Monday, October 31, 2005

The George Ryan Trial: The Improbable Making of a Saint

Those of us who went to Catholic grade school in the baleful days of pre-Vatican II recall the nuns drilling into our heads that it takes three bona-fide miracles to make a saint, even before beatification ceremonies are initiated in the Vatican. I have long felt that the man whose biography I wrote, Msgr. Ignatius McDermott, the tough-talking apostle to the addicted who dealt with the unfortunates of our society in skid row and who built a haven for them at Haymarket Center qualifies. Herewith is a few irreverent jottings about miracles that I am sure the venerable monsignor, who died at the end of 2004 at age 95, prayed for.

Without doubt, miracle number one is the White Sox winning the World Series. Number two would be the Chicago Bears going to the Superbowl. Right now they’re leading the pack. Number three would be an instance that I would hate to see: the acquittal of former Republican governor George Ryan. Ryan was Father McDermott’s favorite. For many reasons, even before his indictment, he was not mine. I have never seen in 50 years of politics a more gruff, arrogant, insensitive, crass, bullying clod. Indeed for years I tried to tell Father Mac this. It made no impression. Finally, one day when we were together I told him that his fondness for the Kankakee baron was seriously misplaced. The next day when I arrived at Haymarket, Father Mac’s secretary told me, “Father told me he couldn’t sleep last night because of what you told him.” I said good, he finally got to appreciate what a bounder George Ryan is.

“Not exactly,” she said. “He thinks there’s something wrong with you.””

With that I abandoned any thought of changing the mind of a ninety year old. Without prejudicing the case involving 22 counts against Ryan, let me give you a glimpse into him. Fifteen years ago when Ryan was secretary of state, he went as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. It so happened that I flew down in a trim Lear jet with the Quaker c.e.o. who was also a delegate and chairman of the state Republican finance committee.

At convention’s end, Ryan, dead cigar in his mouth came up to my boss and grunted, “Bill, can I bum a ride home to Illinois in your plane?”

This particular c.e.o., new to politics and newer still to Ryan, was pathetically eager to please. Yes, he said, of course, George.

Ryan grunted again. “Bill, can my wife ride along, too?”

Of course.

“I have a security guard. Can he come, too?

Uh, yes.

“We have lot of luggage. So does my body guard. Can we bring it all?”

Uh, yes, I guess so."

When we were loaded in the plane—and I mean loaded, with Ryan, his wife, the body guard and tons of baggage, hat boxes and souvenirs stacked on my lap, he leaned over and said:

“Bill, you mind dropping us off in Kankakee?”

Alito’s the Man with the Plan

bush alito
Rather than duplicate what others are saying on their blogs, let’s just bypass the glowing legal recommendations from conservative experts and say that by nominating Sam Alito, Bush has gone to great lengths to rehabilitate his sagging poll numbers. Prime reason for the sag has been disaffection from the right on spending, the war in Iraq and notably the Harriet Miers appointment. Expect the roving sheep to come back home now. The fight in the Senate will be glorious. Assuredly the handful of Republican so-called “moderates” may desert and it will be a close vote, very possibly to be carried by a Cheney vote to break the tie. But the prospect of Nino Scalia getting fresh reinforcements makes it all worth while.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Libby Indictment is Amazingly Small in the Bush Scope of Things

scooter libby
Not small for Scooter Libby, assuredly—but the Bush foreign policy is probably the most satisfactory for American interests since the formation of NATO in 1949. Remember that our decision to commit ourselves to stabilize western Europe was hotly debated in this country, with Robert Taft, Joseph P. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover strongly opposed. That decision made by President Truman and the Congress was truly the launching pad for American involvement in foreign affairs: not our joining the war nor founding of the UN. With NATO we were fully committed to the leadership role in preserving peace. It began a series of actions that led to the downfall of Communism. (Unfortunately, the Truman administration’s fallacious policies in the Far East are with us yet).

What George W. Bush has done is phenomenal. Consider that every war in the 20th century was one which we sought to remain free of. Wilson pledged to keep us out of war when he ran for reelection in 1916, Roosevelt the same with World War II in 1940, Acheson had maintained that Korea was outside our defense perimeter in 1949, Eisenhower vetoed Nixon’s plea to get involved in Vietnam to help the French. April Glasby, our Iraq ambassador promised to Saddam Hussein that we would not get involved. The agonizing appraisal of whether or not to go to war was justified: in 1916, 1940, 1949 and in 1965 and we came to the right conclusion (whether or not we carried through is another issue). But on 9/11 Osama bin Laden did what others feared to do: waged an attack on the continental United States. Thereupon, Bush was the first to recognize that in contradistinction to these wars where we got involved as a reaction, the 9/11 attack on New York meant we must unilaterally, if needed, strike to detect and intercept plots before they are carried out. In a better world than we have, a United Nations would confront world threats before they arise, but that is not to be.

But Bush is not the imperialist as some paleo conservatives and liberals allege: using the theory outlined in the book “The Pentagon’s New Map,” he has determined that we should seek to build democracies in the Middle East on the proven theory that democracies are less likely to go to war than are dictatorships. He started with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan which was protecting al-Qaedo terrorists. Within three years the first free elections were held. Then the military campaign against Saddam was conducted. To those who decry the mission has not yet been accomplished, recall that Baathist fascists have formed an insurgency which now is being overcome with free elections and a Constitution: remarkable progress with Iraqis willing to take the gamble for freedom while in threat of being murdered. Eight million turned out for a free election. The Sunnis are now in the process of working politically so as to play a role in the new Iraq. This was accomplished by a spilling of American blood, yes but let it be realized at a phenomenally low cost (though I, as a father of four and grandfather of 13, must acknowledge that one dearth is too many). I have no doubt that this extraordinarily self-confident president will not yield to public and media pressure. Even as I say this I have a major concern.

The concern is not that he will yield but with, strangely you might feel, the Democratic party. To achieve these gains we have gotten by with a Republican president and a Republican Congress. The great Democratic party which I have been accustomed to supporting in selective ways since I began voting, is bereft of any semblance of the Harry Truman-Henry (Scoop) Jackson-Hubert Humphrey strain that animated it when my own party was wallowing in isolationism and when it was sending forth candidates not as skilled as requisite to remove the Democrats from office. Of course I worry about the quality of people to come after Bush in my own party but I absolutely tremble when I consider that the next president could well be a John Kerry (who voted for a measure before he voted against it), Hillary Clinton and types like them with the only saving grace to come from a Mark Warner (the governor of Virginia). The fact that the Democratic party is being run by Howard Dean and others gives me great dread.

When you consider what Bush has accomplished and the very real chance that he could be succeeded by one who could give the game away, it is a sober prospect with which to begin on this bright Sunday morning.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

More on the Torcaso Case

Yesterday in addition to wrongly situating Sen. Bill Brady in Pontiac where he belongs in Bloomington and committing a few typos as my fingers flew over the keyboard too quickly (not an indictable offense, I hope, but these days one cannot be sure) I wrote about the Torcaso case, the Maryland law that required all Maryland public officials and employees to declare their belief in God—which was overruled by an action of the U.S. Supreme Court which declared that the state unconstitutionally invaded Torcaso’s “freedom of belief and religion” in such a way that the “power and authority of the State of Maryland thus is put on the side of one particular sort of believers—those who are willing to say they believe `in the existence of God.’” Using the rationale of Justice Hugo Black, the Court held that nontheistic creeds were defined by the Court to be religious, the Court holding that “neither a state nor the federal government can constitutionally aid all religions as against non-believers and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.” I speculated that by making what Justice Black called “secular humanism” a religion the court really ended up favoring a religion to the detriment of others. In other words, if people are denied the right to declare their belief in God because Torcaso didn’t believe in God but his non-belief is a religion, the Court is shading the result in favor of non-belief which it has incardinated as a religion.

Fellow blogger Eric Zorn of the Tribune—with whom I have been engaged in friendly discussions for many years—wrote to ask how I as a Justice would have voted. I would have voted to uphold the Maryland statute, leaving to the state of Maryland the right to either keep it, amend it or discard it as the legislature and governor would warrant. Moreover as a Maryland legislator I would have voted to uphold it basis our historic commitment to such belief. The Declaration of Independence refers to God in four places and while the Constitution does not, this is because it’s a procedural document and not for secularizing purpose. The long history of this nation’s belief in God is not a relic. Therefore in any forum, I would be happy to defend that rationale.

More than anything I’m pleased that Eric likes this blog albeit I’m still learning. Praise from him in this blog business is heartening indeed.

Because He Lied, Scooter Must be Tried: Why Did Libby Lie?

The indictment of Irving Lewis Libby is tough for Republicans to take—but, given what we know from the indictment, he lied and, sadly for him and his family, must pay the price. Patrick Fitzgerald told a news conference that Vice President Dick Cheney is not under suspicion—which is all to the good. The point is not that Scooter “outed” Valerie Plame (he didn’t) but that he lied to investigators and to the grand jury, declaring that he didn’t know first-hand she was a CIA official when he had been informed by memo and verbally by his boss, Dick Cheney, that she was. It’s a high of sorts for the media, because Fitrzgerald pitted Libby, a prominent government official, against three media types and believes them. But Fitzgerald acquitted himself (if not Libby) with honor.

