Saturday, April 29, 2006

And the Winner of the Mystery Poetical Line is (the Envelope, Please!)

I thought you’d find it fun and you did. The poem whose first stanza was given in this Blog yesterday is Frederich March who is a brilliant contributor here, with Bob in P. F. whose candor I love and his ability to put into memorable words where he agrees and disagrees, second. The author is John Milton [1608-74] and the poem is “On His Blindness.” In some ways I think Milton is more profound than Shakespeare. At any rate, he lived longer and may well have had more experience with women. His first wife was seventeen who became bored with him and skipped town. She returned and they had three daughters; she died in childbirth while delivering a fourth. He got a job translating Latin for a commission on foreign affairs but the work so severely strained his eyes that he lost his sight.

That didn’t stop him from marrying again, a young woman he never saw, who like her predecessor died in childbirth. A third wife aged 24 took over whom he also never saw. The poem “On His Blindness” was written when he was 43 which alludes to his line “Ere half my days in this dark world and wide.” The concluding line in this poem which has endured throughout English literature is:

They also serve who only stand and wait.

My all-time favorite of course (as an English major who graduated 56 years ago) is Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. It is a work of art who wrote with a purpose and knowledge of a generation of literature behind him. His objective: to “justify the ways of God to men.” Showing that evil in the world came not from a Deity who is all-loving for from a spirit who is the essence of evil. Paradoxically, in writing about Satan, Milton made him so colorful that he lives far more vividly in memory than any other character in the epic. Get these lines showing Satan’s fall from grace:

Him the Almighty Power

Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal


With hideous ruin and combustion, down

To bottomless perdition, there to dwell

In adamantine chains and penal fire,

Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms

Nine times the space that measures day and


To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew

Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,

Confounded, though immortal.

Satan views his Hell in Milton’s description:

…round he throws his baleful eyes

That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,

Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate

At once, as far as Angel’s ken, he views

The dismal situation wste and wild

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,

As one great furnace flamed; yet from those


No light; but rather darkness visible

Now for another if you care to play. What man wrote these immortal lines for essays that have become immortal in English literature?

“What is truth?” said jesting Pilate and would not stay for an answer.

Wives are young men’s mistresses; companions for middle age and old men’s nurses.

Barnich is Missed in Topinka Campaign as Kimme Calls the Shots

Terry Barnich, the savvy lawyer who steered Judy Baar Topinka to victory in the March primary, is missed by the campaign. It hired a replacement, the top aide to Senate Republican leader Frank Watson, but it is almost unheard of for a successful campaign manager to be replaced after a primary. And make no bones about it, Barnich was successful. He told the press he had to leave to take care of his personal business—and maybe that’s right. But during the time he ran the campaign, he became a force for good. For one thing, he’s a brilliant tactician; for a second, he can take the essentials of a campaign and boil them down to a workable strategy. A third: he is an uncommonly good advocate with the ability to phrase-make, matching ability to grasp details of government with an uncanny knack of putting an argument forth so voters can understand it. It comes naturally for Barnich but he’s had great experience: he was general counsel to Jim Thompson, an adviser to Jim Edgar, a regulator and an entrepreneur who built a successful energy consulting business.

The word is that he may not have gotten along too well with Nancy Kimme who has been Topinka’s longtime political assistant. Whether that’s true or not, Barnish is missed. The gap was first noticed on primary election night when Topinka won. She was supposed to have delivered a victory statement that would contain the genesis of a vision for Illinois: just the thing she needed. But the speech was scrapped, unaccountably. Substituting it was the usual Topinka fireworks including the old barnyard clich√© about this hen who’s gonna deliver. The campaign has never had a vision statement from Topinka and she is slowly gaining the unenviable reputation as a time-server who doesn’t have any. At least none came out in the debates and supposedly, all was going to change on election night when she would present a punchy yet substantive vision.

The shelving of the long-prepared vision statement was the first inkling that the era of Barnich had ended. The next was the famous interview with national columnist George Will where an aide to Topinka wisecracked that they want President Bush to raise money for them all right but he should come in the dark of night and raise it from a secure, undisclosed location. Very funny. The idea that an aide would have the temerity to say that while Topinka guffawed was stunning. An awkward apology followed the next day.

Nothing has been heard from Barnish publicly since then. A long search ensued for the successor with candidates purportedly vetoed by Kimme. Now a successor is on hand. Next there should be a full-time spokesman. S-l-o-w-l-y goes it. There is no strategy to work conservatives into the campaign; no strategy to dance away from the prospect of a tax hike. The prospect is growing that the accordion lady is more than a liberal on social issues: that she is a liberal on spending and taxing. She has refused to take any pledge against raising taxes—thus the contrast is clear between she and Blagojevich. He will not impose a general tax hike; she won’t say. My guess is that if Barnich had not left (either axed or made to feel so uncomfortable that he was grateful to have other things to do) he would have found ways to encourage some conservatives to get involved. After all, he is a social conservative cum pragmatist and an economic libertarian. Oh, well.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Test for the Literate: This is Just a Test.

Let’s see if you remember your English poetry. Who wrote these lines that begin an immortal poem?

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days in this dark world and wide

And that one talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my soul is bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest He returning chide

“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?

It’s my favorite. Let’s see if you recall it. First, what it its title? Second who is the author? Third—and for an enormous collection of brownie points—what is the ringing conclusion which has been inscribed in sterling silver in English literature? You’re on your honor not to cheat and look up in anthologies that catalogue first lines. O.k, go and give the answers in Comments. Good luck. I will bet that either Cal Skinner or Michael Miner come in early—maybe tied.

Tony Snow Seems Just Right for Bush

To me at least, the selection of Fox commentator Tony Snow for press secretary to George Bush looks right, feels right. It helps greatly with Bush’s conservative base that he picked a real live journalist to succeed the mechanical robot Scott McClellan—one who criticized Bush rightly in the past. As one who briefly met and talked with Tony Snow when he was in Chicago a few years ago at the WLS gala, I’m impressed that not only is he a superb choice but that he has the winning and sunny Reagan credentials to be somebody on his own in the future in elective office. But there’s one problem with Snow as a veteran White House correspondent told me yesterday: a good commentator is one who polarizes, invents sound bytes and sets the phones ringing. That’s what Tony Snow can do all right. But that isn’t exactly what a press secretary to president should do.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: suffice it to say that the forecast for Snow cheers me very much. Your view on Snow: a blessing for Bush, overbilled or carrying the potential of disaster?

“The Bum Won”: Split Personality Illinois Politics Has Lots of Dems for Topinka, Republicans for Blagojevich

The famous and rollicking musical “Fiorello” on the career of Fiorello LaGuardia features a rousing song: “The Bum Won.” The show’s theme is this: LaGuardia, a Bull Moose progressive Republican Congressman somehow allowed himself to be convinced to run for Mayor of New York in a town with a straight Democratic string of victories. The hacks who put him up to it were sell-outs to the Democrats and wanted to run a bum who would lose easily to the Dem candidate. Amid a lot of improbable ups and downs—including corruption in City Hall—somehow LaGuardia pulled it out. Sadness envelopes the Republican hacks as they realize their patsy has defied the odds. The song “The Bum Won” shows their remorse. Where reality differs from the show is that LaGuardia became a real star; legions of Democratic and Republican followers don’t believe for a minute they have stars, even though the press releases are flowing with candidates mouthing rhetoric which the followers don’t faintly believe.

In some ways, “Fiorello” is a model for both parties in Illinois. The “Combine” doesn’t care who wins—just wants the contracts and gravy train to continue. The GOP nominates Judy Baar Topinka as a minority candidate (whom a combination of Oberweis and Brady narrowly topped). She is a handmaiden to the Dems, sharing their love of pork and disdain for conservative social values. Thus: a great number of movement Republican conservatives dread the prospect of a Topinka victory, peopled as it will be with legions of old Thompson-Edgar-Ryan hacks. The dread of movement conservatives is that for four more years they will be shut out of the party process…and maybe for more years than that. So increasingly they are hoping—just hoping—Blagojevich wins so that their party will be freed of the hateful Combine people once and for all. It is very similar to the dread of Republicans in 1932 when their candidate was Herbert Hoover: they don’t believe in the candidate and would like him to fly to the moon.

Imagine the sour mood of movement conservatives with a GOP candidate who is even loathe to endorse the marriage amendment which would spur grassroots politics on the right. Wouldn’t it be good to ditch the old “Combine” faction of the GOP, let it go down and allow the party to build up a new breed? The series of Rasmussen polls showing her winning slightly over Blagojevich spurs a deep pessimism, akin to the one in the musical, except rather than “The Bum Won” is “Can the Bum Win?” They feared greatly that James Meeks would siphon off so many black votes that Topinka could truly become “the bum who won.” Now they’re happy that Meeks evidently has been bought off. Normally they’d blast the dance Blagojevich and Meeks do as opportunism, extortionate politics. They shut up hoping that Meeks won’t run. Nobody blasts Meeks because the Blagojevich people don’t want to rile him and the Topinka people don’t want to insinuate that he’s a hustler, in hopes that he’ll run.

Look at the Democrats who are jaundiced with Blagojevich. Paradoxically, a good number of socially liberal Democrats, angered at Gov. Rod Blagojevich, believe that electing Topinka would be in their interest, in that Topinka would actively cooperate with them—and in more demonstrative ways than Blagojevich has heretofore—and not run for reelection after she finishes her term at age 66. That would allow time for the Democratic party to muster strength to bring about what they call the Restoration, the election of Lisa Madigan. The thought of Blagojevich will all his money winning by turning out a stunning number of commercials is heavily depressing. “Can the Bum Win?”

Both parties are heading for nervous breakdowns. Liberal Dems with no connection to Speaker Madigan fear the power of regular party mobilization will, in fact, cut it for Blagojevich. Conservative Republicans worry that somehow the accordion lady with a disdain for them, who is so liberal she fears to endorse heterosexual marriage could win.

Some conservative Republicans who are party regulars, argue for Topinka by saying if you can’t get a meal, settle for a sandwich: Topinka can be seen to be acceptable on some things. Real conservative Republicans say they don’t want a sandwich, having had to be satisfied on leavings from the tables of Thompson-Edgar-Ryan. The best that can happen for Illinois is that both lose. But for serious Republicans who want to build their party on principle, it’s far better to see Blagojevich continue…and for serious Democratic liberals who want to start with a fresh face and captivating new ideas, it’s far better to see Topinka step in for one term.. Interesting, huh? Your comments?

