Saturday, October 30, 2010

EXTRA: Obama says we shouldn’t want to “relive the past” on economic issues

Obama: Gets to sleep in his own bed tonight
To listen to President Barack Obama in speaking Saturday to a rally of about 35,000 people spread across the Midway Plaissance, Republican partisans drove the nation’s economy into a ditch, left it to Democrats to push the wreckage of the economy out of that ditch, and now are demanding to have the keys back so they can resume driving.

“We need to tell them, ‘you can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive’,” Obama said. It was that kind of night at the southern edge of the Hyde Park neighborhood, as faint echoes of the old “Oh-Bah-Mah!” chant could be heard around the Midway (although a part of me wonders if those people earlier Saturday in Grant Park who partook in the Chicago offshoot of the Jon Stewart-inspired D.C. "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" had more fun than the Midway crowd).

OBAMA – WHO EARLIER in the day used his regular weekend radio address to say that Democrats and Republicans will have to work together to end the economic struggles facing our nation – insisted that GOP people have been unwilling to do so, purely as a political calculation geared toward the elections to be held Tuesday.

“Their strategy seems to be that all of you will get amnesia,” Obama said, making several references (among them, 4 million jobs lost in the six-month time period before he took the oath of office as president in January of 2009) to the fact that the economic recession began during the presidency of George W. Bush.

“We need to make sure we don’t turn the keys (of control) back to the special interests of Washington,” Obama said.

Even Mayor Richard M. Daley, who served as a warm-up act for the president, played along with that theme, citing “health care,” “jobs” and “economic development” as areas where Obama has had success.

“WE SHOULD THANK him for all the things he has done in less than two years,” the retiring mayor said. “That is a difficult job, but he is up to it. He has the leadership ability, and we should support him,” by voting for his political allies.

Of course, the evening wasn’t all about Republican-bashing. It also was about encouraging the thousands to make sure they cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, and Obama ran through the laundry list of politicos running for office who were present.

They included Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias and lieutenant governor nominee Sheila Simon, just to name a few. Although in what may be surprising to some, he gave a plug to soon-to-be former Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill. “If everybody who showed up in 2008 to vote does so again, we’ll win this election,” Obama said.

“If you’re willing to step up, if you’re willing to try, … we will restore our economy, rebuild the middle class, and re-claim the American dream for another generation,” he said.

BUT AS A sign that Obama does understand the priorities of the Chicago political mindset, he did make sure to give prominent mention to Toni Preckwinkle, not so much because she’s running for Cook County Board president, but because she is the alderman in whose ward they were all gathered.

“She’s my alderman,” Obama said.


Better watch what we chuckle at

Will Barack Obama fill the Midway Plaissance?
There are those people who got their laugh earlier this week from the glitch that caused the gubernatorial campaign of Republican William Brady to officially become a deadbeat, financially.

They paid a company to handle the  placement of their campaign ads on local television, then that company didn’t pay its bills on time. That means some television stations, including our very own WLS-TV, stopped airing Brady campaign spots until they got their money.

THIS MATTER LIKELY has been resolved by the time you read this. Even then, it didn’t mean that Brady was completely off the air, because we still had all those partisan groups that run the nastiest of campaign ads running their spots that take pot shots at Pat Quinn.

But like I just wrote, it is something to snicker about. How can somebody who can’t even keep track of their own advertising be expected to run state government? Since this isn’t about a campaign not having money to pay for the spots. It’s a clerical error.

I’m chuckling along with the rest of them.

But Brady campaign aides are right when they say it really isn’t the biggest of deals. I also wonder if everybody who took personal offense at this Brady moment is geared up for their own round of chuckling that could occur on Saturday.

I’M REFERRING TO the fact that President Barack Obama is planning one of the largest-scale “Get Out The Vote” rallies I have ever heard of.

The president will be in the Hyde Park neighborhood, specifically at the University of Chicago where he was once an instructor at the law school. To be more specific, he’s going to be on the Midway – that glorious strip of parkland along 59th Street that provides one of the most breathtaking stretches of outdoors-land on a college campus.

We’re talking about a strip that connects Washington to Jackson parks, and is about one mile long.

Now I don’t know at this point how the Obama people plan to stage this event. But I doubt they will come anywhere close to filling up the entire stretch of the Midway.

WHICH MEANS THAT we’re going to hear every half-wit conservative ideologue pundit going out of his way to denigrate the event by citing the large amount of open space – unless they seriously believe that the personality cult of Obama can bring in the thousands upon thousands of people it would take to fill that amount of space.

Be honest, if that many people were truly excited about the Democratic Party perspective in Tuesday’s elections, there wouldn’t be any need for a Get Out The Vote Rally, and all the polls would be reflecting the annihilation next week of the campaigns for Brady and U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Kirk – along with all the GOP candidates who are counting on that pair to coat-tail them to victory.

