Obama's handlers mishandle the Chicago Way

The children running the White House and covering up the scandals never learned to practice the Chicago Way. Photo: White House

CHICAGO, May 18, 2013 — From Fast and Furious to the current scandals, those inhabiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have adapted the “Chicago Way” of dealing with scandal. People are told not to talk, not to cooperate, and they are vanished into the behemoth federal bureaucracy.

On the Chicago Police Department there used to be an unwritten policy that went back ages. If you screwed up and your screw up hit the news, you disappeared.


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This was especially true if you had clout.

If you knew someone, knew someone who knew someone, or knew someone who was sleeping with the sister or wife of someone, you disappeared. Sometimes you did not need to know anyone. Sometimes police officers did the right thing but it was not politically palatable. You may have done something to the underling or relative of a powerful hoodlum.

Worse, some political preacher or race hustler gathered up the unemployed and unemployable, put them on busses, and protested the police department. That created publicity for the preacher and the hustler.

Something the boys downtown and in City Hall tried to avoid like the plague.


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Here is how it worked. You were pulled off the street. You were taken downtown to some high ranking boss’s office. In a fit of faux rage he loudly and verbally abused you until red capillaries appeared in his face, the veins popped out of his neck, foamy spittle formed in the corners of his lips, and he appeared to be on the verge of apoplexy.

Then he would slam his hands on the desk, sit down, and give you a hard cold stare.

You would be told in no uncertain terms that you would disappear. You would keep your mouth shut, head down, and stay away from reporters, F.B.I. agents, or anyone else. You would not stray into taverns or hang out with other police officers.

Even if you walked the straight and narrow, you would now walk a geometrically impossible straighter and narrower. Then the boss would sit back, and with a barely noticed wink, he would tell you that you were going to be buried.


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You were going to be assigned to some clerical job where no one would be able to get to you. You would come to work every day and go straight home every night. Then, in an avuncular manner the faux outraged boss would say something like, “Don’t worry kid (For some reason bosses called everyone kid, even old guys with gray hair and grandchildren), this will blow over. You just stay out of sight. Someone will screw up as bad as you or worse. When that happens you are in the clear.”

This was a very good, pragmatic system. If nothing else, Chicagoans are pragmatic. It costs money to train police officers. Then there is all the salary they paid you with benefits. Of course, there was always the worry you would start talking about things no one wanted talked about in order to save your own hide.

Better the bosses saved your hide for you. And, theirs too.

Last, if they fired you, you could sue. After one to three or four years, the courts would inevitably give you your job back with back pay. It is not pragmatic to pay someone who did no work all that time.

The vanishing act worked like a charm. Everyone was happy.

Unfortunately, the boys and girls running this presidency still believe in the old fashioned Chicago Way. Something they heard or read about but never truly experienced.

The children in charge take things to the next level claiming nothing happened, there is no scandal or controversy, no cover up or stonewalling. They do all this, including covering up and stonewalling the cover ups and stonewalling.

What the boys and girls never realize is, no one keeps their mouth shut anymore.

There is no longer a “we all sink or swim together” camaraderie among government bureaucrats. They talk. They talk to reporters. They talk to their crazy uncle who blogs about conspiracy theories in the basement in his underwear. They talk to anyone who will listen, including bartenders and people at their yoga classes.

People who are told to stay mute or suffer being thrown to the wolves cannot keep their yaps shut. The boys and girls running the administration do not understand human nature has changed. Everyone gets offended, everyone thinks they have rights, and everyone is tired of being blamed for doing things that the boys and girls approved and ordered.

Senior bureaucrats, who know how things work and keep the machinery of government purring, detest it when their well-oiled gears and cogs get mucked up by children who only think they know how to do things.

Watergate was not exposed because of government leakers, whistleblowers, or tenacious reporters. An act of serendipity exposed that scandal. A conscientious security guard noticed a piece of tape keeping a door unlocked. A sure sign that a burglary was being committed.

If not for that, Nixon would have gone on doing what L.B.J. and J.F.K. did before him. Johnson and Kennedy never got caught. Nixon did. His cover ups and stonewalling were worse than the actual act and exposed more scandals.

Old adage is: admit your mistakes, the cover up is always worse.  Most politicians forget the “admit your mitakes” and dive headfirst into the situation worsening cover up.

The difference between the 1960s-70s and today is secrets. People back then were trained early and often how to keep their mouths shut. They did not talk to anyone, including each other sometimes, about whatever it was they were doing.

Today, everyone wants to be a star. Everyone wants to be a heroic whistle blower or leaker. Everyone wants their mug in the news and whatever rewards come their way.

The children running the administration never learned that.

You cannot practice the Chicago Way unless you were steeped in the Chicago Way. You must be trained from an early age to clam up and disappear. It is better if, from the very beginning, you faithfully practiced the Eleventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught”.

But in Chicago, we all know doo doo* happens.

We can argue whether this administration is corrupt or just created an imperial omnipotent infallible presidency. What is apparent is plain simple truth. This administration is run by little boys and girls who have no idea how to do things.

When their incompetence is revealed they point their little fingers, pound their chubby little fists, and stamp their flat feet on the ground. They blame everyone but themselves. That is where the cover ups and stonewalling begin.

Incompetence and reckless irresponsibility breeds corruption, cover ups and stonewalling. Those breed a political storm.

*I hate using euphemisms. 


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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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