One tenet of effective leadership is setting a strong example.
Politicians often confuse tough questions with unfair questions, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker is no exception.
Consider his late April response to this question about the tough lockdown rules he’s imposed on the people of Illinois while his wife and children were at the family horse farm in Florida.
“Where’s the First Lady? Is she accompanied by a state security detail? Is she engaged in non-essential travel? What is your response to people who say the stay-at-home order and non-essential-travel bans aren’t abided by your family?”
Here is the governor’s angry response.
“The first thing I’d like to say is that in politics, it used to be that we kept our families out of it. My official duties have nothing to do with my family. So I’m not going to answer that question. It’s inappropriate, and I find it reprehensible, honestly, that a reporter wrote a story about it.”
Unfortunately for Pritzker, his snarling effort to put the issue to bed failed, mostly because what is described as “Pritzker’s nuclear family” appears to be spending some or all of its time in less restrictive states (Florida and Wisconsin) while Illinois families under Pritzker remain mostly locked down, at great personal and emotional cost.
Nonetheless, the governor asks a fair question — is it proper for reporters and political opponents to raise the questions they have about his wife, M.K. Pritzker, and the couple’s two young children?
The answer is obvious — it depends.
Just what is the substance of the media inquiry and commentary? Their wardrobes, their taste in movies, their personal appearance? Or is it related to a governance issue, like, just to speculate, the example the governor’s family sets — or doesn’t set — for the families of Illinois during a pandemic.
Reporters wrote about former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s wife’s enthusiastic support for abortion rights, particularly her influence on his decision to sign controversial legislation that uses taxes to pay for abortions for low-income women.
Reporters wrote about former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s wife and children in connection with employment for his wife and large cash gifts to his children that could be construed as thinly veiled payoffs to the state’s supremely corrupt chief executive.
No one quarreled at the time about the propriety of reporters pursuing those issues. So what about the Pritzker family’s absence from Illinois?
It’s undeniable that misery loves company, and the miserable people of Illinois are wondering why Pritzker’s family isn’t here to keep them company. After all, isn’t what’s good for the goose good for the gander?
Pritzker has been forced to defend his family’s absence, noting they were at their $12 million horse farm in Florida before the lockdown began. From there, they decamped to Wisconsin, where the family maintains another horse facility. Without elaborating, Pritzker now says they are “home.”
This is the kind of issue ordinary people understand. That’s why, following the media inquiries, Pritzker’s GOP critics picked up the issue.
“This isn’t about family, it’s about hypocrisy. Why is (Pritzker’s) family traveling in and out of IL and multiple other states in defiance of his own stay-at-home order?” the Illinois GOP tweeted.
That’s how a lot of people see it because that’s how it is. The governor can argue that his family’s presence has “nothing to do” with “my official duties” and be correct most of the time, but not during a pandemic.
Given the increasingly surly nature of the public over Pritzker’s lockdown rules, he has two choices — recognize reality or ignore it and hope it goes away. So far, he’s trying to ignore it, but it isn’t going away.