Friday, March 31, 2006

David Brooks Has a Different Take on Immigration (Which Could be Mine When I Check the Statistics)

Topinka’s People Act Like Joe Birkett is the Leader of Social Conservatives (He’s Not)…Lynn Sweet Gives In-Depth Analysis of the 6th…Publisher’s Feminist Wife Orders Blagojevich to Kill Old Resolution Banning Abortion.


David Brooks is easily the most impressive Op Ed columnist in The New York Times. Every so often he writes a stunning commentary far different than from you’d expect in that newspaper (or from him). For one thing, he comes across as pretty socially conservative. Thursday he put out statistics on immigration that probably came from Sen. Sam Brownback—statistics which, if correct and disseminated properly enough, could send social conservatives returning to the Bush fold. Right now they’re divided on immigration: some want the toughest legislation possible; others, pro-business, favor the McCain-Kennedy version which requires fine paying, English-learning; still others, the draconian types, wanting deportion. Brooks, not immediately classifiable as conservative or liberal (although he comes from the neo-Conservative Weekly Standard argues what I take to be the Brownback case:

1. The exclusions “are wrong when they say the current wave of immigration is tearing our social fabric. The facts show the recent rise in immigration hasn’t been accompanied by social breakdown but social repair. As immigration has surged, violent crime has fallen by 57 percent. Teen pregnancies and abortion rates have declined by a third. Teenagers are having fewer sexual partners and losing their virginity later. Teen suicide rates have dropped. The divorce rate for young people is way down”(Italics mine).

2. “My second argument is that the immigrants themselves are like a booster-shot of traditional morality injected into the body politic. Immigrants work hard. They build community groups. They have traditional ideas about family structure and they work heroically to make them a reality.”

3. “My third argument is that good values lead to success and that immigrants’ long-term contributions more than compensate for the short-term strains they cause. There’s no denying the strains immigration imposes on schools, hospitals and wage levels in some markets (but economists are sharply divided on this).

4. “My fourth argument is that government should be at least as virtuous as the immigrants themselves. Right now (as under Bill Frist’s legislation) government pushes immigrants into a chaotic underground world. The Judiciary Committee’s bill which Sen. Brownback supports, would tighten the borders but it would also reward virtue. Immigrants who worked hard, paid fines, paid their taxes, stayed out of trouble and waited their turn would have a chance to become citizens.”

Brooks concludes: “Social conservatives, let me ask you to consider one final thing. Women who have recently arrived from Mexico have bigger, healthier babies than more affluent, non-Hispanic white natives. That’s because strong family and social networks support these pregnant women, reminding them what to eat and do. But the longer they stay, and the more assimilated they become, the more bad habits they acquire and the more problems their subsequent babies have. Please ask yourself this: As we contemplate America’s moral fiber, do the real threats come from immigrants or are some people merely blaming them for sins that are already here?” (Italics mine).

This Brownback-Brooks tenet is insuperably more reasonable than the ill-tempered “let’s crack down on those illegals” as reflected in the Sensenbrenner legislation, I think. If the statistics can be justified, that’s the way I think I’ll go. Your comments?

Topinka’s People.

The word is out that Topinka’s people are making overtures to social conservatives, asking separate groups what it would take to get them involved in the campaign. When one downstate group suggested a position (not contradictory to Topinka’s message but called for some personnel change) the rejoineder was, “what—are you saying you want to run the government?” No, said the conservatives, but you asked what we would like. The response was that Joe Birkett should be enough. The social conservatives said, “Listen, get this straight. Joe Birkett is not Mr. Social Conservative. He never was. He’s been pretty conservative but no one, neither us nor so far as we know Birkett, has claimed he’s the leader.” The phone conversation terminated quickly. The downstate people on the other line are saying it’s not impossible they could back Meeks. But what about Meeks’ tax hike? They say, listen—odds are that Blagojevich will raise taxes after election or that Topinka will, blaming it on the Democrats. We’re thinking about Meeks. With one vote we’d screw Blagojevich and Topinka both. Not bad for one day’s work. (Election Day)

Lynn Sweet.

The Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet, easily the most analytic and perceptive of this era’s political columnists, gave us a revealing look at the troubles besetting the Democratic party in the 6th district’s congressional race. She astutely points out that the GOP is using Rep. Rahm Emanuel as the bad guy in the district, hoping to fan anti-Tammy Duckworth flames within the Christine Cegalis candidacy. Emanuel, the pushy ex-ballet dancer, is the pencil-thin, ambition-salivating Sammy Glick of politics (based on the character from the novel by Budd Schulberg, What Makes Sammy Run?). Emanuel is the hyper-thyroid ex-Daley operative, chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, who is an idealist in politics despite having risen above principle to utilize city patronage workers in his election campaign. After Cegalis held veteran GOP legend Henry Hyde to a tepid lead in the election of 2004, Emanuel, an upstart who makes Horatio Alger seem under-motivated, pushed novice Tammy Duckworth into the race and gave her official Democratic party support over Cegalis. While Dick Durbin is credited with having found Duckworth, a helicopter pilot in Iraq who lost both legs there, Emanuel was the guy who sank the dagger into Cegalis. Sweet aptly points out the animosity between Cegalis Democrats, Roskam Republicans (supporters of the GOP nominee, State Sen. Peter Roskam) and Emanuel.

She also makes the point that Emanuel is a national security hawk, not a San Francisco Democrat like Nancy Pelosi. But if he’s not careful, Emanuel will dominate the district with his crude tactics. Indeed, in a district which is sorely divided between Cegalis liberal Democrats, Duckworth (read: Emanuel) centrist Democrats, Roskam conservative Republicans and moderate mushy Republicans, Emanuel may be the single most unifying factor—bringing at least three of the four elements together.

If you thought Emanuel is wiping a tear away in behalf of a critically wounded heroine of the Iraq war, think again. He’s hoping that with her candidacy and others like hers, the House will turn Democratic and he will be in place to succeed Pelosi as either Majority Leader or Speaker. Next: a slot on the national Democratic ticket as veep, then president of the U.S. which he may well try to use as a stepping stone…

Orders from the Publisher’s Wife.

Most former small town journalists from another age remember either the editor’s wife or the publisher’s wife throwing their weight around trying to get the city desk to take pictures of their garden shows. I remember my paper’s business manager’s wife, whose husband had life and death hold on my salary, insisting her nephew be interviewed because he was on the Dean’s List at St. Cloud State. Sad to say, these days are not gone entirely. They are in Chicago and powerfully more so. The Sun-Times’ publisher’s wife, a dedicated feminist free-to-be-you-and-especially-me type named Jennifer Hunter, is an editorial writer on the paper and a columnist as well. Earlier this week she gave orders to Gov. Blagojevich that he better get rid of an old resolution that passed the legislature 30 plus years ago. It said that if the day ever came when Roe v. Wade were overturned, Illinois would not have legalized abortion. I’m sure Blago will take note and save that little item until the last few hours of the campaign to get the base fired up.

Hunter usually writes the same column over and over, either mooning about the death of Betty Friedan but concentrating on how other women can make it if men will only get out of the way—you know, the stuff that is self-contradictory in the extreme: because if her husband wasn’t publisher she’d not be there and if he got hit by a truck she’d be out on the street—getting her prominence the old-fashioned way which began when the first woman, after tossing meat into the campfire that the old man dragged home, flexed her muscles and screamed, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Going Back to St. Cloud from Duluth’s CIO and Final Reflections on Humphey…Venial Sins...Entry into Religio-Show Business

The long drive back to St. Cloud from Duluth gave ample time for reflection on this man Humphrey—and good it was, too, since I only saw him very sparingly from that time on until his death in 1976. He was, above all, a pugnacious man, either angered or sarcastic in his appeal to remedy injustice, who could almost pass as a plain small town druggist from Doland, South Dakota when he first began speaking. To him ideas were so important he disregarded grammar and pronunciation. The word was State of the Union AD-dress for Ad-DRESS. He continually said “kep” for “kept” and always dropped his “ing’s” and not for effect: goin’, meetin’, talkin’, waitin’. How did he win speech contests during the Depression? In those contests he was always marked down for appearance, grammar, lack of friendliness, by one judge for “talking out of the side of his mouth like a Chicago gangster.” His voice was not resonant nor properly basso like Dirksen’s or with rolling pronunciation like William Jennings Bryan. What was the answer?

The answer was, as one oratorical judge wrote when Humphrey won a Midwest contest over students from Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, that “he gives the idea he knows the most.” His hard rasping voice, nasal to a degree, his (as one noted) “jamming the epiglottis down so hard the air could not get to his larynx, bumping his tongue densely on the back of his mouth, pushing hard with the muscles of his throat rather than relying on his abdominal muscles to do the work” made his voice come out with a rasp. Sounds unattractive, doesn’t it? But when he spoke he was what we called a
”drugstore liberal,” with a beguiling tone. One critic likened him to a big league pitcher with a blazing fast-ball, with such an overpowering delivery that he didn’t need a curve. All in all, breaking the rules as he often did, he was still the most compelling speaker of his generation. The better speakers of his generation almost always came off more polished: certainly FDR the patrician, JFK the Bostonian, Dirksen the comedic small town oratorical champion. But of these, I have always maintained Humphrey was the best because from the first sentence to the last he had instant rapport. Preparation and impressive encyclopedic marshalling of facts was his gift. But there was another thing.

He showed how to frame an issue. What do I mean by that? It’s not the assortment of facts in an argument but seizure of the initiative. Let me describe it rather than define. One day as he was campaigning in central Minnesota with me as reportorial side-kick, he decided, quite off the cuff, to stop in to see if he could speak to a group of farmers and small town neighbors who were attending a type of town meeting at which candidates of all types—legislators, aspirants for Congress, aspirants for county board—were speaking. Humphrey had calculated that for the most part they would be Republicans which made them appeal to him all the more.

As we stood in the back hearing the candidates, it became apparent that they were not only Republicans for the most part but devotees to President Eisenhower. That got Humphrey excited and he popped a spearmint in his mouth, chewing rapidly as he listened to a string of Republicans getting up asking the voters to elect them to enable them to, in some way, help Eisenhower. That was the big thing with Republicans in those days—elect them to help Ike. Of course he was noticed immediately as we stood in the back of the hall and the master of ceremonies invited him to speak as well because he was up for reelection. Normally one should be somewhat daunted by a heavy Republican house and very partisan Republican candidates—but Humphrey marched right up to the front of the room, not particularly shaking hands with individual members of the group.

