The Chicago Tribune
September 17, 2009
May the farce be with you, Obama and Daley
By John Kass
Some think President Barack Obama was playing Zorro on the White House lawn Wednesday, fencing with an Olympic foil, with Mayor Richard Daley looking on.
Others figured the president was Han Solo to the mayoral Yoda, foreshadowing a climactic scene to come in Copenhagen, Obama swooping in on Air Force One as if it were the Millennium (Park) Falcon, heroically rescuing the tiny-legged, verbally challenged sage.
But please, let's not get bogged down in confusing mythic symbolism.
The message from President Obama was real clear politics:
Chicago's president of the United States wants Chicago's political boss happy and hosting the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Chicago is ready, the American people are ready," said the president, with about two weeks until the International Olympic Committee meets in Copenhagen to decide whether Chicago gets the Olympic payoff. "We want these Games."
But a recent Tribune poll showed mixed feelings. People might not be crazy about the Games, but Daley sure is. He reaches for the Olympics the way a drowning man reaches for a floating chunk of wood.
And if Daley doesn't get the Olympics –– if the IOC chooses Rio, Tokyo or Madrid –– don't be surprised if this becomes the mayor's last term.
Because, after a 20-year spending spree, the money is finally gone. Daley is now so desperate for cash that he allowed parking meter rates to be increased, knowing there would be a public backlash.
Now he needs that Olympic gold, to pass it out among the hungry interests and maintain control. His Olympic push is not about sport. It's never been about sport. The Olympic theme song and wondering who might carry the torch down Michigan Avenue has been part of the children's fairy tale.
But grown-ups know that the Chicago Olympics are about keeping Daley in power. Period. It began four years ago, just as big business and labor and the guys behind the guys started wondering if Daley was weakening. A boss thought to be weak is a boss in danger. So just getting to this point has been a masterful political stroke on the part of the mayor.
In August 2004, Daley was busy ridiculing the idea of a Chicago Olympics.
"The Olympics is a construction industry," he told the Rotary Club. "They wanted $2 million from me just to make a proposal! They want to build everything new."
Back then, he was in trouble. The Hired Truck scandal was widening. Daley's administration was also under siege by another federal investigation into the wholesale abuse of political patronage through the mayor's office. Taxpayers subsidized Daley's political troops who were working the precincts and controlling elections.
In December 2004, Daley loyalist and water department boss Donald Tomczak was charged with bribery. Tomczak's illegal patronage army of hundreds of workers helped elect then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Tomczak) to office. Emanuel is now Obama's chief of staff.
In May 2005, the feds raided the mayor's offices with search warrants. On July 18, 2005, Daley patronage chief Robert Sorich and others were charged with fraud. Daley would soon be sitting down with federal prosecutors, giving his own deposition on corruption matters.
But one week after Sorich and others were charged in the July 18 indictments, the mayor formally changed his tune and started backing the Olympics for Chicago.
"It would be done with private money," said the mayor. "This is a big-ticket item that ... we should look at very carefully."
In the weeks leading up to that announcement, Daley privately began offering a choice to establishment Chicago:
Get on the Olympic bus with the mayor or get left behind. No CEO could afford to be left behind. They jumped on, as did the rest of the power players.
That was Daley's brilliance. The 2016 Olympics became the mortar keeping his brick house from collapsing. If he wins the Olympics, he'll stay boss for years.
Even the president, who once vowed to transcend the cynical politics of the past, jumped on board. Why not? The guys running the Obama White House come direct from Daley's City Hall.
On Wednesday, as the president joked around with swords, First Lady Michelle Obama offered a reality check. She'll accompany Daley to the Oct. 2 IOC meeting in Copenhagen.
Don't be shocked if the president makes a "surprise" appearance and wins the day.
"You should have seen the president in there fencing, it was pathetic," Mrs. Obama laughed. "But he passed the baton really well."
Actually, Daley passed the baton. And now it can't be dropped.
It is handed from Chicago's boss to his presidential anchorman, in the most important political relay of Daley's life.
two shit stains!
What a shitty way to present ourselves to the world - with Shitcago.
I would rather Tokyo or Madrid.