I’m going so far as to wonder how many people will try in a negative way to compare the crowd that comes out on Saturday for this Midway rally and compare it to the millions who were in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008 – the day that society celebrated and the ideologues stepped up a notch all their rhetoric about “taking back” our government.

There’s no way the weekend crowd will match that past crowd, which I’m sure someone is destined to use  as “evidence” that Obama has fizzled, even in his own home town.

OF COURSE, SUCH talk will be ridiculous. But then again, all campaign rhetoric has a level of absurdity to it. Some of us like to try to forget that fact and pretend that only the other side is “full of beans” when it comes to political promises and attacks.

It will be curious to see how many people do show up at the Midway rally (best guesses say tens of thousands, which could still leave significant amounts of open space for the pundits to drool over), along with other Get Out the Vote rallies to be held with Obama this weekend in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Bridgeport (the one in Connecticut, not the one along 35th Street). Because Public Policy Polling came out with its own recent study of various states that tries to say how strong the turnout will be among various political partisans. Their results in Illinois?

Not one bit of increase among people supportive of Democrats during the past two months. Which is why we got former President Bill Clinton to come to town earlier this week for a rally at a downtown hotel, and are getting Obama’s second trip to Chicago in the past month.

Which means that for those people who do show up on Saturday at the Midway (if I were going, I’d seriously consider taking the Metra Electric commuter trains, which drop people off at 59th Street right at the Midway’s east end), it could be an amusing afternoon coming just before a dismal Election Day.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Which election deserves priority?

Dart: Too impatient?
It is a complaint I have heard from a few people during the past 24 hours. Would it have killed Tom Dart to wait a week before announcing that he has no intention of running for mayor of Chicago?

It seems that it would have, since Dart, the sheriff of Cook County who likely will be re-elected to four more years of that post in Tuesday’s elections, made his mayoral announcement on Wednesday.

THE CAPITOL FAX newsletter noted that his announcement came at virtually the same time that independent Cook County assessor candidate Forrest Claypool had an announcement to make that was to give his electoral bid against Democrat Joe Berrios some serious political juice.

Instead, Dart gets the big play, while Claypool got ignored.

There are those people who think that all the attention being paid now to the 2011 municipal elections of Chicago that will result in a new mayor for the city is somehow disrespectful to the current election cycle for state government and Cook County positions, along with that U.S. Senate seat from Illinois that Barack Obama once held.

None other than former Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch has said that people should focus on the current elections now because they have the potential to pick government officials who will be openly hostile toward Chicago city interests.

WHILE I PERSONALLY have an interest in the activity of state government and the way it can be used to bolster the city’s political clout (a concept that offends rural Illinoisans who think that state government should stand for something in and of itself, rather than being supportive of the city’s interests), a part of me fully appreciates why Dart did what he did.

Quinn: too dull?
I noticed in the reports that came out Wednesday that Dart said he made up his mind Tuesday night not to be a mayoral candidate. I also got a kick out of his line that he told his two oldest children of his decision, but decided that it wouldn’t mean anything to his three younger ones (who are all under 5 years of age).

The question becomes one of could word have held for one week. Could everybody who knew be trusted to keep quiet for that long a time period? The honest answer is, probably not.

Not that I’m saying that Dart’s oldest son (he’s 9) would have ratted out his father to the Chicago Tribune. But it would have slipped out. Then, we’d be engaging in a line of rhetoric about why is Dart not just being open about his intentions.

WHY WOULD HE let people continue to think of him as a mayoral hopeful, and possibly go about the work to try to build up support for a potential campaign against former White House Chief of  Staff Rahm Emanuel, if he already knows he’s not going to run.

Brady: anxious backers?
Putting an end to it and letting the Dart backers know that he’s not going to be anything more than the county sheriff for the next few years likely is the honest thing to do. It also lets those people start figuring out what they will do come Election Day next February, if their primary pick isn’t on the ballot.

Insofar as the idea that Dart is somehow dumping on his Democratic colleagues, whether it be Claypool (who’s really an establishment Democrat, no matter how much “independent” talk he spews these days) or Pat Quinn or anyone else, that thought is silly.

Because if the Quinn campaign were fully legitimate, it wouldn’t have to worry about these kind of things. It would be drawing eager people anxious for Election Day to arrive so they could show their support.

THAT IS WHY Quinn opponent William Brady has a serious chance of winning come Tuesday – he has that segment of the electorate that wants to dump on Chicago interests anxious for Tuesday to come and go so they can have an official they perceive will support their view of what Illinois should be, no matter how narrow that view is.

It’s almost like Democratic partisans are being made to feel like they’re obligated to vote this time around (so that a Democrat is governor when political people redraw legislative and congressional boundaries), rather than candidates giving us any worthwhile reason to want to vote for them.

