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Egg noodles and ketchup

Friday, Jan 11, 2013

* My Sun-Times column

At the end of the movie “Goodfellas,” mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill laments that he’s out of the business.

“Today everything is different. There’s no action. Have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody. Get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

I’ve often said that if you want to understand politics, then you have to watch that movie. The insights it offers about Outfit members applies loosely to politicians, who operate under a surprisingly similar set of rules based on the old Roman legions.

And right now, Gov. Pat Quinn is living the high life, kinda like Henry Hill once did. No, Quinn isn’t paying off cops and judges, or highjacking trucks. But governors have a lot of power and do live well.

Quinn has a staff who attend to most of his needs, a mansion available at his disposal, a car with a driver and security, a fleet of airplanes and invitations to swank parties and major events like the Kentucky Derby. Rich and powerful people demur when he walks into a room. He’s recognized just about everywhere he goes.

And if loses his next election, that all ends. He’ll be just another schnook in a world full of schnooks.

Passing a pension reform bill won’t get Quinn re-elected. In fact, it will likely hurt him badly with state workers, teachers and other public employees.

But the failure to pass a pension reform bill and deal more completely with the state’s wrenching budget problems does enormous harm to Quinn in the public’s mind every time he swings and misses.

And, man, does he ever swing and miss a lot. If he was a baseball player, he’d have been sent back down to the minors a long time ago.

Yes, this is a very difficult problem that, as Quinn rightly notes, has been building for 70 years. No governor has been able to solve it, although Jim Edgar did give it a go.

But an important part of politics is projecting an image of strength and leadership, and Quinn has done neither, which has hurt him badly.

Quinn told reporters last year that he was “put on Earth” to solve the pension crisis. He demanded a solution by the end of the spring session. The deadline came and went. Then he called a special session to deal with pensions in August, but the General Assembly ignored him and did nothing. Then came the November veto session, which passed without any activity.

Gov. Quinn set a “final, final” deadline this past Tuesday, the last full day of the 97th General Assembly. It turned out to be a total disaster. Nothing happened, no votes were taken and an 11th-hour effort by Quinn to hand the problem over to an unelected commission with legislative and executive powers failed miserably.

“Desperate and weak,” was how Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown described Quinn’s commission move. I couldn’t agree more.

Pat Quinn has had four years to learn how to be a real governor. He just hasn’t done it. Quinn is a well-intentioned, decent man, but he hasn’t shown that he’s up to this job.

The next election isn’t until 2014. So unless he somehow manages to change, we’re stuck on a rudderless boat for two more years.

Maybe then, when Quinn is back to eating egg noodles and ketchup, things will start to get better around here. One can only hope.


…Adding… Yepsen is thinking along the same lines and summed it up well

“Every time he tries and loses a fight it just makes him weaker for the next one,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Nieva - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 8:31 am:

    He has done a great job in his own mind.

  2. - M Smith - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 8:36 am:

    Great article although I wonder what the Chicago electorate will think come election time and they typically determine our governors. They elected Blago a 2nd term when it was apparent he was a lunatic. Quinn comes up with ideas (I didn’t say good ones -squeezy) but then retreats so easily. No backbone. I also think to beat Quinn, the repubs will have to run somebody who can get some votes in the Chicago area.

  3. - Cassiopeia - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 8:47 am:

    The only thing that is undecided is which Democrat will replace Quinn. I am convinced that Lisa Madigan doesn’t want the job and that it will be someone else who the Democrats will agree on.

    By Democrats I mean primarily the adults like Emanuel, Madigan and Cullerton.

    Quinn has become a very embarrassing joke.

  4. - Who's who? - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 8:54 am:

    I’m not a Quinn supporter by any stretch of the imagination. However, I have read a lot about how he has failed to accomplish meaningful pension reform; on the other hand I seem to hear crickets in regards to the Speaker Madigan or President Cullerton. It is their job, along with other leadership, to whip their respective caucuses into voting. Instead, its like the three leaders are playing hot potato with pensions and the legislature, or maybe just the Speaker, has total control as to when and who stops the music.

    This isn’t an argument for Quinn, but an indictment of the other Leaders in the process who keep coming away relatively unscathed. It is time to step up and lead. Being really good at getting elected and getting others elected isn’t what defines a good legislator.

