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Chicago Politics and Obama Governance

Original post made by Paul Losch, Community Center, on Dec 1, 2008

I perceive a fascinating development as Obama announces his senior team.

He is taking "the City that works" philosophy to his appointments.

And he has in his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, a guy who cut his teeth in Chicago politics.

I love Chicago, I think it is a very well run city, and I also know that there are bare knuckled things that go on in that City Hall.

This country has never really had leadership steeped in Chicago politics and bargaining. My read so far is that it is too bad it had taken so long.

Comments (26)

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Paul - I love Chicago too, and certain parts of it really make Chicago look like the city that works (the Gold Coast, the Mag Mile, the Loop, Lincoln Park...), but Cook County now has the highest sales tax in the country and don't even ask about the murder count in Chicago. And how many Aldermen have been convicted for payoffs over the last 25 years? Isn't the count in the 50s by now?

Chicago's a great town, but the last thing Washington needs is Chicago style politics.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:52 pm

It has long been known that Chicago's motto is "Vote early and vote often". Chicago has one of the worst school systems in the nation. The 'projects' are crime ridden and dangerous. Visitors only see the downtown area but should not venture out at their own peril, It is a crime ridden, dangerous city and with crooked politics for maybe 100 years. It is controlled by the 'machine' and the mobs are part of it too. Where is a new Elliot Ness when that once great city needs one? I was born and raised in down state Illinois which has nothing good to say about Chicago. And this city gave Obama to the world. This is the machine that sent Obama to the Illinois Senate where he had no substantiative track record. . It was not the suburbs or downstate. It was Chicago. a very sick city now.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 7:33 am

Yup, Kate. Agreed. Oh well. Hunker down and hope he is better for our country than we fear. And prepare for a continuing downturn in our economy and ramped up expressions of hatred against us.

Make everyone a bet..we have had fewer acts of terrorism AROUND THE WORLD since going into Iraq then in the prior 30 years. Wanna bet the acts of terrorism will increase now?

My hope is that Obama and team react strongly and forcefully, and don't pull Carter/Clinton reactions.

Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 8:42 am

Perspective--It sounds like your are really hoping all that you wrote above comes true--so that you can say "i told you so" with regard to Obama.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:08 am

I fully understand that not all is lovely about Chicago politics, some of the stuff that goes on in parts of town with elected officials, city employees and the like are the stuff of legend. I don't think that aspect of it is likely to translate to how the White House operates with Obama there.

Where I do see some potential parallels is a pragmatic, get it done attitude, and don't be afraid to twist some arms in order to accomplish worthwhile things. Certainly the senior officials Obama has announced thus far are viewed as competent, non idealogues.

As for substance, I think the agenda already is pretty clear--the economy, getting out of Iraq, addressing health care, energy and the environment, global terrorism. Obama has extensive informaton on his campaign web site about all these things and his position on them. He seems to have a team in place that knows how to get things done around those and other issues that will arise. Let's hope he can make progress around those things, and works well with Congress and other countries to get things accomplished.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:29 am

Paul, please tell me if you REALLY believe that all of the concerns you have mentioned WERE NOT CONCERNS of our current Admin.

Surely you and I can agree that we all have the same goals, but differ very much on STRATEGIES TO GET TO THE GOALS.

We have elected strategies that I fear will make all those goals harder to reach, though I hope very much I am wrong and you and all the others who voted for Obama are right.

However, I have seen almost nothing so far to give me hope that we actually will keep making forward progress, except in Iraq. Obama's appointments so far in this realm tell me that we have no plans to simply pull a Vietnam and abandon the people of Iraq before they are ready to completely take over, which has been the goal all along, and in which we have made tremendous progress since the surge happened.

Addressing Health Care: Please note Bush tried also to "address health care" ( what you mean is Health INSURANCE, since everyone who is here legally and is living at 200% of the poverty line has govt health insurance, and only 87% of the uninsured in our nation who are here legally are those who can AFFORD the least expensive health insurance, but choose not to buy it). His attempt to address it was completely squashed, because the political solution wanted by Dems is govt controlled health insurance, not private choices health insurance and an equalization of health insurance benefits through taxing employer health insurance benefits, and giving those who buy their own health insurance a tax break.

The bottom line is that we have voted in an ideology of "nanny state". Americans apparently really want France style nanny govt, instead of what used to be American style adult responsibility.

In our ignorance, we also voted in much higher unemployment rates, lower federal income because of fewer people working or choosing to cut back on work since the takehome isn't worth it, and a loss of freedom in choices. We have voted in an absolute assurance of bigger government, and more debt passed on to our kids, so that we will near France's predicament of being even above the Europe standard at 52% debt ( compared to ours which has hovered between 35-37% of GDP).

