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The nation sees one Obama, Chicago knows another

June 24, 2008 |  2:05 am

As the first African American to secure a major-party presidential nomination, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama has understandably been the subject of much analysis across the country that focuses on race.

But overlooked is another potential political first: Americans have never sent a Chicagoan to the White House.

And one intriguing question posed by the freshman IllinoIllinois freshman Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is a close ally of longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, son of the city's also longtime political bossis senator's candidacy is whether they are ready now.

For all his talk elsewhere about change and his national image as a fervent reformer, Obama on the contrary remains fundamentally a product of a Chicago and Illinois political culture renowned for corruption and filled with curious characters who range from felonious to just outrageous.

Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, Obama's political mentor in the state capital of Springfield, is about as old-school as they come. Just last month, the Chicago Democrat publicly ridiculed an attempt to block another pay raise for state legislators by sarcastically declaring: "I've got to get me some food stamps."

Obama's stable of political friends is broadly populated with others like Jones and the recently convicted Tony Rezko. Revealingly, whenever the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has dabbled in Windy City and Cook County politics in recent years, he has frequently failed to come down on the side of political progressives and reformers.

This little-known side of Obama's political life may well surprise many across the country who see in the well-spoken candidate an entirely different person. Bob Secter and John McCormick have the full story at the Swamp.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Associated Press