Reform rhetoric versus reality

Tony Peraica Apr. 8, 2007, 5:00am

Tony Peraica

In Scripture, the Messiah – Jesus Christ – was known to hang around with tax collectors and criminals. His purpose was to teach us all that every last one of God's creatures can seek forgiveness and salvation.

It has been said that Senator Barack Obama is the modern-day "Messiah" of the Democrat party – a self-styled reformer who will lead his party back to glory and the residence of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And like the true Messiah, Senator Obama is also hanging around with his share of questionable characters – though not to teach us lessons of salvation. His reasons are purely political.

Take, for instance, his endorsement this week of Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman. Let's just say Ms. Tillman doesn't reflect Obama's mantra of government reform.

Tillman is perhaps most famous for her staunch advocacy of slavery reparations, but also is renowned for her involvement with the scandal-ridden Harold Washington Cultural Center. In 2006, a three-part investigative report by the Chicago newspaper Lakefront Outlook uncovered several accounting irregularities and conflicts of interest by Tillman and her family.

Unfortunately, Alderman Tillman isn't Obama's only friend of questionable character. Just last month, he endorsed Mayor Richard Daley, whose administration and political organization is chock full of investigations and indictments. Last week, Daley's top political aide – former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez – was indicted for hiring city workers on the basis of political loyalty and work for the pro-Daley House Democratic Organization.

Perhaps Obama is hoping for the same Chicago Election Day magic that the mayor's father provided for another presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, back in 1960.

Last year, Obama endorsed then-candidate and now-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. This is the same Todd Stroger who last week attempted to reward a $357,000 no-bid contract to a mob-connected janitorial firm with ties to Stroger's powerful 8th Ward political organization.

It's the same Todd Stroger who presides over a county administration which, an audit recently learned, is missing $500,000 in taxpayer funds. And it's the same Todd Stroger whose administration has misplaced, misused, or misspent $30 million in federal homeland security funds that were meant to protect the citizens of Cook County.

Of course, Senator Obama's colleague – Senator Durbin – also endorsed Stroger, just as both senators also rely on the Stroger-Daley political organizations to mine valuable city votes for them come Election Day.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece entitled, "A Chance to Change the Game," Obama writes of "scandals" and "special interests" and his proposals for "real reform" that would "restore faith" in government.

The rhetoric, unfortunately, doesn't match reality, as Senator Obama continues to endorse Chicago machine politicians who are embroiled in scandal, investigations and indictments.

Senator Durbin, for his part, also is full of contradictions. In the January 14 national Democrat Party radio address, Durbin blamed the Republican Party for spawning a "culture of corruption."

The Republican Party has had its issues, to be sure. The recent George Ryan debacle has proven that. But Senator Durbin has little room to talk. No doubt, come Election Day 2008, he will fully embrace the Daley/Stroger political machine – corruption and all – as he turns a blind eye to their methods and gladly accepts their help in mining every last vote in vote-rich Cook County.

These contradictions are nothing new to Illinois Democrat politicians. The machine's "godfather" – Mayor Richard J. Daley – weathered many a storm of corruption, only to emerge promising to "reform" the machine.

Like father, like son. As then, today's Democrat politicians – from Galena to Belleville – rely on the machine to get elected.

Because, you see, it's not just the reform promises that matter. It's whether or not you have enough campaign cash to make the voters believe them. And we all know that Obama and Durbin have plenty of that to go around.

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