Thursday, May 8, 2014

Better a blemish on your record than no record at all

     If I had to sum up the challenge of being a newspaper columnist in one sentence, I'd say, "Be edgy but not insane." You want to offer provocative thoughts that keep people talking—and reading—without saying crazy things that will either cause them to rightly dismiss you or that might get yourself fired.
      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
      To me the race seems pretty clear. You have Quinn, the former brick-throwing reformer who, through complete happenstance, was elevated from the meaningless sinecure of lieutenant governor  after Rod Blagojevich swan-dived into prison, to the Herculean task of governor. For the first year or two, I hooted at Quinn, this goo-goo blinking in innocent puzzlement at the levers of power, a guy who, in my estimation, was good at criticizing, bad at the brawny arm-twisting involved in actually getting stuff done.
     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, 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.


  1. One wonders if we read the same Sun-Times.
    1. Quinn has never been a brainless wonder. He is a hollowed-out guy who sold the state on the cut-back amendment in the early '80s. Saved 4 million dollars a year, only to be a combine machine-one party state. Check the pre-1980 state constitution when each district was required to elect one from the minority party two from the majority.

    2. Quinn is a Chicago Democrat soldier. He has no policies or agenda. That is his life-long agenda. The only thing he knows is how long his dad served in the military. It's an act.

    3 Pension reform? Study the word reform and the passed law. Nothing has been reformed. The pension system is not to 80 percent funded and won't be. It's a Ponzi scheme. Borrow, bond, tax. Repeat.

    4.Rauner has managed billion dollar plus companies. He has met a payroll. And not by taxing others or through climbing government jobs over a lifetime. What does government provide? Silence. Private sector creates jobs and allows taxes. Government just re-distributes.

    5. Quinn doled out cash to south suburban and Chicago Democrat power-brokers. That was the get out the vote strategy. Let the money flow from Springfield into the Township Committeemen/women and Township Supervisors and give them a chance to dole out gov't cash. In exchange, these local kings/queens were expected to deliver the votes in the precincts. It worked, just ask the sitting governor who won the election. How the mother of pearl did Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown end up getting this "anti-violence" grant money? Sickening. But then her gov't county website is one big, unabashed political campaign site.

    6. Who do you expect to run for governor in a 400-mile long state more akin to a United Nations annual meeting where suburban moms in DuPage and McHenry/Kane counties swing the entire election? You'd have to be nuts to want the job. Have you been to Springfield in July? The Executive Mansion needs more than a swimming pool, it needs a neighborhood. A 100-year-old abandoned YWCA sits across the vacant 20-foot street. Let the best self-enricher win.

    --Art Gold

    1. Would you care to discuss how Rauner lost over $60 million in a nursing home business which is continuing to earn him and GCTR more than a few black eyes over the ways residents were treated? I've worked for decades at America's top companies. Managing a business where profit is the name of the game is far different than managing a state. You can't outsource your poor and needy like you can workers. Nor, can you declare bankruptcy to escape your obligations. Let's not forget how someone who makes tens of millions of dollars each year wants those at the bottom of the economic ladder to make even less given his objection to the minimum wage.

    2. Give it time, ever hear of Stockton, Calif.? States aren't far behind when you give-away pensions for life that are funded by future tax obligations.
      --A. Gold

    3. Cities but not states are allowed to enter bankruptcy. Any particular reason why you chose to not respond to anything else I wrote about Rauner?

  2. One last senior moment:
    I'd rather read Steinberg's considerable turns of phrase and jockular, top SAT vocabulary ponder why Patty Mell Blago is running a political lobbying firm while Mrs. Jesse Jackson, Jr. will soon be a non-voluntary resident of the federal hotel system. Racism, much? (I am suppose to believe Patty "Tollway Wildflowers Beautification Gardens" Mell Blago didn't aid and abet her F-en Golden husband? Shhure, just like her real estate license scam, Trump TV show, and now, dear old pops is bringing the Nielsen rated-dead back to life. Cue the insider deals and petty name calling. I guess plane fares to FCI Englewood, Colo. must be rising.

  3. And another thing:
    You mention a convicted felon...the guy bounced a check for about $3,500 once in Tenn. He's the BEST qualified to handle money in Crook County. Geesh, you like the F-word. Better than the C-word. Criminal. But then context is everything and anyone who's rolled through a stop sign and been caught is a criminal. I hope you are not having criminal thoughts about old Art because I posted three times!

  4. Quite frankly, Rauner scares me. He's buying the job and I think he's going to get it. His commercials are terrific. In fact, I've never seen better political commercials. Most folks don't pay that much attention to politics. They will be won over by the commercials. Then we'll be in for it.
    Barbara Palmer

  5. To Anonymous or is it Barbara Palmer?
    There wasn't a requirement that each party could only put up two candidates for each district, it was an agreement between the parties that they would do that.
    So the combine was there before 1980.
    While there was the occasional excellent legislator elected due to bullet voting, it also meant a large number of total zilches, who were there solely because they were party hacks & it got them a paycheck & all the bribes they could collect.
    Since no where else in the country used cumulative voting for the state legislature, it shows what a disaster it was.

    1. Actually, the state constitution of 1970, adopted by voters after Con-Con, mandated that a majority party and minority party be elected from every House district. Hence, "cut-back" amendment. The state legislature was larger, by constitutional mandate, and "cut-back" after Quinn convinced voters the move would save legislators' salaries. Anyone care to ask any surviving Con-Con members of 1969 their opinion on Quinn's marvelous consolidation of power in this one-party state?
      --A. Gold

  6. Somehow Steinberg left out an important sentence. "I'm Pat Quinn and I approve this message."

  7. I liked what Quinn did years ago, cutting the size of the state legislature b y a third. Should have eliminated the other 2-3rds too. The attack on pensions was vile, and he supports gun control. So he has to go. I don't like the other guy, but anything is better than anti-gun and income tax raising Quinn. Prediction: the evil Quinn will lose! Despite anything the racist Suburban Sun-Times says. :)


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