Hopelessly inarticulate, short, portly, poorly dressed, perpetually sweaty, his face toxically red from razor burn but not shame, graduate from the “don’t expect a Supreme Court justice to come from there anytime soon” John Marshall Law School, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has got to be looking at Barack Obama right now and laughing at him as if he wereBeyonce Clown from YouTube.
Because they don’t give Nobel prizes to the likes of Henry Kissinger over Gandhi (or political immunity to child molesters like Roman Polanski) anymore, Richard Daley was overlooked by the Nobel committee.
Chicago politics is infamous for corruption. Well articulated pleasantries, transparency and full disclosure were run out of this town long before the gentrification began. (We’re happy enough not to be Florida, the state responsible for the coup d’etat that was the 2000 election.)
Daley, the Father and the Son, and the wholly spirited voters can proclaim we built this city in 6 decades. And on an unusually warm night last November, we rested on our laurels as the whole world watched us rebuild this city, Barack, and all.
Daley was named as best mayor in the US–and it wasn’t because of his ability to put together a stirring sentence in proper English but because he gets things done. It was because he was able to put the right cronies–sorry, civic minded supporters– including his brother into the Clinton administration, in the right place at the right time to get what he wanted: to make this scrappy little two horse town (which his father had inherited as a one horse town) into a world class city, critics, ethics, the media, his constituents, longtime friends, and common decency (anyone remember how callously and shamelessly he ruined Miriam Santos‘ political career so he could save his own?) be damned.
There’s a fine line between a benevolent dictator and Dick Cheney, and Rich Daley knows exactly where that is.
It’s a safe bet to say that with the possible exception of his wife, no one loves Richard Daley. A handful of people may have good reason to hate him, but everyone fears Richard Daley. More accurately put, people fear that he has and can use political clout against them if they don’t line up behind him. That, my dear, is called effective leadership. Perhaps Daley will buy Obama a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince for Christmas. Or perhaps Oprah might add Gabriel Garcia Marquez to her book club. We can put the books on lay away for him since the city doesn’t have enough money at the moment. (Blame it on Rio.)
As Bill Clinton and George W Bush showed us, we will tolerate, admire even, highly flawed individuals in politics if they know how to fight, fight back and fight dirty even as, or despite that, they cleanse their souls of their inner demons well within public view, whether it’s to compensate for being daddy’s abandoned little lamb or the black sheep of the family.
The racist lunatic fringe of the Republican Party (hard to miss) and drug addicted talk show hosts (hard to miss but hard to imprison?) who rant about deporting immigrants while they run the Hispanic maid, who they forced into being their drug runner, out of the country so she can’t be found by prosecutors, don’t fear Obama the man. They fear the effects of the changing racial demographics that will challenge their social order. No one fears President Barack Obama.
As Jimmy “lust in my heart” Carter and George “kinder and gentler” Bush proved, we’ve got only so much political tolerance for an ineffectual do gooder. We like leaders willing to get down and dirty. There comes a time when we tire of you running your mouth about your “achey breaky heart” — just ask all those pissed off queens last night at the Human Rights Campaign Fund gala who paid $1000 a person to be patronized–and we want to see you put up a fight. And win.
All love, most especially political love, is conditional. Put out or get out. Put up or shut up. Just do it.
And as Lady Gaga so aptly sang to the crowd last night, “baby when it’s love, if it’s not rough it isn’t fun.”