Senate President Emil Jones talked for several minutes during a media availability the other day about his war theories.
Among other things, Jones recalled how Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev pounded on his desk during the United Nations debate over whether to allow Red China into the UN. Kruschev failed to persuade the international body to admit his fellow Communist nation, but, as Jones said, not long afterwards China detonated a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere and the UN quickly relented, bringing China in and forcing Taiwan out.
Jones claimed the lesson from that historic and tectonic shift was, essentially, the countries with the biggest weapons are able to get what they want. And Sen. Jones left little doubt that he viewed his new veto-proof Senate majority as the biggest gun in the Statehouse and would proceed accordingly. Jones' organization picked up a slew of Republican district, bringing the Democrats' total to 37 seats - seven more than the bare majority and one more than is required to override a gubernatorial veto.
Jones also appeared to be saying at that press briefing that he intends to lead the debate this year, particularly on school funding and taxes, and he also intends to fight back against any perceived enemies with all he's got.
Insiders say that when Jones first talked about the possibility that he could win a veto-proof majority back in 2005 he mused about what he could do with such a prize. And the top item on his dream agenda was education funding reform.
Jones likes power, but unlike some other politicians, he isn't completely into power for power's sake. He does want to do other things with his position and make some changes that will outlive his tenure.
Jones reminded reporters that in 1973, his first year in office, the top item on the legislative agenda was how education funding was distributed. The issue has never died, and Jones has always been frustrated that the political will has never existed to concoct a longterm solution. That unfortunate situation, he told reporters, will change this year and the Senate, he insisted, will take the lead.
Jones said people like House Speaker Michael Madigan could talk about changing the school funding situation, but Jones claimed "we intend to act in the Senate."
Mixed in with that desire to create a lasting legacy is his obvious desire - by talking so much about war theory - to settle some old scores. And the two goals may conflict.
Almost no story about Jones can be written without mentioning his long rivalry with Speaker Madigan.
As I've told you several times before, Jones has always believed that Madigan has treated him as a junior partner - if not less. Madigan, for his part, claims he backed up Jones during his many years suffering as the minority leader under Republican Senate President Pate Philip's rein, but Jones doesn't remember it that way. The two men have bickered almost constantly since Jones became Senate President and a final showdown has always seemed in the works.
And now that Jones believes his veto-proof majority gives him the "biggest guns" and puts him at the top of the Statehouse pecking order, he seems, to me at least, to be wary of any attempt - perceived or real - by Madigan (or anyone else) to undercut his authority.
As if to underscore this sentiment, Jones pointed to a plaque on his office wall containing a quote from Sun Tzu, the Art of War. "Do not depend on the enemy not coming. Depend rather on being ready for him."
That sort of attitude could mean lots of trouble for the spring session. If Jones believes his majority gives him the most power at the Statehouse and he is therefore constantly trying to defend his perceived status as Springfield's top dog, then he's going to be (figuratively) shooting back at a whole lot of people all year. And the more conflict there is among Democrats, the more doubt might be cast on whether they can accomplish any lasting changes this year.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com)