Jim Dey: Pols did lot of talking while taxing

Jim Dey: Pols did lot of talking while taxing

The budget battle in Springfield last week produced a few wild days of legislative action.

There was even some tension, although the outcome was never in doubt.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan had the situation well in hand, and, as a consequence, got the $36.1 billion budget he wanted along with $5 billion in higher personal and corporate income tax.

But that's not the subject here.

In addition to the voting, there were other highlights. Some legislators, most notably Republican state Rep. Chad Hays of Catlin, indicated that they've had all they can stands, and they can't stands no more.

He and others plan to say goodbye to the Springfield freak show and not run for re-election.

That's too bad because Hays is a good guy, far better than many of his colleagues. But it really doesn't matter all that much. For the most part, the Democratic and Republican legislative leaders run the show.

Even more surprising was former state Rep. Black Black's announcement that he's so fired up by the fireworks in the General Assembly that he's thinking of running for the legislative seat that he vacated and Hays filled.

Conceding that he's an "old man," Black acknowledged he has some health issues, including kidney disease.

"I'd feel better about it if it was caused by excessive drinking, but it wasn't," he lamented.

Still, Black said he feels strong enough and experienced enough to "go back there and raise hell" for a term or two.

"That's the kind of people we need," said Black, who has served on the Danville city council and the Danville Area Community College board since leaving the House.

Maybe so. At least Black would be entertaining. His booming objections to Democratic parliamentary tactics while a member of the Republican House leadership are the stuff of legend.

Black wasn't the only legislator or former legislator drawing attention for his lively quotes given inside and outside the legislative chambers.

Urgent message

Consider state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, who stunned her audience and the news media with a 1-minute, 48-second address praised for its eloquence. It was so moving, so finely crafted that Senate Democrats actually sent out a video of her rhetorical appeal.

"We are in a moment in time. We are faced with the fierce urgency of now. The fierce urgency of now. We don't have any more time. And too late is not good enough," she intoned.

The Chicago Sun-Times was so impressed, it headlined an editorial: The 'fierce urgency of now.'

"As Sen. Toi Hutchinson eloquently expressed the matter on Tuesday, Illinois simply can't go another week, let alone a year, with a budget ..." the newspaper editorialized.

The Sun-Times was not alone in marveling at Hutchinson's brilliant use of language to make her point.

Unfortunately, the only thing Hutchinson revealed is that she knows a good line when she steals one. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the phrase "the fierce urgency of now." He delivered it during a 1967 anti-war address at New York City's Riverside Church.

"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there 'is' such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action," Dr. King said.

It's rather amazing that none of those covering the legislative debate recognized such a well-known King quote. If they did more research, they'd discover that the only thing they have to fear about double-checking quotes is fear itself.


Members of the media are used to hearing the worst kind of nonsense from politicians. They generally write it off as business as usual.

But even their jaws dropped when Madigan, as ruthless a political cutthroat who ever flashed a switchblade, portrayed Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner as an intolerable bully who terrorizes GOP legislators. He then cast himself as an amiable, reasonable softie who is as meek and mild as a little lamb when he consults with members of the Democratic caucus.

"Despite what the Tribune says about me, I only engage in persuasion. I work with my members. We thoroughly discuss these issues in our caucus. My method is to use intellectual persuasion, to persuade Democratic members and sometimes Republicans on the wisdom of a position or a vote. I don't engage in intimidation. I don't engage in threats. And you won't find one member of the legislature who would ever tell you that. ... I've been here long enough to know that it doesn't work," Madigan said.

Surprised by the comment, Springfield's Rich Miller, who runs the Capitol Fax website, noted that "Persuasion can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder. Also, he doesn't have to issue threats because people already know what crossing him entails."

Those who don't should consult former state Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, whom Madigan ran out of the House for crossing him on a vote, or current state Rep. Scott Drury, who's been rendered a political nullity for doing the same thing.

