Saturday, February 16, 2013

A blast from the political past: Jackson tops Obama once again in public eye

It hangs just over the desk where I usually write – an old campaign leaflet featuring Barack Obama AND Jesse Jackson, Jr.
JACKSON: The "big" man on Friday

It’s from back in the 2004 Democratic primary campaign cycle when Obama was trying to rise from the state Legislature to Washington and the U.S. Senate – and its purpose was to let us know that someone as important as Jesse, Jr., thought highly enough of Barack that we should vote for him.

IN YEARS SINCE, Obama’s political profile has risen so high that he clearly dwarfs that of the one-time Congressman from the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs.

But on Friday, we got a reminder of the old days when the son of the civil rights leader would get the real attention – leaving Obama to slug it out for the scraps of public attention that remained once Jr. was finished.

By that, I mean that Obama’s “major” address concerning gun control and urban violence wound up getting skunked in the news cycle by the word from Washington that both Jesse, Jr., and Sandi Jackson are facing federal charges.

Obama comes to Hyde Park to give his address – the neighborhood that is the northernmost part of Jackson’s old Congressional district. Yet Jackson in Washington manages to top him.
SANDI: Her 'crime' was in signing

THE PART OF me that can concoct conspiracy theories wonders if someone wishing to undermine the president came up with this sense of timing. Because all many people are going to want to talk about is the Jacksons – and I don’t mean the singing family native to Gary, Ind.

I don’t want to believe that. But a part of me wonders what percentage of truth there is in such a theory!

Of course, none of us were surprised to learn the name of Jesse, Jr. After all, it was just a week ago that Jackson signed an agreement saying he’d cooperate. Now, we know exactly what the charges are that he will be expected to plead guilty to – along with talk of a “57 months” figure of prison time, which can translate into about four full years once early release is factored in.
MICHAEL: Jesse, Jr.'s fantasy image?

The shock is that Sandi Jackson was thrown into the mix on the same day – which I’m sure is meant to create the concept in peoples’ minds of a corrupt family to somehow create the impression that the punishment should be all the much harsher.

ALL OF THIS is gaining much more attention and bigger play than anything Obama had to say during his appearance at Hyde Park High School.

Personally, what I find interesting about the Jackson charges is that they don’t seem to have anything to do with what the ideologues have been ranting and raging for years was Jackson’s actual “crime” – conspiring with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to try to “buy” the U.S. Senate seat that Obama abandoned in 2008 when he first got elected president.

Jackson’s offenses relate to his use of campaign funds to purchase items for himself, rather than for his campaign. Sandi Jackson’s behavior falls into the “criminal” category because she signed off on six years’ worth of income tax filings that didn’t acknowledge her husband’s behavior as wrong.

The ideologues would have us think Jackson was trying to buy his way into the U.S. Senate. Instead, it seems he was buying all kinds of memorabilia meant to decorate his office.

PERSONALLY, I FIND the notion of Jackson spending $4,600 for a fedora once worn by Michael Jackson to be laughable. Are we supposed to believe Jackson, the congressman, would put the hat on and moonwalk across his office?

Or maybe he was trying out some karate moves while looking at the Bruce Lee items that the Chicago Sun-Times reported he purchased for some $2,995.

It hardly seems like the behavior of a hardened criminal, or a truly venal man. If anything, Jackson the congressman is guilty of being a star-crossed celebrity fan, spending money many of us couldn’t dream of having to purchase a load of junk – all in the name of it appreciating in value someday.
OBAMA: Topped in his hometown

Who knows? Maybe the football signed by U.S. presidents that Jackson supposedly paid $5,000 for will now be worth even more – since it can now be sold as a piece of presidential memorabilia once owned by a “corrupt” Congressman!

I’M SURE THE titillation factor of all this will top anything in the public’s eye that Obama said about urban violence.

Now, I just wonder how long it will be until people start quipping that Jackson can turn to old friend Obama and ask for a favor to repay that 2004 campaign help – such as a pardon related to these current criminal charges.


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