Thursday, June 29, 2006


Does it have to do with paper’s fascination with holdover Bernardin favorite who as Archdiocese’s No. 2 had major responsibility for giving prelate the full pedophilia story? Trib writer asked for and later ignored critical Wanderer articles of Chancellor before preparing “puff piece.” She exults: Jimmy will “clean it up” after issue “spun out of Cardinal’s control.” Lago’s proposal “catches George by surprise.”

[Another article from the nation’s oldest Catholic weekly detailing articles you haven’t seen and won’t in Chicago’s two mighty, politically correct dailies].

By Thomas F. Roeser

CHICAGO—Three months after he accepted full responsibility for the archdiocese’s lagging action to remove a Chicago priest for alleged abuse of minors, some supporters of Francis Cardinal George believe he may well be victimized by politically shrewd members of the church bureaucracy whom he mistakenly trusts.

That view is considerably bolstered by release of an independent audit that details dereliction by administrative leaders he sorely needs to run the Church here.

The crisis so depressed the prelate that it was rumored he entertained serious consideration of resigning—which would have pleased his liberal critics immensely. As the independent audit outlines, the resignation would have been totally unwarranted but exactly what George’s critics, cheer-leaders for the permissive policies of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, want.

Far from blaming George for the crisis, the multi-page document charges that the administrative staff bears major responsibility for not bringing details to his attention. The liberal news media here, however, have not focused on the charge. Instead they have given lavish treatment to the top administrator himself and to the retirement of a radical pastor who was first to tell the media that the Cardinal may have to resign.

Cardinal George, regarded as one of the brightest lights of the U. S. church, bravely—probably too unqualifiedly—accepted full responsibility for the derelictions of the archdiocese bureaucracy. It was a gallant gesture in the time-honored tradition of President Harry Truman that “the buck stops here.” Facing the glare of television media standing alone, it was a generous act to a fault by a man whom fellow prelates around the world recognize as unassuming and gentle, qualities that go with a superb intellectual talent fitting for a holder of doctorates in theology and philosophy. But the official audit by an independent agency insists the Cardinal was denied the facts any executive would need to make a definitive decision on the matter.

Instead a major newspaper which has severely criticized the Cardinal, has strangely larded great praise on the number two administrator who had major responsibility to keep the Cardinal informed.

The firm of Defenbaugh & Associates was retained by the archdiocese to conduct an independent study of the lessons learned from the arrest of Fr. Daniel McCormack who has been charged with sexually abusing three children, with additional accusations raised by more families. Its March findings were cited by media more interested in nailing the prelate than in sifting through evidence to pinpoint source of the blame. At the height of the media criticism, Catholic Citizens of Illinois staged a rally on the steps of Holy Name cathedral—a rally that was very nearly aborted by an officious female staff functionary working at the Cathedral who wanted to move it to a back room adjacent to the church. Catholic Citizens refused to agree to the move. As result, the media saw a free-forming grassroots movement of Catholics supporting the prelate. The functionary stalked away with evident anger.

Now other supporters of the Cardinal cite the exact language of Defenbaugh. In its executive summary, the report says “The audit found that Francis Cardinal George did not know what he needed to know to make a definitive decision regarding Father McCormack from October 1999 through December 2005 because he was not advised of all the information in possession of his staff. Cardinal George was not apprised of the entirety of … information in possession of archdiocesan staff regarding the credibility of the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by McCormack.” [Italics mine]. That information spanned allegations from his seminary days from 1988 through 1991. The report suggests that had the Cardinal had the benefit of this information, “he may have reached a different decision concerning McCormack’s status” following the arrest.

The findings present a whole tissue of administrative deficiencies that were not in the Cardinal’s direct purview as the spiritual leader of the archdiocese. The duties which were deficient are commonly ascribed to the chancellor of the archdiocese, the man who calls himself the Cardinal’s “right hand man.” This “right hand man” has been standing quietly by while Cardinal George has taken the blame. But it is clear to many who study the report, that blame should go first to the chancellor of the archdiocese to whom administrative responsibilities fall.

The chancellor’s name is Jimmy Lago, who was christened “Jimmy”—not James—when he was born just 90 minutes after the birth of his twin brother who was named “Timmy”—not Timothy. Lago, who describes himself as the highest ranking Catholic layman in the nation as chancellor, a post that usually goes to priests, is a long-serving bureaucrat, as recently the beneficiary of a front-page laudatory “profile” by the Chicago Tribune. Lago has received much criticism in these dispatches for The Wanderer, the only publication to do so. He has received adulatory press from newspapers who value liberal social action as superior to theological considerations and from TV and radio which ploddingly follow newspapers’ lead.

A few weeks ago, the Tribune which I have written for as Op Ed
columnist contacted me preparatory to writing the Lago profile. The
reporter asked for my file of stories on the pedophilia stories that I for the Wanderer. I sent the entire sheaf including fulsome criticism of Lago. Nary a line appeared from the stories appeared in her article that extolled the second-in-command of the archdiocese for perspicacious service to the Church while also depicting Cardinal George as having lost control.

Jimmy Lago “the cardinal’s right-hand man,” the article exults, oversees more than a dozen departments and “is one of the most influential laymen in the nation’s Catholic hierarchy and the most powerful parishioner appointed by the Cardinal in his 2.3 million-number flock.” With that awesome prestige, one would think that Lago would be held at least partially responsible for the heavily-critical audit, the burden of which the Cardinal has had to bear. But the article makes no mention of the audit.

In substance, the audit says
• “The Archdiocese of Chicago did not follow its own established policies, procedures and protocols, including those related to the reporting of allegations and the monitoring of an
accused priest;

• “The Archdiocese is not in compliance with the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People with regard to completion of safe environment training and background checks;

• “[The Archdiocese’s failure] to report allegations of clerical abuse of minors on the part of individuals within the Archdiocese exacerbated the circumstances surrounding the McCormack case to the point of violating Illinois mandatory reporting statues;

• “[The] lack of effective communication between the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Archdiocese worsened and magnified the McCormack situation and

• “the Archdiocese of Chicago’s policy on monitoring is inadequate and ineffective.”

That would seem to be a jaw-droppingly serious indictment with which to question Jimmy Lago but aside from some boilerplate from SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) about administrative inefficiency, Lago’s deficiencies did not received much attention in the front page story festooned with a color picture of the chancellor.

Religion writer Manya A. Brachear who asked for The Wanderer stories, received them but discarded them, wrote, “Lago has always tried to stay behind the scenes.” Especially when the heat is on. . He remained quiet while allegations were made that the Church did nothing to stop Fr. McCormack. In fact, he was away on vacation when the story broke. More boys came forward with allegations and, as the Tribune says in the laudatory Lago profile, “parishioners demanded answers from Cardinal Francis George—answers he did not have.” Interesting direction the story took after Brachear had spent much time interviewing Lago.

A generally inquisitive reporter might be tempted to ask what responsibility Lago had to alert the Cardinal about the looming scandal since Lago is purportedly the most influential layman in the U. S. church due to his chancellor position. But that question didn’t occur to Ms. Brachear.

Why didn’t the Cardinal know on his own about the scandal? Well, he doesn’t exactly have a lot of time on his hands. In addition to being archbishop of Chicago, in 1999 John Paul II named him to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome. Also to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples which also meets in Rome, to the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, the Congregation for Oriental Churches and to the Pontifical Council for Culture. In addition, he was elected to the Council for the World Synod of Bishops in 2001. He is vice president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is expected to become president soon. He is chairman of the USCCB’s Commission on the Liturgy, is the U. S. bishops’ representative to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICL), chancellor of the Catholic Church Extension Society, chancellor of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary at Mundelein, Illinois, a member of the board of trustees of Catholic University of America, trustee of the Papal Foundation, a director of the National Catholic Bio-Ethics Center in Boston, a director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, publisher of The Catholic New World and Chicago Catolico, the official newspapers of the archdiocese for which he writes regular columns. He appears regularly on the radio program “The Catholic Community of Faith” and on cable television, “The Church, the Cardinal and You.”

With an administrative load like that, why wouldn’t any reporter interviewing Lago ask when Lago knew about the pedophile investigation, when he informed the Cardinal and how much information he conveyed.

But Tribune profile writers are famous for coming to their subjects with their minds made up by faceless editors whose names are seldom recognizable outside the paper’s gothic Tower but who don’t relish bio stories that depart from Chamber of Commerce-style stereotype.

Lago began his archdiocesan service under Cardinal Bernardin. His official biography says he was born in 1946 in Maine, that he recruited neighborhood children for sandlot baseball games. As a teen, Jimmy and Timmy Lago attended a boarding school run by nuns who spoke French in the mornings and English in the afternoons—nuns whom, Lago says, made an indelible mark by modeling the relationship between religion and social justice.

He matriculated at DePaul University, now known as one of the most radically secular universities to still carry the Catholic name. There he met his wife. His studies at DePaul, he says, “heightened his social conscience.” True: markedly so. An activist of the 1960s, he joined the Cesar Chavez movement to serve migrant farm-workers and received a masters in social work, serving as a caseworker in an exurban county in Illinois. There he says he detected child abuse in affluent families.

When Illinois’ six Catholic bishops started the Illinois Catholic Conference in 1976 and wanted a lobbyist, they hired Lago. Two full-time pro-life activists still working the Springfield capitol corridors told me that ex-Chavez demonstrator Lago was totally disinterested in fighting for passage of pro-life legislation in the legislature. At least one such lobbyist contacted the Tribune’s Brachear with his observations but they went unrecorded in her piece. If she ever wrote it, the Tower spiked it.

While pro-life lobbying reportedly languished in Springfield under Lago, all observers say he was thoroughly involved in trying to get parochaid passed. The Tribune article said he was critical of the state’s Department of Children and Family Services for supposedly “failing children”—the same organization that now is criticizing archdiocese administration which falls under Lago, a neat irony which escaped Ms. Brachear.

In 1996, under Cardinal Bernardin, Lago became executive director of Catholic Charities, the largest social welfare organization in the Midwest. Several executives in social programs who worked with and under him tell me they were under-whelmed. But in those years his career flourished as he was a popular favorite with Cardinal Bernardin. With Bernardin’s death, Lago was seen as a man who could serve continuity. He was named chancellor of the archdiocese by Cardinal George in 2000.

The Tribune credits Lago with meeting the pedophilia crisis by making what it calls “an unprecedented solution” to the Cardinal. Since technically Lago as number two was in control of the administrative details which Defenbaugh & Associates severely criticized, certainly some recommendation was appropriate. The newspaper says that Lago “insisted that the archdiocese open itself to scrutiny by giving outside investigators unlimited access to confidential files and personnel” as if in the wake of scandal the idea was entirely voluntary. But Ms. Brachear, the Tribune writer, records that the stirring proposal by Lago “caught the cardinal by surprise.” The image of the prelate being astonished at a request for transparency comes from her interview with Lago. Lago the innovator; Cardinal George the astonished executive who lost control, responding meekly to the stunning progressive recommendation of Lago.

