Article: The man who made Obama possible

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Angus, Sep 7, 2008.

  1. Angus

    Angus Active Member

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    The man who made Obama possible

    by Phil Kadner
    September 7, 2008

    Barack Obama probably would not be running as the agent of change if not for one of the most conservative Republican senators in Illinois history.

    As this presidential campaign continues to focus on whether Republican John McCain or Democrat Obama would be most likely to reform the federal government, I can't help thinking about the political fate of former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

    Fitzgerald was a wealthy banker when he ran for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Carol Moseley Braun in 1999.

    He bought the Republican nomination by spending $7 million of his own money. He spent another $7 million in the general election.

    The fellow refused to submit to newspaper editorial board interviews. He was anti-abortion, anti-gay and pro-gun.

    But after his election, Fitzgerald did something nobody expected. He turned on the Republican Party in Illinois.

    When this state tried to get $50 million from the federal government to build the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Fitzgerald launched a filibuster on the Senate floor, just like in the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

    Federal spending guidelines had to be linked to the money, Fitzgerald said, because Republicans back in his home state couldn't be trusted.

    George Ryan, the Republican governor at the time, was enraged. The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert (R-14th), claimed that the junior senator from Illinois was undermining one of the greatest projects in the state's history.

    Fitzgerald said he wasn't surprised. He said forcing politicians in Illinois to adhere to ethical bidding procedures on a huge public works project was "like showing a crucifix to Dracula."

    Fitzgerald lost that battle, but the national spotlight he threw on the Lincoln Library project forced the crooks in Springfield to keep their dirty paws off it.

    For his next big battle, Fitzgerald picked on Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the two biggest airlines in Illinois at the time, United and American.

    Fitzgerald opposed spending $15 billion or more on the expansion of O'Hare International Airport. Again, he mentioned that handing that sort of money over to one of the most corrupt city governments in the country bordered on insanity. In addition, he pointed out that O'Hare really didn't have enough room to expand. It couldn't possibly meet the demands of 21st century air travel.

    A new airport should be built in the south suburbs of Chicago, Fitzgerald said.

    A northwest suburban resident, Fitzgerald expressed amazement about the lack of support for a third airport among politicians in the Southland. Other than U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) no one really seemed to be fighting for the project.

    Fitzgerald noted the inequitable distribution of wealth between Chicago's north and south suburbs. He thought it was simply unfair and bad for the state.

    The Chicago newspapers, while running stories about corruption in the Daley administration, trashed Fitzgerald for his opposition to O'Hare expansion. They portrayed him as an irresponsible screwball.

    In the meantime, Fitzgerald was reforming the mutual fund industry.

    With the growth of 401(k) retirement accounts for employees, no one had paid attention to how they were run. Fitzgerald proposed federal regulations to reduce hidden fees and conflicts of interest by fund managers.

    He sided with environmentalists on many issues, further angering his conservative base, and opposed the bailout of the airline industry after Sept. 11, 2001, as a waste of tax dollars.

    And then he launched the battle that really sealed his political fate.

    He selected Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) to be the U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois. Sen. Fitzgerald said he wanted a prosecutor with the cleanest reputation he could find - someone who couldn't be bribed or intimidated.

    Hastert tried to block the presidential appointment. So did Ryan. They failed.

    Well, Sen. Fitzgerald picked the right man. Patrick Fitzgerald has put many political crooks in prison. The names mentioned in federal indictments often are the same folks that Sen. Fitzgerald was screaming about on the U.S. Senate floor.

    But Sen. Fitzgerald couldn't run for office again.

    All of the corrupt forces in Illinois had lined up against him.

    Officially, the senator said he decided not to seek re-election in 2005 so he could spend more time with his family.

    Obama ran for Fitzgerald's vacant seat and won.

    Although he's never done anything about corruption in Illinois, Obama is campaigning as the great reformer.

    As for many of the the Illinois Republicans touting McCain's virtues today and denouncing Obama, they're the very folks who couldn't stand Fitzgerald because he was honest.

    No one who rises to the top of the political system in this country is an "outsider."

    Fitzgerald really fought for reform and actually was a change agent.

    And that's exactly why he's gone.

    Phil Kadner can be reached at or (708) 633-6787
  2. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    That was extremely well written.
  3. jrumann59

    jrumann59 Well-Known Member

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    While I would agree with most of what he stood for, you have to understand one thing this article only glosses over everything. From what little info I have heard on this guy was he was over the top in his ways of accomplishing things. In essence he was using a hammer when a fly swatter would accomplish the same thing. Its one thing to go against the grain by yourself, its another when you reach out and try and get advocates to go with you, otherwise you end having the same hammer you used, used on you.

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