Perhaps the best example is former state Sen. Gary LaPaille. Once Madigan's right-hand man, he got crossways with the diminutive don and barely lived to tell the tale. Madigan not only forced LaPaille out of the Illinois Senate and state politics, he ran him out of the state altogether.

It's that kind of ruthless reputation on which the speaker relies when he tries to persuade his legislative minions that the best way to do things is Madigan's way.

Double eye-roller

Madigan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are political partners. So perhaps it's monkey see, monkey do.

That's the only way to explain why Emanuel followed up on Madigan's ode to his leadership style with one of his own. "Leadership is not threatening people," Emanuel said in a radio interview after Madigan's suggested the same.

It's one thing for Madigan to describe himself as a sweet soul of reason. After all, he does his dirty work behind closed doors.

But Emanuel wears his reputation as a political thug on his sleeve. He's proud of it, particularly the references to himself as the "Rahmfather" willing to scream, swear and do worse to anyone who crosses him.

The Chicago Tribune reported in 2011 that Emanuel, a punk straight out of central casting, once became enraged with state Rep. Gregory Harris over Harris' reluctance to support some pro-Chicago legislation. The Trib reported that Emanuel "began swearing" at Harris and "threatened to burn his house down if he didn't change his position on the legislation."

Harris didn't dispute the Trib's account, saying only that "it was a really heated exchange."

One of Emanuel's best known emotional meltdowns came in 1992 when, on the night after the November presidential election, he vowed at a celebratory dinner to get even with those who he felt had "betrayed" him and the successful Clinton campaign.

News accounts stated that Emanuel stood up and began plunging a steak knife into the table and began rattling off names while shouting "Dead! Dead! Dead!"

Those are but two of many examples of Emanuel's enlightened leadership style.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217-351-5369.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on July 11, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Yep ,  the NG is still a GOP propaganda corporation.  Attack Madigan, and democrats while feeling sorry for billionaire Rauner.  Keep stirring the pot because it sells newspapers.  How about ending the Cubs vs the Cards mentality?  How about ending the two party rule?   Enough of the whining.

Annotator wrote on July 11, 2017 at 3:07 pm

"How about ending the two party rule?"  Sure Sid, just remodel the Democratic "machine" into the Leninist doctrine.  That way Madigan (parnoid schizophrenic) can just get rid of the Republicans and Democrats altogether,  One huge coup and a mass grave for all, including you, loyalty doesn't influence a paranoid schizophrenic!

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm

You are a board certified psychiatrist of course?  Naw, your just another rabid, right-wing, republican.....

People vote republican, democrat, or independent.  Most vote on issues that affect them solely.  Independents are becoming the majority of voters voting for one of the two parties.  Why not develop independent parties as in Europe?  Why not have the Green Party, the Socialist Party, the Facist Party, and all other assorted parties that offer alternatives to the two old parties?  It is a democracy.  People have seen enought of the corruption, deadlock, and social division caused by the two party system.

Yeah, I was a Bernie Sanders fan.  The inequity in the country will eventually tear the country apart.  It depends on the elected leaders to see it in advance, and do something jointly to stop it.

When I was a kid, Nikita Krusehev stated to vice president Nixon that in time America would cease to exist due to it's internal problems.  We all laughed at the time.  Now, I am not so sure.  America has great problems due to financial inequity, a lost middle-class, a reduction in children, a loss of family values, and technological break throughs in manufacturing.  Basically, there will be a much older, poorer, and larger population of unemployed.  It will not be due with race, religion, or gender.  Only money, and specialized skills.

Why do billionaires want to be elected officials?

BruckJr wrote on July 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Old Bernie doesn't really have a lot of credibility when he rants about income inequality:



Sid Saltfork wrote on July 14, 2017 at 1:07 pm

"Credibility"?  Did you sit at home, and not vote in the primaries?  Did you vote for the candidate selected by the party?  Did you vote for Trump?  Why do you even bring up the word "credibility"? 

If Trump had a dog, he would have to pay someone to call it for him.