“He didn’t obviously know where I was going with this,” Lago told her. “He doesn’t expect me to tell him what he wants to hear. That’s never been our deal. Our deal has been I tell him what he needs to know and he makes up his own mind.” One is tempted to add—evidently not quite all he needed to know, Mr. Lago, as the audit report stresses.

And as many critics have maintained since the crisis broke, as number two since 2000, Lago carried that authority all along—authority that the study claims was not put to the service of the Cardinal resulting in his not having the sufficient information with which to make a decision.

In March, the Cardinal announced that Lago would have authority over the issue of pedophilia. Longtime chancery watchers said it was the equivalent of President Bush calling a news conference and saying that from here on, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will have jurisdiction over the Iraq War. The communications surrounding the crisis has always managed to see Lago emerge as the hero, Cardinal George as the genial but befuddled executive as media place little emphasis on the official audit which blisters the administrative staff for failing to inform the Cardinal.

For Chicagoans inured to glossy political promotion, the upside going to Lago and the downside going to Cardinal George begs suspicion. In politics here, there is a distinct similarity. The downside goes to the poor stiffs in the Water Department who get indicted; the upside goes to the man big business, the Chamber of Commerce and even President George W. Bush say is the nation’s greatest mayor—Richard M. Daley.

Last week came Ms. Brachear’s Tribune puff piece (“puff” is Chicago journalese for the unwarranted splendiferous promotion of an individual) saying that “as the situation spun out of the cardinal’s control,” Lago prompted the prelate to release “more than 30 instances in which the church employees disregarded red flags—egregious errors that might not have come to light had it not been for Lago.” I suppose she’s right since Lago evidently knew about the 30 instances all along.

“Now that’s interesting,” said a veteran Lago watcher who followed the chancellor’s progress from lobbyist to charities executive to number two in the archdiocese, a similar trek that resembles upward mobility in the Democratic party here. “As number two he had the responsibility since 2000 but now he sails into the media with a program that makes the Cardinal look dazed, out of control and Jimmy to the rescue! All the while he was responsible for the errors that he now tells the paper would not come to light but for Lago. If that ain’t chutzpah, I don’t know what is!”

Near the end of the Tribune article, correspondent Brachear writes, “Church insiders say Lago’s loyalty…is what appealed to George when he hired him six years ago.”
Loyalty to whom,- Ms.Brachear?
Addendum to the article on Preston Noell, the activist with the organization Church, Family & Tradition which is fighting anti-Catholic bigotry: I should have written that the organization has issued a call to reject lifting the statutes of limitations on civil suits concerning decades-old sexual abuses. It has published full-page ads in national newspapers claiming the measures unfairly penalize Catholics in the pews while favoring the agenda of dissident activist groups inside the Church. Such measures would allow the government to investigate decades-old cases and hold today’s 67 million Catholics responsible for damages.

A new item about Noell and his organization, that has just surfaced: mobilized activists from throughout the country to gather in two final rallies at Sony headquarters in New York city and Los Angeles to voice concern to the corporate entertainment giant. The organization can be reached on the internet at

Personal Asides: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times…Dirty Tricks Attempted on this Blog Replete with 4-Letter Words

Dan Curry over at has the answer to my earlier question on why criticism has centered on the New York Times rather than other newspapers concerning the despicable release of classified information on the national security check of bank accounts. Excellent analysis…

Yesterday afternoon an anonymous writer posted an obscene attack on me for my article on Topinka. That’s o.k. I’m used to it. But worse, he/she signed a false name, that of Dave Diersen, a friend of this Blog. What a thoroughly disgraceful thing to do. We corrected it as soon as we could…

No use of Google, now. This is my wife’s favorite poem by her favorite poet. Tell us without using artificial means, who he is.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him, steady air, and striding

High there, how he run upon the rein of a wimpling wing…

That’s enough. Who?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Personal Asides: Dan Curry Can Probably Answer This…and The Complicated Cardinal


I have written before about Dan Curry’s blog, the only one I will formally recommend, called A former top newsman he has more info on the news media than anyone else, with accent on local races. Let me ask him a question which I am sure he can answer on his own blog: Dan, the New York Times is taking the heat, as well it should, for publishing hitherto secret probing of bank accounts by the administration…and you have pelted the paper deservedly. But as I read it the dispatches also say the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times also ran the story. Did they just copy the New York Times or did they receive the same leak? Why do they seem to be exempt from most of the criticism? I’m sure you have the explanation and I don’t know anyone who understands the media business better. So if you would enlighten me, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.


An auxiliary bishop told me not long ago that Francis Cardinal George is indeed not just brilliant but a multi-talented intellectual: gifted writer, superb homilist, stunning original theologian, profound philosopher whose original thought deserves one day to be studied in universities. And then he added something I wondered about: He’s a complicated man, very complicated. Just how complicated, I found out not long ago when I was fielding questions to him at a gathering of Catholic CEOs.

During a short lull while people were thinking of questions before raising their hands, I asked him this one which I hoped would elicit a short, positive answer. I told him I made a speech in Dallas which espoused a return to the Baltimore Catechism for the instruction of the young. Everyone but one dissident hailed the idea since everyone of a certain age has had to memorize the catechism, to speak it by rote under the admonishing glare of our mothers and the nuns.

I said, I daresay you had the same experience when you were a kid at St. Pascal’s, Eminence.

That’s where I was wrong and where he rained on my parade as intellectuals have done throughout my life. Throw them a line you think they’ll snap up to help you and they invariably go on like Hamlet, parsing first this qualification and then that. His answer was in paraphrase:

Actually, no, I didn’t learn the Baltimore Catechism because at St. Pascal’s we had two Catechisms—the Baltimore and a second one that we also committed to memory with the result that the strong definitions in Baltimore somehow did not get across in the way you represent. Perhaps you’ve heard of a new Compendium that has just been compiled, a distillation of the new Catholic Catechism adopted under John Paul II. It is a Compendium that faithfully puts forth the doctrines of the Church…

Is there anything out of date with the old Baltimore?

Not in the sense of being out-of-date, no. Not in that sense but as you know there are always accretions to the Faith which it could be said the new Compendium presents.

Thanks a lot. After seventy-five years of the faithful committing to memory the unfailing verities of theology now we’ve got a Compendium. Yes, the Auxiliary was right: George is complicated. Moreover, exasperatingly complicated; let me add astoundingly complicated. All he had to say was, “Not a bad idea. Go to it!”

But that’s not how intellectuals think. They step on lines, blur exhortations. You boot the chance to send people home to reconnoiter with the old Catechism by making it far more complicated by bringing up a new volume no one has yet seen. Only an intellectual Ph.D theologian, Ph.D philosopher would think that way. No, bafflingly complicated.

Flashback: Improving Republican Chances Brings Ike Back to Minnesota As Walter Judd Begins Stand-Off with the Cowles Press. The Frustration of Amos Jorgenssen

[More from the front of fifty years ago for my kids and grandchildren]

Rebelling Democrats Peter Popovich along with D. Donald Wozniak and financier Robert Short were celebrities in the newly liberated party of Hubert Humphrey after the Estes Kefauver primary victory and they wouldn’t let Humphrey forget it. Initially, there was no ideological split between the Humphrey-ites and them except that Popovich and Wozniak wanted in on the leadership. But after the thrashing they gave Humphrey in March, 1956, the more they thought about it, there were things they wanted to insist on. Humphrey had been a folk-hero of sorts, having formed the Democratic-Farmer-Labor from a loose federation of Farmer-Laborites and conservative Democrats, the his stooge and ally, Governor Orville Freeman was not of the same cut of cloth. Freeman was a tad more to the left, an enforcer and a grim, humorless type who punished enemies.

Popovich was freer meeting with Republicans. Our next meeting was for lunch, whether the press saw us together or not. Popovoch never forgot that I gave him a list that tremendously aided their Kefauver organization. Breaking his word to me, Popovich tried to recruit our conservative Republican people into the DFL but it didn’t work. Our people were there for only one reason: to embarrass Humphrey. Reluctantly, Popovich gave up.

“Yeah,” he said, frankly. “I thought they would melt into our ranks but they’re Republicans. You’re welcome to `em but thanks for your help at the beginning.” He discussed only returning the favor to bring down Governor Freeman. I arranged a meeting between him and our candidate but Ancher Nelsen was not a power-broker, could not think of anything to give them (and I decided not to get overly involved) so a fusion support died. “We can’t go for the farmer,” Popovich said finally. Well, I said, let me think of something else where we can work together.

The defeat of the Humphrey forces and the weakening of Humphrey across the state was a bog story nationally. The press said it was key in causing President Eisenhower’s to decide to come back to the state before election day 1956. Not so; it was far from the truth. As press flack for the GOP, I trumpeted it as a sign the White House felt we were going to win the governorship but the real reason was far more substantive than that. Congressman Walter Judd was the mainstay of foreign policy support for the administration in the House and his margins were being eaten away steadily in Minneapolis as organized labor determined to get rid of him. The Cowles press, publishers of what had earlier been regarded as the progressive Republican Look magazine, the DesMoines Register and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune had gone to the left. Their endorsements of Judd each two years were becoming laced with heavy criticism. John Foster Dulles, a friend of Judd’s asked Eisenhower to come to save Judd.

For those who don’t remember Judd, he was truly the embodiment of what the founders meant when they labeled the job “United States Representative in Congress.” Born in Rising City, Nebraska at the end of the 19th century about the same year as his worst enemy who was also from there, columnist Drew Pearson, Judd went to medical school, developed great talent as a surgeon and ended up at the Mayo Clinic who would operate while a balcony-full of medical students would watch and hear him comment on a microphone as he carved away. He was offered a major role in surgery at the Clinic which he declined because he had experienced a religious conversion.

He wondered whether or not to junk his medical career and just become a Congregationalist minister, but his wife had the good sense to disabuse him of that. “Walter,” she said, “God made you a surgeon and a surgeon you will be.” Okay, he said, but he struck a bargain with her. The both of them would go to China, then in grievous poverty, as medical missionaries to the poor. Which they did while the Mayo Clinic went into mourning. Dr. Charlie Mayo, son of one of the founders, tried to cut a deal with Judd where he’d come back to Rochester after a few years, but it was no go. The Judds decided to spend the remainder of their lives in China.

They worked in China together, he as a surgeon and she as a self-taught nurse, when the China-Japanese war started in the 1930s. They became very concerned about the Japanese warlords, were once captured and held as prisoners of war, then released and went back to their work. It was at that time that the U. S. was selling scrap iron to Japan which the Japanese melted down into armaments. One night, working as a surgeon by a flickering light bulb while Mrs. Judd held an additional light, Judd pried out of the body of a dying Chinese kid a piece of shrapnel that had an inscription on it. The child died and after they both mourned and comforted the weeping parents, Judd looked at the shrapnel: it bore the inscription Made in Detroit. It was part of the scrap iron deal concocted by the FDR administration.