His response was like this. Notice the framing. “Thanks, Mr. Chairman. I’ve been standin’ in the back of the hall listening to a number of fine Republican candidates asking you farmers to send them to Washington or St. Paul or whatever so they can help Ike.”

There was a general murmur of agreement.

“I tell ya, Ike has enough help. Why he has a White House chucked full of Republicans. He’s got a secretary of state, Mr.Dulles who is a multi-millionaire, he’s got Engine Charlie Wilson from General Motors, a multi-millionaire as secretary of defense; he’s got Oveta Culp Hobby at health, education and welfare, a multi-millionaire publisher; he’s got Douglas McKay as secretary of the interior, a multi-millionaire; he’s got Art Summerfield as postmaster general a multi-millionaire; he’s got Ezra Taft Benson as secretary of agriculture who’s a shirt-tail relative of the powerful Taft family of multi-millionaires; he’s got Sinclair Weeks as secretary of commerce, a multi-millionaire, he had poor old Marty Durkin of the plumbers union, a Democrat as secretary of labor but he didn’t fit so now he’s got Jim Mitchell, a big time corporate labor consultant, a multi-millionaire. He’s got a Republican Congress—both Houses—chuck full of Republicans. Now, excuse me, but we hear the cry: “Send me to Washington to help Ike! I tell you Ike’s got enough help. Do YOU? I would advise you to send somebody to Washington to help YOU!”

That placid, mushy rally turned into a Democratic-Farmer-Labor full-blast convention that very minute. We couldn’t hardly get out of there because the farmers leapt off their chairs and gripped his hands—sometimes both hands—saying, “by God, Hubert, I may be a Republican but I like what you said!” That, I tell my students whenever I teach, is issue framing. He did it in all of ten minutes—an extraordinarily short speech for Hubert and then, his hands sore from handshaking, we were back in the car and cruising down the highway.

Then I say: Consider what Hubert did. He didn’t use statistics that time or scathing rejoinder, did he? Did he lie? No, but exaggerated outrageously only once. Ezra Taft Benson was an apostle of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Morman) and was decidedly not a multi-millionaire, having given away far more funds in accordance with the strictures of that religion than he kept. But what did Humphrey do? Not lie. He said Ezra Taft Benson was a shirt-tail relation of the famed Taft family of multi-millionaires. Everybody knew of the family of the late president and his son Robert Taft, a multi-millionaire and Horace Taft, his uncle, a multi-millionaire publisher. Under the rubrics of politics, it’s slick but oratorically permissible in the heat of battle. But that is what’s known as framing.

Humphrey didn’t invent framing (probably Alexander Hamilton did) but HHH was its best modern practitioner. Framing probably started with Lincoln’s admonishment in the midst of the Civil War not to change horses in the middle of the stream—a phrase he invented from his days on the farm. The best issue framer alive today is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. whose masterpiece coined during the Boston busing controversy still rings true: “Folks it ain’t the bus, it’s us!” There’s only one current Senator who imitates Humphrey to a T and regrettably, I must say, has his ear for issue framing. . He doesn’t have a lot of other gifts, certainly not the gift of what Hubert would say is “layin’ straight in bed” but he has framing down pat—Dick Durbin.

Once back in St. Cloud I covered Humphrey’s opponent, Val Bjornson, but it was like covering an auditor come to analyze the books vs. a true showman. He lost to Humphrey, of course, although I tried mightily to make him sound interesting.

On election night, 1954, , I dropped by the Stearns county Republican headquarters which was a wake. The GOP had lost the House and Senate and Hubert was on his way to Democratic leadership under Lyndon Johnson. The House had Sam Rayburn as speaker instead of Joe Martin. The mainstream media, not unlike today’s, forecast the death knell for Eisenhower if he would seek a second term. A prominent lawyer in St. Cloud, Fred J. Hughes, approached me at the wake and said he enjoyed my articles on Humphrey. “I perceive you’re a progressive Republican,” he said. I wasn’t sure what a progressive Republican was but responded possibly he was right.

“I want to talk to you about this state’s Republican party,” he said. “I’ll call.”

I forgot it and anyhow he didn’t call for quite some time. In the meantime, I was enjoying St. Cloud hugely, with the only proviso that it would definitely crimp my style to continue to live on $67.50 a week and any of the free-lancing I could gin up. I would have to think about moving on. I had a tentative offer from the St. Paul Pioneer Press but moving to that so-called Big City didn’t encourage me since it wasn’t too eager to pay a living wage to a young writer.

So I concentrated, happily, on St. Cloud which was at the time a repository of innocent joy and a multitude of venial sins. Concupiscence existed yes, but the small city’s prospective outrage at the possibility of any young man—much less a Chicago journalist—getting one of their young ladies in trouble was an automatic check to lust (not to mention the reaction of the young journalist’s Chicago family) and an inducement if not to chastity at least mandatory celibacy. This will surprise you greatly when you contrast the Catholic hierarchy there to the ultra-flexible and unself-confident one of today, but the Bishop of heavily Catholic St. Cloud was far more powerful than the mayor (a former Korean flying ace who stole my girl). The Bishop announced, for example, that he would prefer the diocese’s dance hall to be closed in Lent which meant that all citizens, Protestants and unbelievers alike, were to be deprived of entertainment during that penitential season. The dance halls timidly assented. The Norwegian Lutheran dinners had to be held on Sunday but no dancing.

In the meantime, I continued to get my hair cut by any Indian who would be incarcerated in the sheriff’s jail…eat Sunday leftsa and lutfisk at the Norwegian and Swedish dinners…occasionally allow myself to be confused as the progeny of the long dead and evidently great Federal Judge John Roeser…and hustle feature stories to wire-services. On several occasions, I ran the public address system at the minor league ball-park, reading the batting lineups and beginning with the profound intonation: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Our National Anthem!”

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Meeks from the Pulpit: Call Me, White People, and Tell Me to Run!

We are living in two different countries, as John Edwards said in the 2004 campaign—and let me offer one example. When a pastor who is also a state Senator announces he’s thinking of running for governor from the pulpit and thunders out a televised oration-homily that says, according to at least one public policy source, “Come on with me, white churches…Call me and tell me to run for governor. White people…who believe in Jesus, call me and tell me to run for governor” not in violation of his church’s non-profit status as well as separation of church and state? I ask: Is it when he’s black? Because a number of white conservative pastors and churches have been singled out in support of Republican candidacies—not the candidacy of the particular pastor.

Why are not our cowering, politically correct media pointing this out? Why does the IRS investigate other religious organizations and schools and veer away from African American churches that purvey the party line? Why does the Catholic archdiocese allow Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina’s, to allow presidential candidate Al Sharpton to harangue a congregation? Is Pfleger not the same white pastor of a black church who has been allowed to run many years over his term limit as pastor by the archdiocese which is too cowardly to insist he live by the rules other pastors must?

Where is the criticism of this case? If the quote is accurate, the only reason Reverend-Senator James Meeks is not feeling the heat is because he belongs to a constituency that since the civil rights struggle has been absolved from these transgressions because the feds is afraid of what it sees as bad press for prosecuting an African American church. And don’t respond by telling me I’m a bigot. I think my credentials in the civil rights community are fairly well-known: founder of the federal office that instituted set-asides where by the time I left $200 billion in contracts were given to minorities and countless additional billions since then…fomenter who initiated passage of the first civil rights resolution adopted by the National Governors’ conference…friend of the civil rights leader Andrew Young, supporter of his candidacies from Congress (where my company produced the film documentary of his history)…numerous corporate social responsibility programs…current proponent of the mayoral candidacy of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

I ask: where are the analytic news stories that underscore the flagrant violation of the non-profit status? Where are the political writers who cover potential candidacies and turn up all kinds of interesting sidelights ala Jack Ryan’s divorce records? Where are the news writers who were so mightily offended by Jim Oberweis’ commercials and any improper linkage with his ice cream business? The writers are under their beds. Are we going to see any story from the newspaper that prints Meeks’ patron, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s DNC political talking points as commentary? From the newspaper that prints Father Andrew Greeley’s Dem talking points as spirituality? Where are those writers, those TV expose architects of breaking news? Where are they? Where are the religion writers—or are uninterested in writing about the abrogation of church and state and are only intrigued with spaghetti and Christianity?

And you call this a journalist’s town.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Relatively Short Takes

• The idea, propounded by the minister-pol, that State Senator James Meeks would be attractive to social conservatives and thus could get votes beyond the African American community as the nominee of an “Honesty and Integrity” third party is ridiculous. Meeks is proposing an income tax hike to cover a $1 billion hike in educational spending and supports further gun-control. These don’t go hand-in-hand with social conservatism, a philosophy that needs a perfect four—pro-life, anti-special favoritism for gays, anti-gun control and no new taxes in order to be effective. But if his candidacy really got going, it would depress Blagojevich’s numbers, that’s for sure…

• Those blog contributors who predict a bright future for Bill Brady (a U. S. Senate bid, another governor bid) don’t appreciate that Brady has a big reconstruct job to rehab his candidacy after his spoiler campaign which zeroed in on Oberweis and left Topinka alone. A poster symbol: the so-called “Judas kiss” bestowed on him by Topinka, followed by her whispered thank you in his ear. A lot of water will have to go under the bridge before that will be forgotten…

• The greatest newsmagazine in the world—and the only profitable one—the London-published Economist is out with a wonderful report on Chicago, spreading out a good deal more meaningful statistics and insight than either daily newspaper published here. And it has only one thing wrong: the factr that the city may have a “whiff of scandal.” As Winston Churchill would say, “some whiff, some scandal.” But it’s a marvelous issue and you should read it…

• Why does this blog concentrate on the vacuous in the Sun-Times when there is so much that is good , i.e. local news coverage, City Hall, politics, Higgins’ cartoons, QT, Sneed? Because the vacuous is there, probably. Take Debra Pickett’s stupid column asking that “Guys do us women a favor; turn down the manliness dial.” She’s purportedly commenting on the belief of Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield (one of the few conservatives at Harvard) that there is a crisis of manliness in the nation. Of course, Pickett whose “V for Vendetta” style grimace adorns the newspaper wherever it appears in several categories: stories about whom she dines with, reviews of the fluffy “Smart Girls Book Club” and her regular column which is a really remarkable 700 words ever to be produced by a would-be hipster in search of an idea. Anyhow, Pickett believes the war in Iraq was caused because President Bush wanted to be manly. After watching Ms. Pickett do her commentaries on Channel 11, she convinces me she is at bottom a self-promoter wielding clichés to nihilistic effect who writes columns where nothing happens at least twice…

• Denny Byrne is one of Chicago conservatism’s greatest assets, writing a weekly Op Ed in the Tribune. In fact, he is the only local conservative now allowed a regular voice in either daily newspaper or the suburban Herald which shows you how successful Mono-Media has been in snuffling out contrary views. Therefore as a friend of Denny’s, I support his views almost always in their entirety, a record of two who think almost alike. Without Denny, no newspaper reader in Chicago or suburbs would ever catch wind of any countervailing local views not espoused by the editorial boards. Nevertheless now allow me to make a gentle correction in this Monday’s piece. Catholic Byrne’s take on the crisis in the Catholic archdiocese was right-on except for an understandable but unfortunate inaccuracy at the conclusion. Denny concludes: “For many of us, it is reminiscent of a church that may have ignored the evils of the Holocaust.”

