Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The U.S.: Puritan or Pornographer? The Economist Weighs In

The Economist, the best weekly newsmagazine out there, has an interesting article on how the U.S. is producing anti-Americanism by supporting two rival industries: the industry of Puritanism that springs from the nation’s deep-rooted spiritual commitment and the industry of Pornography, stemming from the work of Hollywood and other culture cesspools which serves to debase the public taste. The puritanical streak, the magazine says, engenders a kind of crusade that threatens the Muslims.

The magazine is half-right. We have a lot to atone for in the dissemination of foul culture which we purvey throughout the world. By reacting to this the Muslims are indubitably right. I have real doubts whether Islam believes we are on a Crusade to convert it. The crusader effort began in 1095 and ended in 1250, the last crusader cities falling to the Muslims in 1291. The Economist has a fashionably scoffing attitude concerning religious belief, linking its distaste for anti-abortion and support of gay rights to archaic legacies from Christianity. We’re going to have to do much more than shuck our Christian ideals to convince the Muslims we’re o.k. When the tsunami hit South Asia in 2004, Colin Powell said confidently that the aid we would give to countries hit by the devastation could encourage them to like us better.

However it didn’t register with South Africa’s mufti Ebrahim Desai, the celebrity of “Ask the Imam” on a Muslim website. A questioner asked if the West deserved any praise at all from Muslims for sending troops to Bosnia and condemning the killing of Muslims elsewhere. The Imam’s answer: “In simple, the uffaar [unbelievers] can never be trusted for any possible good they do. They have their own interest at heart.” Was it just his opinion? Well, no. The Qur’an tells believers not to “take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers. If any do that, in nothing will there be any help from Allahl; except by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves from them” [Qur’an 3:28]. This from a book by Islam historian Robert Spencer whose work was greeted by RevivingIslam.com with this nice statement: “May Allah rip out his spine from his back and split his brains in two, and then put them both back and then do it over and again. Amen.”

Aren’t There More Issues Obama Can Solve?

barack obama
The gushing, white liberal-guilty Sun-Times obviously believes freshman Democratic Senator Barack Obama, elevated to guru status for being a Senator While Black, can solve all pesky national and international issues with the snap of a finger. Already its headlines proclaim that he has declared definitively, ex cathedra, on the matters of global warming, the NSA with Valerie Plame and Scooter Libby, nuke plant inspections, ports. Aren’t there any more questions he can resolve for the Sun-Times?

What about the firing of Lawrence Summers as president of Harvard?

The decision of the Wall Street Journal to trim its page size by December 31? Intelligent Design? The dialectic between Paramenides and and Melissus in ancient Greece? The tiff between the White Sox’s Kenny Williams and the Big Hurt? Whether Cardinal George should resign over the Father Dan McCormack matter? Whether Daniel Barenboim has disrespected the Jewish tradition by conducting the anti-Semitic Wagner in Austria last year? How to deal with bird flu H5N1 found in Asia? Whether it a grand jury should have indicted gumshoe Anthony Pellicano for tapping the phone of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, the former tennis pro who is demanding $320,000 a month in child support from Kirk Kerkorian, the octogenarian billionaire?

Perhaps you can think of other issues Obama can solve as he leans toward 2008. Write them in Readers’ Comments.

A (Very) Modest Proposal and a Rejoinder

As his 95th birthday approached, Chicago’s most revered priest, Msgr. Ignatius McDermott told me (as we sat eating corned beef sandwiches at Manny’s) that he believed priesthood students should not be allowed to enter the seminary until they were in their late 20s. He did not elucidate beyond saying that they would be more mature then. As he wished to say nothing more, I pondered the reason why as we ate—and came to the conclusion that he meant several things. First, yes undeniably men are more mature than when they usually decide to go into the priesthood which, in pre-divinity, is high school (Quigley). Secondly, and this may well be what he meant, there should be a time when they have lived a little bit—dated, certainly. Then I remembered that in his era, priests and nuns came through Catholic schools and all but picked the smartest boys for the priesthood—the picking being touted as an honor to devout Catholic families where there was subtle encouragement to follow the wishes of “Father” (who was better educated and certainly more devout than the congregation).

I’ve thought about this often ever since. McDermott was a priest’s priest, one who not only was a model but an exemplar of compassion and feeling for the downtrodden. But since he was put on a course to the priesthood at age 14, perhaps he had misgivings that he should have started his trek at an older age. Certainly the immaturity and undefined sexuality that underscores many priests today—and in particular those caught up in sexual scandals—would argue against a later time. But more significant, I believe, a matter of choice given to those who are serious about the priesthood.

I have felt for a long time that celibacy should be voluntary. That’s not as draconian as it sounds. As all Catholics know, celibacy is not essential to the priesthood (as is the male nature of the priesthood). Peter was married (in fact Christ healed his mother-in-law) and for centuries, Catholic priests were allowed to marry. Some early popes were married and celibacy for the Latin (Western) rite did not become mandatory until the early Middle Ages. The Greek (Eastern) rite, still in communion with Rome, still allows priests to marry (in fact a friend of mine, married and the father of five, is a pastor nearby). Celibacy is not a prescribed rule without which one cannot be a priest, but is a discipline. The argument since Gregory VII is that celibacy is not necessary to fulfill the priesthood, is a disciplinary not doctrinal, injunction but is a discipline one should be prepared to undergo in order to be a better priest. There are auxiliary reasons. A man who has the responsibility of supporting a family regards this as his first task—not the priesthood. Yet, marriage was never regarded as second to celibacy. It is a sacrament of equal worth to Holy Orders.

The changing times and the base culture of our times would warrant—to me, at least—that celibacy should be voluntary. By this I don’t mean that those who skipped out of the priesthood to marry should be invited back—not at all…but that those who would qualify to be good priests should not be forbidden to marry. There will always be those who wish not to marry and want to put the priesthood first—they should be honored. But increasingly I am concerned that many who enter the priesthood do not view celibacy as a sacrifice—rather than an opportunity to associate with men. And that’s wrong. A distinguished priest I visited with once said that when he interviews prospective candidates, he asks them if they feel they can live with celibacy. Those who say full-heartedly that they can, he doubts very much, because he very strongly wanted to marry and have a family but put God first. I feel that many if not most of the priests who have erred have not felt this way.

Likewise, he would quite probably feel disadvantaged personally if the rule were to change. Here he made a tremendous sacrifice for the love of God and now it’s optional to allow those who put marriage and family equal to the priesthood can be satisfied. He has a very good point. But the decline of the priesthood is a very serious problem with the church as is the need to interfere with what I call the Lavender priesthood—men who if not actively performing homosexuality have a strong inclination to it.

Now is the time to clear up, I think, the difference between celibacy and chastity. Erasmus wrote that not all celibates are chaste and not all chaste persons are celibate. Chastity can be pursued in both married and single lives. Celibacy requires a person refrain from marriage and, therefore, sexual intercourse. Chastity requires a permanent change of character that disposes one to maintain a reasonable moderation in everything pertaining to the passion of lust. Remember that the greatest of saints experienced carnality, witness Augustine’s famous prayer when he was a young man-about-Rome: O Lord, make me chaste but not right now!

You have the opportunity to make me smarter—and right now by giving your views on this in Readers’ Comments. It would be helpful if you say whether or not you’re Catholic…but Catholic, Protestant, Jew or pagan, go right ahead…or rather write ahead. Would it be prudent to support celibacy being made a voluntary option for priests?

Today’s the Last Day to Get in on the Big GOP Lt. Gov Debate.

...at the City Club. Now that Diersen and I have pushed the Club to put it on, we only have 12 people coming, which is less than the number attending the Last Supper. Get up a party and swell the ranks at Maggiano’s at noon on March 1. Call for reservations at the Club at (312) 565-6500. Now!

I’m Sorry, Eric

...I was wrong and unfair to the Tribune by forgetting that it and you have done a lot to push an answer to the $10 million pro-bono deal from Thompson. Yes, I’d like to play your end-of-the-month game but am too stupid to understand what I have to do (call or write me).

Political Shootout Next Sunday: Forrest Claypool vs. Paul Caprio.

Guests on Political Shootout next Sunday (WLS-AM: 8:00 p.m.) will be Forrest Claypool, a Democratic candidate for the Cook county board and Paul Caprio, director of Family Pac, and a leading social conservative.

This Sunday’s performance by Ron Gidwitz, a Republican candidate for governor and Democratic strategist Mike Noonan convinced me that we could do a whole lot worse than having Gidwitz as governor—and in some aspects we couldn’t do better. In fact, I would wager that he could easily be the least politically self-protective, cautious and timid about cutting the budget of all the Republican candidates, impressing me that with the $100 million he has from Helene Curtis and the—what would you guess?--$400 million or so that his wife has as the daughter of Jim Kemper, that he would take great risks to do the right thing, even if he were to mean that he would serve only one term. To Ron, the challenge is not just being elected but being remembered as a great governor. He has improved his communication skills enormously from the last time he was on the program. He is still uncharismatic and nothing can change that but he may well have mastered the Dick Ogilvie knack of capitalizing on his non-charisma.

To those of my fellows who worry about his social views, I would say he’s not nearly as socially liberal as either Rod Blagojevich, Eddie Eisendrath or Judy Baar Topinka. He’s against partial birth abortion, would not be caught dead in a gay rights parade. He impresses me very much with his candor, his willingness to admit that yes, he was an insider for many years, and precisely because of that he knows the territory sufficiently well to be able to clean it up. After all, you don’t ask a minister to clean up a bawdy house, do you? At one or two points he was not particularly forthcoming but he was on Kjellander. With respect to his not remembering whether or not he gave $20,000 to George Ryan and to Daley, I suppose when you have that much money you can easily lose track. I tried to hit him with tough questions—to-wit:

o You voted for Kjellander as National Committeeman at the State convention. Yep.
o You asked for Kjellander’s support early in this race with the admonition that both of you would keep it quiet. No.
o You won’t reveal the names of investors or profits you have made from the public housing—some say slum—that you run in Joliet.

