Sunday, December 17, 2006

Obama's future might depend on his past

Obama's future might depend on his past
December 17, 2006
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
Back in the day, long before he was a rising star, long before he addressed adoring crowds, long before he faced a monumental decision, Barack Obama was just another state legislator bringing home the bacon.

The Sun-Times' Mark Brown noted this six years ago in a column on the largess of lawmakers and then-Gov. George Ryan's pork-barrel Illinois First program where Springfield handed out money hand over fist to legislators to give to constituents' pet projects.

Obama, the Hyde Park state senator, got $100,000 for an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. The topic: The Concept of Time.

Now, it seems, time has chosen Obama as his clock ticks toward a January date with destiny. And no group of people is more excited than those of us who will cover the election. We like the fact that we knew him when. Long before folks in Iowa or New Hampshire stuck out their hands to press his flesh, we actually rubbed shoulders. He's our homey and we are his. As hometown press, we're wild about this story. A politician from Chicago tearing down a barrier of race. One of our own ready to make history.

But history should also provide perspective about those stubborn things, some little, some big, that can bring a candidate down to size. Every one of his votes in the Illinois General Assembly over eight years and every one of his votes in the Senate for the last two will be under his opponents' microscope.

That includes what he himself now calls a "boneheaded" property deal with the recently indicted political power broker Tony Rezko to increase the size of his Hyde Park yard. Rezko, whom Obama knew was already "under a cloud," sold the senator 10 feet of his own prime property next door to Obama's new home, diminishing the value of Rezko's land and potentially making it impossible for him to build the condos the lot is zoned for.

Last week Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz decreed the Rezko affair "a minor league issue" but noted, "as Bill Clinton learned about his money-losing Arkansas land deal, when you run for president, everything in your past gets magnified."

Starpower gets supersized.

But so does even one stupid decision.

Legacies & dynasties
On Monday, Sandi Jackson, 43, will make an 11th hour grand entrance over at the City Board of Elections to file her petitions for 7th Ward alderman just before the Dec. 18 deadline. There is guaranteed to be a gaggle of television cameras and reporters to record her arrival.

This will be a race to watch as Mrs. Jackson, wife of 2nd District U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., will contest the legacy appointment of Darcel Beavers, 47, just installed by Mayor Daley to inherit the seat of her father, William Beavers, on the City Council. Ald. Beavers is now Cook County Commissioner Beavers after orchestrating the legacy nomination of Todd Stroger to replace his father, John, as president of the Cook County Board. Todd Stroger succeeded interim President Bobbie Steele, who just retired after bequeathing her own county commissioner seat, Chicago-style, to her son, Robert.

And so the South Side 7th Ward contest will be a battle of Legacy vs. Dynasty. The Jackson Dynasty.

Though Congressman Jackson has bowed out of a mayoral race against Mayor Daley, deciding to stay put in a newly Democratic controlled House of Representatives instead, his ambitions to build a Jackson political machine remain intact. At issue is whether he really can do it.

Though he and his allies have targeted and successfully taken down political enemies before, most memorably Bill and Bob Shaw, the South Side terrible twinsome, whom he deposed from seats in the state Legislature and on the Cook County Board of Review, the upcoming aldermanic battles will be tougher.

The Jacksons are expected to run aldermanic candidates in five to seven wards. But in addition to the contest in the 7th, the other real race to watch is on the West Side in the 2nd Ward. That's where Ald. Madeline Haithcock, a 13-year incumbent and Daley stalwart, will face a field of opponents that include not only the Jackson anointed candidate, Kenny Johnson, a concert promoter, but also former alderman Wallace Davis Jr.

Davis, whose last run for alderman was in 1987 when he was behind bars charged by the feds with public corruption and extortion, has had a colorful history, to say the least. After spending four years in federal prison, he returned home to the West Side and opened Wallace's Catfish Corner, among other properties he bought up in the shadow of the United Center. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), no relation, has endorsed him.

This, more than any other race where the would-be Jackson Machine has jumped in, shapes up to be a South Side vs. West Side pitched battle for political primacy. Then again, let's remember Mayor Daley knows something about that himself.


Post a Comment

<< Home