The [Tuesday] Papers
"A baby, a bozo, a jerk, a firebrand and a stiff," Neil Steinberg wrote on Friday.
"Or, if you prefer, Willie Wilson, Bob Fioretti, Rahm Emanuel, William 'Dock' Walls and Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia."
Or, if you prefer, Neil Steinberg, 'cause he's pretty much all those things.
"Wilson is a political novice . . . " Steinberg writes, which I guess is how he comes to call him a "baby." Rookie, I suppose, isn't incendiary enough. Ignoramus too much so. But baby?
" . . . a millionaire running for mayor because he's missing whatever gene keeps you or me from doing embarrassing things that we aren't capable of accomplishing half well."
Let me fix that: "He's missing whatever gene keeps you
Like political analysis.
"Fioretti - well, 'clown' is a harsh assessment, especially since he dialed his hair color back, though his smile is still a chilling, facial appliance that walked off from American Horror Story."
Um, okay. I'll let Fioretti advisor Michael Kolenc handle the response:
"He was a competent, block-by-block alderman before his ward was redistricted away. Now he is hammering away below Emanuel's belt, dragging the mayor's son into the campaign for getting mugged, hoping for a miracle. He continued his unfair flailing Friday, tossing everything that comes to mind into the blender, from Emanuel's spearheading Bill Clinton's hugely successful rollback of welfare - he seemed to think that was a bad thing - to blaming him for the assault rifle ban expiring. Oh, and wrecking the city."
First, Fioretti may have been a "competent block-by-block alderman," though I've never really heard him described that way, and I doubt Steinberg actually knows that, but he's best known for - and in the race because of - his role as the most vocal member of the council's progressive caucus.
Second, a singular ill-prepared set of questions about how the mayor handled his son's mugging hardly qualifies as "hammering away."
Finally, few, if any, members of America's political class have hammered away below the belt as much as Rahm Emanuel.
"The mayor needs no explanation."
"We all know."
We all know what? Apparently that he's a jerk. But that's okay.
"He seems to have sincerely believed his high opinion of himself would simply be imparted to the voters by osmosis and is hurt to discover otherwise (though $30 million of TV ads ought to do the trick)."
By osmosis? Yes, Rahm has never tried very hard to manipulate his media message! And yet, he needs just, say, $30 million of TV ads to get voters to believe him and not their own eyes!
"He did not actually say anything jerkish Friday. He was the same as always, reptilian, his voice a little softer, which to me seemed restrained fury, an I-spend-four-years-trying-to-save-this-frickin'-city-and-THIS-is-the-thanks-I-get? seething resentment."
Rahm has been trying to save the city. Without him, we'd be . . . that one city we dread being.
"But unlike the others, he actually has a record."
"In the last four years, we've presented four balanced budgets without a property, sales or gas tax increase," Emanuel murmured. "Four years in a row we increased our investments in after school, summer jobs and early childhood education."
Um, every mayor of Chicago has presented a balanced budget every year. It's the law.
And those investments? Well, there are 50 fewer schools with after-school programs, for starters!
"Walls was the surprise. In my mind he dwelled, in the realm of perennially ambitious street hustlers trying for a legitimate score - I wasn't 100 percent sure he was a different person than Wallace 'Gator' Bradley before now. But he came on strongest of the five."
Because all those black guys yabbering about race seem like the same guy.
"'There's two Chicagos,' Walls said. 'There's a world-class Chicago and and there's an underclass Chicago. The world-class Chicago is beautiful, safe tourist-friendly robust, full of resources and unlimited opportunity for Rahm Emanuel and the other 1 Percenters. That's the Chicago the media loves to brag about. Then there's the underclass Chicago that nobody wants to talk about: decaying neighborhoods, unsafe streets, people dodging potholes and bullets.'
"Too true, and well-put . . ."
And the same thing every other candidate is saying. And the same thing every opponent of Richard M. Daley said. But apparently a new observation to Steinberg.
" . . . though he jumps to a surprising conclusion.
"'Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago is the most racially segregated city in America,' Walls said.
Why is this surprising? To be fair, I would have said "Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago remains the most racially segregated (big) city in America," but this, too, isn't news. Steinberg doesn't tell us why he finds this surprising. Maybe he's in too much of a hurry to slur Chuy Garcia.
"Garcia carries himself like a man balancing phone books on his head, like the profile off a coin, a minor bureaucrat in a small country who should be wearing a red sash and applying wax seals to official documents while ceiling fans slowly turn overhead."
You know, like an apparatchik in a Latin American banana republic, because, see, Garcia is Latino.
"All except the mayor discussed schools as if we had all the money in the world, and Rahm just hates to spend it on poor folk."
If you're Rahm, or his base, you do have all the money in the world for school - say, 30 grand a year, per kid, like at the Lab School where the mayor sends his children. Rahm won't spend even close to that on poor people's kids - he once told Karen Lewis he wasn't going to waste money on 25% of 'em - instead, he shuts their schools. So yeah, I'd say that's about right.
"I can't vote in this election, not living in Chicago - as I'm sure you'll point out, trying to undermine the plain truths outlined here. But watching the sorry spectacle, I kept thinking, 'Rahm may be a jerk, but he's our jerk.' Walls speaks a good piece but has done nothing to make anyone suspect he could do the job. The others have neither the language nor the experience."