A lot of it also comes down to the fact that city elections get priority among city voters – in part because the General Assembly is where we send our young political aspirants for training before they return to Chicago to do serious governing  (such as former legislator-turned-sheriff Tom Dart).

Which is why a Dart non-campaign announcement drew more attention than any other. It was a campaign that hadn’t yet been drawn into a morass of dullness.

MY BOTTOM LINE is that if a campaign running for election on Tuesday can seriously be derailed by the fact that Dart chose to make his announcement this week rather than next, it likely had enough serious problems regardless of what Dart would have chosen to do.

Whining about Dart’s timing is nothing more than seeking an excuse.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who wins when it’s “the law” that is fighting “the law?” Probably not us!

It seems to be the trend we’re going through these days in the Chicago area. Our police officers are contemplating legal action for instances where they think they didn’t get the respect they think they deserve.

We have a police officer in suburban Lynwood who, for a few days, faced criminal charges for a pair of shootings along the Illinois/Indiana border that has left one dead. He has his own police chief saying publicly that prosecutors ought to be sued for their professional conduct.

WHETHER OR NOT Brian Dorian ever gets around to filing a lawsuit against Will County government (whose state’s attorney’s office sought criminal charges and whose sheriff incarcerated him for a weekend) remains to be seen.

I’m sure many people will be sympathetic, although I still fear it will shift too much attention to Dorian’s plight, and away from the criminal investigation that is trying to find a suspect in the shootings that took place earlier this month near Beecher, Ill., and Lowell, Ind. – leaving a Hammond, Ind., man dead and others wounded.

Then, there is the completely different case of two Chicago police officers who have gone ahead and filed lawsuits in Cook County Circuit Court against their own police chief. These officers claim their professional reputations are ruined, even though they were never publicly identified UNTIL they took legal action against their own employer.

Which makes me less than sympathetic to their plight. Because for all the legal hassle that gets created to maintain secrecy any time a police officer is suspected of having done something professionally improper, these two cops seem to think it wasn’t enough.

AT STAKE IS an incident on Oct. 11 (a.k.a., Columbus Day) in which a suspect in police custody was beaten, even though that person was already restrained with handcuffs. The suspect claims it was the police who beat him, and several officers have been removed from street duty while the incident continues to be investigated.

As it turns out, two of the officers who were suspected initially were later cleared. It seems the global positioning device in their squad car showed definitively that they were nowhere near the scene where the beating took place.

Those officers have been cleared, they have been restored to street duty, and it would seem like they could get on with their lives – at a time when other officers still remain suspect.

Yet in a moment that shows why some people in our society are mistrustful of law enforcement personnel, these officers seem to be upset that anyone could ever think they could do something wrong.

SO, THEY WENT with the lawsuit, challenging the way in which Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis handled the incident. Of course, the way Weis handled the incident was meant to create the public impression that the department was taking seriously a complaint that police officers would physically abuse an individual.

Because Weis never publicly identified who the officers were, although the officers cite a press conference Weis held Oct. 18 in which he was critical, saying at one point, “to keep them on the streets would put them at risk and put the department at risk.”

It sounds like a totally logical (and innocuous) statement to me.

But these officers are upset that at one point, they were seen by reporter-types outside the Police Department headquarters on 35th Street when they had to appear before the Internal Affairs division that is investigating the matter. Although I wonder how many saw them merely as faceless police, rather than coming up with a specific identity?

AS THEIR ATTORNEY, Daniel Q. Herbert, told the Chicago Tribune, “statements were made about these individuals, they were published, and my clients suffered damages as a result.”

So by being open and admitting that the police were trying to investigate their own, so to speak, by looking into a potential problem, there are some people who would see that as the problem.

Now I don't know how seriously the courts will take these lawsuits.

It could be that a judge will be inclined to dismiss them (although a part of me sarcastically wonders if the officers in question would consider THAT act to be disrespectful). Or, we could wind up having a judge who will feel the need to seriously ponder the issue – which would involve determining how much “compensation” a cop deserves after being cleared of a charge.

THEIR LAWSUIT SEEKS at least $50,000, but that is the legal minimum. Which basically means it would be up to the judge to figure out what amount of compensation is fair and just.

If anything, I found one other part of Herbert’s rhetoric most interesting – the fact that the officers want some sort of public statement from Weis apologizing to them for their “ordeal.”

Which means this lawsuit is likely less about the financial compensation the cops might someday get (which would be minimal after attorneys take their share and court costs are subtracted) and about coming up with yet another way for the rank-and-file of the Chicago Police to ding away at the professional reputation of their chief (who was never a Chicago cop himself, but was once the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Chicago).

