Weeks after Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk aired his desire to "crush" Chicago's most violent street gangs, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) shot back Wednesday with harsh words for the Republican senator's plan.
During a Wednesday interview with the Sun-Times, Rush blasted Kirk's plan to get the feds to intervene with the city's gangs as both "headline-grabbing" and an "upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about."
Kirk and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin had recently met with Zachary Fardon, the nominee for U.S. attorney in Chicago, urging him to press hard on the city's gang leaders.
Rush apparently thought better of his remarks, later contacting the Sun-Times via email to put his harsh words in context. According the paper, Rush wrote a follow-up that read:
"Kirk's "current plan does not include the option to create jobs, provide affordable and safe housing, quality health care and improve schools in urban areas, BUT certainly a plan to incarcerate 18,000 black men is elitist. Why is incarceration the sole option instead of rehabilitation which is proven to work and not locking young men up."
Kirk has made tackling gun violence a top priority since his return to Congress this January after recovering from a massive stroke.
The senator has angled to put the name of slain Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton on a gun safety law and in April, met with Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to devise strategies that would curb gang violence and the illegal flow of weapons into the city.
"My top priority is to arrest the Gangster Disciple gang, which is 18,000 people," Kirk said during a May interview with Fox Chicago. "I would like to a mass pickup of them and put them all in the Thomson Correctional Facility, I will be proposing this to the assembled federal law enforcement: ATF, DEA and FBI."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel weighed in Thursday, recalling his time as the "point man for President Bill Clinton's 1995 crime bill," DNAinfo Chicago reports. The mayor said a mix of Rush's alternative services funding idea and Kirk's tough-on-crime approach was the ideal. "It’s not either or," Emanuel said, "you have to do both.”