So Dock Walls is his second choice?
As for experience, Garcia has been an alderman, state legislator, county commissioner and community organizer. I'm disappointed with many aspects of his campaign, but he clearly has the experience - you might say much more relevant experience than Rahm did when he first ran for mayor.
And Fioretti, as a "competent" alderman among a council of fools, knows the city's issues intimately, and has eight years of opposing Rahm's policies while proposing his own.
"Voters seem resigned that Rahm Emanuel will win. Looking at his opponents, I can say with confidence: not only he will win, but he should win. God help the city if he doesn't."
Would the city fall apart if Garcia or Fioretti - the only serious challengers - were elected mayor? The city is falling apart right now! I suspect the leadership of Garcia or Fioretti would be less exhausting, more honest and far less polarizing than the leadership of Rahm.
But Rahm's a jerk, and people tend to like candidates who are just like them, which makes him perfect for Steinberg.
The version of this column on Steinberg's blog is even worse. From the intro:
"If this piece seems a tad sharp, it's because of the unpleasantness of contemplating what passes for political discourse in this city."
Lacking self-awareness much?
"Everyone hates him - his personality makes that easy, I'm not fond of him either, but knee jerk contempt overlooks that he's making all these hard choices for a city that was busted long before he got here."
All these hard choices! Tell us he's tough, Neil. You know you want to.
As for a city "busted long before he got here," busted by who? Like Rahm, Steinberg doesn't utter the name. Maybe because he once wrote "I would have voted for Daley, warts and all. I always did. The corruption doesn't bother me - what city doesn't have corruption?"
Now we need the guy behind the guy to fix what the first guy busted with the help of the second guy and without either guy the city would have or still will fall apart.
"People seem under the delusion we have vast resources, that Emanuel's closing mental health clinics because it's his idea of fun."
Closing those clinics was estimated - by the mayor - to have saved $3 million. The mayor is spending $30 million in TV ads during this campaign to tell you why that was necessary.
"How anyone can pretend to care about the city yet back one of the crew of misfits running against him is beyond me."
Written by someone who pretends to care about the city by living in Northbrook.
Also, if it's beyond you why someone would support one of the other candidates, you ought to seek another line of work. Even the most fervent supporters of Rahm's challengers fully understand why some folk back the mayor. It's not hard to figure out the motivations of any voter.
Plus, did you live through the school closings?
"Bob Fioretti I knew; I drove around his ward with him once - and see his campaign as the standard end-of-career lunge."
End-of-career lunge? The man is 61. He was going to run four years ago until he was stricken with throat cancer. Now his ward has been decimated by Rahm's remap. Why shouldn't he run? Far less lunging than this column.
"Jesus Garcia I've been trying to shadow for a column for the past month, but arranging it seems beyond his press secretary's ability."
Therefore I will speak ignorantly about him.
In the comments, Steinberg writes:
"There's a sad tendency to want to infantalize people who have had a hardship. Fioretti wasn't disfigured by cancer - he looked clownish before. Nor is that my central criticism of him but an aside."
There's a sad tendency to want to criticize people's appearances. It's something most decent people get over by the time they've left high school.
It's also the first thing Steinberg says about Fioretti; hardly an aside.
A baby, a bozo, a jerk, a firebrand and a stiff.
If a firebrand for idiocy will suffice, I'd say Neil Steinberg is all those things.
That's a clown column, bro.
Noted: In the blog version of his column, Steinberg calls Clinton's welfare reform "[T]he most successful social change the federal government initiated in the past 25 years."
He also cites Walls' "One Percent" rhetoric as true even as he criticizes "Occupy Chicago rhetoric."
He also castigates the candidates for their platitudes while praising Rahm for his.
When I used to write more about Steinberg, a few people asked me if I had something personal against him. I do not. He's just so aggressively wrong so often in his facts and logic, not to mention consistently boneheaded about race as well as an ethical nightmare, that I am offended he has a job in this profession every time I read him.
"[B]eing nudged off your beat for a week is not, in itself, a big deal," he wrote last October.
I'm pretty sure every reporter in the universe would disagree.
"I was suspended for a week last year for what struck me as a truly tenuous reason. But I didn't tell anybody and few noticed (sigh) making it a whole lot easier to come back and start doing my job again, which is the route I wish Dave [McKinney] had chosen to take since while it is courageous to make a stand for journalistic integrity, you can only self-immolate once, there's a dramatic flash and then ashes but what have you accomplished? The bottom line is, D) I sincerely believe that had McKinney managed to just step around this mess and gone back to doing his job, an important life skill in journalism, instead of pouring gasoline over himself, and the paper, and striking a match, the whole thing would be over by now and he'd be back to kicking Rauner's ass."
Steinberg misses the point here: McKinney didn't feel like he could go back to doing his job because he was being pressured to lay off Rauner.
And it wasn't McKinney that poured gasoline on the paper, it was Michael Ferro, assisted, seemingly, by Jim Kirk.
But if the goal, as Steinberg writes, is to stay at the paper no matter what the cost, then you keep your mouth shut and live as a hypocrite, calling out others for behaving exactly as you do. I guess for Steinberg, that strategy has worked.
In an era of scarce resources.
* Barrett Brown: My Post Cyberpunk Indentured Servitude.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Back to clown school.
Posted on February 3, 2015
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