I hope, again, I am wrong, but history in all the countries of the world and every state in our nation tells me I am right.

In our hubris, we may believe that WE can do it better, but there is no way to socialize more than we are already without the above happening.

If I am wrong, I will apologize to my kids in a few years and tell them I voted incorrectly.

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:39 am


Some of the issues have been around even before this current administration (health care,) some have escalated in importance more recently (the way our economy is working,) some are squarely a legacy of W (his decision to invade Iraq.)

I agree with you that the strategies that are developed to address these or any issue, and the effective execution of same are the measure of whether a President is regarded favorably or not. I have been profoundly disappointed with this current President on both his strategies and his ability to execute them effectively. IMHO, there was entirely too much ideological extremism in many things over the last 8 years. And Republicans as well as Democrats in Congress found that this White House was indifferent to Capitol Hill, that is well known by anyone who follows this stuff.

You clearly do not like Obama's positions on certain things, but some of what you are projecting (vive la France) seems a little silly to "moi." I will point out, for example, that the country was running surpluses when Clinton left office and was doing quite well economically. The tax cuts and the war in Iraq resulted in shameful deficits, and I attribute some of the economic mess we are in to those "strategies." Cheney is infamous for saying "deficits don't matter." I could not disagree more strongly. Talk about leaving future generations a legacy.

Obama already has stated we need to move in a direction that gets the fiscal house in order, including phasing out programs that are not working. It is not a matter of government being to big or too small, it is being "right sized," and to the extent that it operates, it does so competently. There can be differences of opinion as to what "right sized" means in concrete terms, and that is where both ends of Penn Ave need to work together to figure that out.

I go back to what I teed up at the start, this team that is getting assembled appears to be one that wants to get things done competently. That alone will be a big improvement over some of the people responsible for myriad things the last 8 years--Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and of course "Brownie."

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Paul: Again..running surpluses in exactly the same amount that the military was cut. "Quite well economically" except for the TRUE recession of the last 2 quarters of Clinton. Tax cuts always increase fed revenue..check your history. Our deficits:GDP were far less than Clinton years ( Clinton years: 43%..last 8 years, in the 30s). Economic mess we are in..check out sub-prime mortgages and the foreclosures resulting from the Congress enacted CRA. Don't insult your intelligence by quoting out of context Cheney. Deficits don't matter RELATIVE TO INCOME. If you owe 30,000 and make 80,000/year it is different from owing 30,000 and making 60,000/year..we are heading into more the latter, like france, than the former. I agree. I would love to leave the future a legacy..of security, freedom and economic growth.

I can't wait to see what Obama phases out as "not working". Again, I hope he really does, but I have severe doubts. The only thing he will cut is military. "Right sized" is a matter of opinion ( and, by the way, Constitution, with which I agree..which is the Feds ONLY do what isn't the State's responsibility, a concept every dem pres and dem congress moves away from at lightening speed in the effort to centralize planning and resources).

I can't wait for all your competent people to start doing things "competently". Again, I will automatically define anything as incompetent which lowers our freedoms, our economy and our security.

I assume you agree with that definition?

In details, I will put forth that this would mean in some parts any limitation on freedom of speech and freedom to accept the consequences (good or bad) for individual decisions, any policies which decrease fed income and increase unemployment, any increased level of attacks on Americans here or abroad, and/or a decrease in our ability to respond in self-defense.

It would be nice if we could also keep improving in education as we have in the last 8 years, where for the first time in 40 years we are IMPROVING in test scores, not declining.

I will count it as a huge plus if we actually make measurable gains in any of the above areas anywhere near the average of the last 8 years.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 12:30 pm

OOPS didn't mean "dem pres and dem congress"..let me re-phrase "liberal pres and liberal congress".

I have no idea what you mean by "ideological extremism". Bush was far from ideologically conservative. He irritated us conservatives mightily by being the FIRST pres to approve fed funding for STEM CELL research ( how is that too ideological for you?) He irritated us conservatives mightily by doubling the Fed budget for k-12 eduction in his first year. He doubled Medicare drug spending. He handed out Fed relief packages to billions and billions to Louisiana, rewarding horrible financial/infrastructure/governance management by that state. He bought into an open border policy. He caved far too fast on Social Security reform and Health Care insurance reform. He caved to almost every far left interest there was. He was no ideological politician.

Frankly I could go on and on, but you have heard it all before.

