John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The New Chicago Way

Posted on June 3, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley / Photo credit: DB King



"He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way.”

Well, at least that’s the Hollywood version of the Chicago way.

In actuality, the American public is going to get a good chance to see the new Chicago way when the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial starts in earnest in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, Washington is knee-deep in the Chicago way with allegations by two insurgent Democrats, who have admitted that that they were illegally offered federal jobs in exchange for them dropping their insurgent campaigns against the preferred candidates of the Chicago White House.

In the old days, these guys might have feared for their lives, both politically and actually, if they had crossed the Chicago machine.  These days, they gamble that by standing up to the Chicago machine, they can get more of a political advantage.  So they both turned down the jobs and then turned on the folks who offered them.

The old Mayor Daley used both the stick and carrot to make the Chicago the city that works.  He used to have his allies, who he lavished with city contracts, and his enemies, who his machine screwed unmercifully.

By doing so, he achieved a political balance that kept the city running very effectively.

The new Mayor Daley (well, he is not new, but he is the second one), has a different philosophy.  He just uses carrots.  He buys people off, spreads around the love and does his best to make his city beautiful.  The problem with that is it gets expensive, and Chicago is going broke as a result.

President Obama has adopted the latter Daley’s philosophy, and as a result, we are all going broke.  He spends, he spreads the wealth around, he promises tax cuts to all but the top five percent, he makes no difficult choices, and then he does his best to hand out political favors.

America, by and large, recoils from Chicago machine politics.  They don’t like to see Chicago politicians hand out political favors to their cronies.  They don’t like to see the country going broke.  They don’t like to see incompetence.

The former Governor of Illinois, who rose up through the Chicago machine, sees himself as a victim, and he may very well be, of a system that once favored him and now has thrown him under the bus.  We all got a glimpse of how he operates on “Celebrity Apprentice.”  He is an articulate and forceful advocate on his behalf, and he is more than willing to use the public arena to make his case.

That doesn’t bode well for the Obama White House.  Like Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff, Mr. Blagojevich sees no upside in being loyal to the President and his people, and he sees many advantages to trashing Mr. Emanual and his team to achieve his own objectives.

That may not have been the Chicago way of the past, where loyalty was the most important political commodity.  These days, it is every man (or woman) for himself (or herself), and that could mean political disaster for the Chicago gang that currently runs the White House.

The new Chicago way is not working for the city of Chicago, it is not working for the American people, and it looks like it could cause some huge problems for the President and his people.