Friday, December 29, 2006

Flashback: Memories of the Nicest President and the Nicest Words He Ever Told Me—This Final Salute to Gerald Ford.

[Memories from fifty years in politics for my kids and grandchildren].

The death the other day of Gerald Ford, 38th president of the United States, causes me to first fast-reverse in these memoirs to the day I met him and then fast-forward to the last time I talked with him. First, a step back. When I arrived in the House in the Spring of 1958 as a staff aide to newly-elected Rep. Albert H. Quie, we were assigned to a small suite of offices (fewer rooms were given to new House members and Quie then was the most junior of all since he was elected mid-year) on the second floor of what is now the Longworth House Office Building, but what was then known as the “new” House Office Building—“new” meaning that it was built in 1935. Quie narrowly won a special election following the death of August H. Andresen—won it so narrowly, by 411 votes, that people were not sure how long he’d be around since reelection was to come nine months later. The Democratic House establishment figured it wouldn’t knock itself out giving us fancy rooms. In the summer with the air-conditioning running at half-strength, the noise of construction workers building a cafeteria outside, was deafening. Nobody of consequence was quartered on the second floor of Longworth—except three: one of long-range future, more consequential, importance and another of more immediate future stature and another indubitably one of the great and now, sadly. unrecognized men of the Cold War era.

The long-range future importance was embodied in one young staff aide across the hall from us who worked as a legislative assistant in the office of David Dennison, R-Ohio. His name was Don Rumsfeld, called behind his back by female secretaries, “Pretty Donny.” The other—of long-range future, more consequential, importance--was a 45-year-old Rep. Gerald Ford of Michigan, who served on Defense Appropriations. Ford was quartered on the 2nd floor Longworth because it so happened he had a corner office which just gave him more space and a good look out his window at the street—and far away from the construction noise…and he, in fact, turned down other opportunities to move. The third: Walter H. Judd, one of the greatest surgeons in Mayo history who had given up a rich livelihood to become a medical missionary to China, then U. S. Congressman—for whom I also worked. But it is about Ford that I shall speak now.

Blond, Dutch-looking fit for his Holland, Michigan area constituency, representative of his largely hard-working Dutch district where farmers raised, in addition to grapes, tulips and had picturesque windmills on their tracts…looking for all the world like the supermarket butcher who comes out to your service after you ring the bell for him… smiling, genial, unperturbed Jerry Ford ambled down the halls with an easy lope, graceful for the former All-American athlete he was.

Ford turned out a newsletter that all of us found very interesting because it was brimming with statistics on the Cold War. Later, working with Walter Judd, an intellectual lion of the Cold War, he told me that I should study Ford’s newsletter intensively because it had the latest dope on the military and that Ford, while not particularly brilliant, it didn’t matter. When I seemed surprised to hear that, he added: “Brilliance is dime-a-dozen. Character is not. He has the determination, constancy and character the Cold War era needs.” Later, many years later, he refined that view. Richard Nixon was brilliant but lacked quality of character. Gerald Ford had character, he said, and that made all the difference. Interesting.

In those days, Ford labored over the newsletter after his press secretary, Bob Hartman, who was later to write the lines “our great nightmare is over” when Ford succeeded Nixon, took the raw material Ford had given him and churned it into copy, Ford adding legible additions and corrections in a bold hand. I devoured the newsletters each week and thought that if I were ever with Ford in, say an elevator, I’d tell him so. No chance. The rules of the House were then hopelessly man-boy. House members didn’t meld with staff, or engage them in banter on elevators: nor do they today.

It’s still man-boy…with female staffers serving in the neuter roles we had: all boys, all servants, all gofers, never growing up—all calling our bosses “Mr. or Ms. Or Congressman. Or Congresswoman.” They responding to us by calling us by our first names…by our first names for as long as we would work for them, regardless of whether we were young, old, nondescript. We would always be Tommy…Johnny…Jimmy…Alf. Judd was the only one who treated staff as equals. He talked with me by the hour on Saturday morning when he wasn’t unduly burdened—talked about world affairs and his experiences dealing with Ike, Churchill and the successors of Stalin. That was because he had the intellectual acumen and spiritual depth plus humanitarian compassion to be unconcerned about status. But I digress.

The rules of our office were that the first one to arrive in the morning had to pick up the heavy sack of mail that had been deposited at our door, dump it out on a long table, sort it, rip open the envelopes with a letter-opener and distribute it. One morning I arrived at the god-awful hour of 6:30 a.m. because I wanted to go down to the House television studio and install a make-believe set for my boss—Mr. Quie—with the cardboard visage of the U. S. Capitol backdrop. I picked up the mail, went inside, cut the string with a scissors and then walked down the corridor to the Men’s Room—the rules being that by no means could any of the staff use Mr. Quie’s personal bathroom in the suite which was for him alone whether he was in the building or not. The hour then being about 6:40 a.m. with very few in the building, I rounded the corner and came upon the future 38th president sucking his thumb to alleviate a flow of blood, caused when he cut the string on the mail package and gashed it. He had brought the mail in his office himself and, using a pen-knife, cut open the sack gouging himself in the process. I suppose this could have been the forerunner of all the clumsy Jerry Ford stories that were to come later—but the rope binding the mail was like steel and gouging was easy to do.

I stopped and said, Congressman, can I help? He laughed embarrassedly, “oh, I just decided to end it all, beginning with my thumb.” I said, have you got a band-aid? He kept on sucking it and said that if they had one, he didn’t know where it was. I said: we have one in the medicine cabinet. Why don’t I get it? He didn’t disagree so I trotted back to our office, got a few band-aids, rushed back and helped apply a few to his thumb. I introduced myself, said I was a staff aide to Rep. Quie. Once bound up snugly, he invited me in, started making instant coffee and we sat, listened to the electric percolator steam and talked a lot of inconsequential things.

He had a great interest in my new boss, Al Quie: asked about the kind of district we came from until the coffee got heated. I told him of Walter Judd’s great interest in his newsletter; he took that to be a real compliment. He was as nice and as jocular as it was possible to be. Utterly no one was around; he stuffed a pipe full of tobacco, gingerly with his bandaged thumb. That was it—for the time. Later, whenever I saw him he would be gracious; one time he was accompanied by some businessmen from his district and, spotting me, said I saved him from slashing himself unmercifully. Just a good-natured, unprepossessing fun guy. But no lightweight. A serious, sometimes frowning young man who would relieve the seriousness with a broad Dutch-like grin. I thought he looked like the blond Dutch boy on a paint can that was popular at that time.

That’s the fast-reverse to 1958 when I was not yet 30. While since then I saw him innumerable times, we never talked. Fast-forward to circa 1976 when he was president and I was director-public affairs for The Quaker Oats Company and striving to become a vice-president. The company’s chairman, my then immediate boss—much different from Bob Thurston who had moved on up--and its financial planners were greatly interested in whether or not the Congress would pass a high price-support farm bill in that presidential year. Of course, ingredient purchasing would spiral from this in the future and we lobbied for the free market. But now came the nut-cutting time and financial projections had to be narrowed down. The time for advocacy had long passed.

Both Houses had passed a high price support farm bill. It was a popular measure with rural constituencies. The first farmer presidential candidate since Thomas Jefferson was running on the Democratic ticket: Jimmy Carter and the Democrats had promised the farmer increased return in subsidy for his labor. Okay: a high price support bill was popular. The essential question our planners wanted to know was this. Would the Republican president, Gerald R. Ford, sign it or veto it?

If he were to veto it, the Congress didn’t have sufficient votes to re-pass it so a veto meant an end to the prospect of higher price supports. My assignment—which I was sent to Washington to fulfill—was this: Find out whether or not President Ford would sign or veto the price support bill. It seemed like a simple proposition. As one who had worked for a farm-state Congressman, I knew the staff aides from House Agriculture who could expertly predict in the political climate whether Ford would sign or veto it. One was Hyde Murray, the veteran House Ag lawyer who had served for a generation in that role and was clued in to other knowledgeable staffers including those now in the White House. So secure was I in the knowledge that I could find out the answer in a short time and relay it back by phone to my office that I took the red-eye flight into Washington National without a bag, secure that in one trip on the Hill with some schmoozing I would easily corner Hyde Murray and find out the answer.

But it didn’t go like that. I found Hyde Murray but for the first time since I knew him, he clearly didn’t know. It turned out that there was a huge controversy going on in the Administration and it hadn’t been resolved yet. Agriculture secretary Earl Butz was a free marketer, a Ph.D from the University of Indiana and hugely knowledgeable about agriculture. He was urging Ford to veto it and by vetoing it shore up his political support with farm state conservatives and small town businessmen. On the other side, believe it or not, was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the same Rumsfeld who had worked down the hall from us in the Longworth long ago. Rumsfeld was very close to Ford, had been his chief of staff, had a politician’s nose for opportunity and thought that Ford would ease a lot of troubles he faced in the Farm Belt by rising above principle and signing the bill. The matter was unresolved, said Hyde Murray shrugging. As soon as it were resolved, say in a day or two, he’d let me know.

But my timetable was tighter than a day or two. I had to deliver a reasonably correct answer, based on the best intelligence I had. “I’m sorry,” said Hyde Murray, “that’s all anyone can know now. You might try to go to the USDA right now and ask some of the assistant secretaries there and get a guess—but I warn you, they’ll tell you what you want to hear and what they want to believe, that Ford’s going to veto the bill. That’s not necessarily true.” I looked dumbfounded. “Or--,” said Hyde Murray, “since you’re from Illinois you may try to go over to the Pentagon and see Rumsfeld. Do you know him? He probably would have a better answer than USDA because he’s personally close to Ford.”

