Change of Subject
October 14, 2012
Another collection of dispatches from Somebody Nobody Asked™, America's pre-eminent unsolicited advice columnist.
Dear Gov. Pat Quinn:
Don't panic about your lousy standing in the Tribune poll published Friday. True, just 26 percent of Illinois voters surveyed approve of the job you're doing, down from 30 percent in a similar poll conducted in February. But that's within the margins of error, and your disapproval rating — 52 percent — is actually two points better than earlier in the year.
And, as our story pointed out, it's roughly where you stood in public esteem in the fall of 2010 several weeks before you held onto office by squeaking past Republican challenger Bill Brady. And since then you've made a number of unpopular but arguably necessary moves, raising taxes and cutting services.
This is a tough state to lead, even in good times — city, suburban and Downstate interests collide across party lines; nothing gets done without a nod from House Speaker Michael Madigan — and these are not good times. Unemployment is rising and the pension crises (note plural) are destroying our bond rating and heaping new borrowing costs on hapless taxpayers.
I doubt that Brady or your 2010 Democratic primary challenger Dan Hynes would be receiving bouquets from the electorate at this point had they won. Still, assuming you want to be re-elected in two years, you need to look more like a leader and less like a moderator. Put forth specific, sound pension reform packages and gambling-expansion proposals, for example, then crusade for them as you used to crusade when you were but a citizen activist calling Sunday news conferences.
And stop picking ridiculous fights like the effort to install your former budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft as head of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority against the wishes of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
She may well be up to the job — she's certainly been professional and competent in my dealings with her — but given her lack of obvious other qualifications to run such an agency, the move to promote her doesn't look right and needlessly adds friction to your relationship with Emanuel. Drop it.
Yes, you know her and you trust her. But this effort is reminiscent of then-President George W. Bush's ill-fated attempt in 2005 to nominate White House counsel Harriet Miers, his former personal lawyer, to a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. A nice gesture on his part, but ...
But if you feel principle demands you persist, then please, stop playing the gender card, implying that those who are balking at this unusual promotion are doing so because Kraft is a woman. It cheapens your case.
And come forward with the details behind Kraft's 2009 bankruptcy. When the Tribune inquired about the circumstances when first reporting this story earlier this month, your office released a statement attributing her financial woes to a "difficult personal situation" that has now been resolved.
We understand that bankruptcy is not necessarily the result of irresponsibility and carelessness. Family issues, medical issues and unpredictable setbacks of all sorts can suck people into debt, and reaching the bottom ought not disqualify them from later holding positions of trust and authority. Indeed bankruptcy laws are designed to offer fresh starts and clean slates.
But we also understand that the executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority has got to be a good manager of money.
Leave "Peanuts" alone, you blockheads! Last week, 20th Century Fox announced that it's bought the rights to Charles M. Schulz's famed comic strip and plans to turn it into a Christmas-season feature film in 2015.
Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang were funny and groundbreaking once upon a time, but "Peanuts" became little more than a quaint oasis of whimsy even before Schulz died and new strips stopped coming in 2000. It belongs to the past, property of an era and sensibilities gone by. Updating or reviving it, particularly without Schulz's creative control, risks spoiling the memories.
Dear Obama campaign:
Stop using the T-word — "trillion" — and start using the S-word — "severely."
Mitt Romney and his team have managed to confuse the budget-plan issue by challenging your oft-repeated assertion that he's planning a "$5 trillion tax cut."
In fact, of course, Romney's planning a 20 percent cut in personal income tax rates and other changes in the code that, in isolation, will reduce federal revenues by nearly $5 trillion. But he's also planning to eliminate unspecified deductions and exemptions so, in the end, federal revenues will be the same as they are now.
The problem with "trillion" is that it's an unimaginable number. President Ronald Reagan famously told Congress in 1981 that $1 trillion equals "a stack of thousand-dollar bills 67 miles high," an image that's both dubious — others have challenged the calculation — and vague in its own right — who can envision what a 67-mile high stack looks like?
Better to stick with 20 percent and point out, as often as you have to, that to balance out such a rate reduction most analysts believe Romney will have to cut deeply in very popular areas. If he says otherwise, make him prove it with hard numbers.
And while you're at it, ask him to clarify his boast earlier this year in front of a hard-right audience that he was a "severely conservative governor" of Massachusetts. Does he plan to be a "severely conservative" president of the United States?
Yes, when you ask Americans to pick a political label, conservatives outnumber liberals 2 to 1 in recent polling. But that number includes conservative Democrats and, surely, a healthy chunk who would nevertheless recoil at the term "severe." And remember, self-defined liberals plus moderates equal 56 percent of the electorate.
Imagine if President Obama had even once in his entire adult life described himself as "extremely liberal." It would be the permanent headline on the Drudge Report.
Dear readers with nutty friends:
Instead of forwarding along with eager credulity all the wild tales and conspiracy theories that land in your email in-box — "President Obama has gotten rid of the National Day of Prayer!!" and the like — take a minute and go to snopes.com, the Internet's leading myth-buster.
Nineteen times out of 20 you'll find the rumor is old and mostly or completely false. Reply-all with the link, and include a little wag of your finger.
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