Video: Ditka’s biggest regret is …

posted at 9:21 am on October 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

What events turn out to be the hinges of history? Had the British and French stayed firm at Munich, would the Germans have deposed Adolf Hitler before World War II had a chance to begin? If King George had relented on taxation without representation, would we still be British? And had an NFL head coach with a reputation for a hot temper and ungoverned tongue jumped into the Senate race in 2004, would we be in the second term of President Hillary Clinton?

Probably not, but the thought has crossed a few minds in the years since, notably Mike Ditka’s:

President Mike Ditka? That would be an interesting alternate timeline to visit.

Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach, was speaking at an oil company event last week in Watford City, N.D., when he recalled his decision not to run against Barack Obama in the 2004 Illinois Senate race.

“Biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” Ditka said, according to the Dickinson Press newspaper. “Not that I would have won, but I probably would have and he wouldn’t be in the White House.”

Ditka’s name came up in 2004 as a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate after the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, stepped down amid allegations by his ex-wife involving sex clubs.

The better what-if remains whether Ryan would have been able to beat Obama had the details of his divorce hadn’t been exposed.  Obama had not contended in a truly competitive general election race up to that point in his career, and Ryan was a well-regarded up-and-comer in his own right, an articulate conservative with camera appeal.  The scandalous details of his behavior put an end to Ryan’s political life, and he’s sunk into obscurity since.

Republicans like to think that Ditka would have made the difference, and there’s no doubt he would have performed better in Illinois than the hapless Alan Keyes, a Marylander who got 27% of the vote in Illinois in that election.  With George Bush at the top of the ticket, Ditka could have had some wind at his back, too.  But John Kerry ended up smoking Bush in Illinois that year by ten points, so it’s more likely that Ditka would have faced a headwind instead.  Even Ditka’s fans would concede that Da Coach would have some problems keeping a civil tongue in his head in a tough political fight, while Obama had the Chicago Machine and the cool, detached demeanor to make him look more prepared for reasoned debate.  Speaking of which, Obama would at least have had enough immersion in the political arena to get through a debate; he debated Keyes without getting damaged, and Keyes would have had a better grasp of issues and policies than Ditka.

It’s an amusing instance of fantasy politics, but the what-ifs here are not terribly compelling. Ditka made the right choice, even if Illinois — and four years later, the rest of the country — didn’t.


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Ditka stated years ago that Rush was too liberal for him.Just my kind of guy.

jeffinsjvca on October 11, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Ditka’s biggest regret is …

Shocking that it isn’t that stupid mustache.

Happy Nomad on October 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Is it so hard to think that Ditka would have been a strong contender? His roots are in Chicago.

Any Illinois politician will tell you that Democrats always win Chicago and East St. Louis and Republicans win everywhere else. A Republican with strong Chicago ties already has an advantage going in, and Obama was (at the time) a nobody who won largely because he ran against a joke.

KingGold on October 11, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Ditka made the right choice, even if Illinois — and four years later, the rest of the country — didn’t.

I read what you wrote several times over. What made not running the right choice? Just the fact that Ditka speaks his mind, or isn’t a career politician?

Stoic Patriot on October 11, 2013 at 9:28 AM

If wishes and buts were candy and nuts…

bbordwell on October 11, 2013 at 9:31 AM

Keyes was also unhinged by that point.

Ukiah on October 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Obama had not contended in a truly competitive general election race up to that point in his career,

He still hasn’t. Once Oprah, Hollywood, and the MSM anointed him as The Chosen One, no real competition ever had a chance to be heard over the cult-worshippers’ chants.

As for Ditka, no doubt Barry’s (or should I say Valerie’s) minions would have found dirt on him that was as, or more, embarrassing than the stuff they found on Ryan.

AZCoyote on October 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Imagine if the Ryan divorce papers weren’t “miraculously” released.

Steve Eggleston on October 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Ditka’s name came up in 2004 as a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate after the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, stepped down amid allegations by his ex-wife involving sex clubs.

That’s not true. She didn’t derail his run. BO did when he published illegally obtained sealed divorce records of the couple.

Dr. Frank Enstine on October 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Da bearz…

ted c on October 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Related to the previous comment; A blast from the past that caused a Malkinlanche that shattered WPRI’s web server back in the day.