Yes, I knew Rumsfeld far beyond the old days when we were grunts together in Longworth. I had gone back to Illinois, knew him when he was a Congressman, knew him when we both worked together in Washington and cooperated together on anti-poverty stuff, he as head of OEO (the Office of Economic Opportunity), the Nixon hangover office from the LBJ days and I as an assistant Commerce secretary in charge of minority enterprise. That and the fact that Rummy wanted to go back to Illinois one day and run for governor and Quaker was a pro-Republican company. So I hightailed over to USDA first. Where I got nowhere. I tried to get in to see Secretary Butz. I was told he was tied up. So I got in a cab and went across the river to the Pentagon. A long period of involvement with the bureaucracy ensued until I got hold of a secretary in Rumsfeld’s office and got in the anteroom to his office in Ring 5 of the Pentagon. Now it was about 5 p.m. and any hopes of me going back to Chicago that night had ended. About 5:45 p.m. I got in to see Rumsfeld in his cavernous room where then as until recently he worked standing up. And I asked him the question about the farm bill.

He was the same old Rumsfeld you would see on TV during the days of Iraq. A mischievous smile, wondering how in the world I thought he would know what Jerry Ford would do on the farm bill. I told him that I had heard he had had views on it: he agreed. After a good deal of cogitation he acknowledged that he had given the president as much straight talk politically as he could muster: that 1976 would be a very, very tough year, especially after the primary with Ronald Reagan and that Ford should take note of political reality and sign the bill somewhat reluctantly. But, I asked, will he sign it or veto it? That, infuriatingly, Rumsfeld didn’t know. He had made his last pitch to Ford the night before but he was frank to say that aside from Ford himself, the man who now knows what would happen was the ag secretary, Earl Butz. He asked if I saw Butz. I said I can’t: he’s locked up in a series of conferences, probably about this very issue.

“Well, that means you’ve got to stay over,” he said. “I can just do this for you. Tonight there’s a Republican dinner for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee--$1,000 a pop. I can’t go but I have a `comp.’ Here, take this ticket. It won’t open any doors but you have to eat somewhere and you might as well get a $1,000 meal as not.”

But I promised to call my immediate boss—a grumpy type and a farmer himself—that night with the latest information. In the cab going back to D. C. I debated whether I should call him and just say I struck out. Or should I call him and guess—that he’ll sign it, based on what Rumsfeld hoped. I didn’t know. I checked by phone and we decided I’d call him later that night. So I went to the $1,000 a plate dinner with Rumsfeld’s comp…no hotel room in prospect, no change of clothes but as Rummy said I have to eat somewhere. It was held at the Washington Hilton, the place where Ronald Reagan had been shot five years later. And when I got there it turned out that the crème of the Republican establishment was busily getting shot full of sauce along with cabinet officers and Republican congressmen.

Then, it appeared, that God was with me. As I strolled over to the bar, who was surrounded by a circle of friends but Earl Butz, secretary of agriculture! I elbowed my way through the crowd and, I am afraid, I nudged one grandmotherly old lady as I moved forward. She gave me a dirty look. I said, “Sorry, ma’am, I’ve got a question to ask the secretary if you don’t mind.” She said, “You can ask the secretary all the questions you want but he’s now a disgrace to the human race because he’s been over-served. I’m Mrs. Butz and Earl has been with this crowd all afternoon: they’re all from Indiana and he’s going home. Do you hear me, Earl? We’re going home!” I asked the garrulous secretary who had taken the arm of his wife, “Mr. Secretary, er, Doctor Butz--.” He responded “yesssss…” and looked at me with eyes that resembled the way the wheels of a slot machine whirr before they ring up lemons. So I gave up. God was toying with me. The man who had the answer was unable to respond.

So I found my seat at a table. A guy from General Mills was there. He said: I suppose you don’t know whether or not the president will sign or veto the farm bill, do you? I said I didn’t. He said: Neither do I. We sat silently sipping cold water, waiting for the band to stop so the waiters could serve. He said politely, You missed the entry of the President. They played `Hail to the Chief’. And you know what? Since Jerry Ford was a Congressman, he declined a seat at the head table and decided to sit with his old Michigan friends right down here with us!

I said, suddenly coming to life: Where is he sitting? My friend said, stand on your chair and look down this cavern where you’ll find a guy with prematurely orange hair. See! There he is! The Secret Service guys are standing around him! He’s right there! See?

I did: about a quarter mile of banquet tables away. I got up and trotted down the legions of aisles near to where he was. When I approached, the Secret Service, pushed me away and with great force because not long before there had been two assassination attempts on his life. The president looked over semi-interested as they pushed me away—as I suppose one would, idly wondering if this was to be yet another assassination attempt. As they pushed me, I shouted: “Mr. President—I come to bring greetings from your old colleague Al Quie!” He stood up, waved the Secret Service aside and said, “From Al? How’s he doing? He’s running for governor of Minnesota, isn’t he? How’s he doing?”

I had not the faintest clue and I couldn’t care much because Quie and I were not close basis my indentured service to him where I was treated like a rather retarded grunt, but I said as the Secret Service men grimaced: “Fine! Fine! He wanted me to extend his best wishes to you!” It was obvious Ford wanted to talk about the Minnesota political situation so he asked the Secret Service to cease and desist and put me down. He obviously wanted to talk about Minnesota with which I was not particularly informed at that point, having moved to Illinois but I needed just the smallest chance to talk to him. As they put me down, I pulled Rummy’s comp invitation to the dinner out of my jacket pocket and asked the President to sign it, giving a salutation and best wishes to Al Quie. He did. He took a pen in his left hand and began writing a note to Quie.

As he scribbled, I said: Can you tell me whether or not you’re going to sign or veto the farm bill? No answer. I thought he viewed the question as highly impertinent and possibly might signal the SS to pick me up again and dump me out on the street.

Holding his pen aloft, he looked up at me and said: “Earl Butz is here tonight and he can give you the details. But after a good deal of consultation with a number of people, I have determined to…”

Here a Secret Service man importuned. “Mr. President, the First Lady is coming this way!”

“Oh, Betty!” said the President, arising. Then he turned to me in a confidential whisper and said, “…I have decided to veto it. Ah—here she is!”

After a polite interchange where he introduced me to his wife, I left, happily. To the phone to make a call. My immediate boss was not home so, gratified, I called followed protocol and called the man who most seriously wanted to know, our Chairman. I called him at his Lake Forest home. As it happened he was with some influential board members who had been ruminating about the same thing, including Arthur Wood, chairman of Sears-Roebuck. Our chairman kindly told me that he was sure no definitive information could be obtained and thanked me for trying. Then he put Arthur Wood on who said rather authoritatively: “Our gang in Washington [a large staff of well-paid government relations professionals] say it’s indeterminate at this time. Is that right?” I told him it was not indeterminate. He asked how I knew this and told him. With much surprise, he gave the phone to our chairman.

When our chairman came back on the line I finally had the satisfaction of saying what all corporate lobbyists yearn one day to utter: “The president will veto the bill. The President of the United States told me this himself!” Ah the satisfaction of it. The only better words I could ever hear would be after I make my last cram for finals and St. Peter were to say: “Well, you just made it—by a hair! Congratulations!” Join me in murmuring what my Church calls a spiritual ejaculation (the only kind meaningful to me now) that I—and you—may hear these words someday.

That night, in the hotel room, sleeping in my underwear rather than pajamas, the next morning scrounging around unshaven in the stores for clean clothes and shaving materials, I was ecstatic at my accomplishment although it meant far more to me than to either the chairman or Arthur Wood—and definitely more than it did to my immediate boss. As in fact I am now as I relive the scenes—especially the last one—with Gerald Ford, the 38th president. Accidental he was, accident-prone he may have seemed, uncharismatic he could have been—but for me he delivered the most thrilling news I heard in my 27 years as a corporate rep. All the way home on the plane I worried that Rumsfeld may have gotten to him even later to change his mind. But no, he vetoed the bill. Jimmy Carter assailed him. And yes he lost the election—sadly. But I say: Gerald Ford, you were a blessing when we needed stability and character. For me—but more important—for the country you loved, you came through a winner. Rest in well-deserved Peace. And thank you for being so approachable.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Personal Asides: The Year 2006...Not Again! Frank Nofsinger Wins One on Political Trivia

George Allen
The Year 2006.

Things I can’t believe: that ace sportscaster Mike North is being criticized for using the word “Chinaman”! Com’on, get real!...That George Allen really and truly lost the U. S. Senate from Virginia for using on camera a word—called an epithet—that most of this country had never heard of before (including me). The word was “macaca” which Allen purportedly learned from his Indonesian mother which he directed against a student of Indian descent who was tailing his campaign and recording it on video for Allen’s opponent, Jim Webb. It supposedly means “long-tailed Asian monkey.” Are we so terribly precious? The fact that Allen is out as Senator and the old relic of a bygone racist era and former KKK member Robert Byrd was reelected at age 87 to continue representing West Virginia is astounding, Byrd using the “n” word on national television just a year ago. Also the fact that New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, having extolled his city as “Chocolate City,” an obvious slur at whites, won a great majority of the city’s black vote and no condemnation from the sacrosanct “mainstream media”--is evidence of the serious double-standard that the falsely described “mainstream” media pursue…

That Mark Foley’s indiscreet near-proposition of a male page has been labeled a central cause for the House going Democratic when Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank had allowed his male lover to turn his apartment into a bordello and refused to apologize…that Democratic Congressman William Jefferson whose Washington area home was raided by FBI agents who found $90,000 in his freezer went on to win reelection in his New Orleans congressional district…that Denny Hastert joined Nancy Pelosi in assailing the Justice Department for supposedly violating separation of powers by probing Jefferson…that bird flu did not, despite widespread predictions to the contrary, spread far from its Asian home and scored only 111 bird-related deaths worldwide…that Kobe Bryant reminded us all how great he is, dropping 81 points on Toronto January 22 shy only of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in the record book…

