Monday, October 03, 2005

REACT: Edgar out? He was never in.

I win a number of bets, and unlimited bragging rights, for my never-wavering contention that former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar would not run (see blog item August 26). I will say it with confidence, the outcome was never in doubt. His only true deliberation was when and how to say “no.” He did it in grand public relations style -- which is his greatest talent, anyway.

I never thought of Edgar as stupid (politically, that is) or nuts. He is a cunning political operator, with a keen sense of his image and poll numbers. In terms of public policy and issues, the Ken-doll-grown-old Edgar was never considered the sharpest knife in the drawer. Truth be known, many issue activists and lobbyists on both sides of the philosophic divide thought of him as a bit … well … let’s just say under informed. (More about that some other time.)

If there was ever any doubt in my mind that Edgar would reject the petitions of the politicians, it evaporated with his arrival at the Illinois Issues forum (which I attended) just before his weepy press conference. He was not in the room more than five minutes when my original opinion was confirmed -- at least in my own mind. He passed through the crowd with his insider-known disdain for the masses. Rarely smiling, and giving all (except a few of his former syncopates) an icy brush off. This was Edgar the person without any hint of Edgar the campaigner -- who could produce a forced gregariousness every few years for the sake of votes. The aloof Edgar was not a man about to run for public office.

Since his concern for good government and the welfare of his Republican party goes no further than his own ambition and ego appeasement, there was no self-motivation for Edgar to make an early decision for a greater good. If the former governor had no intention of ever running again, why the prolonged pondering? Simple. Ego.

As I noted in that earlier blog commentary, Edgar suffers from "the phone doesn’t ring as much anymore." This is his third public pensiveness. In each case he ran the publicity mill as long as he could before giving his predetermined reply. Nyet! Nein! Nope!

This play for publicity is not an Edgar invention. Former Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie was courted to run for mayor of Chicago every four years. He would encourage speculation and drafts, then puff on his pipe ponderously for weeks as pundits speculated, the press reported and potential candidates awaited in the wings. Every twitch of his eyebrow was the subject of speculative meaning. Again, I never lost a wager by placing my marker on “no.”

Edgar said he is through running for public office, and that IS the truth -- but don’t be surprised if yet again some season speculation arises, and the old war horse again entices the phones to ring and the reporters to write. After all, this is man who convincingly said, “I never say never.”

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