Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Carol Marin and the Woman’s Vote

If you’re a lefty and covering abortion, you learn quickly to assume and refer to “the woman’s vote” as liberal, never mind that the polls gathered by Karlyn Bowman at the American Enterprise Institute (she’s a Chicagoan, by the way) in Washington show that women have moved to at least 50-50 on the practice and decidedly favoring restrictions. When you total the numbers, more women favor ending abortion or restricting it than women favoring the entire practice. Carol Marin adheres to the comfortable old lefty practice of not allowing bias to be diluted. Following good Sun-Times column-ing practice of “it’s all about me,” Marin begins: “Women. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.” What is it, Carol?

What follows is boilerplate style-less Planned Parenthood jargon about “a woman’s right to choose.” She agrees with Planned Parenthood and Personal Pac, the two most vehement pro-abort lobbies, that the media has not made sufficient clarity about Judy Baah Topinka’s voting record—which is, although Marin doesn’t tell us, that in the General Assembly Baah Topinka voted with pro-aborts on one amendment, then voted against the final bill. On one bill, she voted with Planned Parenthood on one amendment, voted pro-life on another and for final passage voted “present.” That’s been Baah Topinka’s mode all through life, which is why I can’t believe anything she says.

(Intriguingly, a reader bulletins me: if you can’t believe anything she says, why do you believe she’s a liberal? There’s a metaphysics lesson there. Why since she is unable to tell the truth do I say she believes thus and so? Because relativism is a liberal practice and has been since the Enlightenment—a view that Aristotle answered 3,000 years ago when confronted by a student who declared “there is no certainty.” He responded: “Are you sure?” The guy said yes and then lapsed into befuddlement spurred by the contradiction. To Baah Topinka there is no certainty and she hasn’t figured it out yet—give her time.)

Back to Marin: I wonder why Marin didn’t use her column to tell us how Baah Topinka has voted? The news conference by Personal Pac and Planned Parenthood gave chapter and verse but Marin doesn’t reproduce it. Why not? Possibly as not to damage Baah Topinka too much. After all, she’s a sister feminist and it gives Baah Topinka time to pronounce firmly for abortion so that Marin and her sisters can thrill to a governorship race where two strident pro-aborts are running against each other. That’s what I call partisan journalism, back to the old days as practiced by George Taage and Arthur Sears Henning. I love it.

Columns Left: The Sun Times: Exuberantly on the Road to Partisanship

Not long ago I wrote about the old days when newspapers were frankly and unashamedly partisan. When one picked up the Chicago Tribune under Colonel Robert R. McCormick he knew what he got; likewise with the old Chicago Sun under Marshall Field. Since then, newspapers haven’t been more objective but have engaged in the pretense of objectivity. They will dish up varying columns of opinion, some left, some right. The Washington Post is dishonestly partisan in that it pretends objectivity with some columns left, some right; the Washington Times is honestly partisan and does not pretend; all columns right.. Hurrah for it. Under the two crooks, the Sun-Times made a modest pass at presenting both sides but tilted slightly to the left. Now with the two crooks ready to stand trial, the Sun-Times is reverting to its old harshly partisan Democratic posture of pushing almost exclusively the ideas of the left in columns of the left. The paper has made great progress since the two crooks moved on.

The signage of former Alderman Dick Simpson as a regular weekly columnist crams him in to the already jammed up left loft. Simpson, a university professor, has been a featured player, demonstrating in the past against U.S. involvement in the Cold War: a hemophiliac liberal. He joins these veering left liberals of varied gradations: urban columnist Mark Brown; movie reviewer (when he isn’t pushing the left as a moonlighting political columnist) Roger Ebert; “religion” columnist Cathleen Falsani, who doesn’t know the difference between atheism and agnosticism but, like, who cares so long as I can blast Bush, huh?; religion columnist Father Andrew Greeley, the dissenter priest, venerable Bush basher who once urged that John F. Kennedy be certified a Doctor of the Church, where he would rank with Augustine, Aquinas and Theresa of Lisieux. When you think about it, he really belongs, does he not?

Continuing: Rev. Jesse Jackson, who’s there because the paper is doing penance for reporting on his big business mop-ups, a series that happened under the two crooks; Carol Marin, about whom I refer in another place; Ralph Martire who when he writes does the same column over and again, calling for higher taxes; Mary Mitchell who, when she takes on issues, tacks liberal; Debra Pickett, wafer-light who is supposed to appeal to young women who want to be cool and who has the acceptable Valley girl “like who knows? but everything’s cool so long as it’s liberal” slant; the Notre Dame professor Bob O’Rourke who hasn’t appeared in some time but is obligatorily liberal; QT, very funny, my favorite, even if it’s unabashedly anti-Bush, anti-Cheney.

Richard Roeper, the cool male counterpart of Pickett who is supposed to appeal to young guys except he’s getting a bit long in the tooth; Neil Steinberg, coolly liberal; Lynn Sweet, the Democratic maven who recognizes no distinction between straight news and commentary—the only reporter on the paper to follow this practice—tossing it all together like in a salad and Laura Washington to whom all civil rights is another mile on the Democratic excursion. That’s tacking mucho columns left so far the boat’s in danger of up-ending. But that’s the way partisan journalism ought to be: taking no prisoners and Sweet has it right: tell `em what to think in the news so they’ll not be bothered by doubt, the William Randolph Hearst dictum.

Now we get to where the paper is less than honest: the national columnists to add a dash of supposed objectivity but not enough to matter, leaving the local scene firmly in the hands of the left. There’s Bob Novak, the critic of Bush’s foreign policy but also supply side; Mark Steyn, very, very good and extraordinarily funny and George Will, the phrase-maker for the deeply learned, who writes catchy things like: without whose ameliorations life becomes a mere syllogism—but who is succumbing to the late Walter Lippmann’s disease of total dullness. Chicago now has one Democratic paper that is unapologetically Chautauqua-dated, sort of William Randolph Hearst reborn for the party that is out of power. And which will stay out of power through its lefty ballyhooing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

After Mine: When the Readers Have their Say

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Q. Why don’t you understand that while Judy Baar Topinka is not a conservative, neither is she a liberal but is in the center, basis her opposition to partial birth abortion and support for concealed carry?

A. You have a point if, in fact, Topinka carries those views.You’ll forgive me if I have trouble accepting what she says as her views ever since on my radio program as state Republican chairman, she flatly—vehemently and whole-heartedly—refused to endorse Peter Fitzgerald for reelection, this on a 50,000-watt station that reaches not just the entire state but the Midwest region as well. Then when the heat goes on she tells the media that I should “take the wax out of my ears,” a dig at my impaired hearing purportedly stemming from my senile decrepitude. I admire this personal roughing up as it comes from a true brawler; she’ll need all those tactics when the brawl gets going as I imagine it certainly should after Wednesday. Her denial in the face of truth is outrageous, cavalier, the study of which is truly for the metaphysicians. Steve Brown, Mike Madigan’s guy was on the show as well and heard it. Does she think we’re so gullible as to doubt our ears—and others when mine are failing—and which is on tape? So, sorry, this stuff about she’s really against partial-birth abortion and for concealed carry coming from her claque doesn’t carry water—and even if it comes from her own lips, given her track record. Sorry.

Allan Carlson’s Book Should Be a Best-Seller

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Like many people, I’m very much impressed with Allan Carlson, president of the John Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford. He made a talk the other night in Chicago on his book The “American Way” [ISI Books, Wilmington Del., 2004]. When I say his book should be a best-seller, I must clarify and say that as of now it isn’t—but with your help it should be. To a contemporary world of nay-sayers, Carlson points out that the U.S. is inarguably more family-centered than any other nation, that Theodore Roosevelt had much to do with the early family under-pinning and that his fifth cousin, Franklin’s New Deal, far from being (as my father maintained) the crossroads of evil, actively promoted the family. A nationally known expert who has testified often before Congress, he is this state’s enduring resource.

Kathy Salvi’s Personally Opposed Stand on the Death Penalty

There’s no doubt that I’m soft on Kathy Salvi, the brilliant and beauteous (if that doesn’t brand me a sexist) student I had in my Poly Sci class at Loyola who went on to a law degree, work as a public defender, the wife of Al Salvi and the mother of six who is running for 8th district Congress. It’s satisfying to see someone who took to the study of politics early and who has been such a success in her young life. And I’ve been thinking of late on Kathy Salvi’s response to my question as to where she stands on the death penalty.

Her answer squared with my own view which is anti-death penalty, but came in such a way that you could easily be mis-led but I attribute it to her savvy mastery of the political arts. After I described the action of a house-painter who killed a minister and his daughter who was spared the death penalty after a statement made by the minister’s widow, in an act of sublime forgiveness, Kathy’s response was, well, ingenious. She said she favored the state to act against the killer to the full extent of the law. Period. I took that to mean she favored the death penalty and so I asked how she squared that with the anti-death penalty view of John Paul II. No, she said, she is personally opposed. Oh, okay. Glad I asked the follow-up.

Pharmacists Terminated by Walgreen’s Shows Disdain for Illinois Right of Conscience

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At least seven Walgreen’s pharmacists were terminated by the big drug chain today in a southern Illinois area known to be desperately short of pharmacists with the flu season approaching. One pharmacist tells me that she was given a form by Walgreen’s to complete on-line which said: “I am willing to dispense all contraceptives, including Plan B”—the morning after pill which has acted as an abortifacient and can well be a danger to the well-being of young women taking it. Following that statement there are two boxes. One says: “I agree” and one says “I do not agree.” She checked “I do not agree” and the screen flashed: “Do you understand that by checking `I do not agree’ you can be terminated?” She indicated yes and continued with the form.

