Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's now or never: Settle budget mess - Maybe Daley, Hastert can help wrestle a deal

It's now or never: Settle budget mess - Maybe Daley, Hastert can help wrestle a deal
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times Columnist
August 19, 2007

The 30th anniversary of the death of the King came just one day after his acolyte-turned-governor and the rest of Illinois' Democrats again cannibalized their own in Springfield at the state fair's unity day.
The party of the people is all shook up.

On Aug. 17, 1977, I was a young reporter working in Nashville when the word of Elvis' death came. You're going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, said my news director.

There in the sweltering crowd of mourners was none other than "Saturday Night Live" star Bill Murray, dressed in a black cashmere jacket and a pink carnation, oblivious to the scorching Memphis sun. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy, but he sure looked stoned.

Don't be cruel, you might say, but I recount this only because suspicious minds might think the folks in Springfield have been smoking something, too.

It's so bad in the Land of Lincoln that even Gov. Blagojevich's two-time running mate, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, is two-timing him by talking up a bill to allow voters fed up with their politicians to return to sender.

After the feds played jailhouse rock with former Gov. George Ryan, we all prayed we would be delivered from any more corruption.

Blagojevich vowed to shake, rattle and roll the system. But every day, in every way, he's seems like nothin' but a hound dog.

Wise men say only fools rush in, but to weary members of the House and Senate, they just drive in, again and again, down the long, flat road to Springfield. Summertime? I think I see the leaves turning.

It's now or never.

I propose a solution. Bring in Mayor Daley and Rep. J. Dennis Hastert for a bipartisan mediation of this mess.

Daley has been harping all summer that all lawmakers need to do is negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Hastert, the former speaker of the U.S. House, announced that he's retiring soon, so he clearly has some free time available. His experience as a wrestling coach can only help.

Send the two of them to Springfield to force Blagojevich and the leaders of the General Assembly to understand that only the strong survive.

Maybe then we'll have peace in the valley.

In the meantime, Republicans, with nothing else to hearten them in the face of their own irrelevance, had their own day at the state fair last week.

All I needed was the rain, chirped Illinois GOP leader Andy McKenna, as a torrential downpour Thursday momentarily unified his own party under one sheltering tent.

But even the rain wasn't enough to wash away the weakness of Illinois Republicans.

In a state of almost 13 million citizens, they could muster fewer than 1,000 votes for their presidential straw poll when Iowa, a state with just 3 million citizens, could produce 14,000 interested GOP voters. Might as well rename Republican headquarters "Heartbreak Hotel."

The governor, meanwhile, may be the devil in disguise but he's not letting anybody see him sweat. Even though there is no capital budget, no utility rate relief, no CTA solution and no sensible funding remedy for our desperately unfunded pension liability, that's all right.

As Blagojevich sits at his desk in Springfield, there stands behind him a 3-foot tall statue of Elvis in that famous tight white suit, with hips cocked, hands locked around an electric guitar.

But even though the King's got his back, you have to wonder.

Governor, are you lonesome tonight?


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