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Sobbing Rev. Jackson on son’s resignation: Jesse Jr. ‘is not well’

Congressman Jesse JacksJr. left talks with his father Rev. Jesse Jacksduring 2005 Rainbow PUSH CoalitiSaturday Morning Forum Chicago. Sun-Times Medifile

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., left, talks with his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, during a 2005 Rainbow PUSH Coalition Saturday Morning Forum in Chicago. Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: December 24, 2012 7:19AM



The Rev. Jesse Jackson has always been a man with a plan.

But on Thanksgiving eve, when it was painfully clear that his namesake would resign as a member of Congress, Jackson was emotionally broken.

“What makes this so hard is that Jesse is real sick. We don’t know how things can happen like this, but sick people do sick stuff,” Jackson said, sobbing.

“For 13 years, he was on track.”

Facing mounting political pressure, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. sent House Speaker John Boehner his letter of resignation on Wednesday afternoon.

Jackson cited his “deteriorating” health but acknowledged the “ongoing federal investigation” into his “activities.”

“My health issues and treatment regimen have become incompatible with service in the House of Representatives,” Jackson said.

The two-page letter ended a 17-year political career that was the crown jewel of the iconic civil rights family.

The senior Jackson twice ran unsuccessfully for president and has never held elected office. But at age 30, without any political experience, Jackson Jr. was elected in a special election to fill the South Side seat left vacant by the disgraced Mel Reynolds.

He defeated a slew of seasoned politicians, including Emil Jones, then a state senator, and went to Congress in December of 1995.

Then, he used his political cachet to get his wife, Sandi Jackson, elected as 7th Ward alderman.

Although his star power came from his father, Jackson made a name for himself by doggedly pursuing a third airport that would bring jobs to the South Side, and by compiling a near perfect voting record in Congress.

There was no mistaking the pride the Reverend took in his son’s status as a member of Congress. It was in his swagger, and it was in the way he beamed whenever he watched his son address that illustrious body.

Yet just like any ordinary father, there is only so much this famous father could do when trouble came knocking on his door.

Though Rev. Jackson has brokered deals with presidents and foreign leaders, he was powerless to intercede against the rising howls for his son’s resignation; or to derail the federal investigation into the former congressman’s use of campaign funds, or to end Jesse Jr.’s battle with mental illness.

The Jackson family’s main concern continues to be Jesse Jr.’s mental state.

The former congressman was diagnosed with a bipolar condition in June and had been on a leave of absence since June 10.

“He is not well. He is up and down,” the father told me. “When he’s up, he can talk, but he breaks down. He had a perfect record, and all of a sudden this erratic behavior comes up,” Jackson told me in a telephone call in which he struggled to keep his composure.

“I am too broken up to talk.”

Although it is still not clear what transgressions may have taken place since there is no plea deal, sources close to the negotiations claim lawyers and prosecutors are working toward that goal.

Apparently, a big part of the negotiations has to do with whether Jackson, who easily won re-election to his House seat last month, will have to spend time in jail.

Ironically, every Christmas Day since 1971, the elder Jackson, often accompanied by his son, would deliver an Annual Christmas Day message to prisoners at Cook County jail and Illinois prisons.

“Really, it’s a sad day,” noted U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, who visited Jesse Jr., at his Washington D.C. home last month as he was preparing to return to the Mayo Clinic.

“It reminds me to a certain extent of the day before Thanksgiving in 1987 when Harold Washington died.

“Although Harold’s death was sudden, and the shock of Harold’s death was paralyzing, this is a dramatic reality that we are losing another leader. It is hard to digest.

“I certainly feel pain for Jesse Jr. and Sandi and the entire Jackson family, all of whom have contributed so much to the well being of the African-American community and to the city and nation. I just pray for Jesse. Jr., the Reverend and Jackie.”

Whatever your politics, there is no good time for the bad news that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. had to deliver to his constituents, his family, his friends.



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