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Not that you may care what I think, but…

Saturday, Sep 27, 2008

* Both candidates failed miserably on the nation’s financial crisis during last night’s presidential debate.

I thought to myself several times throughout the debate that we were in some fantasy world where giant banks weren’t failing, credit wasn’t drying up at an alarming pace and the government wasn’t planning to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a financial system bailout. It was simply bizarre, and the moderator, though he did try, failed miserably to press this point home with two candidates who obviously wanted to avoid the issue entirely.

* Both candidates also appeared at times to be running against each other for a US Senate seat. McCain did this more than Obama, but both were guilty. Subcommittees? Earmarks ad infinitum? Bills from long ago? What the heck? The presidency is not the Senate.

* Lacking any real “grand slam” lines, tone of voice and body language become the two most dominant things to look for in any televised presidential debate. There were no easily identifiable grand slam lines, so voice tone and body language is what most “average” voters came away with. McCain clearly lost in the short-term for this reason.

By the way, George Ryan had the same problem in his first debate with Glenn Poshard back in 1998. He was grumpy, aggravated and off his game. During the next debate, a morning event sponsored by ABC7, George was smiling all the time and very gracious to his opponent. Ryan’s “new” demeanor caught Poshard completely off guard and Ryan won that debate hands down.

If he’s at all able (and who knows if he is or not), McCain obviously needs to try his best to lighten up next time. Reagan came back from a horrible performance in his first 1984 debate to deliver his line about his opponent’s “youth and inexperience” during the next debate. Grand slam, big debate win, four more years.

And that’s an important lesson to keep in mind here. First debates are almost always overshadowed by subsequent performances. If McCain can alter his rather strange debate demeanor then he may win the next debate on the expectations game alone.

* Making sure you don’t get walloped in the days after the debate is also hugely important. If it can be shown later that a candidate is what his opponent says he is (in this case, that Obama simply doesn’t grasp important foreign policy issues), the candidate whom everyone thought won can lose big points. So, bringing up the Henry Kissinger stuff was a serious mistake for Obama because - whatever the merits of his points - Obama should’ve known that Kissinger would back up his friend McCain after the debate concluded. Major advantage to McCain on this one.

On the other hand, McCain closing with the line about how experience matters won’t go over well at next week’s vice presidential debate - and Gov. Palin’s absence from the postgame shows only drove this point home even more.

* Obama flubbed, but somewhat recovered, after McCain talked about his bracelet from one of the mothers who had lost her son in Iraq and had pleaded with him to not let her son die in vain. Obama, who just isn’t empathetic enough and rarely brings the names of common folks into his discourse, seemed to uncomfortably struggle at first to remember the name of the soldier on his own bracelet. The resulting pivot - that the mother Obama talked to didn’t want any more mothers to go through this experience - was good, however.

But while the majority of those polled may believe that Obama leans more towards their views on economic issues and Iraq, if the candidate doesn’t show that he truly connects with people on their individual everyday problems, the undecided middle may eventually conclude that he’ll just dump them when the going gets rough.

While that bracelet thing was eventually a decent pivot, both candidates have no real clue how to execute pivots on a regular and effective basis. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were masters of this. Both need to watch tapes of those two guys. After McCain made the point about a federal earmark to study the DNA of bears, Obama could’ve come back with Gov. Palin’s request of a federal earmark to study the DNA of harbor seals. It would’ve been a great comeback line, and set up next week’s veep debate as well. The Obama zinger about Spain’s prime minister and McCain’s attenuated line about Obama’s fake presidential seal didn’t work because nobody in the target audience really understood what was going on.

Sharp pivots - when a candidate takes a big hit, turns it around and throws it right back at his opponent with devastating impact - usually end up being “grand slam” debate moments. Learning to pivot means you’ve learned how to win a debate.

* It was kinda hilarious that cable commentators and major political bloggers went from calling the debate a draw before the snap polls were released, to attempting to explain why Obama won after the polls were made available. It should be funny to see how they react if polls show a different story in the coming days.