George Allen Fading on Social Issues as Possible Presidential Candidate.

Fred Barnes’ Op Ed in The Wall Street Journal was the tip-off; now a veteran member of the White House press corps who was here visiting with me last night confirmed it: Virginia Senator and former governor George Allen, who is thinking about the presidency in 2008, is good on most things but shy on abortion, the key social issue. Believe it or not, he would not level with Barnes about repeal of Roe v. Wade. Why he wobbles when he strives to be Ronald Reagan circa 2006 is a mystery. Recent talk about Condi Rice and Rudy Giuliani has petered out: Rice is definitely out, finally convincing people that she isn’t playing coy but is insistently firm about not running. Giuliani’s chances have begun to slip with the fact that he has not taken steps to reach a compromise on social issues with GOP conservatives.

Two Republican Stars: David McSweeney and Eric Cantor

eric cantor
Not long ago I was invited to attend a reception hosted by David McSweeney, the Republican nominee for 8th district Congress, which honored Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Always impressed as I have been with McSweeney, I was startled—absolutely startled—to see and hear an out-of-state Republican Congressman who matches McSweeney with fresh insights and courage. At 39, Cantor, from Richmond, is a successful businessman, was elected in 2000, is the only—believe it or not—the only Jewish Republican member of Congress. Pro-life and socially conservative, Cantor is a brilliant member of Congress and deputy GOP Whip. Hearing the two of them discuss the issues is like being in the same room with a very young Milton Friedman and a youthful Henry Hyde. The only thing they disagreed about was term limits: McSweeney pledged to bow out after six years, Cantor determined to stay longer. When you compare them to the usual run-of-the mill products the Republicans produce on C-SPAN, it’s wonderful to feel excited again about party prospects.

Cantor is a member of Ways and Means. His trip to Chicago was to encourage 8th district voters to elect McSweeney. The two of them would give great hope to national Republicans who are beginning to think that the House GOP is getting tired and burned out. Then when you consider the prospect of electing Peter Roskam in the 6th you get hopeful once more.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Political Shootout Sunday

Guests will be Terry Brunner, former BGA exec who will analyze the George Ryan verdict and see if it applies to others…and Greg Goldener, who was 2003 campaign manager for Mayor Richard M. Daley. Should be interesting.

Say This About Carol Marin...

carol marin
One must not speak dismissively too often about Carol Marin’s columns of supposed political analysis lest they receive more attention than the obscurity they deserve—but here I make one more exception. She wrote yesterday about Peggy Roach who died recently and the late Msgr. Jack Egan who was her boss. Both were warm-hearted persons, Roach whom I knew slightly, Egan whom I knew rather well. But it would come as a shock to Ms. Marin when, if she ever studies her nominal religion, to discover that Jesus Christ did not come to earth as a federal GS-18 to launch an ambitious public program to aid the poor…as a civil rights demonstrator to promote race, gender or social equality…to institute a variant of the liberal 2004 Democratic platform…or as forerunner for Gloria Steinem, the straps of whose sandals He was not worthy to loosen. While he ate and drank with sinners, he didn’t advocate overthrowing Caesar or leveling the playing field.

In fact, He came not for material advancement of the downtrodden at all. He didn’t play class warfare. In fact, He turned aside the treasurer for the apostles when Judas Iscariot suggested that the oils women were applying to His body be sold with the proceeds given to the poor. He said the good women were anointing Him for His burial, declaring to all that “the poor you shall always have with you.” Why didn’t He lead a populist rebellion to eliminate privilege? Because, as He said, His kingdom was not of this world.

There is much in His life to spur questions about Christ (some of which I get to later) but no confusion over why He didn’t push contemporary liberalism. In fact, much of what He taught may be regarded as contradictory to pork chop liberalism. He taught that Men (or as Ms. Marin would amend, men and women) should not selfishly seek earthly treasure; as children of the One Father we should share property generously, show special solicitude for the poor and afflicted and seek to re-order our earthly life in such a way that the kingdom of God may appear to be in our midst. That would warrant extensive private generosity as when he advised the rich, young man to sell what he had, give to the poor and follow Him. No hint of statism there. The social teaching of the church to which Ms. Marin displays such theological inattention, requires faith, hope and love. In fact the entirety of the church’s social teaching rests on two principles which you will forgive if I apply the male gender with which it was proposed: first, one cannot find fulfillment unless he has community with others—in which he serves, is served, loves and is loved. Second, one cannot find fulfillment without making his own deep personal commitment to God. It means yes, man is a social being but much more than that. He is a social being with transcendent dignity, one called to an immediate personal relationship with God.

Now here comes the virtues that intrigue Ms. Marin and rightly so. Those who suffer from unjust discrimination through hatred which sin has implanted in our society are persons of transcendent worth, our brothers and sisters, to whom we owe realistic love, to whom we have a duty to shape a society in which there will be justice, freedom and peace. The quotation from 1 John 4.20-21 may vex her because it is not politically correct but is nevertheless true: “If anyone says `I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” That would warrant civil rights demonstrating, marching for peace or even marching for a just war to overthrow injustice in the Middle East. But it would also warrant Ms. Marin studying the life of Dorothy Day, a journalist who embraced joyously voluntary poverty, demonstrated for peace but also lived—abstemiously and with complete fidelity to—the complete traditional theology of her church. That Day may soon become a saint is my fervent wish.

Notwithstanding Day’s feeding the hungry, although Ms. Marin may not realize it (or realizing it be uninterested) the Church Christ founded is not intended to be primarily a distribution center for alms (although it does lots of that) or a political caucus for the ever-continuing expansion of human rights (although with some wayward prelates it attempts this, too). That Church is a kind of sacrament or sign, an instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the human race. Because Christ continues to nourish our life through the Church, we honor her as mother and teacher. As her children, we must learn from her the mind of Christ and be schooled by her in the ways of life.

That means Ms. Marin’s religion considers the family, its needs and relationships. Protection of the family would involve economic issues yes, with which Ms. Marin is wholly in accord but also those with which she has been publicly and unfeelingly unsympathetic: anti-abortion, preservation of the traditional family unit which is under assault from those who would weaken the definition of marriage to be what anyone might wish. Feminism, women priests and women bishops did not come up in the gospels, although in Christ’s following there were many women who were not apostles, including the one to whom He first appeared after resurrection: Mary Magdalen. Christ had every chance to name women as apostles but, unless you take “The Da Vinci Code” as gospel (and Ms. Marin may) He did not, chiefly because He wished the Mass, the un-bloody sacrifice of Calvary be enacted by a man who represents Christ, who having a choice became man. That does not mean women are unequal but men and women are equal but different. That is vexing to Catholic feminists and probably Ms. Marin since they believe they are not equal to men unless they perform the same actions in every sense as men. They must be welcomed to play the lead in “Hamlet” and “Richard III” as men to be Juliet and Desdemona.

With respect to Msgr. Egan, as one who knew him well and met with him in dispute on occasion (and with whom we carried on lengthy discussions at the Cliff Dwellers), he had the first part of the Christian mission down cold: involving economic rights. But to him, we never left the 1930s when unions had not received the benefit of the Wagner Act. Union conventions nowadays are, as I reminded him, held in Miami Beach with the presidents earning well into the six figures, not exactly parallel to the days when the Reuther brothers were beaten by Henry Ford’s goons in Detroit. Union membership requires dues to be collected and used without workers’ consent, I reminded him, as in my own case. His answer was similar to that of Cardinal Francis George to whom I once addressed this complaint: “then go do something about it.” My union president was Dick Kay of NBC-TV who was not particularly sympathetic to the doctrine of worker subsidiarity and a portion of my dues are still used for political purposes to which I am opposed.

Egan didn’t consider—and would not consider for a moment—unions whose bargaining threaten to bankrupt industries and lose jobs for workers. To him, unions were always right; business was always wrong. It was fun to discuss with him until we got to dessert but after that, unprofitable since he would grant no leave for union abuse. To that end, he was a fly in amber, an interesting relic to be sure, one who could discourse about early injustices to workers but one entirely unsympathetic to understand the current economic reasons behind out-sourcing, even to discuss them. When pushed, Irish anger and his small clenched fists signaled the conversation was over. Social fervor doesn’t help when it interferes with mutual concessions to bridge understanding.

If I may say so, he was entirely uninterested in the subject of eradicating abortion, the gravest social issue of our time, which his church considers a grave sin; rather he was aligned (one never knew how closely) with its proponents. He was uninterested in any effort to explore the root-cause of homosexuality rather than in supporting the rhetoric of its most fervent supporters. He was missing in action with any congressional move to limit abortion, to limit taxpayer funding of it. As one who attended some of his Masses at the Cathedral during weekday, I never heard him inveigh (and he was an excellent homilist) against non-economic moral evils (although he may have when I was not there). The reason was clear: his Democratic party had espoused abortion from the early 1970s and gay rights since the 1980s. Moreover, I have seen him actively cooperate with those who vehemently support abortion, using his influence to put in the Holy Name pulpit on Labor Day as homilist, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO who was and is militantly pro including late term.

I have seen him publicly defend the social benefactions of the pro-abort MacArthur foundation. It was in response to a column I wrote against its bequest to a letter-head group called “Catholics for Free Choice.” Shortly after he may headlines that said “Catholic Priest Defends Foundation,” MacArthur made a huge contribution in his name to an “Egan Center” for DePaul University (where he taught) replete with a handsome bronze bust of himself. That came as close to selling out as I have seen in a long, long time.

And of course, what Ms. Marin hasn’t said is that Msgr. Jack Egan was far more than an archdiocesan priest here. He was the founder of a group of Catholic renegades who support radical changes in the church all in contradiction to church teaching—abolition of celibacy, overthrow of the male priesthood, general absolution, you name it in the name of the front group with which he didn’t particularly seek to entangle his monsignori status: “Call to Action” with chapters throughout the nation. With responsibility for crafting this group, he was what medievalists called an active apostate, a fomenter of heresy and proponent of schism who, unable to cause revolution in policies from without, determined to stay within so as to have greater deleterious effect.

He was a noisier politicized version but far less effective a rebel than his contemporary, Msgr. Ignatius McDermott. Unlike Egan who preached rebellion, McDermott carried on self-sacrificing care for the poor, courageously struggling against archdiocesan authorities when they sought to limit him including an Egan favorite who sought to sack him. I am not sure if Egan ever worked in street ministries for the poor but he did march—at Selma and for a time in Chicago—which leads to this story.

