Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty early Wednesday to conspiring with his wife, Sandi Jackson, to spend $750,000 in federal campaign funds on themselves, using the money to buy everything from a $43,350 Rolex watch to a $4,600 fedora that once belonged to Michael Jackson. Sandi Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, also entered a guilty plea to one count of tax fraud connected to the same allegations. Jackson, the son of famed civil rights leader and former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, could face years in prison. He has already resigned from Congress, after seeking psychological treatment as the investigation neared its conclusion. Leaving the courthouse, Jackson told reporters, "Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down, OK?" Here, three takeaways the pundits see in Jackson's meteoric rise and spectacular fall:
1. Chicago-style politics really stink
This mess, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, is "another reminder of the political corruption" for which the Jacksons' hometown is known. These guilty pleas mark "an end to yet another cycle of Chicago Machine politics," and offer "a time for the rest of the nation to wonder when Illinois plans to do anything more to clean it up — or whether federal investigators will continue to make it a career position."
2. Jackson has deep personal problems
"I'm going to write this just so our conservative friends can't say I brush these things under the rug," says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: Jesse Jackson Jr. is "clearly a troubled man." Nobody should try to "defend petty thieves on the basis of ideology." Jesse Jackson Jr. was brought down by the fixation "social striver-parvenu types" have with fancy watches. He should have settled for a Timex, but he couldn't. Well, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, says Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune, and that can leave people unable to control what they do. "Bipolar disorder brings wild mood swings. People with the condition go from depression to impulsive behavior," which could explain, though not entirely excuse, a lot.
3. Inherited privilege distorts reality
"Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of a man who wanted to be president but didn't quite make it, was groomed for greatness but not quite cut out for it," says Schmich. "In the isolating bubble of power, he presumed on his privilege." And those "presumptions flourished along with his illness."