It is no slum, there are no or very slight profits. If the city of Joliet would get out of the way we could release everything. They’re blocking us.

o You gave Mayor Daley hefty contributions. Yeah, at the behest of my wife [here she nodded vigorously] and I don’t remember how much.
o Do you think Joe Birkett is in a conflict of interest by prosecuting the toll-way I-Pass responders deal in which IGOR gave large sums to Blagojevich and was rewarded by ever-spiraling state contracts—since Joe is a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor?

Yes. [Here Democrat Noonan says no]

* Do you think that Edward McNally, the acting U.S. attorney in Southern Illinois who testified as a defense witness for George Ryan is in conflict of interest? Yes, absolutely.

* Would you irrevocably declare against a tax hike now? Nope but I can’t see any reason for a hike.
* Do you think Gov. Blagojevich is right by pushing legislation to force Topinka to release hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen funds for unpaid medical bills? Nope. There are other ways to pay those bills.
* Do you think an adviser to Louis Farrakhan belongs on the governor’s hate crime panel? Absolutely not.
* Where do you come down with respect to Bush’s port deal? In favor and I think the 45-day delay will help get it through.

In addition, I met for the first time his wife, Christina Kemper Gidwitz who is a real charmer and I can understand why in her day she was a model often for the cover of Vogue. In essence, those who say the GOP is on its last legs don’t understand that a party that can muster such excellent candidates as Oberweis, Brady and Gidwitz (sorry, Judy) is far from being sick unto death.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Coming Soon in this Place: Candidate Endorsements for the March Primary

That’s where I make permanent enemies—but, take heart, those who don’t make out, a no endorsement can be seen as a virtue, especially in so-called “moderate” districts. You can advertise that you’re unblemished, unbought, unbossed and un-Roeser’ed. But my history has not been resolutely one-party, just socially conservative. In Minnesota, pre-Roe v. Wade, I was a good friend of Gene McCarthy, an admirer of Hubert Humphrey (his style if not his substance). In this state I voted for Democrat Glenn Poshard for governor. I only voted for Chuck Percy twice (once for governor in `64, once for the Senate in 1966 which was probably a mistake but the aging Paul Douglas, whom I regarded as integrity itself, had the annoying habit of nodding off in public meetings. On socially conservative grounds I voted for Democrat Roman Pucinski against Percy in 1972, for conservative Republican Tom Corcoran against him in the primary of 1978 and for Democrat Alex Seith in the general. I never voted for Jim Thompson—casting my ballot for Democrat Mike Howlett the first go-round, skipping the next three.

For the March 21 primary, I intend to endorse for governor only in the Republican category and with rare exceptions will stay within the party’s borders. Then there will be the congressional races. If, perchance, you want to see where I come out in legislative contests, please indicate by corresponding with the Readers Comments box. Yes, you can lobby for your own wishes there, too.

The Unanswered Question: What’s Thompson Get Out of This?

I must say that if we had a good investigative press—or even a reasonably curious one—we would be deluged with questions concerning the multi-million-dollar pro-bono defense of George Ryan by Jim Thompson and Winston & Strawn. Thompson put his ace rain-maker, Dan Webb on the case and he’s been working virtually full-time for at least a year—without remuneration. Which means that the partners have had their pay trimmed proportionately. My question is: what’s Thompson’s interest in all this. Oh, I don’t mean the fact that he’s a good friend of George’s. I mean: what does George have on Thompson to have placed at his disposal the massive resources of a major law-firm, free?

Any good government idea that Jim Thompson is an idealist and wishes to pursue the unblemished nuances of the law ended during Big Jim’s 4-term reign as governor when he followed the lifestyle of Suleiman the Magnificent, building that taxpayer-funded god-awful glass menagerie called The Thompson Center, supporting each and every item of the liberal Democratic agenda, promising no new taxes and cynically reneging after election ending up with the strange court decision rendered by Seymour Simon’s son that ended any possibility of a recount on the election he narrowly won from Adlai Stevenson III, wherein even Jane Byrne told me that in the 5,000-vote margin, the election could easily have been stolen. Further, any view that Thompson is ethically unchallengeable must have died with the humiliating laxity he displayed as chief of the audit committee at Hollinger where he signed off on every Conrad Black wish, enjoying hugely as he did the schmoozing of Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle, his board-mates.

The latest episode with the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois testifying for George Ryan without notifying anyone that he owes a debt to Winston & Strawn was ignored by everybody except the Tribune’s John Kass. Frankly, Chicago’s media has performed much better on other things than it has on this. Ladies and gentlemen of the so-called independent media, this has looked like a massive impropriety for a long time. Unless you have been suffocated by the charm of Big Jimbo, if there isn’t an answer made to this million-dollar-plus donation of corporate in kind support Mother Teresa-like by Jim for George, there ought at least to be some recitation of it in the public prints. At the least there ought to be some estimate on how much Dan Webb would have charged plus the auxiliary legal services. Good God, questions should be asked, don’t you think?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chicago Cathedral Demonstration Backs Embattled Cardinal

{Note: This is another news analysis in The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest national Catholic newspaper. As many of you may have seen in the “Readers’ Comments” on this blog, a good friend, Loyola University associate professor of theology—probably the only truly authenticist theologian at the University, frequent breakfast partner and lively conversationalist Sundays after mass at St. John Cantius--Dr. Dennis Martin, has taken serious issue with me for publishing these articles which can be viewed as critical of the Cardinal. He says I should make my views known privately to the Cardinal and not by these articles. Thus he maintains I bring harm to the church. That, to me, an orthodox believer, is a serious charge and gives me pause. But to me, the fact that the Cardinal himself says he has erred justifies these reports. As a convert, Dennis believes, strongly, that the faithful can be scandalized and some can be estranged by too public a criticism of some bishops. I think I’ll have to take my chances in the Hereafter since I believe strongly that people in the pews should have a voice in the struggle for reform, which, to my mind, these articles illustrate. You should know that of all the newspapers in the nation—religious and secular—The Wanderer was first to report demonstrable cases of abuse by certain priests and bishops extending back some 30 years. Not the National Catholic Reporter, nor the Boston Globe but this paper that some snooty Catholics believe is quaint but is really cutting-edge. I believe information is essential for the clean-up. Therefore, Dennis, I hope this doesn’t interfere with our friendship but I will continue. To readers: Your own views on this matter and Dennis’ are welcomed in “Readers’ Comments.”]

CHICAGO—For one who began last week at the bottom of the heap emotionally because of initial failed handling of a priest-abuse scandal, Francis Cardinal George was bolstered Sunday by an impromptu ad hoc demonstration of supporters crowding the steps of Holy Name Cathedral, waving home-made signs, banners and rosaries and proclaiming over bull-horn, “We love our Cardinal!”

As all major television outlets and newspapers recorded the action, the demonstration showed powerful support for Cardinal George from congregants in the pews who are heartened because he accepted blame and has expressed contrition for recent alleged sexual improprieties by priests while unjustly criticized by a bevy of media talking heads for alleged abuses that took place some thirty years ago. Foremost in the attacks has been the city’s most powerful liberal Catholic woman, Appellate Justice Anne Burke, a fixture in the Democratic party. The low-point in the crowd’s estimation has been one very liberal pastor (worshipful of the late priest-lenient Joseph Cardinal Bernardin) who suggested that Cardinal George resign as archbishop. A rumor has circulated that the forced resignation of the Cardinal as archbishop, a gentle, humble man imbued with admirable theological and philosophical clarity, has been a goal of some who wish for an ultra-pragmatic successor in the mold of Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles.

The effrontery of the priest calling for George to step down triggered outrage among hundreds of parishioners who want an end to pedaphilia certainly, but also with long-winded television interviews from so-called survivors of alleged abuses by priests thirty years ago—which has caused suspicion in some quarters that tales of the long-ago so- called incidents may have been resurrected or invented for the benefit of expensive law-suits against the archdiocese, designed to bankrupt it. Demonstration chairman John McCartney, a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher, alluded to this in an address on the Cathedral steps. McCartney, a legendary pro-lifer leader who has been jailed for his peaceful protests before abortion clinics, declared that alleged incidents from decades past which few could attest to could cause the Catholic school system to go belly-up and strand a generation of students. His words, spoken by a decorated veteran of the Korean War who endured freezing weather while his detachment was cut-off from the main army at the Chosin Reservoir, drew warm support and cheers.

The rally was supported by Catholic Citizens of Illinois and other groups including Legatus, the organization of Catholic CEOs. The Knights of Columbus were in attendance including a number of grand knights. More than 250 chanting, singing, praying demonstrators mobilized seemingly overnight. The rally was not long-planned or done with the support or even the concurrence of the chancery. The Cathedral rector was merely told the demonstration would be held on the church steps. True to form, the creaking church bureaucracy that thinks slowly and reacts even slower, initially accepted the idea that the demonstration would be held but did not assent to it. While the bureaucracy mulled it over, planners moved ahead.

But as soon as the crowd appeared, the archdiocese decided the rally should be moved far from the public, to an auditorium at the rear of the Cathedral—par for the course given the chancery’s exquisite sense of timing. As the crowd milled around on the steps, a tight-lipped, almost hostile archdiocese female official importuned a demonstration organizer to move the crowd away from the steps. She jerked a thumb toward the auditorium and said the Cathedral rector wished the session to be held there.

“Sorry,” said the organizer, politely, “the rector’s too late. He should have thought of that three days ago.” She grimaced, walked away and re-appeared with the rector who shyly agreed it should be moved. The organizer said, “I said you should have thought of that three days ago, Father.” He gulped, nodded and moved away.

But the staffer made another futile attempt. She reappeared from the crowd and declared: “Cardinal George—the Cardinal you are supporting today now says you should move it to the Auditorium!” “Really,” the organizer said. “You got to him just like that, did you? Nope; it’s too late. The demonstration has begun on the Cathedral steps and will end there.” Movement to the auditorium would have lost the cameras and caused the rally to decline to the status of a neighborhood tea.

