Monday, December 22, 2008

It Feels This Cold

I'm a Chicagoan through and through, but this weekend is bruuuutal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Leo McGarry

I wrote over the past summer...

Think when any of us become a fan of a TV show, sports team, band, whatever, you feel a bond and connection with the people involved. Most of the time you never get a chance to meet or know them as people but you care about them.

Four years ago today John Spencer passed away. Spencer played White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry in President Josiah Bartlett's White House on the TV show The West Wing.

This blog was named after an episode of The West Wing and many of the posts on this blog reference one of TV's greatest show. John Spencer's portrayal of Leo McGarry was a character to whom I related and tried to emulate when I worked on campaigns.

Some people ask me,, 'who was your favorite character on the show?' I always answer it like a parent talks about their kids. "I really love them all, and they could all be my favorite at any time."

The real answer above is true. I loved them all, but it was Leo who was consistently my favorite. He was the guy I wanted to be when I was tossing my lot into the political world. More pragmatist than idealogue, more team builder, than team agitator.

I'll never forget when I interviewed for a job with John Hancock after college to be a financial analyst. I was asked one of those ridiculous questions you get asked in interviews,,, "What is your dream job?"

My answer at the time was "White House Chief of Staff."

The main reason I even knew what this job was,,, was due to The West Wing and how I viewed Leo McGarry.

As those who watch the show are aware, Spencer passed away in the middle of the last season of The West Wing while his character was the Democratic Nominee for Vice President. The story is that if Spencer would have lived, that the Republican nominee Arnold Vinnick (played by Alan Alda) would have won the election.

But after Spencer's death the writers decided to write McGarry's death into the storyline and the Democrat Nominee Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) ended up as the winner of the election.

Considering that I almost named this blog, I feel that the 16th of December 16 will always be an appropriate day to pass along some of the wisdom of Leo .

While the YouTube video below is not of the best quality it is a great collection of clips and always love watching the reaction of fellow cast members (Bradley Whitford in particular) when he won his Emmy for one of the great episodes in West Wing history "Bartlet for America". Links to other Spencer tributes are listed below.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No (expletive) Surprise

Talked to some friends of mine from outside my home state of Illinois yesterday who all thought that they would find a reaction of shock, embarrassment, and surprise about the news of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich arrest.

The truth is this,,,

17people and most everyone in the state of Illinois is not the least bit surprised. 'Blago' as he is referred to by many around here is a very unpopular figure in the state (13% in some approval polls) and was a major reason that Illinois considered a Constitutional Convention in the past year (it failed). The Chicago Tribune (a target of Blago) was pushing for a 'recall' mechanism for the citizens of Illinois.

So the black eye for Illinois in this whole deal is this... Why did this piece of shit get elected twice?

17people readily admits to have voted for Blago in two General Elections. In his 1st primary 17people supported former Chicago School Board President and fellow Greek American Paul Vallas. Blago had significant institutional support from his powerhouse Chicago Alderman father in law Richard 'Dick' Mell (who interestingly disowned Blago about 5 years ago).

Also of note in the 2002 primary,,, State Senator Barack Obama endorsed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris against Blago.

When Blago ran in that first General Election in 2002 he was the Democratic Nominee following the administration of a Republican Governor who as most people know,,, is also in jail. That guys name was George Ryan. The last name of the Republican that Blago ran against in 2002,,, also Ryan (Jim Ryan, no relation), but the stigma was there. Bottom line there was no chance the Democrats could have lost that election.

Four years later the Illinois Republican party, still scarred by George Ryan had a bloody primary where State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka was elected the nominee. Blago had about $17million in his campaign war chest and blasted Topinka, who was not a very good candidate.

What I say about Blago's two elections is similar to what I say about President Bush. Voters, myself included, got what we deserved. Blago has done some good things, like increase education funding and fund children's health care.

However, people I know that know Blago have said his arrogance and borderline sociopathic tendencies make him a detestable person.

Which is why instead of shame and embarrassment, feel like many Illinoisan's like me are glad that the justice department did what they are supposed to do...

Find the bad guys and put them away.

Good riddance Blago.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama Economic Team=Stimulus,,, for a Week

Last week we saw a strong rally for the stock market.

There are a number of factors for this bump, but think that the biggest factor was President Elect Obama announcing a very impressive economic team.

Tim Geithner looks to be a respected and well thought of pick to be the Treasury Secretary. The pick also avoids a messy confirmation that would have taken place had Larry Summers been the choice. Summers considered to be one of the great economic minds in the world will be a part of the Obama Economic team as head of the National Economic Council.

What was most encouraging to me was that Obama's other appointments seemed to be applauded by people on both sides of the political spectrum and attacked by those on both ideological wings. Peter Orszag as Director of the Office of Management and Budget after running the Congressional Budget Office. While a lower level appointee than some it is nice to see someone with impeccable qualifications get an important job like this.

Former Federal Reserve Chair, the brilliant Paul Volcker will Chair the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Volcker is a Hall of Famer when it comes to his track record and knowledge. He became a bit maligned during the Greenspan time at the Fed, but was one of the few people out there warning of the mess we are now in,,, before it happened.

The economic team is loaded with talent and experience.

Now they need to deliver stability to the economy.

Can't think of anyone else that should be on the team. It's an impressive gathering of intellect and well respected names in the fields they work.

Before getting too excited, I want to hear Geithner speak.

Why do I want to hear him speak you may ask?

The next Treasury Secretary needs to be more than a brilliant economist. He needs to be a sales person and a teacher as well.

This is something we have been sorely lacking during the Bush years. None of his Treasury Secretaries were particularly good salesmen or teachers of the economy during what turned out to be extraordinarily difficult times.

Paul O'Neill and John Snow were flops, and Hank Paulson has taken a beating for his handling of the bailout. 17people thinks we need to see how the TARP act works before burying Paulson as a disaster.

What we have all learned with terms like 'derivatives' and 'leverage' is that the economy is more complicated than we even imagined. Geithner and the new economic team is going to have to BOTH implement policy AND sell it to the public in a way that makes sense.

The public is not going to accept things getting forced on them as much as they have in the past.

It was nice to see that the markets last week responded to the decisions of our next President. He and his transition team deserve some kudos because the 'announcement stimulus' was perfectly timed leading into Black Friday and the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

17people fully expects that we will see many more dives in the markets in the weeks and months ahead. Yet, for the first time in a long time I have faith in the Economic Team leading our country.

There has never been more global economic pressure on an Administration.

One week of stimulus is nice but we could see an even worse economic landscape in 50days time and reputations will not be enough. Obama and his team will need to deliver.