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Steinberg lets loose

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* One of my goals in life is to never get on the wrong side of Neil Steinberg. The dude can write

It is disingenuous for the Sun-Times, my beloved mother ship, to post a daily front page count of how long it has been since Illinois has had a budget. The idea is that doing so will somehow shame our leaders into coming to an agreement and getting on with the business of trying to right the capsized and foundering vessel that is Illinois.

But really, if embarrassment were a possibility with the speaker of the house and the governor, this would have resolved itself long ago. I’ve met crackheads living in a nest of blankets on Lower Wacker Drive who had a more highly developed sense of shame than these two jokers.

I do not want to fall into the easy “a plague on both their houses” trap. Yes, they are equally unpleasant men.

Bruce Rauner is a callous, sneering billionaire who comes across in person like the human model of C. Montgomery Burns on “The Simpsons.” Rauner expressed no interest whatsoever in public life beyond enriching himself until, perhaps bored, he took some of his bottomless lake of money and began fire hosing it at Illinois — a kind of political waterboarding. Eventually the state, sputtering and gasping, cried uncle, and elected him governor over Pat Quinn. Good old Pat, standing at the mound in his zigzag T-shirt, lowered his head as if weighed down by the brim of his enormous baseball cap, uttered a sigh and padded home.

And Mike Madigan is a grim slip of a man: think of a last year’s jack-o’-lantern mounted on a broomstick, the whole thing marinated in vinegar then hung out to dry. […]

If rich old white men like Madigan and Rauner were being hurt by this impasse, it would have been resolved yesterday. But it damages the poor, the struggling young — who rely on public universities and colleges that are dropping staff, injecting furlough days into their academic calendars, and, in general, suffering on starvation rations. Plus those with disabilities, victims of crime, and all the unfortunates who must fall back onto a safety net that both men are pawning to the rope merchant.

Go read the whole thing.


  1. - jim - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:26 am:

    no sure he’s the best person to be discussing other people’s flaws.

  2. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:26 am:

    Have to wonder how the universities found the money to operate so long.

    Must have had millions salted away of which the GA had no idea.

  3. - Anon - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:28 am:

    Yea, but we need term limits!

  4. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:29 am:

    he almost had me until he devolved into Japanese post nuclear movie metaphors.

  5. - Arsenal - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    Steinberg correctly points out that Rauner has committed the far greater sins, but this, THIS-

    “think of a last year’s jack-o’-lantern mounted on a broomstick, the whole thing marinated in vinegar then hung out to dry”

    -is one helluva turn o’ phrase.

  6. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    Steinberg is 100% correct.

  7. - not quite - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    Steinberg is a skilled writer for sure, but he let his distaste for Rauner get the best of him. Like his politics or not, but Rauner is one of the better retail politicians in the state, so it is not true that he comes across in person like C. Montgomery Burns. It is also inaccurate to assert that he had no interests beyond enriching himself before 2013. The Rauners have long been active philanthropists well before he first started running for governor.

  8. - The Captain - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:38 am:

    You’d have to assume that the Rauner crew are desperately awaiting the sale of the Sun-Times to Tronc so they can have Ferro do to Steinberg what he did to McKinney. Rauner bought the Sun-Times, it was supposed to stay bought. (you know, like the House Republicans)

  9. - Out Here In The Middle - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:41 am:

    Arsenal - I liked that line but this one really nails it! “If rich old white men like Madigan and Rauner were being hurt by this impasse, it would have been resolved yesterday.”

  10. - Jocko - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:41 am:

    When will journalists rise above the “Rauner vs. Madigan” trope? Rauner RUNS the executive while Madigan…without a supermajority…LIVES within the legislative. He needs Durkin, Cullerton, and Radongo to make anything happen and two of them have deliberately placed themselves out of reach.

  11. - illini - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:42 am:

    Whenever Rich suggests we read the whole thing I always follow through. Always good advise before commenting.

    70 days and counting - the dude can indeed write.

    Five comments as I write this - the MRJM rules apply to them.

  12. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    If the goal is to start the long march of getting the state’s fiscal house in order, perhaps that should take priority and all pre-conditions to addressing a budget be dropped.

