Stop bashing Chicago, Mitt

Thu. August 16, 2012 12:00 AM
by Gary Barlow

Desperate to become president, Mitt Romney just can't stop bashing Chicago.

It's a strange tactic. After all, this election should be about the stark differences on the issues between Romney and President Obama. Romney ought to be talking, with some specifics, mind you, about what he would do differently than Obama, i.e., what exactly he would do to create jobs, what programs he would change and how, what taxes he would change, whose rights he would support and what foreign policy initiatives he would undertake.

But there's the problem for the former one-term governor of Massachusetts. If Romney gets specific and spells out his plans in any detail, he might, no, probably would, turn off some of the voters he needs to win. As his new running mate, Paul Ryan, said the other day, Romney doesn't really plan to unveil his economic and tax plans in any detail until after the election.

So that leaves talking about something else as his only option. And mostly, it seems, that "something else" involves leveling attack after attack on the president.

OK, that's an old political tactic often used by candidates who aren't confident enough to just talk about their policy ideas. But in this campaign Romney and his GOP sycophants have taken it a step farther by resorting time and again to bashing the president's adopted hometown of Chicago.

Last month Romney responded to the Obama campaign ads criticizing Romney's Bain Capital years by characterizing the ads as "Chicago-style politics" and saying, "It may work in Chicago, but it's not going to work across America."

This week, Romney's at it again.

"Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago," Romney said in an angry speech Aug. 14.

Other Republicans have taken the cue, from top Romney political operative Ed Gillespie to the commentators at Fox News, one of whom backed Romney's most recent Chicago bashing by calling the Obama reelection strategy a "Chicago knife fight."

So now the 2012 election's about Chicago? I guess they'd prefer that to it being about the Romney/Ryan plan to give millionaires huge tax breaks by dismantling Medicare.

It's bizarre, really. One would expect that a so-called economic conservative like Romney would be absolutely in love with Chicago. After all, only three other cities in the world have a higher gross domestic product than Chicago. In fact, Chicago produces a higher annual GDP than 44 states in the U.S.

The journal Foreign Policy's ranking of cities that it characterizes as "engines of growth for their countries" places Chicago 7th in the world, behind only New York and Los Angeles in the U.S. The Economist's 2012 ranking of cities by "their demonstrated ability to attract capital, businesses, talent and visitors" puts Chicago ninth in the world. And the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, which ranks cities by four "advanced producer services" - accountancy, advertising, banking/finance and law - puts Chicago at No. 3 in the world. Only New York and London are ranked higher.

But we know Chicago's achievements go way beyond economics. Imagine a world without skyscrapers, a Chicago invention, or all the other advancements that have made Chicago the world's architectural trend-setter for the past 150 years or so.

In science, it was in Chicago that researchers first unraveled the mysteries of nuclear reactions. The University of Chicago alone, just one of the city's top-ranked institutions of higher learning, has produced 87 Nobel Laureates, a stunning number for one school.

Want to talk culture? How can you possibly talk about American culture without including Chicagoans such as Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, Lorraine Hansberry and Carl Sandburg? And American popular music, decade after decade, has been defined by Chicagoans such as Howlin' Wolf, Nat King Cole, Mavis Staples, Benny Goodman, Billy Corgan and Kanye West.

The American film industry can trace its roots to Chicago, where stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson lived and made films. That's continued today – just go watch a "Batman" movie to see Chicago. And Chicago's theater scene ranks behind only London's and New York's.

Oh, by the way, if you stop off at a McDonalds on the way to see "Batman," thank Chicago again, as it was the suburban Chicago company that basically revolutionized the modern fast-food concept. If you're feeling under the weather, you'll probably need a healthcare product from a Chicago area company such as Abbott or Baxter. And if you're shopping at a department store, well, welcome to another modern innovation pioneered by Chicago-based companies such as Sears, Montgomery Ward's and Marshall Field's.

And Chicago doesn't live on past laurels. It's a hub of modern computer and Internet innovation, from Motorola to Groupon to Orbitz, and its economy, architecture and landscape continues to reflect the innovative spirit one would expect of America's most enterprising city.

You want to talk Chicago politics? Let's start with Abraham Lincoln, who was launched on the road to the White House in Chicago, or discuss John Harlan, one of the giants of U.S. Supreme Court history. Care about advancing equality? Take a look at Chicago's role in the abolition of slavery or, if you dare, in the advancement of LGBT rights. After all, the country's first LGBT rights group was founded in Chicago in 1924. Of course, Romney, who once said he was "more pro-gay rights than Ted Kennedy," doesn't want to talk about that now that he's trying to be a Tea Party leader instead of running against Kennedy for a U.S. Senate seat.

So, Mitt, just put a sock in it. When you bash Chicago, you bash America. My ward alone, one of 50 in Chicago, includes people who speak more than 40 different languages. Yes, Mitt, the world is still coming to Chicago to be free, to prosper, to live the American Dream.

If you want to bash that, then you might as well bash everything that's made this country great. It makes me wonder why you're even running for president of the United States. After all, if you're not proud of Chicago, you can't possibly be proud of America.

Image: Wikipedia