U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.— who came into Congress bearing the heavy weight of his family name and lofty ambitions — counted Chicago's third airport as a signature issue for the better part of his time in office.
And there's been no stauncher advocate for that project than Southtown columnist Phil Kadner.
Construction of such an airport would bring much-needed jobs to an area plagued by chronic unemployment, and the airport itself, once realized, would serve as an economic engine for decades to come. So went the mantra. Targeted for a rural area outside the 2nd District until the latest congressional remap put the land into his district, Jackson's pursuit of the airport irritated Democrats and Republicans alike, from Chicago to Will County.
Kadner, knowing how deeply the people of the south suburbs hurt for jobs, chronicled every turn of the effort to make the airport a reality, literally writing hundreds of thousands of words in its favor. As such, there may be no journalist in the Chicago area who knows Jackson as well as Kadner, who grew to like the congressman.
Until now. In his Friday column, Kadner writes:
One day, I was invited to Jackson’s house, after asking about an accusation that the family actually lived in Washington, D.C., not Chicago.
That’s when I first met Sandi Jackson, who greeted me with, “We laugh at the way you tear into politicians all the time. I told Jesse that he better not do anything stupid or you’ll be writing about him next.”
Jackson chuckled and said, “That’s right. I’m not ever going to do anything that would let you make fun of me.”
That was before a friend of the congressman’s was accused of offering Gov. Rod Blagojevich a bribe in exchange for giving Jackson a U.S. Senate seat.
That was before the public learned Jackson had a “social acquaintance” in Washington, D.C., who was being flown into Chicago by the congressman’s friend.
That was before the FBI began investigating Jackson’s use of campaign funds to buy his “social acquaintance” a $40,000 Rolex watch and to remodel his Washington home.
Sources are saying Jackson is negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors that would have him give up his seat in Congress — after handily winning re-election last Tuesday without lifting a finger to campaign. Speculation already has turned to the names of those who might succeed him in a special election next spring.
Steve Rhodes, writing in Chicago Magazine last month, wonders if Jackson's bariatric surgery brought on his bipolar disorder and the behavior in which he's engaged the last several years, from his covetous pursuit of Obama's Senate seat in 2008 to his affair with a swimsuit model and the FBI investigation into his campaign fund.
But in the days after President Obama's re-election, Kadner offers this insight into Congressman Jackson, into whom so many in his district placed much faith and hope, writing:
He dreamed of becoming the first black president and spent more than a dozen years in Congress, only to see his aspirations crushed when Obama seemingly came out of nowhere (from Illinois no less) to steal his legacy and capture the national imagination.
I believe Jackson’s character flaws might have remained buried if it hadn’t been for that series of events.
Relegated to national irrelevance, I think something snapped inside the man.
Many are tearing into Jackson and making fun of him. But instead of making jokes, the journalist who covered many of Jackson's triumphs may well be writing the congressman's political obituary next.
How Much Did Your Vote Cost? We went negative big time in this election. A record-setting amount of money was spent on campaigns — $6 billion. According to ProPublica's PACTrack data, $1.78 was spent on every vote for Barack Obama, $1.39 of which went toward attacking Mitt Romney. And $6.23 was spent on every Romney vote, $5.49 went toward attacks on Obama. The biggest spending PACs were Restore Our Future, Inc., and Karl Rove's American Crossroads, reports Pro Publica.
From the Founding Fathers to the 21st Century: Here's a bit of presidential history for you. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, presidents three, four and five, each served two terms as president, a successive three-peat not duplicated until Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
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