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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to AP: Not a "perfect servant, I'm a public servant"

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson continued his annual custom visiting the Cook County Jail on Christmas and on this Christmas, his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) joined him and chatted with the Associated Press.

Jackson has been keeping a low profile for awhile: dragged into the Blagojevich mess and the subject of a Sun-Times story that raised questions about a "social acquaintance."

Jackson was re-elected Nov. 2 with 80.52 percent of the vote in the second congressional district.

Highlights of the AP interview:

"Every one of us has erred in their personal lives and while I don't claim
to be a perfect servant, I'm a public servant," Jackson told the AP. "Often
times we carry with us the burdens of our personal shortcomings even as we
struggle to articulate and clarify a message that helps other people. That
what I dedicated my life to."

Asked if he was worried about the political fallout of the Blagojevich retrial next year, Jackson Jr. said, "Preparing a case against Blagojevich is not a case against me."
"I entered public life to provide people with jobs. I have not deviated from
that mission one day in 15 years," he said. "The people of my district have
responded by re-electing me."

When asked if he'll seek higher office, Jackson said, "I'm honored to be in
public service

On the "social acquaintance"
"It was an immensely personal matter for us, which my wife and I handled in
the privacy of our home," the congressman told AP. "We've accepted
responsibility of being public people that there are elements of my life
that play out in public. . . . I'm grateful for a loving wife and loving
family."

Jackson told the detainees: "Everybody's falling short of the glory of God."

The AP interview


CHICAGO (AP) ‹ U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who has largely avoided the
public eye of late, said in a rare interview Saturday that he is a public
servant, not a perfect one, and didn't rule out a future run at higher
office.
Jackson, who has been dogged by links to the corruption case against former
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and questions about his own relationship with
a female "social acquaintance," told The Associated Press that he
continually struggles with his "personal shortcomings."
That includes mending his family relationships over the "immensely personal
matter" of the female acquaintance and assessing his political ambitions,
which once included Chicago mayor or U.S. senator.
"Every one of us has erred in their personal lives and while I don't claim
to be a perfect servant, I'm a public servant," Jackson told the AP. "Often
times we carry with us the burdens of our personal shortcomings even as we
struggle to articulate and clarify a message that helps other people. That
what I dedicated my life to."
The congressman spoke to the AP after delivering a rousing Christmas message
to hundreds of detainees at Cook County Boot Camp along with his father, the
Rev. Jesse Jackson. It was an unusual public appearance for the congressman.
He has repeatedly denied interview requests since 2008, when Blagojevich was
charged with trying to auction off President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate
seat to the highest bidder, and Jackson acknowledged that he was named in
the criminal complaint as a potential Senate candidate.
During the trial, prosecutors said the state's former international trade
director told them Jackson was at a meeting where a businessman discussed
fundraising for Blagojevich and Jackson's desire for the seat. Also,
Blagojevich's brother, Robert, testified that the same businessman had
offered to raise up to $6 million in exchange for Jackson's appointment.
Jackson hasn't been charged and has denied wrongdoing. But political experts
say his political future could hinge on the outcome of Blagojevich's
corruption retrial in April. The former governor, who denied wrongdoing, was
convicted earlier this year on one count of lying to the FBI.
Asked if he was worried about the political fallout of the retrial, he said,
"Preparing a case against Blagojevich is not a case against me."
"I entered public life to provide people with jobs. I have not deviated from
that mission one day in 15 years," he said. "The people of my district have
responded by re-electing me."
When asked if he'll seek higher office, Jackson said, "I'm honored to be in
public service."
Earlier this year, after Jackson's name surfaced as a possible contender to
replace the retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Chicago Sun-Times reported
that a businessman, who mentioned the $6 million, told the FBI that Jackson
asked him to buy plane tickets for a woman to visit Jackson.
Both Jackson and his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, acknowledged
Jackson's relationship with the woman.
"It was an immensely personal matter for us, which my wife and I handled in
the privacy of our home," the congressman told AP. "We've accepted
responsibility of being public people that there are elements of my life
that play out in public. . . . I'm grateful for a loving wife and loving
family."
The impact of the "social acquaintance" and Blagojevich connections were
undeniable on the campaign trail this year. Even though Jackson easily won
the largely black and mainly Democratic district, his Republican challenger
‹ who made the Jackson scandals the center of his campaign ‹ got attention
for the first time in recent memory.
Jackson also faced criticism from voters over the female acquaintance and
from community leaders and Republican opponent Isaac Hayes for not showing
his face enough in the district. Jackson didn't even hold an Election Night
party in November after he won an eighth full congressional term with 80
percent of the vote, opting to make brief appearances at other politicians'
parties.
The congressman, who first won his seat in a special election in 1995,
dismissed the criticism. He has said he will continue his pet project of
trying to bring a third airport to the Chicago area.
Saturday's event, where he spoke alongside his father, fellow Democrat U.S.
Rep. Danny Davis and prominent Chicago clergy, was a glimpse into the
younger Jackson's once highly visible political persona. He was a national
co-chair of the Obama presidential campaign.
Speaking with the charismatic style often associated with his civil rights
icon father, Jackson gave a wide-ranging address quoting Martin Luther King
Jr. and discussing education, the economy, jobs and even imperfection.
He told the detainees: "Everybody's falling short of the glory of God."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 25, 2010 7:07 PM.

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