Friday, January 9, 2009


- or -

To the extent that the Chicago political morass is the cesspool from which the incoming Obama administration arose and the Illinois political circus is the flavor of the month, it would be helpful if we could learn more about that City and that State. What really constitutes Chicago Politics? What really constitutes the ‘pay-for-play’ approach to Illinois Politics?

As to Chicago Politics and its impact on the President-Elect, the mainstream press has had two years to investigate and hasn’t yet asked question number # 1. To underscore the complete lack of vetting of Obama by the mainstream media, in a conversation between Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose on Public Television shortly after Obama’s election victory, they both indicated that they had no idea of what Obama might do as they didn’t know enough about him. Watching them, you also realized that that same lack of knowledge was not an impediment to their overblown opinion of him.

As to the Illinois ‘pay-for-play’ political supermarket, it will probably be another few months before U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald releases any more information regarding Governor Blagojevich's own version of THE PRICE IS RIGHT.

So, what are we to do? Where do we go to get our questions answered? To whom do we turn to gain enlightenment? As the only providers of wisdom in the real (?) world would seem to be the Liberal/Obama press and television networks, it just might be that our only source for context might be the world of make believe, the movie-makers of Hollywood, the titans of tinseltown.

For instance, if the movie THE GRADUATE were to be released today, on the eve of President-Elect Obama’s push for massive infrastructure expenditures, rather than in 1967 when the Baby-Boomers were more interested in massive inhalation experiments, the one iconic line from the screenplay might be changed just a bit. The advice to Dustin Hoffman’s character, young Benjamin Braddock, ”I have one word for you, plastics” , could be rewritten as “I have one word for you, asphalt”. Especially if young Benjamin lived in Illinois where, if you dig deep enough with your government-issued, TARP-funded digging implement/shovel, you just might find some very well connected asphalt providers, their commercial sticky fingers embedded in political tar babies.

In the movie SOME LIKE IT HOT, a pair of down-at-heels musicians (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) are accidental witnesses to a mob rubout in a Chicago parking garage. They flee their mob pursuers and join up (in drag) with an all-girls orchestra entraining for a gig in Florida. The movie ends when a dotty old rich guy (comedian Joe E. Brown) proposes marriage to the cross-dressing bass violin player (Jack Lemmon) forcing Lemmon’s character Daphne to reveal his charade, whipping off his wig and admitting his maleness. An iconic movie moment was born when Joe E. Brown deadpanned Billy Wilder’s (and I. A. Diamond’s) classic closing line, “Well, nobody’s perfect”.

That line might also apply to Governor Blagojevich's defiant choice for the successor to Obama’s Senate seat. As Eric Zorn wrote in his column in The Chicago Tribune the other day, Roland Burris is “.....annoying, but he's not a nitwit, a kook or a criminal.” Certainly not perfection, but who could ask for anything more?

In the satirical movie musical CHICAGO, based on the Broadway musical, an earlier play of the same name and, ultimately, the real-life adventures of two Chicago jazz age female killers, almost everyone is a sleaze. “Cell Block Tango” is a number from the show in which the “six merry murderesses of the Cook County jail” plead their innocence. “He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blame.” In the current situation, it could be rewritten as the Blago Tango, the song and dance wherein Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Illinois) explains himself. “I had it coming. I had it coming. And I know how to play the game.”

Incidentally, up until Chicago’s tryouts, the musical had another character, The Agent, whose role was to exploit the notoriety of the six imprisoned murderesses for his own gain. This character's role was eventually cut from the show, along with his song, Ten Percent. In our rewrite, we might consider restoring that character, or giving his song to Blago with a significant increase in the percentage.

I’m still trying to decide what we can do with another number from the show, The Press Conference Rag, but Blago may have already exhausted all possibilities.

As an aside, notwithstanding the expertise of Chicago’s Democratic machine in election rigging (see Joe Kennedy), it may not be the only hotbed of Democratic sleight of hand. In their book Defining Moments in Journalism, Nancy J. Woodhull and Robert W. Snyder relate the following episode concerning a well-known Texas Democrat and his version of ‘One person – One vote’.

“On at least three separate occasions he (LBJ) told (David) Brinkley about how he committed voter fraud in Texas. When first running for the Senate, Johnson and a group of friends scoured a graveyard looking for names to add to the voting rolls. When one of the friends found a stone that was difficult to read, he wanted to skip it. According to Brinkley, Johnson responded: 'You will not skip it. He’s got as much right to vote as anybody in this cemetery.'”

With this in mind, I’m considering a rewrite of one of the classic horror films, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, as a sort of metaphor for our election system. Perhaps we might film it in Minnesota.

1 comment:

John Ansell said...

That sound you hear is Lincoln spinning in his grave. I just listended to Gov. Bag-o-chips (name created after he sold the last gambling license and pocketed unknown millions.)slap the the Illinois house around. Political supermarket? It's more like a shopping mall. In the shopping mall, you generally don't hear "clean up on isle 4, some nut couldn't wait to purchase his depends". No, in Illinois, you just move to a different store to buy the seats and positions you desire. Leave that mess in the isle for the regular folks to mop up with the soles of their shoes. Occassionally you'll run across a slip and fall lawyer like Fitzgerald, but he too is corrupt.

Yes, this is my real name and I'm bold enough to call it like it is. You see, one day long ago I was working as a waiter in a restaurant in Springfield when a man came in asking for the owner. He was selling fundraising tickets for $100 a pop. Not too big of a deal until the owner told him that she was not interested. No more than a half an hour later, the health department was doing an inspection of the place. Sure enough, an "F". During the lull between lunch and dinner, the same man came back with 5 tickets for sale. The owner bought the tickets and the health inspectors came back. This time the grade was an "A". When the owner handed me the tickets (she wasn't into politics at the time) I was shocked to learn that the function was for my own uncle for reelection. When I asked him about it, he just gave a blank look and said that he had nothing to do with it. Shortly after that, the restaurant started seeing the likes of Paul Simon, bow tie and all, Dick Durbin, George Ryan, Jim Edgar, even graced by George Mitchell. Not only was the place packed with politicos (now the owner was getting to like politics) but the take out and catering started to bloom. There were multiple occassions that I had to hop in the car and take boxes of Chinese food over to the Capitol Building to feed the starving reps. (thirsty too, given the large amounts of empty beer and booze bottles in the trash). The restaurant won many awards at "The Taste of Springfield". All was grand for simple $500.

Thats how it works in Illinois. You pay, you play.