Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Oprah, Chicago . . . Chicago, Oprah

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Oprah Winfrey (c) and a couple of Chicagoans. Should she run for Windy City mayor?


As speculation continues that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is going to ditch the West Wing for a mayoral run in his hometown of Chicago, I’d like to float the name of a far more famous Chicagoan who’d make a far more intriguing candidate — and potentially a much more positive impact on the political landscape.

Chicago, Oprah . . . Oprah, Chicago.  

Would Oprah Winfrey seriously consider the job? She is in need of a new cause celebre, with her daytime talk season entering its final season starting next Monday. And she did seem a natural on the campaign trail when it came to lending her star power to Barack Obama’s presidential run.  

Besides, conspiracy nuts will note, she was among a group of notables to call Mayor Richard Daley after Tuesday’s announcement that he intends to give up the job he’s help since 1989 — a stint almost as long as Oprah’s.  

Personally, I’d like to see Ms. Winfrey run to help with two unresolved political issues:  

1) Bridging the Divide. It’s no coincidence that Oprah’s close friends with California First Lady Maria Shriver (maybe you recall Maria and Arnold visiting Oprah’s show during the height of the recall campaign). Like Maria, Oprah has a world view of poverty, injustice, women’s rights, and inequality in the classroom and the workplace. For Maria’s many accomplishments during her husband’s time in office — putting a lens on the developmentally disabled; her Garden program; her help with California military families — there’s a nagging sense that she didn’t live up to her potential as an ambassador to California’s impoverished communities. One wonders what Oprah, as a big-city mayor, could do to shine a spotlight on the challenges facing inner-city America.  

2) Obama . . . but w/ Business Savvy.  Ms. Winfrey is not merely a television personality — “Oprah” is a brand-name and a business juggernaut. She’s worth an estimated $2.3 billion and tops Forbes’ list of wealthiest black Americans. I’m guessing, since she knows how to grow an enterprise, she understands how government can kill free enterprise. This is something her fellow Chicagoan, the community-activist turned politician, doesn’t seem to fully grasp. An apt parallel would be Michael Bloomberg, the New York City mayor who also created a media empire before turning his sights to public office. And, like Bloomberg, let’s assume Oprah is smart enough to surround herself with smart people who can make the city run on time. If Obama never gets control of the economy, he’ll never get back to all the “hope” stuff. Oprah, assuming she has the economic smarts, would be Obama-plus.  

I assume that Oprah is still a registered voter in Cook County, even though she does own a fabulous little spread here in California, in Montecito. That puts her north of Los Angeles — another metropolis that could benefit from a new mayor.  


Written by Bill Whalen

September 10, 2010 at 7:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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