Occasionally, when he was called back to the U. S. by the Congregational church to fund-raise, Walter Judd would go across the country not just raising money but warning against Japanese aggression which, he said, was aimed at the United States. He became a compelling orator and a frequently appearing sage on radio on foreign policy. He was regarded as a liberal, a supporter of FDR’s warnings against aggression. As things got worse with the war, the Judds, back in China, were captured again by Japanese forces, again quarantined and held in prison again, then released by the appeal of the State Department. The last time they went back to the United States, he had a talk and fund-raising mission at a Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. That was December 7, 1941. His prophecy had come true. Shut out from returning to China, he began a medical practice in Minneapolis: fitting because he was really a man without a hometown, since he had been in China for twenty years. He was such a powerful figure in evangelical Protestant circles, that he was asked to run for Congress in Minneapolis against an isolationist Republican congressman.

As he had belonged to neither party, Judd thought about running as a DFLer but the more he thought about it, he felt he was a progressive, international Republican—so he combated with Oscar Knutson in the GOP primary. His speaking style was magnetic and a young Hubert Humphrey approached him to ask how Humphrey could join him in the Republican party—but it never took. As a somewhat legendary figure in church circles and a frequent commentator on Far Eastern affairs—particularly in the Reader’s Digest—Judd swamped Knutson, easily beat the DFLer and went to the Congress in 1942 where he was immediately named to the House Foreign Affairs committee. Occasionally he would go back to Mayo to operate but his time grew far more stringent. He then determined he would be a missionary, all right, but to the Congress. In short order, he began to form a new caucus within the House GOP: an internationalist group in what was once an Old Guard isolationist body. He placed Harold Stassen in nomination before the GOP convention in 1948. A close friend of Mrs. Heffelfinger, he became leader of a move to bring General Eisenhower back to the states to run for Congress.

For some years, Walter Judd was the golden boy of progressive Minnesota Republican politics. He appeared on national debate shows then popular, like “Town Hall of the Air” which was a national debate forum every Saturday night from coast to coast. But as World War II wound down and the Cold War started up, Judd discovered two things: first was personal. When he was a medical student in the early days of radiation when no one knew about the deleterious effects of x-rays, he had burned his face severely while working under the invidious rays and had developed skin cancer. The cancer was not fatal but required a regular painful peeling of the skin from his face at Mayo which left his visage scarred and pulpy. It gave him a distinct feeling of inferiority, believing people winced when they saw his face. The second was more serious for him: The Cowles newspapers which ruled the roost in Minneapolis had developed a bad case of liberality where they supported détente and concessions to the USSR and China to avoid war. They painted Judd, once a progressive, as an Old Guard near-Bircher. He was not but Judd was a forerunner of Ronald Reagan’s hard line against appeasement: as a matter of fact, the young Reagan, beginning his General Electric road shows in perfecting his philosophy, came to Minnesota often to meet with Judd.

The Cowles people were threatening to withhold their endorsements and to promote someone to run against Judd. His margins, once hefty, were becoming thinner. The Cowles people made fun of him, saying that he was a key member of the so-called “China Lobby,” the pro-Chiang kai Shek group that was fighting the “agrarian reformer” Mao Tse Tung. Judd agreed that he was opposed to Mao, called Mao a Communist. The Cowles people vehemently disagreed, arguing that Chiang was a feudalist and that the U. S. should align with Mao. That fight led Judd to walk out of an editorial board meeting which declined to endorse either candidate that year in the election.

Judd was called by these detractors with the same epithets that tough anti-Communists faced ever since: inflexible, behind-the-times, out-of-date. In 1954 DFL candidate Joe Robbie came close to beating him.

It was at this stage of his career, waging a tough fight for reelection, that led Foster Dulles to beg Eisenhower to come once more to Minnesota. I was detailed for a time to help Judd get press in his campaign. As a noble humanitarian, he was nevertheless a tough one to work for. I finally convinced him to challenge his DFL opponent, Joe Robbie, to debate. Judd didn’t want to: his face was particularly gruesome from the skin peeling; he was hidebound in the belief that challengers should issue the bid to debate not incumbents. But things were so precarious that Judd would have to act as the under-dog. Joe Robbie was the epitome of a slick lawyer with packed suitcase who would move anywhere for a campaign to get elected to anything.

Joe Robbie was virtually penniless, had blown his wad of cash running for governor of South Dakota as a Democrat which didn’t work out (a young Methodist aspirant minister, George McGovern was his campaign manager). Without a job, Joe Robbie left the loss in South Dakota, came to Minneapolis, signed up as a metropolitan planning attorney, and immediately went after Judd. He lost a close one in 1954 and here he was trying a second time in 1956. If that name sounds familiar to sports fans, it should be. After Joe Robbie, a Lebanese, lost a very narrow one to Judd in 1956 he packed up his things and moved again to Florida. There well into middle age he got involved in real estate, became a multi-millionaire who started the Miami Dauphins, gave his name to the Joe Robbie stadium in Miami.

There was no way I could get Walter Judd favorable press in Minneapolis with the lefty Cowles people despite the fact that elsewhere Judd had become a conservative staple. Perhaps the only way I helped him was to sit down again with Peter Popovich of the dissident Kefauver wing of the Democratic party and cut a deal. Joe Robbie had been a strong Stevenson leader during the abortive presidential primary and I convinced Popovich to get even by sending battalions of his people to cross the river to Minneapolis to help punish Robbie by reelecting Walter Judd. But Eisenhower was crucial. The polls were still against Judd when we met the ancestor of Air Force One, the “Columbine,” at Wold-Chamberlain. By then I had taken on the all but official title of Judd campaign manager at Mrs. Heffelfinger’s behest. Judd, Mrs. Heffelfinger and a few fat cats met the “Columbine” on a blustery cold October day, posed for the TV cameras with the president and ushered him into a waiting room where I was. The Secret Service was not nearly so aggressive as they have become. Then they generally stood around, watching. The pretext was to serve steaming coffee to the group—but Eisenhower and Jim Haggerty, his press guy, wanted a brief huddle with the candidate to know what Ike should do to help Judd.

But the candidate wouldn’t admit he was in trouble. Judd was painfully shy, apologizing to the president for taking him away from more important tasks in Washington, as Mrs. Heffelfinger and I groaned. Asked by the president as to what he should say, Judd said that it was up to the president to decide. Awful. Mrs. Heffelfinger and I both jumped in—me first while she gave me a dirty look and a sharp jab in the ribs. Mr. President, I said, tell the people and the cameras out there that you don’t know what you would do if you didn’t have Walter Judd by your side to juggle the issues of war and peace! “God!” said Judd, mortified, “don’t listen to that, Mr. President. I’m fine. That’s a terrible exaggeration!” Eisenhower looked at me, then to Mrs. Heffelfinger who said gravely, “Mr. President, only those words, sat like that, can save him.” “No-no,” said Judd, embarrassed, “it’s not nearly that bad.” Eisenhower nodded, made his judgment and the group went to the car, the Secret Service tagging along, while I hitched a ride with the press in the press bus. In the car Eisenhower took out a notebook and made some notes, putting them in his jacket pocket before he arose and gave his familiar V-sign salute. That afternoon at the Bank Plaza, the president rose from his seat, waited for the applause to calm down and delivered.

The rally, outside, featured an early hand-held microphone which someone was to hand to the President. It should have been a small recognition for a Judd volunteer who worked in all the campaigns, folding literature, making phone calls, going door-to-door. I picked one of our hardiest volunteers, a senior citizen, about 80, named Amos Jorgenssen, a faceless, dedicated worker who asked nothing of anyone, no recognition, no nothing. He stood outside in the cold with the hand microphone for at least two hours prior to Eisenhower’s arrival with the hand mike, occasionally blowing on it to see if it was working. The plan called for Judd to make the introduction on a regular mike with Eisenhower in the wings (so he wouldn’t get cold) and then the president was to either trot or stride briskly to Jorgenssen to take from him the hand mike. It was something Jorgenssen would treasure and he had his grandchildren there to watch him.

Judd unfurled a terrific introduction, pointed to the wings and the President strode out his hand extended to take the hand mike from Jorgenssen. Just then from the wings on the other side of the stage the Hennepin county GOP chairman, a born show-horse, raced out to Jorgennsen which momentarily stunned the Secret Service one of whom reached for a gun. The GOP chairman yanked the mike from Jorgenssen’s hand and gave it to the president. Talk about low rent! Jorgenssen left the stage then and we never saw him again. Ever. I am sure he voted for Joe Robbie and I couldn’t blame him.

Eisenhower came through that day.

The next day the morning Cowles Tribune hated to do it but gave us this headline: Ike: I Need Judd! The Cowes Star in a rehash of the story that evening: Judd Foreign Savvy Essential says President. The speech helped everybody. We photocopied the headlines in the archaic process of the day, ran off circulars and gave them to the aging Republican volunteers plus Pete Popovich’s St. Paul insurgents to distribute door to door. The headlines got Judd reelected; they convinced Joe Robbie he had better get out of Dodge and practice law in Miami where he made a mega million fortune, bought the Dauphins, built a stadium, had it named after him, dying a Floridian hero and spared me at 28 from bringing home a loser.

And I am sure Amos Jorgenssen watching the TV that night gnawed his knuckles in hatred and frustration at the idiot GOP county chairman, a grinning showboat. God, I still feel bad about that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Further Analysis: Topinka, the More Liberal Candidate for Governor, Cannot be Believed. Her Lack of Veracity Cannot be Denied

Not long ago this Blog published an analysis that maintained Judy Baar Topinka is the more liberal candidate for governor, largely on the basis that she has not foreclosed the possibility of raising taxes. Many conservatives and Republicans responded favorably. Those who didn’t and who call themselves conservatives maintain that Topinka has three things going for her: opposition to partial birth abortion, support for parental notification and 2nd amendment. Normally that should decide the matter in her favor. But--.

In exactly fifty-one years of either reporting or participating in campaigns in two states—and in two fairly long sessions in Washington, D. C.—I have not until now met anyone running for office whose word is as bad as Topinka’s except one. She easily exceeds Richard Nixon, Vito Marcantonio, Emanuel Cellar, both Daleys, Jim Thompson, Rahm Emanuel, Jan Schakowsky, Dick Durbin and a host of major and minor, local and state charlatans in both parties. (I exclude George Ryan who truly holds the World Cup for duplicity.) That is an impressive statement to make given all that history and I am sure you will ask what distinguishes Topinka from that crowd. Easy.

None of the aforementioned would have had the crass duplicity to appear on a radio program broadcast by a 50,000-watt station, take a position that was heard by hundreds of thousands of listeners, …and then when the heat came flatly deny what was said to this huge audience. Shortly after her election as state Republican chair, she had appeared and when asked if she would endorse Peter Fitzgerald for reelection refused to within the hearing range of the entire audience. Fitzgerald was then considered to be a candidate for reelection and she was the Republican chair.

