U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in May 2011. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP file photo
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:42AM
Jesse Jackson Jr. has to step up.
He has to stand up there in front of the microphones and the cameras and explain himself.
Enough with treating the voters like a bunch of chumps.
The congressman’s lawyers can’t talk for him.
His loyal spokesman, Frank Watkins, can’t talk for him.
His father can’t.
His wife can’t.
It’s show time for U.S. Rep. Jackson. After four long months of silence, he must come out of seclusion and address the most basic questions about his physical and ethical fitness for office, or nobody in the 2nd Congressional District should even think about casting a vote for him on Nov. 6.
We know. We get it. What we say here — what just about anybody says anywhere — is not about to cost Jackson re-election. The Jackson name is golden; he’s a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district; there is understandable concern for his health, and he’s running (if you can call it that) against a couple of relative nobodies.
The man is going to win. Welcome to Chicago.
But consider this, as well: When Jackson returns to Washington — if ever he does — he is destined to be one of the most ineffectual legislators on Capitol Hill, kept at arm’s length by his own party, beleaguered by troubles old and new. Nobody’s going to want to play with him.
Jackson’s latest trouble is the news, first reported Friday by the Chicago Sun-Times, that federal investigators have launched a probe into his finances, focusing on “suspicious activity” in either his official House spending account or campaign account. Representatives are given allowances of at least $1.4 million a year to run their Washington and district offices.
Add to that the congressman’s older troubles, the stuff that may have dogged him right into the hospital.
Most worrisome, he has yet to answer questions — now almost four years old — about allegations that an emissary offered to raise more than $1 million for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Jackson to a U.S. Senate seat. A U.S. House ethics investigation into that allegation continues.
Let us be clear: None of this leaves us anything but sad. We have in the past been among the congressman’s admirers.
We liked the way he struggled out of the shadow of his famous father to become his own man.
We liked how he took on mayors and governors in his pursuit of a third Chicago area airport. We liked his smart and disarming personal style, back when he wasn’t afraid to step outdoors.
We’re also reluctant to beat up on a guy when he’s down. The Mayo Clinic released a statement in August saying Jackson was being treated for bipolar disorder.
But the people of the 2nd District deserve a congressman, not a man under an ethical cloud who hasn’t shown his face in public since at least June 10.
That is the hard truth.
Jesse Jackson Jr. can do whatever he wants.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has a job to do.