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Welcome Rezko Watch Readers!

A big thank you to blogfriend Pundita for sending Rezko Watch readers my way!

Generally, local poltics are not my primary interest but for Rezko Watch readers outside of Illinois who are interested in the background of Chicago’s unique brand of politics, they might want to check out the following sources:

American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley – His Battle for Chicago and the Nation by Adam Cohen, Elizabeth Taylor

An excellent, highly detailed, social and political history both of the city of Chicago as well as the rise to power of the first, legendary, Mayor Daley, and his iron fisted rule over the Democratic Machine. The Shakman Decrees have changed he rules of the game  in the city of Chicago but the current Mayor, Richard M. Daley has adapted and is, in some ways, even more powerful than his larger than life father.

Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko

This book is a shorter but far more colorful and grittier read. Penned by the late Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko, it is filled with a cast of infamous Chicago characters such as Ed Kelly, Tony Accardo, Paddy Bauler, Cardinal Cody, William Dawson, John D’ Arco, Tom Keane, Charlie Swibel, Benjamin Adamowski and Saul Alinsky. Incidentally, Mayor Daley reportedly hated Royko for writing this book.

Chicago: City on the Make: 50th Anniversary Edition, Newly Annotated by Nelson Algren

One of Chicago’s great writers, as well as a friend of Royko’s, Algren painted a bitter picture of the Machine at the zenith of it’s power and corruption.

For contemporary coverage of the underworld of Chicago politics, I recommend former City Hall beat reporter turned columnist for The Chicago Tribune, John Kass. Kass is well versed in the current array of ward heelers, mobbed-up businessmen, buffoonish aldermen, ex-gangster disciples, crooked cops, shadowy fixers and Outfit soldiers under the latest Federal investigations (it’s a lot to keep track of).

” Chicago ain’t ready for reform!”  – Alderman Paddy Bauler, 1955.

7 Responses to “Welcome Rezko Watch Readers!”

  1. Eddie Says:

    Traffic is great but the paranoia on that RW site is outpacing even the MyDD/Kos crowd.Btw, I’m fascinated by how Chicago and other American urban machine politics is widely found in Mexico, India, Brazil, etc.  I will look for the books you suggest at my library to expand my understanding of the American brand first. 

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Eddie,
    Yes, RW is a heavy-handed anti-Obama site but OTOH, no one forced Obama to align himself with Rezko and now the chips are falling. My guess is that for Obama at the time, just out of law school, Rezko seemed a better, safer, choice as a patron, given his bipartisan/downstate/transnational ties than an only-Chicago fixer who might be too close to guys nicknamed "Joey the Clown" or "Big Tuna". Plus, you can’t just waltz in to Chicago and start a political career on your own; the old adage " We don’t want nobody that nobody sent" still holds true in the Daley Machine. If you want to start any higher than campaign volunteer, you need a connection with some clout and Rezko had some clout.
    American Pharoah is scholarly, meticulously done by authors who are left-of-center while the Algren book is literary. They’re all good however.

  3. Dave Schuler Says:

    Say, Mark, have I mentioned that Royko used to live six doors down from where we live?  He was here when we moved in 20 some-odd years ago but his new wife made him move to an ultra-ritzy North Shore suburb.

  4. Lexington Green Says:

    One of the best books about Chicago, not about the machine, but about why Chicago even exists in the first place, is Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, by William Cronon. 


  5. patrick Says:

    I don’t know how much harm Rezko will do to Obama. If people remember McCain’s relationship with Charles Keating, it can’t be much.  On the other hand,  the Abramoff scandal  seems to have hurt the GOP significantly in ’06. One could also argue that the party had to contend with an unpopular war being waged ineptly, a tragically inept response to the country’s biggest natural disaster in decades, and other sex- and corruption-related scandals (e.g. Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley).
    Obama’s recent talk about distancing himself from lobbyists seems in part to be an attempt to mitigate the damage from his association with Rezko (who, along with Abramoff, embodies all the negative connotations the term has acquired.) McCain’s support for CFR was an attempt to redeem his reputation after the Keating 5 scandal.

  6. zen Says:

    Hey Dave,
    No you haven’t. Did you talk to Royko much ? I grew up reading his columns.
    Hey Lex,
    Agreed. That’s a great book for Chicago history, read it back in grad school. Wish I had thought of that myself. A great add !
    Hi Patrick,
    I think Katrina was the event that made "incompetent" a global impression about the Bush administration – certainly, it was the political turning point – it tied disparate issues that ppl were unhappy with Bush about together in a conceptual package. How you handle a scandal is often as determinative as the substance of the scandal itself.
    Obama, so far, has escaped excessive damage from Rezko, unlike Gov. Blagojevic who, I expect, will be facing a grand jury himself before his term is up. OTOH, the Vegas checks trial could drop some shoes if Rezko’s money trail goes to either the Chicago Outfit or "hawala" in the Mideast ( or somewhere else equally unsavory – Rezko wasn’t just a slumlord, he was the energizer bunny of shady ties)

  7. Eddie Says:

    Lex, That books looks incredibly appealing. Thank you for sharing that suggestion!Obama as Illinois governor later on if he loses in November?I feel for the people of Illinois, Gov. Blagojevic seems like a real piece of work and hopefully will join ex-Gov. Ryan where he belongs. On the other hand, the governor we deal with in NC (Mike Easley) is the poster boy for an older age of governance hopefully long past, though the less governors tend to do may sometimes be for the better.

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