September 30, 2009
The Patron in Chief's Copenhagen SurgeBy Lee Cary
Europe leans right. The U.S. leans left. Afghanistan hangs in the balance. And Obama goes to Copenhagen. What's up with that?
Patronage is what's up. And world class patronage at that.
The mayor's son learned the lesson of the father. In late August 1968, Chicago's Grant Park was a bivouac area for the Illinois National Guard. Green trucks, green tents, green fatigues everywhere, along with the debris of a brawl between Vietnam War protestors and the Chicago Police Department.
It happened as Hubert "the Happy Warrior" Humphrey, LBJ's vice president, was cruising to the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Senator Eugene McCarthy, the peace candidate, would come in second. Senator George McGovern, third.
As the riot boiled outside the convention center, protestors threw human feces at the cops and the police busted heads with night sticks. Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff, during his nomination speech for George McGovern, mentioned the violence going on outside the convention hall. In a very embarrassing moment for the Daley Machine, Ribicoff looked down at His Honor sitting in the front row and said that "with George McGovern we wouldn't have Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago."
Mayor Richard J. Daley's response was inaudible to the media microphones, but lip-readers later said that Daley used more than one expletive to make disparaging comments about Ribicoff's ancestry and his, Ribicoff's, particularly close relationship with his mother. When Ribicoff spoke down toward Daley the cameras caught Daley's reaction. He was apoplectic.
Daley's son, Richard R. Daley, learned a lesson from his father. Go with the political flow regardless of its direction because it's all about Chicago, not any political ideology. Left or right, all are precious in the Machine's sight -- as long as there's a money river to tap. So what if the political flow of the Democrat Party has turned decidedly left. Chicago is neither left nor right -- it's permanently Machine centered.
Daley the Younger called in his markers and drafted President Obama to go to Copenhagen and lobby on Chicago's behalf. Wherever he was born, Obama will now always be the favored son of the Machine. Obama original allegiance is to that Machine. He owes it. And it's payback time.
When Obama came to work as a young lawyer at Allison Davis' law firm, one that represented slum landlords like "Tony Rezko," Obama learned the lesson of "go-along-to-get-along" that his new boss had once learned. Davis learned not to cross the Machine. Davis, Rezko and current senior presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett were Obama's finance campaign committee in his run for the Senate. They're all serious contributors to the Machine.
Jarrett was the president of a property management firm that managed large Chicago Housing Authority properties. In other words, a city-designated slum landlord. Before that, she was Michelle's boss in the Office of the Mayor of Chicago -- that would be Richard the Younger. After that, she became Michelle's patroness at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
So, of course, the President has to go to Copenhagen to push for Chicago as the site for the 2016 Olympics. He is the duly elected Patron in Chief assigned to bring home the bacon. The closer. He says he's can now leave Washington because the campaign for healthcare reform in under control. Right. And the Cubs are destined to take the Series this year in four straight.
Chicago used to be known as the "City that Worked." Today it's the city that gives unpaid days off to its army of municipal employees because of its financial woes. To a strapped city budget, hosting the Olympics offers a veritable cornucopia of patronage.
Here's how it works. When Chicago gets the nod from the Olympic committee, the money river will start to flow like the Chicago River. Corporate sponsors, donors, federal grants, maybe some stimulus money - it'll take front-end loaders to keep up with the stream of greenbacks. On St. Patrick's Day, the Chicago River runs green with dye. By 2016, it'll be green with Benjamin's.
There'll be contracts to let. Contractors to hire. Road improvements. Venues to be constructed. Lake-front arcades to refurbish. Michigan Avenue decorations. Overtime for police officers. Extra meter maids to be hired. Union electricians and plumbers galore working 24/7. Street sweepers. Graffiti removal crews. Painters to decorate the fences erected to hide blighted areas as was done in advance of the 2008 Democrat Party Convention. Food service vendors. Vending machines to service. Security firms. A near endless list of recipients of Olympic-sized spending largess.
A money tsunami will wash over the Windy City. Hotels will be booked full. And, here's the real payoff: A percentage of all the money spent will be kicked-back into the coffers of the Daley Machine, siphoned off at all levels up the pyramid. Machine cogs from precinct block captains up to His Honor's inner circle will benefit. Their friends will get hired to do the work; those same friends will make contributions to their benefactors' campaigns out of appreciation. And Chicago's money woes will, for a time, disappear as America's Second City takes the Gold. Literally.
So, of course Obama has to go to Copenhagen. He has no choice. Sure, he's only talked to his Commanding General in Afghanistan once in the last seventy days, but the war there is small change compared to Chicago's bid for the Olympics.
One of the legacy news outlets quoted Valerie Jarrett as saying that the "dynamic duo" of Barack and Michelle would sway the Olympic Committee. How can a poor southern hemisphere city like Rio de Janeiro compete against the dynamic duo? Plus Oprah.
It's a done deal.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan can wait. They're not in the running for the Olympics anyway. Probably won't even send any athletes. Chicago comes first. It's about serious political patronage, not corny wartime patriotism.
And never mind that Chicago's citizens are equally split on whether or not they want to host the Olympics. They don't have a say in it. They're counting the cost and wondering what'll happen when their state income and property taxes go up, again. It's time they get with the program and go-along-to-get-along. After all, it's all about the Daley Machine and its scion, the Patron in Chief, bringin' home the bacon.