Monday, July 31, 2006

Personal Aside: Tony Peraica Impressive As He Speaks Staccato-Style and Disputes the County Deficit.

Probably the most revolutionary thing Tony Peraica said last night on my WLS-AM program under stiff examination from journalist-attorney Russ Stewart and me was this: The “deficit” for Cook county government does not exist, is illusory and can be made to evaporate with a thorough top-to-bottom revision of revenue collections. When I asked him what the alleged deficit stands at, he said there are shifting numbers—but he made no bones about the fact that improved collections can eliminate the red-ink without a tax increase (although he stressed that as president he would lead a systemic effort to cut spending). His recitation of the deficiencies at Cook county were impressive because between us Stewart and I tried hard to put him through his paces, questioning some assumptions and challenging figurative statements. It is fair to say that he came through with flying colors.

But he should be held to that contention with further media approaches. Specifically, he ought to be pressed to outline exactly how the illusory deficit—if it is illusory—can be retired with specificity. This Blog has no doubt that Peraica can document his contention but in the limited hour we had, he had not done so. His strong point is his absolute ringing conviction that the deficit doesn’t exist and can be dissipated. That should be the central debating point between him and Todd Stroger. In fairness, the younger Stroger does not advocate a tax hike to eliminate the deficit not does Peraica. But the actual physical existence of the deficit and the fact that Peraica believes it can be ended with better collections and cutting is a very interesting point.

In addition to labeling the deficit illusory, probably the second most important news item was that Peraica shut down any hope from pro-lifers that he would imitate pro-lifer George Dunne and remove abortion services from Cook county hospital. Saying that he is pro-life, Peraica said that nevertheless abortion is the law of the land and stated that he would not seek to impose a ban in his presidency. Third, when hit with a question he did not expect—the grassroots effort to collect 250,000 signatures nation-wide to censure Sen. Richard Durbin—he unhesitatingly endorsed the effort. Fourth, after some verbal hesitation he supported conceal-carry. Fifth, he said that if he won, he would make every effort to revitalize the Cook county Republican organization, although he had high praise for the job chairman Gary Skoien is doing.

Sixth, as expected he projected the possibility which he saw as a probability that Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley, two of the independent Democratic commissioners, would support him. He didn’t sound too convincing when he said it, the boast appearing to be more a hope than forecast of a sure-thing. Seventh, he denied that as president he would have trouble getting along with some Republicans he had criticized earlier including Liz Gorman and Maureen Murphy, the former GOP chairman who was unhorsed largely because of Peraica’s efforts. Eighth, he pledged that if elected he would dispose of his law firm, sell its assets to his current associates. That was a pretty good news evening completed in less than an hour.

My view is not that Peraica can’t accomplish these things: it is whether or not, as an insider told me, the memory of Todd Stroger’s accession to the nomination will be forgotten by the electorate by the time election rolls around. I suppose one would have to say that this is Peraica’s mission—to see that it is not forgotten. But whether he will have the necessary funds to get that message out on television is the question.

The usual prefix to “liberal” is “phony.” Generally, liberal Democrats are supposed to be the ones who react to Old Guard machinations in favor of reform. But the habits of the Democratic base, particularly the African American component, is so ingrained in lockstep to race that one look at Todd Stroger’s photo which brings the conclusion that he is indeed African American and chauvinism can take over that brooks no independent judgment on qualifications, the only ID being that the Democratic candidate is, in fact, black which would be sufficient. For example, would State Sen. James Meeks who makes much of his independence and so-called social conservatism support Peraica against Todd Stroger? Good question. We hear much in the media about Claypool’s criticism of the Old Guard: is his disillusionment with the old style of hand-me-down designation sufficient to challenge it even if by doing so he supports a Republican which may make him enemies for the future? The same with Mike Quigley.

The logical follow-up would be for the media to take Claypool’s and Quigley’s temperature. If they stand back, it would seem that any future protestation about machine politics should not hold much water.

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