That despite our hedonistic culture, “The Nativity Story,” New Line Cinema’s film of the birth of Christ, grossed nearly $8 million on its first weekend, taking fourth place and that a church-produced “Facing the Giants” which has a Christian theme grossed over $9 million on a shoestring budget…that Don Rumsfeld was evidently from all reports a mush as secretary of defense while the “mainstream media” in Washington portrayed him as a hard-liner…that this neuter Republican twerp Linc Chafee, defeated and a lame-duck, still wouldn’t vote to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the UN, proving that eventually like other breeds, New England Brahmins tend to breed their brains out…

I will miss…June Allyson, everybody’s favorite freckle-faced young wife (88)…R. W. (Johnny) Apple, 71, who treated me to culinary delights on occasion when with the “New York Times” he came here…Joe Barbera, 95. half of the Hanna-Barera animation team, who (I think I’m right about this) also helped create Quaker’s favorite cartoon character “Capn Crunch”…Glenn Ford, 90, my favorite from the film “The Blackboard Jungle”…John Kenneth Galbraith, 97, a terrible economist but superb rhetorician whose language was molded for angels…Steve Irwin, 44, although to my mind what with wrestling crocodiles and the like, it was about time (although death from a sting-ray?)…Coretta Scott King, 78, who bore her sadness with grace and serenity…Jeane Kirkpatrick, 80 a terrible loss and a woman who should have become secretary of state…Don Knotts, 81, the funniest man I ever saw on TV…Byron Nelson, 94, the great golf champ who my fellow kids at St. Juliana’s caddied for at the old Tam o’Shanter opens…Buck Owens, 76, the buck-toothed singer I enjoyed on “Hee Haw”…Jack Palance, 87, who moved from scary menace in “Shane” to a comic in his 70s…Dana Reeve, 44, who died oh so young after a decade of dedicated care-giver service to her immobilized husband Christopher…

…Ann Richards, 73, a liberal former Governor of Texas who still captivated me with her keynote at the Dem convention in 1988…Joe Rosenthal, 94, the Iwo Jima photographer who angered of all people Paul Wigoda who was there at the picture-taking because Rosenthal, a Jew, became a Catholic…Louis Rukeyser, 73, brilliant supply-sider TV journalist who didn’t have to be told he was great before he’d tell you…Jack Warden, 85, boxer turned tough-guy actor who played George Halas in “Brian’s Song”…Caspar Weinberger, 88, great American secretary of defense…Paul Wigoda former alderman of the 49th whose death somehow, unaccountably, eluded me (how I don’t know)…Jane Wyatt, 96, actress who played the perfect wife on “Father Knows Best”…

Disappointments…After South Dakota legislators voted in February to outlaw all abortions except when they are necessary to save a woman’s life, becoming the first state to do so, pro-aborts swung into high gear and beat the issue in a statewide referendum…the loss of the GOP House and Senate which will set back the timetable for conservative economic and social gains…the defeat of David McSweeney in the 8th whom I regard as the best of the best by a beauteous (let’s face it) woman, Rep. Melissa Bean, who had to rely on a staff aide and a Clif’s Notes to get her thorough my WLS show…the Palestinian elections on Jan. 25 which gave an unexpected landslide victory to Hamas…Voters electing Rene Preval in Haiti on Feb. 7after reporters found hundreds of ballot boxes and burned ballots in a garbage dump outside the capital…the incapacitating stroke of Ariel Sharon, a truly great man…the election of former Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua Nov. 5…the tirade of Mel Gibson in July who made hideously anti-Semitic remarks after being stopped by cops in July…the easy treatment George Ryan got: only 6 years…and his remaining free on appeal…that that old windbag Robert Byrd of West Virginia served 17,327 days by last June 12 when he became the longest-serving Senator in U. S. history.

Optimistic Moments... Peter Roskam’s election that continued distinguished pro-life representation for the 6th in Congress…How British and U.S. intelligence agents uncovered the plot to blow up airliners using liquid explosives at Heathrow and the arrest of 21 involved in the plot on Aug. 10…the fact that President Bush did execute a veto—of a bill to federally fund embryonic stem-cell research…the fact that Wal-Mart now offers a flat $4 price for nearly 300 generic prescriptions…that there are at least 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border giving some hope for more…that there are by conservative count 100 million Christians in China…that an excellent choice was made to replace Alan Greenspan in Ben Bernanke…that Kofi Annan finally left, embarrassed but not sufficiently so, by a UN Oil for Food scandal in Iraq that implicated his own son…

Frank Nofsinger.

The intrepid Connecticut-based expert won the trivia question which asked what president was the first to be sworn in under the amendment which changed inauguration day to January 20 from March 4? Franklin D. Roosevelt. What about the other questions I asked, folks?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fair Enough: Viguerie Says What?...One-Liners…Why Catholics Pause Before Criticizing a Bishop…Congratulations Once Again, Frank Nofsinger and Now Some Political Trivia.



Richard Viguerie the conservative mailing list king has pronounced that if Rudy Giuliani gets the Republican nomination for president, millions of conservatives would leave the Republican party. Just a note about Viguerie. He claims to been the first to computerize mailing lists. Maybe so but I have never known nor met anyone who has profited more monetarily from his identification of conservative with the least voluntarism for the movement than Dick Viguerie…nor anyone with the coldest eyes, loudest mouth and most vulgar pomposity to believe that with his every utterance he speaks for all conservatives. This guy has been known to shut down promising campaigns in lieu of getting paid even if the paycheck is sworn to be coming, albeit late. That’s his business as a successful businessman, making big bucks off the movement, but let nobody allege that he ranks with the conservative leadership of the caliber of William F. Buckley, Paul Weyrich, Grover Norquist, Phyllis Schlafly, Ed Feulner and a host of other greats. I can list a host of Illinois leaders in that group.

Viguerie’s warning is self-contradictory. If Giuliani gets nominated, he will have to have satisfied a good many social conservatives—else he could not have gotten the nomination given their preponderance in the Republican party. He will not be successful in his quest for the presidential nomination if he doesn’t change on abortion and gay marriage/rights: it’s as simple as that. Romney has changed and rather than disrespect it, I support it: recognition of the essential rightness of a position in order to get elected if for no other reason.


Jim Baker is passing the word that he canned Rudy Giuliani from the Iraq Study Group because Rudy missed two meetings and was late for a third: which was the best favor he could have done for the former New York mayor—sparing him from the group which has made all the impact of a mashed potato sandwich and whose report could have damaged his candidacy…The Barack Obama “scandal” involving his having named an intern from Glenview at the suggestion of Tony Rezko is—face it—a non-story and represents at the most an attempt by the Hillary Clinton forces to tar Obama and at the least not even a microscopic blip on the radar screen—this in contrast to the very serious Rezko matter concerning Obama’s own property…the conclusion being that if conservatives dwell on this internship non-story, they are petty in the extreme…

An Israeli businessman is charging that Jim Baker’s law firm skirted an early embargo placed on Iraq to enable a South Korean client to collect bills: if this is true, it is scurrilous…Recriminations are brewing against Sen. Elizabeth Dole who as head of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee approved TV commercials for Senate incumbents that (a) either didn’t help or (b) worsened conditions for them which leads to the conclusion (maybe unjust) that although I’ve watched the lady for a long time, ever since she began as an assistant to Virginia Knauer, Nixon’s consumer affairs director up through two cabinet posts to the U. S. Senate and Republican Campaign Committee chief, nothing I’ve seen exceeds the routine ordinary: in thought, originality, deeds: just that I’ve never, ever been impressed…

A game of perceptions played with the public the gullible one concerns Todd Stroger’s alleged cut of 6,000 county jobs which has raised an outcry from the public unions to States Attorney Dick Devine—sufficient to convince the voters that the cuts are draconian and against the public interest, letting Stroger off the hook on his pledge to slash government and allowing the game to go on as usual.

The Pause that Reflects.

As a correspondent for a Catholic newspaper known for its fidelity to Church doctrine but not as slavishly acting the a house organ for the bishops, “The Wanderer,” I’ve done more than my share of criticizing some U. S. bishops including, at times, my own. In doing so, one runs the risk of either winning undue praise from those who wish the Church ill and criticism from toe-the-line dogmatists who believe any criticism of a crosier-bearer is sacrilege. Now I’m asked what my personal guidelines are before leveling such criticism as writer for the oldest national Catholic weekly in the U. S. The best I’ve seen comes from “This Rock,” the invaluable monthly magazine of apologetics and evangelization which I devour cover-to-cover.

Leveling any criticism of a bishop is different—far different—from criticizing a priest or politician and, frankly, always causes me spiritual misgiving. That is because, to a believing Catholic, a bishop is not just a representative of the pope nor an authority apart from the pope, but holds his office with the mandate to exercise authority in the name of Christ as a legitimate successor of the apostles. Pretty potent stuff. That’s because the Church isn’t governed directly from Rome with the local bishop the intermediary. Christ built his Church literally on the foundation of the apostles and the routine has been since the start…and since I can remember…that one’s bishop, regardless of his personal failings and faults, is the boss. The bishop, we are instructed, receives the fullness of the sacrament of orders on his ordination consisting of three powers.

The first is the power of administering the sacraments—all of them—including the power to ordain other men as bishops. The second is the right to teach authoritatively and share in the Church’s divine guidance to communicate revealed truth. The third is the right to govern and direct his charges according to the norms of worship and conduct binding on the faithful. These are enormously powerful duties all traced to scenes like Christ’s appearance to the disciples as recorded by John [20:20-23]: “Receive the holy spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those who sins you retain, they are retained.” This means what we are living in as Catholics ain’t a democracy, folks—which should give people like me reason to pause and reflect…as we do.

His words to his apostles clearly confers in them powers, not as mere delegates but as bishops. As St. Ignatius of Antioc wrote in the 2nd century: “When you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ.”