    If that’s the goal. But I don’t think it is for
    Rauner. I think many of his goals are being achieved right now.

  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    ===no sure he’s the best person to be discussing other people’s flaws===

    Good luck finding a perfect human being.

  14. - illini - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    Sorry - 700 not 70

  15. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:44 am:

    Great descriptive piece. Sure it’s harsh but I don’t see how anyone could disagree with the analysis. They are arguably the two most important factors in getting a budget and they’re both willing to allow this destruction. It doesn’t matter how much the rest of us care. I tend to agree with Steinberg’s take on both of them instead of the people who say they’re not evil or uncaring. The people of IL need an easier way to recall elected officials who willfully inflict damage on them.

  16. - Nobody Sent - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:44 am:


  17. - thunderspirit - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:46 am:

    I freely admit, I would love to be able to cast images with my words like that. My goodness. Heck, Steinberg even manages to paint the perpetually hapless Pat Quinn as a (somewhat) sympathetic figure, so that his actual deeds — can’t really call them “accomplishments” — are temporarily forgotten.

  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    The sharp blade of his saber strikes the deserving targets, BUT the blows will have no more effect than the paltry slaps of the many lesser wimps he criticizes in the piece. The two bad guys are truly bad guys. The problem is we have no real good guy to vanquish them. ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio ?”

  19. - William j Kelly - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:50 am:

    oh no! Is he off the wagon again? Rich, are you afraid that he’s going slap you around like your his wife?

  20. - Real - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:51 am:

    I hate how reporters and journalist always try to insert Madigan in this crisis of us not having a budget… While not realizing that Madigan is not in the Senate who had been negotiating a budget that was derailed by Rauner alone and his republicans. So we have no budget even when it was the Senate negotiating one without input from Madigan.

    I say all this to say even if there was no Madigan there still would be no budget because of Rauner.

  21. - DeseDemDose - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:52 am:

    The Rauners previously were Uber rich Philanthropists that use charity donations as tax write offs. As governor he has crushed the lives of thousands of Illinois weakest and most vulnerable citizens. They could give their whole fortune to charity and it couldn’t come close make up for the pain and despair the heartless Rauners have forced on the innocent.

  22. - Mike Cirrincione - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    In my lifetime, the best retail politician I’ve seen is Bill Clinton.

    The Former Nursing Home Soft Drink Fountain Machine Manager doesnt even come close. Dick Durbin runs circles around him.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    Steinberg takes fingers to keys like a surgeon takes the scalpel and cuts “just” the right areas to “just” the right amount.

    Those who are so frustrated that they can’t see straight, fixate your eyes and allow the words to channel your own frustrations.

    Rauner, of course, will see this as a badge of honor. Rauner, himself, far less articulate, or at least pretends to be, or worse mockingly pretends to be, is using his tool, money, to hurt people he generally doesn’t know, and institutions he generally sees as unneeded.

    Thank you, Mr. Steinberg.

    Your restaurant-quality work is the culinary equivalent of the finest chef, at the finest bistro, with the finest ingredients, and making those ingredients dance on the tastebuds.

    There is nothing better in any field when you see someone go next level. Sports, academics… art… writing. Whew.

  24. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:00 am:

    This. Is. Awesome.

  25. - Arsenal - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    ==The Former Nursing Home Soft Drink Fountain Machine Manager doesnt even come close.==

    Yeah. He’s OK, and certainly better than Pat Quinn, but I don’t think I’d put him in the Top 5 in IL politics.

  26. - New Slang - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    To me, he hits the theme of not only Illinois’ problems, but Capitol Hill as well: the elected people who yield the most influence and power to make change and get things done are not affected by their inability to do their job. BR can live at the fairgrounds, wear his Harley vest and portray himself as a middle middle class sympathizer, however, his entire life choices indicate otherwise. He has used his money and influence for his own benefit (and children) in the past. Can’t believe I voted for him. He hasn’t shook up anything. He’s the Governor and has been campaigning since he took office and has not governed.

  27. - Honeybear - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:06 am:

    Sticking with the Japanese theme, reading that was like watching a samurai in that awesome armor eviscerate and dismember an opponant. I mean slice clean through like it was nothing; two halves sliding apart.