  5. - cassandra - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 8:59 am:

    I don’t know how much interest the general electorate really has in pension reform. If nothing happens during the runup to the 2014 gubernatorial election, will there be an outpouring of public anger. I just don’t see that. But if Quinn has to campaign on making the income tax increase permanent, after swearing it was temporary, and/or on a cost shift that could raise property taxes downstate and in the suburbs–that could be deadly. Doing nothing while pretending to do something may be be best political strategy for the guv–and it looks like he’s already doing that.

  6. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:05 am:

    ===I seem to hear crickets in regards to the Speaker Madigan or President Cullerton===


  7. - Meanderthal - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:05 am:

    Poor old Bill Brady must read this kind of stuff and go curl up in a corner and cry.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:08 am:

    Great Read!

    Pat Quinn is the “Anti-Blago”.

    Pat Quinn will be the one Former Governor that will have no clue what to do next. Seriously. Quinn will watch, (and it will happen at some point or another!) his successor being sworn in, speak, and then that will be it.

    Quinn will be put in a position of being less influential as a Former Governor, than he was as a Former Treasurer! At least Quinn could be a Gadfly back then, with no record, and rail on state government, and all in it. As a Former Governor, Quinn will not have that “luxury” for a new job. Others, in so many circles, will say, “Uh ‘governor’, you had your shot, remember, when you couldn’t lead? Yeah, we’ll we do.”

    While many governors work on Legacy, or work tirelessly on reforms and budgets and deficits, Quinn works “Night and Day”, accomplishing very little in the Leadership department, and even less in the Accomplishments department in regards to Pension Reform that is “Squeezing” Illinois.

    It will all end. It always does.

    For someone who, at every turn, has a quote, or a story, or an image of history in Illinois, Quinn lacks the idea that every day he is governor, he is MAKING history. The concept of what a governor does, and how a governor makes Illinois what it is, and its historic perspective, is just something Quinn can not see in his own turn as governor. It’s like Quinn is waiting for someone to say, “Pat, relax. All you have to do is wait, and it will all be fine. The Governor will get this done.”

    Uh, Pat? You are …Governor. It is pasing you by, and when the clock strikes Noon in 2 years, in four years, you will be Robert Redford in “The Candidate” - “Now what?”

    The really sad part is, until then, every single person in government, in business…in Illinois… we all are saying, “Now what?” …to you, Governor Quinn.

  9. - Pinker - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:11 am:

    I’d still take him over extremist Brady.

  10. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:15 am:

    If AFSCME doesn’t want pension reform it should endorse Quinn, again.

  11. - Thankless Job - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:19 am:

    Just like being President, his job is thankless. All you ever hear is complaints, complaints, complaints. So posts like this are pretty meaningless because no one is ever happy with the person at the top, regardless of who it is and what position it is. Snore.

  12. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:35 am:

    Pat Quinn is similar to an egg noodle.
    Nothing about him stands out.
    He is dull and uninspiring, lacking real flavor.
    Before the heat is on, he is rigid, but once the heat is applied, he is rendered limp and weakened.
    He is not served at Saputo’s, but is a staple at the Old Country Buffet located across the street from the Super 8.

  13. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:37 am:

    - Jake From Elwood -,

    Great imagery! Very nice!

  14. - Enemy of the State - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:38 am:

    I am curious about the perks. When Quinn, Madigan, Cullerton, etc. fly between Chicago and Springfield, do they use the same plane or do they follow the Royal Family SOP ?

  15. - The Captain - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:39 am:

    It’s impossible to overstate how important the pension issue is to the long term (heck even short term) health of the state but this won’t be a campaign issue. 2014 is going to be about income taxes and the heat and light from that debate will drown everything else out. The pension issue will remain an inside game only.

  16. - bongofurry - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:41 am:

    He may swing and miss, but at least Quinn has the guts to go up to the plate.
    That’s a lot more than our past Governors.

  17. - Stones - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    Quinn needs to work smarter, not harder. He has put time in on the issue but doesn’t seem to grasp the legislative process in an effective way. During his time as Governor, and previously as Lt. Governor & Treasurer, he could have formed relationships and coalitions but instead he choose to take potshots at the establishment. That is why in my opinion he is as uneffective as he is. Most still view him as a gadfly rather than Governor.

  18. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    ..–I wonder what the Chicago electorate will think come election time and they typically determine our governors. They elected Blago a 2nd term when it was apparent he was a lunatic.–

    Chicago represented 19% of the vote in 2006. Blago ran relatively strong statewide in 2006.

    Sorry, everyone around the state wears the collar — including the Collars, where it was 46.4% JBT, 42.4% Blago. Hard to see how a state GOP candidate wins with that margin.