All the while, Chicago’s finest—the city police—fumed that the group had no parade permit. But by the standards of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, if a demonstration is not a politically welcomed labor, civil rights of gay rights matter, the city would spend endless hours poring over requisite papers as winter melted into spring and early summer. One volunteer, a prominent law firm partner, said with a wink that it was better to risk a slap-on-the-wrist city censure for an unscheduled demonstration than to endure the wait for permission, recognizing that by the time of issuance Cardinal George and many of the demonstration organizers might be dead of old age by virtue of natural causes.

As the crowd cheered on the steps, it seemed to be acceptably large but someone shouted and pointed down the street to a massed parade of reinforcements, like the cavalry galloping into the last movie reel. It was priests, seminarians, deacons and parishioners from St. John Cantius, on the near west side, the city’s mother-house of authentic Catholicism, peopled by young men and women, shouting in military style “cadence-count, one-two-three-four” coming with more banners and joyous songs to join the demonstration. Yet another crowd appeared from St. Henry’s parish carrying a huge yellow and white papal banner, eliciting a shout of approval from the crowd as police and the lady from the Cathedral staff groaned. Moreover another group appeared from St. Mary of the Angels, the Opus Dei church accompanied by none other than the Most Rev. Peter Armenio, regional head of Opus Dei, who addressed the group.

A delegation from Joliet, IL showed up along with a group from Immaculate Conception parish in Chicago. Msgr. Philip Dempsey, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle church in suburban Northfield—a nationally known journalist—was on hand. He was for ten years editor of the English language version of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservotore Romano. Also parishioners of St. Mary’s church in Lake Forest and St. Joseph’s in Wilmette. At the edge of the crowd the frantic woman staffer from the Cathedral was still trying to move the rally but, viewing the forest of TV microphones, gave up.

Then the speeches started, with McCartney serving as master of ceremonies. “People hate Cardinal George because he stands for the truth,” said Chiicagoan Kelly Ames, a young marketing executive through a bull-horn and waving a rosary of redwood beads. “We cannot lose him! We cannot let people get him down! He’s been taking most of the blame and he is in 100 percent support of all the victims!” Removing George is not the answer, would be the worst thing to happen, she said, because “the answer is chastity, faith, hope and obedience!”

The crowd of authenticist Catholics here applied the tactics usually performed by a group angered at Cardinal George, called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). SNAP has been particularly adept at performing television sound bytes but the few members who stood at the edge of the crowd appeared to be stunned at the enthusiasm of the newly-formed “Catholics for the Cardinal.” There were times the gathering took on the character of a college pep rally, drawing enthusiasm from the young members chanting, “Two, four, six, eight! Who do we appreciate? Cardinal George! Cardinal George!”

Nowhere was the essence of the rally more adroitly captured than by northwest side residents Pablo and Liz Bottari-Tower who came to the rally with their 1-year-old son Christopher, who had met the Cardinal twice., “If there’s a problem, we need to correct it and he’s already taken the measures,” they told the Tribune. “We don’t see what else he can do!”

The demonstration captured major attention on NBC, CBS,, ABC, Fox News and WGN-TV in Chicago which also showed Cardinal George expressing gratitude for the turn-out, not disowning it but proclaiming he was heartened by the support.

Why, then, did some of the clergy and Cathedral officials want to dampen the demonstration by moving it away from the Cathedral steps? “Because,” said the law firm partner, “the nature of the church’s officialdom is bureaucratic, timidity, fright and uncertainty. It’s a legacy of weakness and supine-ness. If this demonstration did anything, it’s shown that ordinary Catholics like us respect a man of great intelligence and incisiveness, like Cardinal George who is moving to correct abuses against young people and at the same time not going to allow a bunch of greedy litigators to bankrupt the diocese in lawsuits based on something that may or may not have happenbed a generation ago!”

Friday, February 24, 2006

So Busy Was I All Last Week Trying to Reclaim My Lost Luggage, that I

didn’t comment on the Big Dick Cheney shooting episode—and now it’s history, supplanted by the Big Ports story. To show how media can react to different circumstances when it has an ideological axe to grind, compare two stories.

Story 1.

Suppose the news came out that Cheney had actually, accidentally killed a person—shot her to death when he was 12. Do you suppose that would be spun out of proportion? Sure, despite the fact that he was a 12-year-old boy, the gun accidentally went off, etc. Do you think David Gregory would accept that if it just came out now? Why didn’t Cheney acknowledge all to the White House press corps in his official bio?

Now suppose this actually had happened to a liberal icon? As it did to Adlai E. Stevenson, former governor of Illinois, two-time Democratic nominee for president and UN ambassador under Kennedy. Stevenson, soft-spoken, with a literary flare, a devastating sense of humor, self-deprecating, became the role model for the Kennedys. The image of a thoroughly literate, historically conversant politician, flavoring his statements with literary allusions began with Stevenson (who largely wrote his own stuff). That’s why he became an idol for journalists who pictured him as (a) thoughtful, (b) intimately familiar with the arts and history.

The story seeped out in 1952 and was posited on the most understanding terms by Time magazine. This is how the story was told, buried within a cover profile of the then governor, which reflected how the story has been told to history.

In Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy [William Morrow & Co, N.Y., 1989] by Porter McKeever, Stevenson’s media person at the UN.:
It was 1912 and Stevenson was 12. It was at grandfather Adlai Stevenson’s house in Bloomington; the senior Stevenson had been vice president of the United States under Grover Cleveland and vice presidential nominee with William Jennings Bryan.The Christmas season was a lively round of gay parties and family feasts. Buffie [Stevenson’s sister] was given permission to have a supper party the evening of December 30 for her friend from Charlevoix summers, Margery McClelland, who had come for a holiday visit. Adlai was considered “too young,” so he was given his dinner early after which he went up to his room. As Buffie and her friends gathered in the drawing room, Lewis [Stevenson, Adlai’s father] and Helen [Adlai’s mother] went out to pay a neighborhood call. One of the boys lamented that he did not have a gun with which to demonstrate the manual of arms he had learned at military school. Buffie called upstairs to Adlai and asked him to go to the attic and look for an old .22 rifle she thought was there. Adlai ran down with it and handed it to Bob Whitner who examined it to be sure there were no bullets in it, proudly explaining that such checking was always required at school. To the applause of the group, he smartly executed the manual, then handed the gun back to Adlai to be returned to the attic. As Adlai excitedly imitated the older boy’s movements, the gun went off. One of the girls, Ruth Merwin, dropped to the floor dead.

She had been a close friend of Buffie’s at University High and was a cousin of cousins.

In the echo of the blast, Lewis and Helen walked in the door. Adlai turned to his father and exclaimed, “I did it.” Then he ran upstairs to his mother’s room and threw himself on her bed, gasping moans that could be heard through the closed door.

Latrer examination revealed that the ejecting mechanism of the gun had a rusty spring that probably had prevented the emergence of the single bullet. No one ever doubted that the discharge was entirely accidental.

Ruth’s mother, Mrs. Charles Merwin, arrived and faced the situation with a courage the family ever after gratefully acknowledged. She told Adlai he must not blame himself. In her own grief, she sensed that the experience would be devastating to a sensitive and exceedingly conscientious boy. Only Lewis and Buffie attended the funeral. Helen had taken Adlai, Dave Merwin, Margery McClelland and the new French maid to the Chicago home of Aunt Julia Hardin. When they returned home, the tragedy was not referred to; not then, or ever again.

Forty years later, William Glascow of Time magazine, in researching for a projected cover story found the report of the event in The Pantagraph and somewhat hesitantly asked Adlai about it. After a painful silence, Adlai said: “You know, you are the first person who has ever asked me about that since it happened—and this is the first time I have ever spoken of it to anyone.” Then, Glascow reported, he “told me the whole story in a quiet matter of fact way.”

No one can say with precision what impact the tragedy had on the man Adlai Stevenson became; but it can be said with certainty that the effect was profound. Does it account, at least in part, for his repeated self-deprecation, for the expressions of self-doubt and unworthiness, for making himself the butt of many of his jokes? Does it account for his incredibly calm acceptance of such wounding blows as his divorce and crushing defeats in two elections? Does it account for his intense concern with the careers of young people, both individually and collectively; for his visit to the bedside of the son of a UN staff member dying of leukemia, even though he did not know either father or son? A definitive clue to the mysteries embedded in these questions can be found in a letter he wrote in 1953 to a woman he did not know, whose son had been involved in a similar accident.

“Tell him,” Adlai wrote, “that he must live for two.”

Wow. Now notwithstanding the blamelessness of the accident, let us reflect that whenever journalists referred to the Stevenson act—which was seldom—it was done so with a similar tornado-like spin. This tells me two things, my friends. First, that the ``50s were vastly more gentle times. Second that all depends on whether the media agree with your politics (as they did with Stevenson’s). (I even feel guilty inside bringing this up, so much has the spin from 1912 enveloped the story). Compare that to the shouting from the White House press corps and the name-calling (“jerk!”) from the outraged moralist NBC’s David Gregory to the president’s press secretary Scott McClellan. Harry Whittington was hit with bird shot.

Story 2.

The huge ports controversy. Assuredly, some of the hijackers were United Arab Emirates citizens. But the London subway bombing was done by Brits. There is no proof beyond Lindsay Graham’s vague speculation that Dubai Ports World was insufficiently vetted. The deal was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment which consists of representatives from Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security. UAE has been one of the most cooperative of the Arab countries in our war on terrorism. The company will not be in guard of protecting the security of the ports; the Coast Guard and other U.S. agencies will do that. I’m not shaken by news that Secretary Rumsfeld never heard of this until last weekend or that President Bush didn’t know about it until he read it in the papers. That’s the way government should work when things are being done in an orderly fashion, folks.

My only beef is with Bush’s statement that he would veto a congressional bill to extend the period of study: this is the first time he would veto anything! Not McCain-Feingold, not massive spending—this!