It was at one such time, by the memory of a valiant civil rights leader,--one who has since died but who was my office-mate toward the latter years of his life, John McDermott (no relation to Msgr. McDermott)—that a band of Catholics marched down Michigan Avenue under the auspices of the Catholic Interracial Council which McDermott headed. Egan was with them walking arm in arm when the sirens heralded a quick visit by Richard J. Daley’s police...which meant likely arrest and jail. Whereupon Egan unlocked his arm and dropped out because it turned out he had another engagement. Everyone went to jail but Egan was shown on television that night eloquently testifying for passage of an Open Housing ordinance. From his jail cell, McDermott marveled at the timing.

I have had similar occasion to marvel. Fifteen years ago, I invited former Congressman, former UN ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young to come to Chicago to speak at a fund-raiser we were holding at The Quaker Oats Company where I worked (Young, an old friend of mine was running for Governor of Georgia and the money we raised went to his campaign). It so happened Egan said the 5:15 p.m. Mass I attended the afternoon before at the Cathedral. Knowing of his interest in civil rights, I dropped in at the sacristy after Mass to invite him to attend our reception the next day. He did.

Now I had known Young since 1972 when he won his first congressional race (becoming the first black man to be elected to Congress from the deep south since Reconstruction) in a hundred years and at my good friend and then boss, senior vice president and board member Bob Thurston’s idea the company produced a fine documentary film of the victory. The fund-raiser was going well and Young, an eloquent man, was talking convivially about his campaign, when Egan came in the door. He immediately walked up to the front of the room, took the microphone from a startled Young, and announced he wished to thank “Andrew for saving my life at the Selma bridge.” One look at Young’s face told me all I needed to know. He was dazed by the intrusion but gentleman that he was received Egan’s praise and an applause rang out for both. Thus Msgr. Jack became co-equal in celebrity with the honoree. That put to brilliant use Ms. Marin’s word which she applied to Cardinal John Cody “imperious.” The same Cody who created the priest Senate, instituted health care and hospitalization for them. The same Cody who was driven to his death by those from Ms. Marin’s newspaper based on charges that, after the old man died, were dropped because unprovable.

There are many questions to ask those who believe in Christianity beyond those that concern Ms. Marin which are answered by obvious canonical reference: why no women priests, no women bishops? So that my friend and e-mail correspondent Michael Miner of “The Reader” is not mis-led to think a Pascal follower has all the answers, here is some that stir me which lead me to hope I will understand one day. Take the marvelous contradictions of this Christ as God and man. #1: asleep in a ship (how human) He is awakened and sees there is a storm whereupon He rebukes the wind and the sea is calm (how divine). Coming from Bethany He is hungry (human) but when He finds no figs on a nearby tree, He curses it and it withers to the ground (divine but what was that about?). On another occasion, He inquires how much food is available (a very human question) and when he is informed, takes five loaves and two fish and feeds five thousand (divine). These answers will come and perhaps not far off for I am 77, going on 78.

But what causes me to ponder even longer are these: He confesses He knows not the hour when the human Son of Man shall come at the Last Judgment, yet at the same time knows what is lacking in the hearts of those who profess to believe in Him. How or why could He be ignorant in the one instance and informed in the other? Mark tells us that Jesus did not know the day of final judgment reports He so perfectly knew the future He could tell a man who was a free and responsible agent what he would do, when he would do it and exactly how many times: “This day, before the cock crows twice you [Peter] shall deny me thrice.” And all of this while Peter is vehemently denying it.

Thus ends the disquisition begun by the inspiration of Ms. Marin.

This has gone on much too long and now my traditionalist wife is calling me to dinner but if you have answers to these theological questions, tell me, won’t you? God bless.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Peter Fitzgerald Could Head Up McCain for President Drive Here

Former U. S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald may very well head up the Illinois McCain for President drive for 2008. He is privately recruiting key staff help for the state campaign.

If so, bagging Fitzgerald is a big coup for McCain. Fitzgerald has achieved rock-star status with conservatives because he stood firm against what John Kass calls “the Combine” when he was in the Senate. He filibustered George Ryan’s attempt to pack the Illinois Lincoln museum with patronage hires…he was denied reelection endorsement by state chairman Judy Baar Topinka…he had to brush aside Speaker Dennis Hastert who wanted to intrude on the U.S. attorney naming process…he had to face some inner-party anger at naming the outsider Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) to the post…he was ridiculed year-in and year-out in a thousand petty ways by the late Steve Neal of the Sun-Times in columns for refusing to play the old congressional back-scratching, bring-home-the-goodies game: columns which haven’t stood up well given for Neal in light of Fitzgerald’s prescient role vis-√†-vis the GOP establishment.

All these things have endeared Fitzgerald to the conservative-movement side of the state GOP and even heightened his appeal to the establishment. But there are some downsides in Fitz’s attempted sale of McCain to Illinois conservatives which make the sale difficult. McCain is the author of the hugely controversial McCain-Feingold campaign “reform” bill which has been accused of snuffing out free speech…Fitzgerald voted for the bill which is now law which is regarded as a disaster by conservatives…In 2000 McCain, who has a blow-torch temper, assailed leaders of the Christian evangelical movement who backed George W. Bush…McCain has been all over the map on ideology, often serving as the ideological left’s poster boy on a variety of issues….He was offered the vice presidential nomination by John Kerry and toyed with the idea for weeks, regarded as akin to betrayal of the GOP…McCain’s pro-life credentials are almost invisible despite his votes because of his warm romance of the left…For those weary of Iraq there is little public evidence that McCain would change the direction: if anything he is tougher on preemption than Bush.

Nor has Fitzgerald’s political insights been as golden as his undefiled character of rock-firm integrity. He touted Steve Rauschenberger for governor, insisting he was an excellent candidate despite Rauschenberger’s steady low polls and failure to raise money.

But—with Peter Fitzgerald pushing McCain, there is no doubt that the McCain campaign would get a gigantic push here and be attractive to a legion of conservatives who like Fitzgerald better than McCain: their hope being that if elected—and McCain is high in the polls—Fitz could well become U. S. Attorney General and spark an even more energetic clean-up of politics than he has heretofore.

Congratulations Again to Lynn Sweet

Once in a very long while, George Tagge, political editor, of the old unitary (conservative interpretative news linked with conservative editorials) Tribune would depart from partisan practice to write a scathing piece about a dissident Republican. One notable one was about liberal GOPer Wendell Willkie’s off-hand statement that his stated opposition to joining the war in the campaign of 1940 was “campaign oratory.” Tagge unearthed the comment, made in a legal deposition, and blasted it front-page so that Willkie, who was trying for a comeback in the Wisconsin primary of 1944, was scorched. Excellent.

Lynn Sweet has now departed from so-called liberal orthodoxy to write a brilliant story about how Rep. Bobby Rush got a more than $1 million bequest from the SBC foundation for a civic organization he founded in time for a decision that Congressman is about to make on an issue affecting SBC that is before his committee. Whether Rush will recuse himself or change his vote is anybody’s guess. When you’re black and get elected in a heavily black district you can do anything since when attacks come you can call them racist as Rush is about to do (hi, there Cynthia McKinney). Rush is not a favorite of Ms. Sweet. He did not support the Greatest Man in the Universe Either White or Black, Barack Obama for the U. S. Senate preferring a multi-millionaire candidate Blair Hull. That was because Obama ran against Rush earlier but opposing Obama is a no-no. Rush is also flirting with the Accordion Lady, Judy Baar Topinka and has delivered black votes for her before, when she beat Tom Dart for Treasurer. That heresy must be punished. Your comments?

Reading the Fine Print: Reviewing Uncle Tommy’s 7 Lessons

Okay, children, Uncle Tommy will review his trash-ery of political wisdom to show how Illinois can leave the land of the blue to the home of the red. #1: The job will never be done without a favorable newspaper climate to conservatism and there is none in Illinois at this time. Just as modern conservatism in the U.S. began in 1955 with formation of “National Review” by Bill Buckley, conservatism here must depend on a major print source in addition to talk radio and blogs. #2: It is not possible to produce an objective presentation of the news in reportage. Those who make the claim are duplicitous. #3: The best course is to initiate a third newspaper in Chicago that will be conservative, ala the two conservative newspapers that exist in of all places New York city—The Post and The Sun. The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch (unlikely to come here). The Sun was begun by conservative entrepreneurs.

#4: The third newspaper for Chicago should be as straightforwardly conservative and Republican as the Sun-Times is straightforwardly liberal and Democratic. That means a fusion of reportage and editorial as it is with the Sun-Times, as it is with The New York Times. This is called Interpretative Journalism. The only difference between a conservative newspaper using interpretative journalism and the aforementioned is that the aforementioned don’t admit they do it. #5: There is a basic conservative mood in the country that can sell newspapers.

#6: There are a number of newspapers which mix the menu. But this produces confusion in the reader which is one of several reasons why newspaper reading is down, cable TV and talk radio up. The Tribune is one: it’s editorials have endorsed every Republican candidate for president since 1872 (with one exception: Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 as the Bull Mooser over William Howard Taft). But since the old Colonel’s death on April 1, 1955 it has presented a steadily leftward trend in its interpretative news coverage. The Wall Street Journal, one of the great newspapers, has a steadfast editorial policy but whose news columns generally pursue a leftward direction (including “Washington Wire” run by liberal John Harwood). Mixing menus isn’t good for the reader or journalism. But you must remember that those who control the Pulitzer Prizes are liberals—so although the Washington Times has outstanding Pentagon and State Department coverage, garnering many scoops, it cannot constitutionally receive a Pulitzer.

#7: The Washington Times deserves to be listed among the great newspapers in the country but is not because--? Because it’s owned by the Moonies which is savaged by the liberals as being a cult. But tell me, The Christian Science Monitor, one of the so-called great liberal Democratic newspapers is the official organ of a religion that preaches illness can be overcome by pious reading and prayer: a paper that does not report deaths in quantity except when they have national impact.

Now an exercise: This is from the Hot Type column by Michael Miner in The Reader, the city’s free, throw-away paper that subsists entirely on ads. Those who say I have it in for Miner are wrong; it’s the best column on media written in Chicago but is written by a consummate relativist to whom doubt is seemingly sanctified—but I digress. Miner argues that the Tribune is losing readers by citing two items: One is an Op Ed by James Warren, the paper’s deputy managing editor teamed with Tom Geoghegan. Geoghegan is a favorite of mine because he is a captivating writer—though wrong. He is a young lawyer who yearns for the days when unions were strong. Warren is an elitist liberal who has the wanna-be Beltway trendy attitudes. He is a former Washington bureau chief whose central criticism was that famous D. C. columnists were making money on the side as lecturers, e.g. Cokie Roberts and her husband Steve; once Warren got his face on TV and became a rather well-known personality, that criticism evaporated: why? Well speculate…either he’s getting his or he’s friends with those who are getting theirs. (Another digression).