I thought McCain had a very strong, empathetic start with his opening remarks that followed Obama’s stiff, talking-points opening. My thinking was that if McCain and Obama continued along those lines, McCain would win the debate in a walk. But it quickly became clear to me as I watched (and I have the text messages to my intern to prove it) that McCain’s entire demeanor radically changed. Angry, impatient, refusing to look Obama in the eye while leaning away from him and staring uncomfortably off to stage right.

At one point, while Obama was saying something serious that McCain disagreed with, I could actually hear McCain scribbling furiously on his note pad. Not a good thing.

Temperament is an all-important aspect of any character debate. And “character” is central to most of those who can’t make up their minds until the very end. They don’t vote for parties, they say, they vote for the person. McCain failed that personality test on a grand scale.

Yet, almost no commentator made mention of McCain’s rather odd behavior until after the first snap poll was released. Either they were too polite to say anything, or too clueless to notice.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

* Enjoy the debate. I’m gonna relax. Had trouble answering the alarm all week, so I’ve felt perpetually behind. Not sure why. Must be getting old or something. Hope not.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah, you know the Friday drill by now. Go buy a classified or calendar placement ad at InsiderzExchange. The place to be seen. And keep close watch on Illinoize, where it’s going on.

* Time to rock…


Mmm, kinda aquiline

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

* As you probably know by now, despite all the back-and-forth hooplah, the Obama-McCain debate will proceed as scheduled.

Without using a single talking point that you’ve heard or read elsewhere, tell us how you think the debate will go.

I’m serious about that talking point stuff. Don’t do it. Be an original, not a parrot. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller   97 Comments      


This just in… Appellate court rules against governor

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

* 10:42 am - The Illinois appellate court has ruled against Blagojevich administration. The justices ruled the governor cannot expand, fund and operate a state healthcare program without General Assembly approval.

Read the full decision here. More in a bit. Some background can be found here.

* 11:05 am - From the opinion’s conclusion…

Ultimately, we hold, in accordance with the trial court, that, to receive medical assitance under [Medicaid], a would-be recipient must qualify under the limited eligibility requirements of TANF. As the FamilyCare Program admittedly does not limit itself in this regard, defendants’ operation of it is not proper under the statutory law upon which it relies.

The governor issued a “Peremptory Rule” back in April attempting to comply with the trial judge’s original decision, but that was tossed out as well.

* 11:09 am - This part could be very important to future cases. The appellate justices seemed to back the notion that the legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is a legitimate check on the governor’s power, which is something the governor has forcefully denied…

Such a decision [to include permanent FamilyCare recipients in the “temporary” TANF program] is for the legislature… not for the executive defendants. […]

This, in addition to the fact that both JCAR and the Illinois Secretary of State have already twice suspended and prohibited defendants’ Emergency and Permanent Rules creating the FamilyCare program, raises severe concers - ones we find are more than sufficient to demonstrate, on a prima facie basis, that plaintiffs have raised a fair question concerning their rights as taxpayers…

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


More bad news for the guv

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

* This isn’t new. The Sun-Times has reported it before, but as I’ve said many times, Michael Sneed has the best federal sources in the biz

Sneed hears rumbles that convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko… is singing to the feds.

To wit: “I’m told by a close friend of Rezko that he’s cooperating with the feds,” said a Sneed source.

Kinda indirect, but in the wake of this week’s CBS 2 report about the IRS probing the guv’s finances, this is not good news at all.

* Meanwhile, the governor continues to point the finger of blame

With unemployment numbers up across the state, Gov. Rod Blagojevich Thursday blamed House lawmakers for not putting people to work by paying for a huge state construction program. […]

‘’Yet even in the face of soaring unemployment, the Illinois House has stalled the jobs plan that would put hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans to work,'’ the governor said in a statement. […]

House Speaker Michael Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Blagojevich should have urged the Senate to approve the lottery plan [which would fund the capital spending plan] this week while lawmakers worked on other matters in Springfield.

