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American Dream Betrayed

Barack Obama (D-Daley)

Barack Obama endorsed Mayor Richard M. Daley on Monday, saying among other things that the city had made great strides in overcoming corruption. Forgive Obama, he hasn't been in the state much since being elected senator.

Just where does Obama see improvement? Daley is now finishing his worst term since the one in which more than 700 people died in the 1995 heat wave that he so badly mismanaged. Perhaps Obama hasn't heard of the Hired Truck Scandal, or that Robert Sorich, the mayor's former patronage chief, is on his way to jail. And that's just the top of the shitpile; there are also the revelations of Daley's extensive patronage machine; stalled efforts at CPS and CHA; a CTA that is literally running off the rails; soaring property taxes; and the stain of that pesky Burge Report, whose whitewashing managed in reverse to make the mayor look guilty.

Now, to be sure, Obama's endorsement had very little to do with Daley's re-election campaign (except to help satisfy the mayor's thirst to positively crush his opponents and critics), but everything to do with Obama's presidential campaign.

And that's what's troubling.

For all his talk of representing a new kind of politics, Obama's every move smacks of business-as-usual. It's not just that his endorsement of Daley - just days after Hillary Clinton announced she was joining the race - sends a message to the city's big money people and other players still on the fence that there will a price to pay in mayoral vengeance should they side with Clinton over Obama.

It's that it puts to rest any doubt that Obama is anything but at the center of the same old machine, the same old fundraisers, the same old tactics, and, in the end, the same old cynical political calculations.

Obama has now endorsed Richard M. Daley, Todd Stroger, Alexi Giannoulias, and, just to be clear about all that against-the-war-from-the-beginning talk, Joe Lieberman. He made a real estate deal with Tony Rezko, and now is trying to tap Carl McCall, the former New York comptroller whose fingerprints are all over the Stuart Levine pension fund scandal. His advisors include Bill Daley and the telecom lobby.

So just what kind of new politics does Obama represent? Better manners?

*

It didn't appear in the print version of the Sun-Times article, but the paper's original Web report about Obama's endorsement of the Daley included this anecdote of Obama trying to weasel out of some fairly innocuous comments he made about the mayor in 2005.

"In August 2005," Fran Spielman wrote, "Obama nearly ran into trouble with Daley when he hedged on whether he'd support the mayor for re-election in light of the corruption investigations at City Hall.

"Asked then if he planned to support the mayor or if the corruption probes might have given him pause, the senator replied, 'What's happened - some of the reports I've seen in your newspaper, I think, give me huge pause.'

'An hour later, he called the Sun-Times saying he wanted to clarify his remarks. Obama said the mayor was 'obviously going through a rough patch right now.' But he also said Chicago has 'never looked better' and that 'significant progress has been made on a variety of fronts.' The senator said then it was 'way premature' to talk about endorsements because the mayor had not yet announced his candidacy.

"Daley didn't hold a grudge against Obama. He reportedly concluded that the freshman senator had been trapped by a loaded question."

Yes. Asking if the corruption surrounding the mayor gave him pause certainly is loaded.

Barack Obama: A kinder, gentler old politics.

*

"I don't understand how Sen. Obama could look at this administration and see a cleaner government," challenger Dorothy Brown said.

That's because you're not supposed to look at this administration head-on, you're just supposed to kind of glance at it from the side and then turn away really quickly and get back to admiring the flowers.

*

"Obama also endorsed Daley's running mates, whom he described as old friends," Spielman reports. "They are City Clerk Miguel del Valle and Treasurer Stephanie Neely."

Obama also shares a media advisor with Daley in David Axelrod. And Obama's wife, Michelle, used to work for the mayor.

Barack Obama (D-Daley).

*

Do you think Obama encouraged Daley to debate his opponents for the first time in his mayoralty?

*

Do you think Obama, who has been a Wal-Mart critic, asked the mayor about calling proponents of the big-box ordinance racists?

*

"Mayoral challenger Dorothy Brown said Obama's endorsement of Daley flies in the face of remarks the senator made about corrupt politicians during a fiery Martin Luther King Day speech in Harvey," Spielman reported.

But just what did Obama say?

From the Daily Southtown:

"There are a lot things Harvey needs," Obama said. "Some folks here in city hall think that maybe the office that they possess is because they are so special, it is supposed to be a place where they can help their family and their friends instead of helping the people who elected them."

Gee, whose administration does that sound like?

Beyond that, Obama's Harvey appearance raised questions - again - about his choice of political friends.

*

See also "The Trouble With Obama."




Permalink

Posted on January 23, 2007


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
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