Thus I try to step back, from time to time, and look at my opinions, to make sure they aren't drifting from strong into rigid, not going from unexpected to unhinged, or straying from consistent into repetitive. Which I did the other day regarding the upcoming gubernatorial campaign between Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner, the Republican challenger. Or tried to.
|Chicago Botanic Garden, May 4, 2014|
Then a funny thing happened.
Quinn, to everyone's amazement, managed to hold off the challenge of right wing dinosaur Bill Brady, and began to actually accomplish things. He achieved essential pension reform, a necessity that so far has mostly danced out of the reach of far-more-nimble politician Rahm Emanuel. He signed gay marriage into law despite his Catholic upbringings. And in general proved a smart leader and a decent man—something in short supply in politics.
Then you have Bruce Rauner, another bored Republican rich guy sent up from Central Casting, looking for a cherry to put on top of his career. Rauner has no experience in government whatsoever and, like Tea Partiers everywhere, feels that this is an asset, since they hate government and want to be elected so they can dismantle it. You don't need to be a carpenter to tear a house down. His followers demand that we "Give him a chance" as if being governor of Illinois were a pick-up kickball game and Rauner the new kid who just showed up and is shyly grinding his toe into the dirt by home plate.
You wouldn't pick a doctor that way. Nor would you, in the middle of surgery, if the patient took a turn for the worse, call in another surgeon, since this one obviously isn't working. You stick with the guy doing the operating.
Yet. Having delivered a number of kicks to Rauner, I began to worry that this was a rut I was sliding into, that I was becoming shrill—there's enough shrill already without my adding to it—and just as I was wondering if I hadn't made myself too comfortable in the trench I had dug on the governor's side, along comes news of the botched Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence program that Quinn funded to the tune of $54.5 million.
The timing of the funding looks political—designed to push Quinn in black communities in the 2010 election. Not that a black person would vote for Bill Brady under any circumstance, that would be like, in 1938...no, I'm not going there. But something had to get people out and to the polls. The thing was run by Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown's husband, Benton Cook III, who turned out to be a convicted felon, as revealed by my colleagues in the Sun-Times.
Welllllll, I thought. This looks bad for Quinn. And I wondered: Could this be the time to jump over to Rauner? I don't want to be one of those guys who clings to his cause even harder as it goes up in flames. Cognitive dissonance —I hate that. At least Rauner downplays the usual litany of right wing social engineering. So far.
And then I wondered. This scandal is being placed at Quinn's feet because ... why? Because it happened in Illinois under his watch—a span that covers the past five plus years. He didn't collude with Cook, at worst he addressed violence in a fashion designed to help him, politically, and then didn't pay attention to how it was administered. Which makes sense, since he has the entire state to think about; he isn't the guy who was supposed to keep an eye on Dorothy Brown's husband, at least not directly. Yes, the buck stops with Quinn, but if that's the worst thing he's done, then it isn't an indictment, it's an endorsement. The worst thing his two predecessors have done landed them both in prison.
Which brings us back to Rauner, who can't have anything good, bad or indifferent laid at his feet because he hasn't done anything in Illinois beyond make a pile of money for himself. That's worse than a scandal, isn't it? If the man cares so much now, where has he been? Should a person's first elected office be governor? The Republicans sure cared about experience when it was Barack Obama running. Rauner makes Obama seem like Claude Pepper. But he wants to manage the state, a job that even a straight-arrow, do-gooder like Pat Quinn sometimes has trouble managing, as this scandal demonstrates. To be honest, this problem is a reminder that we need someone in office who knows what he's doing, generally, as opposed to a guy who says the job is easy and he'll do it better because he has never tried before. I'd rather trust Pat Quinn with a black spot on his five-year record of service than Bruce Rauner with no spots because he has no record. Returning to the doctor metaphor, who would you rather operate on you:: a doctor who had one of his thousands of patients die? Or a doctor who has never treated anybody at all? I know who I'd pick. Still.