Miner cites the Geoghegan-Warren column which laments young people not reading newspapers and contrasts it with a light-hearted Trib editorial which acknowledged the paper has endorsed all Republican candidates for president since 1872. He then cites two letters to the editor. One is by a woman who says because the paper has endorsed these Republicans and only them, “you should start waking up now.” Is that the reason the Trib is losing young readers? No connection. Indeed, judging which party was favored by the voters since 1872—the Republican—there is no need to imagine the Trib, on this score alone, is nodding. Sixteen Republican presidents versus eight Democrats. There’s no logic to it but relativist Miner just wants to make a liberal point. The real reason readers are slumping in Chicago is that there is no philosophical choice between the newspapers—and they’re “b-o-r-i-n-g.” Your comments invited.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

If You Ask Me: Too Much Money One Big Problem With the Church

A seminar of authenticist Catholics at St. Mary of the Lake seminary, Mundelein—the Institute on Religious Life—devoted last weekend to trying to re-instill zeal into the Roman Catholic Church. We attended the concluding banquet featuring an address by the legendary Father Benedict Groeschel. Groeschel, who serves the homeless and addicted in New York and who was a close associate of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one of the most eloquent priests in the nation, told us that the old religious orders are dying on the vine because of too much money. He contrasted rich parishes, rich religious orders, old-line rich universities that are Catholic in name only with small parishes that are struggling to survive, newly-formed orders like his own, and new, small universities such as Christendom in Virginia, Thomas Aquinas in California and Thomas More in New Hampshire.

Before he spoke there came up to introduce him the chairman of the Institute on Religious Life, portly, jolly Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford who told a story. Doran is a brilliant story-teller. Had he not become a priest and bishop, he would have been a superb after-dinner speaker.

The story:

Two little boys came to the door of a parish rectory with a box containing the body of a dead dog. The pastor answered and they asked if the priest would give the dog proper burial.

The pastor looked at the two and said, “sorry, we don’t bury animals here.”

One of the boys said, “we’re sorry. We have a check made out to this parish for $1000.”

The priest said: “Oh, you didn’t tell me the dog was Catholic.”


The good news is that it appears the Marriage Amendment people are going to exceed by a good number the required signatures to put the advisory on the ballot in November, thanks to strenuous support from evangelical Protestant churches (Rev. James Meeks launching the drive at Salem Baptist last Sunday). The bad news: the good news is not particularly to the credit of a large group of Catholic parishes of Illinois. At a recent point, of the 1,200 or so Catholic parishes in Illinois, only about 150 or so have signed up to allow the signatures to be collected on church property.

The numbers of Catholic parishes turning down the petitioners includes one of the most liberal—Mary, Seat of Wisdom, in Park Ridge, formerly headed by the man known throughout the archdiocese as “Little Bob,” Father Robert McLaughlin. Former rector of Holy Name, he went to Mary Seat in protest to term limits, a provision he himself had initiated to ditch conservative pastors. When it came to him, Little Bob objected. When he went to Park Ridge, he continued doing what he had done extra-canonically at Holy Name: granting general absolution, using the power ordination has given to intercede to forgive sin across the entire congregation without personal confession. It was in defiance of church law, in defiance of his bishop. And when he went to Mary, Seat of Wisdom, Little Bob did the same thing: thumb his nose at rules. He has gone to his eternal reward now, prompting a bereaved Fr. Andrew Greeley to write that “the church doesn’t make priests like that anymore.” Deo Gratias.

Fr. McLaughlin may be dead but his dissenting soul goes marching on. The new pastor, Father James Gunderson, received a call from an outstanding Catholic layman, John McCartney, known as one of the most valiant pro-life leaders who was jailed for his views in episodes that rival civil rights workers in the early `60s. McCartney asked that the parish allow volunteers to be on the church site to collect signatures.

“I can tell you,” Father Gunderson said, “I have a problem of conscience on this issue.”

Really? And what sort of problem is that, Father? Isn’t it edifying that a pastor of a Church that claims its founder was Jesus Christ, the progenitor of the Christian tradition that has sanctified marriage between one man and one woman for 2000 years, is tussling with his conscience over that thorny issue? A struggle with conscience after your archbishop and all the other bishops of Illinois support marriage’s sanctification. Pray tell, what problem of conscience is it that declines to delineate heterosexual marriage from non-marital coupling? This dissent from natural law and the bedrock of Christianity wouldn’t happen to be the reason you became a priest, would it? How intriguing.

The word “conscience” does give your reluctance a classy tone, does it not? In his teaching about matrimony, Christ restored it to its original place in God’s plan, therefore abrogating the Mosaic tolerance for divorce. Perhaps your struggle with conscience has to do with your disagreement with Christ on that point. If so, did you notify the seminary of your conscience-stricken objection? Or did you glide through? Do you have any problem of conscience when you deny your congregation the opportunity to sign the petition to give Illinoisans the opportunity to vote? No? Do you have a problem with conscience by belonging to a Faith with which you disagree on one of its central tenets? No? Do you have a problem with conscience by belonging to a Faith where you had pledged to support ecclesiastical authority and which you now do not? No? How fortunate for you.

Those who think the Catholic church in Chicago and many places elsewhere is not involved in heresy and schism should look up the definitions. Schism is the act of priests and prelates defying orders because of lack of charity or because of towering ego. Heresy is something worse. Heresy is opposed to doctrine; heresy is opposed to faith. Schism may well have been Little Bob’s dalliance. Heresy is worse. Both features of dissent are alive and well in Chicago. This Blog leaves it to the reader to ascertain the definition of Father Gunderson’s heroic struggle with his “conscience”—knowing that the archdiocesan authorities here are too weak, fearful, timid and addicted to semantic theological parsing to contact the pastor of—and let the irony ring out loudly: Mary, Seat of Wisdom, in Park Ridge, Illinois. Comments open to all.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Blagojevich’s Anti-Topinka Commercials Working: In Reverse

This is just one conservative’s opinion, but to me Gov. Blagojevich’s anti-Topinka TV commercials are working in reverse. It is not possible that I will vote for Topinka, but the governor’s two recent commercials gave me a more favorable impression of her. One commercial said she is against the assault weapons ban, saying that the rolling pin can be viewed as an assault weapon. Right she is. There is no counter to Topinka in the commercial, just the statement: “What is she thinking?” Oh, that answers it, does it?

The second commercial says that Topinka is against penalizing the rich. Again: “what is she thinking?” Boy, that’s a powerful rejoinder, isn’t it? I would paraphrase this question to Blagojevich’s packaging team. If you think Topinka doesn’t require an answer, what are you thinking?

Michael Miner, John Kass, “The Great Perhaps” and Blaise Pascal

In his usually well-written column in the free giveaway paper that’s tailored to the screwed-up kid market, The Reader, media critic Michael Miner has a murkily philosophical go at the Trib’s John Kass, entitled “The Gospel According to Kass: There’s No Doubt About it.” The Reader is a uniform and unitary publication, incidentally which has a strict code of not allowing a conservative opinion to penetrate its folds (with one exception: a cover story I wrote more than twenty years ago which somehow got by its editor and for which the paper has been steadfastly doing penance). One with no doubts on religious verities clearly irks Miner, who’s sort of a throwback to the old nihilistic, semi-hippie news reporter days of the `60s. Indeed, the publication is a relativists’s dream; some of its ads are scatological: it has no absolutes except that there are no absolutes—and the contradiction this presents fits the muddle it presents for its young, post-college, bar-hopping, dating-game readers.

I know it’s heresy to say it, but Kass has been a far more serious writer than the late Mike Royko who gave us belly laughs and sarcasm but not much more. Kass has blistered The Da Vinci Code. Miner says he has doubts about everything. The issue isn’t that Kass has figured everything out in the Great Beyond but that he has faith. Miner evidently is tortured because like Kass he hasn’t figured everything out but has no faith. The great theologian Tertullian, who wrote at the end of the second century.said on his deathbed: “I go to the Great Perhaps.” Unless you have had a mystical personal conversation with God, no one can know with certainty what comes next. That is why faith is a great treasure. “The Great Perhaps” is a brilliant way to say it.

What Miner should do is read Blaise Pascal. This great philosopher-scientist-mathematician who lived at the time of Rene Descartes, another mathematician, concocted a brilliant theorem known as “Pascal’s law.” The author of the Pensees, born in 1623, he produced at 16 a pivotal scientific paper on conic sections, pertaining to the intersection of a right circular cone and plane, which generates one of a group of plane curves, including the circle, ellipse, hyperbola and parabola. He was easily greater than Descartes. By 19 he had developed a calculator that gives him the right to lay claim to being the father of the computer (unlike Al Gore). He concentrated on the law of probability and advanced differential calculus. In physics, he invented Pascal’s Law stating that pressure applied to a confined fluid is transmitted undiminished throughout the fluid (now applied to hydraulic machines). He also helped invent the barometer. But there is another Pascal’s Law, pertaining to God, that would help Michael Miner.

In contrast to Descartes who wrote “I think therefore I exist” and therefore postulates that if he possesses the idea of God as an all-perfect being, the idea cannot have been produced by me; for the fact I doubt proves I am an imperfect being and an imperfect being cannot cause what is most perfect,” Pascal wrote, “If one can do nothing except for what is certain, one ought to do nothing for religion. For it is not certain.” Thus I am a Pascal man. However before you conclude I am well-named after Thomas the Doubter, consider a bit more about Pascal. He continues, we are constantly running risks for the uncertain: in war, in commerce, in journeys. Moreover, nothing in human life is certain. It is not certain we shall see tomorrow; but nobody thinks it’s irrational to act on the probability of his being alive the next day. “And,” he says, “there is more certitude in religion than there is our living til tomorrow.”