Of the seven Walgreen’s pharmacists terminated in southern Illinois, three worked the night shift. This action comes as result of an executive order by Gov. Blagojevich notifying pharmacists to do their jobs notwithstanding their conscience which has been called by many Christians a clear violation of their right of conscience. Attorney Ed Martin (314-914-1455) is leading the Right of Conscience drive at Americans United for Life. This is an issue that has not yet reached the full attention of the MSM, mainstream media. If these pharmacists were terminated because they dared to stand opposed to WalMart or in response to a socially popular cause, you can rest assured they would be number one on the MSM agenda, featured on the front pages and on the TV news. Reluctance or refusal of MSM to provide coverage only certifies that with them the news is important only when it ratifies their prejudices.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Kathy Salvi and Frank Coconate: A Winning Team

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Kathy Salvi, who’s seeking the Republican nomination for 8th district Congress, did a good job on my WLS program last night as did Frank Coconate, reflecting the true workingman’s view that the Democratic party once espoused before it went elitist. Kathy, a former student of mine at Loyola, is a charmer, possibly not the policy wonk Dave McSweeney is but an excellent candidate nevertheless. She wouldn’t take a position on term limits, did you hear that? Most interesting was the way she declined to take a position which showed finesse. But I still like term limits. Coconate was superb. For next Sunday I’m going to try to get Ron Gidwitz: let’s see if he will go head-to-head with a Democrat as did Bill Brady, Steve Rauschenberger and Jim Oberweis. No, it won’t be Becky Carroll. I’m saving her for the big time.

Judy Baah Topinka: What Can She Do for the GOP?

State Treasurer Judy Baah Topinka has sent word through her faithful courier, Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times, that Baah Topinka will announce for governor on Wednesday. Prevailing political wisdom has it that Baah Topinka will win in November, 2006 because of Democratic crossovers. Which leads to the question: what crossovers? If you’re a liberal Democrat—which is just about the only kind there is these days—you will support Rod Blagojevich. True, there has been friction early in his term but now what’s not to like for liberals?

He can point to his plan to give health coverage to 250,000 children, not raise taxes and has implemented a plan to spur embryonic stem cell research with an executive order. Why would liberals go elsewhere since they support these programs? He is for abortion rights and gay rights. Why would liberals go elsewhere on these items? Judy Baah Topinka supports abortion rights and gay rights: why would one who wants a governor to espouse these things support Baah Topinka when Blagojevich already supports them? The only Democrat I know who has said that there will be crossovers for Baah Topinka is my friend Frank Coconate, the rebel leader of the Northwest Side Democratic Organization. But Coconate won’t support Baah Topinka since his future is rooted in independent Democratic politics and by his own admission he has never voted for a Republican in his life.

Liberals won’t cross over in the primary to support Baah Topinka because they will be busy either supporting Blagojevich or Eisendrath in the primary. Baah Topinka is a folksy, colorful campaigner but she will have to compete with Jim Oberweis for conservative Republican primary voters, Oberweis ranking higher in the polls than any other GOPer right now and who can beat Baah Topinka . Whether Oberweis can be Blagojevich head to head I don’t know (I think Bill Brady could) but I think he’s got a shot. You won’t find this analysis from Sweet but you can take it to the bank that Baah Topinka will not win the primary. Liberal Republicans are like High Church Unitarians: self-contradictory.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The American Flaw: It’s Baked into the Nation’s Cake

Just because the American nation is the best civilization that was ever devised on God’s green earth does not mean that it was born without flaws. One flaw evident since its founding has been it’s a rejection of absolutes—which has led to uncertainty in time of trouble. In the Revolution, much of the colonial northeast, including Benjamin Franklin’s son, the colonial governor of what is now New Jersey, vacillated and ultimately hoped the British would win. The War of 1812 was concocted with relativism and Madison (though a great thinker was a dreadfully indecisive president and a rotten leader during wartime which led to his being chased out of Washington and forced to spend a night in a chicken coop when the Brits burned the Capitol). The war with Mexico was a breeze because there was really no struggle. Until Lincoln determined to become an absolutist ruler the Civil War hung in the balance between Democratic party temporizers and Republican wafflers. The Spanish-American war was a breeze; we were in World War I too short a time (1917-18) for uncertainty to take hold. Under Roosevelt, the shaky country embraced the make-shift ideal of the corporate state which staved off radicalism and defeatists in WWII were silenced by an eloquent Roosevelt and a strong Justice Department.

The entire history of the Cold War was a debate between absolutist conservatives who viewed Communism as an evil empire and those who vacillated, opting for d├ętente and nuclear freeze. Now, as Lincoln would say, we are engaged in another war, one against terrorism, testing. Testing whether or not we have the resolve to see it through in Iraq. The Republican substitute resolution in the Senate shows that with the Democrats seized by defeatism, the Republicans, the dominant party in this nation, are only slightly more resolved. The flaccid Senate resolution was contrived by Virginia’s John Warner who may be understood since, as a gigolo, he was fourth in the litany of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands. And now we have the specter of the Bush administration announcing that in 2006 we shall begin to withdraw troops. We should never give the enemy any timetable—and the fact that we now have done so is indication that even in the Bush administration, the forces of weakness are grappling for control. I have every confidence that Bush will resist these blandishments but you can hear the debate going on not only in the Congress but in the administration itself.

What is the weakness in the American psyche that evidences itself in times of crisis? Philosophers say it was the weakness stemming from the period of the Enlightenment that presaged its founding. We were founded, after all, by intellectuals in the colonies who studied the Scottish John Locke with as much deliberation as those of us today read the newspapers. After all, it was Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government that under-girded the view of our framers. Published in 1690, it sought to justify the Glorious Revolution which deposed James II. Embedded in his philosophical reasoning, Locke wrote that men should arrange a compact—a social compact—so that government would be founded on consent. He wrote, men should establish government for “the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates which I call by the general name of property” which the committee drafting our
Declaration changed, using the felicitous phrase “pursuit of happiness.” So far so good.

But to continue with Locke, he postulates what he calls a “law of nature.” And what is that law? It is that the will of the majority would control. Sounds good but if one follows Locke, one cannot say with certainty what is right and wrong when the majority says otherwise. It is fitting that I write this on Thanksgiving Day morning since the Pilgrims and their descendents, the New England clergy who espoused Locke’s ideas said, “The voice of nature is the voice of God” and much further: “reason and the voice of God are one.” That, they insisted, means that the dictate of reason, as interpreted by the majority, is the voice of God. This view is totally deistic; t he majority determines what is reasonable.

Since our founders were intellectual men, they baked Locke into their cake. Most founders accepted this but one major exception: my favorite, Hamilton. He adhered to the view, consonant to authenticist Catholics (like me, I’m bound to say) that human law should be perceived in the context of a divine order that is knowable t o man. See the difference? Hamilton’s view was like that of Aquinas (my guy): Human law must conform to natural law which is knowable to reason with the divine law of revelation provide certainty where reason might fail. Ergo: some duties are required no matter what the majority may say. Essentially, Bush is a Thomist by his decision that the war in Iraq was worth it in order to begin to root out terrorism where it is located.

Understand, Locke’s empiricism is not all bad. The American character is empiricist, trial and error, which in economics spells success and which character built the greatest economy the world has ever seen. But Lockeanism is wrong for this time in foreign policy. While Bush was gone to China, some in his administration started to give away the store verbally. Instead of an ordered existence, pursuant to a plan of certitude, they postulated a fictional situation of isolated individuals milling around in a state of nature.

The transitory weakness is nothing to worry about. Few presidents have been better than Bush, including Reagan, (Lincoln comes to mind) on the certainty of his conviction. But it is interesting, as we gather `round the Thanksgiving turkey, that the teachings of John Locke which were baked into the American cake, produced a tradition that is with us yet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Spendthrift Republican Congress: Do You Know What it Tells Me?

There is no doubt that this current spendthrift Republican Congress should be tamed. But how? The president, for all his great points, will not veto a single appropriation and does not serve as a brake on spending. I’ve been a congressional staffer myself, working for ambitious Congressmen, and I know the temptation after you move to Washington is to stay there—and to stay there you have to play the appropriations game.

The answer, I think, is to encourage Republican candidates to voluntarily embrace term limits. And to see that they observe them. The most unique public servant I’ve met in at least 20 years is Tom Coburn, now the U. S. Senator from Oklahoma. You’ve heard of him, I’m sure. He’s a medical doctor, a obstetrician. He ran for the House and was elected pledging to serve three terms. Which he did. Knowing that he would only serve three terms, Tom did things with appropriations that for a normal careerist would seem foolhardy: and it was.

A Republican, he challenged Newt on appropriations and angered Denny Hastert but proved himself an invaluable player. He took time off back in Oklahoma and then ran for the Senate with a two-term limit. He was elected. You saw Tom on the floor of the Senate not long ago seeking to cut appropriations including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere which outraged Alaska’s Ted Stevens, the chairman of Appropriations. The Bridge was cut. But Coburn’s brilliance of execution convinced me (and I was a doubter of term limits) that increasingly Republicans should reward those who apply it. It doesn’t have to be in the form of a Constitutional amendment or even a policy rule in the Congress (it wouldn’t get through in any rate). But just as good would be its voluntary application by those seeking office.

I’m not sure but I think the only Republican running for Congress in Illinois pledging term limits is Dave McSweeney in the 8th. One Republican who ran supporting term limits and who reneged is John Shimkus. Breaking your word and deciding to become a careerist when you promised not to is, well, a breach of contract. Republicans ought to put pressure on federal candidates for term limits. Knowing you will not be a lifer will make you more courageous in Congress. Speaking of Tom Coburn, I’m seriously thinking of starting a move to convince him to run for president (where two terms are all one gets).

The Iraq War: The War With No Heroes…Why?

Last night I heard a pundit suggest—as many do—that the trouble with our lack of morale concerning the Iraq War stems from George W. Bush’s inability to defend the work our troops are doing. He should get out on the hustings, said the Oracle, and tell us the truth: that we are winning. I thought: Dear God, does that poor man who has the burden of running the United States, with political responsibility over its economy, foreign policy, health and human services have also to be the only salesman for the war effort? I have written this before—sparingly—but it deserves amplification. This is a war with heroes but we don’t know who they are. Contrast this with other wars we have fought: especially the ones I remember, World War II and Korea.

