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The [Thursday] Papers

When I first saw that Mayor Richard M. Daley used the word "silly" an estimated 20 times in response to a question at a press conference on Wednesday, I thought he might be referring to the behavior of reporters who cover him and the rest of City Hall.

I was wrong. But he might as well have been.

While Daley's latest Rain Man routine got the press's attention, the really outrageous thing he said yesterday got buried. And it was about the press.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Why do reporters just sit there and take it from this guy?

We all know the situation surrounding ill Cook County Board President John Stroger is a farce. As the mayor himself would say, to use one of his favorite expressions, everybody knows that.

But because Chicago is the last outpost of the otherwise fallen Soviet Central Committee, the mayor plays along with the rest of the Democratic party (Contact Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Thomas G. Lyons with your views at 312-263-0575) in an embarrassing charade that makes a mockery out of the man they claim they are protecting. John Stroger may be a hack, but he played the game the way the party asked him to - played by the rules of old-time Chicago - and he organized a mighty machine. Who is doing him more disrespect, those of us who think the public has a right to know of his condition, or his party colleagues, including the mayor, who are more concerned with how Stroger's ills affect their own political fortunes than with a sick and possibly dying old man whom they are making a joke of?

The mayor's contempt for the public - as exhibited through his contempt for the press - is beyond silly. It's palpable. In response to a question about Stroger yesterday, the mayor said this:

"First of all, you tried to kill him during the election. You all did. You were against him 100 percent. Now, you want to bury him after the election."

Did any reporter stand up and object? Is the mayor saying he believes the press wished John Stroger dead?

"First of all, you tried to kill him during the election."

What? Just what do you mean by that, Mr. Mayor?

"You all did. You were against him 100 percent."

We were? Did you run some sort of secret poll? And where were you, Mr. Mayor? For him 100 percent? If so, can you please explain your thinking? Your former chief of staff, Forrest Claypool, depicted Stroger as a corrupt ward boss wasting taxpayer money and badly mismanaging the entire enterprise of county government for years. Are you saying that Claypool was wrong? Are you against good government? Are you against the corruption that has been uncovered in county government? Did you support Stroger because you thought he'd be the best person to clean up county government? Or do you believe it doesn't need cleaning up?

And can you see, Mr. Mayor, how some folks may think a fraud was perpetrated on the public by keeping Mr. Stroger's condition a secret while an election was underway - people who wish Stroger no harm?

Mr. Mayor, do you go back into your office after press conferences and snicker about how you once again dodged and weaved without actually engaging the press in a mature discussion?

"Now, you want to bury him after the election."

What do you mean by that, Mr. Mayor? Are you saying you believe the press wants Mr. Stroger dead? Do you believe citizens have a right to know who has been running county government and spending their money in Mr. Stroger's absence? Or is it okay to run government in secret? And do you understand that the election isn't over, just the primary? And does the same criticism apply to Todd Stroger, Bill Beavers, and Danny Davis for their behind-the-scenes scramble to claim John Stroger's job?

I guess the whole thing really is silly. It's silly to expect this mayor to act like an adult and answer questions in a serious manner. And it's silly to expect the press to ask them.

Daley's Guys
Daniel Katalinic, a former macher in Streets and San, implicated Daley's former campaign manager yesterday in the Robert Sorich trial, saying they all worked together to deploy a political army that was part and parcel of the patronage machine built by the Daley Administration.

Federal prosecutors have now laid out a compelling case behind their charge that City Hall engaged in a "massive fraud" by illegally rigging jobs according to political work and favors on behalf of the mayor and his pals.

As Chicago Tonight correspondent Elizabeth Brackett said last night, no witness has tied the mayor personally to the hiring scheme, but knowledge of how hiring worked - that tests, interviews, and evaluations were completely disregarded in favor of approved names coming out of the mayor's intergovernmental affairs office - was so widespread that it seems inconceivable that everyone in city government could have known how things worked except the man at the top.

Katalinic also testified that he not only supplied city workers to help out with U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel's first run for Congress in 2002, but he met with Sorich at Emanuel's campaign office. Not good for Rahmbo.

Blago's Bad Odds
Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan has a long list of questions about the governor's idea (with so little known about how it would work, it's not quite a "proposal" yet) to sell or lease the state lottery to fund a host of education initiatives. House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Frank Watson have questions of their own. Answers are in short supply.

There's a long way to go on this. Or a short way. As I said on Eight Forty-Eight last week, a year from now this whole thing could very well be dead, buried, and forgotten - or remembered only as folly, and for getting James Meeks out of the race.

And what will Meeks think when the whole thing falls apart?

If Meeks had been serious about running for governor, he wouldn't have settled for what is still a pipe dream conjured up just in time to satisfy him. And if he was serious about running for governor and bought into this thing, then he certainly wasn't savvy enough to be governor. But then, look at who we have now.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have just hired a consultant to see what the tollway could fetch were it privatized. Perhaps the governor should proceed along the same, sober path when it comes to the state lottery, instead of making a big campaign splash only to see the whole thing whither under scrutiny.

Rush Job
A full-page ad in the Tribune today sponsored by the Video Access Alliance thanks U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush "For Fighting For My Family."

Rush, it seems, "took a stand in support of hard-working families by voting for TV Freedom."

The Video Access Alliance is funded in part by telephone companies, at least one of which has been very generous to Rush. Rush denies this is why he felt compelled to break ranks with his party to become the only Democratic co-sponsor on an industry-backed bill telecom bill.

So it's no surprise that the Video Access Alliance, turns out to be an astroturf lobbying group set up by a strategic communications consultant passing herself and her organization off as something they are not. The real grassroots is in no mood to thank Rush on behalf of their hard-working families.

Daley's Design
Using a design reminiscent of the much-reviled Soldier Field, developers have won approval from City Hall to desecrate the historic steel-framed New York Life building on South LaSalle Street.

Treasury Notes
Tribune columnist and editorial board member Steve Chapman mitigates the slipshod stance his paper took on new Treasury Secretary nominee Henry Paulson Jr., by explaining with aplomb what is really going on with the White House economic team.

Dick Kay's Last Ride
Last Friday, John Calloway interviewed the retiring Dick Kay on WTTW's Friday Night. But the real gold was in correspondent Rich Samuels' set-up piece, an affectionate and striking profile that was a total revelation for people like me who didn't grow up in Chicago (I moved here 14 years ago) and were unaware of the entirety of Dick Kay's career. Samuels used quite a bit of footage from two Kay classics, The Johnson City Pool Hustlers and The Demise of the Wabash Cannonball. Wow. I had no idea.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Only a shadow of the Wabash Cannonball line.


Posted on June 1, 2006

MUSIC - Spring Awakening Wake-Up Call!
TV - Exclusive! Rahm's New TV Gig.
POLITICS - The Political Odds UPDATED.
SPORTS - NHL: CTE Not Our Fault.

BOOKS - Stan Lee, Flawed Hero.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: I Am Iron Man.

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