Why, then, did Libby lie? Especially one who is a lawyer and, reportedly, an astute guy? He probably thought he could wing it. All the while, Karl Rove is still under a cloud but unlike many of my conservative colleagues and the media I don’t think his importance is such as to cause the republic to tremble if he were hit by a bus. That’s a controversial position to take, I know. But so be it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet Miers: She Made a Good Decision

Those who have followed by tortured reasoning on this appointment will be bored to have it repeated but here goes: first blush disappointment but acceptance, second blush disappointment and firm disapproval, third blush disappointment but the belief that if she could ever get over the nomination process I would vote for her (flavored with the view that it is a win-win: one ostensible pro-life conservative named, or it defeated to be followed by another better nominee it is hoped). Well, she took herself out using the Charles Krauthammer solution: I will not put the president in the dilemma of violating executive privilege in order to release documents which should be protected. (Incidentally, I’m a Rush Limbaugh fan, but I don’t think a guy who gets roughly $20 million a year ought to be trumpeting on the radio that he was first to predict that she would take this route). The very first was Krauthammer. With that huge, swollen ego of his, Limbaugh should have the grace to acknowledge that Krauthammer was first, as a great many others are doing. Com’on, Rush, move beyond the playpen, will you? You’re over 50 years old.

Which leads me to recount a story none other than George Will told me some years ago in Washington when he spoke at an event my company sponsored (and paid him handsomely for). This happened in the early days of Limbaugh ascendancy. Something bad happened to the Republicans—a lost election or something like that—and in the middle of the night, Will’s phone rang. It was Limbaugh who had been introduced to Will some weeks earlier. “What do we do now, George?” asked Limbaugh. Will, awakened from a deep sleep, thought and said, “well, what the Republican party must do is to hold a council of Trent.”

“What’s the Council of Trent?” asked Limbaugh. Whereupon Will, though not Catholic but the scholar he is, sketched in a sleepy sentence that the Council was called by a Pope to reform the Catholic Church and reformulate doctrine. “Council of--?” Limbaugh repeated. “Trent,” said Will crossly, then hung up and slept another four hours. By the time Will got to his office, he told his secretary that he was going to apply the strategy of the Council of Trent to the Republican party.

“Really?” she said in a bored voice. “Rush Limbaugh recommended that very thing on the radio as I was driving in.”

This president does not need a Council of Trent to help him regain control of his base. It is back with him and will stay if he names an outstanding conservative jurist—yes, I think jurist with a proven track record will do nicely—to the Court.

Sen. Brady and Prayer in Public Schools

school prayer
It appears that Sen. Bill Brady (R-Pontiac), a Republican candidate for governor, has been criticized for supporting the return of voluntary prayer in public schools. Some sophisticates maintain that since this is not in the province of the governorship, he should have remained quiet about it. But that one runs the risk of being termed a demagogue, hysterical emotionalist or Elmer Gantry by bringing up the subject is indication in itself of the secularism that has partially triumphed in our society. Indeed, since 1965 a particular form of religion has taken over in much of the public sector: really? Where have we been: a particular form of religion?

Yes. One Roy Torcaso applied for appointment as notary public in Maryland. The state required that he had to take an oath, declaring his belief in God. He objected and in 1961 the Warren court laid down the law. It struck down Maryland’s oath requirement, declaring it unconstitutionally invaded Torcaso”s “freedom of belief and religion.” Huh? But Torcaso had no religion. Notwithstanding, said Justice Hugo Black in the majority decision, nontheistic creeds are defined by the court to be religious. Wrote Black: Among religions in this country which do not teach what would commonly be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”

That rather than striking down religion as we know it, the Court vitiated Maryland’s rule because there are those—secular humanists—who are of a religion that believes there is no religion, or God. In the loose Warren court the decision passed muster, but a majority could not be found to uphold the fact that the First Amendment insists that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thus by its very secular nature, the Warren court violated the Constitution by elevating secular humanism to religious status and insisting that because it exists as a religion, it should triumph in the law.

From the Torcaso case the Court moved to 1963 where in the prayer in school case, the Warren court ruled, using the dictum from Torcaso that government could not “aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.” In a concurring opinion, Justice William Brennan captured the distinction between the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, arguing that it should be kept because of its historic significance, a kind of relic back to the days when “our Nation was believed to have been founded `under God.’”

Two years later, in 1965 a federal court found that kindergarten children could not, say, after eating milk and cookies, the Romper Room Grace: “God is great, God is Good and we thank Him for our food. Amen.” Nor could they recite: “Thank you for the world so sweet/thank you for the food we eat/thank you for the birds that sing/that you, God for everything.” In 1967 a federal court pondered a case from an Illinois kindergarten: can the children recite the prayer if the word “God” was left out? No, said the court—because everybody knows who the “you” is. It is God. The intent, the judge said, is to offer thanks to God which is unlawful in public schools.

I am not debater nor am I a candidate but were I nominated, even at this late stage of my decrepitude, I would dearly love to stand by what Brady said and raise the issue to a point of general education for the public which does not understand the nature of the court decisions. The public believes that fair is fair and if you don’t believe in God you shouldn’t have to be embarrassed or swear out an oath. But the public does not understand that Hugo Black wrote into a decision a provision that sets secular humanism apart from all others: since we are not allowed to express our particular belief in God so as not to discriminate against another religion: secular humanism. Rod Blagojevich is not the most eloquent of men and I guarantee you he would head for the hills in that confrontation—and it’s not huzza, red-neck tent meeting histrionics at all but legal scholarship.

In fact, the ignoramuses are those who berate Brady on this. For the scholarship I am indebted, as I have for many years, to Dr. Charles Rice who is professor emeritus as lawyer and philosopher at Notre Dame.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Disagreement Among the Titans

This morning’s Sun-Times featured a rare ideological split among liberal feminists over Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who went to jail for 85 days rather than reveal her source. Initially she was regarded as a secular saint, one willing to suffer for her independence. Then The Times decided otherwise. Promptly last week, Maureen Dowd (who is my all-time favorite slinger of ink even though I always disagree) and Frank Rich (not nearly as clever as Dowd but a blunt weapon of animosity) attacked Miller. Pinch Sulzberger (the son of Punch) holds firm but it looks like Dame Judith will be out on her own soon.

Get out the earmuffs in hell, for the local feminist liberals at the Sun-Times disagreed today. Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief (who runs the bureau consisting of herself) wrote her usual unlabeled opinion piece this time in the straight news section which warned menacingly that Patrick Fitzgerald is “too clean” (the headline) for GOP criticism to stick so you dinosaur Republicans who want to protect Cheney better watch out because he is not like Ken Starr, quoting a malcontented GOP pollster Frank Luntz who’s been peeved because he didn’t get the attention that Matt Dowd the Bush pollster did in 2004 which he called on the button. Whereupon Sweet goes off on a seeming canonization kick for Fitzgerald: he doesn’t get paid more while doing twice the work and kicking Tom DeLay’s attack on his prosecutor while forgetting to mention that Ronnie Earl has been criticized as overly political (just an oversight, natch).

While Sweet was putting Fitzgerald on a pedestal, back in the editorial section, the paper’s at least unashamedly labeled political columnist Carol Marin goes the other way in a column “Fitzgerald’s on the Wrong Hunt.” Marin loves the martyrology of the press, taking the time to inform us if we hadn’t always known it that she, too, was probed by the feds to divulge a source she refused to do leading her to talk to her then 14-year-old son and say perhaps Mama’s going away for awhile. It didn’t happen but the yarn led us to recall how she stood up to the impending threat of Jerry Springer at Channel 5 which was a triumph of sorts for civility. The column concludes with a favored Marin theme: the hideousness of the Iraq war where the Bush administration led us to disaster “with no good reason at all.” I wonder if a political realignment could be worked out between Pat Buchanan, Paul Craig Roberts and Marin. That would be exciting. No, maybe it wouldn’t.

“Here’s Bob Sirott (Who’s Making $500,000 a Year)”

Media critics on both big daily newspapers are lachrymose: Bob Sirott has not been renewed at WTTW, the city’s biggest public TV station. Why not? It seems the first reason was `TTW didn’t have enough to pay him but then it received a few hefty grants. Still it doesn’t have enough to cover him. Sirott is good at what he does, as host of “Chicago Tonight!” but his unreported but verifiable via insiders nearly half million yearly salary (having started at about $350,000) fits commercial TV not public where public funding is commingled with foundation, corporate and individual giving.

Under Sirott “Chicago Tonight!” took on a salutary and somewhat overdue broader focus, not concentrating merely on public policy issues which was warranted. But Dan Schmidt’s obvious disinclination to continue to pay big bucks—worrying about donor fatigue—leads this observer to wonder why salaries are not public record at `TTW since public monies are involved. It is a sure thing that if the public knew the salaries paid, it would change its opinion of all the public stations that go hat-in-hand and cry poormouth at specific times. What does Phil Ponce earn—and Elizabeth Brackett?

The only public TV broadcaster worth his keep in this reporter’s view was John Callaway. Callaway approached the news with a sense of history, having covered Chicago through its tumultuous times: from the Sixties and the civil rights revolution through Daley I, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, Gene Sawyer and Daley II. That era included Everett McKinley Dirksen, Paul Douglas, Ralph Tyler Smith (remember him?) Adlai Stevenson III (remember him?), Al (the Pal} Dixon, Chuck Percy (remember him?), Paul Simon and Dick Durbin. He reached back through the governors from Bill Stratton, Otto Kerner, Sam Shapiro, Dick Ogilvie, Dan Walker, Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar. In economics, he would fast-forward from Hoover and FDR and the origin of liberal economics (yes Hoover: the man who initiated powerful federal intrusion into the economy with the RFC and tax hikes [yes hikes!] in the Depression, an attempt that was not regarded as folly then, to get interest rates down)…the postwar consolidation of Truman and Eisenhower, the activism of Kennedy and LBJ, Nixon the conservative man with liberal ideas, the bumpy transition with Ford and Carter to supply-side with Reagan. It would be worth $500,000 to get Callaway back.