I was 13 when we entered World War II—old enough to pay attention to how the war was being waged. Franklin Roosevelt, a charismatic, dynamic leader was president—but did Roosevelt sell the war effort all by himself? He did not. As a kid, I could tick off the popular figures: starting with Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific, George Marshall the then army chief of staff, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Admiral William (Bull) Halsey. The Eisenhower story began when he was selected to lead our troops in North Africa, an engagement that did not go very well, by the way, but the publicizing went on. Under Eisenhower was the famed tank commander, Gen. George Patton. We had photos of these people in the press regularly: Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges. Without notes I can still tick them off. We knew our heroes just like kids knew their sports figures. There was Tooey Spaatz, the Army Air Force general. And of course we knew the dynamic young flying heroes: Butch O’Hare of Chicago, Richard Bong of Wisconsin. We thrilled to the heroics of the landlubbers, too: South Dakota’s Joe Foss who won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

As a kid one Sunday at Mass at St. Juliana, our pastor presented one of the icon heroes of Iwo Jima who was pictured in that immortal photograph of the flag-raising. We knew who took the photo: Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press. And we knew not just Americans. Britain had the dashing Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. We knew his nickname: Monty. In the desert sands was General Sir Archibald Wavell. We also knew the failure men who were identified with perfidy: one, a Marshall of France, Henri Phillipe Petain, became the custodian of the humiliated government at Vichy. We knew General Charles deGaulle—Charles of France. We knew his rival General Henri Giraud. Of course we knew the enemy, too, just as kids we had baseball cards: Hermann Goering, head of the Nazi air force, Field Marshall Eric von Runstedt, the sea hawk who preyed on our shipping, Admiral Karl Donitz. We knew the diplomatic players as well, Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Italy’s foreign minister Count Ciano, the son-in-law of Mussolini. We knew Hirohito, Admiral Tojo. I could go on and on.

The point is that in this war we have heroes of whom we know nothing. Who exactly is the top army commander in Iraq? Who is the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: I can answer that one, Marine General Peter Pace, the first Marine to hold that post. But we knew enough about George Marshall to write a biography of him. What do we know of Peter Pace? The commander in Iraq is General George Kenney, I think. If I have to say “I think” it means there has been no effort to bring human identity to this war. Who is the face of the war? I am somewhat sorry to say it’s Don Rumsfeld. But Rumsfeld is a controlled type (I happen to know him fairly well) who is not going to go out of his way with the press to demonstrate that he runs a battlefield of heroes. Anyhow, cabinet people aren’t good spokesmen: they’re political re-treads. Roosevelt’s war cabinet consisted of caustic, cold Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war. Nobody knew or cared about him in the general public during the war. Roosevelt’s secretary of the Navy was Frank Knox. Who? The Navy’s heroes were Nimitz, Halsey and McCain, the father of John McCain.

The reason there are no faces of valor for the public to venerate in this war lies, I suspect, with Don Rumsfeld as cold and steely as a Prussian Junker. He is a control freak and I really doubt that he has people on his staff who set the wheels in motion to glorify people who really need glorifying. Where are the Congressional Medal of Honor winners in this war? I’m sure there are some. Have you heard of them? I haven’t. Korea was a war where we scored a tie but I can list the commanders: Matthew Ridgeway, the dashing paratrooper general who succeeded MacArthur, General Craigton Abrams who was killed, General James Van Fleet. These names are all from memory, mind you—they were that vivid. In Vietnam we only had one General Westmoreland. There were no others. LBJ tried to promote him as a future politician but the war was going so badly he gave it up. He shouldn’t have. The reason the war went badly is that America was not schooled to venerate her heroes.

You might say the mainstream media will not want to glorify heroes in a war they oppose. Well there’s enough New Media—talk radio, cable networks, internet—to do the job ourselves. Why aren’t we doing this? Why aren’t we insisting that rather than see another grim, humorless Rumsfeld face the camera with his jaw set firmly, refusing to give out much information, officers in the field get on camera. It’s as if we waged a Civil War without Grant, Sherman or Sheridan, a Spanish American war without the dashing Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill or Admiral Dewey at Manila Bay. It’s as if we waged World War I without a John J. Pershing or a Sergeant York. World War II without Colin P. Kelly. You can’t stoke up admiration and support for the war at home if you will not publicize its heroes. And I feel strongly that thanks to the grim-visaged Pentagon guys with the brief-cases, those who are really winning this war are unknown.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Sun-Times: Less Like the National Enquirer Every Day

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The Sun-Times has toned down its girlie mag appearance and, by and large, reflects the city in a grown-up way. With one exception. I don’t know where they found Debra Pickett the proprietor of the so-called smart girl book club who writes All About Me in a school-girlish style and whose face smirks at you embodying the supposed “with it” that illuminati think they possess. Her deepest reflection was this: She wonders why her new husband doesn’t use Crest. They must have found her where they did the theological deep thinker Falsani or their sex therapist. About Pickett, I have rarely read such commonplace pandering to the famous as I have with her as she relates her lunches where the subject is caressed with flattery and frankincense. It doesn’t matter if it’s an athlete or actor, she fawns at them and licks their hands. Well, tell me I needn’t read it—and you’re right and I resolved to stop.

Then she writes about how U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is—get this—“hot.” What air is contained in a head that oozes this junk into a computer? For that tripe she should be sent to cover the county morgue in penance. There she could write about the dead whom she cannot hurt, covering all her subjects with one common level of ignominy. I have heard that she never took journalism: wonderful, it spares what is left of that profession from insult. If she had, it would have been a shame: trying to teach persons who cannot think to write which would be a dreadful waste of time. When I taught I knew of no one who started from a higher level of aspiration than a would-be journalist, someone who in the first phase would be genuinely romantic. If this is what the trade produces, the chronicler of frauds and charlatans with utterly no perspective to record banal jocosities, it is better that newspapers die. Fortunately, the Sun-Times is more than this but too often it presents such vacuous stuff as produced by Pickett that one cannot describe what she writes as fallacy. There: I have said it and resolve to read her no more even if she describes George W. Bush as “hot.”

Oberweis Superb as Aggressive, Articulate Defender of Conservatism

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Last night on my WLS radio show, Jim Oberweis was superb as an aggressive but pleasant-tempered fighter who gave well-informed critic Russ Stewart more than he took. These programs, where gubernatorial candidates are challenged by outstanding, well-spoken challengers give the public an unduplicated insight into the abilities of the candidates. On usual “meet the press” type programs where one or two bland reporters ask a few questions and appear to be satisfied with any result, no one learns very much. On “Political Shootout” the pairing of one-on-one with a knowledgeable adversary as is Russ Stewart is matchless.

In all fairness, Russ is not a Democrat but leans Republican—yet he takes up the challenge of questioning candidates very closely and challenges them with thoroughly researched arguments. He performs a great service when he does this as does Jeff Berkowitz, another well-schooled analyst, when he appears on my program. Thus far we have had three Republican candidates for governor, all who did well in facing adversaries. Bill Brady and Steve Rauschenberger jousted with Becky Carroll, the best Gov. Blagojevich has to offer—and that’s plenty good—on management and budget. Now Jim Oberweis. Joe Birkett has already been on and did a good job. I’m going to ask the remaining two to come on—starting with Ron Gidwitz and winding up, I hope, with Judy Baar Topinka.

Next Sunday: Kathy Salvi, a Republican candidate for 8th district Congress and a Democratic adversary to be announced.

Fitrzgerald Calls Another Grand Jury on “Leak” : Proves He’s Political

A few days ago I posted the analysis that we would shortly find out whether or not Patrick Fitzgerald is another political U.S. Attorney or a true straight arrow. The acknowledgment by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward that he had heard that Valerie Plame was a CIA employee helped evaporate much of the case against Scooter Libby. If Fitzgerald was truly non-political he’d have dropped the prosecution of Libby at that point and suffer the humiliation of admitting that he spent some $30 million and two years for naught. One can hardly blame him for deciding not to hurt his reputation, but nevertheless he did the political thing in sticking with the prosecution when it becomes clear that the endless search is sure to go down in history as an imbecility.

It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Thanks to Jim Finnegan

While the determinedly secular State Street Council undercover as a bogus-named State Street “Alliance” has flags posted on every lamppost celebrating “Merry Mistletoe!” Daley Plaza will open the genuine article—a Nativity Scene on November 26th . At 11 a.m. Francis Cardinal George will officially bless the scene and oversee the placing of the Child Jesus in the manager. Finnegan was a key mover in battling through the legal thicket to win approval for the Nativity Scene. The God Squad, a group of volunteer tradesmen, have erected the stable and installed the lighting for the past twenty years. The bell choir from Santa Maria del Popolo Catholic church in Mundelein will ring in the season along with the singing of Christmas hymns. The Nativity Scene will remain ion Daley Plaza until December 27. The Nativity Scene committee invites all Chicago area families to join them on November 26 to inaugurate the legitimate symbol of the season. Meanwhile you can do your part by ringing up the State Street Council and telling it that you won’t be shopping on State Street because it’s too chicken to mention Christmas but hopes its cash registers will ring in behalf of the spineless “Merry Mistletoe!” slogan.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

After Mine: When the Readers Have Their Say

[The most cogent one]. Sen. Jay Rockefeller who told the leaders of Syria and Saudi Arabia that Bush planned to invade Iraq indirectly informed Saddam Hussein of this fact. The president of Syria is on close terms with Hussein.

My comment: Excellent point, which means that Rockefeller came close to committing treason. For that reason he should be stripped of his membership on the Intelligence Committee and compelled to state with great explicitness the extent of his divulgences to foreign leaders.

*************

On Saturdays I’ll initiate the tradition here and now of reminiscing about the past. It’ll be known as the Saturday Night Special. Not long ago I wrote about the difference in stature of Senators a long time ago and now. My own experience was with Hubert Humphrey whom I covered as a wire-service reporter, whom I admired personally but shared very little of his populist philosophy. When I grew tired of reporting, I accepted a job with the Republican party of Minnesota and ended up, in 1961, as press secretary to a newly elected Republican governor. He was too decent a man for politics, a self-made multi-millionaire, rather like John Gardner, an independent-minded person who sought to bring decency to politics. He was woefully out of his league in a state that, except for him, was controlled by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party headed by Humphrey.