Not so. The fiction that Pius XII was uncaring and indifferent to the sufferings of the Jews first began with fiction, in the play The Deputy, Rolf Hochhuth’s stage presentation of 1963 which caused a sensation. It was The Da Vinci Code potboiler of its day (I saw it in New York and even as an amateur papal historian I saw through some of its many faults and contrived utterances, Hochhuth, an East German Communist with an interest in sowing anger in the West writing with the nihilism of the `60s). The complete answer has been documented by Margherita Marchione, a nun who has devoted her life to rectifying the injustice whom I interviewed in Chicago on the radio in 2000. She is professor emerita of Italian Language and Literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of Pope Pius XII Architect of Peace [Paulist Press: 2000].

Marchione documents painstakingly, as an old-fashioned nun would, the fallacies in the play and the subsequent charges by British author John Cornwall in his fallacious book Hitler’s Pope. Far from being insensitive to the plight of the Jews, Pius by brilliant diplomatic action saved the lives of some 200,000 and won praise from not just the Chief Rabbi of Rome but the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Isaac Herzog who wrote, “The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates…are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in this most tragic hour of world history.” Golda Meir’s valedictory to Pius reads: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims.” Subsequent investigations following Cornwall’s book show that Pius’ relative silence during the war was a stratagem agreed upon by leaders of the World Jewish Congress who feared that dramatic indictments from the Pope would result in even worse outrages against the Jews. Pius, all Holocaust experts agree, orchestrated the saving of many thousands of Jewish lives.

In summary, the poisoned pen of Hochhuth still endures through willful first impression, just as, ironically, twisted revisionism itself has presented the film “Munich” by Stephen Spielberg which represents Islamic terrorists and Israeli justice in despicably equivalent terms. Denny is not to be faulted for his erroneous impression because spawned by Hochhuth, the father of the lie, it is still all too prevalent. His scorching of the archdiocese, similar to my own, is justified, not the misbegotten historical allusion to Pius for which Denny is not responsible

Flashback: Trying to Interview the Nation’s Last Civil War Veteran.

Before leaving Duluth and the 1954 CIO convention, I asked a pal, the Duluth News-Tribune’s Einar Karlstrand how to interview the man who was the nation’s last Union veteran of the Civil War, 107-year-old Albert Woolson (thinking if the old man were cogent I could sell the story to a magazine). Karlstrand took me to the family home where Woolson’s daughter, well in her 80s herself, was always interested in getting press for her beloved father. Woolson, born in 1847, began as a 14-year-old drummer boy and the first Bull Run and lasted through Gettysburg. Unfortunately when I appeared at his bedside he kept his sightless pale blue eyes fixed on me and said not a word. “He hears you but today he’s just stubborn,” she said.

Woolson was immortalized for an interview he gave a few years earlier. His daughter said proudly, “Pa hasn’t got an enemy in the world!” To which he responded loudly: “Yeah, I outlived the sonuvabitches.”

Sen. Jim DeLeo and Gary Skoien Were an Interesting Combination

The assistant Democratic majority leader of the Illinois Senate and the Republican chairman of Cook county were a good pair on my WLS-AM radio show last night. Skoien, a bright and articulate man, supported Ron Gidwitz for governor but as a loyalist as is required by his post has endorsed Topinka. Jim DeLeo, a powerful and resourceful leader of the Senate who represents a fairly conservative Northwest Side constituency sees no problem in Gov. Blagojevich’s reelection as the governor “has grown” in the past few years. I didn’t get the idea that either DeLeo or Skoien believe that State Sen. James Meeks will run as an independent for governor, the two seeming to feel that Meeks is trying to extort—if that is the correct word—concessions out of Blagojevich.

Normally, DeLeo conceded, the so-called conservative social views of the Reverend and Senator and, in his dreams, Governor-to-be Meeks (although I have heard precious few of them) could have an impact with Reagan Democrats except that Meeks is calling for a hike in the state income tax to produce more revenue for the schools—hardly a welcome prospect for anyone except the members his own huge Salem Baptist church who, if their hearing has not been damaged by the Reverend’s stentorian shouting, are usually able to respond with huzzas from the amen corner.

The Sun-Times: Properly Democratic but Tied to Fluff

In other places on this blog I’ve praised the Sun-Times for resolving to be a truly partisan newspaper in the style that papers once were: in this case Democratic…with Lynn Sweet writing admirable liberal copy both in news stories and analysis. But the paper is maimed with so-called hip fluff such as Cathleen Falsani pretending to write a religion column but concentrating instead on the merest of trivialities and spending time on a book that is concerned partially with the spirituality of Hugh Hefner…Carol Marin who is supposed to be a political columnist but who only plays one on TV, “analyzing” as she did Sunday on how “women”—that category she reserves for feminists, pro-aborts and lefties of her ilk (Marin does not recognize conservative women)—react to Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka. Whom am I forgetting? Not Sneed who is better at what she does than any other gossip columnist in town. But here’s the point:

The reporter who does a better job covering Chicago city government—better than any other on this or any other paper is Fran Spielman, an expert on Chicago politics and the nuances of urban policy. On certain days she may write a third of the newspaper’s local coverage but is not allowed a column whereas such the following flyweights have: Falsani, Marin, Debra Pickett and, oh yes, Jennifer Hunter (who proves to us that a paper’s trying to be hip doesn’t exclude the publisher from hiring his wife to write editorials along with an occasional column of forgettable pap). It is comforting to see that one thing hasn’t died since I was a journalist 50 years ago—marital nepotism.

Then there is Cindy Richards. Liberal hemophiliac she is like her journalistic sisters, but she brings not the slightest expertise to her advocacy other than, the other day in pushing for higher property taxes, talking to a cab-driver who believes we are due for a race riot. I would much rather hear from the cab-driver first-hand. It is all very well for a Democratic paper to feature Democrats but it would be helpful if they knew something about their subjects. Now about Spielman, she should be a liberal Democrat in order to work for the Sun-Times but very possibly she isn’t. That could be why she has no column and has never been used on “Chicago Tonight” “Chicago Week in Review” and the superb WBEZ program hosted by Steve Edwards since they have a pathology of ignoring conservative ideas. She did make a crack in one of her news stories of Rahm Emanuel owing his soul to Daley—so perhaps that did it. But the paper should forgive her this transgression and recognize that in her field she is the best. If the Tribune knew what it’s doing it would hire her pronto at quadruple her pay and give her a column.

Re: Falsani, if she were even a modestly good liberal Democratic columnist covering religion, she would get on the story of how dissident Catholic pastors are refusing to allow circulation of the proposed marriage amendment in the back of their churches, despite the fact that all Illinois bishops and Cardinal George have written letters supporting it. Falsani could write this and cheer the pastors for standing up to old church authoritarianism. All told, only about 100 parishes have agreed to obey their bishops out of more than a thousand in the state. The rest cower because they fear to appear homophobic by attesting to Christ’s dictum that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Since Falsani isn’t big on theology (except in the book she wrote where she is intrigued about the beliefs of Dusty Baker of the Cubs) she might crib these items on the history of heterosexual marriage—moral conscience as it pertains to the indissolubility of marriage in the Jewish bible; the growth in that testament from the polygamy of patriarchs and kings to Moses’ stricture of monogamy; the evolution of the prophets who tied monogamy to the model of God’s covenant with Israel down through the ages to Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana and Paul’s injunction “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her.” She might speculate that with a record like this, the fearfulness of many Catholic pastors is tantamount to spinelessness—but that would be a conservative thought for which she is ill-equipped. She could defend the dissident pastors by saying that they are more progressive than their bishops and hurrah for it.

But it would be a story about religion which, who knows, might spur at least as much interest as the tie-in she made of spaghetti and God as she did in a previous immortal column.

Very Few Objections to This Blog’s Stand on Topinka

Far more people supported this blog’s recommendation to leave the governor category blank rather than vote for Judy Baar Topinka—to keep the Illinois GOP out of Combine hands with her loss—but there was some support for voting for Rod Blagojevich. Frankly, leaving the space blank or voting for Blagojevich is of little difference to me so long as Topinka isn’t elected by passive Republican voters. Her readiness to defeat Peter Fitzgerald, based on her steadfast refusal as State GOP Chairman to support his reelection was the final straw. Her disingenuousness and duplicity cannot be rationalized or defended.

This is the first time in more than fifty years with political experience in two states that this writer has determined not to vote for governor, cognizant that his refusal to support the Republican candidate could in some small measure help the Democratic incumbent—but he has no twinges of guilt about that. In fact, he has voted for Democratic gubernatorial candidates before. He voted for Democrats Michael Howlett and Adlai Stevemson III over Jim Thompson, votes that have turned out rather well in the review of Illinois history. In 1998 he voted for Democrat Glenn Poshard, the distinctly better candidate when compared to George Ryan. Earlier, after having voted for primary opponents to Governor Edgar and lost, he voted for Edgar in the general election—an easy choice particularly when Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch and Attorney General Neil Hartigan were involved.