So, where do you come down, then, as an individual Catholic or journalist or as leader of a group within the Church who sees flagrant derelictions in the Church that are clearly being winked at by bishops: the gay carnival being conducted at DePaul, for instance? Just shrug and say the bishops have no power to interfere? But they do. Leon Suprenant, president of Catholics United for the Faith, a group founded to seek rectification for excesses that crept into the liturgy and church governance through misinterpretations, willful and otherwise, of Vatican II, cites in “This Rock” that critics should behave like Noah’s righteous sons who covered their father’s nakedness not withstanding his drunkenness, “we should take appropriate action while remaining very conscious of the harm caused by publicly airing our grievances against our spiritual fathers.” Cover their nakedness, yes, but when they allow laxity to endanger others particularly youth?

Does covering for bishops mean that we should write a letter to the home offices at the local chancery or Rome—from which there could very likely be no response as has been the case of Catholic Citizens of Illinois as the president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, Mary Anne Hackett who wrote and has waited-waited-waited with no response: the non-courtesy of which very frankly drives me up the wall? No, the third point Suprenant makes is Code 212 of Canon Law which says “In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence that they possess [the laity] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters that pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful”—but that’s not all. The Code continues: “…with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and relevance toward their pastors and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.”

While we should be deferential, at the same time, clerical authorities here and abroad might at the very least jolly well answer their mail. It is all well and good for those who believe deferentiality to whatever a bishop does is the correct procedure but in some cases supineness means cowardice. There is no reason under the canopy of God’s blue sky that a bishop cannot…and should not…publicly complain about the festivities in celebration of gay perversion going on at DePaul and Loyola. I suspect I shall hear a rejoinder that no one made me a bishop so why don’t I shut up—and just pray about it. Praying must be done anyhow but when stiff correction goes unnoticed or dismissed, other means are needed—as for example now.

Congratulations, Frank!

On the right names of the two presidents who were born with different ones from which they were ultimately known: Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. and Bill Clinton was William Jefferson Blythe IV. For that done without search engines is truly impressive. A number of you came close but Frank was first with the goods.

The other questions were very difficult, too difficult probably…for had I not stumbled on them as artifacts in history and pondered over them, I wouldn’t have known. There is a splendid but little known (unfortunately) book called “History Goes to the Movies” by Joseph Roquemore [Main Street: Doubleday, 1999] that was called to my attention by a publishing friend of mine. On “Becket” there are several purposeful errors to make the film more dramatic. In the film Becket is made a Saxon to contrast with Norman oppressor Henry: wrong. The storybook makes Becket out to be a libertine until his ordination as bishop whereas history instructs us that he took the vow of chastity as a young man and never broke it. Finally, the film shows Henry II ordering his barons to murder Becket—no, it was an expressed wish not an order: “Can no one free me of this lowborn priest?”

On “Union Pacific” which I saw as a kid in 1939, Leland Stanford takes up a hammer to hit the golden spike and misses prompting loud spectator laughter—which is accurate. It was unfair to hit you with those obscure things but let’s regard them as mere warm-ups for better questions…such as these two (don’t use search-engines):

Both pertain to the month of January which is coming up. On January 14, 1963, George Wallace takes the oath as governor of Alabama and in his inauguration address issued a famous broadside of two words which rang through the country. What were the two words?

The first president to be sworn into office on January 20 did so because of a change in the Constitution. Before the change, the date was always March 4. Who was the first president to be sworn in on January 20 and for bragging rights what year?

Flashback: 1966 Claims the Life of My Father. A Void that Lasts Even Now.

[Memoirs over fifty years of politics for my kids and grandchildren].

He was born December 28, 1898, the son of a Germanic streetcar motorman and his Germanic wife—both motorman and wife born in the farming country that existed in the form of great tracts and prairies surrounding the then small village…now thoroughly suburban…of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Neither his father nor mother were born in Germany (their parents were) but nonetheless they all spoke German fluently and their English was flavored with a light accent. They and he became facile in it—writing and speaking with great fluency as did at least several of their cousins. The Roeser brothers…my grandfather and his brother…determined to forsake farm work and move to the city where they both obtained work with the antecedent of the old Chicago Surface lines: street-cars. One brother became a conductor; one a motorman who also cultured flower plants in the car barn and swept up after hours for a few dollars extra (becoming famous for kicking a salesman out of the car barn because the salesman was trying to sell him what John Roeser adjudged to be worthless stock: “You: vat are you doink heah? Get oudt! You do not belong here! Get outdt I say!”). The thin, slight salesman who left grumbling was Henry Ford. I have never calculated how our lives would have changed had John Roeser, a very close brother to Adam with whom he shared all good and bad fortune, had bought the stock and had become a mega-millionaire.

The Roeser bachelor brothers returned to Buffalo Grove whenever they could as young men to revel with their fellows, drink good old German beer and dance with the local farm girls at Saturday outings. And it so happened that they fell in love with two sisters of the Hinsberger clan of farmers—Mary and Rose. Adam Roeser married Mary Hinsberger and took her to Chicago for which she had always been grateful to the day of her death at 77 in our house.

Adam and Mary Roeser lived on the north side next door to John and Rose, a common occurrence (my Irish maternal family also lived next to cousins). The Adam Roesers had two children—Celina (a feminine name I have never heard of since) and Harold. Harold Nicholas Roeser was my father. At baptism at the Germanic parish of St. Alphonsus in Chicago, the parish priest, a German immigrant, ready to christen the baby Harold Nicholas, paused and shook his head. “Harold,” he said, “iss not a saints name-- so” with a smile, “…ve will change all `round.” And without anyone’s approval, he baptized the baby Nicholas Harold…which also appeared on his death certificate.

That baptism began a love of great closeness to the Church, manifested particularly from middle age (40 or so) to death at 68—a love that I thought bordered on scrupulosity some times: of daily rosaries, frequent silences with lips moving in silent prayer, of mortification at least in one instance as offered up (of which I am entirely sure) he gained a grace for ultimate sanctity that may well have resulted in his being the first Saint Harold: and whom, if lucky enough to get to heaven, I shall not be unduly surprised to find. I was their only child: they prayed and wished for others and, knowing this, I have always sought to make them happy with me. I always think of him with some sadness whenever I hear (seldom now but often once) Eddie Fisher’s or was it Jerry Vale’s “Oh My Papa!” “Oh, my papa! To me he was so wonderful…” It was at once a delight and education to know and love him and at the same time not always easy living with one who was fated to be far more religious (though not ostentatiously so), more athletic, more and more undeviatingly conservative Republican and far, far more spiritually fastidious than my Irish Democratic mother or me.

Nor are saints are always beatific to live with. I remember R. Douglas Stuart, father of Robert D., a former Quaker chairman, who must have been near 90 (who is himself aged 90) asking me delicately in 1964 once he discovered I was Catholic about the procedures involved in canonization; his interest was caused by some fellow executives who had found it pretty rough going many years earlier to deal with a little Italian lady, a nun actually, who solicited funds and alms for her hospital—a nun who always gave the impression that her benefactor could do better by the poor than what they were doing and who received their donations with a dour look. Once they had a few words and the little lady didn’t back down as she dealt with executives. They dreaded seeing her but see her often they did.

Her name was Maria Francesca Cabrini, foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus whose impatience with workaday executives could be laid to stress involved in her founding not just Columbus Hospital here but in other hospitals, schools and orphanages—institutions for the poor in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia and throughout South America and Europe. “She was reportedly not the easiest to deal with,” he said with a smile, although today she is known internationally as Mother Cabrini or properly as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. I suppose she was not: after founding her Order in Italy and wanting desperately to be a missionary in China, she was taken by her bishop, Giovanni Scalabrini to Leo XIII who sent her here where the burden of her work was, she dying of typhoid at 67 at her Columbus Hospital in 1917.

Harold Nicholas Roeser was not the easiest man to live with either—but not because he was tough on me…because he was tough on himself, exacting in his self-demands which made us wince at his lack of self-indulgence. A born story-teller, gifted writer who had been a newspaper reporter for the old “Record-Herald” in the 20th century teens, he took not a drop of the potion that enlivened journalism then but knew all the yarns. Somewhere, somehow he had determined to be a saint (far more devoted than his mother or sister) but never comparative. Because he was a sterling exemplar difficult to match for one who was probably more instinctively my mother’s child than his son. To me he was a pussy-cat, never admonishing, only gently correcting; to his wife he was not just devoted but in his later years became so terribly dependent on her that she worried what in the world would happen to him were she to die before he. Fortunately for him and her, she outlived him. No, the difficulty was the agony he put himself through in exactitude which only he could satisfy. But that burden weighed most on him. I remember that he wanted only to stay home after a long day’s work, that he resisted going to family gatherings—resisted with quiet diligence…but when he relented and my mother was exhausted at the struggle and got to the family gatherings he was the life of the party while she was exhausted from the struggle and to get him there…her sisters saying to her, “My! Harold is so funny a story-teller! Why don’t you bring him around more?”

To me he was the most perfect of educator-fathers: never talking in kid-talk, baby-talk, but talking of the world as he would a colleague. His great passion was politics and what interest I have in it comes from him. In his youth he had been a semi-pro baseball player (a first-baseman) and even a semi-pro football player (a quarterback) where he earned money summers and Fall playing for teams that bore the name “Birren’s” …baseball and football…for the northside funeral parlor. I was never an athlete, was uncoordinated and hopeless to the point where kids on my block would groan whenever they were fated to get me, saying, “aw, gee, do we have to get him again? We had him yesterday!” But if he was keenly disappointed, as he must have been, he never said. I do remember once when I missed a fly-ball in the vacant lot across from our house, he noticeably winced but never reproved me. One would have to have been more than a mere saint to ignore how easy it would have been for anyone else to catch.

