November 4, 2005

OUCH! Sen. Jacobs compares himself to Rosa Parks

Note: This is a real story. I didn't make it up.

SPRINGFIELD -- In his quest to protect riverboat gambling in Illinois, Sen. Mike Jacobs has taken to comparing himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Sen. Jacobs is an East Moline Democrat and scion of a Quad-Cities political dynasty. Parks, who died last week, was a black Alabama seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white man who wanted her to sit at the back of the bus. She is often called the mother of the civil-rights movement.

Jacobs said the comparison is fair.

He noted he has been a senator for only six months and is standing up to powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, much as Parks stood up for her beliefs.

A measure to ban riverboat gambling passed out of the House last week, with the support of Madigan, who said the current system is broken because it has made millionaires of a small group but has not sufficiently benefited all Illinois residents.

"The Speaker is all wet. If the Speaker's bill passes, it will sink the economies of riverboat communities. I, for one, will stand up to this misguided effort," Jacobs said.

When asked if Jacobs' remarks were appropriate, Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, the only black participant in the news conference Thursday, said, "Sen. Jacobs feels what he feels -- I'm here to talk about the measure to abolish riverboat gambling."

The prospects for the legislation becoming law are miniscule. Senate President Emil Jones opposes the idea, and state government has become dependent on riverboat gambling revenues.

"It's a disservice to Rosa Parks to use her name in a gambling context. The senator's comments are at best ill-advised and at worst crass," said the Rev. Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

I hate to hear stuff like this. One wonders just how tone deaf our young Senator can get. We can hope that these mistakes are simply part of his learning process, but the fact is that this is but the most recent of many of them. Not good. His penchant for taking self-promotion to embarrassing levels is troubling and simply can't be a good thing for him in the long run.

One wonders why someone with the senator's best interests in mind hasn't been able to muzzle him and rein him in. Someone needs to impress upon him that he's coming across as someone who's trying way too hard, shows a whiff of desperation, and seems to have a need to appear to be something he's not, as if he's too eager to be loved. He seems to be impatient to become an elder statesman overnight, which of course is impossible.

Making it worse is the fact that none of this is necessary at all. Jacobs could easily make his actions and views known without resorting to the sort of wild statements he's becoming known for. If someone suggested that he compare himself to a sainted civil rights icon who has just died, that person should already be looking for a new gig, though I simply can't imagine anyone ever being that foolish.

I can only hope that maybe most people won't feel this is as big of a deal as I do. With any luck, it will soon be forgotten. I'd like to see Senator Jacobs succeed, so I wince when I read reports like this.

Especially where Jacobs says "I, for one, will stand up to this misguided effort." as if he's a martyr for the cause, when it says in the next paragraph that due to senate president Emil Jones' opposition, the bill has next to zero chance of passage anyway. Does it have to get this disingenuous?

But as someone who appreciates puns, Jacobs gets points for using the phrase "all wet" and "it will sink the economies of riverboat communities" in refering to riverboat gambling.

NOTE: Apparently, this isn't going down so well over at Rich Miller's Capitol Fax blog, or at John Beydler's "The Passing Parade".


At 11/04/2005 7:36 AM, Blogger diehard said...

Reports of other bizarre activities continue to pour in prior to this one Dope.

What do the voters think? Time will tell.

At 11/04/2005 8:01 AM, Blogger Dissenter said...

I, for one, think it is unfair of Dope to be so critical of Senator Jacobs. Like Gandhi, I prefer to search for the best qualities in all people. Like Gandhi, I refrain from denigrating those whom others consider to be bizarre or self-important. Now please excuse me while I change into a loincloth and drink my own urine.

At 11/04/2005 8:18 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I truly don't like to see this. And I hope that maybe I'm alone in feeling this is a big boo-boo.

Consider it "tough love". It would be worse to sit by and let someone continue to hurt themselves and do nothing, wouldn't it?

I'd like to see Sen. Jacobs become as well-liked and respected as he clearly would like to be.

If he continues to shoot himself in the foot like this, he won't have any feet left.

At 11/04/2005 10:14 AM, Blogger rope-a-dope said...

WAY over the top - kinda like when Mikey J broke into tears upon being appointed to his daddy's job. The political apointment process in Illinois is broken and Mikey J. is the "poster child" for reform!

At 11/04/2005 11:29 AM, Blogger shamalamadingdong21 said...

During a week of honoring the legacy of Rosa Parks it was absolutely appropriate to mention her in a speech. Sen. Jacobs did not compare himself to Rosa Parks, he compared his action of taking a stand against the powerful interests that control Illinois to Rosa Parks action of saying enough is enough. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat it was not a planned protest and she had no concept of the firestorm it started. However, her single act of peaceful, civil disobedience was one of thousands that helped change America. She became a symbol of that movement and it was never her intention.