A lawsuit that claims professional embarrassment seems to be more about creating professional embarrassment for someone else than it is providing any sense of compensation. That truly is sad.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EXTRA: Dart out – Is mayoral field thinning down to Emanuel and dreamers?

I always suspected that at least one of the so-called “major” candidates contemplating a run for Mayor of Chicago would wind up deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Still the sheriff
Yet that doesn’t ease the surprise I felt Wednesday when I learned that the candidate would wind up being Tom Dart.

THE ONE-TIME STATE legislator turned Cook County Sheriff (who in all likelihood will be re-elected to four more years in that post in Tuesday’s elections), made it known that we should stop thinking of him as a mayoral dreamer.

All those years of building up a political resume meant that he held off until later in life (he’s 48) in terms of getting married and having children (he and his wife have five, the oldest of whom is 9). That makes him say he thinks it is more important right now to be a father, than a mayor.

So for those people who were anticipating the February municipal elections giving us an April runoff between Dart and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; well, it  ain’t a gonna happen.

Dart’s announcement came just a couple of days after Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., announced that he, too, is NOT going to run for Chicago mayor. That announcement didn’t stir up as much attention – largely because of recent revelations that included hints of sexual sordidness that would have made it impossible for Jackson to run for anything other than re-election to his Far South Side and surrounding suburbs seat in Congress.

IT’S GOING TO take time for Jackson’s status to rebound to the point where he can seriously think of running for larger-scale political posts. For Dart, however, his name will probably go alongside that of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as someone on the political scene with ability who has a chance to run for something in the future.

Could it be Dart himself who gets tossed out as a Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2014 – should next week’s elections give us the prospect of four years of “Gov. William Brady?” Could it turn out to be a Dart/Madigan fight in the Democratic primary for the right to take on Brady?

Or perhaps to take on Quinn if it turns out that he wins, and manages to disgust voters with his performance during the next four years?

Of course, that is speculation about a campaign four years from now. What is of more concern is the campaign that will take place four months from now for Chicago mayor.

THE ABSENCE OF Dart is turning this campaign into a real cakewalk for Emanuel, whom many Chicagoans may wind up voting for with contempt in their hearts.

The speculation had always been an Emanuel/Dart runoff, unless the campaign of Rev. James Meeks could knock one of them out – which was a very real possibility.

Where things stand now is that the African-American activists who want Daley replaced with a black mayor are trying to align themselves behind a single candidate, who could turn out to be former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun. Not that her presence would stop Meeks from staying in the campaign.

This could easily turn into Emanuel against the two African-American candidates of significance, along with some fringe candidates. I say fringe because while they have legitimate appeal to certain voters, I’m not sure they can reach out to the city’s electoral masses.

I PLACE CITY Clerk Miguel del Valle’s campaign in that category, which took a blow earlier this week when United Neighborhood Organization leader Juan Rangel said he supports Emanuel.

That has many Latino activists in Chicago ticked off, because they were viewing this mayoral election as one where they would try to unite behind (if not a Latino candidate) anybody BUT Rahm because he gets blamed by many for the Obama Administration’s lackadaisical attitude toward pushing for immigration reform.

He's serious about running for alcalde de Chicago
Emanuel used an interview recently with the Chicago Sun-Times to claim that as a member of Congress from 2003-08, he has an identical voting record on the issue as its national champion, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. (who himself recently said he would NOT run for Chicago mayor) and said, “nor does any one individual deserve the blame if something didn’t happen.”

It means that Emanuel will try to use Rangel – who told reporter-types that he thinks Chicago needs a “strong mayor” for “tough times” to continue in the ways of Richard M. Daley – to knock down the potential for Latino resistance to his political aspirations.

IN SHORT, IT has been a good week for Emanuel. He gets support in dealing with what could be a pesky Latino problem, while also losing what could have been a major opponent (even though Dart said Wednesday, “I don’t believe I’m paving the way for anybody” to become mayor.

What I do know is that many people have started shifting their political focus from next week’s elections for Illinois state government posts to the 2011 municipal elections, largely out of a belief that they would be more interesting than anything having to do with Pat Quinn.

Wouldn’t it be a kick in the head if those people slacked off of next week’s activity, only to find out that those municipal elections are going to have so few candidates that they will turn out to be deadly dull by comparison?


‘Dump Kilbride’ is pure partisan politics

Justice Thomas Kilbride
I have my memories of being a reporter-type person at the Statehouse in Springfield during the spring of 1995, watching as a newly-elected Republican majority rammed through so many new laws meant to impose a conservative ideological agenda on the state.

What kept that agenda from having a lasting effect on the state was the Illinois Supreme Court. I lost count of the number of times I wrote stories during 1997 and 1998 – the gist of which was that yet another of those “Laws of ’95” was struck down as unconstitutional.

