* We’ve talked about the subject of my Sun-Times column most of the week. The silliness of the media as they engage in a feeding frenzy on the Giannoulias campaign. But you might want to read it anyway…
Political reporters, columnists and pundits don’t always band together as one, but when they do, watch out, especially when they’ve decided somebody is a bad guy and they’re going to “do something” about it.
Sometimes, it’s justified. The alleged hooker-knifing, wife-abusing Scott Lee Cohen is a case in point. Once we figured out that we had really goofed by not looking into the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee’s background more carefully, we pounced and tore him to shreds. But it was the right thing to do. Our mistake was not doing it earlier.
But it’s almost as if Cohen’s political blood tasted so good that members of the media wolf pack have decided that they just gotta have another kill. The bloodlust is leading some of them to resort to distortions and outright fabrications to achieve their goal.
The Cohen story practically wrote itself. It had just about all the elements of the perfect political scandal: sex, lies, drugs, lawsuits and violence. There was no need to embellish it.
But far too many of the stories being written about U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias are taking embellishment to a whole new level.
The Chicago Tribune published a story earlier this month revealing that Giannoulias’ family bank had loaned two apparently mob-connected criminals $20 million. A banking consultant from Texas handed the Trib this ready-made quote: “Banks are not supposed to be doing business with criminals.”
But I searched Cook County Chancery Court records and found no less than 27 lawsuits, foreclosures, etc. filed by banks, financial service companies and a couple others against the two men over the years. Of those 27, just five were filed by Broadway Bank, which was owned by Giannoulias’ family before it was shut down a week ago by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Deutsche Bank, First American Bank, CitiMortgage, Austin Bank and more have all filed legal actions. Some were dismissed, some are still pending. The point is those two fellows did business with a bunch of different banks and had trouble with quite a few. But you’ll never read about that in the Tribune. The paper’s story was designed to look like Broadway was the exclusive go-to haven for mobsters. Turns out, there was nothing exclusive about it.
Seemingly seconds after the announcement that President Obama had planned a visit to Downstate Quincy, the chattering class speculated whether Obama would invite Giannoulias or throw his old friend and protege under the bus.
When asked last week if he had been invited, Giannoulias said he hadn’t, so the commentariat instantly leapt to the conclusion that “death by Trailways” was in Giannoulias’ immediate future.
Trouble is, no reporters bothered to see if any other Illinois VIPs had been invited. Nobody had been. The official invites didn’t go out until Monday.
That didn’t deter the feeding frenzy. The subject even came up at a White House press conference. Hours before the visit, Giannoulias was taunted by a Chicago reporter who wanted to know whether Giannoulias’ campaign needed “a presidential hug.”
All of the breathless anticipation was for nothing. Obama gave Giannoulias a shout-out from the podium and hugged him after the speech, and his top political adviser, David Axelrod, brought Giannoulias backstage for a friendly meeting.
I recently obtained a letter written by a Chicago reporter begging one of those two above-mentioned alleged mob guys to spill his guts about his dealings with Broadway Bank. He was lured with the promise that he could “change history.”
Instead of trying to “change history,” how about just focusing on telling a full and accurate story once in a while?
* Lynn Sweet helps shoot down this whole “Obama will push Giannoulias out of the race” stuff…
Admitting he had no evidence, Sen. John Cornyn, who runs the Senate GOP political operation, suggested Thursday that the White House may try to force Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias out of the race — speculation that was flatly denied by the White House.
When I asked Cornyn, who’s from Texas, why he thought the White House would do that, he said: “I don’t know. Giannoulias is a flawed candidate and they are realizing it and I think they are worried. . . . I hope they respect the choices of Democratic primary voters and don’t engage in some sort of back-room shenanigans.”
A Giannoulias campaign spokeswoman said Cornyn’s comments were “ridiculous.”
Cornyn’s comment came a day after President Obama, in Downstate Quincy, gave a shout-out to Giannoulias, calling him the “soon-to-be senator” in a remark I think was calculated to quiet talk about distancing himself from Giannoulias.
“No one here is trying to ‘muscle’ him from the race. That should have been clear from the president’s comment yesterday,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Thursday. “Kind of ironic that on the day that Gov. [Charlie] Crist was forced out of the Florida Republican primary that Sen. Cornyn would be suggesting we would muscle someone out of a Senate race.”
* And, man, is this headline ever silly: “Rahm for Senate? He may be one of the Democrats’ most viable candidates in Illinois.” Yeah. Emanuel would do so well statewide here…
One intriguing idea being considered: Force Mr. Giannoulias out of the race and replace him with . . . Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Emanuel is still popular in Illinois and there was a big push to get him handpicked as the Obama successor back in late 2008. Democrats have used the shaft-and-shift strategy before, as in New Jersey in 2002 when they dumped a walking wounded Bob Torricelli as their Senate candidate a few weeks before Election Day.
The first person to publicly suggest this was Rod Blagojevich, so that gives you an idea of how wonderful it is.
* Chris Kennedy to Don & Roma: “Lexi got in and I didn’t, and he deserves credit”