COMMENTARY: Jesse Jackson Jr. Needs Time to Heal

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  • Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. should take time to heal – and his critics should be patient.

    With the cacophony of negative noise and the political vultures circling, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has emerged as a voice of reason.

    She said, simply, that Jackson ought to have “the care and time he needs to get well.”

    Jackson, 47, hasn’t been seen on Capitol Hill – or in public – for more than a month. His family says Jackson is being treated for a “mood disorder” and is receiving treatment for his medical condition in an undisclosed facility.

    After 17 years serving in the U.S. Congress, Jackson, no doubt, is facing the most daunting challenge of his political career – and he’s also dealing with an unknown physical and emotional ailment, although it’s not life-threatening.

    How long does a congressman need to serve in the House of Representatives before his fellow colleagues on Capitol Hill give him the benefit of the doubt?

    Truth be told, most of Jackson’s critics are self-serving politicians, not Jackson’s constituents. If the black residents of Jackson’s congressional district are not up in arms and demanding that Jackson immediately explain his absence, then why should politicians like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il) care?

    Durbin has been urging Jackson to come clean about his medical condition until last week when Durbin appeared on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” where he seemed to take a much more compassionate approach.

    "I don't have any inside information here. I called Reverend Jackson, his father, this week and said that our prayers are with his son's family,” Durbin said. “We want him to get well and get home soon.”

    “I hope very, very soon that Congressman Jackson can tell us what he's facing,” Durbin added. “I think the people of Illinois and this country are going to embrace anything he's doing to put himself back in a good, strong position to return to his family and to Congress.”

    Perhaps Durbin is reading the political tea leaves. Many pollsters say Jackson’s seat is safe and that Jackson could get re-elected even if he doesn’t campaign and doesn’t show his face until Election Day.

    “American people and the people of Illinois will stand behind a congressman who is facing his challenges head on and they'll support him," Durbin said.

    Why is Jackson’s support from his base so solid? Because Jackson, who still sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has been able to steer billions of dollars back to his district — a majority black, heavily Democratic area on Chicago’s South Side.

    Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin told reporters that he doesn’t have a problem with Jackson.

    He said Jackson’s health is a private matter and that he credits Jackson with bringing drinking water to Fort Heights from Lake Michigan. Ford Heights, with a population of about 2,700, is one of the poorest communities in Illinois.

    "I have no idea what his relationship is on the national level," Griffin told the Associated Press.  “The only thing I know is that he's … been successful in bringing back resources and funds to do things to get things moving. And that's the type of approach we need."

    Meanwhile, Jackson’s constituents don’t seem concerned about an ethics investigation that Jackson is facing in the U.S. House. The probe is connected to jailed former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

    “Trouble in his district? Nonsense,” Don Rose, a veteran Chicago political consultant, told reporters. “There’s no way a Democrat can lose that district. Even if he stayed where he is and ran from the hospital he’s in or the facility he’s in and just sent a message — to his constituents — he’d win it.”

    Still, there’s no doubt that Jackson is experiencing a myriad of problems that could be attributed to his high-profile political setbacks.

    Even Jackson’s mother acknowledged that her son is in crisis.

    In a candid admission, Jacqueline Jackson said Jackson Jr. has dealt with “enormous” political disappointments in recent years.

    “He thought he was going to be the senator – thought he was going to have a chance to run for mayor,” Jackson said last week during a Rainbow Push conference in Chicago. “And young people don’t bounce back with disappointment like me and my husband.”

    Jackson does have an obligation to share the details of his medical condition with his constituents — and explain his prolonged absence from work.

    But as a tireless 17-year member of Congress, Jackson’s critics should not try to pressure him into explaining anything right now. Jackson should concentrate on getting healthy — and folks like Durbin should butt out.
     

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