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Putting words in Michelle Obama’s mouth

Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012

* A couple of days ago, Lynne Sweet excerpted a passage from a new book about the Obama White House written by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor...

…[Michelle Obama] particularly resented the way power in Illinois was locked up generation after generation by a small group of families, all white Irish Catholic — the Daleys in Chicago, the Hynes and Madigans statewide.

* Drudge and others have been having a field day by taking the comment out of context in order to once again make Michelle Obama look like a white-hater…

* I Googled a bit and discovered that Media Matters quotes the entire passage from Kantor’s book

She particularly resented the way power in Illinois was locked up generation after generation by a small group of families, all white Irish Catholic — the Daleys of Chicago, the Hyneses and Madigans statewide. “Someone doesn’t have the right to be elected because of whose womb they came out of,” she would say a few years later to Dan Shomon, her husband’s political advisor. “You shouldn’t have a better chance if you’re a Kennedy than if you’re an Obama. Why is it that they have the right to this?”

* I’ve known Dan Shomon since he was a UPI reporter, so I asked him if Michelle Obama had ever said anything like “white, Irish Catholics,” or if those words were added by the author. Shomon’s response…

I never said White Irish Catholics or specifically referenced the Daleys. Nor did Michelle Obama.

Michelle raised the concern, which a lot of Chicagoans shared, that it was much easier to run for office in Chicago if you were from a political family.

What about the Madigans, et al, I asked. Shomon’s response…

Nope. It was a general comment.

In other words, a bunch of hype over nothing.

* Also, Kantor utterly fails to mention that white Irish Catholics aren’t the only ones with dynasties in Illinois politics. The Jacksons have one going. And anyone named “Collins” on the West Side has had an advantage for years. Then there’s the Berrios family. For whatever reason in Illinois, and particularly in Cook County, names mean a lot. Just look at the number of people who’ve changed their names to make them more Irish-sounding when they ran for judge.

…Adding… Also, as a commenter rightly points out, the Stroger family, the Steele family and the Jones family all have (or had) the dynasty thing going. Kantor’s passage is just goofy.

* Meanwhile, in other Illinois-related DC news, I hadn’t noticed these developments because I’m really not keeping track

On the last day to submit paperwork, Santorum filed only 41 candidates for national convention nominating delegates out of 54 possible slots among the state’s new 18 congressional districts. Perry, the Texas governor, filed only one delegate candidate. Romney, Paul and Gingrich filed full elected-delegate slates.

Not making the ballot or filing delegate candidates was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has made a strong showing in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary a priority.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 3:51 pm:

    Kantor plays a lot of cards there — race, ethnicity, religion.

    That’s pretty nasty extrapolation if Obama didn’t utter those words herself.


  2. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 3:53 pm:

    It’s professional of you to point this out Rich. Too bad too many of your “colleagues” will go with Drudge’s spin.


  3. - ChicagoRepub - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 3:56 pm:

    The truth hurts, doesn’t it.


  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 3:58 pm:

    What “truth” do you speak of, ChicagoRepub?


  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 3:59 pm:

    The broad strokes of the comment are pretty silly anyway. Obama WAS elected senator and president, and in a relatively fast and easy fashion.

    The one Kennedy who was elected president won by a whisker. And it’s not like the Kennedys had smooth sailing in the world of politics…..


  6. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:03 pm:

    ===The broad strokes of the comment are pretty silly anyway.===

    Not really. Just about everybody has at one time or another had this very same conversation.

    Frankly, you could say that “white Irish Catholics” in general seem to do pretty darned well here. Governor, Senate President, Speaker, attorney general, etc. Many thought George Ryan was one, too, but he was an Orangeman.


  7. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:13 pm:

    Never let the facts get in the way of an explosive headline …


  8. - Huh? - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:16 pm:

    While the comments were erroneously and maliciously attributed to Michelle Obama, they make an interesting point about political dynasties regardless of the religious or ethnic background. Political power is concentrated in a few families. It is handed down from one generation to the next like a treasured heirloom.


  9. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:20 pm:

    ===Political power is concentrated in a few families. ===

    Some is, for sure. Gov. Quinn’s dad wasn’t a political guy.


  10. - Solomon - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:23 pm:

    Even if she said those comments verbatim, as a white Irishman I couldn’t be less offended. The statement wasn’t even insulting the Irish; it was pointed against dynasties…


  11. - grand old partisan - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:24 pm:

    “Michelle raised the concern, which a lot of Chicagoans shared, that it was much easier to run for office in Chicago if you were from a political family”

    Many Chicagoans have also expressed concern over the sudden promotions and significant raises that family members of elected officials often get. Did/Does Michelle share those concerns, too??