As I reflect on it, indubitably the most impressive thing he did for me happened every morning, regularly at 6:30 a.m. before I went to school. Then he would be shaving in his steam-filled bathroom with the china shaving mug inscribed HNR on the sink with soggy brush lying therein, with the mist on the mirror above the sink so that he would have to rub his fist on it to see how he was doing with his extra-sharp Rolls Razor with the perpetual blade that never had to be changed but sharpened every morning with a sound I can still hear: whack-whack-whack. This was my time to shine: It was fortunate that I learned to read very, very early because beginning at age 6 or 7 until I left for college, I would perch on the clothes hamper and read aloud to him from the editorial pages of the “Chicago Tribune,” his favorite publication made possible by a man he adored but never met: Colonel Robert R. McCormick. Colonel McCormick detested his fellow patrician and Groton schoolboy, Franklin Roosevelt. His editorials, written by a brilliant rhetorician, George Morganstern, who could really codify anger, rang out against New Deal injustice. And I must say I read them with requisite anger in my third-grade piping voice.

Father was concerned that I pronounce every word exactly right. He would pause, turn to me and say gently, “the word is unconscionable. Say it with me: un-con-scion-able. That’s it. He means that in the matter of this man’s [Roosevelt’s] National Recovery Administration, or NRA, they are stretching the constitution’s limits to an unconscionable degree. Continue.” That was a superb education in reading, grammar and conservatism. He was highly suspicious of betrayal by conservatives who would try to take a middle course in the 1930s between his wish of abject opposition to Roosevelt and outright support. Morganstern’s language was so eloquent, over the top, inflammatory—even outrageously negative—that when I later went to school and confronted with “See Dick Run, Run, Dick Run,” it was duck soup.

It was not always easy in the Depression and going to a small Catholic parochial grade school where the sister superior had a tinted, framed photograph of Franklin Roosevelt mounted on her office wall next to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus…but Father urged me to be constant and never back down. I didn’t although learned by myself when to speak and when not. In the Fall of 1936 when I was eight I was in the playground for recess at 10 a.m. when I confronted some of my male classmates wearing FDR pins…to whom I shouted with make-believe bravado: “Roosevelt’s in the ashcan ready to be collected! Landon’s in the White House ready to be elected!” They beat me until their arms ached and the superior smugly just turned her back in deference to the just retaliation they were meting out. But that error was mine, not his: the error of imprudence.

Father and I had several heroes—one Augie Andresen, the Minnesota congressman who gave me the idea for Republicans invading the Democratic presidential primary in 1956, a story I related to Father and which he was delighted to hear. But the major one throughout the years was Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio. “Bob-Bob the president’s son will run this country as it should be run!” so my sing-song tirade ran. But one morning while I was in my teens, going to high school, as I read, he paused, wiped the mirror angrily with his fist. I thought perhaps I had mispronounced something again. No, he was just angered at what I had read from George Morganstern. He asked me to read it again which I did. Taft had just announced a modified plan for federal housing. He pondered, scowled in the mirror, turned to me and said: “Do you know what? The socialists have gotten to Bob Taft!”

All I know was that the judgment hit me like a massive fist in the solar plexus. All these years of near-slavish adulation for the portly conservative all wasted—to be wiped away by treachery? At Taft High school which was then brand new, a liberal Democratic poly sci professor who had scheduled me to take the Republican position in a school assembly noticed I was kind of down. He took me aside and said, “Thomas, what is the matter? You look ill. Is there some bad news?” I said yes there was indeed bad news. His eyes grew big and asked: What?

“Well, for one thing the socialists have gotten to Bob Taft!”

He doubled up with paroxysms of laughter.

More of Harold Roeser and his life, invaluable to me, soon.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Personal Asides: And There are Those Who Say Topinka Never Cared for Me!…The Return of the Trivia Contest Thanks to Frank Nofsinger (Without Search Engines).


There are several things to be said about this old picture. First is, as lawyer John Curry once pointed out to me over lunch, Judy Baar Topinka was a real looker. Looking at this picture, I also think so. This photo was taken while she was a state senator and pro-lifer at her fund-raising dinner where I was a speaker…oh, sometime in the `80s. The kids were eager young Republicans who worked for the party. Notice her inscription, would you please? It says: To Tom Roeser—the best of the Republican Party. Sen. Judy Baar Topinka. If she sees this photo, she will be gnawing at her knuckles: how could I have ever--?

I reproduce this only to say that there were times when we were allies. Now, having said that she was a looker, how about me? Am I not a looker as well, fit for “Gentleman’s Quarterly”? What? You say I was then stocky, fat-faced, grey-haired and double-chinned? All of which proves I haven’t changed a bit. But the picture gives me pause and brings to me perhaps the deserved criticism of those who say I have been most uncharitable to Ms. Topinka. I have less an unbridled tongue than scathing pen; on reflection, lack of charity to her has been a failing where I must say I have been conspicuous. In this New Year perhaps I shall be a pussy-cat.

Return of Trivia.

Gentlemen and ladies, adopt the honor code and pledge to me you won’t use your search engines. At the request and in honor of Frank Nofsinger, we’re back—and I’ve stored up a lot of questions. With the no-search engine pledge in effect, here’s one: Recall that there have been two United States presidents who reached adulthood with other than their birth names. That said, who are they and what were their birth names?

In this second one, you can use any standard old-media source if you wish because the questions are very tough.

In the film “Becket,”[1964] with Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, Martita Hunt and Pamela Brown, Thomas Becket, a libertine until his conversion, is killed by nobles following the order of the Norman oppressor Henry II to kill him. Two errors are contained in the previous sentence and one is a seeming error but is not: Can you definitively correct the two without engine research? Obviously any old-media…books, magazine articles…sources can be used.

And another: Cecil B. DeMille’s film “Union Pacific” [1939] with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea and Robert Preston winds up with Leland Stanford driving the golden spike home making every other type of transcontinental travel obsolescent. In the film, Stanford fails to hit the spike on the first go-round, sparking a round of spectator laughter. Was that accurate or not? (I’ll give you the source of the movie history when you complete the quiz). First one who gets the answers wins. But these are so tough, anybody who gets the answers gets a cheer. On the “Becket” question, we need some kind of annotation not a guess.

Flashback: 1966—Republicans Pick Up Key Gains From Urban Backlash Dissatisfaction with Too-Fast Integration—Hoellen Almost Dislodges Pucinski…Ogilvie Wins County Board Presidency, Allies Win Sheriff and Treasurer…Percy Wins Senate Seat…Quaker’s Movement..

[More than fifty years of politics for my kids and grandchildren].

Warning: This 5,000-plus word essay may be long but is essential to understand the background of the current Illinois Republican debacle as well as the primeval era of corporate urban affairs. The political part has some delectable scatological parts for entertainment and seasoning…so it may not be a total bore. If you must, read it in sections—but read it. I doubt if children before attaining the age of reason or long thereafter will care or understand.

While the year 1966 marked two interesting Illinois congressional campaigns in which I was involved, both of which got some national news as a study in contradictions…John Hoellen’s in the 6th where he was tangling with Roman Pucinski as both vied to occupy the backlash position and David Reed’s in the 1st as he sought to gain some leverage against 80-year-old black boss Rep. William Dawson in behalf of a two-party system for blacks in Chicago…the year ended with significant gains for the Illinois Republican party.

In a tremendous outpouring of votes, Republican John Hoellen very nearly dislodged Democratic machine regular Rep. Roman Pucinski based on white backlash conditions. The votes engendered in that district and throughout Cook elected Richard Ogilvie president of the Cook county board, a Republican to succeed him as county sheriff and a Republican county treasurer: the nub of an Ogilvie machine born of a blending of Democratic and Republican pragmatists, residue of which survives to this day. Meanwhile Charles Percy was elected U. S. Senator over the incumbent Paul Douglas. David Reed lost heavily against Rep. Bill Dawson in Chicago’s 1st district as expected, African-American voters not weakening, occupying the most significant bloc in the Democratic party. Reed was promptly hired by new board president Ogilvie as a cog in his hybrid, pragmatic, Nelson Rockefeller-like machine that was to take him to Springfield.

Also in that year--of personal interest to this autobiographer—came the initiation of Quaker’s first program deliberately spelling out its social responsibility to minorities in its headquarters inner city…of which more later.

“I can’t believe it,” said Charlie Barr, the pristine, philosophically constant and integrity-filled Standard Oil (Ind.) public affairs officer who brought all the elements of the Ogilvie organization together in the Goldwater effort in 1963. “They worked their heads off with me then. After that, they regrouped and decided to go the Democrats one better. They determined to win at any cost, bought the Nelson Rockefeller blueprint for big government and now are on the way to elect Ogilvie to the governorship—and who knows maybe the presidency—with the blueprint of the enemy. What happened to our limited government, tax cuts and pro-private enterprise ideas?”

“I can believe it,” said Billy the Kid Stratton, two-time U. S. Congressman-at-Large, two-time state treasurer, two-term governor, who pushed for a more moderate but yes, somewhat bigger government without a machine, arguing that it would spawn corruption and ambitions that would detract from the central issue: his wish to continue to go to the top. “Ogilvie is far more liberal than I am. He wants to build what Daley has only better—or worse, I call it. I’m going to run against him in the Republican primary for governor in 1968.”

No, Bill, we said. We hate to hurt your feelings because you were a great governor—one of the best. But after all, you had Orville Hodge…

“Crap on that!” said Billy. “ I didn’t have Orville Hodge. He was elected on his own and was a crook on his own! As soon as I found out--.”

Bill, we begged, you’re giving the factually correct answer and you were reelected despite it—a marvelous achievement—but as we needn’t have to tell you, this is political perception.

“Crap on that!” said Billy. “I’ll dissuade them from that. I know more people in this state than Dick Ogilvie and Percy put together. I’ll go county-by-county!”

Bill, we pleaded, we’re saying this gently. You were indicted. True you beat the rap and were even praised by the judge on the case. But again, politics is perception.

“Crap on that too!” said Billy. “This world loves an underdog. I’ll show you what an underdog does and I’ll do it running against the machine builders. I fought Pump Room Pete just as my Dad fought Len Small…”

Bill, nobody remembers Pump Room Pete [machine-type governor Dwight H. Green] anymore.