What, then, does Pascal, the ironist, the speculative mathematician propose? It is a brilliant reposte to professional doubters like Michael Miner. Don’t let doubt destroy you but construct a mathematical theorem. Thus he invented what is known as “Pascal’s Wager.” Pascal’s wager is this: Suppose we tend not to believe in God and when we die we find we have been wrong—He exists. The choice was obviously a tragically wrong one so the risk we took was fatal. On the other hand, suppose we believe in God and find out when we die He doesn’t exist? What have we lost? Nothing but we have been prudent in judging risk. Suppose we believe in God and when we die we find out He does exist? The worst risk from the standpoint of probability is to deny the existence of God flatly with runs the risk of being disappointed if He does exist.

That was an unpopular thing to say at the time because it was opposed to purely rational philosophy—from the standpoint of Thomism and the purely rational ala Decartes. Pascal’s view, “the heart has reasons of which reason itself knows nothing, ” should be popular today and probably would be if Western civilization were taught in universities today. . Reason, he said, cannot solve the mystery of man’s state; faith alone can answer questions which reason can merely ask. I agree with Pascal but give him for credit than he himself did: he used reason to ignite faith. It has comforted me for decades.

For Pascal the scientist, the mathematician, the physicist, the believer, doubt is perfectly understandable. But the prudent man applies faith, looking at the risks. I don’t know whether John Kass, a friend whom I deeply admire, applies Pascal’s logic to his belief but I do. And I advise Michael Miner to do the same. It is a big jump but beneficial and settles doubts.

That’s why, despite the fact that I go to church, pray, fear that God will be more just than to me, I may very well go to my death saying, with Tertullian, “I go to the Great Perhaps” but it is counterbalanced with Pascal. And so it can be for Michael Miner. And all of us. Do not make a fetish of doubting. Make a fetish of faith and applying Pascal’s Wager.

Heavy stuff but worth it. Are you a Pascal, Descartes or Nihilist? Your comments?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tabloid Issue #2: Media Aghast that Chinese President Hu “Loses Face” Through Shouted Charge by Dissident. Media-Ignored Truth: She’s Right About Torture

A protester, Weni Wang who got into media event with President Bush and President Hu Jintao of China shouts “President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong!” Religious sect is, in fact, being persecuted by China, no doubt about it…Nevertheless media are concerned that China is upset…Bush is angered and apologizes to Hu…Also a White House announcer, introducing the arrival of President Hu gives his nation the title “Republic of China” which is Taiwan, China’s old enemy causing media to be horrified…Media are anguished: U. S. must not tread on China’s toes and allowing protester into the press pool, even though she represented a source that normally would be admitted (a Falun Gong outlet which under our rules would deserve legitimate access), it was wrong and diplomatically insensitive to rile the Chinese president.

My view: President Hu should feel the heat from dissent in a free country, even if news of it gets sharply tailored for Chinese consumption. Your views?

Tabloid Issue #1: The Duke University Lacrosse Team “Scandal” Kept Alive by the Intriguing Race Card—That and Jesse, Sr. and the Media

Media-Ignored Truth: Racial Racketeering Hockum.

An elected white prosecutor, keenly aware that the heavy concentration of African-American voters in his district requires him to bring charges against two Duke lacrosse team members…A poor black stripper, mother of two, working her way through college vs. elitist white rich boys who have all the advantages…The stripper sending a letter to a New York p. r. firm asking freebie advice about how to leverage this national story to her advantage…One alleged rapist shown to have left the party after the attack supposedly took place…Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. shouting in Durham on the white media, getting them to cower, volunteering to pay the stripper’s college tuition…Authorities release an e-mail written hours after the party by a lacrosse player threatening to kill and skin an exotic danger—but he is proved not to have been involved…Defense lawyers produce DNA tests that doesn’t match any of the players…It’s a natural set-up for a Tom Wolfe novel with prejudicial media editing copy and video to support the stripper.

My view: racial racketeering at work. Your views?

First in a Small Town Better than Second in Rome: St. Cloud’s Most Prominent Lawyer Undertakes a Cross-Examination. That and a Missing Bar-Maid

[Another segment of reminisces for my kids and grandchildren.]

Well, ex-cuse-me! I said when a newsroom colleague seemed breathless because the great Fred Hughes had called. So I shrugged and asked: What’s so important about him except that he has a lot of money: probably the richest and most influential man in town and can buy and sell everybody at this paper including the publisher any day of the week? No big deal. I’m pretty big stuff myself, so no surprise he’s calling me.

It was fun to be cocky to my colleague as a $67.50 weekly reporter. What was Fred Hughes to me or I to him? Being rooted in penury, I had no great awe for him. Normally he should be talking to the publisher, Freddie Schilplin. St. Cloud, Minnesota, straddling the Mississippi river in the state’s central region, was known as the Granite City because of its quarries. Why he wanted to talk to me was probably to pick my brains on some matters the publisher wouldn’t know. In a small city in the heart of the most Germanic, Catholic county in the nation, heavily conservative Republican and historically isolationist, Hughes was an anomaly: an Irishman, an ex-Democrat, and an internationalist. There were two prominent lawyers in town, of which Hughes was indubitably the better known: an anti-trust, corporate and even Constitutional lawyer who practiced often before the U.S. Supreme Court who for eccentric reasons declined to base his firm in Washington, D. C., New York, Chicago or the Twin Cities. He was a close friend—perhaps the closest friend—of Harold Stassen, now a cabinet officer in the Eisenhower administration and regarded as the hope of Republican liberaldom.

Hughes was rather like a legal Warren Buffett (who decided to hang out in Omaha, making people come to him). General Motors in particular trekked to St. Cloud to get Hughes on retainer. He was particularly good in presentations in courtrooms—Courts of Appeals, the Supreme Court. He was thoughtful, reverent with a similarity to, of all people, Fulton Sheen with penetrating and deep-seated eyes. He lived apart from the city, in a mansion on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Stories abounded that he had private guards on duty at his estate because years earlier there had been an attempt at kidnapping.

The only legal rival to Hughes’ firm in town was a far distant second: run by Lawrence Hall, rich because his family also owned the city’s lumber mill, Matthew Hall & Sons Lumber, but who had a prosperous legislative (i.e. lobbying) practice. Hall, another graduate of St. John’s, was a proper German of indistinct political heritage. He had hired St. Cloud’s mayor, the former Korean war jet ace (age 29), the movie-star handsome bachelor, Democrat George Byers, elected mayor (a non-partisan election) at 28, who had stolen my girlfriend from the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Hall was the king-pin lobbyist for the Minnesota Distilled Spirits Institute and Byers was his number one man at the legislature in St. Paul: preparing for a career in the Democratic party. Relations between Hall and Hughes were definitely chilly: Hughes the establishmentarian and Hall the plebian but rich lobbyist.

Hughes was a daily Mass-goer (as I was not, at the time: only a Sunday-goer) and communicant at the St. Cloud Cathedral Mass every morning at 7; then he strolled a block and a half down St. Germain street, the main drag, to Enga’s a favorite coffee shop featuring obscenely delicious and fattening Danish pastries, the shop I used to visit while on my newspaper rounds of City Hall and County Building because Enga herself treated me free. A tall man (6 feet 4) of 47 with flecking grey hair and well-chiseled handsome face not unlike that of actor Walter Pidgeon, athletically trim, Hughes would avoid the pastries; intriguingly, I would notice him regularly studying me from across the room as I devoured them: was he disapproving? We were nodding acquaintances both there and, occasionally, at Sunday Mass. I always admired his suits: one of English worsted with subtle but intriguing tweed checks, another of radiantly deep blue with knife-edge creases, yet another of pinstripe grey, shoes of subtly polished black: the entire appearance low-key but radiating money.

He would usually sit by himself and read a law journal; when someone important came in, like the president of the City Council, the Fire commissioner, the Bishop, the visitor would come over to Hughes’ table rather deferentially. Whereupon Hughes would rip off his reading glasses, point to a vacant chair and allow the guest to pull it up. The guest was usually there., by his own choice, for two minutes. Possibly to get Hughes’ opinion of a Council action; possibly to ask him to head a blue-ribbon civic committee (usually rejected with diplomacy), possibly in the case of the Bishop to ask Hughes to head up a capital fund project for the diocese. If Enga’s were ever destroyed by fire with all customers having perished including the Bishop, the logical headline that St.Cloudites would expect to read would go: Fred J. Hughes Dies in Fire Along with Others. (We wouldn’t write it that way but would be thinking it, with Hughes’ death very near the lead.)

My appointment was for 3 p.m. at the city’s dressy Professional Building (home to the legal and medical practices) to which I had never been. His suite was like his clothes: low key but expensive. Original paintings on the wall, one a portrait of Sir Edward Coke the founder of British jurisprudence; another of Edmund Burke; a third a gorgeous water-color of our alma mater, St. John’s with its bell tower glowing at night. A fourth: a line of black-robed Benedictine monks with delicate chiaroscuro as they were marching into the abbey church for the Matins service. His inner office, when I was shown to it, was of wood-paneled, not oak or walnut, but a beautiful russet. He was not there so I was invited to wait. The wood was gorgeous.

“It’s teak,” said Hughes’ secretary. “Mr. Hughes likes teakwood as you can tell. Teak wood is grown in Malaysia.” Thereupon she left me alone. Walls and furnishings of teakwood. A statue of the Blessed Virgin stood on a teakwood side-table with a vigil light, unlighted, before it. Etching on the wall plus one long photograph of the General Motors board of directors, inscribed “to Fred with admiration” by the Chairman. The effect on me, still earning the by now familiar to you $67.50 a week, was unutterably impressive. But he still meant nothing to me.

Five minutes later, he walked in and came right to the point.

“I asked you to come for this reason: I would hope you would consider becoming the public relations director for the Minnesota Republican Party in St. Paul.”

Is this an offer you can make?

“It is.”

I accept.

“Do you know anything about public relations?”


“Good. That’s the first qualification. You’ll begin from scratch. That damn party has been relying on professional corporate types, consultants. I won’t tell you what to do but I would not be surprised if you terminated their contract quickly.”

I wouldn’t be surprised either. I would like to--.

“—inquire about the salary?”


“You’ll be satisfied. I’m not going to get into it now. Your boss, State Rep. John Hartle, a former Speaker of the House, will see that you are adequately paid. I am sure we can get together. And I will not victimize you because of your low salary now of $67.50.”

I am stunned that you know my humiliatingly low salary.

“Never mind. I want to go into everything I do prepared.”

The details?

“It will not start until July, after the legislature has adjourned. Hartle is the House minority leader and he will not be able to devote any time to the state chairmanship until then. Also, they have to know at the St. Cloud Times so they can find someone to replace you to whom they will pay your current salary. I understand Walter [Rogosheske] had you on the ropes emotionally.”

