John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


US Can’t Wait for Change

Posted on November 30, 2015
"Chicago sunrise 1" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons -

"Chicago sunrise 1" by Daniel Schwen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons -

Originally Posted on The Hill

My dad died from Parkinson’s disease the day after Thanksgiving at a veterans home in Manteno, Ill., which is about 45 minutes to the southwest of Chicago.

That brought me home to Illinois to visit with my family and help with the arrangements. If you are looking for a poster child of all that is wrong with America, Illinois would be a good place to start.

Illinois is bankrupt. It doesn’t make payments to its local schools because it doesn’t have any money. Illinois has the lowest bond rating of any state in the union (Puerto Rico is not a state). The political class has betrayed my home state, mortgaging the future by postponing hard decisions for generations.

Bruce Rauner was elected governor to fix this mess last year, but voters also elected Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature to make his mission especially difficult to achieve. Rauner is not a particularly sympathetic figure. He’s a billionaire and a political novice. You can say that he lacks the touch of the common man.

His chief nemesis, state Speaker Michael Madigan, is a political wizard who has largely engineered this mess by controlling the state assembly for decades. He is the one who draws the maps that keep Democrats in power. He’s the one who protects the interests of the government unions. He’s the one who created the state’s pension mess and he seems to have no interest in fixing it.

As I was flying into O’Hare, the Chicago police were forced to release a video of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. McDonald was on PCP and carrying a knife, so he too is not a very sympathetic figure, except for the fact that Jason Van Dyke shot 16 bullets into him less than a minute after getting out of his police car.

Van Dyke had a spotty record in his long career as a cop, with several complaints about his use of force. Talking to friends and family from Chicago, there aren’t a lot of people taking the cop’s side. In the video, it became clear that nobody even checked on McDonald as he lay on the ground, dying. It was like he was a piece of meat.

The sympathy in the white community generated by the killing of McDonald is countered by the horror surrounding Tyshawn Lee, the nine-year-old son of a gangbanger who was murdered in cold blood by a member of a rival gang on the city’s South Side. The cops have to face this kind of depravity on a daily basis; you start to understand why they might have an itchy finger.

The McDonald/Lee incidents have darkened the mood of my beloved Chicago. Instead of leading protests to stop gangbangers from murdering nine-year-olds, Jesse Jackson decided to try to shut down the Magnificent Mile during its busiest shopping days of the year to protest the McDonald shooting. It’s his right to protest wherever he wants, I suppose. And if there is anything Jesse Jackson is good at, it’s leading protests that make white people uncomfortable.

Looking at the folks who crowd into the popular breakfast diners that populate the Chicago suburbs, wearing their Blackhawks hoodies, their Bears baseball caps and sporting their colorful tattoos, you can sense the frustration and anger of the white working class as they dig into their eggs and pancakes.

You can see why real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who promises to “make America great again,” can be such an appealing figure. These folks just voted for Rauner, another billionaire, and he isn’t half the politician Trump is.

One thing that Illinois does do well is take care of its veterans. My dad spent the last days of his life at the veterans home in Manteno being well taken care of by the nurses there as he struggled with that damned Parkinson’s disease.

We need to invest more in research to fight this disease. But that takes resources, and to get those resources, we need to get our act together — on a variety of levels. That is especially true for Illinois, which is ground zero for government and social dysfunction.