There are basically two ways a disgraced politician can behave on the way to jail.
One way is to hold your head up high and proclaim to all who can hear that you're innocent and the victim of forces out to get you. Like former 7th Ward Alderman William Beavers, who called himself a “hog with the big nuts” and blamed his judges after being sentenced earlier this year to six months in prison for being a tax cheat.
The other is to continue to prove the kind of ineptitude that got you into trouble in the first place. Like convicted former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who tried to report Monday to a federal prison in North Carolina but was reportedly turned away for reasons unknown.
Quite frankly, it’s been painful to watch the downfall and ultimate conviction of Jackson, who was once held in high esteem by a number of people. At one point, way back in 2005, there was even talk that he might run for mayor against Rich Daley, a proposition seen by some as a potential return to the glory days of the Harold Washington administration and exactly what the city needed for political reform.
For years, Jackson worked to build a national and even international reputation from his perch as U.S. Representative from Illinois 2nd District, even as he simultaneously struggled to get out of the shadow of his famous father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
But for Junior, as he came to be known, there was always trouble on the horizon. From suspicions his father helped him get a lucrative beer distributorship in Chicago to the day he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items, it’s been one slow, sad decline.
There was the waitress who claimed she was having an affair with him, the alleged attempt to buy a U.S. Senate seat, the Congressional ethics investigation, the months-long disappearance from public view, the resignation for health reasons, the attempt to shield his wife, and the inability to recognize an authentic Van Halen signature.
And now, there's confusion over when, exactly, he should have reported to prison.
There's talk over whether Jackson Jr. suffers from bi-polar depression, and, for the sake of compassion, we should assume he does.
If so, I sincerely hope he finds the mental health treatment he needs so that when he gets out of prison, he can return to a healthy, happy and productive life.
Because for a man who carries a remarkably short legislative record, we end up with little else to do than watch how truly inept he appears in much of the rest of his life.