    Living Jesus that was a masterpiece of scorn

  28. - cdog - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Love some good wordsmithin’; he definitely gets to his points.

    I’ve been keeping up with a writer/mathematician Nassim Taleb (Black Swan, Antifragility)

    He’s been publishing chapters in his new book, Skin in the Game, and this past week wrote about “Merchandising Virtue.”

    “If your private life conflicts with your intellectual opinion, it cancels your intellectual ideas, not your private life.”

    I think that statement sums up most typical politicians, and especially Rauner, and Madigan.

    Fake virtue, marketed at the sheeple.

  29. - PublicServant - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    While he takes them both to task for not compromising, this line is 3 star Michelin quality:

    ===Rauner doesn’t need to compromise — his kids are fine. And Madigan can’t without prying the fingers of what remains of the Illinois middle class off the bottom rung of the ladder. ===

    As OW says: Right, Exactly right.

  30. - A guy - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    He doesn’t pretend it’s not personal with him. It’s always personal.

  31. - Swift - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    I suspect someone in the Governor’s Office was assigned to count how many lines of the piece attack Rauner and how many attack Madigan. I then assume the Rauner criticisms are spun to show that the criticism is the result of his efforts to “shake up Springfield” and somehow the criticism shows the plan is working. Of course, the Madigan criticisms are right on point and will be distilled into new attack ads, etc.

    For a Governor who seems to be travelling throughout the state almost daily, he has to know things aren’t going well, to say the least, but somehow any criticism is taken as affirmation he is doing the right thing. This baffles me.

  32. - NoNews - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:38 am:

    Great writing and spot on accurate. This made me laugh out loud, literally, while reading about something decidedly not funny.

  33. - Responsa - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:45 am:

    We need a Royko in these times not a Steinberg. We need piercing wit and brutal intellectual honesty– not a personal rant filled with violent imagery. The opinion column is worth a read for sure, but it will change nothing and even Steinberg knows it will change nothing.

    At least he showed up. But who really need to show up are the inheritors of the long lost city hall, police beat, and statehouse reporters who understood Illinois–all of Illinois –and could usually manage to find a way to report the political and government news fairly, regularly, consistently and without obvious agenda.

  34. - Ginhouse Tommy - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:45 am:

    The man was right in that neither man is affected and they don’t care. Here’s hoping that a lot of people read this piece.

  35. - My New Handle - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:46 am:

    Not liking the portrayal of Madigan’s physiogomy as somehow an astute criticism of his policy objectives or procedural actions. Cheap shot that seems like Steinberg was more in love with his turn of a phrase than thoughtful analysis. Likewise, the “sneering” Rauner.

  36. - Evanstonian - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:46 am:

    The rich aren’t being hurt by the impasse and that’s why it’s persisted. Spot. On.

    Which is why the Dems nominating someone richer than Rauner would be a catastrophe.

  37. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:48 am:

    Stienberg was a lot funnier on Carson

  38. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 10:58 am:

    Only one holds a statewide office.
    Only one holds the power of the state’s highest office.
    Only one is expected to represent and protect all citizens regardless of politics.
    Only one is an executive - THE CHIEF executive.

    It isn’t a match.
    Rauner was responsible.
    Rauner was the governor while Illinois was crushed.
    Rauner called the shots in 1/3rd of the government, Madigan calls the shots in 1/6th, so Rauner held twice the dominant hand.

    We’ve had 30 years, plus, of budgets with Madigan involved.
    We’ve had ZERO YEARS of budgets with Rauner involved.

    Like him or not, Madigan has a record after two generations in power. Rauner too, now has a record after nearly a term.

    Rauner is to blame. He campaigned for the job, dropped personal millions into buying it, and campaigned as someone who COULD WORK WITH MADIGAN.

    Rauner couldn’t be a governor.
    It is time to elect someone who can.

  39. - PublicServant - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    VanillaMan FTW!

  40. - Keyser Soze - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 11:32 am:

    Marvelous descriptions. Dickens comes to mind.

  41. - Free Set of Steak Knives - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    === The Rauners have long been active philanthropists well before he first started running for governor. ===

    Bruce Rauner doesn’t seem to give money to anything unless he gets to put his name on it. Rauner’s charity is really about feeding his ego.