‘’Maybe the governor’s not able to multi-task, I don’t know,'’ Brown said.

* A potential Republican opponent paid a visit to the Tribune editorial board yesterday…

Federal Housing Secy. Steve Preston acknowledges there have been some people urging him to consider a 2010 bid for governor, but trying to resolve a national housing crisis and rescue the Republican Party in Illinois may be a bit too much multitasking.

“I haven’t ruled anything out, but I am really very, very heavily focused on the job at hand in Washington,” Preston told the Tribune’s editorial board on Thursday. […]

“I’ve had a couple of people tugging on my sleeves,” he said, declining to name them.

Despite his presence in the presidential Cabinet, Preston is not well known in the state and some Republican leaders privately questioned a potential candidacy. Others said he could be the political outsider that the state GOP badly needs.

It’s not just that he’s an unknown. He’s an unknown who works for President Bush, who ain’t exactly popular in this state.

Judy Baar Topinka actually led Gov. Blagojevich in 2006 post-primary polling. The guv’s campaign ran a TV ad linking JBT to GWB, and she sank like a stone, never to rise again.

* Unemployment up in all Illinois cities

* It’s an ethics law in Illinois, so look for the loopholes

* Yesterday’s ‘monumental’ ethics reform today’s chopped liver

* Tollway Revolving Door Opens Ethics Questions

* Inside McPartlin’s departure from the tollway

* Tollway chief’s move begs question on ethics law

* Tollway chief’s move adds to questions about strength of ethics law

* Toll director resigns, takes new job

* Another tollway chief leaves for company that got contracts

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


What the heck is going on in Chicago?

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

* We’re coming a little late to this story, but a well-written AP investigative piece got a lot of recent national play

Serious crime is up but arrests are down in Chicago, and some police officers say they are working the streets less aggressively out of resentment toward their new chief and fear of being second-guessed by him.

“People are doing just what they need to get through” their shifts, said Lt. Robert Weisskopf, president of the Chicago police lieutenants union, “and not any extra.”

The reporting did not rely solely on the word of the cops involved in what appears to be a work slowdown. Instead, the AP pulled up some startling statistics…

Through the end of August, the department made 103,589 arrests (not including arrests for outstanding arrest warrants) compared with 117,971 for the same period last year, according to the department. The 5,600 guns recovered is roughly half as many as police seized in the same period in 2007, internal documents show.

Bookings in the Cook County Jail - where the vast majority of inmates come from Chicago - are down, too. In all but one month this year, the number of people booked into the jail was down from the same month a year earlier, sometimes by hundreds, according to data obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.

* This, however, is the most telling number…

But among the slew of statistics kept by the department are “self-initiated” calls, or those in which officers stop and question people about possible drug or gang activity. Department figures show the total is down by more than 3,700 from the same period last year.

* Anyone who skims through posts and comments at the unofficial, but very high-traffic Second City Cop blog can plainly see a problem. Cops, like soldiers, are infamous for grumbling about their jobs and their superior officers, but some of this stuff goes way beyond the usually expected complaints.

* The biggest complaint, at least publicly, is that officers believe Police Superintendent Jody Weis - the department’s first “outsider” who comes from the FBI ranks - will not back them up when they’re in a tough spot and treats them like they’re the enemy

The mistrust grew after the department announced recently that every police car would be equipped with electronic tracking devices and officers would be asked to submit DNA samples at crime scenes.

“If you don’t feel your bosses support you, are you going to stick your neck out?” Weisskopf asked.

* But the police are also upset at how their union contract negotiations have stalled. From the Washington Post

The slowdown is known as “de-policing,” and Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, says it could result in more crime and more guns on the streets. […]

In addition, there is bad blood between the officers and the superintendent stemming from negotiations over a new contract, which Donahue said “are not going well.” The main issues in the contract, which would replace one that expired in June 2007, involve pay and benefits.

Forcing union members to work that long without a contract can lead to all sorts of problems, including “work strictly to the rules” job actions. Much more attention needs to be paid to this issue.