As she bobbed and weaved through my questioning, she repeatedly refused to endorse him as state chairman. She said (a) perhaps she could as a township committeeman, (b) perhaps she could as even as state treasurer but (c) she could never, ever as state chairman. The questioning and the answers droned on so long and with such clarity that my producer in her glass booth waved me off and said “enough! enough!” Then later when the heat came on to her for not endorsing him as state chair, she said she as a matter of fact she did, and that the host of the radio show should “take the wax out of his ears.” The brazen effrontery of that performance was and still is stunning. It is a replay of the man interrupted by his wife in an act of adultery shouts, “Are you going to believe me or your own eyes?”

We laugh at John Kerry’s statement that before he voted against the war he voted for it. Bad as it sounded, that was literally the truth. A guest on my e program, Steve Brown, press secretary for Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, was as stunned as I when she later denied that she refused to endorse Fitzgerald as state chairman. Our radio audience well remembers the occasion which she denies. No one of the above names would have the temerity to deny history in that way. None. That truly means, ladies and gentlemen, that the truth isn’t in her. Accordingly, speaking for myself, I can take nothing she pledges or promises to conservatives that she will do as worth anything.

Thus I cannot conclude that she can be trusted. And I won’t be assuaged by those who say, well the other side can’t be trusted either. That is a weak way to rationalize. Any recitation of the failings of the present governor to justify a vote for her is stale, flat, dull and unconvincing. For the entirety of my life I have been a Republican and expect to continue as such for the remainder—but I crossed over when necessity warranted. I voted for Glenn Poshard for governor over George Ryan. Ryan claimed he would be a pro-life governor but I felt good reason to distrust him as one a number of other issues. It was a Democratic vote I am proud of in retrospect.

Thus I can say that of the two candidates running, I support neither but prefer that the governor win because (a) I cannot believe Ms. Topinka will take anything but the most opportunistic course which would involve the speedy selling-out of any stands to which she has earlier adhered and (b) most important, believe that were she to win, she would consign the Republican party—using all the levers of the governorship at her whim—to further demobilize its ability to act as an independent vehicle for change in government, serving the Combine to which she has been so faithful a steward. Which would mean affecting its positions for the next four years and choosing a candidate to oppose Dick Durbin in 2008 which would duplicate the sorry choice we have today. I don’t think responsible Republicans should allow that to happen.

Personal Asides: Cardinal George’s Maltese Cross…the Domino Pizza Man Browses Through a Book as Controversy Rages

Maltese Cross

If Chicago only had a religion writer he/she would be making headlines now—but as the Sun-Times has pop-admirer Cathleen Falsani who writes of Cubs manager Dusty Baker’s encounter with God, as well as the latest female Episcopal bishop and the Tribune has somebody named Manya A. Brachear who writes puff pieces about the lay chancellor with the interesting baptized name of Jimmy Lago (and who reports to an unseen editorial presence in the Tower, like God, remote), news consumers don’t know that there is a kind of pocket-book uprising against the archdiocese because of its flaccid attitude toward gay rights.

Two organizations of business-types feted Francis Cardinal George within two days, Legatus, an organization of Catholic CEOs and the Knights of Malta, a venerable group composed of a load of money-givers to the Church. Of the two, Malta is wealthier and more prestigious. At any rate, while the Cardinal came to talk about changes in the liturgy at Legatus, Question Time involved how the archdiocese is prepared to deal with DePaul University, the nation’s largest so-called “Catholic” university. For decades, many Catholic universities have chased the buck to the detriment of their almighty souls. The first error was to change their boards from religious types to money-changers, i.e. usually deep-pockets contributors who were secular and in many cases not Catholic at all. The next: the boards allowed the school presidents to do whatever they wished in order to win more government and foundation grants. In turn, the university presidents abdicated and turned control of various academic departments to secularists—especially in the philosophy and theology areas—who in turn hired not only non-Catholics but in many cases anti-Catholics including a number of bitterly hostile ex-priests and nuns. The ruling credo was: follow the money.

All the while, the middle class working stiff parents scrimped and saved to send their kids to schools with high-sounding Catholic names—DePaul, Loyola, Notre Dame, Georgetown—only to find much of their progeny were converted to become relativists, agnostics, atheists and liberal Democratic ideologues. Crucifixes were taken down from the classrooms at Jesuit Georgetown; President Father Leo O’Donovan questioned divine transubstantiation. But probably the most astounding occurrence came when a priest suggested to student William Clinton that he might consider joining the Jesuits for a lifetime of celibacy, voluntary poverty and sworn obedience to the Pope. That the ivy walls did not topple on the bumbler priest was an act of notable heavenly restraint. Flaming heterosexual 20-year-old Clinton was not even a Catholic much less a devotee of the regimen required.

In Chicago so-called Catholic higher education has been going from bad to worse with a race to the bottom between Loyola and DePaul. Recently DePaul seemed to capture the World Cup for Catholic sacrilege by announcing formation of an academic minor in “Queer Studies.” Use of the word Queer, in a bygone era a term of disparagement against homosexuals, was adopted as the latest badge of honor for the gay movement which touts discrimination as raison d’etre for creation of a body of study into same-sex practice. The course seems nothing less than an entrée for young people into the ritualistic practices of sodomy which the Church has condemned for all its 2,000 years.

Catholic Citizens of Illinois has officially protested the course to not only the priest-president of DePaul who is barricaded behind a phalanx of public relations advisers but to Cardinal George and to the Vatican. It has announced that it will not rest until either the university abolishes the course or is relieved of the title of Catholic university. As a matter of course, when Question Time rolled around at the Legatus meeting last week, the Cardinal was asked about the matter. He responded that he had taken the matter up with the U. S.-born archbishop stationed at the Vatican who is in charge of Catholic higher education. That prelate informed him, said the Cardinal, “in a Roman way”—meaning a high degree of Italianate nuance—that the archbishop would prefer the archdiocese to go slowly in hopes that the DePaul president would be successful in working something out. It turns out that the DePaul president seems to think everything is fine because as a portion of the course will be devoted to traditional Catholic teaching.

If you believe that’s an advance, we have an original Michelangelo oil of the State Street bridge we’d like to sell you. The Legatus group seemed not overly satisfied with the answer but let the matter drop. But the next day, the worthy Knights and Ladies of Malta—the archdiocese’s A list of contributors—reportedly hit their frescoed ceiling. Malta is the most elite of the elite, dating back to 1530 when European knights wielding swords and battle-axes initiated a crusade to rescue the holy artifacts in Jerusalem. Since then, Maltese members have been less militant but with the Cardinal they seemed be reinvigorated by another crusade. This Blog was not there but the reports are intriguing. Of course the issue is blacked out in the twin newspaper pillars of political correctness because Ms. Falsani and Ms. Brachear—along with their editorial board superiors--evidently believe homosexual recruitment on Catholic campuses evidently ranks with academic freedom and Chicago Catholics should not be disturbed from their slumber.

Accordingly, one will have to await reports in The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest and most fearless Catholic weekly newspaper, for which I write, to get the full results. As for Ms. Falsani, she is on book tour, appearing at your local Barnes & Noble, addressing the nature of Dusty Baker’s latest religious experience. And Ms. Brachear? She awaits the latest thunderbolt of inspiration from the religion editor who talks to the managing editor who communicates with publisher Dennis FitzSimons who reports to the corporation’s profit center which to him is reportedly God .

Pizza Mogul Browses

Tom Monaghan is a big name in U. S. Catholic circles. A self-made billionaire twice over, he developed Domino Pizza and has decided to spend most if not all his money on good works for the Catholic Church. A litany of fine things he has done with his money includes formation of Legatus, the group of Catholic CEOs, investment in radio stations and not long ago, the creation of a truly first-rate Catholic university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ave Maria University. Now he has moved the university and law school, with some controversy, to Naples, Florida where in addition to funding the school, has actually created a separate town, Ave Maria, Florida.

He also has a self-made man’s disinclination to follow the herd. In Chicago the other night, he addressed the chapter and told them, as members sat before him, that he was not entirely pleased with the growth of the city group, citing that his own home-town of Detroit had far more members. It reminded some executives, successful men with an abundance of grey in their hair, of the old days in their business careers when their bosses gave them Dutch uncle talks and urged them to get out there and start selling. When he finished his admonition, he was presented with a beautiful book containing magnificent photographs of key Chicago Catholic churches.

The Cardinal followed with his address while Monaghan sat, cross-legged, idly turning the pages of the book during the prelate’s talk, the page-turning continuing while the audience asked questions of the Cardinal concerning DePaul. What’s so unusual about that? Nothing but a highly developed case of savoir faire which is what happens when you are idolized as a legendary defender of Catholicism—and have made a billion or two.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Personal Asides: The Cardinal’s Virtues…the Rahm Emanuel Retirement from DHCCC a Tip-Off…”Hizzoner” a Smash Hit…the Columnist Who Makes The Trib Worthwhile…the Dirty Tricks Job of the Week…Short Shrifts


When it became my job to introduce Francis Cardinal George the other night at a dinner of Catholic CEOs, I had some misgiving because I have regularly written not just critically but severely in the oldest national Catholic weekly in the U. S. about the failure of administration in the archdiocese of Chicago concerning pedophilia and have laid some of the blame for this maladministration at his doorstep. I also criticized the way he parses his responses, perfectly balanced with qualifiers. In fact, the word “parse” has always appeared in my dispatches.

In my introductory remarks, I said that Thomas Jefferson, as author of the original House of Representative rules, wrote a suggested introduction that Speakers should make for the president of the United States—and that be a short one…an introduction that all Speakers have followed ever since: “It is with high honor great privilege that I introduce the President of the United States.” I said I was about to make a similar one-sentence introduction of the Cardinal until I re-read his biography and discovered the multifarious jobs he has including chancellor of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, director of the Catholic University of America, chairman of the Extension Society and numberless assignments from Rome as well as the vice chairmanship of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington who is expected to accede to the presidency next year. Reading the entire list, I expressed my awe and then concluded with alteration of Jefferson’s one sentence, “It is with high honor and deep privilege that I introduce the Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George!”

After the requisite standing ovation, he smilingly murmured: “And, Tom, I would be honored if when you write about me in the future you refer to me in only one sentence!” Not a bad comeback only 15 seconds after the intro, I’d say. A few minutes later, describing changes in the liturgy he quipped, “Tom would say that I will parse this now but it is necessary in the unfolding of the liturgy.” It is gentle reproofs like these, all in fun, that make colloquy with him engaging…


They say Archimedes proved it is impossible to drop a pebble in a pond without creating some ripples—but the law seems to have been repealed politically. I am still amazed that Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to serve a second term as Chairman of the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not been covered, so far as I can see, in the Chicago press, it first appearing locally in It first appeared last week in the Washington, D. C. paper The Hill. For not a line to have appeared in Chicago’s famous Democratic newspaper of record or to have earned a comment from the faithful—and astute—liberal Democratic Washington one-person bureau chief of the city’s Democratic newspaper of record, Lynn Sweet, is extraordinary. Perhaps its publication would be inconvenient. She may be considering what spin to give it but she usually thinks to liberaldom’s political advantage much more quickly, she being the best in the business. Or have I missed it? Was I snoozing? This portion of the Blog is being written on Saturday so perhaps it will be in tomorrow’s Sun-Times. It certainly won’t be in the Tribune whose many-peopled Washington bureau is just slightly less liberal than the Sun-Times’. But the reason it hasn’t been in the Trib is surely that, as usual, the fatter, more languid less aggressive and sleepier “major” paper is a cycle behind.