It is fair to say that this blog could have voted for Ron Gidwitz in the general election because his views on social liberalism are not passionate and could easily be balanced against his signal virtues, such as his determination to bring the budget and spending into line and his willingness to serve one term if necessary, risking voter alienation to get good things done. It could have voted for Bill Brady in the general albeit with diminished enthusiasm because of his strange assaults on fellow conservative Jim Oberweis rather than Topinka or Gidwitz—but could have voted for him anyhow, given what it perceived—and still perceive, it believes and hopes—are his views.

There was at least one hostile rejoinder in Reader’s Comments to the decision to leave the category open—that from a strong 2nd amendment supporter named Tom who said that it is folly to regard the future of the Republican party over the future of gun rights. The respondent obviously feels that gun rights are to be valued over other issues including life or Topinka’s treacherous attack on Peter Fitzgerald. But this blog thinks he should recognize that by sacrificing the Republican party in a vote for one who, history shows, cannot be trusted for telling the truth, would be distinctly the wrong choice to make.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

And so the CIO Convention in Duluth and a Struggle With the Left.

Scholar ( at least I think he is), blog-master of his own and good contributor to mine Bill Barr corrects me about the IWW Wobblies. Correct name was Industrial [not International] Workers of the World. I thought International sounded strange when I wrote it. Now, children and grandchildren, we’re off to the CIO convention in Duluth 52 years ago. I told Humphrey I wouldn’t write anything (my paper wasn’t interested) and so went along as an observer.

Now, don’t get the idea that when I mention Communists in connection with the fifties, I am throwing around charges like Joe McCarthy. There really were Communists in 1954 in the labor movement, leftovers from World War II…and some at this very convention. In 1949 CIO president Phil Murray expelled no fewer than nine member unions for undue Communist influence. As a freshman Senator, Humphrey hired Max Kampelman to help him take up the probe of Reds in unions where Murray left off. Kampelman was a fascinating guy: a liberal who was turning more conservative by the year; a close friend of Humphrey, his legislative assistant, who ultimately left for private practice and was his personal attorney. (Kampelman became a right hand man to President Ronald Reagan for disarmament and a tougher, more resourceful anti-Communist there never was). Armed with stuff that Kampelman gave him, Humphrey showed that the United Electrical Workers, fired by the CIO, was still in Communist hands; their leaders simply had filled out false affidavits to the National Labor Relations Board. He wanted the board to prosecute the UEW but then, in 1953, the Senate changed over to Republican hands and Humphrey’s investigations committee was taken over by Joe McCarthy.

By the summer of 1954 the Red scare had reached its zenith. McCarthy was sinking into the bottle. He and the Army tangled on television, Robert Oppenheimer was denied security clearance; Wyoming’s Senator Lester Hunt committed suicide because, it was said, of fear of McCarthy’s charges. Maryland’s Republican Senator John Marshall Butler took up Humphrey’s concern about Red unions but added a fillip of his own: he proposed the attorney general be given the power to bring charges against any union proven to be Communist-infiltrated to the Subversive Activities Control Board Oregon’s independent Senator Wayne Morse, a former Republican, charged that the bill could lead to union busting. Republicans, seeing the Red scare as a hot issue in 1954, were beating the drums when Humphrey decided to go them one better. Whether it was a wise action or not, he did it: offering an amendment to outright ban the Communist party.

Civil libertarians screamed it was unconstitutional and an insult to conscience but liberal Senators liked it and called for a vote since it gave them the chance to vote against the Reds. Of course conservative Senators liked it as well and it was poised to pass. It turned out the Eisenhower administration didn’t want a measure this strong and so it was watered down to meaninglessness with the penalties for belonging removed—but there it was: the Communist Control Act of 1954. It swept to passage 85 to 0. By crafting it, Humphrey not only insured his own reelection on an issue in which he was faltering, he gave a gift to every other liberal Democrat up for reelection.

Still, when we got to Duluth, in the smoky hotel rooms and over many glasses of booze, the CIO was prepared to endorse him, but its left-wing adherents were angered. Humphrey was a sell-out to Joe McCarthy and to the Eisenhower administration.

He handled the Joe McCarthy matter brilliantly. On the issue of cooperating with the Eisenhower administration during what was a pretty difficult time, Humphrey made it plain to them—and to me as we often chatted alone—that the role of the opposition during threat of war was to cooperate with the president. He particularly supported what was known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, by which the U. S. reserved the right to aid any country in the Middle East that was threatened by Communist aggression or subversion. There was a lot of discussion from the left in the Duluth convention that Ike was a war-monger, that we had no right to throw our weight around, that we were inviting nuclear war etc. All the things we hear today about Iraq: we have no friends, we stand opposed to insurgent aspirations. Humphrey argued on two levels: that of security for the country but the second from the standpoint of practical politics.

If the American people ever get the idea that the Democrats are opposed to our participation in the Cold War, he said, even when events seem rocky, they will reject our party and their good faith may not return for generations. I have no doubt that were he around today and as vigorous as he was then, he’d have crafted a Democratic plan for Iraq that would be somewhat different than Bush’s but would be designed to win over the insurgents. Humphrey would believe that the positions of John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and others would win some short-term adherence but would be disastrous for the Democratic party. And what I fear most is that when the time comes for the Democrats to take over—as it must given our election cycles—that party will not be worthy because of its pandering to the irresolute. Only Joe Lieberman—and how effective is he?

Quickly, Humphrey’s critics turned to his legislation to outlaw the Communist Party. Not only the leftists were outraged but intellectuals like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Joseph Rauh, the head of Americans for Democratic Action. The liberal media were against it, too.

The issue was an abrogation of civil liberties. Many CIO delegates were not interested that Humphrey had introduced the bill to save his reelection; they thought he was a cowardly wimp who flinched before the bluster of Joe McCarthy to save his own skin. In fact, one told him that to his face as I listened as we sat before a crowded room. Humphrey stirred menacingly and I thought here it comes, there’s going to be a fist-fight.

“Listen, you,” Humphrey said. “You’re interested in civil liberties, are you?” Yeah, said the guy. It’s clear you’re not.

“Listen to me now—all of you and shut up until I’m through. I’m goddamn tired of McCarthy’s line of `twenty years of treason.’ What my bill has done hasn’t snuffed out civil liberties, it’s enhanced it.”

The guy said: Listen Humphrey, I understand you’re a spellbinder but if you can convince me of that you’re better than I think you are.

“I’ll tell you—and all of you. We’re all agreed that McCarthy convicts people through character assassination, are we not?”

They all nodded.

“He convicts innocent people who have no place to go to clear their names?”

All nodded again.

“But with the Communist party outlawed with membership a crime each guy named by McCarthy would have his day in court which means that he could face the charges against him—unlike now—examine witnesses—unlike now—use the rules of evidence to examine the charges against him—unlike now—confront hostile witnesses—unlike now—and once party membership were defined as a crime, if Joe McCarthy couldn’t prove his case he could be sued for criminal libel!”

The room fell silent. Humphrey went over to the scotch bottle, poured himself a weak glass, mixed it to the brim with soda while the room meditated.

They rumbled, mumbled and left. After they left and we were alone, he called Kampelman on the phone.

“It worked,” he said.

He made the pitch only more eloquently the next morning and was enthusiastically endorsed. On election day not only was he reelected but the Democrats, largely using that argument during their Senate campaigns, won control of the Senate.

It was a brilliant play—probably the most skillful device to defuse a ticking bomb which threatened to detonate the Democrats into a weapon that won a significant victory for them. I had seen enough, though. I discovered that Humphrey was a master political player—but I didn’t want to work for him. Too slick by half. Yet I learned a lot and I was grateful to him. And while I was secure in my decision to spurn a role in his campaign because of my conservative philosophy, I couldn’t help thinking I was choosing the losing side.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Re: Topinka. This Blog at Least Says Never. Never. Never.

Now that the choice is between pro-abort Judy Baar Topinka and pro-abort Gov. Blagojevich, what should social conservatives do—vote for Topinka who at least has a conservative Lieutenant Governor nominee, Joe Birkett…or vote for Blagojevich in the hope that Republicans will be taught a lesson by the defeat of their pro-abort candidate. Neither course would be prudent. While Natural Law sometimes prescribes the lesser of two evils, here there is no lesser. The answer is clear. Give the category of governor a pass.

If there is no other alternative—no third party or independent candidate who embraces socially conservative views that would serve as a party in exile-—the only option is to pass up the category for governor entirely. A Lieutenant Governor Birkett, no matter how much he agrees with us, would have utterly no power in a Topinka administration since her views on social policy would transcend his…and this blandishment should be rejected because it is falsity on its face. In Illinois, the Lieutenant Governor does not even preside over the Senate, has no vote whatsoever even in case of tie. I take it as a given that a Bill Brady advising a vote for Topinka would be regarded as redundant, since he’s delivered before.

A Topinka victory would be disastrous for social conservatives—far more than a Blagojevich victory. Some argue that because Blagojevich is more fiscally reckless, more likely to innovate with seriously immoral social programs, Topinka who is less inclined to do so would be a reasonable choice. But this ignores a Governor Topinka takeover of the Illinois Republican party…with the result that it would be far more a closed corporation to any views but hers—and any chance of our having at least one party reasonably open to our views would be ended. A Republican party with no Republican governor to throttle it is by far the more desirable course. Conservative policies would at least have a chance for a hearing. Under Topinka an Illinois Republican party would be as closed to our views as is the state Democratic hierarchy.

The first priority should be to keep the levers of the Republican party free from a vise-like grip that a pro-abort Republican governor Topinka—especially based on her former descriptions of social conservatives as “kooks”—would exert. In my view, no campaign blandishments from Topinka or Joe Birkett directed to social conservatives should be taken seriously since they would be the most flatulent campaign oratory. The arguments to vote for Topinka which will surely be offered by certain pro-life Republicans but should be regarded as pure opportunism and rejected.

Sweet Scores Again with a Superb “Ask Aunt Lynn” Advice Column to Elect Tammy Durkworth. In Line with Hallowed Tradition of Old-Time Newspaper Partisanship. She Doubles as an Ace Consultant. Axelrod: Look to Your Laurels!

