John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Back in Chicago for the Weekend

Posted on November 16, 2008

Home for the Weekend


            I went home to Chicago for the weekend to attend my grandmother’s funeral. 


            The Great Depression was on a lot of people’s minds, starting with the Deacon who led us in prayers at the wake and gave a nice speech and the priest at the funeral.  Both commented about how Grandma understood how to live simply and frugally because she had to make her way as a parent with two girls during the Depression. 


            Maybe that is why she always stuffed extra bread and crackers from restaurants in her purse.  We used to laugh at her, but nobody is laughing now.  We are all making sure to take the doggie bags home.


            My family, like most families, has a wide disparity of opinions about this crisis.  The libertarians in the family think the bailout was stupid and the real problem is too much government spending.  One of my cousins has invested heavily in gold because he thinks that our currency is about ready to collapse.


            Another of my cousins is a carpenter who is working on several construction projects, mostly building hospitals.  He expects that most of his work will dry up in the summer next year.  He point out that he has seen bad construction economies before, so he has been careful to save his money.  But he also knows that many of his younger colleagues have never seen a really bad economy before, and they will be in trouble once the jobs dry up.  (Many of them are already overextended).


            Another of my cousins is in the insurance business, and while he had a good 2008, he expects 2009 to be a bad year.  He supports efforts to keep the auto companies solvent because many of the small businesses he insures rely on the auto industry to stay alive.  No GM, no small business, no insurance.  Practical politics.  


            While there was some hope that Obama would bring change, the attitude among most of my extended family is cynicism.  You see, Obama is a product of Chicago politics, and if there is anything that is sinking lower than the stock market, it is the reputation of Chicago politicians.


            Patrick Fitzgerald, the relentless U.S. Attorney in Chicago, has been turning up the heat on the City that Works.  Apparently, Tony Rezko, Obama’s old associate, is now singing like a bird, and that means trouble for guys like Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Fitzgerald just got the famous Chicago alderman, Ed Vrdolyak, on mail fraud charges, and who knows where Fitzgerald will go next. 


            But most Chicagoans know that their politics and their politicians have never been on the level.  The Daleys might have made the city green, but they haven’t made its politics clean.  The fact that Obama has come up through this system makes many wonder how he deal with his former colleagues from the Windy City. 


            One of my cousins is a cop, and he is disgusted with how the politicians have screwed up policing in Chicago.  Now the reigning king of the dubious title, “Murder Capitol of the World”, Chicago has sought to make its police force politically correct.  At any sign of controversy, the politicians will not back the cops, and that means the cops have very little incentive to actually stop crime.  The incentive is all on the side of covering your ass. 


            Crime and corruption are Obama’s two big challenges, outside the economic crisis. 


            Will he keep U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald in place, and send a signal that he will not tolerate corruption or will he fire Fitzgerald in place and give the crooks a chance to breath a bit?


            Will he come up with a plan that actually stops crime in the street by backing the cops or will he back the protesters, and by extension, the gang-bangers and drug-dealers who are killing kids and each other on streets across America?


            Most of my family wants Obama to succeed because they want America to succeed.  But they are a pretty cynical bunch, having seen Chicago politicians rip off the taxpayers for a couple of generations, and even if they voted for change, they don’t necessarily believe it is coming.   

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