Updated 07/12/12 – 6:05 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – While questions still swirl around the news that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is being treated for an unspecified “mood disorder,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested Thursday there shouldn’t be a rush for the congressman to get back to Capitol Hill when Congress isn’t getting any work done anyway.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Emanuel stressed his first concern is for the Jackson family, especially his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), and their children.
“When you have mental and emotional issues – and mental health issues – they not only affect the individual, they affect the family, if you know anything about that area,” Emanuel said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
The mayor also said the congressman does have a right to some privacy in this matter.
“Second, I know a lot of people are saying ‘When’s he going to get back to work? He should get back to work,’” Emanuel said. “Why would he go back to work at a Congress that does no work? Why rush it? I mean, they’re all talking about him going back to work. Last time I checked, Congress had their second repeal of their healthcare bill; another symbolic victory. Why rush?”
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports a very, very small circle of close Jackson friends really knows what’s going on.
That might explain the confusion and contradiction which have characterized the Jackson camp’s attempt at damage control since first announcing his leave of absence, initially citing “exhaustion.”
Dr. Byron Brazier, a Jackson family friend, said, “Right now he’s balancing his silence … for his own health and his own privacy. And we have to wait to see what that end looks like, before we come back and say was it too long or too short.”
While Brazier knows the Jackson family quite well, he readily admitted that he wasn’t a member of the inner circle that knows the details of the congressman’s health issues.
Nor was political ally State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), who joined those who have said Jackson should disclose more about when he’ll be back at work, even if he doesn’t disclose all the details of his condition.
“Yeah, he may owe more information with regards to when he will return and what his capacity will be to serve,” Raoul said. “Beyond that, getting into the nitty gritty of the condition and his treatment, I believe its private.”
The continuing silence over Jackson’s absence doesn’t sit well with the man who hopes to defeat him in the fall elections.
“I don’t buy for a minute that the doctors took a month to come up with the right diagnosis,” Brian Woodworth, the Republican running against Jackson in November, says. “He’s made the 2nd District a laughing stock.”
Woodworth also said he hopes Jackson gets better.
Emanuel acknowledged Jackson owes it to his constituents to explain his illness at some point.
“Just because you’re in public life, doesn’t mean your zone of privacy ends. At some point he has to talk to the constituents, and he knows that,” Emanuel said.
Meantime, CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker went to find out if Jackson’s local district offices were still running in while he’s gone, and to talk to some of his constituents about the congressman’s absence.
“Just like when you’re out politicking; you’re kissing, and you’re hugging, you’re telling everybody everything then. So, you should tell them everything now, when things are not so good,” said Melva Finley, expressing the frustration some of Jackson’s constituents have felt during his absence.
Finley said she’s confident his staff has kept up with constituent services and other functions at his local office, but said he owes it to the public to explain his health issues. She said she believes, if he explains exactly what problems he’s facing, the questions and rumors about his health will stop.
While voters wait for those answers, the biggest impact of his absence has been seen on the floor of Congress.
Jackson has missed at least 89 roll call votes in the House since he began his leave of absence on June 10, including Wednesday’s vote on repealing President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill.
His absence has also meant two bills he’s sponsoring on voters’ rights and raising the minimum wage have been stalled.
But sources said constituents should see little other evidence of his departure.
At Jackson’s offices in Homewood and Chicago, district workers were still busy helping constituents with everything from immigration questions, to tax concerns.
And not all of the calls to his offices in recent weeks have been from constituents asking for help. Workers said they’ve received phone calls and emails expressing support for Jackson during his absence.
A fellow congressman wanted to send a “thinking of you card for Mr. Jackson,” a village administrator wrote, “Please let Jesse know … that we wish him well,” and an old friend from high school said, “If there was anything I could do to help him, I would do it in a heart beat.”
Some who have visited Jackson’s offices also have messages of comfort.
“Everybody gives out, and so maybe this is his timing to just, you know, relax, or do better,” said Malba Garrido. “I think if he’s not able to carry on his position, he’ll let us know.”
Work also has continued at Jackson’s office on Capitol Hill, although he has not been there since June 10.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed satisfied Thursday with the explanation from Jackson’s aides that he was being treated for an unspecified “mood disorder.”
“We just didn’t know, and now we do,” Pelosi said.
By Pelosi’s count, Jackson had missed just 12 days that Congress was in session. In that time, he’s missed 89 House roll call votes, according to House records.
Emanuel said when Jackson does return to Capitol Hill, hopefully Congress will be doing real work.
Initially, Jackson’s aides said he was absent due to “exhaustion,” then later said his medical problems were more serious than initially thought.
On Wednesday, his office released a statement from Jackson’s unnamed doctor, stating he is undergoing intensive treatment for a “mood disorder,” and denying rumors that he is being treated for alcohol or substance abuse.
However, the statement did not specify what type of mood disorder Jackson has, or where he is being treated.
Earlier Thursday, Jackson’s father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., spoke briefly about his son’s mood disorder, but did not refer to it directly, or offer any more specific information about his son’s illness or treatment.
“He is unwell. He is under medical supervision. He is rebuilding his strength,” the Rev. Jackson said. “We feel good about his regaining of his strength.”
As for the delays in getting out information about Jackson’s absence, sources with knowledge about the situation said the announcement that Jackson was suffering “exhaustion” was supposed to happen a week earlier than it did. But on the day they planned the announcement, Jackson fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak was arrested on unrelated mail fraud and tax evasion charges, and Jackson’s camp didn’t want his absence tied to Nayak’s arrest.