Rahm’s decision not to repeat has got to be caused by the difficulties he’s had with his party’s flaky leadership ala Ms. Pelosi (with the incompetent addition of John Murtha) and the weirdo National Committee chairman Howard Dean who has spent so much money across the 50 states that he doesn’t have much to expend in possible pick-up states. Give Rahm the credit he is due: he knows far better than either one of them what the party needs to win. Were he to pursue his own course, he would have a much more pro-Iraq War stance and a more aggressive economic platform. As one who as a journalist sometimes traveled with and admired the dexterity of the hawkish Hubert Humphrey from the era before Rahm was born, I can appreciate Rahm’s problems …


Anyone interested in Chicago politics and/or history should run, not walk, to a little run-down ex-store front on Elston avenue to see what is probably the most sophisticated theatre presentation on the late Richard J. Daley and the Chicago machine that has yet been produced. It is “Hizzoner,” at the oddly named “Prop Thtr” where the entire production serves as a brilliant vehicle for Neil Giuntoli who not only stars as Daley but who wrote the play. Giuntoli, a distant relative of Anton Cermak, has put together an ingenious play. Former independent alderman Dick Simpson who was also in the audience, told me at the break that the play made him live the spectacular era all over again. As an amateur historian, I have some questions about the play’s total accuracy: For instance, did Police Superintendent Conlisk ever turn in his badge in protest to Daley’s “shoot to kill, shoot to maim” order? Did Finance committee chairman Tom Keane ever use the “f” word in the presence of the Mayor? Was Matty Danaher ever the lounging, cynical presence to the Mayor, using the “F” word to Daley’s face, that he was to others? Did the young Jesse Jackson ever come with a recommendation from the Governor of North Carolina to the Mayor’s office and turn down a job as a toll-collector on the Chicago Skyway? I’m making a note to ask the last surviving member of the Daley organization who assuredly knows the answer to these and other questions: legendary gentleman and superb legislative draftsman Paul Wigoda, one of the finest products of the old school notwithstanding his being convicted by Dan Webb who used the very same tricks he shouted against as defense counsel for George Ryan. These incidents in the play may well be fiction but it’d be fun to know.

But these questions are immaterial. Go see it if you can before it leaves July 2. The presentation gives, at least in my estimation (as one who met the Old Guy in private once but a memorable meeting), the fairest, most accurate loving yet not sycophantic representation of the truly complicated man Richard J. Daley was: a man passionately in love with his city, to whom we all owe a huge debt today when Chicago has not been turned into another Detroit, due to the fact that the senior Daley had the guts to stand up to arsonists and 1968 Dem convention demonstrators. Lillian and I got our gift of tickets from son Mike and wife Candace for “Father’s Day.” The high-point for me was Daley facing the press (us in the audience) standing there, red-faced with anger, with jowls waggling as “reporters” in our midst popped up asking him tough questions, him sputtering in exact representation of the Original.

The great spectacle with sparse cast (many taking several roles) duplicates another great political play Lillian and I saw which was a gift to her for Mother’s Day from our son Tom. It was the enormously successful and hugely entertaining musical “Fiorello,” the story of New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. That presentation, like “Hizzoner,” was given in a run-down building made over into a theatre, which used to be the old Wellington Avenue Community Church. You can thrill at the flowers and beautification of Chicago but surely one of the finest renovations is what has taken place in the dramatic arts here. I left both shows thinking how good it would have been to have them put on in more commodious surroundings with better props, furniture etc.—but, you know? They would have to charge customers much more than they do with these tremendously inventive but modest settings.


For the past several days I have been rattling the cages at the Tribune—but Sunday the man who makes the great ponderous newspaper worthwhile and is pound-for-pound the best political analyst in print in Chicago had another column that lends great insight into the patronage changes that Daley, Jr. has brought to Chicago. As other sources have noted, Daley senior rewarded pols with jobs through the various ward organizations. He was a power broker who built his political party with jobs. Young Daley virtually abolished the idea of spoils going to the wards—and instead, with the help of Tim Degnan and others ignored the wards and built his own organization with patronage, converting the old Democratic party into a truly Daley party. No one has satisfactorily answered the question “why” until the Trib’s premier columnist did yesterday.

John Kass, who is worth the entire weight of the Tribune Tower to the newspaper’s empire and is the supreme analyst of the Daley era, points out that Daley was enraged at how the ward organizations backed Eddie Burke for states’ attorney over him—so much so that when Daley became mayor he changed the entire focus from the Democratic party’s ward organizations to a personal fiefdom. That insight is worth a great deal. It’s my hope that someday Kass writes a book about the current Daley with as much—and I imagine more perspicacity than even Mike Royko’s about the Old Man…

Dirty Tricks

Probably the biggest political news story of the past week had to do with Bill Scheuer, the rather far-out liberal who wants to run on a third party ticket for Congress in the 6th, opposing both Dem Melissa Bean and Republican David McSweeney. Talking exclusively to Rich Miller of Capitol Fax, Scheuer said he was approached by one whom he identified as an Anthony J. Constantine of an outfit called AR Consulting to collect signatures which will get Scheuer on the ballot—for a price. Scheuer agreed and Constantine purportedly agreed to do the job. But then after using up a good deal of time, Constantine was contacted and used some flimsy excuses like personal health which caused him to flub the assignment. Thus Scheuer may miss getting on the ballot. A check reveals that an Anthony J. Constantine works for Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL). Although he is the head of AJ Consulting, Constantine says he was not the man who contacted Scheuer. Sounds like an old-fashioned Nixon era duplicitous game to me. Constantine, evidently paid by federal funds as a Lipinski staffer should be probed along with Lipinski. Lipinski, son of veteran machine pol Bill who handed his job to his kid, is regarded as rather weird anyhow. For one thing he looks like an advance man for a famine, skin and bones, gaunt who could be a brother of Mike Cherdorf the strange human skull specter who haunts Homeland Security…

Short Shrifts

Congratulations to the great team of Peter Roskam and Frank Avila for fielding issues so deftly on “Political Shootout” last night. I worried at first that there would be no disagreements but they did match wits on the most sensitive domestic issue on the agenda: immigration. It was clear to me that young Jesse Jackson who had Avila in his corner for mayor, has hurt himself by fooling around with running for mayor without evidently being serious about it…Lefty “political columnist” Carol Marin of the Sun-Times (who is so invaluable she doubles as NBC and WTTW-TV commentator) produces an emotional tirade today in her paper advocating a hike in the minimum wage…

A favorite priest for the Sun-Times, Democratic newspaper of record and the wishy-washy Tribune (“we dunno what we are but let’s say we’re not conservative, we think”) was serenaded last week in both papers because he is “beloved.” He is Father Bill Kenneally retiring from St. Gertrude’s, the mother church of the Left, who publicly called pro-life Congressman Henry Hyde “a meathead,” demanded the resignation of Francis Cardinal George, calls himself “El Presidente” (we’re supposed to laugh), announces he quit drinking 16 years ago and utterly charms Sun-Times reporter Maureen O’Donnell who decided that among all priests here he is “beloved”. Old codgers like Kenneally, a buddy of Andy Greeley and public mourner for the late Msgr. Jack Egan, and his late secretary Peggy Roach come from the Che Guevarra wing of the church…

Jay Mariotti, sports columnist for the Sun Times, might enjoy it a bit too much after having been outrageously assailed by Ozzie Guillen. Guillen called him a “[bleeping] fag”—which is not worthy of Guillen, who should be censured for hurling that verbal garbage. And he enables Mariotti to reap many columns from the experience plus mentions in both newspapers, all radio stations, all TV stations and taking first rank at Mayor Daley’s news conference as well as an editorial defense in his newspaper centering on Mariotti’s favorite subject—not sports but the perpendicular pronoun “I”…And for you early risers, have you noticed how much happier Matt Lauer seems on the “Today” show now that his teammate aka the all American freckle-faced, perky kid next door with the stiletto heels, Katie Couric, is gone? I miss her but am looking forward to Meredith (can’t spell her last name but you know who I mean).

And finally—I cite some other Blogs but seldom recommend them-- but will in this case. It’s written by a well-seasoned ex-journalist who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the media as well as politics. He’s an ex-Democrat turned Republican but he’s not knee-jerk predictable and goes after the big boys in both parties (somewhat like I fancy I do). He is Dan Curry who runs Curry Strategies. He was Peter Fitzgerald’s press secretary among other assignments. He’s has been just about the best in the business as a journalist for several papers, including the Daily Herald, has become the absolute best in the business of political consulting…and now has equaled these accomplishments by becoming a terrific blogger. That’s You’ll like it. I’m going to link it up to this one.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Personal Asides: The Thought Comes Through that Republicans May Well Pull This One Out in 2006…Not Because of Its Brilliance but Because the Democratic Party is Too Left-Wing

Attending the Cheney luncheon for Dave McSweeney yesterday, I must say the thought came through pretty clearly that the Democrats are on the way to booting their chance to take over the Congress—at least the House this Fall. Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to seek a second term as House Democratic Campaign Committee chairman is a straw in the wind…something that hasn’t been played as yet in Chicago Democratic newspaper of record, written by the official party recorder for the Chicago Democratic newspaper of record Lynn Sweet. When Sweet doesn’t report something about the Democrats, it’s because it is politically disadvantageous. Emanuel’s explanation that he has to spend more time with his family is weak tea. Having known Rahm well in past years—not now—I think the problem is this:

Essentially, he is more conservative on defense issues than his party will allow him to be. The party’s base is overwhelmingly dovish. A clear indication can be seen by John Murtha’s move to the far left in order to run for majority leader. When a John Murtha thinks he’s got to insist on a definite date for Iraq pull-out in order to placate the Democratic base, the party’s in terminal shape for 2006.

Privately, Rahm appreciates that he can’t elect a majority without them supporting a winning of the war. The crazy people running his party—Nancy Pelosi, especially—make it impossible for Rahm to position candidates who can win. The Sears Tower episode further worsens the situation for the Democrats. Every episode like that makes national security the major issue. You can’t win when you have a party full of Russ Feingold’s who want to censure the president. I think that’s why Rahm is turning in his suit. I think the fact is clear that the voters are mad at Bush because of the conduct of the war but conversely they are not about to elect a crowd of pacifists, cut-and-run people and pro-censure people in the Democratic party.

While Rahm is smart enough to see that Pelosi and Murtha make his job insuperable, he is not cogent enough to understand that in order to elect Tammy Duckworth she has to have some conservative credibility on social issues. Had Rahm had a party base more nearly in the center, he possibly could have gotten Duckworth past the finish line—but he doesn’t. And he himself is too left-wing on social issues to appreciate that Duckworth should be free to take a conservative position on parental notification. Since that can’t happen, Rahm’s goose is cooked.