In addition to which he could talk sports with the best of `em. Armed with this legendary experience, Callaway was a supremely knowledgeable host who could not often be spun. That doesn’t hold true for Ponce who eschews controversy in often insipidly non-judgmental and often presides as though he’s watching a tennis game: what d’you think, now what d’you think?

A transition that began under Callaway and was continued by Ponce (I leave Sirott out of this because he’s evidently the uninvolved genial super-host) was an invaluable leavening of the religion beat. Religion is a big story here (and everywhere) but on other stations the same old gargoyles keep popping up: uber-liberal Andy Greeley the dissident priest to talk about the Catholic Church and liberal Martin Marty, the Lutheran, Tim Unsworth the ex-Christian brother and Eugene Kennedy the ex-priest who agree with him on church governance if not on liturgy. Starting with Callaway and continuing smoothly through Ponce whenever the Catholic Church is involved, care is taken to reflect the authenticist side of Catholicism as well as the dissident bloc. Decisions to put on Mary Anne Hackett and Dan Cheely of Catholic Citizens along with the liberals during the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI were good.

Now if only `TTW would integrate political coverage also which has taken a nose-dive since Callaway. Whenever it is required, Ponce convenes a Colloquium of the Conventional with participation mandatory by Brackett whose pedigree consists solely of a run as a reformer for 43rd ward committeeman stretching back to time immemorial. There isn’t the faintest recollection of newer trends to challenge the old prescriptions in the nation if not here, so we have my good friend and City Club colleague Dr. Paul Green, a liberal Democrat, opining that social liberal Judy Baar Topinka (a good friend) makes his political analyst’s heart go pitty-pat) with little or no appreciation for the conservative base (the usual cliché being: where else can they go? They can stay home!) at which mention of her name all heads nod and tongues cluck approvingly. It is too much to hope that `TTW will understand that conservatism is more than those who question fluoride in the drinking water.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Is Bush Bad Off? Mainstream Media says He is: A Dissenting Opinion

In 1957 Dwight Eisenhower took some time off and went to North Carolina at Bernard Baruch’s place to speculate on how bad off he was. The Democrats who ran Congress were giving him fits. Having won reelection the previous year by electoral vote of 457 to 73, this former five-star general of the army had every right to consider that the second term would be a breeze. Not so. The media were raging that John Foster Dulles, not Ike, was running foreign policy and Dulles was trumpeting that the “Captive Nations” behind the Iron Curtain should be liberated which, critics said, was too warlike. Ike’s idea of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization and the prospective Central Treaty Organization was being ridiculed by Republican isolationists in Congress but with sparse help from Democratic internationalists. Then there were the domestic ills. Treasury Secretary George Humphrey, terrible at p.r. swung out at his boss’ own budget by saying to the press, “If we don’t cut spending [over a long period] I predict you will have a depression that will curl your hair!” It curled what was left of Eisenhower’s.

As a 29-year-old Republican paid strategist in heavily DFL [Democratic Farmer Labor] Minnesota where Hubert Humphrey ruled, with his sidekick Orville Freeman as governor and an almost full slate of DFL constitutional officers plus Congressmen, even I, in such an inauspicious post as I, was aghast: try to carry the land of 10,000 lakes for a Republican when Ezra Taft Benson as secretary of agriculture faced farmers chanting this DFL song: “He likes price supports flexible, he likes `em limp, even if the farmers gotta starve and scrimp? Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy was trying to scoop up the pieces left by Engine Charlie Wilson who had said famously that “what is good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa”—the vice versa meaning that was good for GM was good for the country. Emmett John Hughes, his top speechwriter, defected and wrote a book showing Ike to be a poor administrator, weak, indecisive.

Conservatives in Congress were lampooning Interior Secretary Doug McKay for spending money on a project to extract drinking water from the sea, Secretary of Labor Jim Mitchell was alienating conservatives to extend unemployment comp to illegals, HEW secretary Marion Folsom was antagonizing industry for his early efforts to block pollution of factories. The only one not irritating Ike was the lowly secretary of commerce, Fred Mueller, who was seeking implement a trade embargo over Cuba.

In addition to which Ike’s Supreme Court appointments had gone awry: Chief Justice Earl Warren was a born-again liberal seemingly re-writing the Constitution and driving the South (which had been slowly tipping Republican) batty; another appointee, John Marshall Harlan was joining the liberals in tightening interpretation of the Smith Act, the basis on which Ike’s Justice Department was prosecuting Communists in the U.S. Yet another appointment, William J. Brennan was out of control and heading for the left. Nelson Rockefeller, FDR’s old assistant secretary of state for Latin America, was readying to run for governor of New York and was set to challenge Ike’s South American policies. A high official, Harold Stassen, had resigned because he failed at his attempt to dump Richard Nixon as vice president a year earlier.

The media (and the so-called “mainstream” was all there was) was highly critical, registering Eisenhower as a passive chairman of the board while his cabinet ran things. Bad as it seemed, this is not how history records him now. Far from it. Dulles died and slowly the realization dawned that the man who led the greatest invasion in history had all the while run his own foreign policy. Sherman Adams, the so-called gatekeeper who supposedly had custody of Ike’s brain, had to resign and things continued swimmingly without him. It turned out that the contemporary media had been totally wrong about Eisenhower. With publication after his death of “The Hidden Hand Presidency” by Fred Greenstein who had access to hitherto secret cabinet sessions and Eisenhower documents, revolutionized studies of Ike so that ever since historians have generally agreed that Ike was one of the more successful chief executives.

He restored the balance between rampant internationalism urged by Humphrey and the then militaristic left where we were expected to send troops throughout the world to fight communism to a restrained internationalism, wisely vetoing Nixon’s urging to help the French in Vietnam. The so-called “missile gap” touted by the Democrats and pushed by Republican Rockefeller was later acknowledged as a hoax even by President Kennedy. The conclusion of the Korean War where we intervened hastily, the birth of the Eisenhower doctrine that restrained the USSR with the threat of massive retaliation as a deterrent, the righting of the economy from the Truman years, the initiation of the Interstate Highway Act, an unparalleled achievement, accomplished in shorter time than anyone expected, caused historians to see Ike as a detail-conscious, often angry, often cussing, highly decisive president with a rare diplomatic flare, unhorsing the heavy drinking, increasingly erratic Joe McCarthy by steering strategy in the Senate and escaping blame from conservatives for it. And for this writer, a dogged foot-soldier somewhat depressed, too, in chilly Minnesota, somehow the ground was prepared for a Republican governor in 1960 who would lead to a succession of Republican governors —a surprisingly beneficent change aided by the death of Humphrey in 1976.

So what does this prove with respect to George W. Bush? Simply this. Like Eisenhower Bush is in much, much better shape than conventional wisdom allows. His low poll numbers match those of others in similar spots. Were we to wake up tomorrow and find that he had slept away to a peaceful death, we would be asking ourselves why when he was among us we knew him not. First, his response to 9/11 was magnificent. Second, his charting of a bold new course in international affairs has us leading the way to installing democracies in the Middle East for our own enlightened self-interest to set into motion a generation of peace. This is not altruism but hard-nosed self-interest. Third, he has understood the need for tax cuts and making them permanent. Fourth, he has been magnificent on conservative social policy, naming pro-lifers to the Courts and standing seemingly alone on embryonic stem cells. . Fifth, his jaunty, Rooseveltian confidence is not understood now. Even with Harriet Miers, thanks to him conservatives are in a win-win. If she is confirmed, we have every reason to expect she is a conservative on social policy. If she is not, we have every right to expect her successor will be in the category of one learned in the law.

What about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby? The details of the case I’ll tackle later, but no one who knows Karl Rove from his Texas days (and there are some here in Chicago who do) can imagine the deity status he was given by the media: including the book written entitled “Bush’s Brain.” People who build up Rove as genius have an axe to grind and it isn’t because they idolize Rove. This gratuitous larding of compliments on Rove is not done to canonize Rove as genius, it is to minimize Bush as the liberals’ favorite caricature: a semi-literate buffoon. This is not to take away from Rove his strategic sense but it is to recall that in the eyes of the mainstream media, Republican presidents are either dolts (Eisenhower mind-wandering, inattentive, semi-retired chairman of the board, Gerald Ford, clumsy and dense, Reagan the inattentive “affable dunce” as Clark Clifford called him, George H.W. Bush the eternal preppy wimp scorned as an imitator of comedian Charles Nelson Reilly, so isolated from events that he was stunned to see modern check-out mechanisms at a supermarket) or evil: Richard Nixon, smart but cunning like Richard II. Now to his liberal enemies Bush is not only illiterate, dumb and insensitive but is evil as well for plotting to start the Iraq war. But as we have learned these caricatures are false. Eisenhower was a great president, Nixon a flawed man who opened negotiations with China that helped tip the Cold War to our side, Ford a great stabilizer and relief after Nixon, Reagan a firm ever-communicative icon, G.H.W. Bush a foolish politician to break his tax-hike word but superb international strategist. Indeed, the popular consensus has changed.

The rise of talk radio (based on Reagan fortuitously ditching the “equal time” provision), the rise of the internet blog (which enables even a punk like me to communicate widely without an editor excising my views) has given us a New Media to counterbalance the Old Media. This means conservatives ought to stop picking at Bush needlessly and start thinking of how in 2006 we can run good candidates and play to his strengths. The Valerie Plame game is nothing less than an attempt by the liberals to throttle the media—yes, one doesn’t view it often that way, but it is true. If Patrick Fitzgerald finds that no one leaked Plame’s name with reference to her having served as a secret operative of the CIA but have lied to a grand jury in an attempt to cover up, the imbroglio produced is simply this: Shall one be indicted for falsely denying participation in a non-crime that has not been committed?

