Rich and me: How we fell out

Then came the Duffs. Tribune investigative reporters explained it all: the Duff family's ties to Daley and to Chicago organized crime dating back to Outfit boss Anthony Accardo.

Daley would drink with the Duffs at their legendary Como Inn parties. There must not have been enough light at those parties, because the Duffs received $100 million in city-related affirmative action contracts even though they were white men with pink necks.

The Chicago media largely ignored the stories. The Chicago Sun-Times was Daley's News back then, and TV reporters fawned over the mayor. One TV type explained that he couldn't do the Duff story because there was no good video. Besides, it was too complicated.

Complicated? White guys, $100 million, drinking with Daley, Outfit connections?

So I hammered away. Daley hated my columns, as did the Duffs. Once at a Chicago steakhouse, the Duffs walked up to my table, smiled, and asked why they never saw my two little boys playing in our front yard.

It was a message, the Chicago Way. And when I wrote about it, in a column addressed as an open letter to the Outfit bosses, Daley clammed up. He wouldn't criticize the Duffs for asking about my children. I felt alone.

Down days for Daley

Chicago had made a pact with Daley. Chicago ignored the corruption, the cronyism, the deals, all that wild spending that would eventually bring the city to the verge of financial ruin at the end of his reign. Chicago shut its eyes to all that.

But then he destroyed Meigs Field, the little airport on the lake. He sent his bulldozers out in the middle of the night and slashed the runways with giant X's. He ruined Meigs because he wanted to, because he could.

"There are three Daleys," said a prominent political figure who supports the mayor, at least publicly. "There's the Daley who got elected, the one you liked. Then there's the Daley who cut all those deals. And there's the Daley who destroyed Meigs Field. And once he did that, he lost his way."

After Meigs, things were different between Chicago and Daley. Chicago had seen the other side of his face. Things went downhill from there. His friends got rich but Chicago floated in red ink. He failed to win the Olympics. Taxes kept rising. He sold off the skyway, the parking meters.

Now there's nothing left to sell but Chicago's soul.

If he'd campaigned for another term he would have lost. I know what the lickspittles say. They're wrong.

Daley would have lost the election. So an arrangement was made with President Barack Obama, the mayor's guy in the White House. Obama's chief of staff became the next mayor, and the mayor's brother became the president's chief of staff. How nice and neat.

Fear had served him, helped him run the city, helped him to boss it, but fear was finally too expensive and didn't work any longer. But that's how he learned, that's how he was shaped.

All those mornings in the limousine, driving downtown, and his father would say, why couldn't young Richard be more like those young men who served Richard J., young men like Mike Madigan or Eddie Burke or Neil Hartigan or Tom Donovan.

And Richard M. would seethe.

A few years after his father died, the warlords of his father's political machine, the old-timers who had known Rich Daley as a child, decided to kill him off politically. So they used his old rival, Burke, to try to knock Rich Daley out of politics for good. It was the 1980 campaign for Cook County state's attorney.

"They were my father's business friends — his people. I knew them all my life," Daley told me years later for the Tribune magazine profile. "But when I made my move for state's attorney, they wanted to kill me. They wanted to stamp me out. And after I beat Burke in the primary, they went over to the Republican (incumbent Bernard Carey) to beat me…

"You don't forget who was with you and who was against you. Me? I don't forget. Would you?" he asked.

No, I said, of course not.

This is Chicago. You don't forget.

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