Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

June 4, 2013

New boss, same as the old boss

For those looking for insight on the scandals engulfing the Obama administration, read “Boss,” Mike Royko’s classic 1971 biography of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

The IRS targeting of conservative groups and the Department of Justice criminalizing reporting will make more sense after understanding how the infamous Chicago Machine, the one that birthed President Barack Obama, worked.

It’s the one where honest police “were distinguished by their rank, which was seldom above patrolman.” It’s the one where millionaires were allowed to “contribute to the party, serve on advisory boards, take on time-consuming appointments, and help elect Machine Democrats to office.”

And it’s the one where everyone knew their role without being told. In order to be elected, one had to make it through the system, “beginning as doorbell ringers, working in the jobs their sponsors got for them, pushing the ward book, buying the tickets, doing the favors, holding the coats, opening the doors, putting in the fix …”

Obama did not rise through the Machine like Daley or his son Richard, Mayor of Chicago from 1989 to 2011. He adopted it, by moving to Chicago for good after Harvard Law School.

As he told the Hyde Park Herald in 1995, “I came home in Chicago… I began to see my identity and my individual struggles were one with the struggles that folks face in Chicago.”

The man who had never been a ward committeeman or moved up the patronage job ladder originally saw himself as above its parochial maneuverings. But he learned the hard way after U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush decimated him in a 2000 primary that he would get nowhere as the proverbial “nobody nobody sent.”

So he embraced it, ingratiating himself with the proper pastors, politicians, and now-Commerce Secretary nominee Penny Pritzker, the billionaire whose family founded Hyatt Hotels and who raised millions for him. And life was good. He moved from Illinois state senator to U.S. Senator under their tutelage.

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