He should allow the extension and tell the media, Frist, Graham and others to lighten up!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Part III: How East St. Louis Blacks Came to Love Nixon and Percy

[Note: After Chuck Percy picked private citizen Richard M. Nixon to campaign with him in 1964 for governor of Illinois at a time when blacks were alienated by the Goldwater presidential campaign, I was sent to New York to be instructed on the how’s and why’s of campaigning in this state by the future president himself. He told me that I would be called by a wealthy California tool manufacturer who would be flying his own plane to Chicago. This would be, Nixon said, “my guy. You’ll be Percy’s guy, ok.?” But he expressed grave reservations about adding East St. Louis for a pancake breakfast with blacks to the itinerary, saying East St. Louis looked like a bomb went off on it and that he and Percy would be “killed”—I think he meant it politically, but who knows? Whereupon I flew back to Illinois, was told that East St. Louis was definitely on the schedule and that Percy had vetoed it being dropped even after Nixon had called him personally. So much for that. And the show was to go on. The next thing was I got a call from the wealthy tool-maker pilot, to meet him at Pal-Waukee airport for us to take off and run the circuit.]

When I got to Pal-Waukee, I was greeted not by one Nixon guy but two. The wealthy, California tool-making manufacturer pilot and a Ned Sullivan of Yonkers, New York, first cousin to Patricia Ryan (Mrs. Nixon). Sullivan was added to the crew by Nixon in order to bring some sanity to the Percy scheduling and eliminate East St. Louis. But first we had to fly there.

On the plane, I sat next to the pilot with Sullivan kibitzing over our shoulders. “Those Percy people like to party,” the pilot said. “We were up half the night. Do you know Denise on Percy’s staffr?”


Sullivan said “skip it. We were up drinking until the early morning hours, had three hours sleep.:

I began whispering “O, my God, I’m heartily sorry…”

“Don’t worry,” said Sullivan. “We’ve done this before. We’re old advance men. Drink and play all night, work all day. We worked on advances for the vice president for eight years, traveling all over the world. Remember in South America when Nixon got stoned by a mob of Communists? We were there!”

Yes, said the pilot as we shot through the clouds, we got stoned before

Nixon did. Then the talk turned to East St. Louis. “Nixon’s sort of leery about countermanding Chuck,” said Sullivan. “After all, we’ll need him as governor in `68.

Fat chance, thought I: “…for I detest all my sins…”

We’ll give East St. Louis a hard look before we ditch it, said the pilot.

We landed in St. Louis where the arch was still in process of completion. We got a car, got in touch with Bill Stiehl who was ecstatic that Nixon himself had called his name. “That’s another reason why he should be president,” he said. Why, because he knew your name? “That and the fact that he has a steel-trap retentive memory.” East St. Louis did look like a bomb had gone off in it. We found only one acceptable hall, an armory which sat thousands.

“First of all, we’ll make preparations,” said Sullivan, signaling a guard who took us to the manager. Sullivan said a Republican rally was going to be held there in a month.

“A Republican rally?” mumbled the manager. “Here?”

Yes, and we want carpenters to build a small room in the back to hold possibly a hundred people. Who’s going to pay that bill? I asked. “Don’t worry about it,” said Sullivan. “We have contingency. I think we ought to be able to fill it. And I mean the worst—but I still haven’t given up scrubbing the event. Oh, we want your company to donate the pancakes.”

We make Aunt Jemima. The image isn’t--.

“That’ll be the least of our worries. We need the syrup, too.”

The next day after we scouted the suburbs Nixon liked, Sullivan got a commercial flight for Yonkers. “I’m going back to East St. Louis,” said the pilot as we parted. “I’m still worried and Nixon is, too. Every other part of the schedule looks great but not that one.” Midway through the next week, I got a call at Quaker Oats from the pilot.

“I’m still in East St. Louis,” he said. “We got worse problems than I thought. Can’t talk on the phone. I’m heading back now. See you at Pal-Waukee tomorrow at 8 a.m.”

As we flew back to St. Louis, he was taciturn. Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong? I said. “Too complicated to explain. You just have to see it.” We landed, docked the plane, got a car and drove to an awful bar near the armory where we had scheduled the carpenter. Not a word from the tight-lipped pilot. We walked in. The only whites. The patrons eyed his coldly. We went up to the bar. The biggest man I had ever seen up to then came to take our order. The pilot ordered coffee, nodded to me and beckoned the bartender over.

“You were telling me last night,” he said, “that you’re the head of a civil rights organization—is it the largest one in town?”

Yeah, said the bartender. CORE. Congress of Racial Equality.’

“And when I told you that we’re planning on having a rally at the armory what did you respond?”

I said that we’re going to have a sit-in, a lay-in—even a piss-in because CORE will not allow a group of Goldwater Republicans to hold a meeting in this town.

The pilot looked meaningfully to me and I said, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to call Percy and tell them it’s over. Either that or I’m not responsible for what will happen.”

At this point, I remind my kids and grandchildren: In those days there were no cell-phones. I walked over to a phone booth and, using the rotary phone, started to twirl a phone number. I was waiting for the call to go through when the pilot tapped on the glass door and beckoned me to come out. I said I was waiting for the call. He shook his head negatively and signaled me to come out. Cancel the call.

“What’s up?”

The scenario just changed, he said. Walk back with me to the bar. We ordered more coffee. The bartender this time seemed eager to accommodate. He said it was on the house.

While you were in the booth, said the pilot, I said to our friend here that it was a shame that a person couldn’t have a rally in this town, the land of the free, after all, where free speech is sacrosanct without having a demonstration. And this man agreed.

The bartender nodded. “I said he’s right. This is a country where there should be free speech. My only problem is that as the head of CORE I got money invested in signs, placards and banners—money that came from our treasury. So we’re obligated to hold the demonstration.

And the pilot said: you say if somebody picks up the cost of the materials, the demonstration could be cancelled.

“No problem. We got enough to do for civil rights without getting into that.”

How much would the banners and placards cost? I shook my head: I don’t like it.

The bartender jotted down figures from his memory. “Oh, about $500 but then there are other considerations.”

Such as?

Handbills--$500. But more important is the reputation of CORE.

How much is that?

As the bartender started calculating, the pilot said to me: We’d like to talk. Nothing personal.

I looked out the window.

After a time the pilot said: Now I got to use the phone. Does the one in the booth work?

“I got a house phone right here,” said the bartender. “On us.”

On the way home, I told the pilot: I don’t like this.

“Why not? East St. Louis is no problem now.”

I figure you gave him $1,000 to call off the picket but we still don’t have anybody coming.


What’s wrong?

“Our contingency’s giving him a lot more than that. Now CORE is chairman of the event, recognizing Nixon for what he’s done for civil rights. You ever hear of Roy Innis?

He’s the national head of CORE. Wait a minute: this guy who was leading the picket is now the chairman of the Nixon-Percy event?

“Marvelous, isn’t it? ”

Nixon will be furious.

He smiled. “Let us say he isn’t worried about East St. Louis anymore. Nor should you.”

I tell you these folks won’t show up!

“Oh yes, they will,” he said. “Anticipation is everything.”

You’re not paying until after a successful event.

“That’s the principle of capitalism.”

The rally was a success and Charles H. Percy, his blond hair glistening in the klieg lights, his eyes beaming with excitement pronounced that a new day is dawning, intoning: “I’m proud to be an American! I’m proud to be a Republican! And I’m proud to be here today!” Nixon gave an enthusiastic speech, hailing Percy as a new national leader, one who draws people of all races, colors and ethnicities together. He and Nixon waved to the crowd as a band leader, reportedly the brother of the bartender played “When the saints come marching in.” I had to admit it was quite a rally. Percy was ecstatic about his reception and clapped me on the back while the pilot stood next to the wall, filing his nails.

“I’m told you put on the rally of the year for Chuck!” reported Percy’s campaign manager, “and I’m reporting all this to Quaker Oats!” He added meaningfully: “Someone there will be enthusiastic!”

I said truthfully: it was nothing.

On election night, Percy held off conceding to Otto Kerner until the returns came in from East St. Louis.

Then, as soon as East St., Louis came in, Percy conceded. I’m not sure he ever figured it out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Part II of How African Americans Came to Love Nixon and Percy in 1964.

This is the second part of a series begun yesterday wherein Charles H. Percy sought to overcome the disadvantage of running for governor of Illinois in 1964, the same year Barry Goldwater ran for president. It led to a masterstroke of an idea: the recruitment of Richard Nixon to come to the state to stump with Percy, which led to my being sent to New York city to meet with the former vice president to plan the two-day swing.

Well, of course, as this thing was supposed to be in my hands, I couldn’t wait to get to New York city to meet with the great man. I flew in, grabbed lunch at Oscar’s of the Waldorf and kept the appointment at the firm of Mudge, Stern, Baldwin & Todd at 20 Broad street at 3 p.m. (its name would change putting Nixon’s name up front as soon as he would qualify to practice law in New York). Armed with a highway map of Illinois, I entered the walnut-paneled offices, asked at the reception desk for Mr. Nixon and was ushered through a series of rooms. Finally I arrived at the desk of Rosemary Woods who was at her electric typewriter, a scene I recalled many years later when she showed the media how it was entirely possible to erase a stretch of tape while she was taking dictation. (Poor thing: for her service to Nixon and humiliation to be seen stretching in an ungainly position to demonstrate how the erasure happened, I hope she is enjoying the infinite benefits of heaven).

I told her I knew her brother, Joe, the chief investigator for the Better Government Association who was running for Cook county sheriff which pleased her, and she led me through a series of inter-connecting rooms to one stately one whereupon she knocked quietly and opened the door. He was standing at his desk with his own map of Illinois. At age 51, his black hair glistening, his ski-jump nose ever-prominent, his cheeks reddened almost as if they had been rouged (which they were not), he gave up a forced

smile and waved me over to him (Miss Woods departing). He tried to pull up a chair by his desk but it was devilishly hard for him, the overstuffed chair caught up on the carpeting—so he gave it up, awkwardly and suggested we sit side by side at a coffee table. He stretched out his map on the table and said

Now this is the way I’ve got this thing figured out. Percy wants to spend two days traveling the state with me. Okay? I’ll be coming in from St. Louis and we’ll meet in East St. Louis. That’s where Percy wants to begin this thing. Do you have any idea of what East St. Louis is like?