WHICH IS WHY when I hear the business-oriented associations and legal groups complain about Justice Thomas Kilbride and talk about the millions of dollars they are spending on a campaign to urge people to vote against his retention to the state’s highest court, I can’t help but think that their real intent is to try to mess with the court in such a way that it won’t be able to knock down the agenda they’d like to peddle in Springfield in coming months.

That presumes the GOP in Illinois will experience such significant gains on Election Day that they will be in a position to ram through bills on so many social and economic issues. Nothing is certain.

But I’m sure those political people who are old enough to remember that period in the mid-1990s when Illinois Republicans were not only significant, but also powerful, feel that one of the lessons they learned was that they can’t focus purely on the Executive and Legislative branches of Illinois government.

They also have to think about the Judicial branch, where members of the Supreme Court of Illinois are elected to 10-year terms. Justices wishing to get re-elected run for retention, which means there is no opponent. But they must get at least 60 percent support, or else a replacement is picked by political appointment.

WHICH MEANS THAT people who want to play conservative partisan politics are including the high court in their electoral strategy.

As it turns out, three of the seven justices on the court are up for retention this year. Charles Freeman, who is a Democrat, is running from the court’s first district, which is Cook County. Another is Robert Thomas of the second district. He is a Republican, but his home DuPage County accounts for more than half of the people of that district, so he’s probably safe.

That is why the attention is focused on McBride. He’s a Democrat from Rock Island from the third district – which includes portions of Will County and his home area along the Mississippi River that have significant Democratic voters, sandwiching a stretch of central Illinois that is solidly Republican.

In short, McBride is getting the focus of this attempt to potentially add a Republican justice to the high court because the GOP political operatives think they can get that middle portion of the district to turn out in what has potential to be a significant year for Republicans so as to “win” come Tuesday.

FOR THEM, A “win” means dumping Kilbride from the high court, even though it probably makes him the one person to have conservative opposition even though he has the support of the National Rifle Association, among other groups.

That is why we have been getting campaign ads on television in recent weeks focusing on the Illinois Supreme Court, claiming that Kilbride is some sort of criminal-loving justice who doesn’t rule in favor of real people.

It is the reason this election has been called the most expensive one-candidate retention election held during the past decade, according to a study by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

Among the effort’s leaders is the Illinois Civil Justice League (an outspoken proponent of tort reform), which according to a study compiled by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has a political action committee that has raised $667,000 from various business-oriented groups.

THAT HAS CAUSED the Illinois Democratic Party to give Kilbride significant assistance ($1.4 million), with other money and in-kind assistance coming from groups such as the Illinois Federation of Teachers political fund ($454,000). In all, Kilbride has had $2.48 million in his campaign fund to enable him to fight back.

The Illinois Civil Justice League has said the reason it wants Kilbride off the high court is because in 21 cases they have an interest in, Kilbride voted to rule against business interests all 21 times.

There is a difference of opinion about what is “good”. One of the cases was a ruling to strike down a new state law that would have limited the size of non-economic “pain and suffering” damages against hospitals and doctors – a ruling seen as beneficial to those who suffer severe long-term injuries.

But groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Tort Reform Association, and a political committee of the National Association of Manufacturers (all of which gave money to the civil justice league’s JUSTPAC political fund) view the issue differently. They want someone sympathetic to business interests involved in creating the high court’s rulings.

AFTER ALL, THE high court now has a 4-3 margin leaning Democrat. Kilbride of Rock Island and the three Cook County justices (Freeman, Anne Burke and Mary Jane Theis) comprise that majority against the Republican faction of Thomas, Rita Garman of Danville and Lloyd Karmeier of Nashville in Southern Illinois.

I do realize that the justices try to follow the law and downplay partisan politics when possible. But there are those issues that do become purely ideological for both sides and where the “letter of the law” can be interpreted to support either side. Which is why the conservative interests are eager to ensure that any future acts their elected officials pass into law get a final hearing by a high court inclined to be sympathetic.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Would Rahm be so brash as to endorse Claypool over Berrios for assessor?

Did he endorse?
A part of me wonders if what we’re talking about is some sort of nuance being ignored – potential mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel says he hasn’t endorsed anybody for Cook County assessor, despite the claims of some that they heard him come out and back the bid of Forrest Claypool, a long-time Democrat who is challenging the Democratic nominee, Joe Berrios, in this year’s election.

I’m sure that in Emanuel’s mind, any comments he made at a fundraising event held last week at the Excalibur nightclub were so innocuous as to mean little. They may have been so inoccuous that even one reporter-type who was present didn't bother to acknowledge them.

YET CRAIN’S CHICAGO Business is reporting that people who were at the event construed Emanuel’s comments (he supposedly said, “I want you to support Forrest Claypool”) as an endorsement in next week’s elections for (among other posts) Cook County government offices.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who were there (I wasn’t). But I am skeptical that Emanuel – an old political pro – would come out and make an endorsement.