Humphrey vowed that the GOP governor, Elmer L. Andersen, would be defeated and so he orchestrated a series of attacks on him, nit-picking everything he did. The governor, a gentle person who loved opera and the finer things, would have his feelings hurt by Humphrey and would ask me as we rode along across the state in his car: “Why does Hubert hate me so? I like him!” I could only say, Governor that is how politics is. He’d say, “Oh, dear, I suppose so but I do wish it were better.” So do we all.

Andersen, who was running for reelection, discovered that the Indians on the Red Lake reservation up north needed more state assistance. We announced that we would fly up there and bring some state officials along to see what could be done to help relieve them of their desperate poverty. (And I mean desperate poverty). The press routinely reported that we were going up there and it caused Humphrey some consternation because he feared Andersen would win supporters on Red Lake and with it, tip the county Republican. Indeed, there was a very good chance because Andersen was revered in the northern sector. So on the morning we were to take off in a state plane, the St. Paul Pioneer Press banner-lined an attack on Andersen from Humphrey, the Democratic boss of Minnesota. The headline: HUBERT SAYS GOV PLAYS POLITICS WITH INDIAN WELFARE.
Andersen read the story on the plane on the way up there, leaned over to me and said: “How nice it would be if an Indian leader would respond to this attack rather than the Republicans.” How nice, indeed. I reflected on that as we bumped along in a two-engine antique job (which always made me nervous).

When we landed at Red Lake, we found that the Indian delegation that was to meet us was woefully short of leadership. We inquired and found that the night before the Indians had held a meeting, liquor was served and since alcoholism was and is a problem with the Indian poor, most of the delegation went on a toot and would be expected to be gone for the length of the governor’s visit. The acting president of the Chippewa tribe, however, was there with the unforgettable name (I can still remember it after 43 years) of Mrs. Sophia Peewash. It was an unforgiveably cold morning when we landed and while the governor made his official rounds, she and I repaired to a coffee shop. It was then that I showed her the newspaper with the Humphrey story. She growled something in Chippewa that I took to be a distinct slur on Humphrey. So mustering my nerve, I asked her if she thought someone should respond to Humphrey from the tribe. She said, “Yeah, but ever’body is drun’.” I said I know they’re drunk but didn’t that mean that she was the acting head of the Chippewa’s? She said, “yeah, when they drunk I run t’ings.” Then how would you like to respond to Hubert Humphrey?

She thought about it and said, “Yeah, I woul’. I dun lik’ him, he’s a punk.” So in the corner of the coffee shop I took out my portable and wrote a statement for her. I said, Now, Mrs. Peewash, let me read it to you and see if you subscribe to it entirely or if you want me to change it. She listened and said, “Yeah, dat’s goo’.” Now, I said, I can arrange for this to be distributed to the press in your name and that of the Chippewa’s. But it must be your statement, do you understand? “Yeah, she said,” I understan’.” It must be your statement because if it is seen as my statement, a statement I wrote for you it will be embarrassing and I will be fired—fired, out on my ear with a wife and three children to support. Ok? She said, “No-kay, we don’ wan’ you fir’.” Nor do I. This is a statement that you can read to the radio stations if and when they call, is that all right? “Yeah but I got question.” What’s that? “What do dis word mean?” and she pointed to the word “unconscionable.” I said: Maybe I should take it out. “No-no,” she said, “I lik’ but what do it mean?” I told her. She repeated it smoothly: unconscionable. I helped her: unconscionable. She liked it hugely. I thought she liked it too much so I offered to write another one. Her black eyes grew round and big: “No, I lik’ that one, hear me?”

We spent a night in the coldest, most drafty state lodge I have ever seen. The next morning I was up at dawn because it was too cold to sleep. I put on my overcoat and sat in my room. I turned on WCCO, the big CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. “Leading this morning’s news,” announced the newscaster, “is a report of Indian fury against Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey! An active tribal leader is swinging out as the senior Senator for defaming the good intentions of the tribe. We switch to you our affiliate in Red Lake and Randy Carson. Randy?” “Thanks, Bob. The acting president of the Chippewa tribe has charged that Sen. Hubert Humphrey is by cynical political maneuver is threatening the well being of the entire tribe by having assailed Governor Andersen. Mrs. Sophia Peewash had this to say earlier this morning.” And on the tape Mrs. Peewash spelled it out slowly and pronounced the action of Humphrey as “unconscionable.” When I left the lodge the St. Paul Pioneer Press had arrived: INDIAN WOMAN SCORES HUMPHREY; ACCUSES HIM OF JEOPARDIZING TRIBE WELFARE.

“I knew there was a good reason why I hired you,” said the Governor as we flew back. “It’s taken a long time but now I think I know.” A few days later at the St. Paul Capitol a letter arrived for me bearing the insignia of the U.S. Senate under the personal frank of Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. I opened it with trembling hands and the clipping fell out. Across the clipping in red ink was the sentence: “Roeser: If only white people could write like that!—Hubert H.”

Like Andersen, who died full of honors earlier this year at 95 (having been chief regent of the University of Minnesota, owning a string of newspapers and celebrated as the state’s greatest citizen, I wish politics were better. But in those days it was good enough. We fought hard and when we lost one, as Humphrey did that day, we had a good laugh about it. Later when I left partisan employ and worked for Quaker Oats, Humphrey and I had a good laugh about it, too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Patrick Fitzgerald: The Non-Political Prosecutor Has a Political Dilemma

fitz-thompson
I’ve only met Patrick Fitzgerald once and then when I helped him field questions from a City Club of Chicago luncheon audience—but lunching with him and standing next to him as he responded to questions popping up from a forest of upraised hands gave me a rough—very rough—inkling about the nature of the guy. Probably the best way to explain him is to offer a contrast between the last famous U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Jim Thompson and the man who has eclipsed Thompson with the sweep of the job.

Like Fitzgerald, Thompson came to the job as a young single man in his 40s. There the similarity ends. Thompson was always the politician, wanting and showing that he sorely coveted fame and a political career which could lead to riches and a supremely comfortable life-style. When Thompson was appointed, he was heralded by the media as a non-political prosecutor (as the media hoped, rather than believed). This was a total mischaracterization. Thompson began as a top aide to Republican Cook county states’ attorney Ben Adamowski who had been both a rough and ready Democratic politician and a Republican one, who began as the Springfield roommate of Richard J. Daley when both were in the legislature, who became House majority leader and who returned to Chicago to find that the Irish had all the best jobs and the Poles had very little, notwithstanding that the Poles were as dependable for Democrats in politics as the Irish. Adamowski switched parties to become a Republican at a time when the GOP was really a second vital party. He was elected States Attorney and gave Daley, his once close friend, many sleepless nights as the mayor worried about being indicted for past sins. In fact, Adamowski ran for mayor against Daley and very nearly won, carrying the white vote, the only thing saving Daley being the black vote and vote fraud.

Thompson was hired by Adamowski as his chief appellate lawyer simply because Thompson was the smartest young lawyer Adamowski ever met. And the hiring paid off—Thompson taking the landmark case of Escobedo v. Illinois to the Supreme Court, losing the verdict 5 to 4, the first to test the constitutional limits of the police in questioning suspects. Thompson stayed on under Democratic States Attorney Dan Ward and only left when he got a good sinecure as a professor at Northwestern Law School. Then, when Nixon came in, Thompson was named first assistant to the new U.S. Attorney, Bill Bauer, who had been the DuPage county states attorney and Republican politician. So by the time Bauer went to the federal bench, Thompson was seasoned as a politician. He was named U.S. Attorney by Chuck Percy. Thereupon Thompson carefully balanced his indictees. First was ex-governor Otto Kerner, a Democrat and Alderman Tom Keane, a Daley strongman along with a string of Democratic lesser fry. To balance the Dems, Thompson added as a kind of afterthought some well-known Republicans but no one who mattered a great deal: Bill Rentscher, an unsuccessful GOP candidate for several posts, Floyd Fulle, a Republican county commissioner and State Sen. Edward Scholl—all of them enemies of Gov. Richard Ogilvie. By the time he hit his stride, Thompson was perceived as a Republican and a gregarious handshaker and eloquent speaker, just the guy to rid the state of pesky Dan Walker. Only it turned out that Mike Howlett rid the state of Dan Walker and became the Democratic nominee. Thompson and Howlett had been buddies, drinking buddies, but Thompson easily defeated his old friend.

If everybody seemed to know that Jim Thompson was a Republican when he became U.S. Attorney, everybody doesn’t know much about the political proclivities of Patrick Fitzgerald. Sitting near him at the City Club table and listening to his banter, I saw a taciturn, droll, poker-playing demeanor, a Brooklyn Irishman, Jesuit-educated whose eyes betray a wily political sense. He is, after all, a Brooklyn Catholic whose both parents voted for Ronald Reagan twice. Fitzgerald is a straighter arrow than Thompson and far more circumspect than the ego-oligarch Thompson was and enlarged as he grew wealthy.

The point is: Assuredly, Thompson had and has no absolutes, has become not just the city’s wealthiest lawyer but one who has become its lobbyist-in-chief, eager to please any client and rather surprisingly hungry, after all these years, to sup at the table with the powerful. What about Fitzgerald? Fitzgerald gives every indication that he will not be so seduced. He has been mentioned for political office but he hasn’t emerged from his cocoon to spar with the press as did the early Jim Thompson. In fact, love of press was almost Thompson’s undoing. . In his 60s, Thompson was chairman of the Hollinger Audit Committee where he tinkled sherry glasses with Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle as the totally overbearing Lord Black of Cross-Harbour spent $40,000 on his wife’s party and raped the coffers of the desperately starving Sun-Times when Big Jimbo didn’t bat an eye. One has a hard time—in fact an insuperably difficult time—imagining a private sector Fitzgerald doing this. He’s still the altar boy. But his time cometh.