    Blago: 77.4%
    JBT: 15.3%

    Suburban Cook:
    Blago: 53.2:
    JBT: 37.4:

    Downstate 96:
    Blago: 40%
    JBT: 48%

  19. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:46 am:

    Even though we insiders watch the actions of Quinn and the GA, the average Illinois voter has no idea what is happening in the state. Right now, national issues are swamping Illinois issues, and those state issues that do get attention are the shiny objects like guns and same-sex marriage. Only a general “feel” about the pension mess is prevalent since this issue is a green eyeshade one that is often covered poorly by the press.

    The bottom line I’m getting to is that right now, Quinn’s ineptitude is hardly notice by the voters writ large. Certainly union members know what he’s up to, and that effects money and workers during the election, but I don’t think Quinn was really hurt in any way by the Lame Duck session.

  20. - Cheswick - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:46 am:

    Great article, Rich. Thanks for keeping everything straight for the rest of us.

    Jake From Elwood, that was perfection!

  21. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:52 am:

    Thank goodness for you, - wordslinger -, to call out all the “we didn’t do that” with Blago, with GOP voters, the Chicago election falsehoods, and all the truely weak excuses that others want to hang on everyone else.

    Your work in this endeavor is always appreciated.

    Thank you!

  22. - OneMan - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:56 am:

    Just like being President, his job is thankless. All you ever hear is complaints, complaints, complaints. So posts like this are pretty meaningless because no one is ever happy with the person at the top, regardless of who it is and what position it is. Snore.

    Really? Heck Jim Thompson was governor virtually my entire childhood (first parade I ever walked for for Edgar in Sycamore when I was in college) and won at least one or two of those elections with huge margins.

    Seem to recall he won is second term fairly handily and don’t recall either of them being as unpopular as Quinn…

  23. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:57 am:

    ===He may swing and miss, but at least Quinn has the guts to go up to the plate.===

    For the right price, I’d stand at home plate and let Danks throw at my head. I’d look like a total idiot. But, hey, I’d have courage. That’s what counts, right?


    The object of governing is results.

  24. - Third Reading - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:57 am:

    Any top manager has strengths and weaknesses.

    A shrewd executive plays to her/his strengths, and brings in other people to compensate for deficits.

    Quinn’s strengths? Earnestness. Decency. Intelligence. Integrity. Honesty. I applaud him for these.

    Quinn’s weaknesses? Insularity. Disorganization. Negotiation.

    The governor has to be strong enough — and comfortable enough — to bring in top people to bolster him on these points.

    Insularity? Too small an inner circle. Too many people who think like him. PQ needs a tell-truth-to-power type who can speak with absolute impunity. A Paul Lis type of person. (Not that Lis would do it in a million years, of course!)

    Disorganization? Quinn needs a tip-top chief of staff (and assistants.) People who are methodical but yet not obsessed with method. People who are goal-oriented but who also know that goals are not completely fixed. People who are nimble (and smart, and pragmatic) enough to adjust both methods and goals.

    Negotiation? Quinn’s biggest weakness, I think. He needs to completely empower an “ambassador” to the GA. Someone who is adroit at both schmoozing and arm twisting. Someone whose word is bond. Someone who is a former legislator. Someone who is known and widely respected. Someone in the style and stature of Phil Rock or Tom Hynes (not that either one would be available, of course.)

    Respectfully submitted,

    Third Reading Management Consultants, Ltd.

    I’m outta here.

  25. - shore - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:58 am:

    Wordslinger is where I was thinking. We just had a bigger deal made about corruption and ethics and that fell flat in 2010. As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, Springfield vastly overrates how much people in the chicago area care about it or what goes on and I don’t think an issue like pensions really resonates enough to harm him. As long as he has that good government thing, a weak gop, and no full head of steam primary opponent, I think he’s good to go for another 4 years.

  26. - dupage dan - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    Thankless, you are right - his job is thankless. So, why doens’t he get off his duff and DO something? Better to DO something and be thought an idiot, than to do NOTHING and be thought an idiot. Since Quinn can’t listen to advice, he must rely on his own knowledge and experience to inform him on what to do. We see the result of that everyday. He is a failure.

    I said before that the boat is rudderless. That doesn’t mean it can’t be sailed, however. As a sailor, I can tell you that the boat can be steered by other means. But it will require ignoring the helm and manipulating the sails. To compare to the state, the GA must ignore Quinn and do the job themselves. MJM is the key. He knows what to do and how to get it done. Everyone can be right when they say it is the job of the governor to lead but That. Ain’t. Gonna. Work. And waiting for Quinn to learn to become a governor is not an option.