If Fitzgerald is attempting to broaden the matter to embrace the details of the 1917 Espionage Act which has rarely been enforced basis its draconian elements passed in a World War I climate of frenzy, Rove and Libby may go to jail but the resultant outcry that will gravitate on the liberals for attempting to criminalize politics. It will be sufficient to gave them huge martyrdom (small consolation to them at first but wait—), the likes of which Judy Miller never experienced…and young Mr. Fitzgerald could go down as a magnificent boob, one far more virtuous than the people he supposedly serves, having steered us to a climate akin to the British Official Secrets Act that would stop the flow of needed information to the people, who strained at a gnat in order to justify the time and expense he produced in chasing a crime that was never committed.

Take heart, my friends. The best is yet to be.

Monday, October 24, 2005

If You Missed Lynn Sweet’s Commentary, Don’t Worry: You Can Get it in Her Reporting.

So far as I know, the Sun-Times is the only major newspaper that allows its chief (and only) Washington correspondent, charged with reporting the news, Lynn Sweet, which should be a full-time job, to double as an opinion purveyor on its Op Ed pages. It is an admixture of what is purportedly straight news with so-called analysis. Last week the woman who is hired to report the Washington news straight, including the Harriet Miers confirmation, swept grandly onto the editorial page as is her frequent wont to tell us that “to rubber stamp the selection of a woman would be sexist in its own way.” Oh, o.k. if you say so, Lynn. I’m sure that back in the news section you’ll give Harriet the unbiased treatment she deserves, right? Right. The late Steve Neal, an acerbic columnist who despite my ideological differences with him, was an important read for me, declined to report the news at the same time because he recognized it would be a conflict of interest. No other journalist I’m aware of wears these double hats. On second thought, reading Sweet once wherever she appears—in news or “Commentary” seems to be the same.

Another indispensable read for me is Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. If I’ve ever agreed with Dowd on anything, it would be the first time. But you don’t read Dowd on the news pages.

A Clear Contrast with Rutherford the Week Before

State Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac) was the guest the week before with interrogator Russ Stewart, political analyst for the Nadig newspapers which serve Chicago’s northwest side. In contrast to Tony Peraica, Rutherford took no stands whatsoever beyond his wish to serve in the office of Secretary of State. It is one thing to avoid stumbles but quite another to be so careful in issue avoidance that you come off as resembling a civic-do gooder Rotarian. Stewart, a very good interrogator and I, tried to separate the candidate from his bland blandishments but were unsuccessful. The topper for me was Rutherford’s boast that he has framed a picture of his opponent Jesse White for his office. I didn’t get the slightest inkling as to what Rutherford would do in the office or any argument that he should be elected. He’s hyper articulate but unless he gives one a reason to vote for him, why not keep Jesse in office and Jesse’s portrait continuing to hang in its place of honor in Rutherford’s office!

Peraica: A Tough Man for a Tough Job

Thirty-six years ago Richard Ogilvie, running for president of the Cook county Board, was touted by his ad agency as “The Right Man for a Tough Job.” He was the right man, all right, but didn’t stay long enough to complete the job, running for governor two years hence and taking no position on whether or not he would slap on an income tax (which he did, after which he was defeated for reelection). Ogilvie was the last Republican to hold the presidency. Now another Republican is running for the job—much tougher than Ogilvie. Everything about Tony Peraica spells “tough” from his sledge-hammer rhetoric, his staccato statements of condemnation of President John Stroger, his rapid-fire barrage of statistics punctuated with verbal exclamation points. He tries valiantly but sometimes unsuccessfully to rise above slugging his intra-party opponents but pound for pound he’s indisputably the master of details for the job he seeks.

As guest on my radio show yesterday, Peraica was, with one slight deviation, at the top of his game. He scored Stroger masterfully, defended his ally Judy Baar Topinka, pointed out that he mistakenly endorsed gay rights with four other Republican board members before he withdrew his name, declared he is pro-life. He announced his choice for governor is Topinka; if she takes herself out of the race (as is expected to happen today) he favors Steve Rauschenberger. He didn’t flinch under the barrage of powerful questions from one who is probably the most astute political interrogator since the era of John Dreiske (remember him, anyone?), Jeff Berkowitz whose CAN-TV and blog is requisite for political followers. On only one question, ironically, did Peraica stumble: that was a question on which he has stumbled before and rather astounding that he should do so. After he inveighed against patronage abuses, Berkowitz asked, at the tail end of the show, about his own son who is working for the county. All Peraica had to do was say that he is qualified for the job he’s doing—but he went “uh, uh, uh” at program’s end. Beyond that though, he is indeed A Tough Man for a Tough Job and turned me from somewhat tepid to fairly hot supporter. If Tony can’t do it nobody can.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Good Night! Roger Ebert As Political Critic Lauds the Looney Clooney Film—But it Takes the Washington Post to Apply the Focus

It’s no secret to anyone reading the Sun-Times that its movie critic, Roger Ebert is a frustrated political commentator. Which would be all right but, unsurprisingly, his film reviews show an incurable affection for the left, but with an appeal for the vulgate which has won him celebrity here, annual trips to Canne, where he reports to us yokels back home with religious exultation, accolades in Hollywood which tends to whoop him up publicly and officially and the Pulitzer for film criticism where, as with most of its prizes, it is requisite that recipients echo the biases of the awarders. My favorite film critics are Joe Morgenstern and John Simon with Terry Teachout thrown in next to whom Ebert is doctrinaire, inconsistent and bellicose—also larded with a lamentably low threshold for junk (understandable since he screen-wrote that masterpiece “Return to the Valley of the Dolls”).

In any event, Ebert has given his obligatory four stars to a rehash of history known as “Good Night and Good Luck.” The film is, quite candidly, a mooning of American history (which Roger parading his clenched fist anger: bully, villain)—mooning, in the sense of lowering one’s trousers and allowing his posterior to emit a bray at the world: pretending that Joseph McCarthy was the anti-Christ of civilization who caused to many decent artists to hide under the covers as our First Amendment liberties were hustled to death and embalmed until the Kennedys (who taped Martin Luther King’s bedsprings) rescued us from the foulness of the right. It so happens I worked in the Congress immediately following the McCarthy era and for a man, the ranking minority member of House Foreign Affairs, a close friend of Eisenhower and Dulles, who knew McCarthy well and was a knowledgeable critic. And I did know MCarthy’s closest friends, his press secretary Ed Nellor and visited on the subject with Karl Mundt and Everett Dirksen.

Nothing in the film or in Ebert’s serenade of it remotely resembles the truth. The title is from the ending Murrow gave to his radio programs: Goodnight and good luck. The film and Roger would have us believe that Edward R. Murrow was the man with the guts to call the turn on McCarthy and that his producer, Fred Friendly, who made a fortune recycling the saga, is played by George Clooney (whose father, a Cincinnati anchor-man ran for Congress last year as a Democrat and was defeated despite the best that his son could do by barnstorming in his behalf).

McCarthy was often an exaggerator and demagogue, afflicted with alcoholism which claimed him but Murrow didn’t tag him out. In fact, his own obsessive self tagged him out and before it did, McCarthy made a signal contribution to our polity. If Roger would only read books on the subjects before he writes, he would know it. “Murrow: His Life and Times” by A.R. Sperber [Freundlich Books: 1986] is a generally laudatory retelling but underscores the admixture of commercialism and reportage of the era. A balanced book on McCarthy is “Joseph McCarthy” by Thomas Reeves which gives the Senator decent grades for spotlighting a malaise and attempting to score it with occasional accuracy and some hyperbole. The landmark book, however, is one that has been produced later and since the revelatory Venona Papers where the activities of supposedly trusted FDR and Truman aides were catalogued in the files of the now deceased Soviet Union. This is: Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator by Arthur Herman, coordinator of the Western Civilization Program at the Smithsonian and hardly a far-right devotee.

We know now—though Roger does not—that the Communist spying McCarthy decried was extensive—hitting the highest levels of the White House and the Manhattan Project. We know he was right on Owen Lattimore and that he has been documented as an articulate instrument of the communist conspiracy in America. We know that the American Civil Liberties Union is nowhere near in the center of American liberty and that McCarthy was correct in labeling it a front for communists. In the film that Ebert adores Murrow retorts that the ACLU was not on the government’s list of subversives: come now, neither was Harry Hopkins who the Venona papers proved with indisputable logic was working behind Roosevelt’s back to inform the USSR of our most innermost conversations. The film concentrates on one Lt. Milo Radulovich who is on the edge of being canned as a security risk from the Air Force Reserve because two of his relatives were radicals, possibly communists. There is a cry of victory when Radulovich is reinstated—a victory for Murrow! Radulovich was never a McCarthy target.

I could go on but let’s allow the Washington Post’s film reviewer, no conservative, Stephen Hunter, who details Murrow’s close friend, one Lawrence Duggan who, the film says, was goaded to suicide. Stephen Hunter of the Post writes: One can almost imagine the drama,” he writes. “The distinguished newsman, once the voice of blitzed London, hair slicked back, a nub of cigarette in his hand radiating vapors, face as rigid as an Old Testament elder, using that deep voice and crooning rhetoric to lambaste the puny minds of the House Un-American Activities Committee that had so besmirched Larry’s good name that the man had leapt in despair from a 16th street floor window. But you won’t find it in `Good Night and Good Luck’, George Clooney’s mounting of the dramatic confrontation between the estimable Murrow and the abrasive junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. One can readily see why. Duggan, as it turned out, was a Soviet spy, code-named…`Frank’ and finally `Prince.’ He was, moreover, one of many Soviet spies embedded in the U.S. government at the time.