It is a fact that the altar boy came to the altar through intercession of the Republicans. Fitzgerald is the kind of morally circumspect Catholic Irishman who is far too socially conservative to be a Democrat as the party is current constructed (not so Thompson who can represent George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich both without a quiver). Fitzgerald holds himself back, is careful in speech, not garrulous. He plays practical jokes but they don’t betray much about him except that he needs to release the tension and change the subject now and then. I would hope, if there is abstract justice, that he could secure the conviction of the worst governor of Illinois in modern times, George Ryan. And I imagine that he could easily indict Richard M. Daley: the entire course of his career professionally would warrant it. That would be one for one: one Republican and one Democrat. A fine balance. Indeed, how can he convict Ryan and ignore Daley’s wholesale violation of the federal Shakman decision involving 40,000 jobs, many of whom were detailed to political duties on taxpayer time? So far so good.

Up to now, Fitzgerald has been a beneficiary of Republican politics while playing it straight—having been appointed U.S. Attorney under Bush and through the sufferance of former U. S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation). Moreover he got his first real break as special prosecutor appointed investigating the Valerie Plame leak under a Republican administration. But the Plame affair can easily be his undoing. He comes across as a dogged investigator but also a fanatical nit-picker. He seems to have resolved to indict Libby and give Rove a pass. Rove is central to the Bush administration’s political mission, Libby is not. So the indication is that even this supposedly neutral prosecutor calculated that an indictment of Libby would certify that Fitzgerald is undeviating in his probe and an objective prosecutor. Fitzgerald has been alternately praised by the liberal media for his doggedness, then criticized by them for sending Judith Miller to jail although they hated her, then actually praised by them for sending her to jail since liberaldom now believes she was a Libby shill on WMD and “bears a responsibility for the war” they hate. Fitzgerald would have been home free—if. If only Bob Woodward had not happened.

But now comes Woodward to tell Fitzgerald that he was told of Ms. Plame’s job by another government official in mid-June, 2003 and that the “reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand and it did not appear to be to be either classified or sensitive.” In addition, Woodward met with Libby on June 27 and prepared a list of questions referring to “yellowcake” and “Joe Wilson’s wife.” Moreover, Woodward says that he told a Post colleague, Walter Pincus, about Plame but Pincus doesn’t remember being told. When the Plame matter came up, Woodward, so righteous about the failings of others, became a coward, didn’t tell his boss and even appeared on “Larry King Live” and played the worldly sophisticate, tut-tutting the importance of the Plame matter, all the while keeping this info to himself. When it got excruciating and probably recognizing that Libby would go to jail declaring he heard about Plame’s role from journalists while Woodward would remain silent, Woodward caved and told his boss, then the prosecutors. O.k., so another liberal idol has fallen. But the nut of the matter is this:

If Patrick Fitzgerald is as non-political as he is reputed, he will drop the criminal trial on Libby. He would get media heat, sure. He would be scorched as a Bush-Cheney toady. The plain justice of the matter is that Libby should be exonerated. It is possible, even probable, that no matter what the memories of Tim Russert, Matt Cooper and Judy Miller, Libby did in fact hear about Valerie Plame from a journalist: not Tim Russert but another equally well-known, Bob Woodward. Also that the story about Plame was going around, witness Woodward’s statement that he told Pincus. Will Scooter go to jail for a bogus case like this? Big name journalists called him all the time. His case is immeasurably improved; he could very well have confused the two—Woodward and Russert . Besides, perjury is not just lying under oath but lying under oath about an important matter. Fitzgerald must curse his fate but if he is as clean from political taint as he is reputed, he’d drop the case.

But, if Fitzgerald is political, he should recall that he has already spent $30 million and two years on this investigation and it would be seen as a flagrant botch if he dropped the case as well as a toady to the Bush administration—so he proceeds with the criminal trial, expecting that Libby would get off but that Fitzgerald will have done his job. My guess is that he proceeds with the trial and I would imagine that Scooter would get off, if he has any kind of competent legal counsel whatever.

What does this do to Bob Woodward? Nothing good, I hope. The Bob Woodward myth started to disintegrate with the unveiling of Deep Throat as a disgruntled FBI official. Remember the fanciful story-telling of how Deep Throat lived in a high rise and when he wanted to talk to Woodward moved the planter on his balcony to the side so Woodward on spying it from the street would know that he should go to the parking garage in the middle of the night? We all thrilled to that yarn. Remember all the college kids iln t he `70s who wanted to be journalists because of him? Remember when Woodward would open his own apartment door in early morning to pick up his Washington Post, a date would be inscribed thereon? How exciting it was to watch Robert Redford look at the camera meaningfully. Well, as we now know, Deep Throat did not live in apartment that was visible from the street so the flower-pot yarn was made up. We now know that the newspapers were delivered at Woodward’s then apartment in a bundle and that it was impossible for anyone to know what paper would be delivered to Woodward’s door. The fact that these truths were not spread across the nation upon the unmasking of Deep Throat shows that the media are up to their old tricks—protecting fellow liberals. And what about Woodward purportedly sneaking into Bill Casey’s hospital room to interview him about Iran Contra—when the doctors and Mrs. Casey claimed he was deep in a coma from a stroke? It was plain fabrication and any other reporter but a liberal favorite would be sent packing for invention.

Woodward has parlayed Watergate with fine finesse into a life of huge wealth and celebrity for himself. Like Judy Miller at The New York Times, he truly has been a Run-Amok in the Washington Post, spending his time drawing down good Post pay while researching books that build up his fame. Everyone in the Post newsroom knows that he is at best a very pedestrian writer who has to be shored up by re-write on major stories. But his celebrity has gained him remarkable access and since the Watergate story he is of great value to the Post. Read his great book on the Supreme Court, “The Bretheren” and the fine interplay between the Justices is laid out brilliantly. Recall how right he was in “Bush Goes to War”? But at the Post, Ben Bradlee has said he almost defies managing.

Yet, the bigger issue is Patrick Fitzgerald. I bet he’ll show he’s a tad political but it will do him no good. I would guess the Libby case will go to trial and Libby will get off. If this happens, Fitzgerald will concentrate on Chicago and his heapingly full plate here. By convicting Richard Daley and his crowd, Fitzgerald will, in fact, be the Prosecutor of the Era and will ease his way into a comfortable berth at a top law firm. That doesn’t mean the Republicans won’t come calling but I don’t see him as a candidate. Republicans will grouse that Scooter got a bum deal because of a runaway prosecutor; Democrats will grouse that their supposed best mayor in the nation will have been sent away for doing what all mayors since the first Lord Baltimore have done: reward their friends for political support. But the Daleys have turned what was penny-ante politics under the Old Man into a a multi-million-dollar scam with all of them profiting—even John Daley who earns $500,000 a year for doing nothing, just as an insurance broker for O’Hare concessions.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Mystery of George W. Bush. How can he be one of the most courageous of presidents have been so short-sighted in defending his policies?

bush sept 11
It is indeed a mystery. The decision to go to Iraq was the right one. Striking at the source of the pestilential terrorism by taking down the Middle East’s prime tyrant served notice to the world that we will not take attacks such as 9/11 lying down. The fact is that we are winning in Iraq despite what the mainstream media seek to portray, that our economy is growing at 3.4 percent despite all that Katrina has mustered. But try as I might I cannot fathom why George W. Bush has, until now, refused to fight not only in his own defense but for his reputation and honor—especially when those who assail him in the Senate once supported his position and are unwilling to stand up for it now.

Why has Bush been so derelict as to allow his own ratings to tumble before the un-answered onslaught? It mystifies me—in the same way as does his weird refusal to veto legislation to-date, becoming the only president in history serving a full term without having cast a veto (the only competitor having been James Garfield who had a very good reason: he was assassinated after only one year). Why should it be necessary to tell him now that to salvage the effectiveness of his presidency he should do three things. First, he should defend Iraq. (Here I revert to the benefit of one who has lived a long time. In World War II we heard repeatedly from two generals who became folk-heroes: Dwight D. Eisenhower in the European theatre and Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific. Once he was invested with the first campaign in North Africa, a campaign that, incidentally didn’t go all that well against Rommel, a day didn’t pass but Eisenhower didn’t sketch out his determination to win. The media was put to torturous use by Eisenhower and his general staff. We knew them all by first name: Omar (Omar Bradley), Courtney (Courtney Hodges), George (George S. Patton). Don’t tell me the media is unsupportive now; I realize this but we do not know the identity of the commanding generals who wage the war in Iraq).

Second, he must tout the economy. Who’s the Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers? Hint: he just became head of the Fed. Even Nixon knew how to do it better than Bush. We knew Arthur Burns and what Arthur Burns had to say before he became head of the Fed. We knew Herb Stein and what Stein had to say as head of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. LBJ had Charlie Schultze who faced the media almost every day. We all understand that the Secretary of the Treasury, Snow, is not up to it for whatever reason he was appointed. But there are crisp spokesmen. Why doesn’t Bush find them? Is it because of that exaggerated deference to the president his staff has that no one can say anything without fearing to top the president? Is that nonsense responsible for this malaise?

Third, he has to come to grips with immigration. This issue is burning in the heartland and the Bushites are fleeing from the consequences while failing to present any reasonable argument for allowing the borders to stay porous. Where’s this gaunt lawyer he’s named to be head of Homeland Security, Mike Cherdorf? You know who I mean: the guy who looks like an advance man for a famine. He’s entirely too lawyerly, filled with needless qualifications anyhow to be an effective spokesman. Too bad Bernie Kerik turned out to be a public adulterer—you know, the Kojak-style, bullet-domed cop who served Giulianni well. He’s the kind who ought to pacify the public wish to get tough on illegal immigration. Well, I’ve ranted enough. But understand I don’t take any of it back!

“Happy Mistletoe!”: It’s State Street’s secular way of commercializing Christmas without referring to the source of the Feast

Today all the lampposts on State Street have the same fluttering flags reading “Happy Mistletoe!” from something called the State Street Alliance, which is a front group for the State Street Council. You know what I’d wish you do? Call the State Street Council, use a fake name and prestigious title like “George J. Rogers, president of All State, Incorporated,” or “ Dorothy Spellman, president of Mid-Continent, Incorporated”—ask to speak to the executive director and when he comes on the line say two words which will send him into cardiac arrest:

“Jesus Christ!”