  27. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    ===He may swing and miss, but at least Quinn has the guts to go up to the plate.===

    We don’t give out participatory trophies to governors. Something to think about.

  28. - wishbone - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:04 am:

    I watch him on the TV, and there is just something missing in his comprehension of the world. Hard to put a finger on, but its there. I really feel sorry for the guy and us.

  29. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    - Michelle Flaherty -

    I am still laughing to myself, BTW.

    Good stuff.

  30. - Responsa - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:12 am:

    Rich’s article is so sad because it rings so true. While Quinn is today’s poster boy in the spotlight and deservedly so, the community of pols on both sides of the aisle is rife with mediocre careerists who are there– and fight to stay there– election to election– because of the perks and “power” and having an office and a campaign slush fund and a title on a letterhead and public recognition. So, so many of them are focused on their survival which includes the “opportunities” and “connections” their position presents for them (and their family members) personally, rather than a genuine desire to serve the public or govern/legislate the big issues they are paid by taxpayers to do.

    Things like prioritizing what issues are truly most critical, making tough perhaps unpopular decisions, sometimes bucking their party, sometimes risking offense to their backers and contributors for the greater public good are just a bridge too far for many if not most of these shallow professional, “lifer” politicians whether they’re state, local, or national. I don’t have to name names. You all know examples of this and whether you are a Democrat or a Republican you know full well that you are nodding your head in agreement with what I’ve said here even though you yourself have probably voted for some of these inept folks. This enabling and acceptance of mediocrity needs to stop. But it can only stop at the ballot box–by voters.

  31. - titan - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:15 am:

    ===I seem to hear crickets in regards to the Speaker Madigan or President Cullerton===

    State Representatives and Senators are elected from relatively small geographical districts.

    Both of these fellows seem rather popular in their own districts.

    117/118ths or 58/59ths of the state can detest a Representative or Senator, but if the 1/118th or 1/59th of the state that likes him (or her) is in his (or her) district then they are safe.

  32. - Anonymour - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:19 am:

    Sadly, Quinn is nothing but a talking head. That’s what he’s always been.

  33. - Darienite - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:22 am:

    Simply put, PQ is the poster child for the Peter Principle.

  34. - Wilson Pickett - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:29 am:

    Pat, “you could have been a contender”. Why not look in the mirror and see a guy who everybody likes but one who everybody knows is “out of his league”. Take a shot of Jack Daniels, start naming names within your own Democrat Party as to “who is the problem” that needs to be eliminated to solve the real problem that the state of Illinois has. You will leave the stage as a guy who the populace loves and respects and—- “isn’t that what it is really all about” when it is all said and done? Having the respect of your kids and neighbors?
    You are going out anyway so why not “go out swinging” with your dignity and honor intact. Make a positive difference before you leave.

  35. - Sinister - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:31 am:

    Quinn is toast. Ineffective governor and his high staff turnover does not help his cause.

  36. - draznnl - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:35 am:

    After a term and a half of a governor who channeled the Joe Pesci character from Goodfellas, doing whatever he wanted no matter the rules and accomplishing little but chaos, the noncriminal, but inept, schnook we have now can almost be viewed as a pleasant interlude before we return to actual governance. If only there were no issues of actual import for him to foul up.

  37. - Justbabs - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    Pensions will matter to the electorate when candidates start commercials that attack PQ and use pension reform terms in a way that gets attention. A candidate with money can make any of his/her accomplishments bigger and their opponents mistakes HUGE. All those Trib headlines will play well in opposition ads. The question for a primary is, who is willing to let a sitting Gov. see their name associated with donations to a potential opponent? Meaning, Lisa is better situated than Daley to move forward.

  38. - Independent - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    I get the criticism of Quinn but don’t understand why so many think Lisa Madigan will be the savior. Blank slate theory, I suppose. She has built her AG record on avoiding difficult, controversial topics unless absolutely forced to take a stand. It takes little courage to pursue shady mortgage lenders or manufacturers of faulty products. There’s nothing I see in her record that indicates she is up to making tough decisions that heaven forbid may offend a block of voters.

  39. - Meaningless - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:40 am:

    Quinn will continue to be an ineffective governor / leader because he doesn’t know what he is politically. He claims to be a Democrat but displays absolutely no indication that he has any true belief in true Democratic core beliefs. I’ve been told that throughout the state Quinn is known as the governor of Chicago which also implies that he is under the strong influences of the right-wing $$ forces. He doesn’t project as a true Democrat and a supporter of the middle class which is the foundation of the working people.

