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Foster, we’d like to miss you for a change

Jeff Ward

Jeff Ward

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Updated: October 29, 2011 12:39AM

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” And like one of those persistent James Bond villains, just when I thought we’d never hear from him again, former 14th District Congressman Bill Foster comes roaring back like a bad case of athlete’s foot.

This time he’s running for the 11th Congressional District, which now includes Aurora, Joliet, Naperville, Lisle and Bolingbrook. And let me tell ya, as my blues hero B.B. King still likes to sing, “The thrill is gone.”

You see, what Mr. Foster fails to realize is, it took a perfect political storm to put him in office in the first place.

His 2008 general election opponent was none other than perennial unelectable GOP candidate Jim Oberweis. Had Foster squared off against primary runner up Chris Lauzen, it would’ve been an entirely different story.

Next, former Speaker Denny Hastert’s endorsement of Oberweis completely backfired. Fourteenth District constituents took exception to Hastert quitting early in order to give Oberweis a leg up.

And third, Washington Republicans spent eight years screwing up so badly, Americans took the unprecedented step of electing a black president. That ensuing Democratic tsunami helped sweep Foster into office.

The likelihood of that, or any similar confluence of events, occurring again is about the same as Fermilab’s Tevatron coming up with the Higgs Boson. The best evidence of this electoral vulnerability is that Randy Hultgren dispatched Foster forthwith.

The truth is, Foster could’ve (and should’ve) ridden that incumbent advantage to a second win, but instead, he and his amateur staff, riding a self-inflicted wave of entitlement, set out to alienate everyone in their path.

In a previous column, I described Foster as “having the personality of a brick.” That’s not an attack — it’s a statement of fact. For God’s sake, he’s a scientist. Not everyone can be Richard Simmons. But when you have an obvious political shortcoming, it behooves you to surround yourself with folks who offset that liability.

For example, like me, the aforementioned Sen. Lauzen has strong opinions on certain subjects. So he hired Kim Murphy to run his Aurora office. If we had the smarts to send Kim to the Middle East, she could probably solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

But not only did Foster fail to surround himself with the right people, he hired staff who emulated his “attack” mentality.

I have to take some of the blame for that. When Foster first ran, I didn’t call him on those absurd Oberweis Taliban commercials because, considering Oberweis’ own attack ads, I thought they were kind of funny. My mistake!

It was when I wised up and called Foster’s Washington staff to get the same commitment to non-negative campaigning I’d gotten from Republicans Randy Hultgren and Ethan Hastert, that I realized exactly what we were up against.

It wasn’t so much their refusal to let the congressman speak with me, it was the “facts” they invoked to justify that decision. When I caught them in a series of outright lies, they abandoned all pretense and went after me in every way they could.

Then they did the same thing with “troublesome” constituents. When Batavia resident Kent Alcott wrote a 2010 Letter to the Editor to a local newspaper titled “Where’s Bill?” he certainly got his.

Though Mr. Alcott would certainly describe himself as “tenacious,” his point was dead on. At the height of the Republican town hall Tea Party national health care mania, Foster was nowhere to be found. Sure, it’s difficult to stand up to an angry mob, but if you’re going to run for office ... I watched Ethan Hastert handle an often hostile crowd perfectly.

But instead of growing into the position, Foster insulated himself by having “tele-town halls” where a limited number of constituents could call in, they’d screen the callers, and he’d answer a minimal amount of questions. Then he did the same thing with “press conferences.”

And what was Foster Chief of Staff Jason Linde’s response to Alcott’s letter? To absolutely excoriate him. As that paper’s managing editor told me, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Neither have I.

As if this saga couldn’t get any stranger, now Foster is running in a district in which he doesn’t even reside — and he has no plans of moving there. He just doesn’t get it.

Bill, by a stroke of luck, you managed to inflict yourself upon the American public once, which is way more than enough. Please go back to debating whether string theory really requires 11 dimensions with your Fermilab compatriots or running an eminently successful theatre lighting business.

How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

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