* This story broke yesterday and is not helpful at all…

The Chicago Police Department is down hundreds of officers despite pledges by City Hall to boost the force to combat growing violent crime, police union and department officials confirmed Wednesday. […]

With retirements, firings and resignations, the department is down 250 officers and could be down more than 400 officers by the end of the year, said Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing patrol officers. The department has lost about 375 officers and hired only 125 since the beginning of the year, Donahue said.

* The very same day, Daley’s office leaked a story to the Sun-Times

Mayor Daley is urging Iowa Gov. Chet Culver to pardon Chicago Police Officer Michael Mette, who has sat in an Iowa prison for nearly a year for punching a man who repeatedly attacked him outside a 2005 party in Dubuque.

“Mr. Mette’’s response to the physical assault he experienced was not pre-meditated, but merely a matter of self-defense in reaction to a very real threat,” Daley wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to Culver.

* Second City Cop responds

Let’s check our handy dandy little day planner. Yup, it’s 25 September. So where has this info been hiding since 20 August? […]

It sure seems we’re getting patted on the back with one hand while the other knifes us. Typical Chicago.

* This isn’t helping matters, either

Some aldermen, though, are quietly suggesting that Donahue’s union could pay for a few more jobs if it were willing to give up a few costly perks. On top of their regular pay, officers receive $730 every three months for “duty availability”—that is, simply being on call, even though they get additional overtime pay if they actually have to take an extra shift. They receive another $600 every three months to pay for new uniforms, and they can take a check for any furlough time they deserve but don’t use. These benefits add up to about $73 million a year.

“Apparently the aldermen grumbling about such things don’t see the hypocrisy of their grumblings,” Donahue says. “The average police officer coming out of the police academy onto the force is going to make an investment of $7,000 to $9,000 dollars—the department doesn’t buy the uniform, doesn’t buy the guns, doesn’t buy the shoes. What would the aldermen say if we proposed cutting the money for their staff and expenses?”

* Mayor Daley ducked questions yesterday about the police vacancies, but promised to talk to reporters today. We’ll see what he says.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

* Con Con in 88

The last time we had a call for a Constitutional Convention was 1988. The Secretary of State at the time was Jim Edgar. I pulled the ballot page from our digital archives and found that the language contained far less, shall we say, commentary than the language on the current question. You can view it here.

* Report: Illinois needs more prison beds

* State says its $400,000 prison report is wrong

* Judge: IDOT suit can proceed

“This was not an argument on the merits of the complaint. This was a first step,” said Springfield attorney Don Craven, who is representing nine Springfield-area plaintiffs trying to stop the move.

* Rx for stress: A share of $3.2M

Three of those county employees receiving payouts even have some clout. Patricia White, Francisco Garcia and Mark Johnson’s names also showed up on the infamous clout list of Mayor Daley’s convicted patronage chief Robert Sorich.

* Statement from Todd Stroger

* List of who received what amount from settlement

* Cook County to start paying awards in illegal political hiring, promotions

One employee who lost her job in a departmental reorganization saw her duties shifted to a politically connected co-worker. The co-worker was supposed to be laid off due to 2007 budget cuts but stayed on after her personnel records were backdated to show a transfer instead of a layoff, according to Nowicki.

* The Outfit - Alive and Well?

Let’s see…

1. found in a trunk;
2. in Franklin Park;
3. shot and strangled;
4. missing from Melrose Park;
5. last name released a short while ago - sounded like “Sanes”

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say “low level Organized Crime figure.” We’d lay money on it, but our bookie hasn’t been returning our calls since… since… 13 September now that we look at our day planner.

* O’Hare runway opens in grand style

* Grant Park rose garden to get face lift with $1.25 million grant

* Elizabeth “Betty” McGeachin McKee remembered

“She was one of the ones who inspired people like myself to go on and do things,” says Carol Bease of Barrington, former executive director of the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce. “It was people like her that you could tell really cared about the community.

* Friday Beer Blogging: Footwear Edition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   13 Comments      


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