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 show—but I’m not sure the appearance did much good for the very nice young man who seeks the Democratic nomination for Cook county state’s attorney. Between political pundit Russ Stewart of Nadig Newspapers and I, I would guess we made hash out of Alderman Brookins’ prospects.

And it wasn’t 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 I’m 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 bases—including 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 gentlemen—I don’t 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 county’s 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 attorney’s 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 didn’t 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 you’re a black candidate for states attorney say you’ll hire more qualified blacks in the office but is this is first major step you’re 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 he’s 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 he’s been giving her a very tough race, out-raising her in money, exciting young crowds white and black.

So I ask him if he’s supporting Obama—a 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 I’m nuts but don’t you want to have a good long talk with this guy before he gets out further on the public stage?

Attention Jimmy!

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 they’ve poured out their lives and energy to move and start all over? It’s 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 do—but 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. Pat’s its biggest block party fund-raiser in the world…spiffed it up and made it the focal point for Irish weddings. Now he’s 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. Sabina’s forever while the chancery winks, hey Jimmy, how about extending the Pfleger rule to everybody? You’re the one in charge, the one who makes all the decisions. It’s no good even to ask the archbishop since the answer will be flawlessly parsed. How about it, Jimmy? Why don’t you make a break with your liberal past. Pfleger’s 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.


  1. Tom-
    You are indeed lucky to snare such a lovely lady, and start such a fine family. May God bless you all!

    May I suggest that the CDO is flying, so stick to your BLOG, except perhaps a bit more national. As to FLASHBACKS, please tell us more about yourselves (you + Lillian) and don't lead us down to the stage where "Please let me tell you about my grandchildren."

    Still these writings are a publishing MUST!


  2. While we are at it, Tom, Jimmy might also abolish the relatively new practice which allows a curate to pick the parish in which he wants to serve. Christ was sent by the Father, and in turn Jesus sent his apostles; and the bishop also sent a priest to a parish where the bishop thought he was needed. I cannot believe that some if not many priests are not tempted to select a parish in which to serve for self-serving reasons. If one studies this issue, one sees that some priests always seem to pick parishes in upper class neighbrhoods where the work is not very challenging. Why should the bishop have his hands tied by this unprecedented privilege not seen in the history of the Church?