A reader scolds that my comments about Judy Baar Topinka being low rent is elitist, pointing out that she herself if the daughter of a blue-collar and union member and, to paraphrase, I look down my nose at those who like Topinka and she come from blue-collar backgrounds. My response: Two can play that game. I come from the same background (my father not blue collar, technically, but certainly wearing shirts with the boiled white collars that my mother would carefully launder and press with a hand-iron before sending him on his way). If the readers father was union, I am myself a union member. My paternal German grandfather was a street-car motorman, my paternal grandmother a farm girl; my maternal grandfather was a marble layer, always worked in overalls, and helped construct the famed silver-dollar barber shop floor in the old Palmer House, after which he was a night watchman; my maternal grandmother a housewife. I am the first in my family on both sides going back to the misty reaches of Ireland and the bucolic hills of Bavaria to have exceeded second year high school Hows that for anti-elitism?
What I meant about Topinka was not her class or station in life but her no-class. My father or mother never addressed a gathering of any kindbut if they did I can assure you they would not have brought up flatulence or the passing of gas, much less to an audience at the state Capitol on inauguration day. And if they heard me say it, theyd go up to the platform and pull me away by the ear. I must tell you that in more than 50 years of covering or participating in political affairs, I never heard a member of either party call opponents morons. Further, I can say that it was only until this year that I heard a nominee of a major party tell a national reporter that the governor of the state has little weasel eyes. I have never heard either a Democrat or Republican candidate until now stand and titter while her top aide stood by and declared that if the president of the United States of the same party should come into a state to campaign for the nominee, he should understand he is needed for money-raising only, should arrive in the dead of night and appear at a secure undisclosed location. That behavior is low rent which has nothing to do with ethnic origin, gender, race but is in contrast to ordinary cultural decency that is learnedor should have been learnedat home.
If I may say so, the blunt diversionary tactic that suggests by criticizing these things I show no sympathy to blue-collars or so-called working class is, at bottom, a stinging insult to any class of people who, regardless of understand it is boorish to behave in such fashion even if Ms.Topinka does not. But I suspect the defense, if that is what was intended, is prelude to an endorsement.
Someone asked if Katie Couric had anything to say about the Gospel of Judas. No, I thought I made it plain that I took fictitious editorial license
No one has voted on their choice of CBS anchor-ette nor have they commented on my suggestion of Naomi Watts even though our web-master has gone to the trouble of posting two outstanding portraits of her
My article this week in The Wanderer, this nations oldest continuing Catholic weekly issues great praise of Jack Roeser (no relation) whose support of the Marriage Amendment is crucial
The Topinka rejection of President Bush for anything but the money he can raise reminds me of another occasion when a president, far more popular than Bush, was being romanced by all manner of local New York politicians in the year 1936. FDR was at an unprecedented popularity, was running for a second term. In the early 1970s, it so happened a mutual friend introduced me to the legendary politician who steered Roosevelts early campaignsJames A. Farley, FDRs national Democratic chairman and Postmaster General. Farley, then ninety, six-three and erect, was still president of Coca-Cola Export which title he would carry to his death from the appreciation of Coke for which (I did not ask) he must have done great things as a corporate adviser after his public service. He still wore the familiar Kelly green necktie and signed his correspondence with green ink. We went to lunch in his limo and he told me this story which has always remained the best Ive heard about presidential endorsements.
I was running The Bosss campaign and one day when I came back to New York for some needed rest when I was bothered by a real jerk, one Francis Aloysius Mulligan who was running for an obscure post in New York city government on the Democratic ticket, `way down the line on the ballot from Frank Roosevelt. He kept calling me, waiting for me to come out of my hotel and always had the same question, `what are you guys going to do for Francis Mulligangive him some party money, huh? I frankly dreaded to go outside because he was always hanging around.
One afternoon I was in the company of the mayor of Jersey City, a tough, uneducated Irishman named Frank (I Am the Boss) Hague. Frank who was born in 1872 grew up in New York the hard way, had next to no education but had somehow developed a brilliant vocabulary. He was a creature of Tammany Hall before he moved to Jersey and built his machine there which elected him mayor for life. He always wore a shirt with celluloid collar, a straw hat and the seediest clothes you ever saw, shoulders covered with dandruff, topped by an old-fashioned heavy straw hat which he wore rain or shine, summer or winter. But he was a political genius and could call the vote numbers almost to the decimal pointmaybe because he stole `em, I dont know but I loved him. He was a brilliant political strategist and Roosevelt loved him, would invite him and me to the residential quarters for drinks and stories.
Anyhow, as we left the hotel I told Hague that I dreaded encountering Francis Mulligan and didnt somehow have the guts to send him away. Hague who always chomped on a dead cigar said, `Let me handle it.
Sure enough, Mulligan came up. I introduced him to Hague and Mulligan said, `what will you guys do for me in November? What can I count on? Hague seized him by the shirt collar, pulled it tight and said, `Listen to me. Mulligans eyes were bugging out.
Hague went on: `You know the Staten Island ferry? You know what happens when it comes into the port of New York? When it comes slowly up to the dock, its bottom produces a fearful suction on the ocean floor. And as the workmen tie up the boat, the suction pulls up all the debris from the ocean floor and sends it churning over the pierdead cats, beer bottles, tin cans, excrement, long-forgotten momentos tossed over by chance: sickening articles of every personal use that I dont even want to go into here. That debris pours over the pier, all the refuse pulled up by the suction from the ocean bottom. I dont intend to tell you, Mr.Mulligan, where you fit in this analogybut your boat is named Franklin D. Roosevelt. Do you understand? You get nothing but when it comes in, youll be sucked up and tossed on the pier. Now out of here.
Mulligan, transfixed by Hagues words and his claw-like hand pulling his tie and shirt-collar tight over his throat, just nodded, his eyes like saucers. He said, frighteningly, `thank you, Mr. Hague. And we went on our way.