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Thursday, May 20, 2010 12:59 am

In Illinois politics, it’s Goofballs vs. Goofballs

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Pat Quinn, Bill Brady and Scott Lee Cohen

It occurred to me not long ago that the best analogy for this year’s governor’s race would be if the Washington Generals played the Washington Generals.

The Washington Generals basketball team was formed in the 1950s specifically to play solely against the Harlem Globetrotters. The Generals lost more than 13,000 games in the ensuing decades and won just a handful. All of those wins were due mainly to luck. If you ever saw them play, you know that the hapless team just couldn’t do anything right. They were comedic in their supreme ineptness.

A Washington Generals split squad game would surely be a sight to behold. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to imagine such a spectacle. We’ve got one right here in Illinois.

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn spoke to throngs of angry union members at the site of a factory which is being retooled in part by out-of-state workers. Unions have been quite unhappy about the use of nonunion employees from other states and have been protesting for weeks.

“When there’s a job to be done,” Quinn told the union members, “look to Illinois workers because they are second to none.”

The very next day, Quinn finally announced the hiring of his new campaign manager – a young out-of-stater who has never run an Illinois campaign. His main claim to fame is that he works for the Wisconsin lieutenant governor. Before pursuing that guy, Quinn tried to hire someone from Kentucky, but was politely turned down.

If this “Factories should hire Illinois workers but I don’t have to” gaffe was an isolated case, then it would be no big deal. But Quinn has stumbled time and time again, to the point where he nearly lost his Democratic primary race after leading by more than 30 points. Like the Generals’ rare victories, Quinn lucked into his win.

And then there’s Bill Brady, who earlier this month challenged reporters to “find the tape” of him even once supporting a 10 percent across the board budget cut. Brady insisted he’d never said it. My intern Dan Weber found the tape quickly because Brady has made the across the board cut proposal literally dozens of times. Only a Washington General wannabe could make a goofy mistake like that. It almost looked like he did it on purpose, kinda like how the Generals stood around listlessly while the Globetrotters performed their awesome comedy routines.

Again, this is no isolated case. Brady, like Quinn, has a history of giving his opponent sweet little gifts, like introducing a puppy and kitty mass killing legalization bill right after he won his primary by 200-odd votes. A few months ago, Brady spoke in favor of a massive pension borrowing scheme. This month, he lobbied hard against a much smaller version supported by Gov. Quinn, claiming it was the wrong thing to do.

It’s no wonder that some top labor union officials have mulled the idea of backing Green Party nominee Rich Whitney this fall. Trouble is, Whitney can’t even manage to get himself into the Washington Generals split-squad game that’s playing out in front of our eyes. He’s that inept. Too often, people like him would rather “lose the good fight” than even consider the possibility of trying to actually win. Winning is so dirty and dishonorable. It’s not to be comprehended.

That brings us to Scott Lee Cohen, he of the oh-so-weird and allegedly violent, steroid-using past, who announced an independent candidacy for governor this month. He then chose Baxter Swilley as his running mate. Swilley was Cohen’s spokesperson during his post-lt. governor primary meltdown. One can’t help but wonder whether Swilley will remain on Cohen’s payroll, and whether that would be the only way Cohen could ever persuade someone other than a total whack job to run with him. Cohen seems more intent on getting in on some of that Rod Blagojevich national clown show action now that Blagojevich’s trial is about to start, rather than actually winning this race.

The unmistakable conclusion from all this is that whichever candidate wins this November, we’re gonna have a goofball running this state for at least four years. God help us all.

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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