Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Sins of the Father

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The Sins of the Father

Like father, like son.

That’s why Richard M. Daley has been mayor of Chicago for 21 years, and why Jesse Jackson Jr. never will be.

Jackson’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, was one of the most accomplished womanizers in American politics. One of my early mentors in journalism, Chuck Conconi, got to know Jackson when he was covering the civil rights movement.

“Jesse was sc******* all the girls, but that was O.K.,” Conconi recalled.

Jackson once used a Biblical comparison to justify his philandering. If Martin Luther King was the Moses of his people, Jackson was the David. And David, of course, had his choice of many wives. When one of Jackson’s mistresses gave birth to a daughter, the only surprise was that it hadn’t happened sooner.

Of course, that was in the ‘60s and ‘70s, before Gary Hart was photographed on his love boat. A politician could still go out for a side affair and expect it to remain a secret.

Jesse Jr. seems to have inherited his father’s horndog ways. Here’s how he explained his relationship with a blonde waitress from D.C.: “The reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago.”

In other words, he's not denying something occured that would be, in the context of the traditional definition of marriage, improper.

As John Kass noted in the Tribune, Jackson made it even worse by hooking up with a white woman.

“But when black women see it, they put their hands on their hips,” Kass quotes a black colleague as saying. “He’s done. He’s finished.”
 
Jackson should have known better, if only because he won his seat in Congress after the previous officeholder, Mel Reynolds, was forced to resign over an affair with a 16-year-old campaign worker. That same election opened up a state senate for Barack Obama, who then got elected to the U.S. Senate by defeating two opponents with embarrassing divorce files. No one suspects the passionless Obama of cheating.

Compare the Jacksons to the Daleys. Richard J. Daley made it to the top because he lusted after only one thing: power. When Daley was a state senator, there was plenty of graft and plenty of women available in Springfield, but the young married square stayed in his hotel room, studying budgets. His son inherited the old man’s stay-at-home ways. One of the reasons he’s retiring is to care for his wife, Maggie, who has cancer.

The big winner in Jackson’s fall is Rev. James Meeks, a Jackson protégé who can now step over his mentor to become the black community’s consensus candidate. The other winner is Jackson’s Republican opponent for Congress, Isaac Hayes, who actually got some TV time on Tuesday. He may even get 30 percent of vote in November.

Because this time, it’s not the name Isaac Hayes that makes women think of the sex machine. It’s Jesse Jackson Jr.
 

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