Friday, February 3, 2006

Thoughts While Shaving: If Oberweis Pulled Out...Four, not Five, Real Catholics on the Court…and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals

Suppose, just suppose, instead of Bill Brady pulling out of the gubernatorial race, Jim Oberweis did. The sad fact is that with very little funds raised and with an overload of campaign staffers eating away the money, Brady would not be in a position to consolidate the conservative vote—insufficient funds to go on statewide TV (as Oberweis will do shortly). Hence if Bill Brady, at age 44, wanted to shore up the conservative good will for a future statewide run, he would withdraw. The word on Brady is that he doesn’t like to make fund-raising calls, does not schmooze the way a candidate should, etc. All things being equal, with the most handsome visage since the young Reagan or young JFK with a charmer personality to-boot, Brady can be judged as the conservative candidate of the future. Why would Brady want to carry the collar for an Oberweis loss in the primary by splitting the conservative vote? Isn’t it just like the Pat O’Malley episode a few years ago? O’Malley was thought to be the conservative Moses when he ran against Jim Ryan for the nomination. But O’Malley stuck in the primary race against Jim Ryan when it was almost certain he couldn’t get nominated, refusing to withdraw, all the time making insufferably harsh attacks and then doubling his blunder by not endorsing Ryan afterc the attorney general won the nomination—a failure that hobbled Ryan and contributed to him losing the governorship. O’Malley is estranged from many conservatives today and is, as candidate material, as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes.

Bill Brady’s not a guy to listen or take advice—any more than O’Malley was—which is a tragedy—but if he were, he would pull out of the governor’s race now…setting himself up as first-rung for the next statewide race to come along, and spare himself any sore-loser retaliation. Increasingly it is clear that Brady will not find the cash to run a competitive race, that he couldn’t find the cash even if Oberweis pulls out. The fact that he doesn’t pull out and allow conservatives to be united behind one candidate, is a mistake that could amount to a sizable political blunder. Despite what the Brady people say, the campaign ain’t going anywhere.


A good friend points out the article in this week’s Economist which cites how far Catholics have come from the days when John F. Kennedy’s campaign was called a high risk venture, in 1960. Now there are four Catholics on the Court in philosophical agreement: Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts. The fifth—Anthony Kennedy—was named by Ronald Reagan on the pretext that Kennedy would be pro-life. Shortly after he joined the Court, Kennedy went Hollywood by turning pro-choice and earning the kudos of The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse for having “grown in office.” Kennedy was one of two Justices—Sandra Day O’Connor the other—who went to the ailing Harry Blackmun and said they wanted to do anything to keep Roe v. Wade in effect, participating in the writing of the Casey decision. Roberts, incidentally, is the second Catholic chief justice in U.S. history.

The first was, let us say, not a star, Roger Brooke Taney (pronounced “tawney”) author of the Dred Scott decision, born into a wealthy slave-owning Maryland family whose fortune came from tobacco. Taney was Andrew Jackson’s attorney general and was named to the Court by Jackson to succeed John Marshall. In the infamous Scott v. Sandford decision which he wrote largely himself, Taney ruled that neither slaves nor free blacks could be citizens, stating as an incidental that Congress did not have the authority to prevent slavery from entering the territories—by which he hoped to end the slavery controversy altogether by overthrowing the Missouri Compromise. Rather than end the controversy, Scott helped precipitate the Civil War. In his final years, Taney sought to thwart President Abraham Lincoln and died with the contempt of many citizens.

While Catholic jurists’ opinions are not pre-ordained across the board, on abortion it should be because, as the Economist says, of the generally held philosophical opinion on natural law. The death penalty is not a good test because Aquinas favored it as have moral theologians through the ages, the view that it is wrong coming in recent years from John Paul II who did not apply his views ex cathedra or “from the chair,” meaning that other Catholics are free to dissent (as indeed many do, not me, however). The fact that leaders of the Democratic party’s opposition to the pro-life Alito are Catholics—Kennedy, Durbin and Leahy—doesn’t mean the Church’s view is flexible. It means Kennedy, Durbin and Leahy have deviated on the abortion issue from the stand taken by Church leaders. The Church’s stand on abortion has been consistent through 2000 years of history. (And dissenters, don’t write to tell me Augustine was a pro-choicer. Limited by ancient biology, he thought, wrongly, that life began with “quickening,” the movement of the unborn child in the womb.)


