Republicans afraid of the storm? Come to Chicago

With Tropical Storm Isaac threatening to turn into a hurricane and menace the Republican National Convention in Tampa early next week, Republicans must make a decision.

They could just get sloshed on rum, margaritas and whiskey and ride out the storm like real Floridians, and watch young TV reporters hang on to light poles during live shots in hopes of becoming an anchorperson someday.

Or Republicans could quickly change cities and find someplace new for their big shindig.

Happily, there is one city that can easily handle such a large crowd, a famous convention-and-restaurant town with an amazing political history and the kind of earthiness that would delight Republican delegates and journalists looking for juicy stories:

Chicago.

Hey, Mitt Romney, How You Doin'?

And why not?

"I think it's a great idea," Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said Thursday. "We'll have 50,000 Republicans. They'll be excited and relieved. And we could land them right at Meigs Field."

That's right — X marks the spot.

Brady knows that the last mayor carved up the beautiful little lakefront airstrip with bulldozers, putting giant X's into the runway. So Republicans might have to sneak in by boat. But Brady told me he'd phone Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus to put a good word in for Chicago.

Chicago is the perfect site for the convention because most locals have never seen a real Republican. They've seen former GOP governors like Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson, but they don't count. I'm talking about real Republicans.

Simply seeing one would amaze and perhaps even frighten city residents. Republican delegates could take turns sitting in a pen at Lincoln Park Zoo just to let Chicagoans see them up close.

"Ma? What's that, ma?" a kid might ask. "It looks like some guy in a suit talking in complete sentences. Does it bite?"

"No, dear," the mom might say. "Don't be afraid. That's just a Republican. We tamed them long ago. But I thought they were extinct."

Meanwhile, most Republicans haven't truly explored the rich and wondrous political history of Chicago. Oh, they act like they know about the city and its politics. They talk and talk about the Chicago Way — so they must have read about it somewhere — but have they ever really walked on it?

Just think of the places Republicans could visit. And Romney could even take them on a tour.

First stop would be along the bank of the Chicago River, where President Barack Obama was found as an infant, floating in that reed basket, to be raised by Chicago Democrats until he reached the age of miracles.

Romney could take them out to the Kenwood neighborhood, where the Obamas bought that dream house.

They could even take photographs of the strange strip of land right next to it — the grass bought by the wife of Obama's former real estate fairy, now-imprisoned political fixer Tony Rezko, in a convoluted arrangement allowing the Obamas to complete their estate. The president has said it was a "boneheaded" move to involve Rezko.

Republicans would be wise to cut little pieces of sod and put the pieces in tiny glass cases. They could use them as fundraising devices and call it Obama Bonsai.

What Republican wouldn't pay through the nose for real Rezko Roots that you could water every morning and trim with nail scissors once a week? And inside the case would be a tiny plastic Rezko and a tiny plastic Obama, holding golf clubs and practicing their putting.

Tell me that's not a conversation starter.

Then on to City Hall, the ground zero of the Chicago Democratic machine, where a portrait of George Washington hangs behind the council chamber. There, Republicans would see what generations of indicted Democratic pols have seen: America's first president with his palm facing up, fingers curved, an expectant smile on his face as if he were taking care of a zoning variance.

A side trip on the culture bus would take delegates to observe how the Nation of Islam patrols Chicago's streets to keep things safe.

Brady said the Republican National Committee should be eager to take Chicago up on the offer.

"Reince is a friend, I absolutely will ask him to consider Chicago as the alternative convention site," Brady said of the Republican chairman. "He's from Kenosha. So he understands the significance of the Chicago Way.

"And the convention would be great for the city.

"I brought the Chicago idea up a few years ago, but it didn't get traction. Now, with that tropical storm coming, what better place than Chicago? It would bring jobs to Chicago, and business, and there are so many sights to see."

Brady said he'd like Republican delegates to walk along LaSalle Street and stand on the site of the famous Counsellors Row Restaurant, where the FBI secretly recorded 1st Ward and Outfit-sponsored political figures.

Republicans would be remiss if they didn't take advantage of some other great Chicago offerings.

For example, the Daley boys could be hired to teach Republicans how to launch a lucrative municipal insurance brokerage. And state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan, the speaker of the state House, could host breakfast seminars on how "conflict of interest" doesn't mean the same thing in Illinois as it does elsewhere.

"How could anyone deny the fact that Chicago would be the ideal place?" said Brady. "Hotels need the business, the restaurants aren't crowded this time of year, and it would bring jobs."

If Isaac breaks bad on Tampa, we're ready. Chicago needs jobs, jobs, jobs.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

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