“That’s not all Clooney leaves out in his account of the Murrow-McCarthy fight: He leaves out the Cold War, the hot war in Korea, the Venona decrypts that proved how sophisticated and exhaustive the Russian intelligence initiative against the American target was.” Stephen Hunter oughtn’t to count on accolades for his film critic work; no star in the sidewalk in Hollywood and certainly no Pulitzer. He doesn’t have a high earning TV show and naturally his words won’t be circulated in Chicago where the city council and mayor, no less, have accorded Roger applause.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Valerie Jarrett May Well Enter the Race Against Daley

News that Valerie Jarrett is looking forward to the strong possibility of running against Daley may cause some to ponder. Four points: first, she is an accomplished woman executive with thorough experience in city government: the most recent post being chair of the CTA. Two, she is close to Daley as well as to the Jackson family. Three: she could be performing a service for the machine by entering the contest which could result in divided allegiance from African Americans. Four: she could be the kind of independent candidate herself who would not take dictation from the Daleys. The picture isn't clear yet on whether her motive is number three or number four. There is little doubt, however, that an earlier trial balloon that had Carol Moseley Braun running for mayor was a blatant Daley-inspired effort to divide the black vote from an independent challenger. So transparent was the gesture that shortly afterward Mosley Braun pulled out of speculation.

Big Daddy’s Order to Black Incumbents: Run for Reelection!

There’s more than meets the eye to the directive sent to all African American incumbents not long ago by one of the most powerful Democratic bosses in the nation: run for reelection. Mike Madigan, Speaker of the House and Democratic state chairman (not to mention father of the attorney general) issued that curt order, many observers believe, to batten down the hatches against any attempt by independent African American candidates who may wish to secure a toe-hold against what is increasingly seen as the Daley-Madigan machine. The bosses are terrified that they will lose control of the black vote, having seen the wave of the future: the rise of Sen. Barack Obama who was not sponsored by the machine (which backed Dan Hynes) and who now is a full-fledged national figure who is mentioned for the vice presidency and who has no ties or debts to the machine.

The Madigan order may well be in response to an editorial in the Chicago Tribune Oct. 10 which urged independent challenges to a number of Cook county board members who are puppets of President John Stroger (who in turn is obedient to the will of the Daleys and Madigan). African American candidates who are not beholden to the Daleys and Madigan is the worst thing that can happen to an organization which held one-party sway in Chicago since 1931 and which has not gone overboard in granting blacks the leadership roles that is their due basis the huge voting strength they have in the Cook county Democratic party.

Stroger’s decision to run for reelection is a case in point. As the Tribune points out he has presided over unparalleled corruption and misfeasance which requires tax increases rather than budget reductions. The 76-year-old Stroger has long been an ally of the Daleys. He is tired and would be expected to step down if the white-dominated machine were not so anxious to keep him on so it can make a case study of him. Once reelected, the machine can argue that it supported an African American in 2006 in return for which it would be natural for it to expect black support for the reelection of Richard M. Daley. Question: Isn’t it a fact that the Madigan order for all black incumbents to run for reelection is an attempt to shore up machine strength for the future when black independent Democrats could tip the balance against Mayor Daley’s reelection? Since hiring is a staple of the machine’s strength, a solid wall of incumbency would be necessary to block independent growth. The Tribune said, “The question here is whether U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is angered about government-by-cronies at the County Building—or only at Chicago’s City Hall. Jackson will serve his constituents if he recruits her [county commissioner Deborah Sims’] replacement.” There is no doubt that young black independents have moved to run for office inspired by the Obama Jackson freedom from the machine. One thing is sure: the rise of a Barack Obama who is not beholden to the machine and the continued independence of Jackson is enough to give the old, weather-beaten organization heartburn. Which is why Madigan’s order went out from headquarters to all black incumbents, no matter what offices they hold, from top to bottom, to run again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Judy, Judy: As She Approaches the Deadline

topinka close up
As State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka approaches her so-called “drop dead” day of decision on whether or not to seek the Republican nomination for governor, two significant leaks tell us her frame of mind. Lynn Sweet, the Washington editor of the Sun-Times, tells us that Judy is displeased that the Republican National Committee will evidently not plunk big bucks into her campaign. She met earlier with Karl Rove who promised it but nothing happened and Rove is now otherwise occupied. Rich Miller, who publishes a newsletter and blog (to which I subscribe and which I like, honest, Rich!) , gives us a review of the state of the political world with which he is most comfortable: a world where conservatives are the bad guys, stupid, unfeeling, uncaring and the exalted ones are liberal Democrats and at the very least, liberal Republicans ala Judy. Now the doomsday scenario: Judy could win the primary but running against a host of bad guy conservatives she would be so battered she could not win over Blagojevich with his tons of money.

Here for free is a countervailing scenario: Judy is damaged goods. Damaged because Blago can use her attempt to lower the bar for GOP moneybags Bill Cellini to escape paying in full to the state for his big Renaissance Hotel investment. She’s being examined by the U.S. Attorney, the rumor goes and we don’t know what will come of that. She is unable to excite the conservative base. Her slightly topping Blago these days in the polls stems from her longtime service as a state constitutional officer.

Rather than Judy, if the GOP were to nominate one who is a sunny Reaganesque candidate who can unite the base and downstate, steer clear of the shoals of division, the party would be infinitely wiser. Don’t let Bush’s low numbers confuse; those numbers come when he is at his lowest point. Take a look at page 22A of the Washington Post and 103B of The New York Times and you will find—voila!—that the people of Iraq including a good number of Summis are embracing democracy. The battle is being won and the so-called “mainstream” press will not recognize it. By the time the folks will be ready to vote, Bush will have topped Reagan as an innovative, gutsy great president.

Saint Harriet of Washington, D. C.: She Walked Among Us and We Knew Her Not.

She made well over $500,000 a year as managing partner of a top Dallas law firm but her net worth is about $700,000 according to her disclosure report. Where did Harrier Miers’ money go? Largely to her church to which she did far more than tithe says the Wall Street Journal and taking care of her aged mother. She also signed a pledge for Texas Right to Life supporting a federal constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade, vowed to oppose as a Dallas councilman any public money for abortions. In short, she’s exactly what President Bush said she is: a known quantity on the single-most issue of concern to social conservatives. It ratifies all along that Bush is a plain-spoken man who means what he says: taking blame for New Orleans, taking on the big jobs—transforming Iraq into a democracy, taking the heat for appointing a woman who may well be a female reincarnation of Francis of Assisi (she may indeed bear the imprint of a stigmata before confirmation is over).

At age 60, she looks older than her age, befitting one who’s worked 18-hours a day in private and public jobs. I must say as a bit of a social conservative activist myself, I am turning into a pinwheel of contradictions about her: starting off as one who groaned but accepted her, then one who steadfastly opposed her because we could do better, now ready to say that I’d vote for her with mixed joy and apprehension—joy because she’s every bit the ex-Catholic but evangelical nun who will not be moved by more powerful intellects… some apprehension because what we now know about her views is sure to win her furious opposition. Now as the liberals mount their fury against her, let the battle begin. And nobody tell me that Bush is scared of a fight: he proved he’s not when he named her.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Unpatriotic Paleo Right Wing

If you really want to take a hike back to yesterday where conservatives were thundering “that government governs best which governs least” and wrapping themselves around Washington’s Farewell Address warning against “entangling alliances,” the days of the celluloid high collars, William E. Borah, high button shoes and Henry Clay’s high protective tariff, read The American Conservative magazine which, unfortunately, is put out by a good man gone so far right he’s dropping off the edge of his flat world, Pat Buchanan. To read it is to get a whiff of the 19th century. They’re still fighting our entry into World War II, still threatening to saw off the east coast and let it float out to sea. The most rabid of the lot isn’t Pat who dances close to the edge but returns to home base occasionally—it’s none other than Paul Craig Roberts, the once sound supply side economist who used to write editorials for The Wall Street Journal but now crusades fervently to return us to Fortress America. Pat can at least write and is entertaining with inflammatory doggerel. To think that Roberts was once a major domo in Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign—and now he’s come to this.

Roberts and Howard Dean are ideological soul-mates with Roberts writing favorably about Mahathir Mohamad the former prime minister of Maslaysia who spoke at a rump Human Rights Conference asking “who are the terrorists—the Iraqis or the Americans?” Believe it or not Roberts summarizes his column with “the whole world is asking this question.” One shouldn’t get too upset about these Full Mooners, however, since it proves that conservatives now are so numerous they can afford to have their own brand of nuts. In the mid-1950s when the paleo right were dangerous with the John Birch Society tinted with anti-Semitism which threatened to engulf the entire movement, Bill Buckley helped excommunicate them from conservatism. The paleos don’t warrant being hounded out of the right now because they are so far outnumbered.

Judy, Judy, Choody: How Does The New York Times Run? A Better Mystery Than V. Plame.

If you’re wondering what the furor is about concerning Judith Miller and the news story she didn’t write leading to her 85-day imprisonment because she didn’t get a clearance from Scooter Libby to talk to the grand jury about who outed Valerie Plame, when, it turns out, she can’t remember who told her, join the club. And for those of you who have thought correctly that The Times is an unremittingly liberal newspaper that blasts George W. Bush, Dame Judy was one reporter who swallowed the WMD story whole and influenced a lot of folks that the Iraq invasion was justified because of her (as it turns out) inaccurate reporting. (I, for one, believe invading Iraq was right regardless of no WMD and, as the elections prove, its democratization is going to work wonders for peace in the Middle East. But that doesn’t answer the question as to why Judy is still around).

