Monday, August 20, 2007
Personal Asides: Alderman Brookins, Call Your Campaign Office! Attention Jimmy Lago: Any Chance of Reversing Pastoral Term Limits?...and Coming Up in The Chicago Daily Observer.
I am very grateful to Democratic strategist Mike Noonan (a columnist-contributor to the Chicago Daily Observer) for arranging the appearance of his client, Alderman Howard Brookins (21st) for my Sunday WLS radio showbut Im not sure the appearance did much good for the very nice young man who seeks the Democratic nomination for Cook county states attorney. Between political pundit Russ Stewart of Nadig Newspapers and I, I would guess we made hash out of Alderman Brookins prospects.
And it wasnt because we ganged up on him. It came from the answers the alderman gave to what both of us assumed were very reasonable questions.
Was Brookins appearance a disaster for his campaign? I would think so. But since the ways of even routine African American politics in Cook county defies reason for me, maybe Im wrong. In more than fifty years of watching politics, I have been inured to black candidates seeming to nurture their political base and then moving out to embrace others. For example Harold Washington: after he secured an impregnable black base he ventured to the northwest side and danced the polka with Polish ladies whom he charmed. Washington had charisma, talent, a masterful speaking style (even if he used the word burgeoning too often) and a ready wit.
That seemed to end with the latest generation. Todd Stroger, for instance. Nice guy, gentle, soft-spoken, laid back, not showing familiarity or even interest enough to read the Cook county budget book when he was nominated.
He broke some of the basic rules and still was elected.
I remember the only black states attorney, Cecil Partee. He had a mellifluous voice brimming and covered all the basesincluding the black base. Now we have another black candidate who appears to be in the tradition of Todd Stroger. Maybe this is a new day dawning in African American politics, ladies and gentlemenI dont know.
The Brookins experience last Sunday may be the final test. Here is a nice young (age 43) candidate, a lawyer, former assistant prosecutor, former assistant state attorney general, a man who in private practice represented a group of people who claimed they were victims of Chicago police abuse and who were ignored in their quest for justice. Brookins history screams to heaven for an initial statement that I am running for states attorney because I want to improve the countys record in convictions, to make the streets safer and to call a halt once and for all to the specter of police brutality!
Is this what Brookins said in my very first question to him: why are you running for states attorney? Nope. His answer is that he is running in order to put more blacks in the states attorneys office, to modernize the procedures to make the office more efficient than before. Huh?
This was a stunning answer. Moreover when we pressed him he didnt really amend his first answer that he would hire more blacks and still placed crime fighting second. I had to remind him of alleged police abuse. He agreed and made that item number three.
Baffling. Incredible. Astounding. Almost like a statistician rather than a prosecutor. Sure, if youre a black candidate for states attorney say youll hire more qualified blacks in the office but is this is first major step youre going to take with prosecutions and fighting police abuse ranking second and third? Sounds goofy to me.
Later in the program I happened to give him a chance to say hes supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president, his fellow church member from Trinity United Church of Christ. Now Trinity is the epicenter of black activism in behalf of Obama. Not only that, many white Democrats starting with Mayor Daley and going down the list from Sen. Dick Durbin to state constitutional officers all hail Obama as Illinois favorite son. More than a favorite son, Obama may lose the nomination to Hillary but hes been giving her a very tough race, out-raising her in money, exciting young crowds white and black.
So I ask him if hes supporting Obamaa real throw-away question, a softball that he can hit out of the park as the cliché goes. And his answer?
Not particularly. He has a good friend in Hillary Clinton. Am I missing something here?
On the issue of gun control, a favorite grassroots movement issue for Democrats and I mean all kinds of Democrats, ranging from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson through a range of gradations of white radicals like Fr. Michael Pfleger all the way through the upper crust white, guilt-ridden suburbs. Brookins said he feels there are enough anti-gun laws. I happen to agree with him; I happen to be a 2nd amendment guy. I happen to favor conceal carry. And sure enough, Brookins said he will continue to have an open mind on conceal carry. Obviously I am happy about that but--.
Am I missing something here? Is there a new politics in the African American community a groundswell to Hillary Clinton for president a disinclination to be interested in overcoming police brutality?
Mike Noonan, I have testified before to your political perspicacity. Maybe Im nuts but dont you want to have a good long talk with this guy before he gets out further on the public stage?
Attention Jimmy Lago the first lay chancellor of the Catholic archdiocese of Chicago the best Democratic precinct captain Eddie Vrdolyak, who was the county chairman, ever saw: the man who runs the archdiocese--.
Is there any chance to overthrow the hideous pastoral term limit rule that causes good priests who have no family other than their churches into which theyve poured out their lives and energy to move and start all over? Its demoralizing to many pastors and congregations. I can cite parish after parish where outstanding pastors have built a tremendous receptivity, have wisely served and have much more to dobut an arbitrary term limit must uproot them and send them packing while the congregation awaits possibly a new insouciant successor who may just dismantle all the good that has gone before.
The term limit idea was started by a liberal priest, aflame with the spirit of Vatican II, who wanted to see tired old pastors shuttled off the late Little Bob McLaughlin a red-haired fireball who gladly superseded environmental cleanups for the fight against abortion. This old line radical gloried in preaching change for the sake of change from the pulpit at Holy Name Cathedral. He was the architect of term limit.
And then his own term as rector of the Cathedral came up and he had to move on. You should have heard the screaming! The reform he had charted for others turned and nipped him on the cassock. But rules were rules and he had to go. Of course the rule never applied to Fr. Michael Pfleger or for the longest time Jack Wall who gave Old St. Pats its biggest block party fund-raiser in the world spiffed it up and made it the focal point for Irish weddings. Now hes going to the Extension Society and then Bishop. But all the same, he basked in seeming perpetuity. Why not others?
Since Pfleger is going to stay on at St. Sabinas forever while the chancery winks, hey Jimmy, how about extending the Pfleger rule to everybody? Youre the one in charge, the one who makes all the decisions. Its no good even to ask the archbishop since the answer will be flawlessly parsed. How about it, Jimmy? Why dont you make a break with your liberal past. Pflegers going nowhere; why do the others have to go? Huh Jimmy?
Coming Up in The Observer.
In future issues of The Observer: Dennis Byrne tells why it is not treason for an Irish White Sox rooter to boost the Cubs now Tom Fleming, president of the Rockford Institute, a classics scholar and former professor, talks about the decadence of higher education Charlie Johnston writes about his own illness which brought painfully close to home the hardship imposed by the tyranny of trial lawyers in Metro East all these and much more as diversity of opinion comes back to Chicago journalism.