Kadner: Rep. Jackson must answer questions
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org September 20, 2012 8:36PM
Jesse Jackson Jr.
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:21AM
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) needs to appear in public and address questions about his fitness for office.
Listen, Jackson can win re-election without facing questions from the news media or reassuring voters.
That’s how popular he is in a district crafted to predetermine the outcome of his congressional race.
That’s the power of the Jackson family name.
But Jackson ought to want more than that. And he must realize there is a responsibility and accountability that comes with holding public office.
An impression has been created, through statements released to the news media, that Jackson is no longer capable of making decisions for himself.
There is an appearance that his wife, Sandi Jackson, a Chicago alderwoman, is making all the important decisions for him.
If that’s in fact the case, Jesse Jackson Jr. should step down as congressman.
While every elected official relies heavily on the counsel of family and political associates, they are ultimately expected to determine for themselves how to vote and what issues to advocate or oppose.
There has been no evidence since Jackson took his medical leave of absence from Congress several months ago that he is capable of making such decisions on his own.
If Jackson plans on returning to Congress after the November election, he should make it clear immediately that he is capable of fulfilling his duties.
Some people have compared Jackson’s health problems to those of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and noted that Kirk has released videotapes demonstrating his recovery process and has occasionally issued position statements.
Jackson’s health issues are different than those of Kirk, who suffered a stroke.
Most importantly, Kirk is not seeking re-election in November.
Jackson has put his Washington, D.C. home up for sale, fueling speculation that he doesn’t plan to serve another term in Congress.
If that is a decision he and family members have made, the public should be told now.
In my last column on Jackson’s health, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
I said that there was ample evidence to believe Jackson had suffered a mental breakdown and he should be given adequate time to recover.
That time period is over.
There are many who cynically suggest the congressman’s health issues have been fabricated or exaggerated to avoid criminal prosecution or discipline for ethics violations by his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I do not subscribe to that theory.
There are others who argue he is part of some devious plot by Chicago political kingpins to fill his seat with some flunky of their choosing.
That’s possible, but the fact is Jackson has battled the Chicago political machine for more than a decade and did so to initially win his congressional seat.
Even the aldermanic campaign of his wife was first launched as a Jackson initiative to erode the power of traditional Democratic kingpins within his congressional district.
I also am skeptical that Jackson intends to hand over his congressional seat to his wife, who does not have to run for re-election every two years as an alderwoman nor travel between Washington, D.C. and Chicago on a regular basis.
But all of the guesswork and rumors are understandable given the lack of verifiable information coming out of the Jackson camp.
It certainly appears to outsiders at this point that Jackson is now merely a puppet of family members who, however well-intentioned, are doing a disservice to him if he is to continue as a public figure.
And in that role as a public person, Jackson can have an enormous impact on the debate over national health care.
A statement issued by his office claimed, “Like millions of Americans, Congressman Jackson and Mrs. Jackson are grappling with soaring health care costs and are selling their residence to help defray costs of their obligations.”
Many people scoff at such a claim because they’re under the impression that members of Congress are covered by the Cadillac of health insurance plans.
But there are loopholes in even the best insurance plans that people only discover when they file financial claims.
My understanding is that congressmen, like all federal employees, are given a choice of about 10 different plans to participate in.
It’s not single-payer government insurance. It’s insurance provided by private companies subsidized by tax dollars but includes a range of payroll deductions, co-pays, fee-for-service plans and HMOs.
Jackson ought to explain to people why his mental health care or hospitalization was not covered and if he realized that when he signed up for his insurance plan.
Given the national debate over health insurance, that might be some of the most important information he could relay to the public, if the statements released by his office are true.
If Jackson feels he cannot face the news media or deal with public pressure, he should resign or at least announce he will not accept another term in office.
But he must come out of hiding. He needs to convince critics and reassure supporters that he is capable of making his own decisions.
The people of his district need someone who can vigorously, independently and intelligently represent their interests.
Jackson owes a debt of gratitude to his constituents. All they want is some straight talk from the man they put in office.