“I’m doin’ it,” said Billy the Kid. “Everett will help me!”

And he did. Everett did not help him. But, don’t waste your breath arguing with one who has such ambition.

Now to Childe Chuck who was not part of the Ogilvie machine dream.

Having lost the governorship race in 1964 and being retired a multi-millionaire from Bell & Howell, Percy contented himself with being chairman of a private-sector venture operating in Chicago called “The New Illinois Committee” which was designed to whip up support for independent, non-governmental action in a number of areas. The committee did a number of worthwhile things but it was chiefly a way for the candidate to stay alive and in the news before undertaking a second attempt at public life, running for the Senate. For those to whom the disease of presidentialitis is new and related only to Barack Obama, it is instructive to note that in 1966 media were looking for all kinds of people other than Dick Nixon to run for president in the next two years. Anyone would do but at that point (pre-Ronald Reagan election as California governor) there were four principal choices which intrigued Republican liberals who wanted ABN: Anybody but Nixon. No Nixon fan, I was interested in another choice as well.

One was John Lindsay, the charismatic patrician Republican mayor of New York with room-temperature IQ albeit an eastern accent who was a dismal failure at urban leadership was nevertheless thin, with a movie-star’s lean chin, tousled blonde hair and pointed WASP nose: gorgeous at six-foot three walking down the street with shirt collar open, tie pulled down half-mast, coat tossed carelessly over his arm as a gang of young blacks strode with him, looking up expectantly at his brave young face expectantly as if viewing the Savior –a face which masked very little.

Lindsay was a product of the tony Upper East Side and was a Republican version of John Kennedy: big spending from his days in the House, a chemical, almost igniting attraction from women (which he fulsomely reciprocated, anticipated in the later production by Robert Redford of “The Candidate” where the man-of-destiny slips away from a heavy issues discussion to have a tryst with a very plain female hero-worshiper), who had a research department with a rolodex full of quotations ranging from Lord Byron to Ecclesiastes for use in ad-lib speeches: all the things that made for engrossing mid-`60s candidacies. Lindsay’s promise nowhere approached Obama’s but it was the same candidatorial sexiness built on white liberal guilt. The mainstream media insisted that only if the Republican party would become Kennedyesque would it deserve to be elected—and David Broder about whom an encyclopedia could be constructed detailing his majestic wrong-headedness would play this frequently. Contrast this face with that of the ogre-appearing, beetle-browed, jowly Dick Nixon with his blue jaw and deep-sunken eyes with pupils darting from scheming paranoia and it appeared to be no contest for either Lindsay or seemingly anyone else.

The second option for 1968 was an old one, tarnished, tainted—smart and street savvy--still somewhat vibrant in view of the Vietnam war woes: mentally tough if morally callous Governor Nelson (“Hi-ya, fella!”) Rockefeller, known as a legendary womanizer even before he left his homely, nice but stay-at-home wife for Happy Rockefeller (and who would suffer a heart attack in the arms of a young woman not his wife, his aide Megan Marschack, from the strenuous physical exertions of trying to re-live lost youth by making love to her at age 71; recovery could have been attained if he had prompt medical care for the heart attack but he convinced Marschack to dress him and get him to his own office so they could call the para-medics and he would salvage his respect: the fastidious delay killed him). He had not only abandoned his wife for a young married woman and had convinced Happy to leave her husband and four kids—an outrageous act of arrogant super-rich presumption…but in 1979 as an elderly ex-vice president with no hope of the presidency, left Happy and their small children after dinner with a thin excuse for a bit of adventure which his heart couldn’t stand.

But say what you want about Rockefeller with whom I talked several times personally when he would come to Minnesota—and watched up close when he tried to bargain Walter Judd into running for vice president with him in 1960—he was sure he knew what the nation needed in foreign-defense policy at the time and I’m not sure he wasn’t right;: a big national defense budget, a Rooseveltian determination to win in Vietnam because our international reputation was at stake whatever the cost and not search for a “way out.” Yes, he was a super-builder and advocate of big governmental infrastructure, born of the disdain for thrift that emanates from the legatees of the very rich.

With his personal woes, he was a long shot but, give the devil his due, there was something presidentially believable about him where you could believe he belonged in the White House. He would have given us a bigger government ala LBJ but on foreign-defense matters he was an unblushing patriot. And Megan Marschack is well-taken care of from benefactions from the Rockefeller estate which have made her super-rich; whenever she tells the estate lawyers she has a yen to write a memoir of her late love, she is considerably further enriched. Such are the benefits of the free market.

The third option by the mass-media for 1968 was Childe Percy…not then elected to anything but a “Life” magazine publicized wonder-boy, a smallish, athletically-built good-looking blond fellow—barrel-chested, strong as a horse--with a basso profundo voice who had a stunning resume beginning when he was born poor, taught scripture to kids at a Chicago Christian Scientist school, impressed a man who owned a small manufacturing company known as Bell & Howell, was hired by him, won an avalanche of military contracts during World War II, got exempt from entering the service because it was an essential industry, became a vice president at age 23 and CEO at 30.

Percy was a philosophical nihilist but super-salesman who had to hire University of Chicago profs to give him a political philosophy: which didn’t work out. He decided to be a liberal Republican and certain segments of the media thought it very appropriate to see Nixon challenged by a rags-to-riches entrepreneur who was well-liked by the East. But it would be more convenient for Percy to have been elected to something to be a viable candidate and he was determined to do so by defeating Paul Douglas for the Senate.

Thus, despite all the philosophical tutoring…and beyond his deep, resonant voice…Percy was a rudderless boat philosophically…unlike Nelson Rockefeller. Barry Goldwater didn’t read books, even the big one signed with his name but made conclusions from whatever nuance struck me as okay; Rockefeller read them and drew conclusions. Reagan read voraciously and believed strongly. Not Percy. He first agreed with Everett Dirksen in calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s reapportionment decision, then retracted it. He first agreed with conservatives that a fair employment practices program should be voluntary, then retracted it. He would steer first one way and then another in an effort to court contradictory waves of approval from conservative and liberal cross-currents. Beyond this nihilism, he was so impressed with Rockefellerian power that he ultimately found something to believe in: that it would be powerfully good to have one of his daughters marry into the Rockefeller clan—an obvious importuning stance of a supplicant salesman to the East.

All his life Percy played the role of the earnest young man seeking to be well-thought-of by the establishment. Now that the East was noticing him, he was so eager for that sector’s approval that to please the Eastern Seaboard and “The New York Times,” he rendered himself a near-political eunuch. Running for the Senate, he tailored his foreign policy speeches to the whims of the moment. Fearing to support more of a military build-up in Vietnam or a fast pull-out, his adviser, Bob Goldwin, a U of C Ph.D had devised something called “an All-Asian Peace Conference.” It was the purest hockum—rather like the current Iraq Study Group recommendation that we should sit down with Syria and build a consensus to get us out of Iraq. (A fourth option for the 1968 presidential nomination was George Romney, running for governor of Michigan but he was temporarily standing by to see what Rocky would do).

Percy was running against a man of granite-like integrity albeit old-fashioned liberalism with a fierce anti-Communist foreign policy, 74-year-old Sen. Paul Douglas. Douglas had been a member of the socialist party early in life but changed to the Democratic, had a doctorate in economics, had pulled strings with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to be allowed to volunteer at age 51 for the Marines in World War II and had been grievously wounded by machine-gun fire to the point where his left arm was nothing more than a paper-weight. He was probably the first legislative environmentalist of the mid-20th century and on the subject of Vietnam, he was a steadfast supporter of winning the damned thing. It was no secret that Everett Dirksen, never close to Douglas, admired his constancy on Vietnam hugely and regarded Percy as a public relations creation. Even Billy the Kid, former two-term governor, twice congressman-at-large and twice state treasurer Bill Stratton, admired Douglas.

When he would have lunch, Stratton would say: “I hate to think of Paul Douglas leaving the Senate. I know Paul dislikes me for having defeated his wife [Emily Taft Douglas, as congresswoman-at-large] but I believe Paul is a great man. And frankly, I don’t think Chuck for all his good points is anything more than a media creation. But, of course, I will support Chuck. Why I don’t know, he has this aura of being a future president. God, I don’t see it but I’ll play along. Are we at a point where being good looking is at it takes? Thank God for the secrecy of the ballot is all I can say.”

The prospect of being mentioned so often for president was both blessing and liability to Percy. The Illinois public began to sniff raw ambition without much substance except corporate p. r. and generalizations. The rumor started in 1960 when he was platform chairman for the GOP convention but was booted because the Ike and Nixon people deduced rightly he was in the sack with Rockefeller. It crested in 1964 when he ran for governor. How he got the party nod was due to death. There was little chance he would be the party favorite for governor when he started out. That was to be the venerable secretary of state, Charles Carpentier, a dinosaur Republican who made Charlie Barr look like a liberal. But Carpentier had a heart attack. Both State Treasurer Bill Scott, a Goldwater-type from Evanston (known as Fancy Billy) and Percy raced to the hospital to get Carpentier’s blessing.

Unaccountably, Carpentier blessed Percy and died immediately thereafter: although the joke was that Percy stood on his air hose until the old man gasped his endorsement. Scott ran against Percy for the nomination anyhow, but entered too late with too little money: although he was a Goldwater candidate (Scott) versus a liberal Republican (Percy). Charlie Barr through his energies into Scott’s campaign, turning out a broadside chiding Percy’s liberality and eastern seaboard intonation: “Mercy, Mr. Percy!” (More about Scott at a future time). Percy won the nomination for governor easily.