Nope. I’m an Illinois native but I’ve never been there.

Well (laughing cynically) I have and the whole town looks like a bomb hit it. It’s the most depressing goddamn place I’ve ever seen. Now Percy wants to have a pancake breakfast there for a large number of Negroes. This at a time when Goldwater is running. We’ll be damned near killed there. Do you understand me? Don’t you agree?

Very much.

I’m going to try to get Chuck to change his mind on East St. Louis. So let’s put it aside for now. Here are the other stops I would like to do.

(And he extended his hand, a long one with sensitive fingers; as he reached across I saw a long wrist with black hair and an expensive watch—pointing expertly across the map, circling with a marking pen in addition to others, Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, Rockford and a number of Chicago suburbs. He said nothing but marked towns for a long time, seemingly fascinated while a long time passed but it made me feel uncomfortable. So I said: I see.

Now the Republicans in Illinois make one huge mistake. They always want to hold rallies in huge auditoriums especially armories where the seats stretch out in hundreds of rows. I can’t tell you the times I’ve arrived to see places half-full and the damned press outside saying yeah, that’s Nixon all right, can’t fill a hall. What I’ve told them and they finally got it right in 1960, had it wrong in `52 and `56, what I’ve told them is get me a small hall and fill it belly-to-belly so that they’re standing out in the street! That’s what I want, the picture of people lining up outside—do you get me? There’s an Eagles hall in Decatur, holds about 150 people. Off the main drag. Skip the Armory in Rockford—God, don’t use that. There’s a VFW about two blocks down. Use that. Peoria has an Elks club. If the weather’s bad in Springfield I want the thing to be held at the Leland, that’s the Republican hotel, not the St. Nick, which is a Democratic hotel. Got me?

Yes. Exactly. (He looked at me closely, his glistening black hair, spectacular nose near mine, white shirt super-starched, impeccable blue tie. No humor but intently studious. After a long time studying me, he ignored my voluble nervousness at being studied like a specimen under a microscope). He said

All right. Now about the suburbs. I don’t want to go to the North Shore—Wilmette, Winnetka. Those are trendy suburbs, getting richer, getting more liberal every year. I want to go to Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg, pitch a rally at Randhurst but not Old Orchard. Not Niles. By no means Niles: a Democratic town. I want Randhurst I think it’s called where you have people gathering anyway. On the far south side, one at Evergreen Plaza.

(A half hour later we both stood up.)

That’s as much as I can do now. You’ll be contacted by (and he gave me his name). He flies his own plane; he’s a wealthy tool-maker from L.A. My guy. He’ll be my guy on the swing-around and you’ll be Percy’s guy. Got me? Now take your map and copy the marks I’ve made. You can sit down in an office next to Rose. Okay?

Yes sir.

You don’t have to sir me. How’s Bob?

Who? Oh, Bob Stuart. He’s fine and sends his regards.

He and his Dad Doug. They don’t make Republicans like that anymore. Doug’s still going strong?

Yes and well, too.

(As he walked me to the door)

I’m damn worried about East St. Louis. I’ll talk to Chuck. If he really wants to have something there we’ll have to chance it. It’s his show, after all. Maybe Bill Stiehl will help us.


Bill Stiehl. He was my coordinator in `60, lives in Belleville. You’ll meet him.

When I got back to Illinois I decided to try to talk Percy out of East St. Louis. But nosiree! East St. Louis had to stay. He wanted to try out a new position on civil rights before a hall full of African Americans. I thought about what Nixon said. A hall plumb full of blacks in the season when Goldwater was running against LBJ? Crazyness. I decided to argue his campaign manager out of it. I talked to Tom Houser who threw up his hands, saying, “I’ve worked with this guy for six months now and when he’s got his mind made up he won’t be changed.” Tom, I said, it can’t fly. He said, a better man than you tried to change his mind: Nixon. Chuck won’t budge. I said: what do we do? He said, “well that’s why we have a smart guy like you around, isn’t it? You guys’ll have to make it fly!”

Tomorrow Part III: the Nixon guy calls and we fly the route in his small plane, him piloting me while I sit next to him, the wheel in front of me turning as he plied his to and fro, he telling me how he loved Nixon, saying that this episode would be a dry run for 1968, plying me with Nixon stories all the while interested in the pretty women Percy had on his staff.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Coming Up on Sunday’s “Political Shootout”: Gidwitz vs. Noonan

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz and Democratic strategist Mike Noonan will be paired this Sunday on my “Political Shootout” program on WLS-AM, 8 p.m.

Note to Dave Diersen: Your GOP/USA is extremely valuable, giving updates on the political news plus your own commentary: I thank you for that. One request. If this were 1858 and you were billing the Lincoln-Douglas debates, would you just advertise it as “Debate Tonight: A. Lincoln” with no reference to Stephen A. Douglas? If this were 1960 and a presidential debate was looming between the vice president and his challenger, would you bill it as “Debate Tonight: Richard M. Nixon” and not refer to John F. Kennedy? Therefore, would you consider doing me and my station, WLS, the honor of reporting that I always have two guests on my show—a Republican and a Democrat, and the guest this week will be Mike Noonan. I can’t see how the cause of Republicanism can be helped by neglecting to mention half of the program. Thank you, sir!

Thank You All for Helping Me Find My Lost Baggage!

Many, many thanks to all of you who pitched in to help an incompetent senior citizen find his baggage which was lost—no fault of the airline—during my trip to Springfield last week. Through a comedic combination of circumstances over which the airline had no responsibility, the baggage got away from me and I arrived in the state capitol without any change of clothes. Gradually I noticed old friends moving away from me as the days intervened: no, I’m kidding but the men’s store across from the Abraham Lincoln hotel is everlastingly grateful for the mishap. After arriving in Springfield I received a phone call saying the bag was at O’Hare. Then I received a call saying the bag is in Fargo, N.D., then that the bag was back at O’Hare. At O’Hare they couldn’t find it. Several days passed in Chicago when the bag was variously reported either here, in Fargo, Portland, Maine or somewhere else.

So what do you do when because of your own failings order breaks down? When the problem isn’t lost shirts, ties or shaving utensils but a notebook containing important telephone numbers? You call upon friends. I called Jay Doherty, the president of the City Club whose contacts are endless. He put me in touch with Margaret Houlihan, the airline’s vp-government affairs. Over the weekend she worked on it and produced it. But helping her along the way was Leo Miller, now of Haymarket Center and a former executive at the airline and his wife Terri, an executive at the airline. All cooperated beautifully for which I am very grateful.

How a Grand Influx of African American Rooters Turned Out in East St. Louis to Cheer Richard Nixon in 1964, the Year Barry Goldwater Ran. Part I

Note: to those who complain that this blog is over-loaded with personal history, I must tell you I’m not writing it for you but for my four grown kids and 13 grandchildren, this in lieu of a memoir. Please be warned that it does not contain an iota of social or political value but is written to be archived and pulled up at some later date—please, God, much later—when my grandchildren who are beginning to evidence an interest in history may enjoy it.

In 1964 when I moved from Minnesota’s political scene to form Quaker Oats’ government relations department in Chicago, I started in July, in the midst of a presidential year. Accordingly the president of the company, Robert D. Stuart, Jr., said “I would appreciate it if you would spend the rest of the summer and early fall helping Chuck.” That was kindly, soft, patrician corporate-speak for “spend all your time helping Chuck Percy get elected governor of Illinois while we pay you and make a positive impression on his campaign.” Accordingly I decided to do that. I reported to the Percy office as just another staffer and was assigned to attend Saturday morning staff sessions with Percy, big business wunderkind on the sun-porch of his Kenilworth mansion, named “Windward,” with other eager-to-please staffers as Percy’s kitchen staff served tea, coffee and sweet-cakes. In eleven years of attending campaign staff meetings, including with the socially prominent Heffelfinger’s, owners of the Peavey Grain company, I have never slurped coffee in such baronial surroundings.

Percy was indeed the golden boy of Chicago industry. His resume could well have been written by Horatio Alger. Born poor, struggling through the depression in an neighborhood under the L tracks in east Rogers Park, he taught children Sunday school at a neighboring Christian Science church. There is so animated an owner of a small business that made cameras that he hired him immediately. The small business was Bell & Howell, which was just skittering along, sometimes struggling to make payroll. Percy spurred the company to great heights, spurring the boss to adopt aggressive marketing procedures in return for which the boss paid for his tuition at the University of Chicago. By the time World War II began, Percy was vice president of the company and had launched it into federal procurement where with contracts with the armed forces it zoomed into the stratosphere, making the owner a fortune and Percy himself a multi-millionaire. The federal government listed the camera company as an essential industry and Percy as an essential component to it, freeing him from the draft. In addition to which the owner who had no children left Bell & Howell entirely to Percy and at the age of 27 or 28 he became CEO and the subject of nation-wide attention for his perspicacity. He became adept at giving the Republican party a new, progressive image which fit in with his persona--blond, good-looking, with a magisterial baritone speaking voice. In short order he was baptized as an Eisenhower-style “modern Republican” and ordained as a future president of the United States—this when he was in his late `30s. So ambitious was he for political honors that it was said, only partly in jest, that he would use the presidency as a stepping-stone.

Obviously, these attainments were not an unalloyed benefit. Most other CEOs cordially despised him because he made them look under-motivated, grumbling that he was snooty (but it was because of a congenital hearing loss with which I have become recently sympathetic)—but not my boss, the president of Quaker who admired him hugely. The admiration was mutual in that Percy named Stuart, a heavy GOP contributor and scion of a famous Republican family, as Illinois Republican National Committeeman. Thus in doing Bob Stuart’s bidding to be helpful to his friend Chuck I was serving my party and also doing the Lord’s work which, I hoped, might possibly redound to benefit me.

