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Editorial: Jesse Jackson Jr. threw it all away

Updated: March 17, 2013 6:44PM



What a waste.

Jesse Jackson Jr., had it all. Good schools, the best connections, the best name.

The name alone guaranteed him a safe seat in Congress for life, a staging point from which to run for mayor of Chicago or the U.S. Senate.

In 1997, Newsweek wondered if he would be the first black president.

And what a terrific congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. promised to be. From the day he was elected in 1995 from the Second District, he was a star. He made a point of never missing a floor vote. He got a plum seat on the Appropriations Committee. Had he done nothing but stay in Congress, he could have built seniority, broadened his influence and one day run the show.

And make no mistake, Jackson Jr. had the chops to do it. He was smart and charismatic. He worked hard. He was his father’s son, yes, but much more. He had his own ideas, his own notions and ways.

And then he threw it all away. Starting in 2008, Jackson Jr. all but disappeared from public view, ducking the rumors and allegations that he had schemed to buy a Senate seat from Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Now, on Friday, the feds busted him for good. They filed charges, to which he has agreed to plead guilty, that he broke the law by mispending $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

That’s a lot of money. That’s no oversight, no accident, no bookkeeping error.

This was Jesse Jackson Jr.’s problem: He grew up the favored son of a favored man. He was a somebody while still in the cradle. And he treated himself like a favored son, with a misplaced sense of entitlement. There was, according to the charging documents, the $4,600 Michael Jackson fedora. The $43,350 Rolex watch. The $10,105 in Bruce Lee memorabilia. The $2,775 in Jimi Hendrix memorabilia. The $1,500 cashmere cape — that must have been for somebody else.

We’re told the man is mentally ill. We’re told he has bipolar disorder. We say, sincerely, that we hope he recovers. But federal judges are funny about that, kind of slow to forgive and forget. A judge may recommend that Jackson Jr. receive psychiatric help, but probably from a prison shrink.

Jackson Jr., who resigned from Congress in November, faces 46 to 57 months in prison. His wife, Sandi, who resigned as Seventh Ward alderman last month, was charged with a single count of filing joint false tax returns. Her lawyer said she signed a plea deal Friday.

All of this means misery for Jackson Jr. He’ll sit in a prison cell, yearning to see his children, knowing he threw it all away.

What a waste.



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