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In 1995—as in 1994, 1993, 1992, and 1991—Shadow Statehood Sen. Jesse Jackson took his title literally—at least the shadow part of it. Despite his continuing invisibility in District affairs, Jackson announced last month that he plans to remain as shadow senator—while returning to Chicago to head Operation PUSH. (This move will make Jackson the only U.S. representative—shadow or otherwise—who does not live in the community he or she represents.)

Last week, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton released a tortured letter praising Jackson’s decision to keep his District office. The letter is a classic example of Washington spin (and overspin). I wondered what Norton really had in mind when she wrote it.

What she wrote: December 28, 1995

What she meant: If I’m lucky, everyone will be too busy celebrating the new year to notice this.

Senator Jesse Jackson, c/o Rainbow Coalition,

1700 K Street, N.W., 8th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006.

Senator Jesse Jackson, c/o Operation PUSH, 930 E. 50th St., Chicago, IL 60615.

Dear Jesse,

Dear Traitor,

The District budget situation has been so all consuming and dangerously at risk that I have been unable to respond to your recent announcement concerning your upcoming work until now.

I was humiliated by your decision to move to Chicago and remain as shadow senator. It’s taken me nearly a month to drain the poison from my pen.

I do want you to know that I am relieved that you have indicated that you intend to continue your indispensable local work as the Statehood Senator even while resuming your role as CEO of Operation PUSH.

Dispensable, indispensable. What’s the difference?

With a crucial election year coming up, your national leadership will be essential in energizing the electorate and in raising issues that you share with millions of Americans, including your constituents here in the District. Your statement in your announcement that the fiscal crisis puts “cityhood” in jeopardy, much less statehood, was particularly significant.

Fine time to bail out, pal. Run away, Jesse, run away.

In light of the city’s jeopardy, your assistance in helping us to keep alive the important goals of independence from the Congress and full self government has been greatly appreciated this year and will be just as important in 1996.

Your assistance certainly could not be any less important in 1996 than it was in 1995.

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Your contribution is appreciated.

Your work as a national leader has provided the strongest leverage that the District has ever had in its statehood struggle and will be vital to any work we do in the future. Working with Statehood Senator Florence Pendleton, your personal visits to Senators and your excellent follow-up efforts moved H.R. 51 from a token number to 18 co-sponsors and 31 Senator supporters in all.

I am glad you found a couple of days in your busy schedule to do the job you were elected

to do.

Moreover, you have refused to be sidetracked from Statehood onto fiscal and other issues that call into question that goal for too many.

I have no idea what I am trying to say here.

You have wisely refused to be drawn into

the city’s fiscal crisis and have kept the focus

on statehood.

Thank you for remaining irrelevant.

There is little that the statehood delegation could do about D.C.’s finances—but precisely because the financial crisis is a dangerous distraction from the pursuit of our legitimate rights, your leadership in maintaining that focus was especially important. I especially appreciate the support you have continued to give to our human rights work for the District before the OAS [Organization of American States] and the United Nations as an important new way of keeping statehood issues on track. Your advice and counsel to me on such strategies during this period have been welcome.

You may want to rethink next year’s plans for raising District human rights issues before the BosniaWar Crimes Tribunal, the Organization of African States, and the commissioner of Major League Baseball.

National leaders who would never have looked at statehood, let alone have supported it, did so because of your national leadership and strong showing as a Presidential candidate. Every Democratic Presidential candidate endorsed statehood in 1992. President Clinton was the first President to use his office to further that goal, in no small part because of your efforts.

Jesse, what good are meaningless endorsements? Clinton was AWOL on statehood and the budget. I’m going to bury this point at the end of the letter where no one will see it.

With your continuing invaluable help, the District will move forward until its citizens are afforded their full rights as Americans.

We should live so long.

Best regards for the New Year.

Drop us a postcard from Chicago when you get the chance.

Sincerely, Eleanor Holmes Norton

Yuk. I really feel like taking a shower.

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