Steve Eggleston on October 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Let’s review the lis of celebrity politicians, shall we?

1. Arnold Schwarzeneggar
2. Jesse Ventura
3. Sonny Bono
$. Stuart Smalley Al Franken
4. Clint Eastwood (Mayor of Carmel, CA)
5. Fred Grandy (Gopher became a Congressman)

Now, aside from a couple of appealing personalities, let’s list the worthwhile lasting achievements of these men:

0, zip, nada, bupkis

Let’s list the colossal f-ups:

1. Decisive vote for Obamacare
2. Getting one’s a** kicked by an actual SEAL
3. Not killing Cher while the chance was had
4. Impregnating the maid

Mike, having the regret of not entering politics is sort of like wishing you had stepped in front of a bus instead of going to work this morning.

M240H on October 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Dr. Frank Enstine on October 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Great minds think remember alike ;-)

Steve Eggleston on October 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

I think giving the ball to the Fridge instead of Walter Payton at the goal line in the Super Bowl was his biggest mistake.

Flange on October 11, 2013 at 9:41 AM

M240H on October 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

You could argue that Ronald Reagan, back in his gubernatorial days, was a celebrity politician. Of course, he is the exception that proves the theory.

Steve Eggleston on October 11, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Mike Ditka against God?

Da-Bears!

Everlasting_Knowitall on October 11, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Steve Eggleston on October 11, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Never the whiff of the dilettante about him.

M240H on October 11, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Ditka at least delivered a Superbowl win for Chicago, which is a heck of a lot more than what Dear Liar has done.

The scandalous details of his behavior put an end to Ryan’s political life, and he’s sunk into obscurity since.

Unlike Sanford, Spitzer, Weiner. Which actually makes him a better man. But dude, you’re married to Seven of Nine. you don’t need anything else.

rbj on October 11, 2013 at 9:45 AM

But dude, you’re married to Seven of Nine. you don’t need anything else.

rbj on October 11, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Was. Was married. Wasn’t enough. Blew it. Chump City.

M240H on October 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM

It really doesn’t matter. The Left will destroy anything and anyone that threatens them. They would have done the same thing to Ditka they did to Jack Ryan.

There’s a reason the Left saves it’s most toxic venom for the Sarah Palins and Ted Cruzes of the Republican party.

SAMinVA on October 11, 2013 at 9:51 AM

The IL Republican Party is even more hapless and incompetent than the national one. It’s a shame b/c most of the IL counties are rural and red, populated by fine people; it all revolves around Crook County and it’s crony corruptions.

One county has ruined a state that produced a piece of $hite POTUS that is ruining a county.

aquaviva on October 11, 2013 at 9:53 AM

M240H on October 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

.
That’s a good list of ‘contemporary’ celebrity politicians, but I would have included Ronald Reagan, anyway.

listens2glenn on October 11, 2013 at 9:54 AM

More likely, Axelrod and Co. would have dug up something on Da Coach to tarnish his personal character. Believe me, we noticed locally when those 3rd-hand allegations of Blair Hull beating his wife mysteriously evaporated after 0bummer came from behind to beat him in the Democratic primary. Probably, they would have parsed his comments from his coaching days or TV show appearances to find something they could trump up as being out of touch and RAAAAAACIST!

Also, if you think the GOP in Washington is useless and dysfunctional, you should really check out the Illinois GOP. George Ryan, the most recent GOP governor who was then out of office for about 18 months, was under indictment at the time, and the party was quickly imploding. Even if Ditka ran, I doubt the Illinois GOP would have rallied entirely around him.

JimLennon on October 11, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Is it so hard to think that Ditka would have been a strong contender? His roots are in Chicago.

KingGold on October 11, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Actually, his roots are from (at least near) Pittsburgh.

bigmacdaddy on October 11, 2013 at 9:55 AM

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

VastRightWingConspirator on October 11, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Ditka would have mandated that all airlines provide grill-class seating, that alone would have garnered 97% of the male vote, the other 3% being the tofu-eating betas such as Genuine.

Bishop on October 11, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Actually, his roots are from (at least near) Pittsburgh.

bigmacdaddy on October 11, 2013 at 9:55 AM

I didn’t mean his family roots, I meant his professional roots. As in, he’s a Chicago icon. That’s all I meant by that.