Leading the way in a newspaper that is abjectly and unembarrassed in its partisanship—the way papers should be, in my estimation, where news and editorial opinions merge in rhetorical unity (this said not in irony but in admiration)—Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times has written a column worthy of the late George Tagge of the old lamented Tribune. In “Duckworth Faces Struggle to Unify Dems,” Sweet outlines a bold three-point program that allies of Duckworth can use to heal the divisions within their party and elect Duckworth over State Sen. Peter Roskam.

Sage political strategist Sweet knows politics superbly (and didn’t waste her time on election day serving as a judge of election in some kind of Civics 101 exercise) as did Carol Marin the misplaced celebrity “political columnist.” Sweet gives the Duckworth people advice they would have had to pay many thousands for—advice for the cost of 50 cents in yesterday’s edition. After consulting with Duckworth spokesman Billy Weinberg who has been less than a first-rate mind in the campaignh, she asked Duckworth how the Christine Cegalis people can be wooed to Duckworth.

Weinberg’s answer: ‘By reminding them how high the stakes are” frankly cuts no ice. It’s sophomoric. Promptly, Aunt Lynn herself gives the answer in four steps—and it’s more than a unity breakfast which will be held Saturday. : First, Cegalis should be given a top place in the Duckworth campaign; second Cegalis should be groomed for another run, probably for state Rep and given extraordinary help; third, like a tough mother, Sweet orders Rahm Emanuel who is despised among Cegalis people to lavish attention on the defeated candidate along with Dick Durbin and Barack Obama; fourth, journalist-consultant Sweet has called for Howard Dean, a favorite of Cegalis, to lend a hand.

Now that’s advice that a first-rate political consultant would produce for the cost of a couple of grand. But Sweet is a passionate lefty believer and wants her party to succeed, which is exemplary. In Sweet Democrats have that wrapped up in a first-rate journalistic analyst. And I daresay Sweet never served a day as an election judge: she didn’t have to. Celebrity Marin, incidentally, goofed up the other day by asking Republican 8th district nominee David McSweeney how he planned to distance himself from Vice President Cheney when Cheney raised money for McSweeney in the campaign. Oops. Cheney raised money for Peter Roskam, not McSweeney—and in the 6th district not the 8th. But spending all that time in the TV makeup room does interfere with getting the numbers straight, doesn’t it?

Back to Duckworth and expert Sweet: For all the attention she has received from her Iraq war experience, Duckworth who appeared on “Chicago Tonight” is not a campaign natural. She is not comfortable with issue specifics and may very well never be. That doesn’t mean she can’t get elected—and count on Aunt Lynn to follow up with more advice, on the knack of framing issues. Duckworth needs help in framing. Unless Emanuel gets someone to help Duckworth on that, count on Aunt Lynn to supply it for another 50 cents.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Election Observations: The Topinka-Brady TV Kiss and Her Whispered Musings in His Ear. His Call to Topinka to Get Her to Claim Victory Before the Cook county Returns Were In. Interesting, Huh?

Not all was disappointing to this blog on election night. David McSweeney won handily as GOP nominee in the 8th CD—and let it be known that Kathy Salvi, my former student, was a class act…calling McSweeney not just for concession but to pledge her support…and the fact that she gave him a $1,000 check for his campaign. That’s what I call true sportsmanship…Joe Birkett for the Republican Lieutenant Governorship a favorite of this blog (though not running-mate Judy Baar Topinka)…

Other optimistic things: the nomination of conservative, pro-lifer Matt Murphy over supposed icon Rita Mullins, the liberal Republican mayor of Palatine, in Senate 27. The defeat of 87-year-old Republican Adeline Geo-Karis, ally of Big Jimbo Thompson, feisty and all that, somewhat endearing but garrulous and tedious as well as cross-eye-edly liberal to Suzanne Simpson in Senate 21…the loss of Pamela Mitroff, Personal PACs darling in House 95 (I hope she made him spend it all)…

The so-called Unity Breakfast started on a downer, with Judy being a bad winner (as she was a bad debater), shucking off any attempt to ditch Bob Kjellander which would at least have been a unity pretext. The fact that conservatives—Oberweis and Brady—polled 51 percent compared to social liberals Topinka and Gidwitz’s 49 percent shows that the GOP is almost evenly split: which after the successive terms of Thompson, Edgar and G. Ryan, indicates some growth. Also this undeniable truth:

After Bill Brady won the Conservative Summit endorsement, there was a supposed unity meeting which attempted to build a unified ticket. Neither Oberweis or Brady agreed to a reshuffle. All well and good. But the meeting seemed to be an impetus for Brady to raise money to become in fact as in theory the conservative choice. He did not or could not produce the money and during the summer and early Fall he rejected steadily either the need for raising money or the fact that he could not, proclaiming he could win anyhow. His inability to raise requisite funds would normally lead him to pull out in favor of Oberweis. In fact I tried to raise money for him since at the Summit after supporting Birkett, I agreed to endorse Brady. I failed. Nevertheless, Brady decided to wing it, shucked off any implication that he would be a spoiler.

But then he became one—in fact as in deed: using his candidacy to attack the other conservative in the race, Oberweis. Why he was hitting Oberweis rather than his liberal opponents mystified me. How could he hope to get conservative votes by assailing the only other conservative. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go after either Gidwitz or Topinka? I still don’t have the answer to that one.

His growing closeness to Topinka as the campaign unfolded became clear. I don’t imply a deal and conspiracy theories aren’t my bag, but it was a strange strategy if strategy it was. On election night, while the Cook county returns were still out, Brady called Topinka and convinced her to proclaim victory following which Brady made his concession. Then at the Unity Breakfast there was this magical kiss between Topinka and Brady with Topinka whispering something in Brady’s ear. Ve-r-y in-t-er-es-ting.


[The recent disclosure of the audit that showed wanton dereliction of duty by the Catholic archdiocese and yet another apology from Cardinal Francis George prompts me to reprint here another article I wrote for The Wanderer, the oldest national Catholic weekly in the nation. It deals with the national director of SNAP].

CHICAGO—David Clohessy, abused by a priest, has been a man with a fiery purpose: to rid the Church he no longer believes in of priestly pedophiles and bishops who protect them.

Clohessy was here not long ago to meet with a Chicago woman I wrote about last week—Barbara Blaine. Together they run an organization called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). Blaine founded it; I wrote about her last week. After a wretched experience as a child with a 45-year-old priest who fondled her and told her she was his own true love and that they would be married in heaven with Jesus Christ looking on approvingly, Blaine, a lawyer with two masters degrees, leads the charge in the media as critic of those whom, she says, protect abusive priests. Clohessy who lives in St. Louis is its national director and also is often quoted. Both are paid by SNAP; both call for the resignation of Francis Cardinal George.

The Cardinal has a residue of good will here because he is an articulate expositor of authenticist philosophy and theology which conservative Catholics relish after a long period of nihilism spurred by his predecessor, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. But no one man has a lock on all talents and George has lost many supporters by seemingly parsing his rhetoric to please all sides while not taking the situation in hand. He had said, after a priest was indicted for criminal misbehavior with three children, that he would tighten up the machinery and would adopt new procedures. That satisfied people for a time. In fact, a spontaneous demonstration in his behalf was held on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral with many authenticist Catholics calling for widespread support of the prelate.

But then, voila!, after the demonstration, the state of Illinois reported something that George had never divulged: that the Cardinal’s own Review Board had recommended the priest’s removal—and that George didn’t do anything about it, with the result that the archdiocese waited until the priest was indicted. Moreover the Sun-Times reported that the priest in question was referred by the archdiocese to a facility in Maryland that has been noted for giving a light once-over to accused priests and sending them back to their dioceses. That disclosure triggered outrage in some authenticist circles and a possible change of attitude toward what SNAP is all about.

The impression has gained wide currency here that George has bent over backwards to ingratiate himself with a species of liberal priest, a species that criticized him as “Francis the Corrector” after he was appointed archbishop.
One priest told me, “He was so traumatized by that criticism that he has leaned far overboard to placate these guys [the liberal priests].” George has not instituted a new and independent mechanism to root out abuse, relying on the Chancellor, a layman with the improbable name of Jimmy (not James) Lago. Lago is a longtime church bureaucrat who gained prominence under Cardinal Bernardin. His reputation never improved noticeably from his days as lobbyist for the Illinois Catholic Conference in Springfield when he seemed far more interested in parochaid than pro-life legislation.

Now there is some disillusion with George and the archdiocese over the issue of wayward priests, prompting questions about SNAP: could it be it is a radical undercover group that promotes radical changes in the priesthood ala “Voice of the Faithful?” Last week Blaine stressed to me it does not. This week Clohessy in a long interview with The Wanderer verified it does
not. The group takes no stand on celibacy or Church dogma, just insisting that offending priests be sent away until the nature of the offense is either validated or disproved. They are ambiguous as to whether homosexuality in the priesthood is the culprit (the priest who abused Blaine concentrated on young girls; the one who made advances to Clohessy dealt only with boys). But both are severely critical of George whom they call a vacillating bishop who delayed facing up to the problem of priestly sexual abuse. And both insist he should resign as archbishop of Chicago.

“It goes beyond incompetence,” Clohessy told me of George, “—because his behavior, we believe, has been deliberately deceptive. I can give you three very recent examples. Number one—a woman reported in writing and verbally, she says, to several church and school officials about [the indicted priest] in 2000. Cardinal George says he knows nothing.

In the last month, seven new names of credibly accused Chicago priests have surfaced publicly in the news media. Three of those seven remained in active ministry until just very recently and two of those priests had allegations going back six years in one case and two years in the other case and yet they remained in active ministry. Beyond that, a nun says that she reported one priest in 2000. Cardinal George says he doesn’t know about that. A mother says she reported [the priest] in August to the archdiocese. Cardinal George denies that. So it’s not just the fact that kids have been molested…[b]ut beyond that we feel he’s simply being deceitful about how much he knew about these cases.”

But, I said, isn’t it fair to assume he actually knew nothing because the archdiocese is a big corporation?