Now, I am sure Obama and team will not be ideological at all, in their massive push to increase taking taxes from some to give to all their pet projects. At least Bush increased govt mightily by increasing income through tax cuts. I fear that now we will increase the control of fed govt mightily while killing the geese the lay the golden egg.

Again, I really really hope I am wrong. Because then I won't go bankrupt. You think I jest? I don't.

Posted by Factual
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 2, 2008 at 12:49 pm

"we have had fewer acts of terrorism AROUND THE WORLD since going into Iraq then in the prior 30 years."
And I’ve downed fewer cups of coffee in the past month than in the prior 30 years. Duh. This tells you nothing of my coffee habits except that presumably I still drink.
If you’re going to compare how safe the world is from terrorism post invasion, try something meaningful like average deaths per year. It comes out to approximately 200 deaths per year worldwide before 9/11 and well over 800 after we invaded Iraq. Somehow I don’t feel safer. If you want to include 9/11 and the couple years before the invasion, the average annual death toll is approx. 325 pre-invasion fatalities vs. the 850 post. I’m still not feeling safer.
You can check the numbers yourself at Web Link You'll have to add Mumbai yourself.

The world is heaving a sigh of relief that Bush is on his way out.

(Excuse my digression, but I hate when people get away with passing off blatantly misleading statements.)

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Obama will just spend a bunch of money (hisotrical amounts, by a long shot). That will not fix our problems, becasue he does not believe in supply side economics. Supply side rewards productivity, while demand side rewards printing money, without any particular emphasis on productivity.

We will be much worse off, economically, in 5-7 years than we are now. It is carved in stone, becasue Obama now has a blank check, and he fully intends to spend it.

Much more important than the debt ratios is the war against the jihadists. After all, FDR ran debt up to levels never seen before or since (until Obama gets done), in order to defeat the Nazis and Imperial Japan. Out of freedom can come recovery, as the post-WWII period demonstrated. If Obama stays the foreign policy/security course that Bush set, we should be OK. It is beginning to look like that is what he is doing (as I have long predicted).

Bush will be seen as a great liberator (Iraq), and a stalwart defender against the jihadists. If only Obama would do as well....

BTW, Bush probably would not have done as well as he has, if he was schooled in Chicago politics.

Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Gary--one of your usual posts--backhanded swipes at Obama, while predicting doom and gloom once Bush leaves office (you are probably like Perspective--hoping what you predict will come true)
Very sad that you put your ego above the good of the country

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

"Very sad that you put your ego above the good of the country"


Not at all. I did NOT criticize the successes of Bush. I hope Barack will follow Bush's polcies and do well for this country.

Where are you coming from? I do have a very considerable ego, without apology, but I want the best for this country, unlike the hatriots.

Posted by The Real Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:49 pm

But, Gary, I have redefined "hatriot" and you and Persepective qualify.
The new definition of "hatriot" is people like you and Perspective that hate Obama so much that they predict doom and gloom for the country and actually hope that it comes true.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:58 pm


That's nice, but I don't accept your definition. Therefore, I will continue to use my own definition of hatiotism, as I have explained many times on this forum.

Even for the hatriots, I think it might be wise to admit that Bush was the liberator of Iraq. History will not treat them very nicely, if they do not.

Posted by T, from Duveneck/St Francis
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2008 at 5:14 pm

T, from Duveneck/St Francis is a registered user.

Okay, so let's get to the meat of the matter then, shall we? Perspective and Gary, you have made your predictions and you have stated that we will all need to hunker down. I am going to accept your viewpoint as true and ask you to share with us what specifically we should be doing to prepare ourselves for the upcoming turmoil you foresee. Please explain the reason for each step or make sure it is self-evident. I am truly interested in knowing and understanding your game plan.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 5:17 pm

ahem, as far as deaths per year from terrorism since going into Iraq, you are actually wrong. Take out WAR deaths, which is not included in TERRORISM deaths, and then count number of deaths from terrorism.

Include all the massacres by dictators, if you would like to count more unnecessary deaths, before and after toppling Saddam ( who averaged 70,000/year for 25 years).

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm

"A group of researchers from Simon Fraser University says global terrorism is on the decline, despite previous data and public perceptions that suggest otherwise.

The university's Human Security Report Project says fatalities from terrorist attacks around the world have, in fact, decreased by 40 per cent since 2001.

Researcher Andrew Mack says previous data showing increases in terrorism have included civilian deaths in Iraq.

But he says such deaths in civil wars have traditionally been treated as war crimes, not terrorism, and it makes sense to remove them from the data entirely.