I am so tired of the climate in our country which creates two sets of rules for speech. Race is nothing more than a social construct. If you compare the DNA of two people you can neither tell the race of either individual or any difference between the two.

We will never be a color blind society, just as we will never be a gender blind society. What we need is to be a conscious society and embrace the cultural differences that make us unique and diverse and which make America the land of opportunity.

We should all take a cue from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who stand up for what they beleive in and push back when something is wrong and offer a solution.

I do not wish to censor Mike Jacobs and the media, including the dope should get back to reporting the content of peoples thoughts and judge them by the content of their character and not the color of their speech. Sen. Jacobs may not be perfect but I prefer a public official that tries too hard and is willing to make mistakes to one who doesn't speak up and never takes a risk and never accomplishes anything.

Mike is working hard to advance the two largest economic boons our community could ever see, the new Casino Rock Island and Western Illinois University. Maybe twenty years from now gambling will have finished its economic cycle, but in the interim it will create jobs that provide health care,and tax dollars that will build new schools and educate our children. The future of our community IS comparable to the future of Rosa parks community and fighting for it IS an appropriate analogy to make and it honors Rosa Parks and is in no way disrespectful.

disclaimer: These random thoughts were not authorized or approved by Mike Jacobs for Senate, they are solely the opinion of this author and are subject to all copyright laws.

At 11/04/2005 11:30 AM, Blogger youngridemocrat said...

I guess some of these bloggers haven't dealt with the infamous legislative czar, Mike Madigan.
When you go up against him, you go up against the most powerful Democrat in Illinois. Period. End of story.

At 11/04/2005 2:10 PM, Blogger shamalamadingdong21 said...

young ri democrat. I think you are selling the Speaker a little short. The most powerful Democrat in Illinois is far more powerful than ANY Republican in Illinois and his power extends far beyond the borders of this state. The Speaker doesn't always get exactly what he wants but neither will anyone else. Absolutely nothing passes the House that hasn't been approved by the Speaker and he may be the only legislator in Illinois that personally reads the bills. I am not a fan and I don't always agee with his positions or his tactics, but I have great respect for his intellectual and political instincts and in the long run I think he has served the people of Illinois well and will continue to do so for a long, long time.

To take a public position against the Speaker and to ask for a fight is a far bigger story than the distraction being put out by the anti-gambling lobby and the sensationalism of the media.

At 11/04/2005 2:41 PM, Blogger Slack-jawed Yokel said...

I think the Dope went easy on the good Senator.

Shama, I'm surprised at you. Do you really think Sen. Jacobs did himself a favor by comparing himself to a recently passed civil rights legend? A legendary beacon of hope to an entire race and millions around the globe?

Can Sen. Jacobs comparing himself to Mother Teresa be far behind?

Suggesting as you do that drawing a moral figure like Rosa Parks into a gambling controversy is somehow proper and appropriate doesn't pass the laugh test, which I'm sure is why you felt the need to print a disclaimer that you're not on Jacobs' payroll.

You could ask Rosa Parks' heirs whether they think Sen. Jacobs' remarks were an "honor" to their "Mother Parks." Maybe that would enlighten you. But you really don't have to ask, as everyone knows what their answer would be.

Then there's the fact that the battle in which Sen. Jacobs casts himself as the lone valiant warrior simply doesn't exist. With Emil Jones vowing to defeat the anti-gambling measure in the senate, there's not a chance in hell it will ever pass. (which makes the comment about standing up to Madigan rather thin.)

When I see Sen. Jacobs getting arrested and convicted for standing up for his principles as Ms. Parks did, then he MIGHT have some justification in mentioning her name, but even then it would be a stretch.

Until then it's a shameful embarrassment which, I hope Sen. Jacobs now realizes was ill-considered.

To compare Jacobs non-efforts in this to the courageous and pricipled stand that Rosa Parks took is shameless. To compare trying to defend gambling interests in Illinois to putting your life on the line to demand that an entire race not be treated as second class citizens is appalling.

The Dope says he doesn't understand why Jacobs would say such things when he has no challengers into the future. Maybe it's exactly that fact that makes him reckless.

I like Jacobs straight talking style. But this stunt doesn't enlighten us, it only hurts him. It was avoidable if his ego and vivid imagination hadn't taken him into the twilight zone. That's what makes it a shame on a political level. I don't want our senator to risk getting a reputation as a buffoon due to his unfortunate statements.

At 11/04/2005 2:56 PM, Blogger Dissenter said...


You are not alone in feeling that this kind of statement is a big mistake and, quite frankly, it evidences a complete lack of ability to understand how statements like this are perceived by the general public. A political friend of mine in Chicago has already heard about this story, and forwarded it to me. How profoundly foolish.

At 11/04/2005 3:41 PM, Blogger Slack-jawed Yokel said...