The Democratic party is just too left-wing for the voters to entrust it with control of the Congress.

Flashback: With Humphrey Maimed, the GOP Turns to Electing a Republican Governor. The Plaintive Cry: “Will Amandus Speak Tonight?”

[Another installment from fifty years ago for my kids and grandchildren].

The (as it turned out) fatal maiming of Hubert Humphrey’s presidential chances by his losing the 1956 state presidential primary for Adlai Stevenson, made him to travel the state kissing the dissidents’ posteriors. Thus he wasn’t strong enough to give direction to the party’s drive to reelect Governor Orville Freeman (who was also grievously hurt by the primary). Enthused, we Republicans massed a great deal of money (for that era) and resolved to bend to the oars to elect Republican Ancher Nelsen.

There were some hefty reasons why we ran into opposition. The Republican farm program was still unpopular. Nelsen never resolved in his own mind where he stood on a farm program whereas Estes Kefauver had made a powerful impression on the state. There was no unifying theme to our opposition to Humphrey and Freeman while they had the unifying theme of high farm price supports. But with lots of dough, we decided to put Nelsen on statewide television in the only meaningful way that the pre-video tape era allowed—a live, half-hour program from Minneapolis on prime time. Film just wouldn’t do it. I produced a half-hour filmed for Eisenhower for the state GOP but the product was blurry and I booted a good deal of money. However the Nelsen people had the party’s eerie-looking TV guru, a frenetic little man with no philosophy (he was the TV director of Freeman’s election two years earlier). He was a tiny, patent-leather-haired zealot, imbued with his craft, a pencil-line mustache like the comedian Misha Auer, eyes excitedly popping out of his head like he had a goiter. In a weak moment, I parlayed all our dough on the half-hour with our guru directing. I say weak moment not because the half-hour TV show was wrong but because we should have fired the guru and given the job of directing it to someone else. But, c’est le vie.

The guru’s idea was to duplicate the then popular 1950s Saturday night program “This is Your Life!” with Ralph Edwards and form it around the life of Ancher Nelsen. The life of Ancher Nelsen, our candidate for governor, wasn’t exactly unusual—a farm boy who inherited his Dad’s big farm, who didn’t go to college (born in 1903, not many farm kids did), who got elected to the state Senate, then lieutenant governor, then appointed REA administrator in the Ag Department by Eisenhower (avoiding any mention of the Ag secretary, the hugely unpopular Ezra Taft Benson). The guru was to direct the TV extravaganza, having done a successful one for the DFL’s Freeman two years earlier. I was to be the assistant director, with no experience whatsoever but to hold the script, assuage the guru who was playing the role of the artist-genius, rotating from frenzy to exultation to

frenzy again.

We assembled a cast of people from Nelsen’s hometown of Hutchinson, Minnesota who knew him when--. They included a 90-year-old, sweet-faced granny who was his grade school teacher; a Lutheran minister who would talk about Nelsen’s moral virtues; a 4H man who would praise Nelsen’s love of the land…on and on. Our guru had found Nelsen’s boyhood chum who did the usual Norman Rockwell things with him—playing hooky to go fishing, learning to tie knots with the Boy Scouts. His name was John Amandus, a prosperous farmer who was to give a final tribute before Nelsen and his family would come trooping in.

We rehearsed and rehearsed all one day. Our guru would hurl his arm at the little 90-year-old retired school teacher and she would deliver her lines beautifully—getting better every time. Amandus, however, was a different proposition. In the middle of the rehearsals he took me aside and said our guru was distracting by hurling his arm with finger extended to indicate “you’re on!” Amandus told me, “He disturbs me.” I asked why. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never been one for public speaking anyhow and this little freak lunging at me behind the camera with his finger pointing jolts me. Isn’t there another way to signal that I’m on?”

Of course there was—it was the red eye of the camera with the camera-man gently indicating it…but our guru was not about to sacrifice his role as director in order to pacify Amandus. As we went through it three, four and five times—with the magic hour approaching with the hands of the clock moving inexorably to that time when all would be on live—I got the idea that too many rehearsals would turn the production stale. The guru was not satisfied so we did a final one. Then the station manager came out and said, “All right, kids! You’re going to be on live before the entire state of three million people!” The 90-year-old retired school teacher dabbed her cheeks with rouge and kicked off a brilliant story as even the cameramen smiled beatifically. Her sweet face a sea of wrinkles, she looked exactly like everyone’s great grandmother. I looked over at Amandus who was to be the last one in line with a statement and he looked destroyed.

I ran over to him while the cameras were on other people and asked anxiously, Mr. Amandus, what’s the matter? He looked at me with terror filled eyes and said, “The station manager did it!” Did what? “He said we are talking to three million people!” No, I said, he’s exaggerating—probably 1.5 million tops. His eyes didn’t change but he repeated “One point five million tops?” No, I said, probably only one million tops. It didn’t work. Then I got out of the way and knew something awful was about the happen.

Our guru was happily and frenetically hurling his arm toward performers like a baseball pitcher delivering a fast ball. I had a premonition of what happened before it happened but we all sat there and watched the train-wreck.

The oily-voiced announcer in the studio then said, “And here, from Hutchinson, Minnesota is Ancher Nelsen’s boyhood chum, John Amandus with a poignant remembrance of the next governor!” Our guru wound up and hurled his arm, his eyes bugging out excitedly, his mustache quivering with show business excitement. The camera moved in for a close-up on Amandus. His lips moved but not a sound emitted. Horrified the sound man believed the microphone had died so he hyped the sound, twirling the dials. Still nothing. Amandus’ eyes bulged in pain; his lips moved and not a sound.

In the studio, the announcer improvised. “John Amandus,” he repeated, “has come to Minneapolis tonight to recall a stirring moment when he and Ancher Nelsen stole away to go fishing…and he remembers a telling story from that era”. Our guru almost flew over the cameras, nearly throwing his arm out of its socket with his long forefinger virtually touching Amandus’ nose. The lips moved, Amandus’ hands reached up in a futile gesture but his voice wouldn’t obey. The camera fastened on that desolate portrait for an agonizingly long time while the engineer in the glass booth wondered what had happened to the sound. Anyone watching at home would have reasoned that his set had conked out.

As Amandus’ lips quivered and his face betrayed hemorrhoidal anxiety, our guru screamed, unaccountably, “KILL IT! KILL IT!” and the camera retreated uncertainly, backed up as the solitary figure in the chair worked manfully, his lips trying to form words.

At the end of the production, I reasoned, well maybe no one was watching which would have been a godsend. Then I thought: maybe this could be the start of a live TV series with the question before the viewers, WILL AMANDUS SPEAK TONIGHT? I suggested the idea to Mrs. Heffelfinger at the mansion later that night she called the station manager who was drowning himself in straight whiskey trying to forget. “George?” she said, doubling up with mirth but keeping her voice authoritative as the mega-multi-millionaire she was, “on behalf of the finance committee of the Republican Party I want to re-schedule the show tomorrow and every night thereafter with John Amandus in the studio and the announcer using the kicker line WILL AMANDUS SPEAK TONIGHT?” By the time she proposed this, he was quite drunk and begged her to change her mind until she convinced him she was not serious. Not long thereafter, he was fired and I am sure he never voted Republican again, if in fact, he ever had.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Personal Asides: Vice Presidents…Don Wycliffe Blasts Bill O’Reilly

Today I’ll be attending a luncheon for Vice President Dick Cheney who will be here to support David McSweeney for 8th district Congress whom I am very partial to. I must say that I have not been strong for many vice presidents. Not for Gore (Clinton), nor particularly Quayle (with George H. W. Bush) nor George H. W. Bush (with Reagan), nor Mondale (with Carter), nor Rockefeller (with Ford), nor Ford with (Nixon), nor Agnew (with Nixon), nor Humphrey whom I liked but didn’t agree with (with LBJ), nor LBJ (with Kennedy) nor Nixon (with Eisenhower). But I am very high on Cheney whom I think has been the best vice president in history…

The newspaper that dare not speak its philosophy because it has none since most of its editorials on difficult issues meander first this way, then that and conclude with “time will tell”…the newspaper that goes in the pantry and mixes its Op Eds so that there is single theme—a dash of Charles Krauthammer here, a slug of the leftist Mollie Ivins there, a jigger of libertarianism from one who eschews national security ID checks here (the former New Republic editor Steve Chapman), a trace of upper-class Brahmin there (Garrison Keillor), a thimble-ful of its old hair-on-the-chest conservatism once weekly (the excellent Dennis Byrne) here…and a syndicated cartoon that may be either left or right here—because the paper cannot face up to an artist who must draw to the definitive right or left…you know the paper I mean—the one with the liberal editorial page Op Ed editor who had put together a cookbook balanced by a professional gay rights Hispanic…what paper am I talking about? The Tribune, of course…well--.

That paper may endorse down-the-line Republicans as a deal it makes with its marketing gurus but whose staff except for its editorial page editor is largely left-ward…that paper put out a piece yesterday that the staff showed its support for by giving it a banner-line. It was by Don Wycliff who takes the conservative TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly to task. All in all, it was the most vociferous presentation I have ever read from Wycliff who, when he was editorial page editor, spoke and wrote with such a vocal and literary hushed, parsed phrasing that it required a metaphysician to deduce what he was talking about. After he had deemed that I had insulted the Honorable Eddie Burke (the alderman who preens while he surveys his own greatness) Wycliffe called me and spent a great deal of time hemming and hawing—on the one hand we want fresh stuff, on the other hand we don’t want strident stuff, but don’t think we want to dictate but on the other hand you shouldn’t imagine you should shock. So I said what in the hell are you getting at Donald?

We’re thinking that maybe…let’s put it this way: we’re leaning to—well leaning is not the word…let’s say that after we’ve talked it over here—not just us but others who have an equal interest—well, maybe not an equal interest, let’s say a proportionate interest, or proportional—yes, that’s it—proportional interest—that we’d just as soon conclude our relationship now. Not that it has anything to do with what you wrote about Burke which we should have caught—my fault, there—not that it had anything whatsoever to do with that because if there’s anything we want it’s fresh stuff…but--.

Don, I have to go to the gym. So what’s your saying is that we’re fini, right?

In a manner of speaking.

(Now contrast that with the admirably terse Steve Huntley’s way of delivery:

(Tom, you’re gone. Stay in touch. Bye. Click…buzzzzzzz.)

The Don Wycliffe I just described left the editorial page editorship for what his newspaper calls the job of Public Editor. Now the Public Editor is supposed to be the ombudsman, someone with the definitive strength to tell the newspaper where it went wrong. The all-time best ombudsman or Public Editor…who set a gold standard which cannot ever be exceeded…was Daniel Okrent of The New York Times. You can say a lot against this paper but you know where it is from the second you pick it up which makes it in my estimation still one of the great newspapers of the world. Okrent, who is a world-class biographer and author, took the job not as a sinecure but for a year which he announced he would serve and not return. His first piece was to announce something that as brilliant as the The Times has been, it could not face.

