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Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Chicago Way Won't Work in D.C.

A lot of folks have tried to hyper analyze the influences on President Obama. One influence that largely goes unnoticed outside of the city of Chicago is the influence of Mayor Richard Daley. President Obama made his initial political base in the Hyde Park area of Chicago. No one gets any political power in the city of Chicago without the seal of approval of the mayor himself. Yet, the link between the two is often overlooked. Only John Kass of the Chicago Tribune has done a very good job of making the link.

It's amusing to watch the Washington political establishment feign shock, now that President Barack Obama's reform administration has used a clay foot to vigorously kick one inspector general and boot another out the door.One inspector general foolishly investigated a friend of the president. Another inspector general audited those juicy bonuses given to AIG executives as part of $700 billion federal bailout of the financial industry.

It's a decent man-bites-dog story, at least until North Korea tries lobbing a few missiles toward Hawaii. But until that happens, the political talk shows will buzz about Neil Barofsky, the inspector general overseeing the financial bailout.


But our president is from Chicago. Obama's Media Merlin David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel come right from Chicago Democratic machine boss Mayor
Richard Daley
. They don't believe in fairies.Daley can't wait to be rid of his own inspector general, David Hoffman, who had the audacity to question why Daley's nephew received $68 million in city pension funds to invest.

The mayor insists he didn't know anything about it. Nobody with a functioning brain believes the mayor.The second that Hoffman's term expires, the mayor will change the locks on his office doors and move Hoffman's house plants out into the cold. Daley might even send some of the same political tough guys who helped elect Emanuel to Congress years ago, all in the name of reform.

It's the Chicago Way. Now, formally, it's also the Chicago on the Potomac Way.

To understand how Obama is trying to run D.C, you first have to go back and look at how Daley runs Chicago. Daley runs Chicago like any political machine. There is a notorious quote from George Washington Plunkitt that describes most political machines.

I seen my opportunities and I took 'em.

By opportunities, political machines mean the opportunity to grab money, power and influence. That's really the goal of all political machines. It's an eternal quest for more money, power and influence. That's how Daley runs the city of Chicago. Everything he does, he does with the goal of gaining more power, money and influence.

So, what happens in Chicago. Daley's friends and colleagues are put into the positions of power. They are the ones that are promoted. Worst of all, they are the ones that are put into positions to be the whistle blowers and watch dogs. From Hired Trucks, to Meigs Fields, to the Olympics, that's how Daley has operated. His friends and allies get all the resources of the city while the tax payers are left to pay for the bills. Even the mayor's new push to privatize everything is really nothing more than a power and cash grab. That's because the mayor and his cronies have figured out that it's much easier to shake down private firms that are doing business with the city. It's also much easier to hide the shake down since there is no watchdog or IG for a private firm.

So, in Daley's machine, like all machines, you take care of all your friends. They take care of all their friends. Everyone continues to expand their money, power and reach because more and more want to be on the inside. On top of all this, anyone that doesn't play ball with you gets retaliated against and ultimately eliminated. The unions, the business leaders, and the power brokers are all part of the machine. So, anyone that's honest and reports the abuse will ultimately be reporting to someone allied with Daley.

The media is ultimately irrelevant. They're all dying for access so they never did too deep. Just take the Olympics as an example. For the better part of two years Daley pushed the Olympics under the guise that no tax payer money would be spent. Then, in May, he pronounced that he'd sign the host city contract which would put the city on the hook for all expenses above and beyond those that the IOC would cover. That, in effect, guaranteed that the city, or better yet the tax payers, would be on the hook. Yet, here's the latest editorial from the Sun Times.

As a newspaper, we can't state it more clearly: We are enthusiastically behind the Games coming to Chicago in 2016.

Pat Ryan, the business powerhouse behind the bid along with Mayor Daley, has assembled a world-class bid package thanks to a first-rate management team. If Chicago doesn't win, it won't be for lack of talent and effort.

Keep in mind that this editorial came out only a month after it was revealed that Michael Scott, a member of that "first rate management team", was securing a sweetheart deal for himself all while trying to get other businesses on board with the bid. This is three months after Mayor Daley broke his promise not to use any city funds. Yet, will almost no scrutiny, the Sun Times "enthusiastically" supports the bid. That's the sort of media scrutiny that Daley can expect. So, he creates schemes that he claims will benefit the tax payers all the while knowing they will benefit himself and his cronies. Then, when the truth is revealed, he cries some crocodile tears, makes some half hearted apologies, and he moves on. That's because he knows the media scrutiny will be only skin deep. We've already forgotten about the blatant conflict of Michael Scott and he remains on the bid committee.

As for the voters, Daley and his machine are the only game in town. So, they're left with little choice but to vote for him. He's the one with the power and influence. If a certain area needs to be cleaned up, then streets and sanitation is sent in and all of a sudden it is. The voters there forget about the obscene corruption that was reported just last month.

That's essentially how Obama has tried to run his White House. Kass alluded to the story surrounding Gerald Walpin. He was an honest whistle blower and he ultimately reported corruption to his own demise. As soon as Walpin reported on corruption of Obama ally Kevin Johnson, he was dismissed. That's what a corrupt political machine does to an honest whistle blower. That's exactly what happens in Chicago. Pat McDonough tried to report on the corruption surrounding the Hired Truck Scandal, and he was summarily fired by the city. In Chicago of course, an honest person would never wind up as an IG since that's counter to the point of the machine. Since Walpin was a Bush holdover, Obama was simply cleaning up a mess.