    Ask the folks at the Rauner YMCA, who had to cut services due to the governor’s budget.

  42. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    ===The Rauners have long been active philanthropists well before he first started running for governor===

    … and yet Bruce Rauner outright refuses to acknowledge the severe damage Rauner is purposely causing social services, as Bruce described he would do in 2012… and Diana… Diana, after calling the taking on of Bruce a “business decision”, Diana thanked the Pritzkers for bailing out The Ounce with $5 million, when the state owed over $7 million.

    The RaunerS use their millions to cover their own hypocrisies.

  43. - Art Petacque - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    I know me some Neil and I know he will read this because he always goes where his sycophants are.
    He is, above all else, a hypocrite.
    He decries politics and gets his brother a job with Maria Pappas.
    He refuses to write a Sun Times editorial page endorsement of Lisa Madigan, but when his wife wants to move from her struggling law practice to the safety and security of the public sector, Neil cozies up to Lisa and voila the wife leap frogs over all other applicants and gets a job in the AG office doing work she has no previous experience doing.

  44. - JoanP - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 12:38 pm:

    “I’ve met crackheads living in a nest of blankets on Lower Wacker Drive who had a more highly developed sense of shame than these two jokers.”

    Really? Does this jerk really think that insulting the homeless, many of whom suffer from mental health issues, many of whom are vets with PTSD, is appropriate?

    He lost me with that one sentence.

  45. - PublicServant - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:03 pm:

    If all else fails, attack the messenger.

  46. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 1:28 pm:

    I hate to break it to Neil but he is an old white male too. I guess he just hates old white men.

  47. - City Zen - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    Good to see Neil has awakened from his Trump-induced coma to notice what’s going on around town.

  48. - Glengarry - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:14 pm:

    Bill Kelly, just run for governor again. I need a good laugh.

  49. - Molly Maguire - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:39 pm:

    The sins of the man, whatever they may be, do not diminish the power of this excellent column.

  50. - CrazyHorse - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    ==The sins of the man, whatever they may be, do not diminish the power of this excellent column.==

    Agree on that but writing like this does

    ==If rich old white men==

    I stopped reading after that.

  51. - Chicago 20 - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:56 pm:

    So does Strindberg really feel without Madigan the poor, the struggling young — who rely on public universities and colleges that are dropping staff, injecting furlough days into their academic calendars, and, in general, suffering on starvation rations. Plus those with disabilities, victims of crime, and all the unfortunates who must fall back onto a safety net that both men are pawning to the rope merchant would have a safety net?

    C’mon, Rauner doesn’t care about people who are dependent upon the State, Rauner only cares about Rauner.

  52. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 3:02 pm:

    CrazyHorse - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    I 100% agree with you

  53. - Glengarry - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 3:11 pm:

    CrazyHorse et al, that’s the crux of the problem. Steinberg unloaded like he was Mr. October.

  54. - formerpro - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 3:55 pm:

    Pithy but not helpful….contrast this lame piece with Eric Zorn’s column today! Steinberg enables Rauner, no different in impact from the Tribune Editorial Board. Say what you will about Madigan, he does know how to negotiate a budget.

  55. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 4:32 pm:

    Oh Good Lord - Steinberg (and most of the armchair pundits online) are living in comfortable suburbs or low crime neighborhoods sitting on land taken from Native Americans whose descendants they’ve left to 3rd World poverty. He (and they) go on about the poor, but don’t say a word about our regressive-in-effect flat tax system (just a coincidence that they are prime beneficiaries). From not too far a distance they are everything they say Rauner is.

    Rauner deserves plenty of criticism but spare us the moral relativism. As Curtis Mayfield aptly noted, if there’s Hell below, we’re all going to go.

  56. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 5:13 pm:

    I think if my wife worked for the AG I wouldn’t mock her father’s personal appearance. How about sticking to commenting on his performance?

  57. - Wensicia - Wednesday, May 31, 17 @ 5:31 pm:

    I particularly like the Godzilla v. Rodan reference:

    “They’re monsters. They don’t care.”

    They really don’t.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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