In 1977 when I was up for appointment as a Fellow of the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, I faced my first grilling from a young professor there, Doris Kearns Goodwin. Ms. Goodwin is not just a fierce liberal but a devoted Democrat, wife of Dick Goodwin who advised the Kennedy’s. To say the least she was unimpressed with the fact that I would be, if not the first Republican, assuredly the first conservative Republican to be appointed as Fellow. I passed muster with the Dean, Ernest May but he told me, “Doris has reservations about you. Let us say you only got a base hit with her--so you’ll have to come back here to be interviewed by the Senator.” Meaning Edward Kennedy. Well, I thought, if I struck out with Doris, I’m sure going to strike out with the patriarch of the Kennedy clan.

Surprisingly, I hit a home run with him, our conversation turning on one subject we agreed upon—that Everett Dirksen was a helluva Senator. Dirksen was also a pal, drinking companion, stunning story teller and great confidante of John and Robert Kennedy. (In fact, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, he was so invaluable to John Kennedy that the president called him to the White House from Illinois where Dirksen was campaigning for reelection. Being called on for advice by JFK sunk the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Syd Yates. When Dirksen walked into the Oval Office, the President grinned and said he really didn’t need advice at that particular time but he and Bobby wanted to do something for Everett to save his election—Bobby appearing suddenly from a corner office which prompted wholesale guffawing, a fact Ted Kennedy corroborated for me). In fact in telling Dirksen stories, we yukked it up so loudly in the Senator’s Cambridge office that a secretary timidly opened the door to see if the Senator was all right. I got a pass, went back to Ms. Kearns who said, “well, I understand from On High that you’re acceptable—more than that, you’re entirely agreeable with the Senator. Did you change your views from when we talked?” That sort of burned me up but I said no, Everett Dirksen had much to do with it. As Dirksen had died eight years earlier, she looked puzzled but waved me through.

Since then Doris Kearns Goodwin has won a Pulitzer Prize but subsequently her career had some incredibly tough knocks—a finding that two of her biographies, No Ordinary Tim: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt—The Home Front in World War II and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys contained vast stretches of copy which were plagiarized, at least several paragraphs running word-for-word. She received bad press nationally and was let go as a contributor to The Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS, never satisfactorily answering the charge, saying only that through some slip or other the paragraphs were copied verbatim. However it pleases me to say that her latest volume Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln [Simon & Schuster: 2005] is easily the most significant contribution to Lincoln literature in a century, her writing zeroing in on Lincoln the politician who managed his presidency by naming his key rivals to places in his cabinet where he easily dominated them, including William Seward (highly educated, New York-sophisticated) as Secretary of State and Edwin Stanton (again, superbly educated, a lawyer who once rejected Lincoln from a law suit because he felt Lincoln was a backwoods rube. She writes like an angel; her insights are profound, her research at places is unusually fresh (remarkable for a subject about whom hundreds of thousands of biographies have been produced). It is a five-star and you must read it. Tell me what you think.


This has already become too long—but it occurred to me while shaving this morning what it was about Everett Dirksen that Ted Kennedy and I were suffused with mirth about. I will try to clean this up for younger readers. I told him the Senator that shortly after I joined The Quaker Oats Company, I had the chance to ride with Dirksen as he made his political rounds in the Chicagoland area, riding in the back of his car as his eccentric aide Harold Rainville drove and the Minority Leader was flicking a cigarette (disturbing because he was at the same time wheezing with asthma) in the ash-tray. The name of a prominent Illinois party leader came up and I asked how sagacious, how profound, how deep he was.

Dirksen turned around in the seat, looked at me for a long time with his baggy, rheumy eyes and intoned—in his rolling baritone—“actually, he’s as dumb as dog sh-t.” I thought about that for a long time: how dumb is that? It so happened, I told EMK that in his office and he exploded with laughter, saying that in the early `60s this was a favorite saying of his brothers about politicians they didn’t like—and he often wondered where it came from and how exactly dumb is that, anyhow. We wondered who gave the image to whom and concluded it would have to have been the Wizard of Ooze, the Pundit of Pekin, Everett Dirksen.

I’m outta here. Your comments? Don’t attack Teddy now: for the moment I feel mellow about him.


  1. Does it take that long to shave or are your thoughts as quick and irrepressible as a dog sh*tting?

  2. Anybody but OberweisFebruary 4, 2006 at 5:48 AM

    It still amazes me the stubborness of supporters of Mr. Oberweis. What has he done for us that makes him our best bet to take on HotRod in November?