The first Kenilworth staff meeting I attended dealt with the problem of race, discussed delicately as the African American maid lingered, pouring our tea. When she departed, the problem was stated baldly: Goldwater was the presidential nominee against Lyndon Johnson, in a year when crushing national GOP defeat was almost pre-ordained. Goldwater was one of the few Senators to vote against the 1964 civil rights bill. The question: how can Percy, who saw himself as having an enlightened civil rights record, transcend this problem running against the Democratic incumbent Otto Kerner? One sure given was to arrange to be in the opposite end of the state wherever Goldwater would appear—but as Percy remonstrated, that was not enough. To make matters worse, Percy’s own civil rights record was not unduly progressive. In running for the nomination he strove to make himself appear as conservative as he could to enlist the conservatives, declaring that the government need not resort to compulsory fair employment practices but should only utilize voluntary ones. (Hard to believe in view of today’s progressivism, but that was Percy’s position then).

While all of us were sipping tea, keeping an eye out for the black maid, we were seeking to come up with a solution while Childe Percy was stewing—but then one Tom Houser (not Tom Roeser) came up with a brilliant solution. Houser was the campaign manager and a lawyer for the Burlington railroad. Houser said this: “You have to tie up with a national Republican figure in order to beat the curse of Goldwater or else the GOP faithful fill think you’re snubbing the nominee. Who better than Nixon?” Everybody looked up brightly: Nixon, of course! And Houser made the case very well as Percy jumped up and shouted: “Of course! Brilliant idea!” Houser said: “He’s a retired Vice President, has had a brilliant civil rights record. Whenever LBJ as majority leader positioned a civil rights vote he angled it so Vice President Nixon had to break the tie—earning Nixon enemies in the South. Nixon is going nowhere, having lost for president to Kennedy, losing the governorship of California. He’s a private lawyer in New York with no future ahead of him. Have Nixon agree to come here to campaign throughout the state with Chuck. After all, Nixon almost carried Illinois and probably did if it were not for Daley vote fraud.”

“Bravo!” yelled Chuck and even the maid peered around the corner. The next step was to get Nixon lined up. Then Percy jubilantly pointed to me and said, “You’ll get him because Nixon knows and likes Bob Stuart.” While I was choking on my sugar roll, Percy said, “But I will call him first to line him up. He’ll do it, I’m sure! Then we’ll send Roeser to New York to plan the itinerary!” With that in smart executive style, Percy took the phone, consulted a list of numbers where Nixon could be reached and tried them as we munched thoughtfully. Suddenly Percy shouted:

“DICK! Chuck Percy here!” He listened, smiled and said, “Things are going well here, Dick! I’m sure we’ll make it!” He held the phone away from his good ear, winked at us and whispered, “He’s going on about vote fraud in Illinois!” Then he said, “That’s why it’s so important that we win the governorship here, Dick. Oh, it’s not about me, not so ego thing—no, no, no. It’s about good government! And wouldn’t that drive Daley nuts to have a conservative governor in Illinois?” He held the receiver aloft and we could hear the rejoinder.

In short, Nixon was set to come to Illinois and spend two days barnstorming town by town with Chuck Percy. When Percy hung up, he nudged me in the ribs and said, “It’s all set. You’re delegated to fly to New York Monday and see him in his Broad street office at 3 p.m. And he says “Bring a road map of Illinois.”

Thus endeth Part I. Tomorrow Nixon and I consult the map of Illinois!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Personals: Things That Occur After You Write Your Blog.

The Roundtable of 6 about which I wrote yesterday also discussed the possibilities of key Democrats getting indicted. They felt—almost to a man with one dissenter (me)—that Mayor Daley is in no danger, one of our number, a lawyer, citing the fact that the Shakman decision is a civil one and even if the mayor is in total disregard of it, he can’t be indicted. I have a different view—and it is this: if Daley isn’t indicted, it will be because Patrick Fitzgerald, the so-called “above all politics” prosecutor, remembers that Daley is President Bush’s favorite mayor.

One more thing: To David Graf—drop me an e-mail at thomasfroeser@sbcglobal.net and see when we can get together, either in Springfield or here: preferably here but we can work it out. Thanks.

Justice Burke Wins over Cardinal in Skirmish Over Priest Sexual Abuse.

[Another column from The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest national Catholic newspaper]

CHICAGO—I ended last week’s article on this archdiocese’s sex abuse scandal by saying that, while Francis Cardinal George and Illinois Appellate Justice Anne Burke disagree on solutions, Burke could win hands down “in this Democratic town.” She has—and quickly. There is little doubt that new rules will be re-drawn to move near her specifications. The beginnings of reform have come from an unusual source: Burke’s insistence, editorial page clout, media hype which, in this case, may have produced good results.

Last week Justice Burke, an exalted princess of Catholic liberaldom was paired against Cardinal George in a controversy over what the first priority of the archdiocese should be after allegations are made of child sex abuse by priests. At the outset, Cardinal George said, mistakenly as it turned out, that priests are entitled to all civil rights in such accusations “or no one will be safe.” Justice Burke said the Cardinal was wrong: when an allegation is made, the priest should be removed pending the investigation, making the first priority the children.

Cardinal George quickly changed his view in meetings with the parents in the parish where a priest, Fr. Daniel McCormack, was alleged to have acted inappropriately with several boys. The Cardinal’s misstatement was indefensible in the court of public opinion, because no one was saying an allegedly erring priest had to be pilloried or even publicized, just removed and possibly sent to a desk job quietly while investigators study the case. This procedure regularly takes place in secular society including the Chicago Public Schools when teachers are accused.

Early failure of the Cardinal to clarify his remarks produced scorching heat from the media which quickly melted any bureaucratic arguments. The feminist Sun-Times columnist, Michael Sneed, a liberal Catholic flame- thrower, supporter of women priests and close friend of Justice Burke, focused bitter attacks on the Cardinal in a column that is read first by many Chicagoans. Later all of the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops wrote to the editor of the Sun-Times protesting Sneed’s attacks. More significantly, perhaps, even Jack Higgins, the well-known Sun-Times prize-winning cartoonist, a Catholic, penned two cartoons severely criticizing the prelate. Higgins, the last person to be anti-clerical, is devotedly Catholic, strictly authenticist and courageously candid in his support of pro-life in contrast to the editorial policy of his newspaper. He is a hero to pro-lifers because he fearlessly draws more eloquently than most columnists can write.

Then came television commentaries. On public television, two Catholic women, Mary Anne Ahearn of NBC and Carol Marin of the station and the Sun-Times, were sustained in their criticism (no surprise from Marin, long a vitriolic supporter of women priests but a distinct shock coming from Ahearn, the more conservative of the two). As editorials and letters-to-the-editor flowed, suddenly Cardinal George announced that he had instituted “a complete review of all our archdiocesean policies and procedures surrounding the sexual abuse of minors.” It seems to be initially a victory for Justice Burke. Not that she is beloved by many orthodox Catholics: she is the wife of Alderman Edward Burke, a Democratic king-pin who often single-handedly picks for election many pro-abort Democratic judges in this county where endorsement by Burke is tantamount to election. She runs for the Appellate court as a powerful Democrat.

Tough on alleged erring priests she is, but if she is pro-life, she has been remarkably quiet about it. Two years ago, she was named, rather mysteriously, to the National Review Board set up by the Catholic bishops to draft a schema to deal with priests abusing children. Nor has she explained to The Wanderer who named her or Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s pro-abort ex-chief of staff to the panel.

But to her credit notwithstanding, when she became acting chairman of the group, Justice Burke became a tough proponent of removing priests from their ministries at first hint of accusation against them in an effort to protect the children first. This brought her into controversy with those bishops who wished to shield accused priests from accusations that might not be provable. She has said that Cardinal George was one of that number.

Now, in calling for a complete review of archdiocesean policies concerning the sexual abuse of minors, the Cardinal has tacitly acknowledged that Justice Burke has been right. In his message to archdiocesean employees February 7, the Cardinal tackled the problem of who should be informed after an accusation has been made, a question that has bedeviled the archdiocese. In the past, the chancery has been informed but felt it could not act until police authorities shared information. Now the Cardinal has directed “as clearly as I possibly can that any information from any source about a possible molestation or abuse of a young person by anyone associated with the archdiocese must be reported immediately to public authorities and to me or to the archdiocesean offices” and he named the officer designated to receive the information.

The Cardinal continued: “While we look again at why information is not properly shared, I have put Jimmy Lago [the lay chancellor of the archdiocese whose formal name is not James but Jimmy] in charge of overseeing the present policies and their revision. His background in child protection and his knowledge of archdiocesean offices and policies make him uniquely qualified to oversee the revision and its implementation.”

Then the final paragraph which shows a marked change from the Old Order: “The quality of governance depends upon the flow of information; information in any office, except in the case of health or finance records in some instances is not something to be guarded rather than shared” [emphasis added] which was Justice Burke’s early point. He summarized: “In the case of anything related to the sexual abuse of minors, I ask you with insistence to come forward to me directly or to someone who will immediately inform me” [emphasis added].

Earlier, when discussing the McCormack case, the Cardinal appeared greatly disturbed with himself, haggard and drawn. He told the Sun-Times with great emotion, “I get…you know…very…troubled,” he said as he cleared his throat, his words on the brink of tears. “Remorseful.” Then as if counseling himself, he added: “There is no point in getting upset; you do your work and you don’t let that paralyze you.” Journalists waited for him to continue and he finally said: “I can’t imagine what must be in the hearts of many people again. We thought this was done or at least contained and it doesn’t seem to have been. I can only apologize for that.”

Recognizing and admiring his scrupulousness in blaming himself, most Chicago Catholics understand that the Cardinal is an extraordinarily gifted man, one of the top theologians and philosophers in the U. S. church, ranked often as the most sensitive and perceptive of the archbishops in the country who has been outstanding in apologetics, the art of explaining the mission of the Church.