  40. - The Captain - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:43 am:

    I’ve seen Goodfellas a million times but the egg noodles & ketchup line always makes me think of Henry Hill’s other movie, My Blue Heaven, an underrated classic.

  41. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    “I’m a good shot, what do you want from me?”

  42. - WhoKnew - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 11:04 am:

    “egg noodles and ketchup” cooked in Soy oil, of coarse!

  43. - soccermom - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 11:10 am:

    I love My Blue Heaven.

  44. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 11:18 am:

    Just a couple(?)

    “Of course you have a sense of humor. Everyone thinks they do, even people who don’t.”

    “It’s not tipping I believe in. It’s overtipping.”

    “I am the worst case scenario of Thomas Jefferson’s dream.”

    Ok. Sorry. Done.

  45. - Pardon - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 12:15 pm:

    He’s not Henry Hill, he’s Maury.

  46. - Pandora - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 12:39 pm:

    I’m longing to vote for someone other than Quinn…if the Republicans offer me a tolerable choice, which they seem unlikely to do.

    Quinn is entirely ineffective. I can live with someone more conservative but more effective, but not someone the tea party would endorse! (And that seems to be the folks who win the Republican primaries these days.)

  47. - The Captain - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 12:40 pm:


  48. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 2:49 pm:

    “I’m an average nobody.”

    I’ve never met the man, but if I had to guess one way or the other, I’d bet that once defrocked, he might actually have the potential to become an average nobody after he adjusts. And in my mind, that’s a complement. He seems capable of feeling the full range of emotions and can actually relate to people. I’d guess that it’s those who can’t who’d suffer more once they’re out of office.

  49. - Steamer - Friday, Jan 11, 13 @ 3:13 pm:

    Well, that’s what long distance is all about!…said our non-sensical governor!

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    * Bernard Schoenburg: An added loss for workers at Illinois State Museum
    * Angie Muhs: Comics, the 'Power of the Press' and more
    * Bernard Schoenburg: An added loss for workers at Illinois State Museum
    * Statehouse Insider: We have a problem. Is anyone there?
    * Statehouse Insider: We have a problem. Is anyone there?
    * Jim Bordeaux-White: Help give lung cancer patients hope for a cure

    * Vet Med Open House
    * Look back: Highlights from Melissa Merli on the week that was
    * Tom Kacich: Could Springfield atmosphere affect selection of auditor general?
    * Look ahead: Top picks from Melissa Merli for the week to come
    * Ask 'Mimi,' Oct. 4, 2015
    * 'Ungifted' is nothing short of genius
    * Mike Pemberton/Voices: Newspaper, coffee and the way of the world in a hotel lobby
    * C-U haiku, Oct. 4, 2015
    * Esther Cepeda: Spare the talk of an 'Asian invasion'
    * John Frayne: Gunns mixed it up in an intimate setting

    * Rozner: Chicago Bears find victory, reason to believe
    * Historic South Carolina floods: Heavy rain, hundreds rescued
    * Cutler, Gould give Chicago Bears something to celebrate
    * Cubs' manager Maddon enjoys one-start-fits-all day
    * Davis hits 2 HRs as Orioles beat Yankees 9-4 in finale

    * House lawmakers overcome hurdle on key tra...
    * Rodney Davis talks funding with Bloomingto...
    * The agency that fought Illiana gets a new ...
    * Rep. Dold takes educational cruise down Ch...
    * Lawmakers decry high turnover rate of VA h...
    * CBD Oil, and politics
    * Simon considering state Senate bid
    * Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
    * Shutdown? State may not notice
    * Rep. Bob Dold

    * Judiciary Committee Reaches Agreement on P......
    * Senators Introduce Landmark Bipartisan Sen......

    * Kirk's VA bill fails to move ahead in Sena......

    * Cubs fans will celebrate, but maybe we ought to root, root, root for the Pirates
    * McHenry Community High School teachers are out.
    * We drove to McHenry this Sunday to support striking teachers in District 156.
    * Party, and Decorate, and Trick-or-Treat, All In Sheridan Park on Halloween
    * Hebru Brantley Mural Completed On Broadway
    * East St. Louis teachers walk out.
    * Sunday posts, pics and tweets.
    * Meet Uptown's "Gangsters and Ghosts" On October 29th
    * You’re Invited – Illinois REbarcamp Powered by YPN!
    * Next 10 general admission registrants for Vertex 15 Conference get extras

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