I’m beginning to wonder whether the key trait necessary to be a politician these days is an utter lack of self-awareness. In his Chicago Tribune column John Kass points out the irony in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s moral posturing about Ed Burke:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel sure was quick to clean up Chicago’s City Hall after that Burke mess.
“An individual has to distinguish between their public life and their private business,” the mayor was quoted as saying, talking about Burke. “And they shouldn’t let those lines ever cross.”
Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, the longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, allegedly let those lines cross.
He’s now facing federal extortion charges.
And Rahm, who never wants to let a good crisis go to waste, helped push Burke out as chairman and installed his own floor leader, Ald. Patrick O’Connor, 40th, as boss of the Finance Committee.
“You can do all of what you’re supposed to do in changing the laws, being clear about the laws of what’s black and white,” Emanuel said. “But in the area of gray, you fall upon your moral judgment and your ethical judgment. … It doesn’t require a law to say that your public life is not supposed to be … enriching your private life.”
Which brings me to a fascinating series by the Chicago Tribune of a few years ago, in which Ald. O’Connor and his wife, successful real estate broker Barbara O’Connor, had a starring role.
It was called “Neighborhoods for Sale.” The gist of it was that aldermen and developers used the written (and unwritten) rules to lord over a building boom that reshaped Chicago neighborhoods. And some made good money.
One of my favorite stories from June 2008 had this headline:
“He zones. She sells. And it’s legal.”
Left unmentioned: that Rahm himself parlayed his political contacts into a job with an investment banker for which he was otherwise utterly unqualified and received millions.
They’re not even the slightest bit shamed. Emanuel can spout such nonsense installing O’Connor, talk about Burke and morality, and never blush, because either his skin is made of wood or perhaps he just thinks the people of Chicago are stupid fools.
And the ethics czars at City Hall can say that what the O’Connors do is OK, because, well, he doesn’t have a personal stake in her business. Their arrogance is stunning.
It’s rather like Burke’s arrogance, allegedly using his control of government to withhold permits and other services for business in order to compel that business to hire his law firm.
And, over all these years, did you ever hear Bill Daley condemn Burke? Or Toni Preckwinkle or Gery Chico or Susana Mendoza? They’re all part of that clique, like some beast with interchangeable heads.
We can only hope that Ald. Burke takes some of these figures down with him but I’m not optimistic. Omertà.
It was one thing to back these crooked pols when they were bringing home the bacon but now they’re not even doing that.