KingGold on October 11, 2013 at 9:59 AM

If Ditka had jumped in it would have been interesting. He would have been, essentially, immune to the press bias. It would have been up to him to show he had a command of the issues. Not sure if he could have done that. Ditka would have had a chance to show what he could do.

Obama was going to beat Ryan easily. The Republican Party in Illinois was in complete disarray at that point. Obama ran as a post partisan unifier: no red states, no blue states, the United States. Many disaffected Republicans voted for Obama (mea maxima culpa, I voted for Obama in 2004) instead of Keyes, who ran a disgraceful campaign and was a carpet bagging opportunist. Maryland did not need a 3rd senator.

Ted Torgerson on October 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

If wishes and buts were candy and nuts…
bbordwell on October 11, 2013 at 9:31 AM

If wishes were horses we would all be eating steak.

Dr. Frank Enstine on October 11, 2013 at 10:07 AM

after the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, stepped down amid allegations by his ex-wife involving sex clubs.

Too bad Ryan didn’t have a ‘D’ after his name. With this pedigree he would have won in a landslide.

chewmeister on October 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Was. Was married. Wasn’t enough. Blew it. Chump City.

M240H on October 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM

I was talking to the married Jack Ryan. If I’m married to that, there’s no need for sex clubs.

rbj on October 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM

I didn’t mean his family roots, I meant his professional roots. As in, he’s a Chicago icon. That’s all I meant by that.

KingGold on October 11, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Noted. He’s also a Western PA icon; those people are nuts about their football.

When their teams don’t suck, that is.

bigmacdaddy on October 11, 2013 at 10:16 AM

I was talking to the married Jack Ryan. If I’m married to that, there’s no need for sex clubs.
rbj on October 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Who knows really except for the two of them. Way back in time I knew a really hot looking gal. Every guy around wanted her really bad and wished he could be with her. Lets just say she was all show. She really lacked in the romance department if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Dr. Frank Enstine on October 11, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Yes Mike, I have cussed you out numerous times for not running. You could have changed the course of American history. Sorry. but you get no absolution from me.

fight like a girl on October 11, 2013 at 10:23 AM

I was in Missouri at the time and I was initially happy that Zero beat Blair Hull because we’d retain Fitzgerald’s seat. Nope, IL is more liberal than that. Ditka might’ve been more competitive but no slam dunk at all.

IR-MN on October 11, 2013 at 10:24 AM

We are talking about a population of people who, time after time, vote for the name they know. I think Coach Ditka would have won in a walk.

Cindy Munford on October 11, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Imagine if the Ryan divorce papers weren’t “miraculously” released.

Steve Eggleston on October 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Even Nixon wasn’t that good at dirty tricks.

Ward Cleaver on October 11, 2013 at 10:27 AM

If I have a choice to elect a successful coach or a lawyer I will take the coach every time.

Ditkaca on October 11, 2013 at 10:37 AM

You know, if voters had half a brain and would pay attention, the SCOAMT could not have been elected dogcatcher.

Make a wish in one hand and make a shlt in the other hand and see which hand gets filled first.

NOMOBO on October 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM

he’s a Chicago icon.

KingGold on October 11, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Which is why he sucked in New Orleans.

Happy Nomad on October 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Well, there’s fantasy football, and then there is just plain fantasy.

HiJack on October 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM

But John Kerry ended up smoking Bush in Illinois that year by ten points, so it’s more likely that Ditka would have faced a headwind instead.

Wait, wait… but what if that headwind were named Ditka?

thirtyandseven on October 11, 2013 at 10:46 AM

As for Ditka, no doubt Barry’s (or should I say Valerie’s) minions would have found dirt on him that was as, or more, embarrassing than the stuff they found on Ryan.

AZCoyote on October 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

I don’t know that this would qualify as more embarassing than Ryan’s sexual proclivities, but Ditka (as GM of the Saints) traded all of his remaining draft picks to select Ricky Williams, who was more interested in smoking ganja than football and was pretty much a bust, especially for the Saints. Not a wise move.

Bitter Clinger on October 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Yeah, sure, he coulda been a contenda.

But Barry’s pants crease would have prevailed.

TimBuk3 on October 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Ed – I was following that race from before Obama got the Dem nomination.

Ditka would have beat him.

Only reason Obama won, was because LaHood cleared the GOP field.

