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Rep. Jesse Jackson:  Hubris vs. humility

Updated: April 6, 2012 8:05AM

Humility? That notion, quaint in today’s scorched-earth political arena, has emerged in U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr.’s battle for his 2nd Congressional District seat.

I ran across a Feb. 28 opinion piece that nailed Jackson’s dilemma. Jackson ally and Park Forest Mayor John A. Ostenburg penned a candid commentary in the E-News Park Forest, a south suburban newsletter.

“Mention to almost anyone the name ‘Jesse Jackson, Jr.,’ and you will likely be met with a visceral reaction: pro or con,” Ostenburg wrote. Ostenburg went on to endorse his friend, noting, “Recently, I have seen a decidedly more humble Jesse Jackson, Jr.”


“Triple J” has long been a lightning rod in his district, which stretches from Chicago’s South Side to the south suburbs to Kankakee. There are far more words than I have space to explain why. Jackson can be charismatic, calculating, brilliant, pugnacious, wily, ambitious, presumptuous, infuriating and boneheaded.

Be he ever so humble? Not the Jackson I know.

His supporters say he has secured hundreds of millions of dollars for the district, and they applaud his single-minded pursuit of economic development via a proposed south suburban airport.

Detractors argue that Jackson is distracted and disconnected. He’s all Big Hat, No Cattle, grasping and untrustworthy.

Back in the day, Triple J was riding high. He was once touted as a potential first black speaker of the U.S. House and for mayor of Chicago.

Then in 2008, his frenzied and failed bid for Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat put him in jeopardy. Jackson was mired in a long federal probe and U.S. House Ethics Committee investigation; the latter is still pending. Jackson has not been charged with any crime and has steadfastly declared that he will be “vindicated.”

The scandal and a new congressional map have attracted a credible challenge from former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, based in south suburban Crete.

Jackson has come out swinging, with no humility in tow. My “h” word is “hubris.” He is pulling out all the stops, and it’s working.

He hired public relations consultants to feed the media. He’s calling in some heavy chits. Obama’s name is plastered on every spare inch of Jackson’s campaign platform. Prominent congressional pals such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California have been enlisted.

Suddenly, no cause escapes Jackson’s avid attention. He is pushing for a national park in historic Pullman.

He’s paying homage to National Kidney Month and proclaiming the 51st Anniversary of the Peace Corps.

He has slammed Halvorson’s voting record, claiming she opposed Obama’s agenda 88 times. She disputes that, and the facts back her up.

Yet he’s not backing down.

Vintage Jackson.

“My hope is that this humility will accompany the congressman throughout his next term,” Ostenburg wrote. “Humility is good. Especially for pols.”

Don’t count on it. For pols, hubris usually wins the day. Jackson is counting on that.

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