that Jesse Jackson Jr. is still absent from his office and his campaign trail, with no hint to when he will return to duty. Since June, Jackson has been officially M.I.A. as he has sought treatment for a bipolar disorder and some gastrointestinal problems. However, Gawker recently reported that he was spotted drinking two separate nights at a bar in D.C. with unidentified women. " />

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The Mechanics
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Election 2012 Mon Oct 15 2012

What's Going on with Jesse Jackson Jr.?

The Chicago Tribune reports that Jesse Jackson Jr. is still absent from his office and his campaign trail, with no hint to when he will return to duty. Since June, Jackson has been officially MIA as he has sought treatment for a bipolar disorder and some gastrointestinal problems. However, Gawker recently reported that he was spotted drinking two separate nights at a bar in D.C. with unidentified women.

Coincidentally, he became unraveled just as he found himself in a House Ethics Committee investigation for his associations with Rod Blagojevich and the Wall Street Journal has reported that he may face a criminal probe in a separate investigation that he illegally used campaign funds to decorate his home. This of course, is not good news for anyone present and future represented by Congressman Jackson. We would like to believe that his illness(es) have nothing to do with the investigations, and that there is a good explanation for why he was allegedly seen barhopping when he has claimed to be too ill to work, but given the lack of communication coming from Congressman Jackson, voters are forced to assume the worst. His wife, Alderman Sandi Jackson, has been tight-lipped on Jesse Jr.'s status beyond stating that the congressman needs to rest. The growing tension was apparent in late September when she demonized the media attention her husband was getting, calling a group of reporters outside of a fund raising event "jackals." That may have alerted the media and public to the frustration with the situation, but it certainly isn't a tactic likely to garner sympathy from either.

Regardless of the Jacksons' perceived intrusion of privacy, it's the media's duty to ask questions that are in the public interest, just like it's Congressman Jackson's duty to consider stepping aside if he is unable to do his job in Washington. In a representative democracy, voters should be able to choose candidates whose ideas and platforms they agree with. However, more base than that, voters should at least be represented by someone capable of serving. Political ideology, policy, party-affiliation -- all are moot if the congressman is unable to even show up for the job. Suppose Jackson gets re-elected in November, but still will be unable to work? Who will speak for the 2nd District in Washington? Isn't it a disservice to his constituents to campaign for a job, that no one is sure if he'll be able to work? At the very least, voters deserve specifics. When Gabrielle Giffords tragically took her hiatus from congress, she was transparent with her progress in treatment, and eventually resigned to focus on recovery. Illinois Senator Mark Kirk has also been equally amicable with media inquiries about his progress recovering from his stroke. Yet Congressman Jackson's status and timetable remain a mystery. We hope that if Jackson legitimately needs medical care, he receives it. But voters have a right to know why they don't have a representative and even if he does go back to work, he has a litany of questions to answer to earn back the public's trust.

His seat is contested. Both his challengers Republican Brian Woodworth and Independent Marcus Lewis appear capable of going to work on day one, should the voters send either to Washington. It's too close to the election to wait for the Jackson camp to open up with details - voters need answers now. Ironically, the most recent press release on Jackson's Congressional website is titled, "Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned." We don't know if Jackson is fiddling or recovering. We do know that Chicago and the United States as a whole are facing significant challenges, and the representative for Illinois 2nd district isn't working to help his constituents. Aren't voters entitled to leadership that shows up for the job?

 
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