More than that. I’m afraid I started to weep. You must understand, I have never been subject to cross-examination much less lectured by a federal judge.

“I understand. Your response was salutary. You made a mistake and were heartfelt about it. Walter was once a part of this firm and I hated to lose him to the federal bench. He felt bad because he feels he possibly went overboard—but I told him it was good for you. Both of us admire your writings very much. I know a fair amount about you—know your grades at St, John’s, which were not impressive, by the way but you were good in extra-curriculars like editing the campus literary magazine. You know George Byers, the mayor?”

I do.

“He interests some people we know [who? Ambiguous]. He is DFL as you know and one likely to go all the way—Congress, Senate, possibly governor. What do you think of him?”

Don’t worry. He is a perfect candidate now but there are human imperfections.

“As we all do. But he has perfect qualifications for a political career: extraordinarily good-looking, conservative Democrat, a former highly decorated jet ace in Korea; wonderful personality. A bachelor at 29 which makes him very attractive to women. A lawyer. A Catholic. He has the potential to be a major factor in this district: beginning with Congress, then the Senate. People I know are concerned about him. And you say he has human imperfections. As do we all. What are they?”

They have to do with the major client of the law firm he’s associated with, your great and good friend and our fellow alum, Lawrence Hall. And Hall’s and his major client, the Minnesota Distilled Spirits Institute. If he cannot overcome the fondness for liquor, he will never make it beyond mayor. Unless he can overcome it, he is on a very dangerous track. Nothing major yet. But I must stop there.

“Fascinating. You have further information along that line?”

Yes but that is off-limits ethically.

“Fair enough. Of course, you could be biased because you used to date the girl he’s now going with from the Chamber of Commerce.”

Stunning research. Touche. Yes, but increasingly it is of less importance than originally.

“By which you mean?.”

“By which I mean there is disenchantment among young women in this town because of his fondness for another—a comely young widow.”

“ And you are going with his private secretary.”

Mr. Hughes, I see now how you have become so successful. Stunning research. Yes. We go to the movies at the Paramount theatre and have ice cream sodas to Dan Marsh’s Drug Store.

“She is the reason how your newspaper has been reporting some interesting scoops on city programs, evidently.

Absolutely not. I rather resent that. I get my news stories through hard work. But, enough, Counselor. Before we get further along, what else do you know?

“I know that you mis-led the local Democratic-Farmer-Labor people who inquired, before they recommended you to travel with Hubert, what your political affiliation might be. Very unprofessional of them, by the way. They had no business asking that. This local group is very amateurish.”

What did I tell them?

“You wanted to travel with Hubert very badly. You said your mother was a Democratic judge in Chicago.”

And was she?

“She was—and is—a Democratic judge of election earning $20 in a precinct every election day. We think it was clever of you to fool them so. A Democratic judge in Chicago!” He allowed himself a chuckle.

We? (Did that we include Rogosheske, the federal judge?)

“Did I say `we?’ Wrong.” A likely lie. . “But I was interested in the fantastic press you gave Hubert. You were very partial to him. Does it mean that you are a committed liberal, very sympathetic to him or just swayed by his magnetism?”

Not a liberal. Swayed by his magnetism.

“So much so that you accompanied him to the CIO convention in Duluth although you didn’t write anything but for which the DFL party paid your travel and lodging. Ethically challengeable. Were you an unofficial aide?”

I was glad he was wrong about something. Not the DFL but the CIO. No, it was not as an aide but I was storing up the experience for when, if ever, I would write about him again. My bills paid by the CIO is no different than a journalist asked to speak to a business group or labor group. I was off-duty at the time. I invite you to talk to my publisher about it since he knew about it.

“Forget it. You must forgive me cross-examination. If perchance, Harold Stassen would run against Hubert in 1960 for the Senate, or against him that year for president and you were still in an official party position, you would not be torn?”

Would not be torn.

“You understand that from this July on when you run the communications for the Republicans you will be expected to go after Hubert, in an effective way, of course?”

I do.

“You say that firmly. Is it because you will regard yourself as a hired gun, to do what you’re paid to do?”

No. I turned down an offer made by his people to work for him in the campaign and ultimately go with him to Washington. I am a Republican, probably more conservative than you are.”

“How conservative is that?”

I favored Senator Robert Taft for the nomination in 1952. Pretty conservative.

“Hmmm. You are indeed more conservative. Perhaps too much so. Did you support and vote for General Eisenhower that November?”

I did. I know that you favored Harold Stassen [then the rough equivalent of John McCain, not the frequent also-ran he later became. Stassen was in Eisenhower’s cabinet as Mutual Security Director, in charge of foreign aid.]

Would you call yourself an Eisenhower Republican?


A Stassen Republican?

I support one presidential candidate—and president—at a time.

“I worked very hard for Harold for many years and am very close to him today. Does that bother you?”

Not at all.

“He is more progressive than Eisenhower and far more so than Taft. I would think you would be bothered. Are you less ideological than pragmatic?”

Not any more than Harold Stassen was himself when he joined with Taft in the convention of 1948 along with Colonel McCormick to try to stop Dewey; and joined with Taft again in the convention of `52 to try to stop Eisenhower.

“Good answer. Very good answer. I was involved in those negotiations.”

I know. [I didn’t but I thought I’d give him some of his own one-upmanship medicine.]

“You know that? Impressive because my work was never written up which is the way I wanted it. Well, good. [Pause]. Well, then, we have an understanding. Harold knows of your coming aboard, by the way. One further thing. What do you think of our vice president, Richard Nixon?”

I’ll tell you. When he sobbed on Eisenhower’s shoulder after he passed the General’s test on the Checkers fund, I thought it was—well, unmanly.

“Perfect answer. Then you would not be surprised if in 1956 there would be an attempt to get rid of Mr. Nixon as vice president.”

Not in the slightest.

“Very good. You are going to be a great help to the Republican party. John Hartle would like to talk with you. He’ll be your boss. I will place the call to him in St. Paul now. But you won’t start until July.”

I can count on it?

“You have my word. And I expect that you and I will be in the closest contact during your work there. I will give you my phone numbers. Your relationship with me will be private, even confidential.”

The next weekend I went to St. Paul to meet Hartle.

When I came back to St. Cloud to go to work, Monday morning, my editor told me there was a disappearance of a bar-room waitress from a saloon known as the “V Bar” in neighboring Sauk Rapids, in a shanty-town, neon jungle area. She had a public quarrel with her boss, who was acting as bartender and took off her ring that was a gift from him, slammed it on the bar, got in her heavy coat (it was winter) and stalked off, as patrons watched. He then hung up his bartender’s towel and followed her. He returned some hours later. She was never seen again. Some days later her parents reported that she hadn’t gone home. The Benton county sheriff’s office (not Stearns county, an adjoining county) was investigating.

“This could well be your first murder, who knows?” the editor said. “Maybe this’ll get you some attention in the Twin Cities and you’ll get a job there. I almost don’t want to assign it to you because I want you around.”

I thought: Already lined one up, thanks, but looking into it will be fun.


Next time: A series of stories that turn up no leads but an angry bar owner.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Keeping Score: Where Readers Have Their Say.

[Full text of what readers say is on Readers Comments. These are my responses]

Batavia Bulldog liked the George Ryan analysis and says if I want to write Catholic stuff I should go ahead because it’s my Blog. So it is. Thanks, Batavia…Cal Skinner who has his own Blog and is a distinguished former state lawmaker in McHenry—one of the most perceptive conservatives in the state—wonders how many children Carla (the fervent pro-abort who wrote in the other day) has adopted…Jason A. who is a very good correspondent with a lot of fresh information makes the cogent point that I didn’t tell the half of it with the column on WBEZ, the city’s public radio station going all Talk, which, since it’s public radio we’re mentioning, means liberal talk. WBEZ petitioned to raise the frequency on its Chesterton, Indiana outlet using the plea that it supplies diverse programming. It sponsored two fund-raising subscription drives, in Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 based partially on the need to continue diverse programming, pointing specifically to jazz and blues. He agrees it’s a terrible decision…

Jason posted another one pointing out, correctly, that people who criticize Israel’s foreign policy shouldn’t be accused of being bigots (100 percent correct) and outlines a detailed criticism of our own foreign policy…goobs agrees on WBEZ and may write a letter to them. He wants some info on the nature of public funding. Right now I don’t have any numbers and can’t say anything beyond the fact that public funding started in the Great Society era of LBJ. Ronald Reagan wanted to get rid of it—and should have—but didn’t. The idea that programming like it can’t exist without public funding is specious. Listen to 90.1 FM, the Moody station and you find 24-hour radio which is funded by private sources: the Moody Bible church. There’s no reason why liberals who come in several sizes, including some fabulously wealthy, can’t fund the network without relying on the government. I don’t know this for sure, but I think there is no direct federal money for the College of DuPage station, is there?. The key word is “direct.”

Jason A. again with a nifty compliment: all he reads is John Kass and me. Delighted. Despite the fact, he adds, that he has adjudged me to be a Neo-Con, especially on immigration…John F. Patton seconds my nomination of Naomi Watts (female lead in “King Kong”) as CBS anchor rather than Katie Couric. He gives a great deal of information: she wants to get pregnant but believes getting married in a rush leads to complications. [My comment: what’s wrong the old fashioned way?] She thinks she has gone as far as she can in her career right now, likes film work but hates post-production promotion. She accepted everything before “Mulholland Drive” but is more choosy now. She thinks she can come back after age 40 (but Pattton disagrees saying Hollywood has all kinds of roles for 30-somethings but not 40-somethings (the nun role for Sarandon et al). Then he asks how do we think he has found out that much? He does research for five newspapers and had conversations with Watts’ mother in England. That’s the kind of high-class readership we have here, folks!

Flashback: 1955 and Looking at the Calendar—Time to Get out of Dodge (St. Cloud). But Not Before I Goof Up Big-Time

[Another installment of my past, written for my kids and grandchildren]

Life was too good in this small city of 25,000: as 1955 dawned, it was a year and a half since I came there from Chicago. No openings on Twin City dailies that paid sufficient to warrant a move (when I calculated the freebees and extra-curriculars it didn’t pay to pack up and leave.) One of the town’s two blue chip lawyers (multi-millionaires: everyone else seemed to be ordinary practicing working stiffs), Fred J. Hughes, an old alum of St. John’s where I went to school) caught my eye every so often when we would bump into each other either at Mass or in the Courthouse. He’d say, “I have something I’d like to talk over with you sometime” which could have meant anything, from swapping stories about court to politics (Hughes was a liberal Republican) to something about our mutual alma mater. I’d say: “Sure, give me a call” but nada. Probably something about a case he was trying. Or as he was a regent at my old University, maybe a request for a donation—which was a laugh.

