Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has been absent from Congress for almost three months — and today, his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he could not even guess when his son might return to Capitol Hill.
“I don’t want to hazard a guess,” Jackson said in an interview on the ABC News/Yahoo Democratic National Convention live stream. “I mean, I’m a father in this, not — not medical adviser,” he said. “He must make that decision as to whether … he can continue to serve.”
When Jesse Jackson Jr. abruptly took a leave of absence from Congress in early June, staffers initially pointed to “exhaustion” as the reason for his sudden disappearance, but ABC News later learned he was being treated for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
“We love him so much. We’re so caught off-guard by what happened to him, but he’s recovering, and we want him to take his time,” Jackson said. “He is slowly regaining, but he must prioritize his health and let nothing come before his health.”
Jackson said he visits his son at least once a week and sees improvement.
Jackson, 70, has spoken at six Democratic conventions in his time. But this year, like in 2008, the civil rights leader will not take the stage to speak.
Still, that’s not stopping the one-time presidential hopeful from being vocal about defending President Obama’s track record. He argued the president was being “modest” when he said he’d give himself an “incomplete” grade on his handling of the economy.
“You have to deal with what he has done, the opposition he has had: the name calling, the toxic attacks on this president — ‘You’re not an American, you’re not a Christian, you’re not one of us’ — and look at the alternative,” Jackson said.
“There is no alternative program for economic reconstruction and the commitment to address poverty,” he said. “I think that, when he is toe-to-toe with his opposition, won’t be able to make a contrast, will give him the edge.”
Even watching from the sidelines, Jackson rebuffed criticism that conventions are little more than just party infomercials.
“It connects people from around the country … whether you’re in California or Alabama or Vermont or Mississippi, there are certain common issues you have,” he said. “I think the convention serves a useful purpose, and it must continue.”