The Real Jesse Jackson
January 23, 2001
well. The Reverend Jesse Jackson seems to be losing his halo. His
penitential retirement from his public ministry lasted less
than a single weekend.
On the Sunday after the Thursday he
made lurid headlines, Jackson announced that he was ready to resume his
ministry. Breaking Bill Clintons record for rapid repentance, he
had, within hours, confessed his sins, turned over a new leaf, healed his
family wounds, showered, changed his suit, and leaped back into the
pulpit. The public barely had time to notice his absence. Seldom has
spiritual regeneration occurred at such a hectic pace.
No doubt Jackson realized it would
sound funny for him to show up in Washington on Saturday protesting G.W.
Bushs inauguration as illegitimate two days after
the revelation that he had begotten a wee one on a woman other than Mrs.
Jackson. The timing was wrong. The publics memory is notoriously
short, but not quite that short.
it help Clinton that, on the day of his farewell address to the nation, his
spiritual counselor during the contrition phase of the
Lewinsky saga should grab the front pages with his own sex scandal.
Clintons presidency might make a great comedy: Ferris
Bueller Goes to Washington, with Jeffrey Jones, who played the
principal in the original, as the special prosecutor. As youll recall,
even the people who knew exactly what Ferris was up to were totally
ineffectual in their attempts to catch him out. As with Clinton, it was
always Ferriss friends who wound up in hot water.
Clintons departure was further
blemished when, on his last day in office, he became the first president to
plea-bargain his way out of an indictment. The scene wouldnt have
been complete without Clintons final attempt to spin his
admission of perjury with a bit of double-talk denying that his false
statements under oath were lies.
Jacksons ostensibly manly
statement of contrition turned out to be, well, Clintonian. Not only did his
withdrawal from public life end as soon as it began; his claim that he was
providing for the wee one was also a little dubious. He has apparently
provided plenty, including a quiet move to Los Angeles, a
big house, and several thousand dollars a month. Is this support for the
child or hush money for the mother? And did it come out of his own
personal pocket or out of the tax-exempt funds of his
Like Clinton, Jackson has now exposed
himself as a comic rascal. His demotion in the public eye has been made
official by Jay Leno, who has shown no mercy and extended none of the
courtesy accorded, even by irreverent comedians, to black men of the cloth
who are styled civil rights leaders.
Dubbing Jackson Action
Jackson, Leno has asked whether he was really counseling Clinton:
It sounds more like Clinton was counseling him! Leno also
notes that Jackson has given new meaning to affirmative action: she asks,
Do you want some action? and he answers,
Jackson has suddenly tumbled to the
Al Sharpton level. Its unlikely that his birthday will ever become a
national holiday, and the recent disclosures about him may be just the
beginning. As a hypocrite and Clinton crony he has made himself fair game
for muckraking, and we will probably learn further details of his romantic
and financial affairs, and of how they are intertwined.
More specifically, is this really the
first and only woman Jackson has had to pay off during his 38-year
marriage? The corporations he has shaken down for money over the years
may take a special interest in getting to know the real Jesse Jackson, the
man behind the endless crusade for social justice in the
form of fat checks. Nobody has asked how much of that money has actually
reached the downtrodden and how much has gone to support the flamboyant
In the end Jackson may take his place
not in the history of civil rights but in the colorful American tradition of
tycoons of the pulpit: Father Divine, Reverend Ike, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy
Swaggart. Some of these men came to bad ends, but none of them starved
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