Phil Kadner, columnist for the SouthTown Star
Updated: August 10, 2012 2:08PM
Linked to one of the worst political scandals in Illinois history, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois) still pounded his opponent in the Democratic primary by more than a 2-1 ratio in March this year.
It didn’t matter to his constituents that Jackson’s friend, Raghuveer Nayak, was accused of trying to bribe Gov. Rod Blagojevich to purchase an appointment to a U.S. Senate seat for the congressman.
And voters apparently didn’t care much that Nayak told federal agents he paid the airfare for Jackson’s female “social acquaintance” between Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
In Cook County, the heart of Jackson’s district, he received 75 percent of the vote while crushing his opponent, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. That’s an amazing show of support for a politician hit by both political and personal scandals.
I mention all of that today because Jackson has taken a medical leave of absence from Congress.
Since June 10, he has been suffering from “exhaustion” according to his staff and has been unable to fulfill his duties as a representative.
In an update on his condition, his press spokesman this week issued a news release stating:
“Congressman Jackson’s medical condition is more serious than we thought and initially believed. Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time.
“At present, he is undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient facility. According to the preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, Congressman Jackson will need to receive extended in-patient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter.”
Jackson’s congressional staff and family have refused to release any further details about his medical condition, or where he is being treated. A source told me Jackson had been unable to sleep for an extended period of time. I was also told that he is not being treated in the Chicago metropolitan area.
And even some of his closest staff members, I have been informed, have not been in contact with him.
Jackson, who is also the focus of a congressional ethics investigation, has been under constant emotional and mental pressure for three years.
Speculation about his condition and whereabouts is widespread but senseless because nobody who really knows anything is talking.
But the congressman’s family owes the people who have supported Jackson, the voters, more detail.
The statement that his condition is worse than originally thought and the news that he will need extended medical treatment later raise legitimate questions about his ability to represent his district during another term.
Repeated requests for prayers of support for the congressman, the sort of plea often made on behalf of someone facing a fatal illness, merely heightens public concern.
The wording of news releases and public statements is deliberately vague, yet titillating enough to increase conjecture.
After saying she “loves her husband very much,” after leaving a Chicago City Council meeting, Ald. Sandi Jackson, the congressman’s wife, said:
“. . . My primary concern is that of my children. I just want to make sure that they’re taken care of and provided for.”
That’s sounds as if their father may not be around to care or provide for them.
If a man is battling an illness that is treatable, you would think his wife’s primary concern would be for his recovery.
When pressed about such statements, sources close to Jackson have assured me that while he is in a bad way, he is not that bad.
He will recover. He will be able to run for re-election and resume his duties.
Pressed harder, they admit they really don’t know any details about his health, his course of treatment or even if he is in a hospital.
Statements urging sympathy and understanding, while alluding to some dire condition, are simply confusing and unacceptable.
Jackson and his family have received astounding public support.
It’s now time for them to demonstrate they understand the responsibility that comes with it.