Friday, February 3, 2006
Thoughts While Shaving: If Oberweis Pulled Out...Four, not Five, Real Catholics on the Court and Doris Kearns Goodwins 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 voteinsufficient 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 doesnt 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? Isnt it just like the Pat OMalley episode a few years ago? OMalley was thought to be the conservative Moses when he ran against Jim Ryan for the nomination. But OMalley stuck in the primary race against Jim Ryan when it was almost certain he couldnt 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 nominationa failure that hobbled Ryan and contributed to him losing the governorship. OMalley is estranged from many conservatives today and is, as candidate material, as cold as yesterdays mashed potatoes.
Bill Bradys not a guy to listen or take adviceany more than OMalley waswhich is a tragedybut if he were, he would pull out of the governors 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 couldnt find the cash even if Oberweis pulls out. The fact that he doesnt 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 aint going anywhere.
A good friend points out the article in this weeks Economist which cites how far Catholics have come from the days when John F. Kennedys 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 fifthAnthony Kennedywas 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 JusticesSandra Day OConnor the otherwho 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 Jacksons 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 territoriesby 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 partys opposition to the pro-life Alito are CatholicsKennedy, Durbin and Leahydoesnt mean the Churchs view is flexible. It means Kennedy, Durbin and Leahy have deviated on the abortion issue from the stand taken by Church leaders. The Churchs stand on abortion has been consistent through 2000 years of history. (And dissenters, dont 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 Kennedys. 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 youll have to come back here to be interviewed by the Senator. Meaning Edward Kennedy. Well, I thought, if I struck out with Doris, Im 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 uponthat 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 didnt need advice at that particular time but he and Bobby wanted to do something for Everett to save his electionBobby 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 Senators 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 youre acceptablemore than that, youre 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 knocksa finding that two of her biographies, No Ordinary Tim: Franklin and Eleanor RooseveltThe 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 longbut 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 intonedin his rolling baritoneactually, hes 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 didnt likeand 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.
Im outta here. Your comments? Dont attack Teddy now: for the moment I feel mellow about him.