Former Chicago Police Department superintendent, now mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy
Former Chicago Police Department superintendent, now mayoral challenger Garry McCarthyCredit: Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

For a journalistic lifer, there are various triumphs that can help compensate for the lousy wages and precarious existence of a newspaper writer.

For instance, you could win an award for your work. Or strike it rich and sell a story to Hollywood. Or publish that novel you’ve been keeping in your desk and become a real writer.

Or you can achieve the gold medal of journalistic achievement—getting cussed out in print by a politician.

That’s all my way of saying congratulations to my old friend, Dan Mihalopoulos, the bulldog investigative reporter for my beloved Bright One, who got cussed out just the other day.

The cusser was Garry “Big Mac” McCarthy, who looks like he’s gearing up to run against Mayor Rahm in 2019.

From 2011 to 2015, McCarthy was Mayor Rahm’s handpicked police superintendent. And then the mayor threw McCarthy under the bus after the Laquan McDonald video was released.

On Sunday, McCarthy held a fund-raiser at the Irish American Heritage Center on the northwest side, where a few hundred guests paid $100 to pad a potential campaign war chest.

Meanwhile, several dozen union activists from SEIU Local 1 protested outside in the cold. They contend that McCarthy is only threatening to run in order to put pressure on Mayor Rahm to renew an airport maintenance contract with United Maintenance, a firm owned by the former top cop’s wealthy pal Rick Simon.

“Two years ago, United Maintenance shelled out nearly $850,000 to settle a federal wage-theft lawsuit brought by its O’Hare employees,” the Sun Times reported.

A couple of days before the event, Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman interviewed McCarthy about SEIU’s protest.

“Asked about [the union’s] claim that McCarthy is engaging in a ‘crass form’ of political blackmail to help Simon, McCarthy said, “Sounds like Dan Mihalopoulos’ bulls-t,'” she reports.

Reading this quote gave me a chance to play one of my favorite games—cuss-word crossword.

That’s when a newspaper attempts to protect you from reading a word you probably say every day. So you have to decipher the full word from the letters they give you.

Back when Ozzie Guillen managed the White Sox, I got to play this game all the time. As in this Guillen masterpiece from several years ago:

“If I leave here, I will say, ‘I leave here because I want to make my m******** money.’ You know why? Because no f****** fans, no f****** Jerry Reinsdorf or f****** anybody is going to take care of my grandkids and put me in a 62-foot boat. That’s why there’s free agency.”

I’m telling you, Ozzie was a poet.

Generally, I’m at a disadvantage at cuss-word crossword, ’cause I hail from Evanston, a lovely and genteel North Shore suburb whose residents are far too aristocratic to say things like “bulls—t,” whatever that is.

For a clue, I turned to my dear friend Milo, who knows a thing or two about cuss words, having grown up in the gritty, rough-and-tumble city of Gary, Indiana.

“Benny,” he informed me. “I believe the word in question starts like ‘ship’ and ends like ‘wit.’”

Oh, yeah—now I get it. “Bullshit”!

After the quote, Spielman added one of those explanatory paragraphs editors make you write to help the clueless “f—ks” (rhymes with “ducks”) understand what’s going on.

In this case, she wrote: “Mihalopoulos is a Chicago Sun-Times investigative reporter who first questioned the tie between Simon’s now-expired-and-extended contract and McCarthy’s decision to consider challenging the mayor who fired him.”

Wow! Getting cussed out and by a pol and explained by a colleague in one article—that’s like winning a gold and silver in the same Olympic event. I hope this doesn’t go to Dan’s head—’cause there’ll be no dealing with him, if it does.

Anyway, at the event, McCarthy fell short of declaring his candidacy. “The theory is I’m running a fake campaign so somebody else can get a contract,” McCarthy said. “So wait a couple of weeks and let’s just see how fake my candidacy is.”

If he runs, the 2019 mayoral race may boil down to a progressive’s nightmare: Mayor Rahm v. Big Mac.

It could be worse, progressives. Imagine having to choose between, oh, Bruce Rauner and Jeanne Ives.

Man, that’s a choice that would keep any of us up late into the night.