But no sooner had he expressed contrition and recognition of his own failing, than a brutal scathing of him came on NBC television from an unlikely source, a liberal retiring pastor, one who would have expected to show tolerance and compassion, but who has long been identified with Bernardin-style leniency in the archdiocese. The priest, Fr. William G. Kenneally, pastor of St. Gertrude’s on the city’s North Side, is on the verge of retirement after more than two decades as pastor (itself an anomaly in an archdiocese where pastors are required to live by term limits). Fr. Kenneally, a free-lancing critic of traditionalism, was shown in his favorite attire of open-throated sports shirt, and delivered the opinion that if the archdiocese can be shown to be derelict in any measure, Cardinal George should resign. The statement shocked the clergy and many congregants. Later, Fr. Kenneally fudged. But he clearly loved the media attention—as he did some years ago when he attacked Cong. Henry Hyde for being a “meathead” due to his sponsorship of the Hyde amendment that banned Medicaid funding of abortion. Fr. Kenneally is a friend of Sun-Times columnist Fr. Andrew Greeley, another over-age rebel of the Church who has made multi-millions savaging the Church.

The Kenneally pronouncement was a shocking attack on the prelate at the time when he was seeking some understanding. One priest told me it was a cruel assault that shows how unappreciative the liberal clergy has been with the successor to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, despite the fact that Cardinal George has sought to protect clergy from possible unwarranted allegations.

“Helping them as he had, it still didn’t do Cardinal George any good, “ a priest mentioned to me. “They want Bernardin back.” But, when I said Cardinal Bernardin is dead and not coming back, he smiled and said “he was so good to them [the liberals] that they don’t want to recognize he died.”

Later Cardinal George removed another priest from the ministry, Fr. Joseph Bennett from Holy Ghost parish in suburban South Holland while authorities were trying to determine if he abused two young girls decades ago. Archdiocesean officials acknowledged that the south suburban priest, had not been assigned a monitor despite the fact that the church first received the abuse allegation against him in March, 2004.

While the Cardinal was undergoing brutal self-criticism, another bishop, known to be one of the most liberal in Illinois, was engaged himself in a spirited battle with the media and Catholics in his diocese of Joliet, IL. Bishop Joseph Imesch pleaded his case in a letter to church-goers last week. The bishop was the focus of a deposition in which he admitted not removing priests despite credible abuse, declaring that he knew one of his priests had gone skinny-dipping with boys and, according to the Sun-Times, “played naked games with them.” Bishop Imesch sent the priest to a psychiatrist. Later the priest was moved to another suburban town where he was accused of abuse.

In contrast to Cardinal George who took his blows and acknowledged he should have done better, Bishop Imesch steadfastly defended his actions and blamed them on bad advice from psychologists. He said that most of the abuse cases took place decades ago “before psychologists recognized that behavior…was indicative of a severe problem that could not be adequately treated…I would never have returned a priest into ministry if I had not been assured by professional therapists that he was ready to return. The media reports tend to portray me as someone who doesn’t care about the safety of children. Nothing could be further from the truth. I became a priest because I care.”

Friday, February 17, 2006

Roundtable of 6 at Springfield Steak House on the Governorship.

Whenever I get to Springfield we convene the Roundtable of 5 at a local steak house to discuss politics. This week’s Gang consisted of a (1) a prominent Democratic state Rep who has proved his electoral strength by winning consistently in a GOP suburb, (2) a bright and thoroughly knowledgeable Democratic operative, lobbyist and former top campaign manager, regarded as one of the brightest lights in the party; (3) an African American active in civic affairs, (4) a Republican staffer known as an exceedingly adept strategist in his party, (5) a libertarian known for issuing a pox on both parties —and (6): me, bringing up the historical allusions which happened long before any of my partners were born and whose tales of years past put everyone to sleep. Average age of the group was in the 50s but that’s only because I am factored in, which tipped it way over. Without me: in the late 30s.

Surprisingly, there was some consensus—but some dissents, too. The Roundtable will be nameless.

Most of the Roundtable felt the Blagojevich speech was an outstanding example of partisan pyrotechnics which gave an insight into how the governor will run his campaign. The lobbyist felt it was so-so, the only one to have that view.

Asked to put on strategists’ hats to deduce a strategy against the governor, all of them felt it is folly to concentrate on attacking the governor’s budget from a green-eyeshade basis because the goodies contained therein are desired by many of the voters—but that the better strategy should be to ignore the goodies and zero in on corruption.

All with one exception—me—felt that Topinka will be nominated and has the best chance of being Blagojevich. I don’t and believe the best race that could be run would be by Oberweis. They saw great dividends for Topinka to pull Democrats into her camp; I saw a more than equal disadvantage by her losing much of the conservative base.

All of them felt the Gidwitz ad as devastating but I hadn’t seen it then—although many didn’t see Gidwitz as benefiting particularly but severely wounding her. Now that I’ve seen it, I agree. I see the Gidwitz ad as also shoring him up in the public mind as a conservative (which he isn’t: pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-Bush on the war). As a matter of fact, if he continues the onslaught, I see him rising in the polls and getting a bigger share of the conservative chunk. The libertarian, who admires Gidwitz’s positions, sees him gaining rapidly if the ads are continued.

All of us believe that pound-for-pound Bill Brady would be the best candidate because he is fresh, young attractive. But all of us feel that because he has not gotten the money, he will not be a decisive factor in the race with the exception of possibly wearing the collar if Oberweis fails to get the nomination, and thus dooming him in the future ala Pat O’Malley. His attacks on Oberweis are solidifying that impression.

All of us believe that Eisendrath has either missed the train or is about to miss the train which is even now pulling out of the station. I cited the folly of his step-father thumping his chest and saying, “That’s my boy!” when he’s too tight to plunk down the money that, by the size of his fortune, would be pocket change. Lay it to the idealism of some of the liberals who pay their dues to Common Cause, read the New York Review of Books and are usually in Aspen on election day, forgetting to have voted absentee.

Almost all of us—the state Rep being the exception—see that the Republican party must find an unconventional presidential candidate for 2008, the same faces of Senators—Allen et al—not being sufficient. At the CPAC Summit, Allen, regarded by so many conservatives as a favorite, laid a bomb; the one who didn’t is the one who had earlier been touted as a loser: Bill Frist. I threw out two unconventional names, Rice and Guiliani. Of the two, they enthused about Guiliani, one of the group—a Democrat—saying he would very likely vote for him—a big surprise. Another Democrat pointed out that in contrast to the SuperBowl coverage Giuliani has received, especially from the definitive book on his life, Fred Siegel’s Prince of the City, another book, 100 Minutes which details what happened on 9/11 shows that Giuliani’s reputation is hype and that actually he failed on that day (a surprise to me, but I haven’t read the book). No one particularly jumped on board Condeleeza Rice, figuring that she will not run anyhow.

All of us felt that the dark horse presidential candidacy of John Cox is likely to go somewhere—somewhere distinctly below the ranking of another Cox, James M. who ran for president against Harding in 1920 and about on a par with Lar Daly, with the notation that at least Lar Daly had an Uncle Sam suit. What was unusual was that everywhere Cox went at the CPAC Summit he was surrounded by security guards, who were ordered to take one for the candidate. Privately hired security guards, no less. We discussed how sick Cox must be to pay for this and decided that since he has the money to invest and has the conviction to do so, he is at least better than Eisendrath’s step-father.

Everybody ate steak except me—I had chicken.

Political Shootout: State Rep. Bob Biggins vs. Becky Carroll

Next Sunday’s Political Shootout will feature Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and State Rep. Bob Biggins, the Republican who has been the House minority’s point-man on the budget. Should be good listening.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Down in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD--Gov. Rod Blagojevich gave a brilliant political speech, disguised as an annual budget address, again promising no income tax or general sales tax increase, banking on economic growth to help him deliver goodies that, he hopes, will guarantee his reelection later this year.

In a fighting speech reminiscent of Harry Truman, attacking the so-called "special interests," the youthful governor set himself up as the advocate of a "say yes" budget, callng on the legislature to "say yes" to more funds for education, in particular for pre-school education for every Illinois child, expanded school payments and an improved heatlh program. Because there is room to "say no" he called on the legislature to close so-called tax loopholes for business--pitting business as a special interest as agailnst pre-schoolers and health-deprived senior citizens. As such for a curly-haired fan of Elvis Presley which the governor is, it was a performance worthy of Huey Long in the 1930s, long before the governor was born.. He drew the line between liberal interest groups and business--declaring it a "special interest" to grant tax relief to the economic engine that provides jobs. To remedy that, he outlined a "jobs program" that called for subsidies. In essence, it was a broadly liberal speech reminiscent of the hey-day of the New Deal. He declared that the multi-billion dollar Bush Medicare program which has been condemned by many conservatives, as not sufficient to meet the needs of the time. In doing so, he positioned himself as a potential candidate for president by unfurling a heavily liberal program in contrast to the pale pastels that some presidential candidates are supporting.

Blagojevich's manner of presentation has improved 100 percent from his performance in past years. He read from a teleprompter with only few mistakes, pointing to charts showing the deficits he inherited from George Ryan. He made a case that sounded convincing to average citizens who haven't followed the details of pension borrowing and other gimmicks that have prompted some Demcrats as well as most Republicans to assail his governance. But the governor has done successfully what many liberals have done before--sketch an attractive program of services expansion, beckoning to the benefits that accrue from giving pre-schoolers educational opportunities, pointing to the human needs of the elderly who deserve expanded health care--and insinuating that his opponents will be tools of special interest and greed. That rhetorical device was patented by Long, modified with deft literary flourish by Franklin D. Roosevelt and re-packaged in fighting Missouri language by Harry Truman. To hear Blagojevich re-cycle it brought back memories of a Democratic party that succeeded by pinning the "greed" label on its opponents. For those who are weary of the old-style rhetoric, it showed a return to partisan, meat and potato politics--but they shouldn't pass it off as passe, for Democrats have been elected and reelected with this fighting style of campaigning for generations. To oppose this scenario, Republicans will almost instantly revert to the green-eyeshade, accountant style of rebuke which historically has not found much favor in an era of populist politics. In picturing those who oppose him, the TV cameras focused on Judy Baar Topinka, slouched like a matronly grandmother, working on her hand-held computer; State Sen. Bill Brady (Bloomington) conversing with a colleague and not paying rapt attention.