The last thing he’s going to want to do is make enemies. And putting himself in the middle of what amounts to an internal struggle within the local Democratic Party at a time when he’s trying to build up city-wide support for his own mayoral aspirations in the elections to be held next February makes absolutely no sense.

So assuming that Emanuel actually said that people should “support” Claypool when they cast their ballots next Tuesday, we now have to play the political games of, “What did he mean?”

IT IS THE frustrating aspect of observing and writing about the activities of government officials and their electoral campaigns – everything gets so nuanced so that a candidate can later try to deny having meant what you think he said.

Long-time friends?
I have been through this game many times. Someone says they support someone else, but then later aides will insist that does not count as support – let alone an endorsement. I remember one time being told by an aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that the speaker’s support for a particular campaign wasn’t an endorsement because, “if we really cared, we could do so much more.”

Is that what this amounts to? We get a few kind words that ultimately prove the truth of the old adage, “Talk is cheap.”

But back to Emanuel, who while he may not have meant to give a formal endorsement (I couldn’t help but notice reports that quoted Claypool as saying that he was not aware of having received Emanuel’s formal backing), it shouldn’t be a surprise that Rahm would have feelings of support for Claypool.

BECAUSE LARGELY IT was the kind of people who are now backing Claypool’s independent bid over what they want to perceive as the embarrassment of having a “political hack” like Joe Berrios holding office who were the local white people who enabled Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to rise from being merely that of the “black” candidate.

I also couldn’t help but notice that Claypool now has a radio advertisement being aired on “black”-oriented stations reminding us that Forrest was picked to “lead” Obama’s transition team back when Barack moved up from the Illinois state Senate to the U.S. Senate from Illinois.

To me, it would only make sense that someone that close to Obama would also have his ties to Emanuel, who until a couple of weeks ago was the White House chief of staff.

When one also considers that Emanuel and Claypool also have their own relationship that goes back nearly three decades, it just doesn’t seem like a stretch for me to believe that when Rahm went to an Early Voting Center to cast his own ballot for the Nov. 2 elections, his vote for Cook County assessor may well have gone to Claypool.

BUT A FORMAL endorsement at this point seems like such a counter-productive stance to take, because it would lock him in so rigidly with those people who aren’t falling for the Claypool rhetoric that he represents good government and change.

It would ensure that every single person who is backing Berrios (who could very well win next week’s elections) will wind up ganging up on any mayoral aspirations Emanuel has. It would feel fuel to the fire that is those people who want to think of Emanuel as an out-of-towner trying to portray himself as a native Chicagoan.

I could even see where, when combined with the fact that Emanuel next month will be the beneficiary of a fundraiser being organized by assorted entertainment executives (the Hollywood scene), it would be spun as a double-whammy to show how out-of-touch Rahm is with regular Chicagoans.

Personally, I don’t think that, mainly because one of the “Hollywood Big Shots” involved with this event is Rahm’s brother, Ari, a co-CEO of WME Entertainment. One brother helping another. That sentiment ought to be very Chicago-oriented.

THE BOTTOM LINE in this political affair?

I expect Emanuel probably is supportive of Claypool, similar to how the favor likely will be returned in February when Rahm runs against the masses who want to be mayor.

Which means this really is yet another example (mayoral hopeful Rickey Hendon taking pot shots at GOP governor hopeful William Brady) of the state and city election cycles blending unhealthily into each other.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Texas versus San Francisco: What do they know about pain of perennial losing?

My recommendation to everybody is to go out and buy themselves a pair of earplugs; the better to block out all the incessant whining we’re going to hear in coming days from Chicago Cubs fans with regards to this year’s matchup in the World Series.

The American League champion Texas Rangers will take on that other league’s champions, the San Francisco Giants, in a best-of-seven World Series, scheduled to begin Wednesday.

WHEN PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES star slugger Ryan Howard failed to come up with a game-tying (or winning) hit Saturday night and instead made the final out, the stage was set for the futility World Series.

The Giants, after all, are the team that has never won a World Series since moving from Harlem to the Bay Area in 1958. That last Giants’ World Series title of 1954 was so long ago that Willie Mays was an up-and-coming star when he made that fantastic catch of what could have been Vic Wertz’ inside-the-park home run at the Polo Grounds.

But compared to the Texas Rangers, that is a boatload of success. The Rangers, who came into existence in 1972 when an incarnation of the Washington Senators decided the Dallas suburbs were better than the District of Columbia, have NEVER been in the World Series. 2010 is already a monumental season for them because it is the Rangers’ first American League championship ever.

So one way or another, either the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area or San Francisco is going to get a World Series title to celebrate. One of professional baseball’s streaks of futility will end this year. It must. There just isn’t any way that both teams could lose.

