tea party


Careen Gordon is no longer a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, but she still managed to become embroiled in a political controversy.

The Democrat, who recently moved from Morris to Chicago, was appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to serve on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board — a job that pays $86,000 a year. Her hiring comes on the heels of her vote in favor of a major income tax hike championed by Quinn.

I’m not sure if this controversy has teeth — after all, Gordon may have supported the income tax hike simply because it was politically safe for the then-lame-duck legislator to do so, and as a former prosecutor, she certainly seems qualified for the job. But this comment she made about it to a Chicago Sun-Times reporter annoys me:

“There was no deal. That’s untrue,” she said. “My background is a perfect match for someone on the Prisoner Review Board. I’m done talking about it. I’m done being called a liar.”

She’s “done talking about it”? She’s “done being called a liar”? She seems awfully touchy — but that doesn’t surprise me. (Gordon was one of the politicians I had to keep tabs on during my year-and-a-half covering politics for Ottawa Delivered.)

I suspect Gordon is still smarting from her Election Day loss to Sue Rezin, who was backed by the local tea party movement.

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My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Earlier this week when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helped kick off a series of Tea Party Express rallies leading up to the election, I couldn’t help but think back to my East Coast vacation earlier this month.

No, I didn’t immediately think of the gaudy-looking lighthouse restaurant with the “Ron Paul for President” sign in the window, though that soon crossed my mind, too. My first thought was of the Freedom Trail, the 2.5-mile walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites in Boston.

The Boston Tea Party is believed to have happened at old Griffin’s Wharf, which no longer exists because of a large-scale landfill project more than a century ago. A historical marker indicates where the wharf once was, but as you might expect, looking at a plaque isn’t quite as awe-inspiring as actually seeing the place as it was in 1773 and being able to – with a little imagination – visualize crates of tea being thrown off ships into the harbor.

Regardless, for someone like me who loves history and politics and has been to the East Coast only a handful of times, I’m still fascinated by simply visiting where events occured to form the cradle of our democracy. And my recent visit to Boston got me thinking about how the current tea party movement stacks up against the Boston Tea Party protest.

At its simplest, the comparison surely can be made. In 1773, future Americans were fed up with the ruling government, boarded ships and dumped all the tea in the water below. In 2010, a sizable number of Americans are fed up with the government, so they want to board Congress and dump all the incumbent politicians into the unemployment pool.

Both movements grew, too. Just as today’s tea party movement continues to grow, the Boston Tea Party spurred disgruntled future Americans to dump tea in other New England locales, including Maine, New York and North Carolina.

Taking the comparison a step further, it would seem that the connection between the two movements weakens. I assume most tea party supporters don’t favor literally overthrowing the government, as the Boston Tea Partiers obviously did.

And, while the current tea party movement surely will achieve a sense of victory next month – very few presidents survive their first midterm election with the same level of Congressional support they began with – nobody will be erecting memorials at key places in the 21st century tea party’s history. (“Look over here, Johnny. This is where Sarah Palin joked about seeing November from her house and sent the Tea Party Express on its way to victory.”)

Frankly, I expect the tea party movement to last about as long as Ross Perot’s Reform Party movement – which is to say, not very long in the grand scheme of things. Like the Reform Party before it, the tea party is burning hot but soon will burn out. This is not a criticism of the tea party, just an historically-based observation.

In any case, the tea party will leave its mark on our political history, at least for our lifetime. And when people want a true taste of dissident tea, they always can visit Boston.

Remember when, for a time, the conventional wisdom was that if we were going to have an African-American president in our lifetime, it would be retired Gen. Colin Powell?

I was reminded of this last Sunday while watching “Meet the Press.” Powell was a guest on the NBC show, and I was captivated listening to his civil discourse with host David Gregory. A large part of Powell’s appeal is his firm but friendly presentation that commands respect, and it helps tremendously that he always sounds like he knows what he’s talking about because his opinions seem well thought out.

Sounds like the man who did become the first African-American president, doesn’t it? But I digress.

Powell provided thoughtful insight into some of today’s issues during his Sunday morning set. In my opinion, his best commentary was about the tea party movement and the (not necessarily related) divisive rhetoric in politics today.

“I think it is a fascinating change in our political life to see this kind of movement gain such momentum and strength,” Powell said of the tea party movement. “And this is good. People want to see this. But at the same time, this movement doesn’t become a real force until it starts to talk to the issues. I want to cut spending. I want to have lower taxes. But how do you do that? You can’t just have slogans. … You have to have an agenda.”