Here’s a lady who writes a string of stories that are incorrect, is told by her boss that she mustn’t cover the Middle East any more but goes ahead and does it anyhow with her boss evidently powerless to stop her. She causes The Times to spend millions in her defense with a gaggle of in-house lawyers plus a high-powered First Amendment lawyer, followed by her hiring her own counsel, Bob Bennett, and they all work for her defense. After being freed, she’s celebrated as the heroine of the First Amendment. Whereupon she announces she’s interested in writing a book and goes public about shopping around for a publisher. In the newsroom she calls herself “Miss Runamok” and when her boss asks “what does that mean, Judy?” she says that it means she can do anything she wants.

There’s a lot we don’t know about this case. If she were sleeping with the publisher that would be one explanation. If she were sleeping with Scooter Libby that’d be another. I almost think the latter explanation would be nearer to the truth basis his gushy note to her “you are missed” and referring to the plants in the garden with interconnecting roots ala Peter Sellers as Chauncy Gardner. All that’s missing is Scooter’s ending the note with a number of xxx’s. Except being touchy-feely with Scooter doesn’t explain why she had the total run of the newsroom in violation of protocol. Maybe she’s been romantic with a lot of powerful guys but then she’s not a looker: I don’t know. All of this seems to ignore Karl Rove. I think when it’s all over, we’ll find that she is just a ditzy neo-con dame who’s played a lot of Times liberals for suckers, sleeps only with her 78 year old husband--somebody with first page access who Scooter has sold a bill of goods for the benefit of his vice president. If you have trouble deciphering this how would you like to be our Chicago-based U.S. attorney? I wouldn’t blame him if after work he sits down and spends considerable time with an aged bottle of Old Fitzgerald.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Grover Norquist on Bob Kjellander: Interesting.

kjellander at convention
Tax reductionist Grover Norquist spoke the other day at Jack Roeser’s (no relation) luncheon in behalf of Renew Illinois, the group that seeks to bring reform to state government. First, Jack spoke at some length about corruption and, as is his habit, attacked Bob Kjellander (and here for the benefit of new readers of this blog who are out-of-state, Kjellander is the Republican National Committeeman who got a hefty retainer for arranging a bond sale for the Blagojevich administration, which Jack and Republican gubernatorial candidates Jim Oberweis and State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger believes is a conflict of interest. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with the fee Kjellander received if, in fact, he did serious work to get it. Norquist is, as you know, one of the prime godfathers of the right with enormous influence in the Bush administration on economic policy (not social policy). Oberweis asked Norquist to comment on Kjellander. Believe it or not, Washington-bound Norquist said, “who?” When reminded that Kjellander is the national committeeman, Norquist said, “oh.” When further reminded that Kjellander, a close friend of Karl Rove, recently was promoted to treasurer of the national party, Norquist said: “Huh? He’s not national treasurer, is he? Isn’t er, ah I can’t think of who I mean but isn’t someone else treasurer?” When assured someone else was not treasurer but Kjellander was, Norquist smiled and said this (in paraphrase):
“When you have someone whom you can’t work with the favored route is to work around him. That’s what I would do. Everybody has somebody in politics who they at times have difficulty working with. The task is to work around him, that’s all.”

No big deal.
It was sort of a put-down for those who are chasing Kjellander with all the fury of Captain Ahab and the white whale. I have felt for a long time that this furor about Kjellander is much sound and fury signifying nothing, or at least very little. If he’s done wrong, a very good gentleman known to all of us, Patrick Fitzgerald, will uncover it. The idea that Kjellander can’t be trusted because he is a secret operative of Rod Blagojevich is paranoid. If Kjellander were secretly working for Blago he would not have been busting his buttons trying to get Jim Edgar into the race since it is common currency that Edgar would give Blago a tough race.
For saying these heretical things I imagine I’ll be scourged by those to whom the Kjellander issue tops everything. My suggestion: take a Valium and calm down.

Harriet Miers: Both Right and Left Confused

I get the following from sources on House Judiciary (which are not involved in confirmation, of course, but which are keenly attentive). Both political right and left are now completely confused on the Harriet Miers debacle. Initially more secular sources on the right tended to oppose the Miers confirmation because of her obvious lack of legal scholarship, fearing that she is ripe for conversion by more persuasive elements on the court with high legalese IQs like Breyer and Stevens and that she would resist being seen as pawns of conservatives with high octane ala Scalia and Thomas (yes, Thomas: don’t fool for the canard that he’s a slow-wit; his jurisprudence is more originalist than Scalia). At the same time, while the left began its séance with Miers thinking it might approve her since the right is under-enthused, now believes she is a dangerous secret weapon who could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The problem is the conference call peopled by a number of Evangelicals and two judges which reportedly certified that she is a born-again anti-Roe vote. Some circles on the right are repentant for having nixed her while there is a stronger than expected fear on the left that the little lady may in fact be carrying a bomb to detonate Roe in her purse. But that represents only the evangelical right. The neo-conservative right represented by Bill Kristol are still holding that she was picked by liberal Massachusetts Republican Andy Card, the president’s chief of staff during a time when Karl Rove was busy, with his own possible indictment and a bout with kidney stones. Thus the right is fractured. The left is fractured, too, with some Democrats feeling she is not too bad and the remainder worrying that the evangelical conference call may be correct. The battle may be bloodier than at first thought when Harry Reid opined that she is ducky. My own view is that whether or not she would vote to overturn Roe or not, the appointment is perilous because all we have to go on is rumor rather than intellectual insight.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Speaking of Supreme Court Appointments: One Will Live in My Memory

The hubbub over the latest Bush Supreme Court appointment prompts me to recall when a Nixon nominee played a serious role in my life—a man I never met, Clement Haynesworth. It started like this. I had been working at The Quaker Oats Company since 1964, having started what I thought was an innovative program to encourage Quaker employees to get involved in urban affairs in Chicago. One feature of the program—which involved tutoring of disadvantaged kids, a nutrition education program and involvement on Chicago’s South and West Sides—had to do with entrepreneurship. We were literally one of the first companies to provide training to poor people in how to run food stores, with not only training sessions but people who could give them advice on how to raise capital to start their own business. Immediately it became a hot item. It was the dawn of the so-called Black Capitalism craze and Quaker got a good deal of press coverage for it.

We started the program in 1966; that same year Richard Nixon had started what many believed was a quixotic enterprise, trying to convince people that he, after having lost the presidency by an eyelash in 1960, and the governorship of California by a substantial number of votes in 1962, was not a re-tread for the Republican nomination in 1968. I had always been hanging around people with political ideas and one of them was a fellow who was on Chuck Percy’s staff, John McLaughrey. McLaughrey was one of the very few geniuses I have ever met, a young, rawboned guy with blond hair who strode around the office in jeans (when jeans were not very fashionable, called “overalls” by the naifs of the time). McLaughrey was an anomaly: he was passionately interested in minorities but believed just as strongly in free enterprise. He put the two concepts together and sold Percy on the idea of a “Community Self-Determination Act” which touted blacks, Hispanics and Indians taking control of their own lives and pooling resources with private sector entities (along with some government tax credits) to revolutionize the ghettoes and barrios. He was a powerful speaker and Percy bought the idea—up to a point.

I bought it, too. I thought I saw our supermarket training program fitting into the whole and John and I would talk about it occasionally. A disciple of John’s, one Bill Geimer, was powerfully interested in the idea. Anyhow, after having told the press that it didn’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, Nixon decided to give the media another opportunity and announced his candidacy in 1967. His opponent for the nomin/ation was Nelson Rockefeller. The next thing I heard was that John McClaughrey was working for Nixon. How influential he was I don’t know but in the midst of the campaign—with Bobby Kennedy talking ghetto revolution and Rockefeller pressing for more compassion toward minorities—Richard Nixon of all people captured the imagination of the minority community by disavowing government programs for minorities which he pointed out hadn’t worked…and announced a program of “Black Capitalism” in concert with a few black leaders including Roy Innis of CORE. The Nixon proposal was not fleshed out but it evoked strong support from black leaders and Hispanics. When Nixon was elected in 1968, he promptly forgot about the program until someone reminded him that he had to do something about his pledge. Indeed. Howard Samuels, who was LBJ’s head of the Small Business Administration, had pioneered special loans and other programs for minorities. Nixon had to do something. But what?

While Nixon was pondering what to do, his secretary of commerce, Maurice Stans felt he had an idea. Stans had been budget director under Eisenhower and was an early Nixon fund-raiser, had tried in vain to be secretary of the treasury but Nixon always snubbed him. He felt Stans was a loyal, not too bright functionary. He named him to the then lowest cabinet post, Commerce, and on the night he announced his cabinet picks on live television, he forgot Stans’ name. That hurt Stans greatly but he determined that under his aegis Commerce would have something sexier than the patent bureau, the weather bureau, the census, the bureau of standards and the national oceanic administration.

Stans reasoned: why don’t I lobby to start an agency of the federal government to fulfill Nixon’s pledge? To people who said the SBA was ideally equipped, Stans rebuffed the idea. It was no good; no good, it was clear, because he didn’t control the SBA. He had inherited, in fact, one agency that was ideally suited to fund business: the Economic Development Administration, a hangover from LBJ. Stans took the very little clout that he had with Nixon and argued that yet another agency should be set up to handle minority enterprise—the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in Commerce. It was one of his more cynical ideas: create a new agency with the hope that being new, it could get some press attention. Thus Stans, a so-called conservative, one who had often called for more efficiency and an end of duplication in government, was now duplicating the Small Business Administration and his own EDA by starting y/et another one in Commerce.

To get around the conservatives in the administration, Stans had to agree that OMBE would have no granting power of its own and would merely coordinate the 116 federal programs that funded business enterprise. The most important thing was to develop a strategy for minority business and allow the SBA and other agencies—as well a//s the private sector—to join in a concerted push. Somewhere John McClaughrey had been pushing the idea: to Stans, to a distinctly unsympathetic John Ehrlichman, to a hostile Bob Haldemann until he finally found a taker: Leonard Garment, Nixon’s old law partner who had just been named Nixon’s general counsel (the same general job that Harriet Miers has today).

