Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More on the Chicago Machine

According to David Freddoso in the Wall Street Journal, it seems that Senator Obama had a chance to back a bipartisan reform effort in Cook County in Illinois, and chose instead to vote for a Chicago political machine hack who was well known as corrupt:
In the 2006 election, reformers from both parties attempted to end the corruption in Chicago's Cook County government. They probably would have succeeded, too, had Mr. Obama taken their side. Liberals and conservatives came together and nearly ousted Cook County Board President John Stroger, the machine boss whom court papers credibly accuse of illegally using the county payroll to maintain his own standing army of political cronies, contributors and campaigners.

The since-deceased Stroger's self-serving mismanagement of county government is still the subject of federal investigations and arbitration claims. Stroger was known for trying repeatedly to raise taxes to fund his political machine, even as basic government services were neglected in favor of high-paying county jobs for his political soldiers.

When liberals and conservatives worked together to clean up Cook County's government, they were displaying precisely the postpartisan interest in the common good that Mr. Obama extols today. And Mr. Obama, by working against them, helped keep Chicago politics dirty. He refused to endorse the progressive reformer, Forrest Claypool, who came within seven points of defeating Stroger in the primary.

After the primary, when Stroger's son Todd replaced him on the ballot under controversial circumstances, a good-government Republican named Tony Peraica attracted the same kind of bipartisan support from reformers in the November election. But Mr. Obama endorsed the young heir to the machine, calling him -- to the absolute horror of Chicago liberals -- a "good, progressive Democrat."

Mayor Richard M. Daley -- who would receive Mr. Obama's endorsement in 2007 shortly after several of his top aides and appointees had received prison sentences for their corrupt operation of Chicago's city government -- was invested in the Stroger machine's survival. So was every alderman and county commissioner who uses the county payroll to support political hangers-on. So was Mr. Obama's friend and donor, Tony Rezko, who is now in federal prison awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June of 16 felony corruption charges. Rezko had served as John Stroger's finance chairman and raised $150,000 for him (Stroger put Rezko's wife on the county payroll).
Once again, we see the central role of Obama's money man Tony Rezko, who is one of the bagmen for the Chicago Machine.

Don't just take the Wall Street Journal's word for it though. Far closer to home, the Chicago Tribune had this to say about Obama's endorsement of Todd Stroger back in 2006:
...Obama has come too far as an inspiring new breed of politician on the national scene to muck around in local politics, endorsing machine hack candidates and substituting party for principle. Or so you'd imagine.

There were warning signs: Obama's first dubious endorsement of a lightweight came during the primary season when he cut TV ads plumping for Alexi Giannoulias, then 29, the vice president of his family's bank who decided he'd like to be state treasurer. The endorsement was widely seen as key to Giannoulias' primary victory.

Obama was upfront about why he got involved: Members of the Giannoulias family were early and strong backers of his U.S. Senate campaign and "I think it's important to reciprocate," he told a reporter.

But Obama did not reciprocate for Forrest Claypool.

Claypool was the overwhelming favorite of reform-minded Democrats in his race against incumbent John Stroger (Todd's father) and had headed Obama's transition team after Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004.

Old-guard candidate John Stroger, meanwhile, had endorsed Comptroller Dan Hynes instead of Obama in the Democratic Senate primary.

When Obama decided not to endorse either candidate, his spokesman intoned, "The senator believes that the voters should make up their own minds in this race."

As you know, then, John Stroger suffered a stroke, won the primary and retired for health reasons. The Democratic Central Committee thumbed its nose at critics and selected Todd Stroger to take his place on the ballot, rejecting more senior, qualified candidates such as U.S. Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago and veteran county Commissioner Bobbie Steele.

The stench of same-old-same-old from John Stroger's years of cronyism and bloat hung over the process, and Obama had every excuse to distance himself from it.

Instead came this letter--a body blow to Claypool Democrats and the idealists whose fantasy about Obama is that he will transcend the grubby machinations and tawdry favor-swapping of party politics--followed by word from Obama's office that he will appear on stage at a pro-Stroger rally Monday night.
So, let's count the largely unchallenged statements Obama repeatedly makes about himself that this story simply destroys, shall we?

1. Obama represents a new politics. Reality: No, actually, he represents the oldest politics around, the big-city political machine. When given the opportunity to choose his reformist ally, Forrest Claypool, over a dirty Machine politician who previously endorsed Obama's rival, he undermined the reformer by failing to endorse either candidate. When John Stroger retired, Obama further chose to endorse Stroger's son Todd over more experienced and reform-oriented alternatives.

2. Obama represents a new bipartisan spirit, rising above petty divisions. Reality: At the last, given a chance to support a reformist Republican over Todd Stroger, Obama again chose Todd Stroger. Three strikes, you're out.

This is just his record in Chicago, but it exemplifies how Obama's rhetoric is completely disconnected from the actual reality of how he does things. And it is the poor of Chicago who suffer most from this corrupt brand of politics. "Stroger was known for trying repeatedly to raise taxes to fund his political machine, even as basic government services were neglected in favor of high-paying county jobs for his political soldiers."

Do you think the rich of Chicago were hurt by Stroger's neglect of basic services, or the poor?

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