Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hyde Park Herald is Obamafied

posted by chicago pop

Obama First Declares for State Senate at Hyde Park's Ramada Inn:
Preservationists Fight to Keep it For Historic Value

Only slightly more surreal than the prospect of a President of the United States who lives less than a mile away, and who began his political career at the hideous Slumada Inn across the street from my home, is the fact that the lead story for the July 21 edition of the New Yorker is a densely researched piece on Obama's "Chicago period" that includes 10 references to the Hyde Park Herald in 15 pages. (We won't even get into the magazine's cover illustration).

Big media is turning over little rocks big time.

They're off to a good start. After the Weekly Standard's gonzo interviews with a few neighborhood relics, the New Yorker is reprinting excerpts from some of Obama's charmingly idealistic columns in the Herald, beginning when he assumed the office of State Senator for the 13th District back in 1996.

In his first column in the Hyde Park Herald ... he announced that he was "organizing citizens' committees" to help him shape legislation. He asked constituents to call his office if they wanted to participate. That kind of airy talk about changing politics gave way almost immediately to the realities of the job.
Really? Try getting people to a TIF meeting.

But Ryan Lizza delves even further back, into the Herald's pre-Obama archive: citing a front page article from 1995, it seems that the Herald once did some muckrake-ish reporting.

On more than one occasion, the Hyde Park Herald reported on the rise in campaign donations from these developers [taking advantage of City tax-credits to develop low-income housing on the South Side]; in 1995, it ran a front-page article about Tony Rezko, who was then a very active new donor on the scene.

This sounds like broad-ranging journalism, rooted in Hyde Park, but looking beyond it.

So what happened?

Now we can't get the Herald to unpack the drama about adult day care at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

Most of what Lizza's New Yorker piece draws on from the Herald, however, are Obama's own words. The article's thrust, beginning with a very frank interview with Alderman Preckwinkle, is that Obama's recent political "maneuverings" on things like Federal campaign financing, gun control, and telecom immunity should not be surprising from a guy that endorsed Mayor Daley and worked to get Blagojevich elected.

Pretty much politics as usual, though that has come as some surprise to folks outside of Chicago, or to those few idealists who survive within it. Lizza asked Preckwinkle what she thought of Obama's rise.

""Can you get where he is and maintain your personal integrity?" she [Alderman Preckwinkle] said. "Is that the question?" She stared at me and grimaced. "I'm going to pass on that.""

Chances are the Herald will, too.

The Next Historic Landmark Building in Hyde Park


Elizabeth Fama said...

Ryan Lizza was interviewed by Terry Gross today on FRESH AIR.

chicago pop said...

Yes, good interview, though he doesn't mention the Herald.

One of the most interesting things about this piece is that, in comparison with the article from the Weekly Standard, the New Yorker piece winds up being a lot more critical.

Ultimately, Ferguson's Weekly Standard bit was an argument that Obama reflects his neighborhood, but his neighborhood doesn't reflect America, reflecting rather some messed-up dysfunctional outcome of ill-fated liberal social planning. Or something like that.

The Lizza piece actually looks into Obama's biography in Chicago and talks to people who worked with him. The outcome in this case is that you peel back the very attractive veneer that was introduced to the world a few years back, and see a very ambitious, and very political animal underneath, not averse to cutting deals. We're left with Lizza trying to reconcile the two.

It's going to be a very interesting 4 years.