Then the “Chicago Daily News” ran running stories saying that election to the governorship of Illinois would be duck soup for a patronizing young man who wanted more than anything else to use the office to run for president. This was hideously bad for him. People began speculating that he would use the governorship as a stepping stone. Then the presidency as a stepping-stone. To what? President of the UN General Assembly? Pope? Then there was the same kind of backlashes against him that are surfacing now (courtesy of Hillary Clinton’s subterfuge) against Obama. Not scandals—just questions. (About Obama they wonder if he was ever a Muslim as a child since his father was one and his mother married an Indonesian the second time around who likely was a Muslim. If, so, Muslim rule dictates that once a Muslim always one, that Muslims regard them as Muslims always. Obama is a member of the Church of Christ, a Unitarian church but Hillary-inspired questions ask: is he? Was he ever? Would Muslims attack, maybe kill him, for being a backslider?) But back to Percy.

Serious religious questions like the ones dogging Obama followed Percy and some were perplexing. Here was a supposedly devout Christian-Scientist who was wearing a hearing aid. One who dosed himself as we all do whenever he got a cold. Simple enough but what did that portend? No faith in the healing power of God? Then, why didn’t he quit the religion? If he were to turn to the church’s fundamentalist tenets, be elected president and got ill—or worse, got shot—what would he do: pray for healing? Turn doctors away? How would his religious views affect HEW? U. S. health research? It is amazing to consider that these issues were of major importance to the Illinois media then—but they were…almost as ridiculous as the furor over a half-black, half-white ex-state senator barely two years into a Senate term being seen as Destiny’s Tot for president—but then Hillary Clinton’s emissaries ala Harold Ickes, Jr. was not feeding questions to the media about Percy as he is surreptitiously about Obama.

Unbridled speculation about his undeniably lust for the presidency when he ran for governor in 1964, troubled Childe Chuck because, of course, they were true —a terrible thing to contemplate that the media had gotten him just right. So to chuck it (parody noted) he gave instructions to his staff—including Tom Houser, a friend of mine who was running his campaign—that by all means any intimation that governor-candidate Percy was running for president was to be ended with firm, hot, even vehement denials.

Houser and Percy both began by spreading the word in the 1964 governorship campaign that the idea of Percy using the governorship to run for president eventually was preposterous. But the story didn’t play. One look at Percy sidelining around, practicing with a speech coach to give his voice a kind of Kennedyesque lilt, was sufficient to dissuade any reporter. So in the middle of the governorship campaign, Tom Houser appeared on “City Desk,” an NBC Sunday morning television program and was asked by Len O’Connor the inevitable question: “Tom, isn’t it clear that Chuck Percy is interested in running for president in the future and not governor and that this future is preoccupying him and all of you? Isn’t this a trial run for president?”

Whereupon Houser drew himself up importantly with mock anger and banged his fist on the studio desk. “I tell you, Len, I know Chuck Percy well and I can tell you authoritatively that he is interested in only one thing—and that is running for the post of GOVERNOR OF THE UNITED STATES!” Percy kicked him back at the mansion after the show but not long later the candidate for governor said: “I want to go to the White House in Springfield!” No use; it was ambition runamok.

Well, Houser more than anyone else blew it on TV and in 1964, a terrible Republican year, Percy lost governor of Illinois and with it an immediate chance to be governor of the United States. Now, running for the Senate, he was suddenly much more interested in propagating the future president story because in those days the Senate was seen more right for the presidency: JFK, LBJ etc.

That was because the fourth option for 1968, from the Midwest, would likely trump Percy’s ace it allowed to go unchecked: George Romney of Michigan, elected in 1963 and by now—1966—seen in exactly the same terms as Percy was regarded…(and, if truth be known, the way Barack Obama is seen by idolaters: someone not hitched to old partisan bromides, someone with a fresh approach to the bickering divisions of Congress, someone exciting enough to spur enthusiasm for the life he has lived before politics: successful leadership of American Motors…or, in Obama’s case, exotic romantic, almost poetic, mooning over the ineffable meaning of his lost father with the guilty white liberals yearning to redeem themselves for sins against black slaves they never owned. Still Romney himself didn’t really ring presidential and no one knew why. Later they found out when Romney admitted he was “brain-washed” by the Pentagon on Vietnam. Eugene McCarthy, that delicious cynic responded that Romney didn’t need brain-washing but merely a light rinse would have done the job.) That spelled it exactly: Romney seemed light—and was. So did Percy with his affectations.

Billy the Kid Stratton and I saw the Percy race in exactly the same context. A lot of hooey with “All Asian Peace Conference” hype against Douglas who was resolute enough to stand for victory in Vietnam no matter what the popular drift of sentiment. It was not entirely clear that Percy would win until September 16, 1966 when an intruder broke into the Percy mansion in Kenilworth from the Lake Michigan side with class cutters and murdered one of Percy’s twin beautiful socialite daughters, Valierie and clean got away with the murder. A dog was on the premises but did not get disturbed.

The enormity and horror of the murder ended the campaign. Percy captured national attention with the murder and after a decent interval returned to the campaign—but Paul Douglas’ hope of getting reelected was ended. No one in the Percy campaign tried to capitalize on the horror nor did the Douglas campaign try to minimize it. It just was over. No one ever found the murderer. Lorraine Percy heard a sound coming from Valerie’s room (Chuck was hard-of-hearing). She entered the room, saw the bloody body of Valerie and for a moment glimpsed the bushy-haired assailant before he ran.

The “Sun-Times” came out with a composite drawing of a man seen around the premises that night—a drawing made from the description of Lorraine Percy who had glimpsed him in the dark before he bolted out the glass door. The drawing that emerged looked astoundingly just like a campaign staffer I and others knew well who had been dating Valerie and who was so familiar a visitor to the Percy mansion during the campaign that it was assumed he was a favored suitor. But Valerie evidently broke it off with him. That made it worse. He was questioned and after a long time, exonerated. Later there were stories of people who had been arrested and in jail who had talked about murdering the girl—and, indeed, one had been killed in a subsequent jail break. But no one on whom the murder could be pinned definitively was ever found.

Percy was elected to the Senate on a note of somber triumph overshadowed by the family’s grief. Sadly, Paul Douglas for all practical purposes was not heard from again with any meaningful impact. Later, Sharon Percy, the surviving twin, married Jay Rockefeller, fulfilling what was thought to be Percy’s great hope of a linkage between his family and the dynastic Rockefellers. There is no doubt that the marriage of the daughter of a kid from Rogers Park who, more than anything else wanted to move up, to a Rockefeller, was a source of enormous satisfaction to Childe Chuck.

I had never before met one who so flawlessly adapted the language and attitudes of the socially liberal rich despite his not being from that lineage than he. One time on a Saturday night, I went over to his mansion on a delivery mission—just delivering a letter and a huge check from a political benefactor who didn’t want it to be mailed. I gave it to Percy and waited in the luxurious front room from a swim in adjoining Lake Michigan, toweled himself athletically and, properly tanned, attired in swimming trunks, crossed his legs and scribbled a thank-you. Then, addressing his wife Lonnie who was upstairs, he lifted his head, turned to the stairway and intoned: “Dah-ling would you want to bathe now and get it underway so we can get going to this engagement? I believe I will bathe later after I finish this writing for Tom.” You bathe and I will bathe later? Huh? What kind of language is that but the affectation of one born poor to be like the very rich?

As he wrote the note I wondered: how would I, coming from a very middle class, face-it, somewhat low-middle-class Depression-era Chicago orientation just as had Percy…how would I have said this? “Hon, why don’t you start getting ready, take a bath whatever you have to do so we can zoom out of here soon?” or the very insolent: “Hey, let’s go baby—chop-chop!” (In response to which she’d chop-chop me). But have I made the point? If not, skip it.

“I doubt if Percy would have been elected except for the murder,” said Billy the Kid to me at lunch not long after the election. “And the unresolved mystery of it leads to all kinds of unhealthy speculation as to what happened to her.” True enough but despite terrific exertions from law enforcement, no solution has been advanced. Now at age 88, Percy’s face is lined but still lean and tanned, his hair has greyed but his body is supple and taut, his heart, lungs strong as a horse—but, alas, he is lost in a fog of Alzheimer’s. Pray for him; that’s the one blow I pray doesn’t hit me; I’m somewhat ready for all else. (That’s one reason I do this writing if you must know: I read somewhere that writing, editing, revising keeps the brain molecules perking. This means you have to endure this self-therapy.)


Quaker had long needed a community relations program that would typify its earnest participation…not just as a funder…but as an involved corporation in the life of the city. Therefore, in 1966 I began a volunteer tutoring program, enlisting employees of the company who wished to participate, in their off-hours. The only thing the Company did was to hire a bus to take these volunteers each Thursday evening after work to the Harold L. Ickes public housing project on the South Side of the city. The rest was pure individual commitment to help poor kids.

It was a simple enough thing and a contribution by individual employees almost solely—but in 1966 with the civil rights struggle raging, the prospect of middle-class employees, whites as well as blacks, not top executives but managers, secretaries and professionals volunteering their time was a significant enough novelty that the word got around in the corporate community. The biggest reward was not in any notoriety or acclaim the corporation received (scarcely a newspaper or TV station noticed or cared). The reward was the leavening, the sensitizing of middle-level employees to the needs of the inner-city poor. It was heartening to all to be on the bus when it pulled into the parking lot and see the kids eagerly waiting for us to come with their pencils and books ready for learning.

From this came great internal dividends to the Company. I remember one young secretary who grew so close to her young charges that she posted their photos at her desk and importuned her bosses to join her, which some did. I remember a Employee Relations psychological tester taking his testing materials to the housing project and testing the kids when the program started and again when it ended temporarily at the end of the year—with the findings showing that no fewer than 74% of the children showed marked increases in reading rate and comprehension simply because of the personal attention the children received. There were some heartaches as well. My own charge was a young 8-year-old named Malcolm Holcomb who eagerly showed up every Thursday but unaccountably disappeared and the chaotic nature of his non-family was no help in locating him.

