Big Dan is no do-gooder, but he did Chicago proud

June 06, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Slats Grobnik hoisted his glass and cheerfully said: "How's about a toast to Big Danny, a hometown kid who made good in the big time and done us all proud."

Uh, which Big Danny are you talking about?

"What 'ya, stupid? There's only one Big Danny from Chicago. The top pierogi, the big kielbasa."

I gather, then, that you are referring to Dan Rostenkowski?

"You betcha. To the rest of the country, Big Dan is now Mr. Chicagah, and there ain't nobody more entitled to that great honor."

Wait a minute. He has just been indicted for all sorts of financial mischief. And as a Chicagoan, that makes you proud?

"Sure. He's the talk of the country. All day on CNN, they been yapping about Danny. Every radio talk show, it's Danny. All the networks, it's Danny. Every guy in your pundit racket is writing about Danny. Hey, this ain't bad for a kid from a three-flat on the grungy part of the Northwest Side."

Well, they may be talking about him from coast to coast and border to border. But what they are talking about are the allegations that he has been tapping the till, dipping into the federal cookie jar. In other words, they are saying he is a monumental crook.

"Yeah, that's what I mean. Would they get that excited if he was from Iowa, or San Francisco, or somewhere in Utah, or maybe Wisconsin? Nah. But he's from Chicagah, so to all the rubes that means he's got to be a crook."

And that makes you proud?

"Why not? I don't want to see this turn into a wienie town. This is where there was the last great vote-grabbing machine. It's where the old-time precinct captain still ain't extinct, and where the word 'clout' was invented. It's where the word 'fix' don't mean your refrigerator or your car, but a judge or a zoning deal. It's where we still got a mayor named Daley, even though he don't know how to yell as good as his old man. All over the country the goo-goo crowd -- the do-gooders -- are taking over. Which is why things are the way they are, since nobody can screw things up like a goo-goo. Remember, in their day, Lenin and Trotsky were goo-goo types, and look what happened to the Rooskies. Danny ain't no goo-goo."

But Rostenkowski has been accused of some rather serious violations of the law, for which he could be sent to prison.

"No, he ain't just been accused. He's already been tried and convicted."

Nonsense. The trial hasn't even started.

"Hey, there are three trials. First, there's the trial where the yuppie scalp-hunter lawyers in the Justice Department leak everything to their pals at the New York Times and the Washington Post."

Yes, there have been some rather blatant violations of legal ethics.

"Right. And next there's the trial on TV, in the newspapers, on the radio talk shows. Now, if you been watching or listening or reading, you know he's already guilty. You got these commentator-types saying: 'Oh, boy, this is really serious stuff. Where there's smoke there's fire. If he didn't do something wrong, how come they indicted him, huh?' You got people calling talk shows and asking how come he ain't in jail already. You got Republicans licking their chops, like they forgot about Nixon and Agnew and Packwood the butt-pincher. See, lynching is legal."

What are you talking about? Lynching is illegal and our society condemns it.

"Sure, old-time lynching is out. But now we got a new kind. A guy like Danny gets indicted. Yeah, the pundits say he's innocent until proven guilty, but that's just a joke. Nah, we don't use a rope. But the camera crews go out, and they ask some hungover bozo in a diner what he thinks, and he says: 'Hey, he's a rat and he ought to be in the pokey.' And 10 million people see that on TV and say, 'Yeah, he poked a rat, so what kind of pervert is he?' That's the new American lynch mob, and there ain't no hero sheriff to stand in front of the jail, like in the Western movies, and aim a shotgun at the boobs. See, the freedom of the press, which includes the TV and the radio yappers, is the new lynch mob."

But Rostenkowski will have his day in court.

"Sure. And if he beats the rap, about half the people in this country will think it was fixed anyway. And if you ask them what he was supposed to have did, they won't know. And if you ask them who their own congressman is, they won't know that, either. But the one thing they know is they are better than Danny because they ain't never stole nothing. Of course, the reason they ain't stole nothing, is because they never had the chance."

I am shocked that you would defend a politician accused of improper behavior.

"Lemme ask you. How long has he been in Congress?"

More than 30 years.

"Who put him there?"

The voters in his district.

"Did they ever think Danny was an Eagle Scout?"


"Democracy. I love it."

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