When he says “what? I beg your pardon?” tell him that the name of the holiday his group is avoiding has to do with the birth of Jesus Christ whom Christianity reveres as the Second Person of the Trinity.

If he’s still on the phone and able to listen, say: “You know, I’m personally offended by your group capitalizing on Christmas, seeking to gain profit from the holiest day in the Christian calendar while refusing to credit the religious source of the day. This goofy stuff of `Happy Mistletoe!’ is a cowardly dodge in order to avoid mention of the day—a dodge not to placate the religious sensibilities of Jews because they recognize the day as part of the Judeo-Christian heritage—but because your association wants to squeeze profit out of the feast day, filling your pockets with largesse from it, while refusing to provide the religious credit it deserves. Do you know what that makes you? You’re a deadbeat—who takes benefit without payment of price…in the same way I would be if I bought something from one of your stores with a credit card and skipped without paying the price. You’re a deadbeat. My advice to you is to get some backbone, appreciate the religious significance of the feast you’re filling your pockets on, and at least have the common decency of facing up to the responsibility of giving it its proper name—you deadbeat!”

You should use a fake name because unless you manufacture a phony association you’ll be referred to a poor telephone operator who had nothing to do with selection of “Happy Mistletoe!” in the first place. This idea that it is profitable to erase the religious significance of Christmas as deference to Jewish sensibilities is thoroughly unjust to Jewish concerns, using Judaism as a shield behind which these abject secularists cringe. The real Christmas is not referred to by the commercial interests is not toleration for other religions—it is a thorough-going attempt to strip any mention of the Deity from our heritage. This commercialization in Chicago smacks of Daley-ism, the don’t-mention-it strategy that this arrogant mayor has made of his own cowardice and refusal to face the music in so many ways: like the pathetic scowl and childish reference he enunciated to the media the other day when he sought to capitalize on a ribbon-cutting event. The press was invited but when they asked him about the latest indictment from his administration, his only words were: “Jeeze!” It meant: don’t bother me with that now while I’m conning you to cover my event. Jeeze is a school-kid’s immature reference to Jesus.

Oh yes, and when the State Street Council guy tries to object, tell him (and it should be him because the Council is male directed) to kiss your mistletoe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It’s Possible for a Family to Breed One’s Brains Out: Example I: Jay Rockefeller

jay rockefeller
Anyone who has read the biographies of the Rockefellers—including “Titan” (on old John D) and “Great Fortune” on the man known as Junior and his children understands that indeed it is possible to literally go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in a handful of generations. While the Rockefellers aren’t about to do that, it is clear that Jay Rockefeller may well be the result of a grievously diluted gene pool. How else do you explain the fact that as ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he went to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria in 2002 and told each head of state that President Bush had made up his mind to invade Iraq?

The story came out quite by accident in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday last Sunday. Wallace showed a TV clip of Rockefeller declaring in October, 2002 that Iraq posed “an imminent threat”—that phrase was stronger than any words Bush used. Wallace asked: “If anyone hyped the intelligence, isn’t it Jay Rockefeller?”

Rockefeller’s answer: “No, I mean, this question is asked a thousand times and I’ll be happy to answer it a thousand times. I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq, that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/ll.”

The embarrassing disclosure amounts to this: Since the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee went to Syria, which is among the top listed terrorist-sponsored nations, and told Bashar Assad, one of the worst sponsors of terror in the Middle East what Rockefeller believed the U.S. was considering, it should amount to a breach of security. Rockefeller should be investigated by the Senate and should step down from the Intelligence committee basis his own admission. He neglected to mention what he told the leaders at the time and issued only a bland press release detailing his trip. The Senator has expressed himself as “content” and ascribed his meeting with Assad as filled with “happiness.” Assad now faces censure from the United Nations for his alleged involvement in ther assassination of a political opponent in Lebanon.

The Senate ought to insist that Rockefeller’s complete interview with Assad be probed and that until a conclusion is made ought to step down from the Intelligence committee. Rockefeller has long been regarded as wafer-thin in intellectual content and is known as being of marginal intelligence—this assessment from his associates in Illinois when he, to Charles Percy’s great joy, married Percy’s daughter thus linking a Percy with the dynasty—such as it is. Rockefeller is another one of those inheritors of great wealth who seek a public career because of boredom with making money—not that this stumbling bubblehead could make a dime on his own.

Yes, as recent kings and queens of Britain have proven, it is entirely possible to have one’s brains bred out. Can we think of other families? FDR’s kids, John Kennedy’s kids, Bobby’s kids, the Marshall Fields of Chicago. Any further suggestions?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

They Make Fun of Christians and Jews but Not Muslims: Why?

Because that’s sacred ground, brother. The current tack is to follow the line of the President of France and say that those disillusioned youth—or as he says “yout’”—are disillusioned and cut off, somehow from society. Disillusioned although trained to follow Qur’an 47:4: “Allah will grant victory to his people against foes that are superior in numbers and firepower so long as they remain faithful to his commands. Victories entitle Muslims to appropriate the possessions of the vanquished as booty. Bloody vengeance against one’s enemies belongs not solely to the Lord but also to those who submit t o him on earth. That is the meaning of the world Islam: submission. Prisoners taken in battle against the Muslims may be put to death at the discretion of Muslim leaders. Those who reject Islam are `the vilest of creatures’ [Qur’an 98:6] and thus deserve no mercy. Anyone who insults or even opposes Muhammad or his people deserve a humiliating death—by beheading, if possible, this in accordance with Allah’s command to `smite the necks’ of the `unbelievers’.” Or are these words just from the extremists? More soon.

More Like the National Enquirer Every Day: II

Last Thursday’s Sun-Times blistered the TV industry by announcing that “sex blankets it”—below the front-page spread of one Sarah Silverman which the papers proclaims as the “Dirty Diva.” Not just the sexual content but revolting scatological details riddle the newspaper which reports such juicy tidbits as she is a “chronic bed-wetter.” Because Silverman is a secular Jew she thinks she can get away with such lines as “I love you more than Jews love money.” We’re all supposed to laugh at that stereotype, so brutally honest etc. The paper’s Mike Thomas quotes one Paul Provenza, “a comedian and director of `The Aristocrats’ a recent documentary about the world’s bluest joke in which Silverman appeared telling a coyly vile version…calls her `a very, very special and important talent.’” Well, sure, if you say so Provenza and, refresh us, just who are you? One page back from Thomas columnist on the show business pages which are most foul, Bill Zwecker’s column is headed in a two-column spread “Baby talk is premature at best for Berry who’s happily shacking up.” Edifying.

In today’s paper, a five-column spread introduces the latest Second City comedy which not content with slurring “JFK, Nixon and guys named Bush and Daley” the theatre has found that “no one’s a better butt of…humor over the last 46 years than the Lord God Almighty.” The entire Showcase page 47 is festooned with the headline, “Not even God is shielded from e.t.c.’s rapier wit.” The reporter, someone named Darel (with one “l”) Jevens, thinks it’s excruciatingly funny that the title of the irreverent review is “Immaculate Deception.” If you say so, Darel Jevens, now that you with a lascivious wink have hugely enjoyed insulting my religion, just who the hell are you? A dolt who is suffused with mirth at the exasperated chef in a fancy restaurant with an Italian accent: “that would be God.” But then what do you expect from a paper where the publisher’s wife writes editorials?

For Viewers Like Us: Some Information, Please

carol marin
Since Carol Marin will shortly join as a contributor to WTTW (as well as continuing to urge Joey the Clown Lombardo to give himself up in a purported “political” column for the Sun-Times) it would seem propitious that, as the highest ranking moralist in Chicago journalism, she encourage the station to provide transparency in salaries for its prestigious news persons. Or if it refuses, give us her own salary in the interest of transparency. They are, after all, paid partially by hefty grants from state and federal governments which means the taxpayers should have a right to learn about the size of its salaries. We have heard for many years about the righteousness of Ms.Marin’s views—now we should be able to learn what the station pays her and Phil Ponce without going to the bother of instigating a Freedom of Information Act probe on the station that exists because of taxpayer sufferance. Perhaps she feels it’s none of our business: oh, but it is since we taxpayers pay her. And Phil. And the departing Bob Sirott who’s been earning $500,000—commercial TV rates for so-called public television.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Media: What the Deuce is Being “Fair and Balanced” Anyhow?

fox news
Like many conservatives, I try not to miss Fox News’ “Special Report” which airs daily here at 5 p.m. with repeat if you’ve missed it at 11 p.m. (but I’m in bed by then). Yet the monker “Fair and Balanced” is disturbing because Fox is no more fair and balanced than is the mainstream media. I have for a long time believed that total objectivity is impossible in the media: thus I long for the old days when the media was purposefully biased and made no bones about it. Fox has a brilliant collection of conservatives plus just a dash of liberals to make it interesting. Public television’s Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour is the reverse.

I long to return to the old days when newspapers were outwardly partisan rather than subliminally so. The Chicago Tribune run with an iron hand by Colonel Robert R. McCormick was a partisan Republican paper and an extraordinarily good one when perceived on that basis. Across town the Chicago Daily News run with an iron hand by another Colonel, Frank Knox, was a progressive and Democratic newspaper. McCormick was a Colonel in World War I, Knox a Colonel with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Another Democratic paper was the Chicago Times, the working-man’s, blue-collar sheet while the Republicans were reinforced by William Randolph Hearst’s Chicago Herald-Examiner, later the Chicago American where Hearst himself would write a regular front-page column (yes, Hearst himself would write it and he was a phrase-maker). Then Marshall Field started the Chicago Sun as a morning paper to fight McCormick’s Tribune which merged into the Sun-Times while the Trib acquired the American. The newspaper battles were wild and furious and it was fun to read all of them but it was understood that any paper worth its salt would be a partisan paper.

Then liberals decided to canonize the ideal of objectivity. They invaded the journalism schools with the precept that objectivity was the correct canon. Yet they understood that a plain recitation of facts with no conclusion would be terminally boring so they concoted the doctrine of
”interpretative reporting.” That meant that a conscientious reporter should add interpretation to the facts so as to bring them into “historical perspective.” That meant slanting although it was not so stated. One Dr. Curtis McDougall, dean of the Medill School at Northwestern, wrote the bible of interpretative reporting, a text called—you guessed it—“Interpretative Reporting.” I still have a copy someplace and it was used as a text for almost all journalism schools (I never went to one, thankfully).