“It’s conceivable but, frankly, we think pretty unlikely. Let me go to the other two. The Willowbrook [Illinois] mother whose son was [allegedly] abused by [the priest] says that she had at least two phone calls and one face-to-face meeting with the archdiocesean staff in August or September of last year. The Cardinal denies that. The third case is that the [archdiocesean] Review Board told the Sun-Times …that they recommended [the priest] be removed and again the Cardinal said nothing about that.” Conceding that the Board had made an informal recommendation, Clohessy said “at the very minimum we think that he has withheld crucial information that has led to the abuse of children—but beyond that, we think he has deceptively withheld information.”

Serious charge. He agreed and repeated it slowly. “Keep in mind again that in the last month in news accounts, seven names of credibly accused priests have surfaced but had never surfaced before and that three of those priests remained in ministry until very recently. Two of these priests faced multiple allegations that went back years. So fundamentally, we think he’s violating the number one promise the Bishops made in Dallas in 2002 and that they made repeatedly ever since.”

About the appointment of Lago as the point person on priest abuse, he said, “I think common sense tells you that when you have a severe crisis in your organization—in a thoroughly insular, tightly-knit, secretive organization—that’s not the time to promote someone in your inner circle. In other words, we believe that Jimmy Lago has already had a great role in sex abuse cases, whether formally or not, and so it’s a mistake to promote [him]. If you’re trying to reassure the flock that you’re trying to change course, you don’t take someone who’s already in the inner circle and elevate them.”

Clohessy repeated that SNAP has no agenda beyond clearing up abuse. “We are not the `Roman Catholic Faithful.’ We are not `Call to Action.’ We are a support group. We like to say we are basically 90 percent AA [Alcoholics Anonymous, the support group that leads victims to overcome trauma] and 10 percent `Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.’ There have been a handful of bishops—I’m going to say from 20 to 25 bishops—who we have praised for specific actions in abuse cases…In some ways, Bishop [Wilton] Gregory did a good job in Belleville [Illinois] but we also think that his role on the national scene [as head of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops] has been vastly overrated. It is safe to say that virtually every bishop could do better.”

He said he has no illusions that “our call for the Cardinal’s resignation will, you know, prod him [or remove him]…It’s simply a statement of what we think would be best for the safety of kids and for the healing of victims.”

I asked him if it was true that his organization is funded largely by personal injury attorneys who bring charges in behalf of victims. He said that a recent study showed only 18 percent of the contributors are lawyers. “The last time I checked we got well over half our funds from lay Catholics and the rest from survivors and their families.”

Clohessy, in his mid-40s, was born in St. Louis, grew up in Moberly, Missouri in the Jefferson City diocese “where I was abused.” He was a good Catholic as a child and was 11 or 12 when it began which continued until he was 16. His brother Kevin was abused by the same priest. Kevin went on to become a priest and abused kids himself which led to his suspension. David Clohessy attended Drury College, in Springfield, Missouri, majored in philosophy and political science. He took a job as a community relations director in a suburban St. Louis school district, then worked for the St. Louis department of public safety. He was close to Democratic St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley, an African-American . He joined SNAP in 1990, has been national director of SNAP since 1991.

He has an interesting view of celibacy, saying that some candidates for the priesthood have troubled sexual identities and “convince themselves that `if I devote myself to a life of service to God and His Church through the gift of celibacy it will help me with the terrible urges I feel.’” His personal view (not that of SNAP) is that “celibacy contributes to perpetuate the abuse. In other words if no priest is allowed to have any kind of sex, then I suspect that many priests will have secrets.”

I pondered that one for a moment and unsure what it meant resolved to get his view of celibacy one more time.

Barbara Blaine founded SNAP in 1989. The organization’s budget is roughly $500,000 a year with four support staff members that provide service to 62 support groups throughout the country which include about 6,200 members. The mission, he says, is “to heal the wounded” and “protect the vulnerable.” He added, “I really want to drive home, if you don’t mind…I really want to stress that 90 percent of what we do is self-help. Ninety-five percent of what we do never makes the headlines, never is in the public eye.”

Are priests often innocent victims of baseless charges?

He cited an August 28, 2002 New York Times story that quoted a lawyer who represented priests charged with abuse as saying that of the more than 500 priests he represented, fewer than 10 were charged falsely. He acknowledged that a Minnesota attorney, Jeff Anderson, who has brought law suits against dioceses has contributed to SNAP but not large amounts. SNAP is “pretty much the only” organization that gives support to sexual abuse victims, he said, and it doesn’t only concern itself with Catholic priests. Self-help groups have been formed within Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses and overseas missionary Protestant churches.

He came back to the question of how innocent accused priests are.

He’s met with “probably 15 bishops over the past 16 or 17 years. I’ve made it a point to ask every single one of them how many false allegations are in your diocese? The answer I consistently get from them is been zero or one or two.”

Now I asked him to re-state his view on celibacy, He tried one more time. “Some sexually troubled young men, devout but sexually troubled, use celibacy as a panacea that will help them calm their deviant urges.” Then I asked him the great divisive question that seems to open a chasm between authenticist Catholics and some leaders of SNAP: Are priests who abuse children for the most part homosexuals? Are you prepared to say that homosexuality in the priesthood is a problem? There was a time on television when Blaine challenged statistics that seemed to make that point.

Let us agree that Clohessy didn’t respond with total clarity.

“I think it’s a problem in the same way that celibacy is—in that it contributes to--. I think it attracts more men to the priesthood and it contributes to the overall culture of secrecy within the priesthood.”

I tried one more time. “Would it be fair to say that although pedophilia is commonly in the headlines, generally speaking, the actions of priests with young people are more of a homosexual nature in the sense that young, pre-pubescent boys or pubescent boys can be attractive?”

He responded: “That’s tough to say. Certainly the bishops tell us that 80 percent of the victims are male. [On the other hand] half the members of our support group are females who were abused as girls. So, to be honest, we don’t really know, nor does it fundamentally really matter to us what the sexual orientation of the priest is.”

He added, “Obviously, we’re concerned whether someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or sexually confused.” Heterosexual? He continued, “What we care about, obviously, is when they cross the line and sexually abuse a child.” Continuing on the issue of homosexuality: “You know, there is a real paucity of hard, objective data about this. Much of the data that exists comes from the bishops and we think it’s highly suspect. I guess that’s point number one.” He stressed the seriousness of abuse to the very young. “Point number two—I’m not a psychologist—but it’s hard for me to imagine that abuse can be as traumatic and devastating for a 14-year-old as it can for a 10-year-old. The law has to draw some clear lines along the age of consent.” But illicit sex is a sin for all of us, priest included, and sex with a minor is a crime. We never seemed to clear up the point on homosexuality.

In summary, he said, “Our position is that if a grownup coerces or manipulates someone under 18 into sexual behavior, the genders are irrelevant.” Yes but it does seem to evade a clear-cut answer. One famous social psychologist I know says flatly that homosexuality is the prime problem in the priesthood.

He discussed the ravages of that faces those abused by priests. “I would say that virtually every one of our members has struggled with some type of addiction—with depression, with—what’s the word I’m looking for?—intimacy problems, self-destructive patterns. In other words we’ve had many members who tried to kill themselves. We have many members who are in prison. In many respects what makes the crime so devastating is that these predators are often not overtly violent, hateful men. It’s a subtle, usually long-term manipulation in which the child does often feel guilty and responsible and to blame. Often the priest will give a child alcohol or drugs or let a child smoke or entice a child through ways that again make the child feel complicit.”

I asked if in his opinion there is such a thing as repressed memory, something which my friend, the famed doctor of social psychology maintains is fictional.

He responded, “Yes. It happened to me…Here’s what happened, long story short. I came from a wonderful, devout Catholic family, six kids. My Dad traveled a lot. I was sort of a light, curious child. This parish priest took an interest in me and took me on out-of-town trips, skiing, canoeing, camping. The first time I ever saw the ocean, first time I ever saw the mountains. What would happen is that the two of us would be alone and I would be asleep or sometimes falling asleep—and I would wake up and he would be on top of me or he would have his hands in my pants. I would freeze.”

How old were you?
“Starting when I was about 11 or 12. Went on till I was about 16. He never said anything. I never said anything. But…the way I coped with it , not voluntarily but involuntarily, was that the next morning when I woke up I had no recollection of it at all. Frankly, that’s why I kept going on trips with him.”

Why didn’t you say. hey, cut it out?
“Because I was terrified. I was confused. I suppose in part because I was taught and trained to revere and respect priests. I didn’t know what to say…I didn’t know what to think much less what to say. I knew it felt creepy and awkward and uncomfortable. But literally—so fast forward—I’m in my early thirties…There is not anybody more amazed than me. I thought I was a pretty smart guy.”

He confronted the priest when he was an adult. “I know of probably eight or nine other victims of this priest. He has been suspended and civilly sued. He admitted it to me basically. I had a face-to-face meeting with him after I had my memories…I could go on and on. He basically said `I’ve been in a lot of therapy.’ He never said, `I abused you.’ But he said, `I’ve been in a lot of therapy. I’ve had a lot of difficulties in my life. I had a very rough childhood myself. I’ve got things under control now. I’m still in therapy. I’m taking this real seriously. [He said something like] `I’m never going to do anything inappropriate again. You can trust me.’ That kind of thing.”

Clohessy filed a civil lawsuit in 1991 against the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. It went before the Missouri Supreme Court but was thrown out in 1993 on the basis of expired statute of limitations. Leaving the Church as he did voluntarily was “the one of the toughest things about having been abused.”

Why? The answer probably will make sense to another abuse victim but is not entirely clear to me.

“Forgive me if my analogy seems simplistic but if you break your leg as a child and it doesn’t get set properly, you limp for the rest of your life but you know that. And when you have a stomach ailment you don’t think, `well, I wonder if that’s connected to the leg thing.’; When you’re abused it’s very hard to understand the links between what that person did to you and your own psychological behavior.”

About 40 percent of SNAP members are still Catholic or at least still consider themselves Catholic. “But even so,” he said, “even that 40 percent, a big chunk of them, had long periods of spiritual estrangement or isolation before they felt like they could try to come back to the Faith.”

He said the same thing as Blaine did: handling relationships is difficult for the victim. “I’ve been married for 16 years. I have two wonderful, wonderful kids.” He thought for a while and then talked about his earlier relationships with women.

“I would, for example, get close to a woman and then, when it was clear she was very close to me, I would just suddenly pull away. I was a very difficult employee for years and years. I had and still have a very tough time trusting male authority figures. I’ve certainly had problems with anger.”