More to the point is the behavior of Obama in both the health care and cap and trade legislation. All he really did was essentially pay everyone off. That's boiler plate political machine politics. All he really did was create legislation that took care of his friends. The unions, the AARP, the AMA, the auto makers, GE, and the drug companies were all given deals and in return they provided support for both cap and trade and health care reform. That's how Daley does it too. All his legislation and mandates simply take care of his friends, allies, and cronies. In return, they support everything he does. For instance, Daley gave Alderman Shiller her lifelong dream of low and moderate housing in her ward, by way of Wilson Yards, and she supports his bid for the Olympics. She even supports putting all sorts of new tennis courts in her ward.

Then, there's the famous Daley bullying, intimidation and retaliation. It's so notorious that John Kass refers to it as Daley's Chucky alter ego. That's only in public. In private, you cross him and suddenly cops stop showing up in your area. The garbage stops being picked up. The water gets shut off. Your friends and family get fired from their city jobs. You cross Daley and he'll use the full force and power of his machine to bring you down. Again, just ask Pat McDonough what happens when you cross Daley.

Obama does business the exact same way. We all remember Tom Lauria. He's the bankruptcy attorney that dared to challenge Obama's scheme to orchestrate the bankruptcies of Chrysler and GM himself. Suddenly, Obama was...

A leading bankruptcy attorney representing hedge funds and money managers told ABC News Saturday that Steve Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration's Auto Industry Task Force, threatened one of the firms, an investment bank, that if itcontinued to oppose the administration's Chrysler bankruptcy plan, the White House would use the White House press corps to destroy its reputation.

Let's take the health insurance companies. They aren't on board with the President's health care proposal. So, suddenly, Henry Waxman is demanding a plethora of documents from all of them for a yet unnamed investigation.

Even Obama's czar mania is really nothing more than an attempt to consolidate more power in his own hands and the hands of his friends and sidestep the Congress. Obama's M.O. is standard issue political machine politics.

Here's the good news. It won't work. In fact, it will fail miserably. That's because D.C. is not Chicago. First, Daley has no legislature. He technically does, but the city council is nothing more than a rubber stamp. It's all Democrats. Second, anyone that gets out of line will not have the garbage in their area picked up. The police will stop showing up, and Daley will make sure to run someone from his organization against that alderman. Obama has no such power. Not only does he have the other party to deal with, but much of his own party has constituents that simply don't agree with him. It's not as though there are ideological battles in Chicago. It's not as though some part of the city thinks that Daley is too liberal and wants their alderman to reign him in. In D.C., that's exactly what's happening. Obama can't threaten his folks the way that Daley can.

Second, the nature of the media is totally different. The media in Chicago is dominated by two newspapers and four television stations. None of them will ever go too hard after Daley because then no one in city hall will speak to them again. Obama has that contingency as well, but he also has to deal with Fox News, talk radio, and the new media. They already have no access and so they aren't very concerned with what he will do to them if they cross him.

Finally, there's the voters. In Chicago, they don't matter. The machine has too much power, money and resources and so no one ever challenges them. The people will moan and complain and then Daley will get 70% of the vote in the next election. In D.C., that's simply not the case. Every Congressperson has to face the voters every two years. The advantage for an incumbent is enormous but not so enormous that a moderate Blue Dog can be Obama's crony and still get re elected. That's why health care is having so much trouble.

The fact is that bullying, cronyism and favoritism is perfect in Chicago. That's because in Chicago all that matters is controlling the internal machine. In D.C., it's much more complicated than that, and so the Chicago way is failing in D.C.


Anonymous said...

Please keep in mind that Chicago Democrat politics is not monolithic. That is a mistake that I've seen made over and over again.

Think back to the Harold Washington election and administration. It was a disaster followed by a worse disaster in the mayor Sawyer administration. The black wing of the Democrat party was hell-bent on tuning Chicago into Detroit.

Richie Daley pulled the city together with a pro-business agenda that saved Chicago from becoming just another poor white-flight city in decline and decay.

Obama attached himself to the radical wing of the black wing. He was elected state senator in one of the most liberal districts in the state. Poor blacks, middle-class radicalized blacks and white-guilt liberals elected Obama to the state senate. That group is NOT an influential part of the Daley machine. They deliver votes and Daley throws them some table scraps.

Anonymous said...

If the rest of America really knew the truth of the corruption in Chicago....... They would NEVER believe it true. From the Alderman to the inspectors, CTA managers, Public works employee down to the meter maid at State and 35th....they are all corrupt. No media in the country has the balls to investigate this city..... they would end up buried in Oak lawn :-)

Anonymous said...

The corruption in Chicago continues... This week principals of Chicago Public Schools were told that their "supervisors" known as Area Instruction Officers (AIOs) were all let go. They are invited to interview for the new positions. AND the new position does not require candidates to have State certification (Type 75 Administrative). Interesting that instructional personnel does not require State Educational Certification which requires individuals to go through State Approved preparation programs. This opens the door wide open for further corruption: Daley's cronies can now fill positions with unprepared and inexperienced people who haven't a clue about educational issues. CHicago, wake up! Is this what you want for our children?
Having worked in CPS central office for over 18 years,I have seen the effect non educators have when they are responsible for making decisions regarding our childrens' education and welfare. I have also witnessed the pressure put upon educators to lie about testing results. The Daley "appointees" scramble to cover their tracks when there is a poor result to their decisions. Contracts to non bid companies dealing with CPS (especially in the area of computer services) leave those of us in the field to fend for ourselves. The HELP desk cannot keep up with the high number of inquiries from experienced personnel in the field who call to share the myriad gliches and wrong information found on the programs that are meant to facilitate the palcement of students in the system. Talk to school counselors, principals and teachers who do any work using the CPS network. They will tell of the poor help and "wrong information" they receive; the rude behavior they have to deal with from CPS personnel and the stone faced looks they receive at meetings where educators share their comments regarding applications programs.
All of this and more keeps the real educators from doing their job.
Stop the corruption before if further infiltrates the lives of our children.