  12. - Fed up - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:27 pm:

    Strogers, Steele, Jackson Sawyer, and Jones yeah Michelle is right way to many getting by on family name.


  13. - IrishPirate - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:28 pm:

    I am so pasty and Irish looking that the sun laughs at me when I go outside.

    I have damn near said exactly what Michelle O’Bama was purported to say regarding dynasties and Irish Catholics in Illinois politics.

    Just wait till one of the next generation of Daleys decides to run for office. I am not counting the Daley-Thompson running for the Metropolitan Water District………at least not yet.


  14. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:37 pm:

    ==She particularly resented the way power in Illinois was locked up generation after generation by a small group of families, all white Irish Catholic==

    Seems like a conclusion reached by the author; this is not even close to Obama’s statement. Tempest in a teapot, but sure helps sell books.


  15. - Shore - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:38 pm:

    It’s worth pointing out to Michelle Obama that Illinois has had 3 black us senators in the last 20 years which is as many as the entire country combined in its history so apparently power isn’t THAT limited. She also started her career in chicago at a time when it had just elected a black mayor in harold washington and was about to elect a black female us senator so it’s not like she was trying to rise in her parents generation. Every state, every industry has legacies, but Illinois has been more open than other areas. Iowa for instance has never had a female member of congress or us senator or governor in its history.

    New York has the cuomos, Mass has the kennedys, texas has the bush’s, maryland has the cardin’s and sarbane’s, south carolina has the thurmonds, indiana has the bayh’s, ct has the dodd’s. it’s life.


  16. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:53 pm:

    This is run of the mill marketing people. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last three years, the anti-Obama narrative is that Michelle is an angry black woman. Drudge never posts a photo of her when she isn’t scowling or modeling high end fashion.

    So now imagine you’re the publisher of a book that, baes on the few chapters I’ve read so far, is a pretty accurate (though not completely accurate) account of the Obamas marriage and family life. Why on earth would a Republican buy it? Half of the book’s market wouldn’t consider dropping $30 on a flattering story about the first family.

    But if you dribble out some outlandish parties, angry outbursts, and personal tidbits that can be used by the President’s opponents, why you’ve got a best seller on your hands. They gave Kantor a seven figure advance. Now it’s time to sell some books and make some money.

    Don’t over analyze this.


  17. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 4:54 pm:

    Why is this remotely controversial? Noting that there’s an “Irish political mafia” in Chicago is a statement of fact. To say that Illinois practices dynastic politics is a statement of fact. The fact that a black woman said some version of this doesn’t make it untrue. No news here.


  18. - thechampaignlife - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 5:21 pm:

    Here’s some misinformation right back at em:

    Don’t forget the Ryans: George, Jim, and Paul.

    All white politicians, even if not all from Illinois or at all related.


  19. - Peggy R - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 5:33 pm:

    For all the power “white Irish Catholics” have, their Church hasn’t gotten much kindness from this state, eh?


  20. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 5:40 pm:

    Bill Daley went to DC thinking it was the same DC he worked in during the Clinton Administration. Times changed, he didn’t. End of story.

    BTW, I think we could have a moratorium on pols named Daley, Ryan, Cullerton, Brady, Jackson etc. Not because they’re all related, because it gets confusing.


  21. - amalia - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 5:48 pm:

    still longing for a dynasty list, complete with electeds including judges and any select staff spots. like a family tree.

    the bigger issue about this book is that people talked at all to this reporter, however incorrect her take is on Obamaland. surprising.


  22. - Capital View - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 6:25 pm:

    Lee Daniels, John Cullerton,lots of other dynasties in Illinois.

    Instead of “we don’t want nobody that nobody sent”, the now outdated Chicago political process logo should have been “we don’t want nobody that nobody Birthed”.

    But today, note that Obama rose in Illinois politics, Rahm Emmanuel is mayor of Chicago, and the political game and political hirings are a lot more open than ever before — and expected to continue that way, in both political parties.


  23. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 7:05 pm:

    All the deletions just reminds me about why I hate DC politics so much. Some people are just never convinced because their positions are so totally ingrained. Those people, on both sides, really need to get a life.


  24. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 7:09 pm:

    I mean, seriously, if you believe those DC spinmeisters who take things completely out of context and whisper dark lies in order to make the first lady into some sort of raving, white-hating racist then you really have a problem with your own life.


  25. - shore - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 8:13 pm:

    you’re not referring to my post are you?


  26. - Bush Twins - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 8:53 pm:

    I really don’t understand the intense dislike for Mchelle Obama. Heck, Laura Bush killed somebody (literally) and you don’t see the same level of vitriol toward her, or even close to it.


  27. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 10, 12 @ 10:28 pm:

    Borealis, you’re banned for life.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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