The tutoring program led to a deeper realization of the inherent problems of a society that was unequal. It was a boon particularly to Quakers who were unmarried and had missed out on family. It was a boon, too, as an salutary influence on the senior officers. Bob Thurston, my boss, was, of course, so thoroughly supportive that he made my work easy but I remember other byproducts. One executive secretary, single, Pauline Marks, secretary to a executive vice president brought the experience to her boss whom she had served for many years to the point where, almost like a wife, she would goad him to do certain things. He came to appreciate what we were doing and brought it to the board room as did my boss Bob Thurston who gave me valuable counsel. Bob Stuart would accompany us every so often—but not so often as to overshadow the others.

Tutoring sensitized Quaker energized the company for future actions. Of course in the short range, it made instant phony, short-range liberals of many: but that didn’t last long as the vacuity of liberalism was supplanted by down-to-earth recognition that there was more than discrimination against skin pigmentation here. Family disintegration was at the heart of ghetto poverty—and remains so today. Massive funding from local, state and federal agencies cannot solve poverty caused by single-parent households. Restoring the solidity of the family must come from other sources than the public treasury.

Some Quaker tutors, I among them, accepted the children’s invitations to visit their apartments. We visited gingerly. We all recognized the unutterable nature of family disintegration that made for the poverty. In one apartment where I visited with the child successor of Malcolm Holcomb, it turned out there were a group of adults living there and the child had no clear recognition of who was his mother, who was his father…if any were. A young woman he interpreted as his sister—barely 15—was, in fact, his mother and he did not know it. A mature woman of 40 whom he believed was his mother was not, but his grandmother.

With few men and they drifting like shadows during the night (illustrating the utter failure of many males to win female respect in that environment) it was a matriarchy assuredly with the child bereft of any understanding of belonging. There was no order there, no regular hours for meals. A pot of oatmeal, stew and other foods was simmering on the stove and whenever anyone got hungry, they would go over to the stove and spoon up something to eat. There was no regular family, no regularity whatsoever. Ministers in the storefronts were, more than not, exploiters who palmed off the poor with oracular preachments that if they would contribute there would be a pie in the sky when they die. Precinct captains hustled. Some public housing cops had eyes for the young female…and some male…kids. Murders happened every night. Prostitution and drug dealing were rife.

The matriarchy, often with no set time for meals wasn’t the case in all households but in enough that it gave me serious pause. Accordingly, I got permission from my bosses to start a Quaker nutrition education program without benefit of product overtone…hiring a wise, street-savvy but compassionate, black woman skilled in cooking…to impart the most basic elements to residents of Ickes: a regular time for meals; insistence on the washing of hands and sanitation; a visit to the grocery store to instruct the women there how to buy nutritious foods at low cost; a how-to course in food preparation; a how-to course in simple health maintenance. Gradually the story got round that Quaker was doing things that other companies might want to imitate.

The high-point for me with the program came two years after tutoring started, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. The black areas of Chicago were in chaos and Thursday night came when we were supposed to be bused to Ickes for tutoring. Some in the company argued that to show up would put our employees in grave danger as there were shootings throughout the city. I held a meeting on the day before—Wednesday—and gave the tutor participants the option of deciding whether or not to go, hoping inwardly they would agree to take the chance. There was general mulling of the question.

Then Connie Stewart, a middle-aged, conservative, unmarried white lady who was a stenographer in the Law Department, stood up and asked: “What will they think of us if we don’t show up? What will the children think? I for one cannot let them down. I will go there regardless—if you have a bus or not.” Of course all the men then chorused that they would go with her. Everyone voted to go. So just a few days after the assassination when many sections of the city were showing spot fires and gunfire, we boarded the bus and rolled into the Ickes parking lot.

The children were there to greet us—a few with their single mothers while the shadowy males hung around in the background, watching curiously. Connie Stewart looked at us as we dismounted the bus and said, “Can you imagine how these kids would feel if we had not come—and they were out here with their books?” We wept at the prospect—and I must say unashamedly. As we walked down the long sidewalk to the housing project, veritable walking ducks at night with the lights of the high rise burning and people hanging out the windows, many of us were ready to jump at the first sound of gunfire. There was none. And the tutoring project existed for many years as a symbol of Quaker compassion—not the only symbol…which was bolstered by wise philanthropy and improved hiring practices as implemented by my boss…but a symbol of individual employee concern for the poor which to my mind has been unduplicated.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Personal Asides: Thanks and Congratulations to the Roosevelt U All-Star Faculty…More Photos from the Album—Andrew Young.

Roosevelt U. All Stars!

The weekly Roosevelt University class “Influencing the System” is completed and I want to thank (a) all those who attended and those who sponsored some who attended…Frank Nofsinger and Tom Reedy, Jr. come to mind…and the all-star faculty that delivered a first-rate education on public policy formation. The faculty honor role:

State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock); Alderman Bernie Stone [50th]; Dan Miller, business editor for the “Chicago Sun-Times”; U. S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL); U. S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson (D-IL); Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke; Dan Proft, Republican strategist; State Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago); State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale); Ron Gidwitz, former chairman of Helene Curtis and a Republican candidate for governor in the March primary; Becky Carroll, spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

Philip Rock, former president of the Illinois State Senate (D); William Bauer, Judge of the 7th District U. S. Court of Appeals, former U. S. district judge; former U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and former DuPage county states attorney. Peter Fitzgerald, former U. S. Senator from Illinois; Tom Dart, Sheriff of Cook county; Dick Devine, States Attorney of Cook county; John Kass, columnist for the “Chicago Tribune”; Jack Roeser, CEO of Otto Manufacturing, Carpentersville and chairman, Family Taxpayers of Illinois.

Rich Miller, editor, “Capitol Fax” and; Phil Rogers, reporter, WMAQ-TV Channel 5-NBC; Roseanna Pulido, president, Illinois Minutemen; Frank Avila, Jr. lawyer and former Democratic candidate for Metropolitan Water Commissioner; Greg Baise, president-Illinois Manufacturers Association, former patronage chief for Governor Jim Thompson and 1984 Illinois campaign manager for Ronald Reagan; Mike Noonan, Roosevelt Group lobbyist and former campaign manager for Todd Stroger and Lisa Madigan; Clifford Kelley, radio talk show host on WVON and former alderman.

My deepest thanks to those who made this possible: Herbert Franks, Woodstock; State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), father and son and my dear friends; Dr. Paul Green, political science and boss extraordinaire, the very cooperative people at Roosevelt; to Mark McGuire who tirelessly served as my personal assistant.

Andrew Young

This photo was taken some fifteen years ago in Chicago when former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young came here for a fund-raiser preparatory to his running for governor of Georgia. Andy Young had been especially close to The Quaker Oats Company; at the suggestion of my boss, Bob Thurston, we made a documentary film of his first run for public office in 1972 when he became the first black man to be elected to the U. S. House from the deep south in one hundred years. The film was entitled (at Bob Thurston’s suggestion) “From King to Congress” and traced the steps of this then young African American from civil rights days to his election.

At each step of the way, I remained close to him notwithstanding that we disagreed…and still do...on some issues—but the basic decency, wit and profundity of Andy Young made him a pleasure to work with. He was a key factor for my getting the berth as a Fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard, by writing a letter in my behalf that baffled Dr. Janet Kearns Goodwin, then the gatekeeper at the Kennedy School. She was convinced Teddy Kennedy would veto me but after he and I spent an hour laughing at old Dirksen stories, I was in with the imprimatur from the Kennedy patriarch himself and Ms. Goodwin flounced away in a huff.

As ambassador to the United Nations, Andy Young flew to Cambridge, Massachusetts to appear as a guest lecturer at my class at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard. I don’t remember Dr. Goodwin being there although Richard Neustadt was; but she couldn’t resist auditing the course when Vito Marzullo spoke. When Andy came, we had to move the class to the main auditorium at Harvard to accommodate the overflow of people, including the Black Students Society of Harvard and Radcliffe as well as the president of Harvard.

To those liberals who wondered what Andy, Quaker or I have in common, he opened up the Harvard lecture by saying: “Beats me! It all started when I went to the supermarket near my house to buy a package of Quaker Oats and Roeser calls me! Everything good happened to me after that!” I must say that Andy has been a statesman of the civil rights movement and has never stooped to demagogic extremes or, for that matter, resorted to rhyming iambic pentameter heroic couplets during his speeches which has been very refreshing.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Personal Aside: A Photo from the Past. Long Past.

Here from the archives is a photo that shows what a number of us looked like thirty years ago. It was taken in Washington at a seminar put on by Paul Weyrich, an intellectual leader of the conservative movement who is seated at the far right. Weyrich was the first president of the Heritage Foundation and gave the Republican party a refreshing burst of integrity with Heritage and with his own organization, the Free Congress Foundation. A tragic confluence of circumstances, accident and ill-health, caused surgeons to amputate both of Paul’s legs—but today he is still running things with his acerbic wit and intellectual hardihood intact.

At the other end of the picture is a young man you have seen repeatedly on national television: Mort Kondracke, then of the “Sun-Times” and now the editor of t he prestigious Capitol Hill newspaper “Roll Call” and a regular commentator on Fox News. Mort tragically lost his beloved wife to advanced Parkinson’s a few years ago. He is now more properly aligned with centrist politics and commentary rather than liberal reporting and is an expert on foreign and defense policy.

And who is that rabble-rouser with tie askew and shockingly dark, reddish hair? It was in the `70s era where the Republican party thought it had nowhere to go but down. Nixon and Watergate had happened; Jimmy Carter had re-taken parts of the South; Gerald Ford was retired and only a few old horses remained to be considered for the future…one of whom was an oldster then serving as governor of California. We were talking at that panel about a favorite subject of mine: how movements…be they civil rights…peace…labor…have shaped our politics—and I was saying something Paul Weyrich agreed with: that if somehow religious people could find a political leader to galvanize their views on social and moral issues as well as foreign policy anent Communism, we just might win.