In a way, it's a rookie mistake. Politics is a very difficult game in which making public statements is like skipping through a mine-field. Politicians need to be aware of how what they say will appear. It requires a great amount of self-control, disicpline, and sensitivity.

It appears Sen. Jacobs might be a little shy on those accounts.

Having to preview and consider your every word is unnatural and not easy, but the fact remains that if you want to be a state senator, you surely know it comes with the job.

I think it's inevitable that sometime or other, a politician will say something completely innocently which will come out all wrong. Even one of the most brilliant speakers, Sen. Durbin, got a taste of it with his remarks about our illegal torture of detainees.

Durbin is the Dem's go-to guy for stand up press briefings. Nobody's better at thinking on his feet and making on the spot statements. Yet even he said something which when taken out of context was able to be used against him.

Now Jacobs is in another league, granted, and it's a real stretch to suggest that his comments were taken out of context. It just seems that he wasn't thinking or had no clue as to the fact that comparing himself to someone like Parks (in the context of a gambling fight, for heaven's sake), would be a pretty distasteful thing to do and not reflect well on him. He should have realized this.

And further proof of his being tone deaf on this is the fact that he apparently was given a chance to put the remark in perspective, but instead, when asked directly about it, chose to say that, yes, the comparison was appropriate.

He had a second chance to get it right, and he didn't even see it, much less take advantage of it.

When you're in front of microphones, cameras, or reporters, it's as if you're on the stand in a courtroom. You watch what you say. This is incredibly stressful and difficult, no doubt. But how well a politician handles it is a measure of how successful a politician will be.

I guess my point is, nobody's perfect, and what seems harmless or even smart at the moment is often seen to be bone-headed in hindsight. We all have had many instances where we'd give our left leg to take something we've said back.

But the senator needs to show that he's learning on the job and at least has the capacity and knowledge to know at the time what is appropriate and what is not.

One can't help but wonder how limited Jacobs' knowledge of Rosa Park's role in the history of the civil rights struggle is that it would allow him to even think of making this unfortunate and insensitive comparison.

Jacobs shows no sign of having a sense of proportion when trying to promote himself and his actions and seems to think that there's simply no limit to it. He apparently thinks that when you get in front of a mic or reporters, you should make yourself out like you belong on Mount Rushmore. Don't hold back. No exageration or hype is too much. I hope he learns there are limits beyond which one sounds crass, distasteful, and frankly, foolish. You can only try to inflate yourself so much before it's insulting and a turn-off to your audience.

This should be considered a good learning opportunity for Sen. Jacobs.

At 11/04/2005 3:55 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

It appears that Sen. Jacobs tried to use the recent attention given to Rosa Parks to polish his image.

He could have simply said something to acknowledge Parks and honor her memory and then moved on. But trying to suggest his stand defending the gambling industry is in honor of Rosa Parks is... well... icky.

If you're going to attempt that delicate manuever, you better know what you're doing.

Unfortunately for Jacobs, it failed.

He'll live to make statements another day, and with any luck, we won't be reading about things like this anytime soon.

At 11/04/2005 6:43 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Frankly folks this doesn't pass the smell test and is an insult to anyone with a brain.

How in the heck he made this comparison is beyond imagination and sickens me.

I think he is too big for his britches!!

At 11/05/2005 9:44 AM, Blogger diehard said...

That's the slipperry slope Rock Island County has walked down with all of these appointments to office.
John Gianulis was scared to death of Denny Jacobs so he appointed "Mikeee" to the Senate!
Also Madigan gets what he deserves for not allowing the people of these legislative districts to have a choice at the ballot box!
And I'm really dissappointed in Mike Boland I thought he had more cahoonas than that!

At 11/06/2005 8:47 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

This is laughable that Mike Jacobs friends want to compare him to Ghandi now - and to defend his comparison to Rosa Parks? What are Shama and Dissenter smoking anyway???

Wow - this is just completely and totally over the top bad behaviour by Mike Jacobs who was not qualified to hold the bootsrap of many of the local pols in office or up for recent election(s) and it's so sad that many others were not even looked at for that Senate appointment and so we all got a fool instead for a Senator!

Now the public is seeing clearly how wrong Gianluas was in giving this kid the seat..... and we are all going to see Mike Jacobs loose at the ballot box very soon because he will continue to act like a little 5 year old at every turn like right now!

At 11/06/2005 10:39 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Maybe... please read all the comments before commenting yourself. Dissenter was being tongue-in-cheek in his allusion to Ghandi.

Also, you've more than made your views, feelings, and intense anger clear on these issues. Try not to repeat yourself.

At 11/12/2005 4:21 PM, Blogger CountyDemo said...

After reading what Sen. Jacobs actually said, this is nothing more than a hatchet job by the press!

The Dispatch will go to any length to sell a newspaper!


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