He said and I paraphrase: Let’s face it. The Times is a liberal newspaper. Very liberal. That’s o.k. but it’s too damned liberal—so liberal, in fact, that while it shades the news liberal and that’s o.k., it does so with such dishonesty that it employs de-constructionism, the ignoring of facts that refute its case.

Had he talked about how the newspaper goofed up spelling of surnames or failed to correctly identify a photo, he would have done what the paper’s majestically pompous liberals had expected him to do…but he didn’t. He was gone in a year true to his word but I have been searching for him ever since (and now I hear he’s just authored another book).

You cannot imagine, do you, that Wycliffe…the parsing Wycliffe who speaks on the phone with such a whisper that one imagines for a time he has left the receiver on the desk top…you cannot imagine that Wycliffe would have been another Daniel Okrent, do you? Well, let me not surprise you: he most emphatically was not. His view of serving his masters was to acknowledge as little as possible had gone wrong and give the newspaper’s side. It was agony, sheer agony (I imagine the veins standing out in his forehead) to acknowledge error as once in a while he had to. That is the Tribune way.

But imagine a different Wycliffe. He writes: “If intellectual dishonesty could be said to have a face, I saw it Tuesday evening as I watched Bill O’Reilly’s program on Fox news. I watched it without sound.” Then he goes on to say that he read the bullet-points for O’Reilly’s commentary. O’Reilly was angered about the mutilation and murder of two American soldiers. Not unusual, but O’Reilly evidently wanted something done about it. It’s always when one gets to the point of doing something about it that upsets Wycliffe because that resembles a culture clash to the one with which Wycliffe has been most comfortable: the editorial board which parses careful pseudo solutions…such as tossing a life-preserver on a 25-foot line to one drowning 50 feet off shore and saying they went at least half-way…such as suggesting that after a climatic battle the humanitarian thing to do is to shoot the wounded—you know, the decently moderate…that is the m-o-d-e-r-a-t-e Tribune solution.

Wycliffe’s moderate solution is to level blame for the death of the two soldiers. Who’s to blame? Get this: Donald Rumsfeld. He didn’t send enough troops there and in smashing Saddam Hussein he destroyed the Iraq army so the nation’s defenses are weak. Actually, reading this makes one happy that Wycliffe is no longer with the newspaper. Where is he?

He’s the flack for Notre Dame. It’s president, a Father Jenkins, vowed to restore Notre Dame as a Catholic institution. His inaugural address promised to do so. And he followed through. He announced that the porno play lauding homosexuality, The Vagina Monologues would not be allowed to be presented on the Notre Dame campus.

Then Father Jenkins changed his mind and allows it. It is not clear whether his initial public decision was done with the professional counsel of Don Wycliffe…or the second change of mind. But I have my own idea.

In any event, Bill O’Reilly shouldn’t lose any sleep over the atypical tirade by Wycliffe in the bland-blander-blandest newspaper ever concocted under the panoply of God’s heavens…or the namby-pamby foot-stomping fit that the Op Ed department gave a typically weird headline: The impenetrable fog of Bill O’Reilly. If O’Reilly is guilty of anything, it’s slugging with a baseball bat: no fog about him. But he has achieved one thing anyhow.

He has made Wycliffe take a position—the first blunt one seen in many years.

Political Shootout Sunday: Roskam and Avila.

This Sunday the contenders will be State Senator Peter Roskam, Republican candidate for 6th district Congress whom the Tribune’s Eric Zorn has bitterly criticized—but whom I think would be a tremendous successor to Congressman Henry Hyde…and Frank Avila, an independent Democrat, a Hispanic leader and critic of the Daley organization’s Hispanic Democratic Organization formed by Victor Reyes. That’s at 8 p.m. this Sunday on WLS-AM (890).

So Long, Son: Howard Vincent O’Brien’s Column Shook the Nation.

[This is the column that shook the nation and prompted a letter and phone call from Eleanor Roosevelt, January 12, 1945—written after a period of reflection during which time O’Brien wrote other things. Finally he was ready to write about his loss.]

The box came by express the day after Christmas. The children thought it was a belated gift from Santa Claus and jumped up and down, clapping their hands. They thought it was a doll.

The carton was the right size for a doll but I knew it wasn’t a doll. Dolls don’t come from the Army Effects Bureau, Kansas City Quartermaster Depot. Besides, I had a letter.

Nobody but the children wanted to open the carton; so it was taken to the attic and for days stayed out of sight if not out of mind. Then, Sunday afternoon, when I was alone in the house, I got a pair of metal shears and snipped the steel tape with which the carton was bound.

It was packed jus as he might have done it himself—the coats and trousers neatly folded, the socks and handkerchiefs and underwear all helter-skelter.

On top was the made-to-order dress uniform, as fresh as the day it had come from the tailor. He had been so proud of this extravagance, admiring himself in the close-fitting tunic; and he had looked so smart when he stood with long fingers around his wasp waist, buttons gleaming like fire against the dark green. He had so little time to be proud.

In the corner was a pair of officer’s shoes, almost like new. Even less worn were his summer things. He saw no summers in Britain. His work was done before he could hear the skylark or see the meadows “knee-deep in June.”

At the bottom of the carton was a tattered envelope, stuffed with orders and a diploma of graduation from a Louisiana training school.

Beside it was a leather-bound diary, given him by his mother, with her name on the flyleaf. Eagerly I leafed through the pages. They were blank!

The only other record of his life was a couple of flashlight pictures of himself and comrades—all laughing—snapped in New York “spots.”

Under them was a small paper bag, torn in the corner. In it were the following:

A jeweler’s ring box—with no ring.

The silver wings of a navigator.

A wrist watch, minus crystal, which had stopped at 23 minutes to 9:00.

A pair of sunglasses.

A Yellow Cab identification tag, No. 3233.

Three coins—a nickel, a dime and a three-penny piece.

The winter twilight was settling as I finished the inventory and my nostrils ached with the sick-sweetish odor of disinfectant. Methodically I unpinned the gold lieutenant’s bars and the navigator’s wings and snipped off the buttons.

Then I sat staring at the box in which these things had come. It was such a small box to hold all the laughter and tears, all the hope and apprehension which had been packed into it. So much gaiety and tenderness, so much generosity and fun, such talent and eager inquiry, such virile beauty…It was hard to believe it had all vanished like the song of a bird at dusk, leaving only a little heap of clothes and a torn paper bag.

It was incredible that of high adventure in a far land nothing was left but a three-pence and a watch that had stopped ticking.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Personal Asides: Reviewing What the Readers Say.

Hot anger, angst and some praise for my column that Topinka is the liberal in the governor’s race: Lovie’s Leather says “Tom, you are extremely disloyal. Topinka didn’t endorse Fitzgerald and now you won’t endorse her. You are just as bad as her. I am extremely confused about what you have become, Tom” …Josh says Judy is to the right of Rod “regardless of what you want to acknowledge it or not. Think about it—Second amendment, Joe Birkett, partial birth abortion ban, parental consent. She’s to the right of Jim Edgar.” David P. Graf says “I’ll vote for Blagojevich” because if she’s elected she’ll play with the Dems just as Ryan did. Incidentally, David, I lost your address and phone; send it to me on my e-mail…Jose says Judy is to the right of Edgar and “your bias is overriding your judgment!”…Lovie’s Leather back again with another attack on me. Blagojevich fired Republican workers and I don’t understand it. “You are no Republican, Tom.”…Then Jeffrey Isbell goes after Lovie, trying sweet reason to say that it’s not important whose jobs they are—Republican or Democrat—but they’re human beings…

Someone named TR (not me) writes “Topinka is a Stinka!...Help! I’m a Republican in a sea of RINOs [Republicans in Name Only]…Lovie once more: If you [meaning me] care about social issues, don’t complain when Judy loses and your buddies lose their jobs because you’re no Republican, Tom.”…Gene Lesko says Topinka is in the mold of George Ryan…Jeff says Topinka is no friend of the conservative movement or the Republican party but “is a disgrace and detriment to the Republicans”…Matt Nelson says the ASCME is no way to judge candidates. It supported Edgar…And finally Doug Ibendahl made the old man feel good by saying, “Well said, Tom! Right on target!”

The erudite John Curry got yesterday’s quote right: Charles I of England, the second Stuart and grandson of Mary Queen of Scots after the victory of Oliver Cromwell, pointing out that while the King may have forgiven his executioners, the restored monarchy didn’t, all the prosecutors were condemned and several ran away to the American colonies. He points out: submitted without search engine assistance…My favorite Wanderer reader Frank Nofsinger got it right too, Google-free as he did Johnnie Ray. I said scaffold but that also meant beheading as well as hanging, Frank and the king’s head was lopped off. I’m trying to get that picture changed, too, Frank!

Flashback: Planning the Silent Coup for Kefauver.

[The latest in a memoir series for my kids and grandchildren]

Flying back to Minnesota, I could still hear the rasping old voice of Augie Andresen in my mind: “Don’t bring my name up in that connection! I have to work here!” He meant on farm legislation where he would have to gain cooperation with Hubert Humphrey in the Democratic-controlled Congress and the bipartisan farm bloc of which Humphrey was an important part. Augie, I expect it’s safe to bring it up fifty years later with everybody in that bloc long dead.

I got back and told Mrs. Heffelfinger that the idea came to me that (a) we should make a public show of supporting Eisenhower in the Minnesota presidential primary; (b) that behind the scenes, and deftly so that the media or the Democrats don’t catch on too quick (they’ll find out in good time and we’ll have to have deniability), we should do everything possible to see that as many of our people as possible cross over and vote for Kefauver; (c) that when the suspicion does rise, we ought to look dumb (not hard for us!) and allow them to blame Stassen. (Poor Stassen, engaged in an internecine battle of his own doing since he publicly raised the idea of Christian Herter of all people replacing Richard Nixon as vice president, had not the slightest idea that this was being considered).

As always whenever a good conspiratorial plot was raised, she was enthusiastic. My two other bosses were not, however, and it complicated it for me: State Chairman John Hartle and State Chairwoman Kay Harmon, believed it was downright bad citizenship, bad polity, nefarious, rather immoral to get out people to vote for Kefauver. Kay Harmon was the more eloquent. In a meeting at the Heffelfinger mansion she argued passionately that encouraging our people to vote Democratic would endanger their fealty to the Republican cause. Suppose Kefauver were actually nominated, she said; wouldn’t we lose our Republicans to his cause after we had encouraged them to vote for him once? Then she argued as a good League of Women Voters leader: The two party system exists for a definite purpose. We would corrupt it by doing this. The Democrats retaliate at some future time.

The arguments cut no ice with Mrs. Heffelfinger or George Etzell, the National Committeeman who said that the operation would proceed as an independent function anyhow, with no Republican sponsorship. It made things difficult for me, however. I was told by all sides to stay out of it and agreed. But Mrs. Heffelfinger gave me a broad wink as she temporarily left the room and I knew this was going to be very difficult.

