http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-kass-0510,0,7245642.column Going into Tuesday's presidential debate, the campaign of Republican John McCain still suffers from the lousy economy and that Bush hanging ponderously from his neck. With that going against him, he's running uphill, trying to remind Americans that he challenged his own party, and the Democrats, on corruption. Because of McCain's opposition to politicians who feed from the public trough, there is a road open to him Tuesday. It's the Chicago Way. Obama definitely does not want to go there. It would be a forced march for him. Obama's gauzy references to Chicago involve baseball and where he met Michelle and those blissful hours he spent as a community organizer. What he doesn't want discussed is his evolution from independent Democrat to potential White House enabler of the corrupt Chicago Democratic machine. The Chicago Way is a road the Beltway media establishment dare not travel. It must frighten them. It conflicts with their fairy tale about Obama as reformer, and they're much too busy rummaging through garbage cans in Alaska to bother about Chicago's political alleys. But any child in Illinois knows the Chicago Way leads through the most politically corrupt city in America, in a politically corrupt state, where muscle trumps reason, where Democratic warlords brazenly promote their offspring into public office, where even souls are offered up for sale. The national media have never wanted to understand, much less expose, political corruption here, or examine how Obama prospered under the Daley machine's guidance. A trip down the Chicago Way would force them to re-examine their ridiculous narrative that sets Obama as a political reformer riding a white horse, or is that a winged unicorn? A tour of the Chicago Way isn't without risks for McCain. Though his supporters would say it puts Obama in proper context, Democrats would certainly cry "guilt by association." Yet the national urgency to view Obama as a political life-form several evolutionary rungs above Chicago's common political hacks is not only a mistake, it's disingenuous. So on Tuesday night, McCain might ask: How, for example, could change agent Obama endorse the boss of the Chicago machine, Mayor Richard Daley, after Daley's friends and drinking buddies, white guys with mob connections, received $100 million in city affirmative action contracts, a crime that sent one of them to federal prison? The mayor said there is no such thing as a machine. Does Obama truly believe there is no machine that runs Chicago and Cook County? Then he should declare it. And, if so, then how does he explain the Daley hacks sitting in federal prison for rigging thousands of city jobs? McCain could ask about the machine trolls Obama endorsed per Daley's direction. And what of Obama's own political mentor, the legendary city sewer inspector/Illinois Senate President Emil Jones (D-ComEd), who upon retirement will convert almost $600,000 in campaign cash and stuff it into his pockets, and begin cashing a fat public pension, as his son, Emil III, takes Daddy's place in the legislature, courtesy of the Democratic bosses. Is this the change we've been waiting for? McCain could ask about Obama's real estate fairy, the convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, who is now apparently cooperating with federal investigators probing the dealings of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who also campaigned as a reformer. Rezko is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28. How was the Rezko-Obama real estate deal, the one that Obama himself described as "boneheaded," never made a subject of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation? McCain also might offer up some straight talk about his own involvement in the Keating 5 scandal two decades ago -- and how he was dishonored by that, and whether the shame changed his views on political corruption. Hillary Clinton tried to link Obama to Chicago's politics during her party's primaries, but she was shouted down. Back then, at a Tribune editorial board meeting, I asked Obama about his place in Chicago's corrupt history. "I think that all of you have been following my career for some time," he said. "I think I have done a good job in rising in this environment without being entangled in some of the traditional problems of Chicago politics. I know there are those, like John Kass, who would like me to decry Chicago politics more frequently." Just the corrupt parts, I said. "I'll leave that to his editorial commentary," Obama continued, "but I think it's fair to say that I have conducted myself in my public office with great care and high ethical standards." Is Obama corrupt, the way the caricature of Chicago-style corruption is often drawn, with some beefeater alderman reeking of gin, stuffing an envelope into his breast pocket? No, though he came close with Rezko in that smelly deal for the purchase of Obama's home. But Obama looked the other way in order to prosper and assiduously avoided conflict with the machine to the point of embrace. In this, he offered Americans a glimpse at the real man inside that nice suit, the Chicago Way.