In the meantime, I made a big mistake while covering an important criminal case in the courtroom of federal Judge Walter Rogosheske, a tiny man who folded his tiny hands and laced his tiny fingers as he listened to the case. Too complicated to explain now, but one morning when nature called, I had to leave the courtroom for a few minutes; returned to find that some significant fact had been elicited by the defense and I missed it. Cribbed from the Associated Press stringer who was there; I misinterpreted the material and ran back to the office to make a deadline. Paper came out not with the error in the headline, thank God, but in the body of the text.

The next morning the Defense howled about the story, wanted a mis-trial, claiming the major daily newspaper in the area misinterpreted its argument, cited the correct version in the Associated Press and argued that many false impressions could flow from the misinterpretation, that the public’s view would be irretrievably compromised etc. Judge Rogosheske looked stunned, but agreed to meet in chambers.

About twenty minutes later, they came back with the Defense looking glum, the Prosecution ebullient and Rogosheske carrying my newspaper. He read the story aloud. Rogosheske read twice, emphasizing phrases differently, showing that the reportage could result in several misinterpretations.

He concluded: “Therefore, one reading of this story would indicate far more credit to the Defense than it has made thus far before this Court. My advice to the Defense is to take the error not as an affront but as an warranted bias which would help the Defense. If the Prosecution does not object to the story—which I see it does not—this Court rules there be no mis-trial and advises Defense to stop worrying about newspaper coverage and concentrate more fully on its preparation.” A loud sigh of relief was mine.

At the conclusion of that day’s trial, he nodded gently to me from the bench, which meant he wanted to see me in chambers. I jauntily sauntered in, cocky at 26, that I had been justified by the federal court.

Then, in chambers he kicked my posterior from one side to the other, demanding to know how I misinterpreted a vital part of the case. The Defense had a very convincing argument that I could have caused a mis-trial, he said. He thought about granting the motion but then he formulated the complex response he gave to the Court. He was satisfied that he had ruled correctly but vexed—to say the least—that by my woefully inept reporting I had caused a problem for him.

“Let me tell you that from here on and until the remainder of your life, you should thank God for the decision of this Court. Because had this Court determined the Defense was correct and a mis-trial occurred, this Court and my colleague, E. J. Ruegemer could conceivably contact the owner of your newspaper—who is it, Freddie Schiplin? Yes? We could easily ask that you no longer be assigned to this Court. And what would happen to your career then? All because of your sloppy reportage.”

I would probably be fired.

“Probably be fired. I agree with that evaluation.”

“Until I saw that jaunty look on your face, I was going to let this pass. But I’m not. Don’t misinterpret my decision on the mis-trial for a favor to you personally. This was a gross enormous error you had written—which made me work doubly hard to clean up your misinterpretation. Do you understand?”

Yes sir.

“How old are you?”


“You should understand that you are not a kid. Without boast I can tell you that when I was 26, I was married and the father of four, having worked my way through Law at Minnesota. In that year I appeared as an assistant counsel in the Fred J. Hughes law firm representing Minneapolis Honeywell before the United States Supreme Court. Six years later I was the deputy minority leader of the State House of Representatives. I say this not to exaggerate my attainments but to compare how you are spending your tender years. Essentially, you have a lot to do before you match the kind of acumen needed in your chosen profession, Mr. Roeser. This favor I have done for you will not be repeated. Do you understand?”

Yes, Judge. As I crawled miserably to the door, I heard his voice: “Have I dismissed you?”

No sir.

“What would your grandfather—or great-grandfather--Judge Roeser for whom my father worked and revered, whose portrait hangs downstairs in the lobby—think of this?”

Sir, we’re not related.

“I have heard the opposite from Sheriff McIntee.”

Sir, notwithstanding, we’re not related.

A long pause as I sat, eyes lowered, feeling miserable. Then it all came rushing out. I was being reprimanded by the brightest judge on the circuit, in his impressive office which was a repudiation of all I sought to do and be. Suddenly, I was near tears. Silence.

He hit the button on his intercom to his secretary.

“Would you please bring in some coffee for Mr. Roeser and me? Thank you.”

We sipped. He poured cream for himself and me. More silence.

“Why aren’t you with some Twin City newspaper? How long have you been here?”

A year and a half.

Then, the first glimmer of humanness:

“You’re better than anyone else reporting for your paper. Why haven’t you moved up? I read your article on Mrs. Roosevelt, your articles on Hubert Humphrey. You have a deft sense of humor. You’re very good when you write politics. Very good.”

I was still miserable, fighting tears. Thank you, sir.

“Are you weeping?”

No, sir.

“Wrong. You are. Others have wept sitting in that same chair and had far more to weep about than you. Stop it.”

Yes sir.

“Have you called Fred Hughes yet?”

I raised my head, stunned. No sir, he said he would call me—do you know about that, what he wants, or--?

“I asked you if you have called Fred Hughes. And you have not. I would suggest you call him because Mr. Hughes is not in the habit of calling newspapermen. When he says he will call that means you should call. I worked as a junior partner to him. He is one of the outstanding lawyers in this state. He is not in the habit of calling junior newspapermen. He chooses to live in this town when he could easily operate his law firm from the Twin Cities or Chicago. Or New York. He prefers to live here because he loves this community, and because he went to St.John’s nearby where he serves as a Regent. Where I understand you matriculated. Is that right?”

Yes sir.

“Your eyes are still red. Blow your nose, Mr. Roeser. I expect to read your reports about my court in the future and expect they will be--…letter perfect! Do you understand?”

Yes sir.

Sir, I would like to ask a question.


Would you advise me to write a correction for the newspaper, setting the facts straight?

“I would advise you not to. No one has asked you to: not the Defense, not the Prosecution. That is the trouble with you, Mr. Roeser. You jump hastily. If you are asked by Defense to write a correction, you may—but you will not be asked to do so. Why? Because they would not be pleased if you included my words of criticism that I leveled to the Defense. You didn’t think about that, did you?”

No sir.

“That’s another thing about you, Mr. Roeser. You never seem to think ahead. Have you finished your coffee?”

Yes sir.

“Then you may go.” And he snapped on his desk light, lowered his head and began to write.

I dragged my feel to the office, feeling that since the entire town knew that I had goofed up the news story, I could never hold my head up again. I wanted to run away. But to my astonishment, no one had: my egotism had led me to think all of St. Cloud devoured my reports, all of central Minnesota, all of Minnesota: all of the nation! No one cared except the Defense and the Prosecution: and the Prosecution liked my misstatement.

When I came to my desk, a colleague said: “Where have you been? None other than Fred Hughes has called for you. Do you know him? He’s the town’s biggest lawyer. What trouble have you gotten into now?”

[Next time: I go to see Fred Hughes and report a story about a disappeared bar maid which has the potential of getting me into more trouble.]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The One Remaining Ryan Story Has No Drama.

A number of liberals who fondly want remember George Ryan as the kind of conservative Republican they love: one who switched his views after election to become anti-death penalty, pro-choice, pro-O’Hare expansion snout-snuffling regular pol rather than the corrupt felon he is, seem to hold out hope that the juror-foreman case will cause a mis-trial. The foreman did not note on her application that she was involved in a litigious divorce, tried to have her ex-husband placed under protective custody. No lawyer or ex-judge I talked to takes this seriously. The idea that the trial is not yet over is un-founded. Legal precedent is heavily on the side of not overturning jury verdicts without enormous material errors in a trail. Ergo: Ryan can get ready to try out his stripes.

Your comments?

The Hint—Just a Hint—of a Slur Against “Jewish Influence” Brought to You Courtesy of U of C and Harvard Intellectuals

Time was when a popular saying had it that anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals, Meaning that when cocktail parties found it was boorish to attack the “international Jewish conspiracy” as some did at the end of the 19th century, it became trendy to make fun of and worry about the coming Roman Catholic conspiracy, beginning in the mid-1920s when Al Smith was mentioned for the presidency. Of course, let’s face it, no one parlayed anti-Semitism more than Father Charles E. Coughlin in the `30s. But anti-Semitism never gained much currency after World War II where anti-Catholicism seemed to be galloping in those years, particularly when abortion became a key domestic issue.

Now, not strangely, the old saying could be revised to say, “Anti-Semitism seems to be the bigotry of the intellectuals.” That’s because prominent left-wing critics of Bush foreign policy have not hesitated to hint there is a Jewish “influence” shaping our policies. Ironically, some of the left have been Jews. True, some prominent thinkers who played a part in formation of the Bush foreign policy have been Jews. Pat Buchanan, a friend of mine but an old-fashioned paleo, coined a phrase by speaking out against the Israeli “amen corner” in the United States. The theory has been current that some Americans with divided loyalties—to the U. S. but also to Israel—have seized control of the deliberative processes, just as in the old days it was said that Americans with divided loyalties—to the U.S. but also to the Roman Catholic church in Rome—crafted the election of John F. Kennedy.

Frankly, as a longtime lobbyist who appreciates how opinion is mobilized in behalf of public policy, I acknowledge that the well-being of Israel is important and has a zing politically: but not just for Jews. You can find many Jews of the left-wing variety who are strongly opposed to what they feel is Israel’s tug on policies in the U. S. and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer (with whom I once debated on WTTW) is one of them. I haven’t read Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s treatise published on the Web site of the Kennedy School and must do it one day…but I am sufficiently familiar with Mearsheimer to say that he is not a self-loathing Jew who wishes to get even with his origins. Mearsheimer always was up-front with me on the idea that the American-Israel Public Affairs committee has a definite goal in mind, which is the preservation of the well-being of Israel. I cannot find any problem with that because as a non-Jew I am also interested in the preservation of Israel. I have never seen any example where a case has been made for the U.S. to take action which would be detrimental to this nation but salutary for Israel. And I would challenge Mearsheimer on that, if that is what he maintains.

