Monday, July 31, 2006

Personal Aside: Tony Peraica Impressive As He Speaks Staccato-Style and Disputes the County Deficit.

Probably the most revolutionary thing Tony Peraica said last night on my WLS-AM program under stiff examination from journalist-attorney Russ Stewart and me was this: The “deficit” for Cook county government does not exist, is illusory and can be made to evaporate with a thorough top-to-bottom revision of revenue collections. When I asked him what the alleged deficit stands at, he said there are shifting numbers—but he made no bones about the fact that improved collections can eliminate the red-ink without a tax increase (although he stressed that as president he would lead a systemic effort to cut spending). His recitation of the deficiencies at Cook county were impressive because between us Stewart and I tried hard to put him through his paces, questioning some assumptions and challenging figurative statements. It is fair to say that he came through with flying colors.

But he should be held to that contention with further media approaches. Specifically, he ought to be pressed to outline exactly how the illusory deficit—if it is illusory—can be retired with specificity. This Blog has no doubt that Peraica can document his contention but in the limited hour we had, he had not done so. His strong point is his absolute ringing conviction that the deficit doesn’t exist and can be dissipated. That should be the central debating point between him and Todd Stroger. In fairness, the younger Stroger does not advocate a tax hike to eliminate the deficit not does Peraica. But the actual physical existence of the deficit and the fact that Peraica believes it can be ended with better collections and cutting is a very interesting point.

In addition to labeling the deficit illusory, probably the second most important news item was that Peraica shut down any hope from pro-lifers that he would imitate pro-lifer George Dunne and remove abortion services from Cook county hospital. Saying that he is pro-life, Peraica said that nevertheless abortion is the law of the land and stated that he would not seek to impose a ban in his presidency. Third, when hit with a question he did not expect—the grassroots effort to collect 250,000 signatures nation-wide to censure Sen. Richard Durbin—he unhesitatingly endorsed the effort. Fourth, after some verbal hesitation he supported conceal-carry. Fifth, he said that if he won, he would make every effort to revitalize the Cook county Republican organization, although he had high praise for the job chairman Gary Skoien is doing.

Sixth, as expected he projected the possibility which he saw as a probability that Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley, two of the independent Democratic commissioners, would support him. He didn’t sound too convincing when he said it, the boast appearing to be more a hope than forecast of a sure-thing. Seventh, he denied that as president he would have trouble getting along with some Republicans he had criticized earlier including Liz Gorman and Maureen Murphy, the former GOP chairman who was unhorsed largely because of Peraica’s efforts. Eighth, he pledged that if elected he would dispose of his law firm, sell its assets to his current associates. That was a pretty good news evening completed in less than an hour.

My view is not that Peraica can’t accomplish these things: it is whether or not, as an insider told me, the memory of Todd Stroger’s accession to the nomination will be forgotten by the electorate by the time election rolls around. I suppose one would have to say that this is Peraica’s mission—to see that it is not forgotten. But whether he will have the necessary funds to get that message out on television is the question.

The usual prefix to “liberal” is “phony.” Generally, liberal Democrats are supposed to be the ones who react to Old Guard machinations in favor of reform. But the habits of the Democratic base, particularly the African American component, is so ingrained in lockstep to race that one look at Todd Stroger’s photo which brings the conclusion that he is indeed African American and chauvinism can take over that brooks no independent judgment on qualifications, the only ID being that the Democratic candidate is, in fact, black which would be sufficient. For example, would State Sen. James Meeks who makes much of his independence and so-called social conservatism support Peraica against Todd Stroger? Good question. We hear much in the media about Claypool’s criticism of the Old Guard: is his disillusionment with the old style of hand-me-down designation sufficient to challenge it even if by doing so he supports a Republican which may make him enemies for the future? The same with Mike Quigley.

The logical follow-up would be for the media to take Claypool’s and Quigley’s temperature. If they stand back, it would seem that any future protestation about machine politics should not hold much water.

Flashback: The Experiment with Live TV is a Disaster but I Couldn’t Stop My Hysterical Laughter Because the “Cerebral Palsy” Issue Arose

[More remembrances from50 years past for my kids and grandchildren].