The Nixon administration was rocketing along early in 1969, with Nixon trying to end the war in Vietnam and bolstering the economy when out of the blue I get a phone call at Quaker Oats from a guy named Gleason who asked if I would be interested in going to work for Nixon. Not really but I said I’d talk to him the next time I go to Washington. By the time I sat down with Gleason, I had decided that if, indeed, I would go to work for him, I’d like to take the post of Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for Legislation. The job would be, I thought, duck soup for me: lobbying the Congress for programs that had some meaning. And I was a lobbyist, after all. “No, no, no,” said Gleason. “What we have in mind for you is Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce for Minority Enterprise. Aren’t you familiar with Black Capitalism?”

I said yes, I had some familiarity with some programs I was running in Chicago. Then Gleason told one of the biggest whoppers that he calculated would be sure to snare the unwary. The president himself, he said, is aware of you—do you know that? To my credit, I scoffed. Gleason dropped the act and then said, “It’s, you know, a kind of pioneering job. You know we Republicans have missed the boat on civil rights. But we don’t have to miss the boat on ownership. As business-centered Republicans, we’re suited to the task. And while I can now confess that I stretched it a bit to say Nixon had heard of you, I can say that if you take this job, you’d be laying the groundwork for minority economic development so that future generations yet unborn will bless the name Nixon and your own name as well.”

You must remember that I was a wee broth of a lad then—well, 41, married and the father of three—soon to be four. And I should have known better than to give up a perfectly good job at Quaker Oats for what turned out to be a maelstrom between those in the administration who wanted to pursue a southern strategy where civil rights and black ownership are downgraded and those idealists who wanted to build a new wing of the Republican party centered on age-old conservative principles of ownership.

There were four guys who were vying for the job and in interviews I beat all of them out. I convinced Stans I was the guy but on the way home to Chicago I was torn: he hadn’t convinced me he was sincere about the program aside from building an empire so that he could be boosted to secretary of the treasury in the second term. I left Quaker with grim forboding: feeling that if I chickened out and didn’t take it I’d always regret the chance I had, and sure at the bottom of my heart that Stans was the coldest fish I ever saw, a wall-eyed pike who could easily step over the bodies of those he had slain in bureaucratic wars to advance himself. And I felt I could easily become one of those bodies.

I was sworn in as Assistant Secretary on April 1, 1969—April Fool’s Day which told me something. From the very day I started, I knew it had been a mistake. Stans was totally uninterested in any new ideas. There was no contact with the President whatsoever. Every time I went to the White House to talk to staffers, I was viewed coldly by them as the guy who could easily torpedo the plan that had elected Nixon in the first place—the southern strategy. “Do you think Strom Thurmond is going to look favorably on you trying to start businesses for blacks in South Carolina?” one said. “Strom put his name on the line for Nixon and his constituency isn’t exactly yours, Roeser.” At the same time, my memos and ideas were finding a repository in Stans’ wastebasket. I got the then Big 3 auto makers to sign up 25 dealership opportunities for qualifying minorities—a total of 100 in one fell swoop—only to find that Stans was outraged because putting even the slightest pressure on them would jeopardize his relations with the company CEOs for 1972 campaign donations. The office I headed was a sham, a charade and I had hired people who left their own jobs to join me for what had proved to be a miserable fraud.

I started to put pressure on Stans in the Commerce Department to fulfill my mandate only to be told that this was not the way to play ball. At the same time, trying to coordinate all the federal programs that give assistance t to industry and bargain for minorities was getting me in hot water with every agency head in town, as well as snotty calls from Ehrlichman at the White House.

What to do? The only thing that was left to me was a mandate contained in Executive Order 11458 which set up by office by presidential fiat. It said that my job was to prepare a strategy for the president the United States—a strategy for minority business enterprise. I decided to do that well and get the best minds I could find from the private sector as well as government and try to get the strategy paper to the president—following which he would either buy it and with it me, or veto it and with it me. In any event, I had no choice. So with about 15 people we started discussing a national strategy for minority enterprise for the United States of America. It became so fascinating that I plumb tended to forget my woes in government. All the while I was having to testify before hostile committees of the Congress, a Congress controlled by the Democrats.

The Congress came in two sections where I was concerned. First were the Democrats who were mad that Nixon had stolen what they believed was an idea for minorities belonging to them. Second were the Republicans, mostly apathetic because they weren’t nuts about minorities anyhow and felt anything I would do could jeopardize the white votes of t he south. My only friends were liberal Republicans—Jacob Javits and Chuck Percy. I wasn’t their cup of tea ideologically but I was very glad to see them in any committee hearing. All the while I was testifying, I was fighting with the White House Republicans and the Democrats in Congress. The only peace I had was when we were tooling up the Strategy. Then, you guessed it, more trouble loomed.

A very good friend of mine in the bureaucracy—a careerist—came in to see me and told me the bad news. “Stans is preparing to fire you because you’re not what he expected—someone who would do what he’s told and nothing more.” I asked how he knew. “Easy,” he said. “I’ve been a bureaucrat here for 30 years. When the Secretary prepares to fire a political appointee, he has to fill out some papers. I saw t hem. The paper starts up on the 5th floor where he signs it, stating that he’s not firing you because of race, color creed or anything like that. Then the paper makes it way through a labyrinth to the office of the Commerce general counsel.. It stays there on the average of a week or so, maybe two. Then it—but why go into it? You’re a dead one. I’ve never seen anybody where the firing process has begun who has survived.”

Like a man who was given a death sentence, I asked: How much time do I have? He said, “oh, I’d say you’ve got three weeks, maybe four weeks at the most.” I said that this would not be enough time to finish our strategy paper to give to the president. He said, “Are you nuts? You’re a dead man! Here you are, thinking of getting a strategy paper to the president when you’re getting canned! I’m doing you a favor, my friend by telling you this. You now have four weeks to find another job!”

But I wanted to finish the strategy paper. We were running figures and statistics on early, slowed down Commerce computers, were busily getting information from Census. At the most I needed three months. So I pondered. And while I pondered I kept on going to the Secretary’s staff meetings where I was getting glowered at by His Eminence himself. One morning as I sat doodling on a notepad at the Secretary’s meeting, he said something that caused me to listen carefully.

Stans said slowly with great emphasis: Let me tell you that there is going to be a great deal of controversy for all of us in the administration. The President”—and here he seemingly raised his eyes to heaven—“the President has named an outstanding jurist to the Supreme Court, a man by the name of Clement Haynesworth of South Carolina. The Democrats in the Senate will try to say that he is a racist because he belonged to a restricted country club or other. Civil rights groups and labor will be lobbying against him. The reason I am telling you is this: All of you have blacks working for you in your agencies. They will feel the pressure put on them by the civil rights groups and labor. When that occurs, some of your black employees may criticize the president. This is to tell you not to worsen any public relations problems by letting them agitate you to censure them, or censor them or in any way offend them. Worse of all would be if you would attempt to fire them—if they are political appointees—for insubordination. That would play into the hands of the Washington Post and the other media organs.

That was in Spring. I checked with my sources on Capitol Hill and learned that the entire Senate confirmation process would have to take a matter of months, with long Judiciary committee hearings and fireworks every day. At the same time, my bureaucrat friend was telling me that my termination papers were being rushed. So I had to act. I wangled a speaking date at the National Business League, an organization of so-so value which featured black businessmen who since the days of Calvin Coolidge had been trying to lobby for programs such as I was developing. I told a pal at the Associated Press that I was going to make a speech at the NBL. “So?” he said, bored. I said that in the speech I’d ask respectfully for the President to pull the name of Clement Haynesworth. I wouldn’t have a press release but I would say it. And he had exclusively. “For a sub-cabinet guy to say that,” he said, “even a lowly sub-cabinet guy like you would mean you’d be fired!” I wanted to tell him the truth: it would be just the opposite. By saying that Haynesworth should be pulled, I’d be adding to my longevity until I got the strategy paper done. “O.k.,” he said. “If that’s the way you want it, I’m going to have our Memphis correspondent there. But damn you if you chicken out and don’t say it!” I told him I wouldn’t chicken out but would he be sure that this story gets to the Washington Post which subscribes to AP? He agreed. “After you say it , I’ll call it in to the night desk over there myself.”

So at a very long, boring convention in Memphis, I got up and without much fanfare talked about minority enterprise and dropped my three sentences into the pot. No one was listening but one guy: the Memphis AP reporter. I stayed over in Memphis that night and slept the sleep of the just. When I returned to Washington the next morning, I bought the Post and saw to my pleasure that a Nixon sub-cabinet guy was asking, respectfully, that Haynesworth be pulled. Then I joyfully took a cab to the Commerce Department. When I got to my office my secretary’s eyes were like saucers. The secretary has been on the phone since early morning, she said, and he must see you. Also, the entire Washington media market is calling for you.

Before I went to see him, I poured a cup of coffee in a mug and carried it jauntily to his mammoth office. As soon as I approached everybody on his staff rushed out all the doors, their hair standing on end. I sauntered in as he was on the phone (I presumed it was with Halderman). As I sat and drank the coffee he said, “yes—yes—yes—no—no—no, of course I won’t. Goodbye.” He hung up and I almost felt sorry for him.. Almost.

What in the name of God possessed you, he said as he fiddled with his pill box and gulped one, downing it with a handy glass of water. I told him that civil rights mean very much to me and that I can understand his consternation. Therefore if he wished my resignation, he would have it. I said I couldn’t stay with him long as there were a flood of calls I would have to return.

