Bashing the federal government is easy and fun, and anyone can play. But there is a trick to it. You should be as general as possible, shaking your fist at the camera and inveighing against “Those bastards in Washington” and “Those idiots in Congress.”
If you get too specific and say, oh, “Those loafers in the Ag department in Des Moines,” it will turn out there actually is a real Department of Agriculture office in Des Moines, staffed by real people who actually do stuff and will not take kindly to the suggestion they don’t.
Robert D. Grant (left), special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI, says Mayor’s Daley criticism of his office hurts morale. “I have two gang squads demoralized,”
(Brian Jackson~Jean Lachat/Sun-Times
Mayor Daley, of course, is not troubled by fine points of rhetoric or even reason. With his poll numbers in the toilet, his city wracked by violence and baking in the July sun, Daley unleashed a doozy Thursday that, since it wasn’t also laughingly inarticulate, may have escaped general notice.
“It’s about time,” Daley said, when a reporter asked him about the FBI’s participation in a joint anti-gang sting with Chicago Police. “Where have they been?”
Ouch. The reaction at Chicago’s FBI headquarters — employing nearly a thousand agents and staff — can be imagined. Actually, it needn’t be imagined because I spoke with the special agent in charge, Robert Grant, who minced no words about the mayor.
“Every time he blurts out something about the feds, part of me thinks it’s an old political tactic, to say, ‘If only the federal government would give us this or that,’ ” said Grant. “There’s a gap between what he says and what the reality is on the ground. …
“It hurts morale. I have two gang squads demoralized. Both with an outstanding history of outstanding investigation, and to say the feds finally got it. …”
Daley’s office later claimed he “responded emotionally because three Chicago Police officers have been killed in two months” — oh sure, blame the cops. But Grant, himself just back from Michael Bailey’s funeral, doesn’t need overwrought mayoral scolding to do his job.
“I’m a fellow Chicagoan, I live here in the city,” he said. “I have heard Daley bash the feds a lot. It’s so inconsistent with this city’s cooperative efforts — in Chicago, you’ve got, not just the FBI, but the ATF, the DEA, IRS, postal inspectors, all putting considerable amount of resources onto gangs, working together better than they ever have.”
Grant said his office had dozens of people running this particular sting for more than a year, only to get Daley’s backhand at their moment of public acclaim.
“My guys work; some were working 36 hours straight. Our people are dedicated, and they care. Then there’s no sense of appreciation, no sense of thanks, no sense of ‘good work,’ ” Grant said. ” ‘They finally get it.’ What’s he talking about? We’ve been working the Latin Kings for years.”
Wondering what the mayor is talking about has been a local pastime for 20 years. Though the reason for Daley’s rancor against the feds is no mystery — who keeps overturning rocks in his administration, revealing the slime underneath? The Department of Justice. I got to know the guys in the Chicago FBI office a little last spring, when I took part in their Citizens’ Academy, and can tell you this: They care deeply, about both what they do and how the public perceives them.
The same can’t be said for the mayor. His screw-you-I’m-the-boss attitude is grimly familiar, and his former cringing underlings carry tales of mayoral ingratitude that makes his FBI blow-off seem like a bouquet of flowers.
I’d like to say that it’ll catch up to Daley someday, but frankly that seems like wishful thinking. It got him this far and will keep him in office for as long as he wants to stay. The FBI will have to do what everybody caught in Daley’s orbit must do — suck it up, shake off the shock of the mayor’s flailing, charmless ways, and continue being professionals. Somebody has to be, and since it won’t be the mayor, it’ll have to be the rest of us.
“Our people ask: What gives with this mayor?” Grant said. “He’s always embarrassing his employees. What you need from a mayor is someone who will stand up and set a tone for this city.”
To be fair, the mayor has certainly set a tone for this city. And we all know what that tone is.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here