Jesse Jr.’s amazing disappearing act
“On Sunday June 10th, Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. went on a medical leave of absence and is being treated for exhaustion. He asks that you respect his family’s privacy. His offices remain open to serve residents of the Second District.” -- June 25 statement by Jackson’s press office
It takes a lot of nerve to lecture the public on what they ought to ask — or not — about a congressman missing in action.
But then Jesse Jackson Jr. has for too long now had an outsized sense of his own importance, entitlement and burden.
I am genuinely sorry if he is ill from exhaustion. And I agree with Brian Woodworth, Jackson’s Republican opponent in the November election, when he generously said on Monday, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Jackson and his family wishing him a full and speedy recovery.”
But there are many kinds of exhaustion. And the electorate suffers from its own weariness when politicians like Jackson dodge and deflect.
Ever since then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was yanked out of bed by the FBI in December of 2008, a dark and heavy cloud has hovered over Jackson.
In the corruption indictment that ultimately landed Blagojevich in federal prison, Jackson was referred to as “Senate Candidate No. 5.”
At issue was whether Jackson, in concert with a wealthy fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, had in any way offered Blagojevich $1.5 million in fund-raising help if he appointed the ambitious Jackson to Barack Obama’s former U.S. senate seat.
Jackson has always vehemently denied that he ever authorized any such thing. And he has never been charged — with anything. But Nayak, just last week, was yanked out of his own house by the FBI on other unrelated but very serious federal charges.
Is it merely a coincidence that Nayak was indicted around the same time Jackson became ill?
Absolutely, says Jackson’s office.
And in point of fact, it truly could be a coincidence.
The congressman has other difficult problems involving a U.S. House ethics probe into whether he improperly used his congressional staff in 2008 to politic for the U.S. Senate seat. Or whether he improperly allowed his fund-raising pal, Nayak, to pay the airfare from Washington, D.C., to Chicago for a female acquaintance of the congressman.
Ald. Sandi Jackson, the congressman’s wife, has acknowledged to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mike Sneed that this has been a very difficult time for the couple.
So, exhaustion? Sure.
It’s an explanation for the congressman’s disappearance, but it’s not an excuse for his lack of candor.
For days last week, WMAQ-Channel 5 reporters Phil Rogers and Mary Ann Ahern called, emailed and texted Jackson’s staff asking for an explanation of his whereabouts. They got none.
The congressman and his staff, whose salaries are paid by federal taxpayers, were silent. Unavailable. Incommunicado.
Though they cranked out press releases under the congressman’s letterhead, giving the appearance he was at work, he apparently was not.
Now we are asked to respect his “privacy.”
But Jesse Jackson Jr. is a public person.
Someone who asked the public to hire him back in 1994.
And is asking to be rehired for a 10th time in November.
Voters deserve better.