U. S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago) is out of action. His staff says he is complaining of exhaustion and has not been at work for two weeks. That explanation may not be enough for some people, but Frank Mackaman of the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin says Jackson deserves the benefit of the doubt.
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“It’s not all that uncommon, and – even in Illinois – we have a current situation with Senator Mark Kirk,” who is recovering from a stroke. “In some cases, they don’t even state a reason for the leave of absence. If I lived in (Jackson’s) Congressional district, I wouldn’t be unduly concerned at this point.” However, given Jackson’s myriad controversies, “I don’t think it probably burnishes his image as a member of Congress,” Mackaman adds.
Jackson has survived a difficult primary, his marital problems have been in the news, and his name has been connected to the Rod Blagojevich criminal case. As far as his actual absence is concerned, Mackaman says a Congressman’s staff bears a big burden, anyway, in terms of the work to be done. How much information does a public servant owe those who put him or her into office? “One would hope, in the ideal, that you’d have good transparency,” says Mackaman. Giving as much notice as possible of such a leave “would be the ideal approach to take, and, probably, politically, the smartest approach to take.”