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Mayor Emanuel: Don’t rush Jackson’s return to Congress

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. File Photo.  I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. File Photo. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 14, 2012 6:32AM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel added his voice Thursday to those urging a zone of privacy for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. as the congressman seeks treatment for an ailment most recently described as a “mood disorder.”

“I know a lot of people are saying, ‘When is he going to get back to work?’” Emanuel said at Hyde Park Career Academy.

“Why should he get back to work to a Congress that does no work?” Emanuel said to laughter. “Why rush it? Last time I checked, Congress had their second repeal of the health care bill. Why rush? Take care of your health. Guess what: Congress is going to be there. Hopefully when you return they’ll be doing real work.”

Jackson who has prided himself on a near-perfect record for casting votes in Congress, has missed roll call votes since June 8 when he went on medical leave, but none in which his vote would have altered the outcome.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defended Jackson for the second day in a row Thursday, telling reporters in Washington that he has missed only 12 days since his medical leave began, and none of his colleagues have complained to her about his absence.

Despite Emanuel’s and Pelosi’s remarks, most of the questions about Jackson’s absence have not been about when the congressman will return to the job, but asking why he has not been more forthcoming on why he is on leave in the first place.

On that issue, Emanuel said: “Everybody has an obligation [to disclose]. I want to be clear, though. Just because you’re in public life doesn’t mean your zone of privacy ends. At some point, he has to talk to the constituency, and he knows that but —.”

The mayor was then cut off by another question. He never finished the sentence.

Pelosi said: “I said at the time when he knew — when they had a handle on what the evaluation was, that they would make it known, and they have.”

Jackson’s office released a brief statement Wednesday saying he is being treated for an unspecified mood disorder.

At that same event at which Emanuel announced Hyde Park would be adopting an International Baccalaureate program, state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) said a reason Jackson delayed two weeks in announcing what initially was described as a “medical leave for exhaustion,” is because of the stigma still associated with mental health issues.

Mood disorder is an umbrella term that covers various conditions ranging from depression to bi-polar disorder to post-partum depression. More often than not the conditions are treatable.

Raoul said he thought Jackson’s constituents had been given “adequate information for right now. I don’t know how much more we know about Sen. [Mark] Kirk right now and when he’s going to return. We’re not clamoring about that, are we? It’s two different conditions. There is a public that stigmatizes different conditions. I’m an attorney, and I used to do a lot of work in juvenile court. I represented people with mental illnesses. What I learned is: people stigmatize. And it impacts how people perceive folks.”

Unlike Jackson, Kirk has provided a video of himself recuperating from his stroke and made his physicians available to take questions from reporters at news conferences.

NBC News reported Wednesday that Jackson is in an Arizona treatment facility.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet



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