Wait, he said. Wait. He got up and walked to the window. T hen he turned and said, I have always felt a man should have the right to express himself—he said it slowly as if they were the last words he wished to utter. Just promise me this: before you make another speech, would you mind telling me what you’re going to say? Fair enough, I said. We shook hands. I noticed his was rather damp. Then I left.

When I returned to my office my bureaucrat friend called. This is the damndest thing, he said. Your papers had been winging to your office to notify you that you were terminated. Now those papers have been recalled and placed on indefinite suspension. Since this department’s founding by Herbert Hoover, this is the first time this has happened.

I took my time preparing the strategy paper, sent it to the Secretary and saw that it got to the president. Clement Haynesworth failed of confirmation on November 21,1969 by vote of 55 to 45. And when his nomination failed I was on my way out of office—to the Peace Corps as director of public affairs. The Nixon group, stunned by my insubordination, decided not to impede my federal career…although I was planning to say goodbye forever and return to Quaker and the private sector.

So you see, with a blog I can write it up the way I want to. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Movement Conservatives are Joining the Stop Harriet Miers Effort

I was asked earlier today to do an interview about the Harriet Miers prospects for CNN with Bill Schneider on the satellite from Washington. I told him frankly that I have no doubt that she is a wonderful woman, a good Christian and exemplary White House general counsel—but.

The but is amply illustrated by today’s New York Times column in which David Brooks reproduces her writing. The only thing we have to go on are the essays she wrote as president of the Texas Bar to her members. Believe me, they are vapid in the extreme and devoid of any reasoning power. They show a very diligent woman who would be painfully out of her depth on the Court. Read the book “Scalia Dissents” and notice the exquisitely graceful way Scalia parses this thoughts on Constitutional law. Listen to Breyer make a case (not a very good one but eloquent nevertheless) for scholars to probe international law and then contrast it with Scalia’s rejoinder. These are two men whose intellects burnish the Court. One cannot possibly believe that Harriet Miers can keep up with them. The idea that she wouldn’t have to keep up, that she can be used only for one vote, is not practical. Someone bereft of philosophical underpinning would be, after Bush leaves Washington, a nifty vote for anyone with intellectual firepower.

The weakness of this nominee can be seen by the way in which her advocates argue in her behalf. The President said she is a good woman who worked selflessly in behalf of Meals on Wheels. The Attorney General said she is a good friend of his. Sen. Lindsay Graham said bluntly that conservatives should “shut up”. Fred Barnes, who ordinarily is very reasonable, takes up the argument that she will be a good vote. If that is the best that can be said for her, it is insufficient.

I told CNN that it is my belief more grassroots conservatives believe the nomination should be pulled than not—and this is significant in that she has not yet testified. It’s my hope that a good number of conservative Senators will join the liberals to oppose her and that once this happens the White House nose-counters will advise that her name be pulled. At least I hope that’s the case.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Who’s My Favorite Justice? Ah, er Warren…er, ah Burger.

Today’s Washington Post has a story that, contrary to an earlier dispatch, when Harriet Miers was asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) who her favorite Justice was, she responded “Warren”—by which she didn’t mean Earl Warren (as earlier reported) but Warren Burger; evidently she was having trouble distinguishing between the two. Which tells you something right there. But neither man was an ideal Chief Justice. Earl Warren was a political pragmatist in search of a philosophy who was taken into camp swiftly by the Court’s senior liberals and Warren Burger who had insisted he favored strict construction became a Seeker of Truth as well, voting for Roe v. Wade in order to give one whom he mis-read as a fellow conservative, Harry Blackmun, the opportunity to write a restrictive decision (which Blackmun took and wrote boldly). All of which shows that Miers fits the description of a pragmatist herself. I worked with lawyers—and brilliant ones, corporate ones and ones from blue-chip law firms—for 27 straight years. I played a little game with them. Not a single one—nary one—could tell me who Hans Kelsen was*

This intellectual vacuity will spell great problems for conservatives if Miers is confirmed. President Bush tells us she won’t change over the years although she did change up to now in many respects: changing from a Catholic to an evangelical, changing from a Democrat to a Republican, changing from a liberal to a conservative, going to a strongly pro-life church while at the same time contributing to pro-abort Al Gore. But never fear, she won’t change from now on. Odds are she will change and the change from conservative to liberal will be a gift that keeps on giving for the Democrats. Conceivably she might vote the way Bush would like her to vote so long as he’s president—but after that if she drifts, it will be a steady reminder of the fact that the 43rd president bull-headedly stuck to the choice of his personal attorney despite all criticism. That will lead to a cynicism in the base to the point that conservatives themselves will forget about politics out of the sense of futility.

The Big Business global futurist named Friedman, whose views I critiqued the other day, made a major mistake in opining that social conservatives have no place to go except the Republican Party. Social conservatives have a great many things to do that can take the place of voting, if they are politically turned off. They belong to and are active in churches, in faith-based charities that can absorb their time. It’s secular liberals who more generally have no place to go but politics. That’s why the Harriet Miers appointment can be the worst thing to happen to social conservatism. Bush can easily go down in history as a copy of his father who said “read my lips: no new taxes” and then violated his precept. In most things, the stubbornness, the mulish obstinacy of George W. Bush is an asset. But when he makes a mistake, it’s a disaster. The only recourse is to defeat her in the Senate.

Does Her Accordion Have One More Squeeze?

The rumor mill was swirling today, carrying hints that State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka will not run for the Republican nominee for governor. If she doesn’t, it will serve notice that the bad gamble she made years ago has finally turned up snake-eyes. Contagiously comedic, an expert at quick repartee, a quick study on budget issues, irrepressibly adroit with superb contacts in the media due to her feminist connections (a former reporter herself) normally she would be considered to be a comer—even nationally—through force of personality. She’s the GOP’s best ethnic politician, a Czech in a state that has rewarded Czechs before: Anton Cermak for mayor, Otto Kerner for governor. And she crosses over. Not for nothing does Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) declare that he helped pull her through her last tough campaign against Tom Dart by pitching black votes for her. He’s right and he did.

The one-time pro-lifer has bet the ranch on the fact that she could reach into the liberal constituencies and bring them home while holding her conservative base by playing exclusively to the economic side (talking spending cuts, even tax cuts) while playing her accordion for the pro-aborts and pro-gay rights lobby, two major elements of the Democratic base. Every time you look at Judy you see someone who single-handedly kept the Republicans from winning an Illinois congressional seat. Some years ago, conservative Jim Nalepa ran for Congress against a severely weakened incumbent Democrat Bill Lipinski who was the recipient of a new district. Nalepa was within an ace of winning until the Riverside GOP committeeman distributed sample ballots marked for Lipinski. The margin of victory was determined by that decision. The committeeman: Judy Baar Topinka.

The whisper today was that Judy talked to Jim Edgar who wished she would get in the race but that, on the other hand, she has been disappointed by lack of money. One of her major contributors, Ron Gidwitz, is in the race for governor and as a scion of great wealth is determined to make himself known by TV commercials to make up for all those years in the backroom when others took the bows. His TV commercials ought to get an award for honesty of presentation. They show a grim, humorless, balding guy with the warmth of a new arrival at Graceland Cemetery.

If Judy doesn’t get in the race, the liberals’ only hope is former Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood. She’s got money of her own and isn’t bad on TV.

Political Shootout Sunday

Guests will be Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac), who is running for secretary of state, and journalist Russ Stewart, political analyst for the Nadig Newspapers. Why is Rutherford running against a supposed sure-winner, incumbent Jesse White? He’ll tell us but the betting is lightning could always strike and since he’s mid-term the campaign would enable him to show the flag and be available in the future. Ask him yourself on WLS-AM 890 at 591-8900 (good for all area codes).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Broadcast from Hell

The title of my Sunday broadcast “Political Shootout” lived up to its name last night with the possible modification to “Political Shoutout.” If you listened to my WLS-AM program last night you heard a distinctly historic broadcast wherein a critic of Jim Oberweis, Frank Avila, and Oberweis tangled about immigration for an hour. What you didn’t hear—and in this you were fortunate—was the screaming of high decibel sweet reason during the commercial breaks where James Leahy, the Oberweis grass-roots coordinator was remonstrating at Avila. Remonstrating at Avila is the right phrase. Frankly, I am surprised you didn’t hear it anyway because the swimmers in the adjoining Renaissance Hotel swimming pool stopped and cocked their heads to catch the words. It seems that Avila had told the Conservative summit in mid-September which endorsed Bill Brady that Hispanic votes to Oberweis would be negligible if Oberweis won the nomination which Leahy protested. Leahy’s remonstration seemed to throw Avila (usually an excellent debater) off his game and me off mine wherein the night ended with me in my bed seeking calm, ears ringing and teeth clenched in nervous spasm. For his part, Leahy does not need a microphone: he need only throw open a window and let go with his views to the world.

While Leahy’s commercial break shouting unnerved both me and Avila, the broadcast did accomplish much in addition to the exercise of Leahy’s vocal chords. In answer to the question where Avila gets off as a Democrat forecasting Hispanic votes for a Republican, it is ascertained that Avila has long been active in Latino affairs and his father has been elected repeatedly as commissioner of what used to be known as the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Cook County. It developed that a good number of Hispanics called in support for Oberweis. We learned that at the Summit, Avila voted for Democrat Glenn Poshard for governor notwithstanding that Poshard is not running (and that I had voted for him rather than George Ryan in 1998).

I asked Jim Oberweis this: If another conservative Republican candidate rates higher in a statewide poll than you and it looks likely that by staying in the conservatives would be divided causing them to lose the nomination to, let us say, Judy Baar Topinka, would you stay in or pull out? His answer was that he is now leading in the polls so the question had best be put to his primary opponents. This I will do individually at the appropriate future time.