The Right Politics

Becoming as big a sensation as “Where’s Waldo” has been for the past twenty-five years, the nation has been asking “Where’s Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.” – and with very good reason.

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U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., has been AWOL for more than a month from his duties as an elected official in the U.S. Congress. While die-hard liberal and Democratic supporters of Jackson are saying “so what”, others are obviously asking “how many Americans can disappear from work for a month without explaining why” and still have a job and a paycheck at the end of the month?

The story was conceived in the final days of June. It was disturbing to realize that Rep. Jackson had been away from his job for over two weeks before hardly anyone even knew he was gone. That’s right, the story didn’t even see the light of daily headlines until persons in Congress started asking: “Where’s Jesse?”

It was then that questions were referred to his Chicago office – where he was elected to office and where his constituents live. The response from his office was that Jackson had been on medical leave since June 10 – more than two weeks before a word was spoken to the public-at-large. They also reassured constituents that his office was open and local people would be served “sans” Jackson.

After two more weeks of continued pressure from Jackson’s constituents, fellow-politicians and the media, it was revealed that the medical concern of Jackson’s was “exhaustion”.

Being the curious creatures human beings are, the added information only raised more questions. Two weeks later, the same constituents, fellow-politicians, and now the country continued to ask “Where’s Jesse?”

After an incredible amount of pressure, Jackson’s camp released additional information today. The added information was only added after alleged false information hit the media mid-day suggesting that Jackson has been in alcohol or drug abuse rehabilitation. It apparently took those rumors sweeping the media to force the release of more information regarding Rep. Jackson.

If Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and other politicians learn anything from this latest Jackson family episode, it’s that you can run and you can hide – but it’s only going to make things worse for you.

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Had Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. simply said something like “I need to take the summer off because….” the story would most likely be a nearly dead issue by now. But instead, Rep. Jesse Jackson has allowed the “Where’s Jesse” headlines to run for weeks – much too long.

The initial speculation of his disappearance was that the “heat” surrounding his congressional investigation was more than heat – and now ablaze. That investigation alleged that Rep. Jackson’s wrongdoings involved disgraced and imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sale of Obama’s senate seat. There are extremely strong allegations that the representative had knowledge of hefty deals being planned to get him the senate seat. Besides that, there are also alleged tax concerns for the representative which are still unanswered and need to be addressed.

In other words, there is a logical list of reasons why Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. would want to disappear, and those who speculate have been covering all of the reasons. This past week, his father – the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. – said that the matter is private and information will be provided to the public at a future date. Well, to the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and anyone else who is making these poor decisions to keep the matter private, the truth can’t possibly be worse than the horrendous speculation the politician’s absence has caused already.

While the Jackson camp now says the representative’s concern is a mood disorder, it is a vague comment as a mood disorder covers a wide range of mental issues. For Congress and Jackson’s constituents to get a handle on how and when Jackson will return to work, more information is desired.

So, for the good of Rep. Jackson and to the fairness of his constituents who deserve to know why they have had an inactive congressman all summer, spit it out. Even though a little bit more of the story continues to be released – every two weeks – the relentless media and Jackson’s constituents don’t play games. They want to know what’s going on with their representative.

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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