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Column

STATEHOUSE SPOTLIGHT: Politics takes a turn for the verse

Illinois author heads to the farm for his satirical take on the current state of disarray in politics

Bernard Schoenburg
Bernard Schoenburg

We have yet to see whether it is the “Animal Farm” of its time, but Springfield resident Brent Bohlen has authored a book about the state of U.S. politics with animals as characters.

“The Parable of the Peacock: A read-aloud satirical picture book for 2020 voters,” is 40 pages talking about “a barnyard land, vibrant and large,” that went from animals “well-served by their government” to one being run by “a shameless peacock” who “piled lie upon lie.” Despite its adult message, it is formatted as a children’s book, and done with rhymes.

Yes, Bohlen, 69, knows that people who aren’t fans of President Donald Trump “will like it more than people who are fans of the president.” That would be an understatement.

Bohlen says he has split his vote, but considers himself in general a Democrat. He is a former assistant state’s attorney, legal counsel to the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois, member of the state Property Tax Appeals Board, and member of the Illinois Commerce Commission.

In the book, generally speaking, the pigs are Republicans, horses are Democrats, bunnies are immigrants, the weasel is Russian President Vladimir Putin, and guess who, with a shock of blond hair, is the “prideful peacock” who put on a pig’s nose and “claimed he was a pig” and promised to “Make Barnyard Great Again.” There are sheep mesmerized by the leader, and, the book says, “Almost all of the pigs turned into sheep!”

Bohlen says he tried to show in the book that both parties share responsibility for a bad course. As for pigs that have sheep heads, he said, he was thinking of people who seem to have lost past beliefs, like, he said, “Republicans who have been concerned about the national debt and deficits, and all of a sudden, they don’t seem to care about that.”

There are a couple of alternative endings included – different paths depending who wins the election.

“I believe the most important message of the book is that the 2020 election is critically important for the future of our country and everyone should think carefully before voting,” Bohlen said.

Bohlen said he found the illustrator, Oksana Basarab, over the internet. And, he said, it just so happened that she is from Ukraine.

The book is selling for $13.95 at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Wrong founder

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, while in line at the State Board of Elections in Springfield on Monday to file his nominating petitions for the 2020 race, repeated something he’s been saying when asked about impeachment: that a Founding Father, James Madison, made the Senate the jury of impeachment because it is “independent” and “dignified.”

“We’ve got to live up to the James Madison standard,” he said.

But it turns out – and Durbin admitted as much when asked about it and when he looked into it further – that he has apparently been quoting Alexander Hamilton.

“Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent?” Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 65.

“I was afraid to say Hamilton because it sounds like I’m plugging a musical,” Durbin joked.

New president for journalist group

John O’Connor, Associated Press Statehouse correspondent, was recently elected president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association.

The ILCA represents journalists who report on Illinois state government.

O’Connor, 56, is a Freeport native who got his master’s degree in public affairs reporting in 1986 from what is now the University of Illinois Springfield. He has a bachelor’s degree from Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa.

He worked as a Statehouse intern with The State Journal-Register when in graduate school. He later worked at newspapers in Iowa and Illinois before returning to the SJ-R in 1994. He moved to the Statehouse for the newspaper in early 1998, and later that year joined the AP there.

“It’s a challenging time to be in the media, but there’s never been a more important time for the media, and it’s still a great job, and hopefully we render a great service,” he said.

O’Connor is also a local actor, and in the spring will reprise a one-man show called “Mr. Lincoln” at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The previous president of the ILCA, since 2015, was my colleague Doug Finke, 66, Statehouse reporter for the State Journal Register. He’s a Rockford native, a graduate of Northern Illinois University, and has been with the newspaper for 4 decades.

A legend passes

An extraordinary life has ended. World War II prisoner of war and longtime Statehouse lobbyist Dick Lockhart died last week at his Chicago home. He was 95.

Lockhart had started lobbying in 1959, retiring at the end of 2017, saying he didn’t want to make the long drive any more.

Lockhart was with the Army during the Battle of the Bulge, and endured 5 months in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. He suffered frostbite, and during his imprisonment, his weight went from 160 to 100, and he was beaten by a guard. His parents, back in Indiana, got a telegram that he was lost in action, and they thought he was dead.

Lockhart ended up lobbying for a variety of groups including independent accountants, detectives, retired teachers and a mental health treatment advocacy group.

“I believe in being upfront with everybody and telling the truth, even when it hurts,” he told me in an interview upon his retirement.

“He’s really a legend,” said Keith Sias of Springfield, senior vice president/governmental affairs with the Illinois Credit Union League. That group was another longtime client of Lockhart.

Everyday struggles pale in comparison to what Lockhart had gone through, he said.

“He would persevere and never give up,” Sias said, “and just really did things the right way.”

Lockhart enjoyed history and had more than 1,600 books at his Chicago home.

A celebration of life – being described as similar to a party and with a bar and snacks that Lockhart liked – is planned for 1:45 to 5:45 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago.

Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg.

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