McDougall was not an unbiased observer himself. He was an active partisan and member of the Socialist Party under Norman Thomas (who ran for president under that label often and who was, incidentally, a newspaper delivery boy for the Marion [Ohio] Star when it was run by Warren G. Harding). Thomas was a great American, far from a subversive whose view of progressive legislation antedated the New Deal: worker compensation, Social Security et al). McDougall wisely switched to the Democratic party but it did him no good as a candidate; he was regularly defeated.

I would sorely like to see a return to outwardly partisan journalism. Fox has done it already but it should shag off the “fair and balanced” misnomer. The Washington Times is a brilliantly edited partisan Republican newspaper. The Sun-Times has all but announced its arrival which it punctuated by getting rid of me. But the big newspapers still hang back: the New York Times is a Democratic paper and should announce it as such; as is the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe. The happy emergence of blogs make the newspapers less interesting and to be more so, they should adopt a partisan line and resolve to live more honestly than they have heretofore.

Incidentally, here are the papers I read each day, biased all of them. The Tribune (moderately Republican and getting more so, happily), The Sun-Times (Democratic), The New York Times (Democratic), the Wall Street Journal (a sort of anomaly: editorial pages Republican, news pages establishmentarian and liberal). Then I go to the internet and read portions of the Washington Post (Democratic) and New York Post (Republican). When driving between 11 and 2 or any portion thereof, I listen to Rush who on his good days is brilliantly incisive and on his bad days tiresomely repetitive with an insistence on crediting himself with anything good that has happened to conservatism (he has a point but he’s an egomanical character). When Rush is tiresome, I listen to the cerebral Dennis Prager. Michael Medved is good but he insists on too many debates (if I want to hear the left I will go to NPR; the absolute worst from the standpoint of public radio sneering at us of the unwashed is “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me!” the news show recorded from the auditorium of the old First National Bank, now Chase). Laura Ingraham has become my favorite early morning host, Hugh Hewitt for late night. I never listen to the radio at home, only when driving.

Why Jim Thompson’s Law Firm is Not Billing George Ryan for Its Services

gov ryan
I must confess I was stumped this morning when I read in the Sun-Times that Big Jim Thompson who has never met a fat retainer he disliked is allowing his ace partner Dan Webb to defend George Ryan pro-bono with the meter running up to $10 million so far. He who would charge the late Mother Teresa is doing this out of the milky kindness of his heart for George? I exhausted the possibilities but now comes along Rich Miller in his newsletter Capitol Fax to opine that (a) Mayor Daley’s people are cheering along Thompson (which is not bad for business) and (b) believe that if Ryan is acquitted or escapes with a mild sentence, they Daleys can apply the same legal techniques. Makes sense. All of which proves the old adage which asks the question “what do lawyers and sperm have in common?” Answer: Each has a one-in-a-million chance of becoming a human being.”

Next Sunday: Jim Oberweis Meets Attorney (and Journalist) Russ Stewart

This should be another four-star production. Jim Oberweis is another Republican candidate for governor and Stewart is, as you know, a brilliant questioner. That’s at 8 p.m. Sunday on WLS-AM 890.

Political Shootout: Outstanding Presentations by Rauschenberger & Carroll

One of the best shows in years last night: that was the verdict of many who heard my Political Shootout show on WLS which featured State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin), a Republican candidate for governor and Becky Carroll, spokesperson for Gov. Blagojevich’s Office of Management and Budget. The two were superb. My wife Lillian has long been leading for Rauschenberger for governor and his performance last night certified it: she’s for Steve. My position? Rauschenberger and Carroll are my friends and I’m for my friends. Let me say it was a treat to have two such superbly equipped experts on the budget debate with finesse, courtesy, tact and gentle rejoinders.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Andrew Greeley: Churchill Should Have Been Tried as War Criminal

It is a mark of how devalued Father Andrew Greeley has become as a non-serious columnist in the Sun-Times that he can insist, as he did in Friday’s loony-tunes offering, that Winston Churchill should have been tried as a war criminal for his unrestrained bombings of Germany, and not cause a stir. I think it is a healthy situation where Chicagoans recognize that nothing, certainly not the Catholic archdiocese, can rid us of this priest and that the Sun-Times is titillated at his apostasy. The good news is that increasingly, even his favorites on the left are sensing that he is not qualified to make an historical judgment and is busily trying to say the outrageous so as to capture attention and snatch some network TV time.

Shootout in Washington: Impeachment in the Air if Not Uttered Formally.

With only modified restraint, the Congressional leaders of the Democratic party are moving toward formation of an unspoken consensus: the impeachment of George W. Bush for allegedly lying to get us into the Iraq war. This talk is almost unprecedented in wartime. When the Civil War was not going well, some Washington Democrats spoke guardedly about impeaching Abraham Lincoln but impeachment talk is much more unrestrained now, the Democratic version of “gotcha” to get even for the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about a sexual matter under oath.

Looking at impeachment from the anti-Lincoln standpoint, they had a good case. First, the states had a right to secede: New York, Rhode Island and Virginia has posited their right to do so at the Constitution’s ratification and nobody objected. The rule is: what’s good for one state—in this case, three—should be good for the remainder.

Indeed, the case for secession was air-tight. Proponents argued the right of secession could be found in Article X of the Constitution as well as the original declaration of New York, Rhode Island and Virginia. Indeed, Lincoln himself said on the floor of the House in 1848: “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a valuable, a most sacred right—a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much territory as they inhabit.”

Moreover, none other than John Quincy Adams, former president and later U.S. Congressman, a staunch foe of slavery, said on the 50th anniversary of the Constitution that since the binding of the states is “not in the right but in the heart” and that if there is a rupture, “far better will it be for the people of the disunited states to part in friendship from each other than to be held together by constraint.” That was a very impressive first reason for secession touted by the forces of disunion.

The second reason that could very well be used for impeachment was that Lincoln initiated a preemptive war by fortifying Fort Sumter, then proclaiming a rebellion and calling on 75,000 militiamen to oppose the rebel states. It actively spurred disunion, provoking the secession of four Southern states: Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas. All this was done without a declaration of war which Lincoln didn’t get until Congress convened on July 4,1861. The case against Lincoln was that he moved unilaterally to quash a rebellion that was on its face constitutional. This rash unconstitutional act of Lincoln, they charged, worsened the situation. All told eleven states seceded: in addition to the above, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Use of force against these states was a rash and entirely unconstitutional act which was opposed to historic U.S. principles. Nor were those opposed to Lincoln exclusively southerners. The Chicago Times, a Democratic newspaper, opposed him strongly.

The third reason was Lincoln’s unconstitutional abrogation of civil liberties. He undertook extraordinary measures such as suspending the writ of habeas corpus, permitting military arrest and court-martial of civilian anti-war activists and spent war funds prior to congressional authorization. His critics had a right to wonder if he wasn’t moving to install a military dictatorship in the country. Believe it or not, Lincoln supported in 1861a proposed constitutional amendment that would state that the federal government had no authority—ever—to interfere with slavery in the states where it existed. And here he was, open to criticism. Several of Lincoln’s opponents considered impeachment but as the chaos of the war increased, they feared to act; then as things looked up, they were dissuaded from acting. To the Democrats’ credit, they didn’t worsen the constitutional crisis, respected that the nation was at war and the country weathered the storm.

When I was a boy, certain Republicans talked first guardedly, then openly, about impeaching Franklin D. Roosevelt for working covertly with Winston Churchill to get us into war. When Pearl Harbor occurred, there was a muffled outcry but partisan Republicans listened to Sen. Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio) and put off an investigation of how we were attacked (unlike the investigation of 9/11 by a bipartisan commission and the ongoing congressional probe of missteps in intelligence). Gov. Thomas E. Dewey agreed not to press the case when he ran against Roosevelt in 1944. After the war with Roosevelt dead, there was a congressional investigation but it amounted to very little. Republicans dropped the issue. Paradoxically, bitterness came from former FDR ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy who became alienated from FDR because of the death in combat of his son Joe.

Now there appears to be no restraint on the Democrats. The action by the Senate’s Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) with the active support of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) along with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that there should be what they call a re-opening of the intelligence probe to find out if Bush manipulated the intelligence is unprecedented in our history. Under Lincoln and Roosevelt, the threat of impeachment was cloaked. This time it is nearing full enunciation. Indeed, none other than Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist (and supporter of Bush) said it openly. Interestingly, the best defense of Bush is published by Commentary magazine’s editor at large Norman Podhoretz for the December issue (which is on the web). But the leftist conspiratorialists will say “yes, Commentary is published by the American Jewish Committee and is proof that our foreign policy is being arranged for the benefit of Israel.” I haven’t heard that said since the old days of the `40s when Commentary was attacked by the vitriolic right.

That’s how bad it’s become. Bush has waited too long to defend himself. There is a paucity of voices in his behalf in Congress. I have not seen circumstances this bad during wartime in my life.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Claude Murphy Gets His First—and Last—Big Outfit Assignment III.

Fresh from a vital friendship with Al Capone’s mother, Claude parked cars for only a day or two when he was accosted by a gentleman with a sleek pompadour and wing-tips. “I unnerstan’” he said, “you wanna associat’ wit’ us, well you can’t. Not here. But you’ll start out in East St. Louis and we’ll see that you get there.” It was his first big break. He got on a train for East St. Louis with the fare paid by the Outfit and with instructions on how to contact the East St. Louis subdivision of the Outfit.

Murphy did this and soon was routed to a meeting in a garage where he was told that he would be the wheel man for a bank job. Not particularly edifying but it was a start. “The way you do this is,” said a sandy-haired man wearing a cap, “you drive us to this location” showing a map. “It is very important that you stay in the car and keep the engine runnin’. In a short time we will come runnin’ out and you’ll drive us” and he pointed to the map, outlining the direction. “At this place” indicating a garage, “you’ll drive us in to the garage here and we’ll change cars. Then you’ll drive us here”—indicating on the map. “Now we want you to run the route with Freddie here so you get the layout of the town.”

