November 2, 2008
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
If I weren't already convinced that this election is like no other in our history, two people I know very well made the case for me last week.
Because neither wants to be identified, I'll call them Voter No. 1 and Voter No. 2.
The only thing these two men have in common is that they're white. Otherwise, they're from different planets.
Voter No. 1, an attorney, spoke movingly last week of going to an early voting location in Evanston. There, he said, he was overcome with the momentousness of marking his ballot for Barack Obama. And, he said, he watched all kinds of people wait for hours for the chance to do the same.
"One person in line," said Voter No. 1, "was an African-American man of about 60. He looked like he might have been a maintenance worker, he had a uniform with his name on it. And he kept looking at his watch as though he was late for work. But when that man came out of the voting booth, I saw his hand shake as he dropped the ballot in the box and I saw the emotion in his eyes."
OK, you say, classic liberal-speak.
But it's my friend, Voter No. 2, who may really tell the story of this election. He is 64 and -- to put it as nicely as possible -- is rabidly racially intolerant. Though he works with black people and is friendly to black people, in his heart of hearts he cannot see past the color of their skin. And yet, on Thursday, Voter No. 2 quietly confided, "I'm voting for him."
Obama? My jaw dropped.
"Don't get me wrong," said Voter No. 2. "It's not that I'm not nervous about him, but he seems like he might do the right thing. And if he put this country back in the right direction, well, God bless him."
Like I said, an election like no other.
Bill and Ed
Then again, some things never change. Last week, under-the-radar, richer-than-rich bipartisan political power broker Bill Cellini was indicted. The charge is that he extorted an investment firm seeking business with the state, allegedly on behalf of funneling campaign contributions to Gov. Blagojevich.
Meanwhile Ed Vrdolyak, an equally under-the-radar running buddy of Cellini's, goes on trial on Election Day. Vrdolyak, former 10th Ward alderman and a former Democrat turned Republican, has made many millions himself. The government charges involve an allegedly fixed real estate contract and kickbacks.
The indictment of Cellini and the trial of Vrdolyak only amp up the pressure on the governor because at the core of it all is Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who already has been convicted of federal corruption charges and who faces two more trials.
Rezko, as Blagojevich's prime fund-raiser and adviser, is according to Sun-Times sources, finalizing the terms of his cooperation with the feds. Bigger indictments are on the horizon.
But this trio -- Rezko, Cellini, Vrdolyak -- demonstrated for decades the No. 1 rule in Illinois politics: that in government, the lower your public profile, the higher your net worth.
Finally, a few words to and about Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. He had barely finished his speech to the City Club of Chicago on Wednesday when people started texting and e-mailing me his remarks.
"I'll tell you right now, I think Carol Marin is working for Forrest Claypool," chirped Stroger. "She's just his PR person."
Claypool, one of a small band of independent county commissioners, gives the president fits. Claypool -- along with colleagues Mike Quigley and Tony Peraica -- demands fiscal accountability. The most recent case is Project Shield, a $41 million federal Homeland Security grant, the spending of which the feds are investigating.
Accountability is an oxymoron in county government.
But for the record, Mr. President, I'm not on anybody's PR payroll. Not his. Not yours.