Jesse Jackson and son’s relationship a complicated one
By ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 15, 2012 4:24PM
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (right) with his wife, Sandi, at a birthday party for his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, at the South Shore Cultural Center in October 2006. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:13AM
Talking to National Public Radio last week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said of his son, the hidden, ailing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., “He’s been in touch with his mother and his wife.”
Jackson’s mother told attendees at the annual Rainbow/PUSH conference in Chicago that her son told her he was disappointed when his opportunities to become senator or mayor fizzled.
Should it surprise anyone that the younger Jackson talked to his wife and mother from the undisclosed inpatient facility he is staying but not to his famous father?
Not to anyone who has been following the Jacksons.
In his 17 years as a congressman, the younger Jackson has said on occasions too numerous to tally and with varying degrees of intensity, “I am not my father.”
“Jesse Sr. casts a long shadow,” said Delmarie Cobb, who worked on the elder Jackson’s presidential campaign and the younger Jackson’s congressional campaigns. “When you’re the namesake, you have to live up to that name. An unspoken pressure exists from the moment you realize what your name means — that you have to live up to that. In some cases you want to be better.”
Despite the smiling images of father and son embracing at the congressman’s swearing-in or at the 1996 Democratic convention, their relationship has at times been an uneasy one.
The younger Jackson was none-too-forgiving when his father inadvertently said while waiting to tape a segment on Fox News that he wanted to cut then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s “nuts off” for “talking down to black people.”
“I’m deeply outraged and disappointed in Rev. Jackson’s reckless statements about Sen. Barack Obama,” the younger Jackson said at the time. “His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee — and I believe the next president of the United States — contradict his inspiring and courageous career . . . I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.”
Just a few months ago as controversy swirled about the patriarch of the Cubs-owning Ricketts family giving preliminary support to an advertising campaign against Barack Obama, Rep. Jackson told the Sun-Times he has a unique perspective on the controversy.
“I have a sense of what it means to have a prominent father — in this case a prominent and fairly affluent father — who has political points of view that are fundamentally different from his son’s and run contrary to his son’s business interests,” he said. “The son is trying to execute a business plan, deal with local politics and refurbish Wrigley Field. And the son now has to go behind the father and say, ‘That’s not me.’ I know this position very well. I empathize with it. I feel for young Ricketts.”
The younger Jackson regularly appears on the pulpit with his father at the Saturday morning Rainbow/PUSH services.
He often answers questions about his father by saying, “He is my father and I will always love him, but . . .”
He said he had to abandon ideas about running for the U.S. Senate seat Obama won in 2004 in part because of his father.
If one YouTube clip could do in the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then all the footage of his father’s controversial utterances over the years would be a drag on his campaign, he noted.
In 2002, Rep. Jackson endorsed Clinton Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo for governor of New York.
Cuomo rival Carl McCall responded by saying, “What does some guy from Chicago do for you if you’re running for office in New York?”
But the following day, McCall accepted the enthusiastic endorsement of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. McCall won the primary but lost the general election.
In 2000, the younger Jackson, a graduate and trustee of the Chicago Theological Seminary, lovingly draped over his father’s shoulders a graduation hood as the reverend accpeted his degree 35 years after leaving the seminary three classes shy of finishing.
That same year, Rep. Jackson explained his complicated relationship with his father to the Hotline website:
“As far as my father’s name is concerned, I’ve inherited a lot of his friends and detractors, and I haven’t earned either of them. I have stylistic differences with my father. I’m accountable every two years. Rev. Jackson is not. He doesn’t have that accountability, so he can do and say things that I can’t.”
Rep. Jackson told Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass: “I am proud of the work my father has done nationally, and I am really proud of the role he has played in my life, in terms of providing me with the courage and the willingness to fight for what I believe in . . . And there are some things about my father that I am not in total agreement on, that I am not very proud of.”
Cobb added, “It is a complicated relationship. I don’t know tht anybody on the outside can figure it out. They do love each other, but . . .”