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The [Rod & Judy] Papers

"He was slick, but he's always been slick, from the day he married the daughter of a Chicago ward boss on his way to the governor's mansion.

"She didn't seem like a Republican governor ready to restore a party crippled by corruption. Instead, she reminded me of some tired waitress in a river town café who's heard the same jokes too many times.

"I knew they belonged together."

- John Kass, on the best and brightest candidates for governor Illinois was able to produce this year

*

The governor and the lady met face-to-face inside the Tribune's wood-paneled editorial page board room on Tuesday, in what the Tribune turned into an "exclusive" once it became clear that negotiations for further appearances between the gubernatorial candidates had broken off and this was likely the last debate of the campaign.

It was a little disingenuous on the Tribune's part to splay the whole thing over its front page as if either candidate actually said something of interest, and the transcript excerpts taking up the whole Op-Ed page wasn't very revealing, but then, the Trib didn't quite seem to know what to do with this strange beast they have created.

The candidates, after all, were there for an ostensibly private debate in front of the editorial board in order to win the paper's endorsement - which we all already know will go to Topinka.

On one hand, you have to wonder why the Tribune editorial board doesn't just sponsor a public debate. On the other hand, yes, it's a great opportunity for board members to personally question the candidates in close quarters. It's just all so Tribunicly arrogant and presumptuous.

In any case, the Tribune editorial board succeeded in making some news as host to a session most illuminating for the questions the governor refused to clearly answer - namely whether he had hired a personal criminal defense lawyer, and what that $1,500 check to his daughter was really all about.

Oddly, though, the Tribune acceded to the Blagojevich campaign's demand that the session not be videotaped. Audiotape, on the other hand, was allowed. Perhaps the campaign didn't want to hand Topinka a ready-made campaign commercial of the governor dodging more questions about scandal in his administration, but for all the Tribune's bellyaching about how the candidates should have more debates for the public good, you'd think maybe they would've held fast and not let the governor set ground rules that shut the public out. The Tribune held a debate that we're not allowed to see.

Then again, maybe the governor's folks were looking for an easy out - a point of disagreement they could latch onto to cancel their appearance and find someone else to blame. Maybe the Trib was just calling their bluff, but it's still an untenable position.

Given the lameness of the candidates' performance, the most stunning aspect of the Tribune's little show was this little nugget revealed in the very last paragraph of its front-page story: "The third candidate on next month's election ballot, Green Party candidate Richard Whitney, was not invited to participate in the editorial board meeting. The Tribune editorial board said Whitney had been clear in his positions in answering questionnaires sent to the candidates and wanted to further question Blagojevich and Topinka."

See what happens? You answer the questions too clearly and they don't let you play with the big boys.

Richard Whitney: Crystal clear and shut out. That about says it all.

Rich and Randy
I'm sure the Tribune editorial board doesn't perceive Whitney to be a viable candidate, but so what? He is, after all, on the ballot. And voters yearn for choices beyond the ones that the two biggest private parties who have hijacked our government have given us. I would have liked to hear from Constitution Party write-in candidate Randall Stufflebeam as well. That's a real debate.

Not only that, but the gubernatorial victory of Jesse Ventura in Minnesota a few years ago - not my choice, bu that's not the point - was tied largely to his inclusion in the debates; likewise, you can't reasonably argue that we as a democracy would have been better off shutting Ross Perot out of the presidential debates of 1992. The Tribune editorial page ought to stand for a full exchange of views among at least all candidates who have managed to get on the ballot, don't you think?

Or do you trust this self-selected group of mostly former reporters and editors who landed on an editorial board for all sorts of reasons to serve as your filter?

Green With Disgust
Speaking of Whitney, a good example of the media's mentality comes from Daily Southtown political writer Kristen McQueary. She opened a recent column about Whitney this way: "The goal was this: Find out if he's a whack job."

You know, as opposed to the felon who is our former Republican governor and the felon-to-be who is our current Democratic governor.

"I sat in my car outside the Pilsen restaurant, trying to stifle my elitist perception of credible gubernatorial fundraising - $100-a-plate dinners in chandeliered ballrooms with an open bar and tidy-looking men in patriotic neckties," McQueary continues.

"This was a dumpy restaurant on the Southwest Side with a couple of dudes in dreadlocks swinging through the front door. A disappointing crowd of 40 people sat in a back room that smelled of fried tortillas."

Well, that tells you everything you need to know about our political press corps. They still have more faith in tidy-looking men in patriotic neckties than dudes in dreadlocks.

Cold Rod
The governor's vaunted political skills seem to have abandoned him.

"Blagojevich said he didn't know whether his family received additional checks from a longtime friend who wrote one for $1,500 in 2003 to one of the governor's daughters after the friend's wife got a state job," the Tribune reports.

You'd think Blago would have learned everything there is to learn about this transaction by now - if there ws nothing to hide. He's only giving the story longer legs.

He also made it worse for himself by not acknowledging that he has hired a personal criminal lawyer. His dodging has made more news than just saying, "Yes, of course I have. There is a federal investigation going on, wouldn't you?"

Bears Mini-Footballs!
The Sun-Times pretended the debate did not take place. The biggest political story of the day - featuring the governor - and The Bright One ignored it.

Gov. Baloneyvich
Not so Chicago Tonight. Last night, host Phil Ponce tacked an "Editor's Note" onto the end of the show and took the governor to the woodshed. Bravo. Blagojevich reneged on a written agreement to participate in a debate - co-sponsored by the City Club - on the show, and Ponce rightly called him out on it.

"Both had agreed to debate here later this month," Ponce said. "The governor has now pulled out . . . no more debates . . . we think that stinks, and if you're not insulted as a citizen, you should be . . . The governor has gone back on his word . . . he doesn't want to answer some tough questions . . ."

WTTW would do right to put a copy of Ponce's plea on its website. I guarantee it would get mucho linkage.

Take Two
Chicago Tonight moderator Carol Marin followed up in her Sun-Times column today, eviscerating the Blago team for clearly running from the debate.

Daley Dodge
Will all these media attacks on the governor for first proposing a series of debates and then bailing out should only increase pressure on Mayor Daley to actually participate in debates for the first time since 1989? We'll see if the media is equally as adamant.

Tired Trib
Can we please get over the Lincoln-Douglas debates already? It was 1858. It's not like they could reach the people by throwing up a MySpace page.



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Posted on October 11, 2006


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
SPORTS - Ryan Pace's Narratives Are Killing Us.

BOOKS - Chicago For Dummies.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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