In the most detailed discussion thus far of the ordeal that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has endured in recent months, his father Rev. Jesse Jackson last night explained the chronology of events that led to his resignation from Congress yesterday, saying it was a “day of boundless pain.”
“This has been a day of boundless pain, in part because Congressman Jackson has been a good congressman,” the elder Jackson told reporters Wednesday evening outside his Chicago home.
“He will get well in time, but it’s not the kind of illness where you can put a timetable on it. If you’re bleeding, you get a Band-Aid. If you break a leg, you get a splint. With this kind of internal, unresolved challenge, you have to take the time, and the environment,” Rev. Jackson said. “So between the political office, and the pressure, and the politics, and the physical condition, he couldn’t do it all. So he made the decision to choose his health, and we embrace him with that.”
Rep. Jackson resigned his seat just two weeks after his resounding victory in the second district, which he has represented since 1995. He won 63 percent of the vote despite the fact that he disappeared from public view back in June and has been treated at a facility in Arizona and at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. Under Illinois law, there must be a special election within 115 days to fill a vacated congressional seat. Jackson likely opted for a special election rather than dropping out before the election so that the seat could remain in Democratic hands rather than being won by his Republican opponent in his absence.
In addition to his health problems, Jackson also faces a serious FBI investigation into his alleged misuse of campaign funds. According to reports, he is in negotiations with the federal government over a plea deal that could result in jail time. The FBI investigation has been looking at Jackson’s alleged use of campaign funds to decorate his home and to buy a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend. The investigation has expanded to include his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, according to reports. Investigators are scrutinizing whether Mrs. Jackson was aware of or complicit in her husband’s alleged misuse of campaign money.
“For seventeen years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy, and life to public service,” Jackson wrote in his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner. “However, over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish… The constituents of the Second District deserve a full-time legislator in Washington, something I cannot be for the foreseeable future. My health issues and treatment regimen have become incompatible with service in the House of Representatives.”
While citing highlights of his 17-year congressional career, such as working with the community to build new train stations, water towers, and emergency rooms, Jackson acknowledged that “[d]uring this journey I have made my share of mistakes.”
“I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone,” Jackson wrote.
In the Chicago Sun-Times, columnist Lynn Sweet said Jackson’s problems likely began with his name.
“Jackson’s blessing and curse is to be the namesake son of a famous self-made man,” she wrote. “I always sensed his agony was that he could never get out of the shadow of his father. Part of that he brought on himself, by going into the family business: politics. In Congress, he landed a plum assignment on the Appropriations Committee as a hat tip to his dad…I remember our first interview after he came to Congress in 1995. We talked about his growing up. I was struck that almost every job he had was because he was his father’s son.”
Rev. Jackson said that his son has “fought gallantly” and the family is thankful for the support they have received.
“This is a big moment for our family, and yet we’ll face tomorrow with prayer, and hope, and we find so much support from so many people,” Rev. Jackson said. “That is the most encouraging part of all of this; throughout all of the pain, people have taken his need to recover seriously, and how deep his depression has been very seriously, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Rev. Jackson said that sometime in May or June, his daughter Santita came to him and told him, “’ Dad, Jesse is not at himself, as it were, something is off.’ I said, ‘He’ll be alright.’ She said, ‘You’re not taking me seriously,’ then she called … my wife. We visited him, and talked with him, and he was talking and crying.”
He said he and his son, Yusef, later went to visit Jesse Jr., and “he was in this deep, dark, lonely place.”
“One can look in retrospect and see a kind of move downward that was not very detectable,” Rev. Jackson said. “We had to rush him to the hospital. The reason I knew he was down, because he went voluntarily, he didn’t resist. He was there. So for six months, now, he’s been trying to recover.”
Rev. Jackson said doctors at the hospital in Arizona told him “his condition was of such, he should not pursue being a congressman because of so much tension in the job.”
His father said he was still determined to return to Congress at some point, despite all the health issues.
“But there was this tension between his emotional equilibrium on the one hand, and the demands of service,” he said. “He had to make a big decision, and he made that decision by submitting his resignation today.”
Rev. Jackson said the congressman wanted to announce his resignation via a press conference, but his doctors and family didn’t feel he could handle the stress and emotion of such an event without breaking down.
He said his son is under private medical supervision, and can now devote his time and energy to his recovery.