THAT IS WHAT will cause the complaining from baseball fans for whom the epicenter of their fanaticism is the Humble Abode of one Elwood J. Blues (a.k.a., Wrigley Field).

We’re going to hear a lot about 1908 – the last time the Chicago Cubs managed to win a World Series. It’s 102 years and counting since a Cubs team won everything. Cubs fans are going to get all whiny and say that people of San Francisco and Dallas have no clue what it is like to go so long and support a ballclub without getting a sense that the team accomplished something.

We’ll even get reminders of 1945, the last year that the Cubs actually managed to win a National League championship and play in a World Series – losing four games to two to the Detroit Tigers (the same team they beat for their two World Series victories in 1907 and 1908).

By comparison, having a major league team since 1972 that never managed to win anything (as is the case for the ballclub based in the Dallas suburb of Arlington) is just a minor set-back.

CUBS FANS WILL want to think that these teams don’t deserve to think of themselves as having to endure any particular record of futility. Perhaps Cubs fans will think that other teams are trying to steal their unique aura by making it seem like their World Series-winless streaks are worthy of note.

Now as anybody who has read my past commentary on matters related to professional baseball knows, I am not a Chicago Cubs fan. I find the breed to be too self-righteous. They whine about everything. And there’s something about that consistent knack for blowing ballgames that I as a Chicago native find embarrassing.

It’s like people think of the Cubs and assume that all of Chicago is a batch of losers just because of the baby blue bear cubs from the North (side, that is).

Personally, I have no problem with the futility angle being applied to this year’s World Series, because it is legitimate. I think the Cubs’ standard of futility is in its own category, and that it is ridiculous to downplay somebody else’s significant streak of being unsuccessful.

SO IT WILL be interesting to see which city ultimately gets to celebrate its first World Series ever, and which one gets to have to take on the old Cubs’ mantra of “Wait ‘til Next Year). Perhaps the losing team will continue to be futile for a long-enough period that they someday can be put in the Chicago Cubs unique classification of losing.

Insofar as this year’s World Series is concerned, I suppose I’m rooting for the Rangers because I’m an American League fan and usually support that league’s team in the All-Star Game and World Series.

Although I have to admit, when I saw Giants shortstop Juan Uribe hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run Saturday that gave the Giants the pennant, I couldn’t help but recall the final game of the 2005 World Series, particularly the last inning when Uribe made a dive into the stands to catch a foul ball, then barehanded a ground ball hit by Houston Astros pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino for a throw to first base for the final out that let the Chicago White Sox break their own futility streak (88 years between World Series titles).

I do have to confess one thing – a part of me was hoping that the New York Yankees could have rebounded and defeated the Rangers for the American League championship.

LARGELY, IT IS because of the presence of Yankees’ relief pitcher Kerry Wood – whom Cubs fans used to worship as the man who would take their team to a World Series appearance (which obviously never happened).

I would have gotten my chuckle from seeing Wood finally make it to a World Series in Yankee pinstripes, similar to how I still remember the 1999 World Series for giving long-time White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen his only chance to play (no hits and one strikeout in five at-bats) in a World Series, albeit while wearing the tomahawk of the Atlanta Braves across his chest.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hendon on Brady: Nothing new here

Anybody who wonders why I so harshly criticized earlier this month the very concept of state Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, running for mayor of Chicago can now see why I give the man no credible shot of winning.

Oh, be quiet, Rickey
When I learned of his ungracious introduction of Gov. Pat Quinn at a campaign event that took potshots at Quinn opponent (and Hendon Senate colleague) William Brady, about all I could honestly think was, "That’s Rickey."

HE’LL SHOOT HIS mouth off, without much thought to whether the resulting rhetoric makes any sense.

“Idiotic.” “Racist.” “Sexist.” Homophobic.” Those were the words used by Hendon to describe Brady, with his point being that people who attended the rally on Chicago’s West Side (a predominantly African-American neighborhood of the type that Republicans have suggested is likely to be the place where some sort of fraud depriving them of votes will occur) should vote for Brady’s opponent – meaning, Quinn.

Quinn immediately backpedaled from the rhetoric, which has Hendon backers thinking the governor is some sort of wimp. It also is giving the Brady people a playing field for trite trash. I fully expect they will find a way to demand an “apology” from Quinn during each of the eight days remaining in this campaign cycle.

Personally, I don’t think Quinn has to apologize. If anybody should, it is Hendon. He owes his fellow state senator some sort of public statement that shows regret for being publicly rude.

NOT THAT I expect Hendon to ever make such a statement. I’m sure on some level, he meant it. He probably thinks that for once, he spoke the truth about his Statehouse colleague – unlike the usual rhetoric by which legislators try to claim that they are all friends behind the scenes.