Just before we parted, he said: “I think about my abuser every day…Nothing will ever restore my shattered trust. Nothing will ever erase the betrayal. Again, that doesn’t mean I have to obsess about it.”

As he walked away, I thought about some Catholics who instinctively defend a prelate or a bureaucrat like Jimmy Lago because they think the institution will suffer from bad public relations. But evasive, overly qualified answers from prelates who obscure the truth won’t do here any more.

And if they stonewall with bureaucrats guarding the door and publicity flacks spinning the media, the Church will be harmed greatly.

Which is what I’ve learned after talking to David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Comment on Yesterday’s GOP Primary:

The Campaign of Judy Baar Topinka
Thanks the Bill Brady Campaign.

We Couldn’t Have Done It Without You.

The Beginnings of a Political Master in a Supposedly Radical—but Actually Rather Conservative—State

[This is being written on Tuesday night, March 21, while we were waiting for the 2006 primary election returns to come in. If you have something better to do, by all means do it. This is primarily for my kids and grandchildren. In summer, 1954 I decided to hone my talents as a political reporter by going to Duluth and the big AFL-CIO convention that would endorse Humphrey. It was clear even then that he wanted to run for president one day so while I had decided never to work for him, I wanted some experience. Before going, I did some boning up on my adopted state’s and Humphrey’s political history. Ever since I’ve been glad I did since the problems Humphrey faced with his party concerning the Cold War are closely analogous to the ones the Democrats have now with the Iraq War. I may be pardoned for thinking that Humphrey’s solution would help his party today.]

I learned much about Minnesota’s political history and the imaginative job Humphrey did in building an impregnable organization that has kept Minnesota in the blue column almost every presidential election ever since.

Minnesota has a reputation as a radical state, supposedly by the fusion of nationalities which in Europe were comfortable with socialism: Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, Czechs, Northern Germans and Slavs. Sounds reasonable but not so. Until 1930 all governors but three were Republicans. Discontented ethnics from the late 19th century until the late `20s were anything but Marxists. These people looked upon themselves as free enterprisers, organized to protect themselves against monopolists who crushed free enterprise. There was a lot of inconsistency within that melting pot. The farmers of those nationalities tended to be for state-owned grain elevators because they felt correctly that the monopolistic railroads and the big Minneapolis millers cheated the wheat farmers.

At the same time, the miners of the Iron Range, the backshop workers at the railroads because members of the International Workers of the World (known as the Wobblies), wanting not irrationally to form one big union to counteract the monopolistic practices of big business. But the agrarians and laborers were not necessarily anti-capitalist: they wanted a piece of the capitalist action and felt, correctly, they were living like the serfs of Old World feudalism. I interviewed some of the hoary old survivors of the Wobblies. One, 93-year-old Oscar Torgeson of St. Cloud, born in 1872, a survivor of early Wobbly organizing, told me in remarkably articulate phraseology, “We felt that they were a hell of a lot more American, in the sense of striving for a share of prosperity than the big money interests which snuffed out labor and farmer rights.” Farmers and laborers gave up on the two party process and began to switch to various short-lived groups: the Anti-Monopoly party, the Greenback party, the Populist party and ultimately into what they called the Non-Partisan League. They may have been anti-establishment but, as Torgeson instructed me, “we were anti-European powers, anti-British, anti-imperialistic and especially isolationist.” It was out of that tradition that Congressman Charles Lindbergh, father of the famed flyer, who was the Congressman in central Minnesota, voted against Wilson’s proposed declaration of war in 1917 (and part of the reason why the Lone Eagle railed against our entry into World War II with the “America First Committee.”) For decades the farmers and laborers voted alike, believing they were essentially social conservatives, wanting a bigger share of the pie. Minnesota’s one bout with radicalism came with one Floyd B. Olson, who fused all the discontent of the ethnics into one spellbinding politician. Only one but he was a terror.

The Great Depression produced Olson. Historians have forgotten about him and if I live long enough I’d like to write his biography. He tied both rebelling farmers and laborers together to build what he named as the Farmer-Labor party. He was elected governor in the Great Depression year of 1930 as a Farmer-Laborite, the Democrats running one candidate and the Republicans another. I have heard Olson’s crackling voice in speeches, preserved in early recordings at the University of Minnesota. I have never heard Huey Long but Olson was heart-stoppingly eloquent and addictive as a personality. A former prosecutor from Minneapolis with yellow hair and an ingratiating manner, he was probably the nearest thing the U. S. had to a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. He energized the sod busters, played poker and drank with the Pillsbury’s and other milling people, charming out of them lavish contributions. He was legendarily popular in the state and privately planned on running for president on a third party ticket, after FDR second term would expire in 1940 where he would become a leader similar to Hitler and Mussolini.

Nor was he particularly crazy to think he could win the presidency, because FDR had some successes but still millions were out of work. Olson planned that, if he won the presidency, he would conscript all wealth in the country, have government operate all the key industries. He announced in 1934 a far more radical plan than Huey Long ever thought of. His Farmer-Labor platform that year said baldly, “capitalism has failed and…immediate steps must be taken by the people to abolish capitalism in a peaceful and lawful manner and…a new sane and just society must be established: a system in which all the natural resources, machinery of production and communication shall be owned by the government and operated for the benefit of all the people and not just for a few.” That was his official program for release to the media: his real plan was to grab the government by the throat and rule it by one-man fiat. All the while he had big money supporting him as did Hitler. Why is a good question. He privately disdained the super-wealthy, thought they were decadent, had bred their brains out and were fit to be exploited. He cut individual deals with businessmen and they felt they could do business with him.

To become president, Olson believed he needed to go to the U.S. Senate where he would make a national impact like Huey Long. He got himself nominated for the Senate while governor but in a stunning development this embryo Hitler came down with terminal cancer and died at the Mayo clinic. His successor as governor, Elmer Benson, flirted with 1930s Communists. Harold Stassen capitalized on his eccentricity by campaigning for governor against Benson Communists (they were there, no question about that). Stassen was elected and instituted what has been known ever since as liberal Republicanism. Eccentric radicalism and traces of Communism continued in the Farmer-Labor party.

It is impossible to calculate now how impressive Stassen was because he later became a laughing-stock, one who was willing to run for any office. I interviewed Stassen six months before he died: he was a co-signatory of the United Nations charter, a presidential candidate regarded in the same vein as John McCain is now, an Eisenhower cabinet member, a brilliant speaker who as governor at age 28 wrote finis to Democrats’ and Farmer-Laborites’ hopes. Stassen resigned as governor to go to the Navy in World War II which he planned to use as a catapult to the presidency.

Meanwhile a desperately poor Hubert Humphrey had come to the state from South Dakota after having received a degree in pharmacy from the University of Louisiana under inauspicious circumstances. Born in South Dakota of Irish and Norwegian parentage, he idolized his father who was a pharmacist but who was also an early liberal. Hubert came to Minnesota shortly before World War II, lived on the meager earnings from his wife and decided to get a Ph.D in poly sci at the University of Minnesota. There he blossomed in a political science course taught by Evron Kirkpatrick (husband of Jeane who later became Reagan’s ambassador to the UN). He worked his way to getting a degree in poly sci.

Humphrey began as an ace coffee house gabfest participant on campus, not an agitator but one who loved discussing political ideas. He knew one thing: he wasn’t an isolationist like the Farmer-Laborites who were also pro-Communist. Matter-of-fact he leaned toward the Wilsonian internationalism of the Republican Stassen—and he wanted to change his isolationist party but to do it he had to stay somewhat friendly to the Left. At one point he despaired of ever turning his party around and thought about becoming a Republican. So he went to Congressman Walter H. Judd (at one time later my boss), a former medical missionary to China who was elected to the Minneapolis seat as an internationalist Republican. He told Judd he voted for Willkie in 1940 and liked the GOP. He mentioned possibly running for mayor of Minneapolis. Judd liked the idea and sent him to some business friends. Then Judd found out Hubert was keeping company with the Communist element of the Farmer Laborites, misunderstanding that Humphrey wasn’t a Red but calmly sorting the wheat from the chaff. A furious Judd pulled the plug. Humphrey was persona non grata in the Republican party. He had to make do with his fractionated party, part conservative Democrat and part Farmer-Laborite radical.

Humphrey thought long and hard about the two-headed monster, the Farmer-Labor party which was disreputably radical and unelectable, flirting with Communists and the state Democratic party, quite conservative, isolationist and anti-New Deal. He set himself on a goal early to unite the conservative Democrats with the non-Communist faction of the Farmer Laborites to produce a Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. He worked tirelessly to do it, spending many hours over coffee, negotiations and pragmatic diplomacy. Welding the monster together took years and his last $75 spent on a train ride to Washington, D. C. where he wangled a meeting with FDR’s postmaster general Frank Walker who blessed the effort. .

While poor Murial Humphrey worked her fingers to the bone, Hubert played politics and picked up odd jobs as a teaching assistant and lecturer in poly sci while trying to unify the two disparate parts. He hung around with the Kirkpatricks (Jeane was getting her Ph.D) and talked largely international affairs. He joined William Allen White’s “Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies” which was positioned against the America First Committee. But one thing Humphrey didn’t want to do. Supporting our entry into the war and Wilsonian idealism was one thing but he didn’t want to get drafted.

This had always been a very, very touchy subject with him, one that no matter how well you knew him could not be mentioned without him flying into a frenzy of self-justification, expletives and his wondering aloud whether you were loyal to him or not. But the facts are these: He was married with Murial expecting a child, had applied for a deferment because of a hernia and color-blindness. But he strove even harder. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1943 as an independent but lost. He requested deferment in December, 1943 on the basis that he was teaching two political science courses to Army Air Force cadets at Macalester College (he was also an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis). It’s hard to imagine how he got a deferment, arguing that he can’t go to service because he’s teaching political science to Army cadets! Then in 1944 he pulled it off: he crafted a union of the Farmer-Labor non-Communists and the conservative Democrats into the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party which has been a dominant factor in the state ever since. Promptly, he got elected the next year as the first state chairman of the new unified Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. But the army was still on his tail.