The first thing I did was to begin a flurry of news releases outlining the campaign the state party was waging for Eisenhower. One went out almost every day. A special Eisenhower committee was set up which did a few things but was spectacularly inactive. My immediate bosses suspected I was involved in the subterranean plot but probably felt it would be twice as difficult if they forbade me to cooperate with the party’s largest individual donor family. The next thing I did was to find a receptive Democrat state legislator who could keep his mouth shut and importune him to go to one of the two DFL state lawmakers who were officially running the Kefauver campaign. The one I chose was State Senator Peter Popovich of St. Paul, a Catholic who I would see at Mass at the Cathedral, who played the role of Vulcan in the St. Paul Winter Carnival. He had taken his political life in his hands by agreeing to head up the challenge to Adlai Stevenson. It meant sure political death if Kefauver lost the primary for no one would be as dead as Popovich for seeking to assassinate a king—Humphrey, who was at the zenith of his power—and who failed. I was so fascinated with Popovich that I violated my own inner commandment and agreed to meet with him.

We had breakfast very, very early (6 a.m.) at the Capp Towers motel in St. Paul before Sunday Mass. He was a prosperous lawyer, a Ukrainian, then about 40 who loved politics. The role of Vulcan which was staged every year at the Winter Carnival involved a devilish creature attired in red tights who sought to dethrone the King of Winter and install a climate of warmth. As St. Paul gloried in its winter sports-tourism industry, the citizens cheered for the King of Winter to win. The forays went on for one entire week while Vulcan would invade restaurants, Chambers of Commerce and labor unions, brandishing a fiery sword and running out again to the joyous shouts of “get outta here!” Finally on Saturday night Vulcan and the King of Winter would stage a showdown, an energetic duel with swords as the crowds would team up and cheer. The script called for Vulcan to be deposed and return to install warmth in the Spring. Popovich so loved it—the Winter Carnival had just concluded—that he could hardly talk of anything else at our meeting.

“Did you see my getup?” he chortled. “They gave me a new red woolen suit and a sword that lighted up and sent out sparks! Fantastic! That old fart who was King of Winter was so old he could hardly manage the swordplay. I really thought about re-doing the script and winning but that would destroy the scenario.”

I said that if this switch didn’t come off, both he and I would have lots of time on our hands for extra-curriculars like that. Then I asked: Pete why are you doing this?

He shrugged. “Humphrey’s people are so arrogant. He’s been thinking of running for president since he was mayor of Minneapolis. That Freeman, grim, humorless. I deal with him in the legislature. No time for us. We’re supposed tro be acolytes. An acolyte? I’ve worked hard for through two Senate campaigns. Headed up the Ramsey county [St. Paul] campaign for him. Wanted his backing for a judgeship: was told to wait. Wanted a shot at mayor of this town. Was told to wait. So--.”

You’ve got guts, Pete.

“You can bank on it that if we lose this, Hubert will have my [indelicate reference to anatomy]. But if we win the primary and they’re not delegates but we are, he’ll go across the state kissing [same indelicate reference to anatomy] for years. Matter of fact, when you show some independence they begin to notice you. If you don’t want to gamble, don’t go into politics. My gamble is that Kefauver will win the primary. That’s all. If he does, I’ll not only not be punished, I’ll be courted. That’s the extent of my gamble. Sure, if he goes on to win the nomination I’ll be in clover. If, say, Ike has another heart attack, Kefauver’ll win the presidency. That’ll be the jackpot for me. A certain White House job or a big one at Justice and then a federal judgeship. But winning the primary is good enough for me. What’s in it for you?”

If Kefauver wins? Nothing personal but it gets Hubert out of the way for a while. If word gets out that I am this far involved I’ll certainly have to be fired by the party to save face. Maybe then I’ll go back to newspapering. Maybe I’ll use some contacts with Republican fat-cats to get a corporate job that pays real money. Or maybe I’ll try newspapering in this town.

“No,” he said. “You can’t do that. There’s an unwritten rule about journalists who get involved in politics never being able to come back.”

I offer that one up in tribute to Russert, Stephanopoulis and all the other journalists since who have done stints in politics and have come back.

“Maybe I’ll see what I could do to get you lined up in a public affairs job,” he said. “Would you like to work for a union?”

Absolutely not. Let’s not talk anymore, I said, I’m starting to worry. Anyhow, I said: Here’s a list of GOP leaders throughout the state who I’ve talked to indirectly and who want to play ball.

He grabbed the sheaf, looked at it quickly kissed it and said, “From all over the state! Pure gold! Thanks, Tommy!”

Pete, remember: they’re conservative Republicans and won’t be any good to you outside of this deal. No good for the DFL. They hate Humphrey, don’t even like Kefauver. Don’t think about putting `em on a big master list. It won’t work.

“Understand. We gotta get outta here. Some people I know are comin’ in. I can’t be seen with an evil Republican like you.”

The waitress brought the check for breakfast and he just looked at it. I said, what is this? I give you a golden future in that list and you’re too cheap to--.

“Yeah-yeah,” he said pulling out his wallet. “Force of habit. See ya in church—10:30.”

Later, to cover my tracks more, I arranged to make a circuit visiting a new species in radio. Radio talk shows. They were a new thing, then. I didn’t have any worry that Kefauver would go far beyond Minnesota but I wanted to be showing the flag so no suspicion would come to me.


Adlai Stevenson helped us a lot. Bald, stout, buttoned-up in style, he came to Minnesota to campaign in the style of a visiting panjandrum. He didn’t loosen up. Governor Freeman was running the campaign with a ruthlessness that made enemies in his party. But the presidential candidate wasn’t very good. When Stevenson went to the heavily Democratic Iron Range, he delivered high-minded, theoretical speeches to tepid applause. Humphrey who was with him winced. When Stevenson went to the militant Farmers Union, he refused to endorse its program of high price supports. As a mouse in the corner, I slipped into his rally at the Minneapolis auditorium. Boy, if being an intellectual was supposed to get votes, I’d certainly be surprised, I told myself. A dead group. Humphrey raised the rafters but Adlai seemed to throw a cold mop on the crowd after that.

In contrast, Estes Kefauver arrived and went in a small car with a few workers from town to town, starting in Augie Andresen’s 1st district. I sneaked to a few towns on his schedule and waited in coffee shops until he got there. Strange thing, as a tall, weather-beaten, homespun, raw-boned man with indelible ID recognition due to the earlier mass-televised Kefauver hearings, he looked just like a Minnesota farmer. Speaking humbly, in a low voice, following the easy-going humble-pie style that Ronald Reagan would use a generation later, he would walk up to farmers and small businessmen, extend his huge paw and ask, “I’m Estes Kefauver. May I ask your help to be president?”

Humphrey caught on to the danger early. He raced back from Washington, had a row with Stevenson because Stevenson was so academic, so non-committal. That hurt Humphrey for the future but he thought they could make up if he could just get Stevenson through the primary. They whipped organized labor up to a frenzy. The Farmers Union was cold, though—as cold as Stevenson had been with them. It didn’t help that Humphrey had to be in Washington fighting for a high support farm bill that Ike vetoed.

In the primary, the state’s top four Republican counties which pushed an Eisenhower write-in to the tune of 75 percent of the total, now cast more DFL ballots than Republican ones—and on election night the announcers were saying Kefauver was getting the lion’s share. At the windup, Kefauver’s slate of unknown delegates defeated the well-known liberals including Humphrey and Freeman by 245,885 to 186,723. (Humphrey later wheedled one out of the DNC but he was sorely wounded) Immediately afterward, Minnesota Republicans came home, dusting off their hands and all ready to vote for Ike in November.

Our reaction at the Heffelfinger mansion was ecstatic. Some of us were exuberant that Humphrey would not be a delegate to his own convention. That was fun enough. But for the long-range, that primary was certainly the decisive event in his political life. Losing his own state forfeited any chance of his being on the ticket—and that was a huge loss on his timetable. Stevenson went to the Chicago convention far from the prince regent he had hoped to be. He had lost some key primaries to Kefauver. By convention time, Harry Truman had come out for Governor Averill Harriman of New York. Eleanor Roosevelt endorsed Stevenson. True to form, the party regulars detested Kefauver.

Senator John F. Kennedy got his first bid in the national spotlight by placing Stevenson in nomination. Stevenson was re-nominated on the first ballot with 905-1/2 votes to 210 for Harriman, 80 for Senator Lyndon Johnson and the rest scattered. Humphrey’s name or presence was nowhere to be seen.

For vice president, Stevenson stunned the convention by tossing the choice open to it. Then there was a brilliant struggle between John F. Kennedy forces and those of Estes Kefauver, with Humphrey playing an impotent role. The Minnesota delegates graciously endorsed Humphrey as its favorite son candidate for vice president—but then they began to have serious second thoughts. Kennedy had come out against high price supports; Kefauver was for them. On the first ballot for vice president, Kefauver and Kennedy were close: Kefauver with 483-1/2, Kennedy 304, Gore (the father of our Al Gore) 178, New York Mayor Robert Wagner 162-1/2 and Humphrey 134-1/2. Needed to win: 686-1/2.

Humphrey feared that not only was he maimed by being defeated in the primary, nomination of Kennedy an opponent of high price supports could kill the reelection hopes of Gov. Orville Freeman, a high price support advocate. Then it appeared the convention was at a standstill. Kefauver could only win the nomination with Humphrey’s votes. Kefauver went to see Humphrey who was in Sam Rayburn’s private room in back of the convention platform. “Hubert!” he said. “You’ve got to help me! Please!” And he broke down in tears. The second ballot: Kennedy 559-12, Kefauver 478-1/2, Gore 96, Humphrey 67-1/2. While Humphrey vacillated, Gore threw his delegates to his fellow Tennessean Kefauver. Then Humphrey got off the dime, tossed Minnesota’s 30 votes to Kefauver. But the powerful Cowles press said Humphrey “just didn’t have what it takes in 1956.” For his part, Humphrey tried to salve his ego by saying that, after all, Minnesota had nominated a vice president—but it was Estes Kefauver, not him.

In response to the media’s question, who nailed Hubert, I leaked the fact that Harold Stassen had come to Minnesota the week before. True, but Stassen was so dazed from his internal battles he had nothing to do with it. But he got the credit—or blame.

Humphrey certainly would have either received the vice presidential nomination or come close to it but for the Minnesota presidential primary. Following the bad news, the Democrats in the legislature scuttled the presidential primary and it was never held again. But now to get anywhere, Humphrey would have to start from scratch—going across his state patching up the malcontents, kissing their posteriors for years beginning with the one belonging to Peter Popovich.

Hubert Humphrey was a dead duck. We didn’t know it but the Minnesota primary made him a dead duck for all time. Four years later he lost to JFK in 1960’s primaries. His momentum was gone. He got to be vice president with LBJ, no prize: then got the presidential nomination in 1968, no prize. We nailed him in Minnesota when that idea “just came to me” ala Augie.