Friday, July 22, 2005

Axelrod: In Defense of Corruption, Part 2?

David Axelrod, of AKP Message and Media, and long standing media and political consultant to Mayor Daley as well as many other pols, locally [e.g., U. S. Senator Barack Obama] and nationally [New York Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer], came out swinging on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight earlier this week, as he seemed to set the stage for the evolving response of the beleaguered Daley machine.

The Axelrod/Daley arguments are quite simple:

(1) Daley does not involve himself in politics, he just does government [Kind of the flipside of Democratic campaign consultant and Blagojevich media message/direct mail guru Pete Giangreco, who doesn't do government]. But, Mayor Daley doesn’t know how various people end up heading the City of Chicago departments or its sub-units, official and unofficial e.g., Intergovernmental Affairs, Personnel, Street and Sans, Sewers, Aviation, Water, Hired Truck, Hired Tow, HDO and of course Mayor Daley doesn’t know how the Department heads do their jobs or how a bunch of politically connected campaign workers might get jobs in such departments in the Daley Administration.

(2) Don’t none of you upstarts [like the BGA’s Jay Stewart ] get wise with us, we have been here 17 years and we know what’s good for the City. How long you been here, Jay? What could you possibly know?

(3) You want change? I’ll give you change, I’ll give you computerized, civil service employees- but if we do that, don’t expect your garbage picked up, your streets plowed, your kids educated, your water delivered and your friends elected [See here, McCarron Gives Daley a pass, or alternatively, McCarron: In defense of Corruption, Part 1].


(4)Don’t be picking on Iraq War veterans [who coincidentally happened to be “politically connected,”] and who we promoted by pretending to do a face to face, in person, interview when the employee happened to be in Iraq—really Jay, how could you raise such a thing? Where is your sense of patriotism? That’s all we were doing, trying to give some hiring points for this guy being a veteran. So, the Daley Administration fabricated an interview? What are you gonna do? Make a federal case out of it? Criminalize what should be a slight civil fine, if anything. My God, man, get a grip. Don’t you know anything about Chicago, government and politics. I wrote the book on this stuff. Really. You should read it.
It was a masterful performance by David Axelrod, and the thing of it was—he wasn’t performing. He would do it for free. And, maybe he was.

We’ve been inviting David Axelrod on “Public Affairs,” for the last eight months and he said he would do our show, and he even set a date-- but then he cancelled and he wouldn’t reschedule, his assistant said he didn’t have the time for “fun things,” like “Public Affairs,” as he had too much work to do. But, it sure seemed like Axelrod was having fun on Chicago Tonight. We hope Mr. Axelrod will reconsider, as do our viewers. I can assure him that I can make it as much fun as Jay Stewart and Carlos Hernandez-Gomez, maybe even more.
Chicago Tonight Segment Moderator Phil Ponce: David, how credible is it when the Mayor says he has no knowledge of what was going on?

David Axelrod: If you’ve spent as much time with him as I have, over 17 years, it’s actually very credible to me because I have been in meetings with him for 17 years, I have never heard him talk about jobs…never heard him talk about contracts, all I hear him talk about are fences and roof gardens and parks and libraries and schools…
Carlos Hernandez-Gomez [Political Editor, Chicago Public Radio]: …It always seems to take federal prosecutors to make something happen, whether it is the Shakman decree, thirty years ago, to work on patronage—

Axelrod: That wasn’t federal prosecutors, that was a private suit.

Hernandez-Gomez: Or the federal courts, I’m sorry.

Axelrod: That’s a civil matter, yeah.

Jay Stewart: They--were forced into it, as in virtually every major reform- this [Daley] administration has been forced into by scandal, or as in this case, criminal investigation.

Axelrod: I don’t know how long you have been in town, Jay, because I have been here since the beginning—the first thing that happened in this administration were budget cuts…new safeguards on hiring and so and—

Stewart: Apparently, the safeguards did not work.

Axelrod: Apparently, they didn’t; Apparently, they didn’t- and- in all cases. I think you are going to see some dramatic, new changes.
Stewart: … Their [City of Chicago] jobs are not supposed to be determined on political merit alone. And, that was the tenor of yesterday’s complaint [filed by the U. S. Attorney]. Not that politics played a role, [but] that it played a predominant role [in getting city jobs or promotions].

Axelrod: But the fact- the fact is--when you say, well, uh, interviews were, interviews were rigged, and so on—

Stewart: I didn’t say it. The U. S. Attorney’s office did.

Axelrod: I understand that. I understand that. And, presumably they’ll try to prove it. But, interviews are a subjective process. So, the fact is, you can almost—almost anything you do, if you want to—

Stewart: Like the guy [being interviewed] who was out of the country?

Axelrod: If you want to impute politics—yeah, that’s true, the Iraq veteran who got-- the Iraq soldier who got promoted, I’d like to see them take the case to court and get a jury to convict him for promoting a, for promoting this guy-- who happened to be in Iraq at the time—that he got promoted- but in any case, my question for you [Jay] is, uh, why not- you can impute politics to almost anything, so why not just-- just blow up the whole thing and just say, “let’s have a computer pick people.” Would that be progress? Would that be progress?

Stewart: Whatever the system is, I would like a Shakman type decree, so we don’t have to depend on this [Daley] administration to—

Axelrod: But, if we do—

Ponce: Hold on, gentlemen…
Panel Discussion on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, July 19, 2005
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at