Sunday, October 10, 2010

Who won? Wanjiru – who else?

What should we think about the nationally-broadcast “debate" between Illinois’ major party nominees for U.S. Senate when that event wasn’t even seen live by the people who will have to cast a ballot for this post?

It’s true. WMAQ-TV pre-empted the Sunday broadcast of “Meet the Press” so they could devote the morning hours to live, uninterrupted broadcast coverage of the Chicago Marathon (I refuse to give the bank that is providing corporate sponsorship any free advertising by mentioning them here).

AS MUCH AS I’d like to excoriate some local broadcast executive for deciding that this “debate” (actually, a detailed interview by “Meet the Press” host David Gregory) could be delayed, a part of me honestly has to admit that this person probably was more in line with the actual desires of many local people.

By the time we in the Chicago broadcast market got to see the program on television, the event itself was already over – and Republican nominee Mark Kirk had already arrogantly issued a statement declaring himself to be the debate’s winner.

“He is better equipped to handle the issues voters care about – turning the economy around and creating jobs,” Kirk’s statement about himself read.

Which makes me wonder if the Kirk camp is so insecure about his real performance that they felt the need to do this self-righteous, overly pompous attempt at political spin.

IT ALSO MEANS that in my book, the real winner is Olympian Sammy Wanjiru. He’s the guy who, for the second consecutive year, won the Chicago Marathon, finishing the course in just over two hours.

So what should we think of the actual forum, which gave the rest of the country a chance to see the scraps we get to pick from in choosing a junior senator?

This is supposedly the election cycle where voters want to punish incumbents because of the economic troubles of recent years. Yet I don’t feel that either candidate got beyond “talking points” to say what they would do if they get elected to the Senate to try to create jobs.

“Real people can’t afford a Washington lobbyist to find them stimulus money,” said Kirk, while opponent Alexi Giannoulias responded, “if you are thrilled with out-of-control spending, then Congressman Kirk is your man.”

THAT WASN’T EVEN Giannoulias’ only dig against Kirk. He cited a litany of votes Kirk made that Giannoulias claims increased government spending, and said, “he says he is a fiscal hawk. He has told some whoppers, but this is the biggest.”

Of course, both candidates have their baggage. To listen to their critics, Kirk is a liar when it comes to talking about his military record, while Giannoulias’ family ran a bank that gave money to organized crime figures.

I will credit Kirk for not getting snotty when being questioned about the exaggerations to his military record (he’s in the Naval Reserves as an intelligence officer, when not representing the North Shore suburbs in Congress).

“There certainly should be a level of scrutiny, it is appropriate that this is brought up,” Kirk said, then going into the litany that says he has already apologized for this.

“I MADE MISTAKES with regard to military statements,” Kirk said. “I was careless, I learned painful and humbling lessons.”

By comparison, Giannoulias discussed the failure of the now-former Broadway Bank and his involvement there by trying to turn the questioning into an account of his immigrant father opening a bank that “helped thousands of people achieve the American dream,” but was done in by “the devastating recession” that we have recently completed.

Insofar as the accounts that people with ties to organized crime received their financing from Broadway Bank, Giannoulias tried to claim it was a non-issue. “When a bank decides who to give a loan to, they look at someone’s credit worthiness, their credit score,” Giannoulias said. “Some individuals may have a colorful past.”

It was only after repeated questioning by Gregory that Giannoulias finally acknowledged the point of questions in saying, “I didn’t know the extent of” the personal records of certain loan recipients, while then adding, “this isn’t what real people are talking about.”

SO I SUPPOSE Kirk addressed his “flaws” with a little less gobbledygook than did Giannoulias.

But I can’t  say that I heard anything come from either man that I hadn’t heard hundreds of times previously during this campaign cycle.

Which means my honest gut reaction is less to proclaim either of these guys the debate “winner” and instead to feel a bit of shame over the thought that the rest of the United States got to see just how mediocre Illinois’ junior senator will be – regardless of who wins come Nov. 2.

Which means that Wanjiru’s providing of a “yes” answer to the question, “Can Wanjiru repeat as Chicago Marathon champ” probably was the most interesting thing that we would see on Chicago television Sunday morning.


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