Mack says even in Iraq recently there has been a sharp decline in attacks after several years of increased violence.

He says part of the reason is that global support for Islamic terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida has declined."

Canadian Press May 2008

Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2008 at 6:27 pm

This was supposed to be a discussion about how the Chicago style of politics and getting things done may be part of what is going on with Obama's appointments.

I am outta here. It has become a vacuaous discourse about W.

Posted by Factual
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 2, 2008 at 6:57 pm

ahem, ahem, Perspective. Did you even bother to follow the link? You’re arguing against facts.
Removing terrorist attacks occurring in Iraq because they're in the midst of a war is bs. If terrorists are setting off car bombings around the world - an obvious *terrorist* act - why should Iraq be removed from those statistics? You're having trouble distinguishing between acts of war and acts of terrorism.
But you know, even ignoring Iraqi deaths by terrorist attacks leaves the rest of the world worse off by 20 terrorism deaths per year post invasion. Meanwhile the death toll in Mumbai is rising.

(Sorry to lose you, Paul, but as long as Perspective plays fast & loose with facts I'll call him on it.)

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 8:59 am

Factual: You can redefine elections ( back to Obama and Chicago Politics, remember he "won" his first election through removing all of his opponents from the ballot!), marriage, recession, and deaths from terrorism all you want.

The only thing is "changes" is definitions, not truth.

Back to Chicago Style Politics and "getting things done".

I don't like "getting things done" at all costs, and I never will. I left a notoriously corrupt state for that ( among many) reasons, and I would never live in Illinois for that reason.

Please note the state of the State of Illinois and the state of the City of Chicago, and tell me how Chicago Style Politics to "get things done" made anything better. Would you live in Chicago, anyone, and send your kids to school there, anyone? Paul, are you moving to Chicago to enjoy the benefits of Chicago Style Politics?

No thanks. I can't wait for "Chicago Style Politics" to go back to Chicago. Only 2 questions far will our economy and security be destroyed before Chicago takes back its "gettting things done" politics, and how much will we be able to pull it back...

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:03 am

BTW Paul, this is not a "vacuous discussion about W", it is a serious discussion of the means to achieve goals and how to measure them..which is a discussion of "political style".

As usual, devolving from ideas to people is not a good idea. It is better to stay in the realm of IDEAS. I opposed Obama vociferously because of his ideas and the ideas of the people he would appoint. He has pleasantly surprised me with on of his appointments, I am reserving judgement with an open mind on the other, and the rest are completely predictable ( change indeed....). There is as much change in this Admin as there was in Chicago when he was "elected" ( appointed) to his first seat there.

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2008 at 8:03 am

Web Link

I am stunned! Illinois Governor and second in command taken in by FBI on corruption?

Illinois may pass Louisiana in corruption reputation..actually, Louisiana is on the way up, did you see that FINALLY they voted out Jefferson ( of the $90,000 freezer cash?)

Posted by James
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 9, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Paul Losch,

Well, you got your wish. Chicago-style politics have now come home to roost for Obama. The current governor just got arrested. Is this how you want our country to be run?

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2008 at 7:18 am

Just WAIT James: How much do you wanna bet that somehow, magically, Blago will never come to trial? This will very conveniently make it so that no unpleasantries about Obama come out during the trial.

For the first time in my memory, and I have long passed 1/2 century, the Democrats are crying for the FIRING of a corrupt Dem. Not brushing it under the rug. Trying to not allow an impeachment trial. Trying to keep it away from the Fed trial.

Why?? Because even the media couldn't ignore the stench of a trial like this.

From another way of thinking, albeit twisted, I even wonder if this is in fact a type of Chicago style "payback" by our Elect to the Governor of Illinois. What did Blago do to Obama to make him mad?

What do you think the odds are we will ever find out any of the truth?

Paul, I admire your admission on another thread that this type of Chicago style politics is disgusting. I suspect you are simply a good guy who is very naive, and didn't understand what kind of political system Obama had to navigate to get to where he is... And what this very probably means about him.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2008 at 7:55 am


If Rham Emanuel is the go-between, then he probably got the "offer", which he correctly rejected. However, the question is: What did he do next? Did he report pay-to-play to Obama, and is that why Obama withdrew his candidate? As savvy as Emanuel is, it is still hard to imagaine that he acted alone in getting the withdrawl of Obama's gal. If he did act alone, surely Obama would want to know why he did it. Either way, pay-to-play was almost certainly known to both of them. Once they found out about the scheme, their next phone call should have been to the FBI. If it wasn't, they are complicit in the felony.

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