As the Obama campaign has allegedly unleashed its terrifying “Chicago thug politics” on Romney about his ongoing Bain Capital love affair, the righties of our nation, and particularly the Romney camp, are aghast at what they view as the pure, well, thuggery of it. Seems odd that, with all the jabs at President Obama over the years for ascending politically via classic Chicago style politics, they don’t expect to see some signs of it from time to time. But no, it has reared its head, in their view, and they are staggered.
Funny – for years, during the 2008 primaries and since – any time President Obama does or says anything that differentiates him from the doormat Republicans would like him to be, they roll out the dreaded “Chicago style politics” catch phrase … and they all know what THAT means. That means ghetto politics gang-banger style, a take-no-prisoners machine-gun approach, mowing down everything in his path, blithely disregarding the rules of “gentlemen”, spitting on the notion of polite politics that aghast Republicans pretend to play – all for pure political gain. I said “funny” – because at the same time they’re rolling out the caricature of President Obama as a typical Chicago pol, they’re also continuing to roll out the caricature of President Obama as an anti-American, radical anarchist, rising from the ashes at the alter of 60’s radical Bill Ayers and firebrand preacher Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Now those two guys – though respectively a respected University of Chicago professor and popular south side preacher – aren’t exactly politically plugged here in Chicago, and those two guys aren’t likely to have launched President Obama into the heated arena of plugged Chicago politics.
So, right-wingers, which is it? Is President Obama both a Christian Reverend Wright disciple and a radical Muslim (making do with Bill Ayers because he couldn’t find any Islamic terrorists in Chicago to hang with), or is he a Chicago pol, rolling with the likes of Daley and Madigan and Cullerton? He can’t be both; Ayers and Wright may have their charm, but they’re not gonna be able to get him an Illinois senate seat. And radical anti-American domestic terrorists aren’t welcomed with open arms into the narrow hallways of practical, clear-eyed, get-it-done, efficient Chicago politics. In Prudential Plaza, the home of President Obama’s campaign headquarters, I see the the kids working on the campaign, going for coffee breaks and lunch wearing their Obama lanyards; I can’t be sure, but . . . well, yeah, I’m sure that they’re not scheming with Chicago goombas to unleash mob-style tactics on the President’s unsuspecting opponent. Pretty sure they’re not figuring out a way to “disappear” the Bain executives who are backing Romney’s tall tale, and pretty sure we’re not gonna find those Bain executives moldering in the trunk of a car at the bottom of the Cal Sag.
While the Republicans in the form of Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer and everybody on Fox terrify the electorate with hysteria about the Chicago political presence in the president’s campaign, they’re really not well versed: President Obama wasn’t actually involved in that typical Chicago style politics, where patronage and graft and back-room deals are as common as ants. He wasn’t an alderman, where Frankenstinian political monsters are created; he wasn’t shining a seat in Mayor Daley’s office; and, as Chicago columnist Lynn Sweet noted, “. . . Obama vaulted from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate to the White House without coming up through the Chicago system of pinstripe patronage or ward politics.” Self-made man – and while Republicans brag about it as the road to success for themselves, they really hate it in their Democratic opponents.
President Obama brushed elbows with Bill Ayers early in his career; his religious path in Reverend Wright’s very average south side church long ago became a yawner; and his real estate deal with Chicago entrepreneur Tony Rezko, that the chattering right-wingers gleefully exaggerated, is steeped in banality.
The Romney campaign handed the Obama camp a gift with the Bain capital deal. After all, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. With Romney’s campaign flailing around, floating conflicting stories, altering rhetoric, creating new excuses, and, in desperation, demanding apologies from the Obama camp for its accusations of out-sourcing, Romney did a terrible job of getting ahead of the Bain story; the Obama camp has simply capitalized on this failure, and is continuing to do so, demanding that Romney release his tax returns and running ads highlighting his refusal. As Howard Fineman observed, President Obama scoffed at the notion of apologizing to Romney for his attacks, and kept up the on-the-ground pressure, directly from the top: “Obama hit back like a methodical counter-puncher in a mid-ring, 15-round slugfest.” The Romney camp’s chicken-with-its-head-cut-off strategy, as compared with President Obama’s well-oiled machine run by David Axelrod and executed by the President himself, has become an epic disaster. When Karl Rove refers to “gutter” politics of the “worst Chicago sort” (and I have news for him – what the Obama camp is doing ain’t nothing compared with real Chicago politics), it’s just sour grapes, because the tactics Rove pioneered, the strategy Republicans invented and damn near copyrighted, to sling mud and create whisper campaigns, has backfired: The Obama camp has simply done it all better.
The hysterical cries of “Obama’s Chicago thug politics” hit the airwaves in such high decibels because, “Mommy, he’s copying off of me” doesn’t sound dignified. They couldn’t care less about nasty tactics, tactics they perfected to an art form; they’re just beside themselves that “No Drama Obama” has taken off his gloves. The other problem, for them, is this: Their guy is tainted; our guy is not. And that’s what really pisses them off.
Image by Boaz Yiftach: FreeDigitalPhotos.net