The Chicago Way.
What is it? Is it easily abused? Is it dangerous in the wrong hands?
This is critical, as the nation's eyes turn toward Chicago's federal building, where Barack Obama's personal real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, stands trial on federal corruption charges.
The phrase must be put in context, something the national media fails to do when they portray Obama as the boy king drawing the sword from the stone, ready to change America's politics of influence and lobbyists, ignoring the fact that Chicago ain't Camelot.
With opening statements expected Thursday, the court will be packed with journalists foreign to our idiom. In the past, a few reporters have applied "The Chicago Way" to our pizza, theater and opera, thereby embarrassing themselves beyond redemption.
To prevent such outrage, I've enlisted the help of George Washington, father of our country, crooner Dean Martin and aged action star Sean Connery in a cutting-edge video premiering now at chicagotribune.com/kass.
You know the movie "The Untouchables" in which Connery played the only Chicago cop in city history with a Scottish accent? "He [ Al Capone] puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue..." says Connery's cop. "That's the Chicago Way."
Chicago's mob -- we call it the Outfit -- was slapped last summer by federal prosecutors in the Operation Family Secrets trial that convicted Outfit bosses, and cops and put political figures in with them. We've had our chief of detectives (William Hanhardt) sent to prison for running the Outfit's jewelry-heist ring. And we've had white guys with Outfit connections get $100 million in affirmative action contracts from their drinking buddy, Mayor Richard Daley, who must have seen them pink and white and male at some point.
That's the Chicago Way.
"This country was built on taxes," said a Democratic machine hack, Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, as she and other Democrats prepared to slap Chicago with the highest sales tax of any major city in the country.
Her belief, that America was built on taxes, is one of the unique features of our own city's history, which reportedly began in 1776, when the Daleys boldly declared our independence from the English king.
"There's not that many political hacks in Cook County," Sims insisted after the tax hike.
Not that many hacks? The only one reporters need to bother about is also involved at the same federal building: the mayor's own Duke of Patronage, Robert Sorich.
Sorich has been found guilty by a jury, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals above the Rezko courtroom is still deciding whether to redeem the jury or redeem the mayor, who'd much rather have Sorich happy than Obama in the White House.
Sorich was convicted two years ago of running the mayor's massive and illegal patronage operation, and he's still not in prison. Thugs, morons, idiots, and convicts were put on the city payroll to work the precincts so that Daley could keep getting elected. Obama's spokesman, David Axelrod, defended Daley patronage in a Tribune op-ed piece.
The Daley family's parish priest in Bridgeport, Rev. Dan Brandt, lovingly compared Sorich to Jesus Christ as both had troubles with the law.
"People often say, what would Jesus do?" he said, loyal not only to his faith but to the 11th Ward's place at the head of Chicago Way. "I put a twist on it and say, 'What would I do for Jesus?' With whom Robert has a lot in common as far as legal problems ... [The Lord] was a convicted felon. And Robert was convicted, and so he may have a lot in common with Jesus."
When the parish priest does right by the patronage boss to protect the mayor who gets endorsed by that great reformer Sir Barack of O'bama, that's the Chicago Way.
Naturally, there are some squares who don't think taxpayers should pave the Chicago Way to make it easy for Rezko to help purchase the senator's dream house in a kinky deal exposed by the Tribune and still not fully explained.
"It's really the Old Chicago Way," said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. "In the old days they would pretty much admit it up front, and now they deny it. It's essentially about power, access to government jobs, government contracts and taking care of your own."
One secret DaVinci Code-type sign for the Chicago Way is in the back room of the Chicago City Council chambers at City Hall, where a portrait of George Washington looks down at the crookedness below, and extends his own hand, palm up, itchy, needing that special grease. But some strangers to our lands have used the Chicago Way with perfect pitch. Rezko's buddy, former Iraqi electricity minister, Aiham Alsammarae, escaped an Iraqi prison where he was being investigated for corruption.
A reporter asked -- How did you escape?
"The Chicago Way," he said.
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