Where I think Mearsheimer is wrong is not that there are organizations in this country supportive of a foreign policy in the Middle East which could be salutary to Israel: of course there are, and so what? (However I question his view that this nation spends more on foreign and defense aid to Israel than any other country; we have given Saudi Arabia far more resources as well as other Arab nations). Where I find him right but shading it wrongly. Neo-Cons have heavily Jewish and in this country are in the forefront of crackling good journalism: the Weekly Standard run by Bill Kristol, Commentary published by the American Jewish Committee and others…but unless you really have a wacko conspiracy theory going you have to believe that these influential and brainy Jews swung a Republican establishment that is overwhelmingly non-Jewish to their side: Cheney? Rumsfeld? Bush? Coni Rice? What have they used to do it? Jewish money as political influence? Jews overwhelmingly give money to Democrats and liberal causes.

A Jewish media bund? The New York Times is one of my favorite papers and has been owned by a prominent Jewish family for generations—the Sulzbergers. Their paper is the foremost critic of Bush’s foreign policy and the Iraq War. There have been two secretaries of defense who could be remotely said to be of Jewish ancestral (not religious) heritage, neither practicing Jews but Christian: Caspar Weinberger for Reagan and William Cohen (whose father was Jewish) for Clinton. Was either remotely more pro-Israel than their predecessors? I think not. Clinton was blistered for leaning too far over to the Arabs and Weinberger for not being warlike enough (by George Shultz).

Is it because there are tens of millions of Jews in the nation who are loath to support any party not pro-Israel? No; there aren’t tens of millions of Jews anyhow. In fact, if you check the Bush administration you don’t find many Jews. There was Wolfowitz as deputy Defense secretary. Is it because while there are few Jews, they are so smart as to wield disproportionate balance? I grant you that often the most brilliant people I’ve met in academia or without are Jews. Let me give you a personal, anecdotal example.

Illinois Republicanism has had the benefit of a man who is Jewish, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, a man of influence who was steadfastly supportive of all kinds of Republicans—from Henry Hyde to Republican candidates for president. He is Ron Gidwitz. He ran for governor on the Republican ticket and did not do particularly well—but he intrigued me because of his zero-based budgeting philosophy. Was Gidwitz running on a pro-Israel platform, with his venerable father, age 99 and entire family very active in Jewish affairs? No. He is against the Iraq war. It didn’t come out as a main topic on my radio program, but he was very clear as one who wants it over as soon as possible. Incidentally, he appeared on the show with State Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat and brilliant scion of a prominent Jewish family—who is also a critic of the war. Both men are deeply observant. Where’s the plot?

I’ve taken a long time getting there but I think Mearsheimer would be better served with his conspiracy tale if he were to investigate friends of mine in the Christian evangelical community. We have been allies for many years on socially conservative causes. Many Christian evangelicals have a thorough rationale as why the destiny of Israel is tied to Christianity. Just listen to Pat Robertson, for instance (who really drives me batty, who spins a thoroughly involved rationale for Christian triumph at the end of the day depending on triumph of Israel.) You sit Robertson down with Bill Kristol and his father Irving and you’re going to be stunned—even somewhat disturbed—at the bi-polar view that Robertson has in contradiction to the Kristols. I don’t share that bipolar world view. I want Israel to continue to thrive but I don’t foresee Biblical prophecy redeemed in a sense that would or should drive our foreign policy. Yet Robertson ran for president. Were he to have been president, there is no doubt that Mearsheimer’s article would be compelling—not because the Jews are in control, but because this one variant of evangelical Protestant Christianity is in control.

To the extent that the Robertson people support Bush and are energetically—almost rabidly, if I can use the word—pro-Israel, there is reason for some concern. I was particularly appalled when Robertson said the stroke suffered by Ariel Sharon was from God because Sharon wanted to give away some Jewish territory. But then, some social issues aside, I’m appalled by Robertson anyhow. Thankfully, social conservatives come in several categories and I don’t think anyone reasonably can make the point that our foreign policy is governed by those uninterested in our well-being.

Your comments?

WBEZ, the (Partially) Taxpayer-Supported Station to Go Full-Time Liberal Talk

News that Chicago’s public radio station, supported partially by the taxpayers, will junk music and go full-time talk is interesting. Any listener to public radio who supposes conservatives will have a role on the station because taxpayers come conservative as well as liberal, can forget it. Listen to NPR at any time of the day or night and you’ll be disabused about “fair and balanced.” As a matter of fact, there was only one public affairs show on WBEZ that had a spot for conservative views as well as liberals, and that was the old Bruce DuMont show “Inside Politics” where yours truly was the conservative member. It’s to Torey Maletia’s credit (the head of WBEZ) that he sought to program a conservative (me) with a liberal for a show many years ago (Mara Tapp) but Tapp, true open-minded liberal that she was, couldn’t handle sharing the microphone with a conservative; thus the idea died aborning.

The outrage here is not that `BEZ will go liberal all the time, but that since there is no obvious market for liberal talk, the station has to use subsidized, taxpayer-funds to make it happen. Beyond that, we are assured by Rob Feder of the Sun-Times, not necessarily the most conservative of scribes, that there are other outlets for jazz, notably the College of DuPage FM station. Indeed there are, and I listen to it regularly—but `BEZ had more than just platter spinners playing jazz; they had Dick Buckley who is a jazz authority explaining the delineation of the performers, more or less like a Ph.D course in jazz appreciation. That means no more interpretative commentaries on the era of Armstrong, Teagarden, Anita O’Day et al. Buckley has been given his walking papers and as a jazz fan I hope he gets picked up by WDCB in Glen Ellyn. But the point should not be lost on public affairs program listeners: `BEZ will be presenting many hours of liberal talk at taxpayer expense.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Short Takes...Maybe Some Re-Takes.

In my opinion, no TV coverage of the Ryan conviction could touch WLS-TV Channel 7. Chuck Goudie first broke the story of licenses for bribes scandal and took understandable proprietorship of it. At a time when TV journalism appears to be faltering, Goudie, probably the best TV investigative reporter in city history, has honed his skill to a fine art. Also the guest experts they had on—I must confess I don’t have their names at hand as I write this—were outstanding and topped those of any other station. The former federal prosecutor on 7 was particularly good; the jury selection expert, a woman, was a good match for him. Brilliant job. WGN-TV didn’t come on until somewhat later which should be unforgivable although it redeemed itself partially by having Meredith Viera on with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Still the station wasn’t up to par on its coverage as were the others. What do you think?

The Sun-Times’ religion editor, Cathleen Falsani finally came up with a thoroughly readable and interesting Sunday story on the various translations of the Bible. No frills, no kid stuff peace talk: just good writing and reporting. Agreed?

Also, in my estimation TV anchors are not necessarily blow-dried and superficial. Mary Anne Childers is one who while a looker (I am too old to be bothered if you think me sexist: I use the word anyhow) conveys the political savvy of an educated, sophisticated news presenter who can handle any emergency because she’s been around: knows politics (I believe) and is probably as good a TV version of the brilliantly journalistic Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman, male or female, as there is. Do you agree? Would those involved in TV journalism give their opinion by using, if they wish, anonymity? Distinguish yourself from other opinions by calling yourself Insider.

Watching George Ryan commenting after the trial with his studied remark that he found the verdict “disappointing” made me think that he was sleep-walking. You get sentenced for the rest of your life to jail and you find it disappointing? I had the idea that the full weight of the verdict hadn’t hit him yet: a minimum of twenty-two years in the can for a man 72 years old. Agreed?

Of all the players in that drama, I find Lura Lynn Ryan the most pathetic. She looks frail and I wonder how she’s going to make it. I can’t fault her for going on TV earlier trying to sway the jury: she’s doing what a good wife would do. I do wonder about the vapidity of Carol Marin’s earlier column zinging the old lady for wearing `50s makeup and hair-style reminiscent of what Marin’s mother and aunt wore. Lura Lynn is an old lady. Com’on, Marin. Would you have her wear net stockings and a bouffant? What do you say?

I would like seasoned state government veterans—or ex-state employees with experience working in political offices—write this Blog to give me their interpretation of the conviction…to this extent: Did Ryan, as I maintain, break old and longstanding rules that were illegal even in the good old days: giving favoritism to pals, favoring certain bidders et al. Or are the things Ryan did represent a break from the old style of governance. Yes, I know Edgar and all the other secretary of state incumbents were never indicted: but was that because they were not as venal as George, not as obtuse, not as thumb-their-nose at ethics as he undeniably was? Or, is this an entirely new era with future secretaries of state guarded against intrusion of almost any politics in their office? See, I am somewhat of the old school: enough to have worked in Congressional offices, governor’s office, having started one federal agency and the Peace Corps. But George re-wrote the book regarding trough snuffling and piggishness. I recognize that an office which is set up to be political by the state constitution should not be run entirely with civil servants. There’s a place for patronage and preferential hiring for political purposes without the wild-eyed reformers going berserk, recognizing that in some public service jobs presided over by elected officials: when you purify the pond the lilies die.

In other words, I can understand, appreciate and believe the state and nation benefits from a well-run political office. To me, ethics and morality should not repeal the political nature of an office that the constitution has ruled should be run by an elected person. He/she has to have aides who are loyal to the post as well as its political nature. I don’t know whether or not Mike Lawrence reads this Blog but I would think an intelligent, well-reasoned analysis from him would be timely. I always respected him when he worked for Edgar both as secretary of state and governor and because he comes from a solid journalistic background and now teaches public policy. I can’t call him now because I’m late but if anybody bumps into him, would you ask him to jot down a few paragraphs and send it this way? Thanks.

Ah, you thought you’d get away without reading about the Catholic Church—but too bad. After having interviewed the SNAP people and reporting on them in general favorable terms, I still can’t understand why they don’t comprehend the nature of the archdiocese they criticize (and in many ways rightly). First, Barbara Blaine doesn’t seem to care a fig whether or not priests are archdiocesean or of a religious order: she complains that the archdiocese has not released all the names of the offenders. Com’on, Barbara: you, as a Catholic should know that so-called order priests—Benedictines, Franciscans, Jesuits, Passionists, Dominicans—are not under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Chicago and consequently the records absolutely are not available to the chancery. Only archdiocesean priests report to the chancery. Your getting angry and accusing the chancery of cover-up isn’t kosher, to mix a metaphor. Incessant carping that the archdiocese is not forthcoming is analogous to condemning, let us say, the Quaker Oats company for not possessing statistics that belong to General Mills…

Second, in a list published yesterday by the Tribune there are names of priests long since deceased who cannot defend themselves. Third—and this is stunning—there are names of priests who have been involved, purportedly in adult consensual relationships! These offenses then are moral and spiritual but certainly not illegal—nor do they represent in any manner breakage of the law.