Illinois state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) | Seth Perlman~AP
Updated: January 9, 2014 6:41AM
Kwame Raoul didn’t hold back on his anger or his angst.
We were sitting on the set of WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” on Wednesday. It was near the end of a 14-minute interview with four lawmakers — two from each party — who crafted and voted for very painful public employee pension cutbacks. They were explaining their “yes” votes.
And Raoul, the Democratic state senator from Hyde Park, in a quiet way let it rip.
“There was some rhetoric that was unnecessary . . . coming from outside the chamber by so-called political leaders from both parties.”
“Elected officials such as Senator (Mark) Kirk and Rep. (Jan) Schakowsky, folks who haven’t offered any solutions, making a last-minute criticism of our compromise work. . . . I think from both parties we’ve had some leaders that didn’t offer anything positive but offered just ‘say no’ politics. . . . It was very disenchanting.”
The next day I called Raoul, who was just walking out of Gov. Pat Quinn’s somber closed-door signing of that historic legislation. Legislation that Raoul fully admits represents a broken pension promise to state employees.
In all honesty, I expected the senator to express second thoughts about calling out — by name — politicians, including those from his own party. But his only regret, it seemed, was not identifying more whom he considered, as a recent Sun-Times editorial described them, “bench-warmers in clean uniforms playing fantasy football.”
Like, he said, “Candidates for comptroller, Sheila Simon and Judy Baar Topinka.”
As for the GOP candidates for governor, Raoul took issue with three out of four of them, beginning with billionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.
“Rauner talks about how we haven’t done anything. . . . There’s a practical thing when anyone wants to be governor, no matter how uber-wealthy you are, you can’t just dictate. It will have to be a compromise. And this was a product of that. Just to say ‘not good enough, not good enough’ is not good enough.”
As for fellow state Sen. Kirk Dillard and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Raoul was equally critical.
“Rutherford has been dancing and hasn’t offered any proposal . . . and Dillard is questioning constitutionality . . . but he was a yes vote on a (similar bill) in the spring,” he argued.
As for state Sen. Bill Brady, the lone GOP gubernatorial candidate who voted yes?
“Bill Brady demonstrated some courage . . . and I think . . . at the end of his floor speech, I expected something purely political,” he said, “but there wasn’t.”
There are plenty of people from unions to the tea party who furiously take issue with everything Raoul argues. But beyond the legitimately debatable merits of a law facing an immediate court challenge, there is something the senator is saying that I think is true. It is that compromise is a wrenching, painful, awful process.
It takes stamina.
“The vast number of decisions, we make with near unanimity, they’re not so difficult,” he said.
But it’s the ones where you really have to struggle that, as Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno put it so well, separate the leaders from the posers.