    He's lost two statewide bids for U.S. Senate in rather unimpressive fashion. In those losses, he tried to have it both a "moderate" in 2002 and as a "conservative" in 2004.

    He raises absolutely NO grassroots money, being funded soleyly by himself and Jack Rosier, a pariah Blago will have a field day with in the fall.

    I had hope when I read your headline about what if Oberweis dropped out, but we all know that's not going to happen, just as we know Brady's not going to drop out. So why not move on to what CAN be done.

    We can turn the page on the tired candidates of the George Ryan era (Judy if it has to be said) and the failed candidates of the past that inspire no excitement and only fear of another Alan Keyes disaster (Mr. Oberweis). That leaves Brady and Gidwitz.

    I don't know of any conservatives that can stomach Gidwitz even with Steve Rauschenberger on the ticket.

    The only chance we have in the fall, as much of a longshot as it may be, is a candidate like Brady to take on Blago.

    He has my support and a lot of my friends, and if conservatives were smart, they unite behind him and move the party on to a new future THIS year, rather than four years down the road.

    Oberweis will be destroyed by Rod before July. I don't think any of us want to see what would happen to our already minorities in the House and Senate. Let's think forward and move on. It's past time.

  3. While they may show that none of the candidates is in great shape, especially compared to Blago, they also show items of concern for Milkman supporters. Say what you want about Brady, but the fact remains that when you remove personal loans by both candidates and top donors (FTN for Milkman and Kimball Homes for Brady) the fundraising for Brady was BETTER than The Milkman during the second half of '05. In other words, maybe the better choice is for The Milkman to stop acting like a sore loser and step aside so that the future of the Republican Party in Illinois can start now.

  4. I guess Brady must be making people nervous. With Judy locked at 30 and Gidwitz taking any new moderate vote in Chicago, Judy's done. Oberweis while spending millions in multiple elections still has the same number, less then 20. People see Brady’s passionate growing grassroots support and realize he has momentum and will peak at the right time. Oberweis can drop out but it doesn't matter with the last poll having a 30% undecided all Brady has to do is get the normal 2 to 1 ratio of those undecided to win. It’s funny to see Brady’s opponents talk about trivial issues like how many people Brady has or split hairs about fund raising (which Brady has raised 1.6million and as a Multi-millionaire he can and has self funded) they can’t compete or debate with him on the issues important to the core of the republican party. Everyone wants to see Blagojevich lose so Brady will have no problem raising money to beat Blagojevich.

  5. I don't see how Brady dropping out helps anyone. If you were serious about wanting the GOP to back one candidate, then why not call for all but one to drop out? I've read some of your positive reviews of Brady on here, so I don't think it's that you are anti-Bill, but I just don't see how getting being Oberweis is good for anyone, including the GOP. He will NEVER have carry-over appeal, and if what we really want is Blago out and someone in there who we trust to do the job, then he is not the one.

    Brady may be the only one to get that job done. Maybe some of these staunch GOP'ers oughta start sending him some cash so he can get it done instead of talking about his inability to get the cash.

  6. A fact no one seems to know right now is Oberweis' pathetic lack of a grassroots orbanization in this his THIRD statewide run. It's actually funny that his supporters are trying to say the same about Brady. Maybe it's the "make your weaknesses your strengths" strategery.

    Let's look at what this volunteer worker has seen on the ground:

    Oberweis has a handful of 4x8 signs...that's right....VERY few...throughout the state. Brady has 450 to 500 4x8s up all over the state and thousands of yards signs ACTUALLY IN PEOPLE'S YARDS!. And I saw a few 4x4s the other day that lead me to believe those will start popping up too.

    Oberweis has a handful of paid coordinators covering the whole state for him. Brady has three quarters of the state's 102 counties covered by a VOLUNTEER coordinator that works hard because they believe in their candidate, and all of those coordinators have their own volunteers, giving Brady a hard-working, but as yet under-the-radar grassroots army.

    While I've seen several letters to the editor in my own local paper(s) supporting Brady and one news story after another about his visiting town or announcing a policy decision, and I have friends in other areas of the state that have mentioned the same to me, I know of one letter that appeared for Oberweis in a St. Louis area paper written by a Chicago suburbanite, and every now and then a blurb will surface about a town hall type visit. He's being completely outworked by the Brady camp, and it's catching up.

    Oberweis' smoke-and-mirror campaign is beginning to unravel, and Brady is the one in position - especially downstate - to take advantage.

    C'mon Tom! Do you really think Oberweis is our best chance?! I find that hard to believe.