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proved it is impossible to drop a pebble in a pond without creating some ripples—but the law seems to have been repealed politically.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.

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