FILE - In this Jan. 20, 1989, photo, President George H.W. Bush, left, is congratulated by outgoing President Ronald Reagan after Bush took the oath of office as the 41st president of the United States on Capitol Hill in Washington. The inauguration of the U.S. president is traditionally a highly-scripted celebration, with seating charts, schedules, dress rehearsals, and planning committees that map each moment of the history-making day from start to finish. But sometimes the unexpected happens. Bush was inaugurated on the 200th anniversary of the presidency, and so one of the two Bibles on which he rested his hand during the oath of office was the same Bible that George Washington used in 1789. The other Bible belonged to the Bush family. The day also marked the first friendly transition in 60 years. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)AP1989
My recent column on the proposed demolition of Ronald Reagan’s Chicago home and the possibility of the site being used as a parking lot for Obama’s future library has caused a national media firestorm – and I’m glad.
Reagan would have turned 102 this week and I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to one of our greatest presidents than to bring national attention to the fight to save his only Chicago home. To remind us how great “the Gipper” truly was and how much we miss him in our lives. No President that great should be so casually cast aside as he is being in the city of Chicago.
I proudly stand by my column and my right to tell “the other side of the story.” The side of the story that the mainstream media doesn’t tell. The real people side of the story.
For weeks prior to the column, area residents, business owners, and building activists have been contacting me, worried and upset that the University of Chicago was planning to bulldoze Reagan’s only Chicago home, the apartment building at 832 E. 57th St., to build a parking lot.
Hyde Park residents were upset because while the University was planning to bulldoze the Reagan home, it has been aggressively bidding to be the site of the future Obama presidential library. People were upset that the Reagan site could potentially be used as a parking lot for that library.
Reagan would have turned 102 this week and I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to one of our greatest presidents than to bring national attention to the fight to save his only Chicago home.
They were worried because this is Chicago. And in Chicago, politicians say one thing and do another.
Powerful institutions do too.
So, I wrote in my column:
Could the Reagan site become a parking lot for Obama’s library? Opponents of the demolition say yes.
There is good reason for them to be suspicious.
First lady Michelle Obama and the president’s close adviser Valerie Jarrett are former top executives of the University of Chicago Medical Center. President Obama was a lecturer at the law school for twelve years. And let’s not forget, Obama’s Hyde Park home is here, too.
This is still Chicago. Barack Obama’s Chicago. Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago.
But the mainstream media doesn’t like conservative opinion; they don’t like it when we attempt to figure out what is really happening behind the scenes. That's why news outlets like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Hardball’s Chris Matthews and sites like Huffington Post, Salon, and Media Matters and others have attacked the column.
Neither does the White House, which called the report "false,” and “shocking.” But this is the same White House that continues to laugh off troubling questions on Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and the president’s use or misuse of Executive Orders.
And neither does the University of Chicago, which recently wrote a letter requesting (demanding) a correction to my column.
But there won’t be any correction because it is not warranted.
Despite denials from the White House and the University of Chicago, questions remain:
- Was demolition of the Reagan site not scheduled for January?
- Will the land not be used to provide parking space for the University of Chicago?
- Is the University of Chicago not interested in being the site of a future Obama presidential library?
- Has the University of Chicago not placed a bid to be the site of that library while it is in the process of attempting to demolish Reagan’s home?
- Will future library patrons be prevented from using the parking lot?
The university has been buying up land in the Hyde Park area and knocking down entire residential blocks. At this point, no one knows where a future Obama presidential library and its parking lots will be if the University of Chicago is awarded the site.
But we do know that in August 2011, Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed a “first-of-its-kind” agreement between the city and the University of Chicago to speed up permitting, licensing and construction for the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park expansion. Chicago Sun Times columnist Lynn Sweet questioned whether this deal was just “paving the way for Obama’s presidential library.”
As early as fall of 2009, University of Chicago began lobbying to be the site of the Obama library but was told it was “too early.”
We know that the Reagan site is 1 mile away from President Obama’s Hyde Park residence, secured through a controversial deal with convicted felon Antonin “Tony” Rezko. A 4-minute drive.
We also know that the Reagan site is just around the corner from David Axelrod’s new Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.
In addition to becoming the site of a future Obama library, this area could become a lucrative President Obama walking tour as well.
That’s why I’m not as utterly convinced by the University of Chicago’s latest statement about the demolition of Reagan’s home or a tweet from White House press secretary Jay Carney as the liberal media are.
Because politicians say one thing and do another. Especially in the city of Chicago.
William J. Kelly is an Emmy Award-winning TV producer and columnist for the Washington Times Communities. He also contributes to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. He is a native from Chicago's South Side.