the campaign season leading up to the Feb. 2, 2010 elections to be held in Illinois.

All this talk of the environment is about as cheap as that guy who offers to sell you a load of swampland – Sunday was about partisan politics in the gubernatorial campaign.

The scary thing is that I doubt many people are paying that close of attention. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if the few people who seriously care right now about the campaign for governor are the ones who are Republican partisans who are trying to figure out which of the six “unknown legislators/political hacks/goofs/whatever you want to call them” will wind up as the GOP nominee to run against the winner of Quinn/Hynes.

THIS IS GOING to be an election cycle where the bulk of the people who will take the time to show up at a polling place either before or on Election Day won’t pay serious attention to what is going on until likely some time after they recover from the New Year’s Eve hangover.

They’ll spend those four weeks or so considering where the various candidates are at that point, and which have the endorsements of the interest groups they take seriously. Then, they’ll figure out who to cast a ballot for – and get on with their lives.

Anything done before that is a waste of time in terms of trying to get votes.

What it is more about is each candidate trying to undermine their opposition early on so they can’t build momentum with the hard-core political operatives and other followers.

HYNES TRYING TO undermine Quinn’s environmental stunt was less about him caring about the environment, and solely about him wanting to turn Quinn into a political hack less relevant than Roland Burris come mid-January of 2010.

Which means that for all practical purposes, the campaign nonsense for next year has already begun. We can all grab some aspirin to cope with the headaches from all the political rhetoric we’re going to hear in coming months.


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