Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How Sarah Palin's Basketball Histrionics Are Helping Alexi Giannoulias

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How Sarah Palin's Basketball Histrionics Are Helping Alexi Giannoulias
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It was bad enough that Sarah Palin brought her nativist politics and white resentment to Mark Kirk’s home state. Now, she’s bringing it to his hometown.

Although Kirk grew up in Kenilworth and went to New Trier, he now lives in Highland Park, whose girls basketball team was withdrawn from a tournament in Arizona because of the state’s new immigration law.

Palin, a former high school basketball player, has made the Giants her current cause celebre, teaming with WIND radio personality Amy Jacobson to raise money for the girls’ trip.

As a result, the entire nation has now heard of Kirk’s hometown. Most of the attention has been negative. You’d expect Rush Limbaugh to bash the decision, but even Whoopi Goldberg criticized Highland Park on The View. And here’s the Tribune’s liberal stalwart Eric Zorn:

“It was premature at best -- hysterical is probably the better word -- for school administrators to imply that police in Arizona will begin hounding teen athletes for their citizenship papers,” Zorn wrote.

This puts Kirk in a bind. If he defends his constituents in Highland Park, he’ll be seen as a politically correct namby-pamby taking issue with an immigration law that most Republicans love. If he attacks Highland Park, he’ll throwing his local school administrators under the bus to side with right-wing bully Sarah Palin -- which will be the subject of Alexi Giannoulias’s next campaign ad. And if he says nothing, he’ll be ignoring the biggest story ever to hit Highland Park.

So far, Kirk, who likes to say nothing, is going with Option C. Ward Room called Kirk’s campaign headquarters, asking for a comment on the Highland Park controversy. We haven’t heard back yet.

Giannoulias is in a bit of bind, too. He played high school basketball at Chicago’s Latin School, so he has to choose between sticking up for his fellow ballers and sticking it to Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin is not a great political thinker. She is, however, a media star and a brilliant political provocateur, and she’s brought Highland Park worldwide attention that it -- and its favorite son -- could do without.

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