I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that Jesse Jackson Jr — prior to Senate Candidate No. 5 status — had a better reputation than his dad among black people. His early support of Barack Obama and pushback on his own father was appreciated by the rank-and-file and said a lot about him. He’s a charismatic, astute politician with a bright future ahead of him. And frankly I think I join a lot of African-Americans who would be disappointed to see someone other than another African-American appointed to Obama’s former Senate seat – Obama is now the sole African-American out of 100 U.S. Senators.

What I’m hearing from black people I’ve been talking to is that, deep down, they really want to take Jesse Jr at his word that there’s been some sort of grotesque misunderstanding here. That things aren’t what they seem somehow. I’m predisposed to think favorably of Junior — Jesse Jr looks a lot like my younger brother.

I’ve been watching his interviews though such as the Don Lemon CNN interview with Jesse and his wife above. These sweaty, squeaky, nigh-tearful appearances, plus a close reading of the criminal complaint have me doubtful of his total innocence.

I doubt he’s likely to be indicted on anything. I’m not even sure he’s more than just guilty of Chicago tit-for-tat, rough-and-tumble politics as usual. Still, it makes me question his judgment & his character. So desperately eager were he and apparently his wife for that Senate seat that he took some unwise risks in communicating and associating with Blagojevich. He would have known far better than you or I just how tight the ongoing investigation of Blagojevich was. He must have known that his movements with Blago were being watched and recorded. And he knew he didn’t necessarily have the full support of Obama and others for the seat (if you believe the text of the criminal complaint:

ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that Senate Candidate 5 was very much a realistic candidate for the open Senate seat, but that ROD BLAGOJEVICH was getting “a lot of pressure” not to appoint Senate Candidate 5.

In short, it was a long shot. Yet Jesse Jr’s ambition drove him forward and the gamble’s blown up with plenty of egg on his face. It also makes me wonder what else we might not know about the Jackson family…

It’s likely that he might have gotten the seat on his own steam in the next election if he really wanted it. But no. He wanted it now — perhaps because running as an incumbent would have made it tough to unseat him from the Senate. I don’t think this is the fight of his life. He’ll likely survive this with only a scratch or two on the varnish. Black folks really seem to want to give him another chance to do well. Still, it’s interesting — I think non-black people may have a different take on Jackson than do African-Americans, which may yet impact his political future. There is almost no way he’ll get that Senate seat now, for instance.

Maybe it’s just me though — what do you think of Jesse Jr’s claims of innocence and his political future going forward from the Blago taint?

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