Even though the reality is that many of  them are self-centered enough that they’re constantly trying to undercut each other, if it benefits their own standing on the political scene.

The simple fact is that this is the kind of rhetoric that will be Hendon’s contribution to the mayoral race. He will be the guy that stirs up the scene with trash talk. Which also means that Brady now has something in common with Barack Obama – Hendon used to be among the then-presidential candidate’s most outspoken critics.

The same sensibility that will prevent him from ever making a statement resembling an apology to Brady is the same one that will make him stay in the mayoral race all the way to the bitter end – when on Election Night next February he will try to downplay that only about 1 percent of the electorate actually will be deluded enough to think he is capable of doing the job at City Hall.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Does Plummer warrant Lt. Gov. position?

While my doubts about William Brady’s partisan rhetoric about the state’s financial problems are part of my reason for opposing the GOP’s choice for governor, another significant part of the reason I’m hoping Pat Quinn gets his own full term as governor is that the more I learn about Brady’s running mate, the less I like him.

It is a juvenile sentiment on my part, It is spiteful. The part of me that is Catholic thinks I should have a serious talk with a priest for having such negative feelings. But the thought of Jason Plummer holding any government position – particularly one that could put him in charge of state government someday – gives me the creeps.

THIS IS A 29-year-old who is counting on the fact that few voters pay any attention to the running mate to get himself elected to a political position. Running for a lower-level position to gain experience would not appeal to him, because then he’d have to expose himself and let us all see him for what he is.

Exposure is something that Plummer definitely has avoided. His participation in the campaign cycle has been limited to the rural portions of the state at events where he only appears before the hard-core faithful – the GOPers so determined to vote against a Democrat that they’ll put up with anyone who carries the requisite “R” after his name.

That attitude was on display, instead of Plummer himself, when he blew off what was meant to be a debate between Jason, Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sheila Simon, and Baxter Swilley, the man who is paired up with independent gubernatorial hopeful Scott Lee Cohen.

I’m not about to claim that Plummer and Simon need to be the political equivalent of conjoined twins for the next couple of weeks. I understand he has his own campaign activity to tend to.

BUT PLUMMER IS going about trying to claim that it is Simon’s fault that she is not coordinating her schedule to his partisan needs, and that if she truly were interested in appearing with him, she would adapt.

I kind of like the way WMAQ-TV handled the debate this week – putting up an empty chair for Simon and Swilley to debate. Of course, I’m sure he’s going to take this as a slight and claim it is evidence that he is being picked on.

If it reads like I think that Plummer is the kind of aspiring politico who wants to beat up on the opposition, but can’t take their hits back, you’d be correct. When it comes to the world of electoral politics, that is a serious flaw that ought to make one unworthy of anyone’s vote.

Because politics is about having to deal with an opposition. It is not (nor should it be) about being able to strong-arm the opposition.

I’M CURIOUS TO see how things work out Monday, where Simon and Plummer are supposed to face off against each other at WTTW-TV studios, with their “debate” to be included in the “Chicago Tonight” program.

Plummer claims he will be there, and I expect he will show (because I don’t think he has the nerve to be arrogant enough to skip out on this event). But I want to see how he tries to spin the circumstances to make it appear that he’s doing us the favor by appearing at the event – and how somehow it is Simon’s fault that the two haven’t had any prior confrontations on the campaign trail.

I also expect we’re going to get a self-righteous tone when it comes to the one ongoing issue of this year’s campaign for lieutenant governor – the fact that Plummer is adamant about refusing to let anyone see the personal income tax returns he has filed in recent years.

It has become a staple of government that our elected officials make copies of their returns public so we can see what kind of people they are associated with and what income they have. For some political people, it is meant to show evidence that their sole income is the check they receive twice a month from the Illinois comptroller’s office for their government duties.

SOME POLITICAL PEOPLE, including Brady, go to extremes to make it difficult to see their returns, so as to make sure that only the most dedicated of political geeks bother. Plummer won’t even go that far, claiming that because of his family’s lumber business in the St. Louis Metro East area, he has business ties whose privacy ought to be respected.

He’s trying to put a noble spin on the concept of “none of your business,” which basically is his sole reason for not wanting people to understand that he is a guy who comes from a wealthy family (in short, he’s not a self-made millionaire).

I’m a firm believer in the concept that elected officials give up some of their privacy when they go on a public payroll to do the “people’s business.” If Plummer had been able to accept that fact early on in the campaign cycle, then none of this would be an issue.

I used to think that the most stubborn business-type who ever tried running for political office was H. Ross Perot’s presidential aspirations of 1992 and 1996. But the fact that Plummer stubbornly clings to his concepts all these months later – with only 10 days remaining until Election Day – means he tops Perot, and is unworthy in my mind of a vote.