Obama’s strength at the time was the meet-n-greets. He was not that telegenic. Ditka was a television veteran.

Obama only looked solid against Keyes because Keyes is a nut.

Ditka would have sucked the air out of the room and dragged a ton of celebrities out to back him. Even Jordan and Phil Jackson would have given their blessing.

No celeb would have been scared of upsetting a Dem State Senator who was a nobody.

I’ll never forget hearing Barry speak off the cuff for the first time, and instantly realizing that whenever he made it to the national stage, the old guard was in deep trouble.

budfox on October 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

So, in his mind, this was worse than giving the Fridge the ball on the goal line rather than Sweetness? I don’t know. I do know his judgement is pi$$poor.

CycloneCDB on October 11, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Ditka would have beat him.

budfox on October 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Yup. It hurts just knowing this and that he now regrets it.

Ditka.

Fallon on October 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM

I was at Keyes announcement. The ONLY reason that Keyes was brought in was because the useless GOP decided to run black guy vs black guy. That’s the truth-and the voters knew it. I had voted for Keyes over Bush in the 2000 presidential primary-but in 2004 I voted for the libertarian candidate for senate. Keyes was just too out there for me.
Had the IGOP instead put Steve Raushengerger-the 3rd place primary finisher-in for Ryan…we would not be dealing w/ a president Zero.
SR could have-would have beaten Zero.

annoyinglittletwerp on October 11, 2013 at 11:37 AM

The real story is that Obama is never elected if Fitzgerald doesn’t retire after his one Senate term and seat he vacated.

If you will recall, Fitzgerald stood on the Senate floor asking who will bailout the American people while they were bailing out airline companies. Fitzgerald was the only vote against on that cause.

Republicans then ran him out of town on a rail, and he said he didn’t need to deal with it. That family is wealthy enough, so Fitzgerald just wrapped it up.

Smart move Republicans, running one of the few sane people out of town…

Washington Fancy on October 11, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Ditka’s biggest regret is …

The “Superbowl Shuffle”?

JetBoy on October 11, 2013 at 11:51 AM

“Sausages…” “Beer…” “Ditka…”

CaptFlood on October 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM

“Sausages…” “Clean CRs…” “Da Bears…” “Debt Ceiling…”

CaptFlood on October 11, 2013 at 12:04 PM

That’s a bakers dozen.

Murphy9 on October 11, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Even if Ditka hadn’t run, he could at least have made the race competitive. If Obama had beaten Ditka by, say, 3 percentage points, rather than beating Keyes by 43 percentage points as he actually did, then Obama might not have looked so formidable. Hence, Obama might not have run for president as early as 2008.

(Disclaimer: I left the Senate ballot blank in the general election that year — I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Keyes.)

J.S.K. on October 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM

“Not that I would have won, but I probably would have and he wouldn’t be in the White House.”

That’s just the kind of clear thinking we need in the senate.

Akzed on October 11, 2013 at 1:24 PM

As for Ditka, no doubt Barry’s (or should I say Valerie’s) minions would have found dirt on him that was as, or more, embarrassing than the stuff they found on Ryan.

AZCoyote on October 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

I don’t know that this would qualify as more embarassing than Ryan’s sexual proclivities, but Ditka (as GM of the Saints) traded all of his remaining draft picks to select Ricky Williams, who was more interested in smoking ganja than football and was pretty much a bust, especially for the Saints. Not a wise move.

Bitter Clinger on October 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Remember the infamous “wedding photo” of Dicka and Ricky? Those were the days…

Saw a nice story about Ricky a couple of weeks ago. He’s now a part time running backs coach at University of Incarnate Word in Texas.

Del Dolemonte on October 11, 2013 at 2:04 PM

I don’t think that not having a civil tongue would have been much of a hindrance. Ditka is as Ditka does.

CrustyB on October 11, 2013 at 2:37 PM

I don’t know that this would qualify as more embarassing than Ryan’s sexual proclivities, but Ditka (as GM of the Saints) traded all of his remaining draft picks to select Ricky Williams, who was more interested in smoking ganja than football and was pretty much a bust, especially for the Saints. Not a wise move.

Bitter Clinger on October 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

This^

We thought we had a winner.
But he serously damaged the program.

soundingboard on October 11, 2013 at 5:30 PM