Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. needs to learn the difference between ethics and morals -- or, to use barnyard terminology, between a weasel and a dog.
During an appearance before the Tribune editorial board, alongside Democratic primary opponent Debbie Halvorson, Jackson lamely defended his affair with a D.C. waitress by insisting he hadn’t violated House ethics rules by asking a fundraiser to buy a plane ticket so his little something on the side could sneak into Chicago.
The purchase was “a friendly gesture” by supporter Raghuveer Nayak, who displayed bros-before-hos solidarity with Jackson by purchasing the ticket so it wouldn’t show up on the family credit card, where Alderman Sandi might question it.
Jackson then claimed that his mistress’s visit to Chicago was “not a personal benefit to me, I don’t believe, under the House rules.”
Congressman, this is not about whether you broke the rules of the House of Representatives. It’s about the fact that you broke the rules of that house across the street from the South Shore Country Club. The one you share with your wife. People being as they are, no one cares about what happened in the House Ethics Committee hearing room. They want to know what happened in your hotel. During the editorial board meeting, Jackson looked miserable as Halvorson, relishing the role of aggrieved wife by proxy, shook a finger at him. Having broken a vow cherished by all women, Jackson will now look like a cad if he attacks his woman opponent.
Halvorson, of course, also has to pretend this isn’t about sex, insisting that the House investigation is distracting Jackson from his duties as a congressman.
It’s worth remembering that this congressional seat last changed hands because of a sex scandal. Rep. Mel Reynolds eventually went to prison for his affair with a 16-year-old campaign aide. More relevant is the fact that Jackson’s father had an appetite for women that even Washington political reporters found remarkable.
There’s a scene in the 1982 movie My Favorite Year when nebbishy comedy writer Benjy Stone takes matinee idol Alan Swann to Brooklyn to have dinner with his family. Benjy’s Uncle Morty decides inquire about Swann’s personal life.
“That paternity rap,” he asks. “Did you shtupp her?”
Swann informs Uncle Morty that movie stars can get away with behavior that mere civilians can’t dream of, but they’re also burned in public for indiscretions that ordinary people can keep secret. Jesse Jackson Jr., this is your Alan Swann moment, but I doubt you’ll remember 2012 as your favorite year.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!