The next deferment was applied for by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party State Central committee in September, 1944 because—get this—he was an essential party worker! I doubt if anyone else in the U.S. had the guts to make that request. He got the deferment! A third deferment was applied for in January, 1945 on the basis that he was serving as a labor relations consultant to something called the Industrial Grease and Drum Company and also to the Stay-Vis Oil Company both of which had war contracts. He got the deferment. These deferments constitute one of two longstanding criticisms of Humphrey’s record.

In 1945, after the war ended, Humphrey got elected mayor of Minneapolis, as the first office-holder elected by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. He was off to the races. The legitimate non-Communist liberals were dissatisfied with some aspects of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party so Humphrey had to craft an organization for these lefty, non-Commie intellectuals. He did it by joining with some Hollywood lefties including the young Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to create Americans for Democratic Action.

He gained all kinds of attention trying to clean up Minneapolis which, believe it or not, was decaying from corruption. Always susceptible to the blandishments of others, Humphrey avoided trying to purge the lingering Communists in his party and inadvertently made them think he was a fellow leftist by maintaining a lovey-dovey relationship with former Vice President Henry A. Wallace who was forming a left-wing Progressive Party. Orville Freeman and Eugenie Anderson tugged with Wallace people for Hubert’s soul and made him finally realize that Commies were impervious to conversion as liberal Democrats. Thereupon, he turned on the Reds with a fury and got them banished from the DFL party. Fearful of Republicans capitalizing on anti-communism, he called for a legal ban of the Communist party. In that liberal but anti-Communist mode, he was elected to the Senate in 1948. Running afoul of the conservative Democrats in the Senate, he finally made peace with them through the intercession of the Democrats’ new minority leader, Lyndon Johnson.

Now Humphrey was running for a second term and was in Duluth to build peace with organized labor which had some lingering pro-Communist members in it. The question he tackled in the hotel room sessions I attended with him was what the Democratic party should do vis-à-vis the Cold War and the Eisenhower administration. As I look back on it, the meetings of 50 years ago, fueled by hot tempers and cold drinks were quite similar to the questions besetting the current Democratic party: whether it should cooperate with Bush in the Iraq War or declare hostility to the war itself.

Next: How the Discussions Reached Consensus on the Cold War.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oh, Lord! The Old Game of Dirtying Up the Opposition—a Mainstream Media Strategy—Is Taking Center Stage As Election Winds Down

Liberal journalists are mouthing the same view: Oh, Lord, let it end soon! They mean the primary election which ends today. Why? Because conservative candidates—one in particular, Jim Oberweis—is shattering the conformity that has given voters very little choice since the era of Big Jim Thompson. Thompson ran as a Republican who was indistinguishable from a liberal Democrat and his 6 foot 6-inch elephantine presence pervades in the state, from the hallucinatory state office building of glass and weird statutory he erected that carries his name to a state Republican party that is as impervious to reform as Big Jim was to responsibility as he clinked martini glasses with Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle while, as audit chief for the Hollinger company, he gave the two crooks who ran the Sun-Times a careless assent to loot the joint. As governor he set a precedent, promising no new taxes and breaking his promise after election, hob-nobbing with Democrats and greasing it so there was no alternative. As result, Thompson became—and until recent disclosures has been—wildly popular with the media. His successors have been of varied quality but in agreement that the GOP continue as a haven for lobbyists and revolving door hustlers. Jim Edgar was a mild, understated type who survived some scandals; George Ryan was probably the most corrupt official Illinois—possibly the nation—has had when one looks closely at the maw of decadent deals that have spewed forth from his administration as secretary of state. It is clear that Judy Baar Topinka is in the same mode as the other liberal GOP governors.

Now, I have said that good media—particularly newspapering—should be frankly partisan as objectivity is impossible and have saluted most of the Sun-Times for carrying out its mission with verve. What I can’t understand is Oh, Lord, let it end soon from some who wish to end the controversy over the old liberal GOP deals. That’s not a prayer from a partisan reformist media but from a media that wishes to end debate. They do so because they fear they may lose today—at he polls and the game-plan of kissy between the two parties will end. . Do you think Colonel McCormick and Colonel Frank Knox, two protagonists of the old partisan media ever whimpered that they hoped it would end soon—McCormick’s fight with FDR, Knox’s fight against those he saw as Republican reactionaries? Or William Randolph Hearst against those he saw as offenders of our national sovereignty? Or Dorothy Schiff of the old stridently liberal New York Post against those she termed fascists? Can you imagine the late Mike Royko whimpering the hope and prayer that the struggle against Boss Daley would end?

No, some fainting-dead-away journalists of today can’t even summon the strength to dish it out fairly during a primary where a real conservative is running—because it’s so horrid to contemplate a change from the era of Big Jimbo. Specifically because there may be a break in the pattern and a return to social traditionalism.

Thompson insured that the Reagan Revolution which swept most of the Midwest and west didn’t come to Illinois. The media here, more uniformly and polemically pro-abort than can be found even in Washington.,D. C. where there are two dailies taking markedly different stands, hate the idea of a social conservative winning in the Republican party. That’s why they despise Jim Oberweis. He’s not only conservative but was one of them on the single-most issue of concern to them—abortion—before he changed his mind ala Ronald Reagan. Not only is he pro-life but he’s resolutely pro-business. Not only pro-life and pro-business but anti-illegal immigration. Not only pro-life, pro-business and anti-illegal immigration but opposed to gays receiving special privileges. The media which can’t remember when politics involved heated difference of opinion, doesn’t know how to act with dissent. They perceive in Bill Brady one who is soft on the issues, therefore able to be rolled. I hope they find out someday they’re wrong. But still they worry about the possibility of Oberweis winning. So they wail: Oh, Lord, let it end soon!

Mainstream media have surfaced with two novel but pathetic attacks on Oberweis in the last days. One is that the TV commercial showing Topinka polka-ing with George Ryan is shameful. Imagine that! Topinka told them she’s polka-ed with many people and MSM is immediately at the battlements abjuring that she was slandered. Media know Blagojevich has the same polka tape but that’s o.k., he’s a pro-abort. The second has to do with a bargain offered to the two anti-Topinka candidates that Oberweis offered that was not in their interest and which they turned down. MSM howls that he took leave from his senses to offer it. That and relying on a spurious quote from Brady purportedly made by Oberweis which sounds like he’s an evangelical. But who really sounds like a purportedly weird Evangelical? Oh, Lord, let it end soon!

Media’s cowardice to react against injustice exhibited itself not long ago when a gay rights zealot, Rick Garcia proclaimed that homosexuality is God’s way of practicing diversity assailed not just Oberweis but the archbishop of Chicago without any rebuke from the “watchdog” media. His attacking Oberweis is par for the course in politics since Oberweis is a candidate—but despicable because Oberweis’ view on homosexuality is the Judeo-Christian view which MSM is too queasy to defend. But when Garcia singled out Francis Cardinal George as a bigot, there is no defense because mainstream media fears being called bigot themselves. Garcia who calls himself a Catholic (although his special theology does not allow that homosexual practices are sins) specializes in excommunicating people out of his church, something his church has been woefully lax at doing.

The media become mere bystanders at this demagogic display because they are too fearful of contradicting a true demagogue (they’d rather play a DVD of “Good Night and Good Luck” and moon about the old days of Edward R. Murrow which they never knew. Too young to remember much of the civil rights struggle when heroes were legitimately fighting discrimination because of race, MSM media try to recycle a latter day version. Garcia sees himself as the latter day Rev. Jesse Jackson, although he’s not as good at devising heroic couplets. Thereupon the MSM media—always cowered by the thought that they may be viewed as bigots themselves—are reduced to pulp: one big mass of quivering guilt-Jello. They can’t defend the Cardinal, can’t stand up to a bully who name-calls because in doing so, people may think the media are homophobic. To get on the right side of the Garcia people and other interest groups, they assail Oberweis or pray Oh Lord, let it end soon.

Why Oh let it end soon? Shouldn’t mainstream journalists welcome a battle in at least one, if not the two, parties? Shouldn’t journalists behave as the partisans they are instead of pretending to be the objective purveyers of truth which they are not and welcome a good fight, particularly an ideological fight? Not if they’re hot-house plants. No, they can’t tolerate dissent from the conventional wisdom. They don’t mind dishing up attacks which is their wont but they cannot stand others doing the same. Most of all, they fear they may lose the election today. That’s the reason behind Oh, let it end soon.

Because Topinka has dismayed some of the liberal media with her inability to debate which has led to her being a no-show, they turn to one who proclaims himself a social conservative but who ingratiates himself with them by blistering Oberweis. They’d rather Brady won because they believe he doesn’t mean what he says rather than one whom they realize means exactly what he says and if given a chance will do it. I only hope they are wrong.

Yesterday I sat next to a distinguished citizen—a Democrat—at the City Club luncheon and we talked about the gubernatorial contest on the Republican side. This guy asked me: Is Oberweis goofy or what? You know where the idea that Oberweis is unstable comes from? It comes from a wing of an propagandistic media who cannot handle dissent, area not content with responding but attack his intellectual and emotional capacity. They didn’t hear him arguing in a brilliant repartee on my WLS radio show with Jeff Berkowitz, who graduated at U of C Law over the nature of free trade as taught at the University of Chicago economics theory and a crack down on illegal immigration. Berkowitz a brilliant interrogator, a crack lawyer and journalist—no Oberweis fan—was engaging in verbal ju jitsu with a brilliant entrepreneur: it was a battle to behold and listen to. It was worthy of the old

“University of Chicago Roundtable” with Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler. It’s easier to say “one brick short of a load” than phrase a cogent argument.

A segment of mainstream media here cannot comprehend debate because most can’t handle ideas. So they respond to a man who typifies ideas they abhor by saying he’s cracked, a few bricks short of a load. That’s their style—wholesale defamation. When I call for a return to partisan media, I believe that we need media who provide ideas, facts and cogent views to back up their view of the news. Not scurrilously saying an opponent is one brick short of a load.

Do me a favor. Go out and nominate Oberweis—even if you don’t agree with him, to give this immature, babyish, tantrum-throwing segment of mainstream media the fits. Then you’ll set them to do more of what they haven’t evidently done much of—pray: Oh, Lord, please, please—pretty please—let it end soon because there are ideas out there that we can’t respond to except that we know we don’t like those who advance them.