The reception by the legislature was interesting. It gave Blagojevich a rather grudging (I thought) reception as he strode inrto the House chamber, shaking hands right and left. The applause was subdued, pro-forma and so-so--but when Blagojevich got rolling with his "say yes" to kids and "say no" to the selfish interests, the Democratic legislature began to get worked up. At several points during the well-written, well-rehearsed speech, Blagojevich departed from the teleprompter to chide the legiislature, kid-style, with cracks like: "I thought that would wake you up!" Every time he did this, his punch lines were greeted with hollow silence, emblematic of a legislature that while controlled by his own party, withholds approval from him because of the indifference of attention he has given to its members. But it is clear that Blagojevich is not interested in portraying himself as one who is cozy with the legislature but who stands apart from them, playing to the grandstands. While it turns off those serious students of government who believe a mark of a successful administration is the ability to get along with members, it is clear that Blagojevich is following a vastly different strategy which is indebted to Bill Clinton. On other aspects, he imitates Ronald Reagan for whom Blagojevich voted twice.

Clinton it was who invented "triangularization," capitalizing on public cynicism in both parties and posturing himself on the side of a third way. From the very start, Blagojevich has not been inured to follow the regular path, even taking risks to chart a third way. He would rather not live in the gubernatorial mansion in Springfield despite having won his reelection in the southern part of the state. He does not present himself as other governors have as a workaholic, but comes up with incremental issues that bite off chunks of public approval. He is totally disinterested in the details of governance, witness his support of what he calls "stem cells" but which is actually embryonic stem cell research. To start a pilot program using state funds for embryonic research that pro-lifers attest is the exploitation of unborn life for research, a program that has not had any success, Blagojevich signed an executive order conveying funds that may very well be unconstitutional--but he lets the conservatives haggle about the details while taking the bows for "stem cell" which is a flagrant mis-labeling of what he has done. Reagan evaded discussion of how authentic the Contras in Nigaragua were by calling them "freedom fighters in the mode of our own founding fathers." While other governors seem to proceed along traditional lines, outlining programs consonant with their budgets, Blagojevich stitches together exciting projects that capture public attention and seemingly defers until tomorrow the prospect of whether or not the projects will work.

The reception of the legislature to Blagojevich was definitely mixed. State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) who was an early supporter but who soured on the governor, didn't rise in applause as did some of his Democratic colleagues, nor did Franks break his arms applauding, although he clapped weakly at one point. The attitude of the legislature seemed to be bemusement: here is a kid who is evidently comfortable skipping the long hours of consultation and sausage making of governance for the media spotlight, bankng that the public is not very interested in the details only the tinsel and drum beat of entertainment.

Can Blagojevich pull it off a second time? My view is that he can if he faces Topinka, even given that she's leading in the GOP polls. Reason: she represents the tired old pols whom the governor seems to want to contrast himself with. Against those who haven't ever been elected---Oberweis and Gidwitz---the going might be a littrle harder for the governor once the recognition kicks in about their particular views. Gidwitz is a long way down in the polls but seems to have a bottomless treasury and remarkably, he is not perceived by the Republican electorate as the social liberal he is: thereby taking some of the percentages away from Oberweis. Also the fact that Gidwitz is starting to open up on Topinka may win him favor from conservatiives. Oberweis might very well give Blagojevich a fight the governor doesn't want--on ideology. The fact that Illinois is a blue state does not compute when philosophical belief is presented attractively. Brady is, of course, a fresh face but I really believe he's starting to behave like a lost cause--not by his own fault but because he doesn't have sufficient money.

Every time I see Topinka, I see someone who is weighed down with age, gnarled hands, an old face and an old style of incumbency which might very well ratify what Blagojevich is seeking to stand against. I don't find that contrast with Gidwitz, Oberweis or Brady. Topinka kind of looks like she could be Blagojevich's mother, the penny-pinching Czech who buys her clothes at second-hand shops. That picture may play well when you're running as State Treasurer with the ethnic groups whiich thrill to her accordion, but not necessarily so in a prime time govenrorship race.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

As I Prepare to Go to Springfield for a Few Days, Let’s Look at the Funnies:

What Did Whittington Say on the Armstrong Ranch Just Before?

Hey, Dick, would you want to slip away with me and play “Brokeback Mountain?”

The Robot Barber’s Computerized Conversation with Customers.

A new hair-cutting machine suitable for barber shops has been introduced in Hartford, Connecticut—a robot barber equipped to cut your hair efficiently and even supply an unending stream of talk, peppered with friendly questions. To get it started conversationally, it must inquire about your IQ. At test market in a real barber shop the other day, it did remarkably well. The first customer was asked, “What is your IQ?” He answered, “well, I don’t want to boast but it’s 130.” The robot sat him down and began cutting his hair, opening up the subject with a few comments on Einstein’s theory of relativity. Haircut and conversational séance an unqualified success.

Second customer said his IQ was normal—100. Robot started cutting his hair and asked customer his views on chances for the White Sox to repeat next season. Another superb success.

Third customer admitted his IQ was below normal—78. Robot started cutting his hair and began by saying, “well, do you Democrats think you have a winner with Hillary?”

Surgical Success Stories—Applicable to Any Diocese. -.

At a recent high-level conference on surgery before student doctors at the Mayo Clinic, talks were made by surgeons who performed amazing feats. One told of how he replaced the eyes of a man who had lost his sight, grafting on the retinas from a dead person with the result that the man not only could see, scores 20-20 and has become a famed flight instructor.

The second reported on how he transferred an 8 –month fetus from the womb of a dead mother to another woman with the result that the baby was born normally and is getting good grades at an exclusive private elementary school. The third won the prize by telling how a young man was brought to him on the brink of death, and that to save his life the surgeon had to remove his spine, brain, guts, heart, testicles and backbone. That young man not only lived but was ordained a priest after winning honors at a leading seminary and is now an auxiliary bishop in a Roman Catholic diocese. slated for even bigger things.

How Many Bush Administration officials Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Answer: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; it’s condition is improving every day. The rumor that it needs changing is attributable to the liberal media. Illuminating rooms is hard work. The light bulb has served honorably and the criticism you make undermines the work it is doing and is the best gift the terrorists could have.

Prurient Interest Ad Suitable for Valentine’s Day.

This ad was published in a newspaper’s Singles section.

SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I’m a very good looking and love to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in a pickup, hunting, camping, fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I’ll be at the front door when you come home wearing only what nature gave me. Call (404) 555-6420 and ask for Susie. I’ll be waiting.

Over 15,000 men found themselves talking to the Atlanta Humane Society about an 8-week-old black Labrador retriever. (Men are so easy.)

For these I’m indebted to illinipundit.com Now share your jokes with me!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Late News Flash: Hillary May Not Be a Slam Dunk!

hillary plantatin
For some years now, conventional wisdom has given Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton the nod for the Democratic presidential nomination—but judging from the recent unease among some Democrats about her performances as a speaker, the nomination may not be a slam-dunk. If there is one quality that media-centric candidates seem to possess, it’s a calmness in presentation before television cameras. Hillary is seemingly a woman of two faces. Viewing her from afar, she appears to be a self-controlled, beaming moderate, a woman who’s surmounted the old hell-cat reputation of First Lady when she “mislaid” key papers from the Rose Law firm only to find them suddenly on a table in her private quarters. That’s one Hillary: calm, witty, self-deprecating, the kind the cameras love to picture.

Then there’s a second Hillary that comes out not in private but in public performance. She seemingly cannot make a speech of passionate intensity without her voice curdling milk and ending up in a shriek. At those times, her eyes bulge out, deep recesses form in pockets on her face and she appears shrew-like. Nor is this a sexist phenomenon. Sen. Diane Feinstein, not my favorite liberal, has a quiet, stateswomanlike attitude of contemplation, even when she pronounces outrageous liberal platitudes. There’s passion but not the anger that comes from Hillary. Take the attitude that was prevalent long ago with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who moved from First Lady to a major player in international affairs, a commentator and television performer, host of her own show on public affairs on Sundays when she was well into her seventies: “Mrs. Roosevelt Presents.” No one ever accused Mrs. Roosevelt of being attractive (her own mother called her an ugly duckling)—but she exuded a gentility, a graciousness and warmth that caused much opposition to her to melt away. Frankly in the First Lady department, Hillary is not unlike Nancy Reagan, the woman Howard Baker called “a dragon.”

Much is made of the striking difference between Bill and Hillary’s speaking styles at the Coretta Scott King funeral. I had a personal taste of it before Clinton was elected president. Bruce DuMont and I spent a few days in New Hampshire covering Democratic presidential aspirants in 1992. It was snowing heavily one day when we pulled up in the parking lot outside a high school in Manchester for a Clinton rally. It was snowing so heavily we got out of the car and ran to a side-door and pulled it open. It turned out that it led to the backstage where Bill Clinton, accompanied by Hillary, were waiting to go on. We clumped our shoes which we laden with snow, making a dreadful noise, me cognizant that someone was watching with a steady eye of disapproval: Hillary Clinton. When we introduced ourselves to the Clintons, I happened to say that I’m from Park Ridge. Hillary greeted that news with frosty disinterest—but Bill Clinton said, “really?” He asked where I lived and I said I live not far from the Rodham house, which led him to calculate whether or not I knew Field school where Hillary went to grade school.. All the while she was waiting for the emcee to present them and she tapped him on the arm and gestured with her head to the program. They went on but I realized that there was only one politician in that couple and one spouse. I wonder if Bruce remembers that.