Freddie and Murphy made the route. Freddie said he was impressed with how quickly Claude took to the instructions. “It’s important,” Freddie said, “that you keep the engine runnin’ so that you’re ready to go when we come runnin’ out of the bank.” Claude understood completely. He determined to be the best wheel man in the Outfit.

The next morning, full of importance for his mission as wheel man, Claude drove them all to the bank, parking adjacent to the bank. His colleagues left the car and walked into the bank. Claude was very nervous and greatly interested in seeing that this first job went well. He kept his toe on the accelerator, revving it up to that when they came running he would be ready for them. As he was revving up the car, a policeman across the street saw the car and came over to him, signaling for Claude to roll down the window. This Claude did.

“You’re going to run that car!” said the cop. “Running it like that. Don’t do it! Take your foot off the gas, you’hear?”

Claude did as he was bidden. The engine flooded. The cop went on his way and Claude struggled to start the engine but it was stalled. Then the group ran out of the bank and yelled, “Start the engine!” Claude shouted: “I can’t!” He tried futilely. As he almost stood up trying to get the car to start, the group ran out but were picked up by the police—as was Claude. They were convicted of robbing the East St. Louis bank and Claude was the accessory. Claude received a shorter term than did they since the state maintained that Claude was the wheel-man and not the perpetrator. They swore at Claude and shouted, as they were being taken away. But, then, they were racists anyhow.

In prison, Claude served his time profitably, reading and reflecting. One day reading a magazine he spied an ad and sent in $10 to get a mail-order license as a minister of the Divine Freedom church with headquarters in Atlanta. When he came out, in about three years (while his colleagues still were serving with much time ahead of them) he returned to Chicago with no interest in returning to the Outfit. And of course since the rumors circulated through the Outfit, it had no interest in him. Since the Outfit was—and continues to be—a racist organization, Claude told me that forever after because of him they swore not to allow any African American to be associated with them. Which is a break for the African Americans. I think he exaggerated his importance. Yet it is true that there are no blacks in the Outfit even today. Unlike his associates who served quite long terms, Claude continued to be well-off—not from his marriage but from his annulment. As a man of some property he, understandably, joined the Republican party and quickly became a ward committeeman. He never married again, believing that being married once was sufficient and in line with his theological beliefs as certified by the degree in the ministry.

At his last hospitalization, I visited him at Rush-Presbyterian where he had a private room and was surrounded by admirers who saw that he had far richer food than ordinary hospital fare. He was old and ill but cheerful for he had come a lot way. His last greeting to me was the same as his first: “Ha, buddy.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

How Claude Murphy Got into the Outfit: A Very Short Career. Part II

When he had just come up to Chicago from Mississippi, Claude Murphy told me he was young, ambitious and eager to please any employer. He was born in 1908, Until he came along the only black to be anyway close to the Outfit was one William Crutchfield, a porter at Charles Dion O’Banion’s flower shop directly across from Holy Name Cathedral. O’Banion was a sentimental type: drawn to the church where he had been an altar boy and chorister. Then his voice changed which made him ineligible as a boy tenor. At sixteen he became a singing waiter at McGovern’s, a north side speakeasy. Then he got into the newspaper business--not as a journalist but as a circulation expert. His job was to serve the Hearst Chicago Examiner where he expertly overturned the competition’s delivery trucks, set them afire and beating up dealers who sold them. All newspaper circulation directors had crews that performed similar duties while the directors turned a blind eye. O’Banion was told he had a definite future in the newspaper circulation business but he was disdainful of it.

Deciding on aesthetic grounds not to continue working for Hearst, O’Banion went into business for himself: commonplace activities such as burglary, safe-cracking and highway robbery. In addition, he was a consultant to the Hearst people but he rather fancied working for himself rather than under supervision. O’Banion recruited what he considered a crack staff of experts including one Henry Wajiechowski, of Polish heritage, another altar boy and choir singer at Holy Name who voluntarily left the good graces of the Church when he became conflicted between its moral teachings and a Ziegfeld Follies dancer named Josephine Libby with whom he took up a simulated connubial residence without benefit of marriage.. Because O’Banion had trouble pronouncing Wajiechowski’s name when he had to refer to him in a hurry, he shortened it: he shortened Henry to Hymie and Wajichowski to Weiss. Since then the Jews have believed one of their number named Hymie Weiss was the brains of the O’Banion group but they are wrong.

O’Banion’s main line of work was rum-running, gambling and prostitution as result of a treaty he concluded with the Sicilian Johnny Torrio—but there is no doubt that he took the job as manager of Schofield’s Flower Shop at 738 N. State because he admired flowers. That and the fact that funerals and weddings utilized floral pieces which O’Banion supplied but principally because of the lavish funerals that were held when his associates (as was likely) was cut down in the prime of life.

Torrio, a Naples import, hired as his top aide a Brooklyn native, Alphonse Capone. Torrio had the moniker “Terrible John” which was deceptive because he stood no higher than Capone’s chest and was a pale, round-faced, wide-eyed man with small, delicate artist’s hands and feet. Torrio and O’ Banion hit it off immediately and their pact found room for the two gangs, about which O’Banion was careful not to insult because of Torrio’s Sicilian background. Unfortunately for O’Banion, he was not entirely blemish free of ethnic racism. Unfortunate characterizations escaped his lips on one occasion following a disagreement. O’Banion was a true entrepreneur. He persuaded fifty Chicago speakeasy owners to move to Cicero where he sold them good quantities at low cost. Torrio and Capone felt they should get a percentage of the revenue; O’Banion demurred. Difficulties mounted until O’Banion made the statement : “Tell them Sicilians to go to hell.”

It was more than an ungrammatical utterance but an unfortunate statement of crass bigotry. On November 10, 1924 while O’Banion was in the rear of his shop, clipping the stems of some choice chrysanthemums and the porter Crutchfield was sweeping up. O’Banion was preparing a floral display for the funeral of one Michael Merlo, president of Union Sicilione. Then a dark blue nickel-trimmed Jewett sedan glided to a halt before Holy Name cathedral. The driver kept his car idling and three men got out, crossed the street and entered the flower shop. When they entered the shop, a tinkling bell rang out announcing the customers. Crutchfield was waved to go to the backroom which he did with alacrity. O’Banion emerged in shirt-sleeves, a pistol visible in his vest holster. “Hello,” said O’Banion when he saw them, “are you boys here from Mike Merlo’s?” Mike Genna, known familiarly as “Il Diavolo [the Devil]” but an affable sort, gripped O’Banion’s hand and didn’t let go. O’Banion sought to free his hand but was unsuccessful. They pumped five shots into O’Banion and one, for good measure, in his mouth and then again, since they were ordered to complete whatever they began, in the temple.

The Church gave O’Banion some difficulty in death because George Cardinal Mundelein ordered that no funeral mass could be offered in behalf of one who was, at sketchy count, responsible for, by the Church’s count, twenty-five murders. But despite this, one priest who was known charitably as a confessor to the Outfit and who had amassed the biggest Bingo party in the archdiocese, attended and supported by Union Sicilione, gave O’Banion a requiem funeral mass. That so enraged the Cardinal that he banished the priest to the farthest point on the globe he could imagine: the nation of Panama. It took many years before the priest, one Michael Malloy, was allowed to come back to Chicago whereupon he won great plaudits for successful fund-raising which led to his promotion as a monsignor. But I digress.

One who recounted the story about O’Banion’s murder in detail to me, in addition to Claude Murphy who had heard it as a legend and verbally as was told the early books of the Bible until someone wrote the words down, was Msgr. Ignatius McDermott. It so happened that the man to become known as Father Mac was, at age 17, skipping school from Quigley preparatory seminary when he heard the shots and saw the Italian gentlemen sprinting across the street. Thereupon Msgr. McDermott was confronted with the first dilemma of his life: whether to tell the cops what he saw and acknowledge that he was in the vicinity when he was supposed to be elsewhere—or not. Fortunately he did not have to make that resolution as Crutchfield talked to the police with such excitability that they had trouble transcribing his thoughts and told him to slow down or they would have to hold him as an uncooperative witness. .

It was in the spirit of that time that young Claude Murphy, then also 17, determined to get a job in the Outfit. Of course he was turned away because of his race. But he was a determined sort. He started parking cars in a parking lot. Then one day came his chance. He always marveled at how organized the Outfit was but examining it up close, he saw some organizational flaws. One day when he was spotting cars at a prominent hotel, a huge black Packard pulled up in the back seat of which was a proud little woman of ostensibly Italian heritage. She alighted and the driver, a man with a sleek black pompadour and wing-tipped shoes beckoned to Murphy. He said, using as disgusting epithet the “n” word: “Here, n-----, see this lady? She wants to be driven home and I can’t do it. I’m givin’ you $10.” Then he drew his face close to Murphy’s. “Don’t scratch that car, hear me? And see that the old lady gets anything she wants. She’s Mrs. Capone.”

Claude was thrilled. He quickly deduced: Not Capone’s wife, Mae Coughlin Capone, not his sister, Matilda or his other sister, Rose. This was none other than Teresa Riola Capone, his mother. He drove her to her home on south Prairie avenue near St. Columbanas in a two-story, fifteen room red brick which Al had built—and, to his surprise, they hit it off! . She was so happy with his on-the-spot tour that she invited him in. The upstairs parlor of No. 7244 had floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The bathroom, she told him, had accouterments imported from Germany with a seven-foot bathtub. A steel gate shielded the house from an alley. She proudly pointed out that the walls were impervious to bullets. Claude arranged to be her driver on any occasion where she wished to get some air and told her about the man who had referred to him with the disgusting epithet. She put her hand to her bosom and said she would tell her son about it as soon as he came home. Then he went home, satisfied that he had made an opening for what would be an auspicious career.

Oh, look at this: I’ve gone on too long. There will have to be a third installment but I assure you I’ll complete it tomorrow.