Powell cautioned that the tea party movement could follow in the short-lived footsteps of the Reform Party if it doesn’t come up with some real, doable solutions to the problems it seeks to fix.

“We all believe in the Constitution, we all want lower taxes, we all want less spending, lower deficit, everything else, more freedom,” Powell said. “But at the same time, how do you get all of that and at the same time make sure that we are investing in our children, investing in our infrastructure? How do we bring the deficit down by cutting spending, and where do we cut that spending? It’s not enough to just say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Powell also was spot-on when discussing some of the more ridiculous character attacks being levied against President Obama. If you disagree with his policies, then feel free to criticize them based on their merits or lack thereof. But there is no constructive reason to just make up things in an attempt to discredit the president.

“Think carefully about some of the stuff that is coming across the blogs and the airwaves,” Powell said. “Let’s make a couple of points. One, the president was born in the United States of American. Let’s get rid of that one, let’s get rid of the birth thing. Let’s attack him on policy, not nonsense. Next, he is a Christian. He is not a Muslim. Twenty percent of the people say he is a Muslim, 80 percent of the people apparently do not believe he’s a Muslim.”

As usual, what Powell says makes sense. It’s just too bad there is a sizable contingent of people who don’t want to hear what he has to say because of his involvement with the Bush administration (Democrats) or his later disavowing of it (Republicans).

And sadly, some people just don’t want to listen to anyone who speaks common sense.

This column was also published in the Sept. 23 issue of Ottawa Delivered.

Conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck, who surely had his tea party-powered ego freshly refueled after Tuesday’s primary elections, drew several thousand of his flock of followers to Hoffman Estates tonight for his Right Nation 2010 rally.

The Beck rally led the 10 p.m. newscast on Chicago’s NBC affiliate. During the intro to the story, the TV station erroneously put a graphic in the upper right-hand corner that read “Police Shooting” (obviously made for the story about the early-morning police shooting on the CTA Red Line today) — or was it less an error than a Freudian slip?

Once the story was taken over by the reporter at the scene, the reporter mentioned how Beck was supposed to take the stage at 8 p.m. but didn’t until after 9 p.m., when the rally was scheduled to be finished. Which leads me to wonder: Was Glenn Beck questioned in the police shooting? And if so, was he allowed to answer police questions using his blackboard?

My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Now that Labor Day has passed, the election season is kicking into high gear.

There’s no better time to be a political reporter – especially when there is a tight race to be covered, such as the 11th Congressional District battle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) and challenger Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno). And when it comes to pleasing readers, there is no worse time to be a political reporter.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

The goal of any political reporter, including this one, is to give fair and balanced coverage to the candidates and the issues. Unfortunately, there are people I like to call Pavlov’s Politicos: They love any media story about their preferred candidate, and they call anything other than that biased reporting.

Case in point: Last week I covered a Halvorson campaign stop in Ottawa. As we do with all our articles, I posted a link to the story on Facebook. That’s where a Marseilles man suggested – tongue-in-cheek, I hope – I must be receiving monetary contributions from the congresswoman because I write “fluff” stories about her. I checked out his Facebook “likes,” which include Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, FOX News, the National Tea Party and nothing that appears to be remotely associated with Democrats.

So it follows suit that the commenter doesn’t like Halvorson. And apparently, because I covered a Halvorson event in the course of doing my job, he doesn’t like me, either. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like my writing. Doesn’t matter, really. I just wonder if, when he reads my coverage of a Kinzinger event, he feels the same way about my article.

I’m not mentioning the man’s political leanings to insinuate anything about Republicans. I mention them because a few days later, I received an e-mail message from somebody I know regularly attends meetings of the Bureau-La Salle Tea Party complimenting last week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered. Noting the spread of political stories in the issue, which included my Focus story about local political campaign volunteers and an in-depth interview with Halvorson, the e-mailer said the “good objective articles” were providing “a fine public service” to readers.

Apparently he wasn’t offended by the Halvorson article in the newspaper. Which brings me to my greater point: We don’t pander to any politicians here at Ottawa Delivered, and while I don’t expect to please everyone, I hope that readers will respect our attempt at providing them with views from all sides of the political arena: Democrat, Republican, tea party, independent, etc.

When our newspaper received compliments about its political coverage from a tea party member, a staunch Republican and a couple of union members all within a week’s time, I knew we must be doing it right. And I hope you agree. Because even if you don’t agree with the views expressed by the people being covered in a particular article, I hope you’ll at least respect the way we reported them.