Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes is not generally known for his sense of humor.
Privately, in one on one situations, Hynes can be engaging, and even funny. Put him in front of a microphone, however, and he's usually stiff as a board.
So, it was a great surprise last week when Comptroller Hynes regaled a Springfield audience with a "fable" that had attendees laughing with glee.
Some of Hynes' "fable" about the state's never-ending legislative session this year is insider stuff, but if you've been keeping up with Illinois politics you ought to understand most of it.
For instance, the Illinois House voted 107 to zero against Gov. Rod Blagojevich's horribly unpopular Gross Receipts tax last spring. Afterwards, Gov. Blagojevich said it had been an "up day." The governor has also claimed he was doing "God's work" by pushing a universal health insurance plan, and state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-Moline) found himself on the outs with Blagojevich when Jacobs and the governor sparred publicly over that proposal. Jacobs claimed the governor threatened to destroy his career. Lately, the governor has sued Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan over Madigan's refusal to convene special sessions at the exact hour that the governor ordered, and also over Madigan's refusal to hold override votes of the governor's vetoes in a timely manner.
That ought to be enough background to help you understand Dan Hynes' "fable." Here it is...
Once upon a time, in a Land of Lincoln, a Governor presented a budget in a lovely town called Springfield.
This Governor was great and generous and had a tremendous head of hair. And the wise and diligent people who needed to approve the budget, the members of the General Assembly, invited the Governor to their home to talk about one part of his plan. He did. And when he left their House, the members did what any courteous hosts would do: they voted 107-0 against him and told him he was always welcome to stop by.
Though the Governor declared this a great victory, the streets of Springfield were strangely free of dancing or parades or general merriment.
Instead, a great black cloud covered the Land.
And the members of the General Assembly knew, to save the day, they’d have to agree on some kind of plan. So their leaders set down to work, day and night, and agreed on nothing of consequence.
And the cloud remained.
Now danger was approaching, and everyone said that they needed more time — so that they could call each other the worst names they could think of. Nasty, terrible names.
Like when someone called the Governor a demagogue. And when the Governor called the Speaker of the House - a Republican.
And then things got even worse. The Governor said that God was on his side, and then unleashed God’s fury against a Senator from Moline. And the men who led the General Assembly insisted that they were absolutely, positively right, and whenever discussing the Governor, took God’s name in vain.
God was generally not pleased.
And the cloud remained.
But just when things looked their worst - just in the nick of time - knowing all that was at stake for the people they served, the good and decent leaders came together - in courtrooms all across Illinois. You see, the Governor had said that the members should meet at 2 o’clock. But the members decided to get together at 10 o’clock. That could mean only one thing, in the name of truth and justice, and everything good in the world: Sue the bums!
So in the happiest of happy endings, the Governor sued the Speaker of the House. And just to make sure that the Speaker’s clerk didn’t feel lonely, he sued him, too. And for a moment, the Governor thought about suing a maid at the Statehouse Inn because she had once said hello to the Speaker. But, in the rush to get back for a Cubs playoff game, he forgot all about that.
And the cloud remains over the Land.
Some say that the Governor is acting crazy. Some say that the Speaker is acting crazy. Some say that the other leaders are acting crazy.
But all of the people in the Land of Lincoln do agree on one thing. Their leaders are always, always, always putting them first.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com