By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Tom Ricketts is counting on us being stupid, or us not having access to a computer. Maybe both.
He’s hiding right now, hunkered down behind spokespeople, spinning madly to extricate himself from the political doings of his father and brothers.
After initially repudiating the “Ricketts Plan” to smear Barack Obama with racially-tinged attack ads, his statement Thursday included, “I shall have no further comment on this.”
Interestingly, “further comment” appeared in the Sun Times Saturday. Ricketts decided he probably needed to try to get ahead of the story by finding a sympathetic ear, or someone advising the family decided it for him.
The same day, Laura Ricketts stepped from the background into the limelight, representing ownership at the Kerry Wood retirement festivities. Nothing makes a better human shield in times of PR crisis than the readily-available Obama supporter. In case of emergency, break glass – contains one liberal lesbian.
Here’s what Ricketts is trying to do that is so galling: he’s retroactively refashioning the story of the family’s purchase of the Cubs, in a vain attempt to remove his father, Joe, from history.
“He’s not involved in anything we do as a team,” Tom Ricketts told the paper. “He’s not involved in the team…it’s apples and oranges. Maybe it’s difficult for some people to separate the two, but that’s just the way it is.”
It’s difficult because of the truth. It’s Joe’s money. Joe bought the team, with the kids out in front of the parade. There’s a YouTube video from 2010 in which daddy himself explains how the Cubs were acquired.
“My son Tom called me and said ‘Dad, the Tribune has just changed hands. They own the Cubs, and they’re going to be selling the Cubs, so we ought to get ready to buy them.’” He went on to detail his relative lack of interest in sports, but described how Tom convinced him that the Cubs were a good bet, since they would sell out every game, regardless of wins and losses.
“I said ‘Now you’re talking about a business. Now you’ve got my interest.’ So we went down the road to buy the Cubs.”
“We.” “My interest.” Joe’s money. Joe’s business.
There’s more. When the purchase-price negotiations came to a head, we learned who in the family was calling the shots.
“My son Pete and I said ‘We’re done. Tom, listen – we’re not behind you anymore. You either draw the line in the sand…or you have to give up, because we’re not going to do it.”
Pushed by the ones apparently in charge, Tom made the final offer and the transaction got done. Without Joe, no deal. Joe’s money, Joe’s business.
Tom also said, “I’m really not involved in what my father does on the political side,” which is not exactly true, either. His history of political donations is readily available to the public, and is in ideological lockstep with that of his father.
That’s fine, of course. There’s nothing at all wrong, necessarily, with being a right-wing Republican. There’s nothing illegal about attack ads, either. And even amid the bald-faced hypocrisy of asking for public money while simultaneously planning to slur the president to pursue the goal of stopping runaway government spending, a tax deal of some kind may still be in the best interests of the state, city, county and neighborhood.
Ricketts and family just need to stop being weasels, and have the confidence to be straight with us. We know Joe Ricketts is an owner of the Cubs, since he provided the money. We also know he’s a political firebrand, ready and willing to use sketchy tactics that exploit the new, relaxed rules that allow funds to advance agendas like never before.
Tom will have to step out from behind Laura sometime soon. He’s the appointed face, and can’t hand off that responsibility when it’s a political hot potato, only to reclaim it when things cool down.
He can’t change history, can’t change his father, and can’t undo what’s already been done.
What he can do is stop treating us as if we don’t know what’s going on.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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