The plan was to air a 1958-style (black and white: color was still being worked on at RCA and in other labs) live TV (video tape not having been invented yet) interview with our Republican nominee for 1st district Congress, Al Quie, interviewed by his campaign manager (and former radio-TV celebrity) Ed Viehman. Accordingly the idea was for Quie, who had never been on live TV before, to rehearse with Viehman for five hours prior to our preempting the Huntley-Brinkley NBC News on Rochester’s KROC-TV. Quie reluctantly agreed but wanted to keep one campaign date in the morning, in the tiny town of Nerstrand, near his farm home, because the coffee had been planned by his minister’s wife. We said o.k. but he’d have to be back by noon. It seemed o.k. since Nerstrand was about only fifty miles away.

But the night before, an avalanche of snow started falling in accordance with Minnesota winters—and fell so heavily throughout the morning that I called Quie Rochester very early in the AM to tell him he’d better scrub the coffee and start heading our way for the rehearsal because the snow drifts were outracing the snowplows. Too late: I missed him: he had left super-early just to traverse the fifteen miles of so to Nerstrand. Viehman and I fretted in the studio throughout the morning, looking over the shoulders of the news tickers received by the scant news staff (many had not been able to show up for work) as the AP and the local Rochester weatherman announced that the snowfall was the heaviest in x-number years.

Then we got frantic when the news announced that the State Highway patrol wanted all non-essential traffic off the highways. The KROC weatherman said, “Tell you, boys. Quie can’t come. You’d better decide whether or not to cancel the show. I would, if I were you.” But the station manager told us, we paid for it and the show would (a) go on without Quie or (b) we’d get Huntley-Brinkley although we paid for the preemption, and to negate that we’d have to talk to their lawyer. The lawyer was unavailable, stuck in the snow in the middle of Rochester.

We panicked when the newsmen said at noon that a couple of Greyhound buses had run off the slippery roads but no one was seriously hurt. We tried to call Quie (that was long, long before cell phones). The minister’s wife said the coffee was held and that Quie and his driver Lindy Lindroos had begun the heroic, foolhardy fifty mile trip to Rochester against the protestations of the coffee crowd. As they started off from the house where the coffee was held, they waved goodbye and the crowd shouted “re-think it, Al! You can’t make it!”

The noontime TV news said that all traffic had mandatorily been halted in southern Minnesota. No word. Quie’s wife, at home at their farm, hadn’t seen or heard from him since early morning when he left with Lindroos, attired in arctic wear complete with hood, for the campaign meeting. She said she knew her man and that she was sure (a) he would try to make Rochester and (b) that he would make it. By 2 p.m. state highway helicopters were reported scanning the roads to rescue stranded drivers. We anxiously looked at the film to see he was one of them. No luck. By 3 p.m. Viehman was determined to report him missing to the State Highway Patrol but I desisted. Knowing Quie better than Viehman, I thought he’d make it—but too late for the telecast. By 4 p.m. we made a decision not to cancel the preemption although the station manager wanted us to and said he would promise to give us back our money: he said Rochester would be number one on Huntley-Brinkley and he sorely regretted giving us the preemption.

At 5 p.m. Viehman went into makeup himself, deciding to do what he was fully competent of doing: running the show himself which would have a mandatory audience throughout the snowbound 1st district. As a top performer (with a hidden, as yet un-confessed aspiration to run for office later) he was thrilled at the opportunity: not thrilled that Quie couldn’t be with him because his super-boss, mega-multimillionaire Dan Gainey was the type to hold his top sales employee responsible if Quie didn’t get elected, but thrilled that he, Viehman, would be able to make the case for Quie to the district with news of the telecast done heroically in a snowstorm communicated to the entire state. I personally thought Viehman alone on TV was a good idea: possibly better than with Quie. It was like having, putting it in reasonably modern terms, having Rush Limbaugh sell your candidate’s wares without the candidate: certainly the second-best option to the candidate…but considering the candidate had never been on TV before and by now had no chance to rehearse on a teleprompter, definitely the best option.

Viehman was seated at the desk on a lighted stage minutes before the countdown reading the script to himself, inwardly exultant that he would have the half-hour to himself, professionally making all the mental notes how to adapt the teleprompter script done in Q and A fashion to his own patter, honed after twenty years of radio and TV. The television studio crew, thrilled to see a real professional at work, snapped to, straining to see how he would take the script written for two and improvise. The regular announcers watched him and worked with him at the editing in order to get tips. It was to be the stunning Ed Viehman show, live and brilliantly orchestrated by Minnesota’s best announcer and showman. But alas. Reputations were shattered that night.

One and one half minutes before airtime, the studio rear door opened emitting a blast of snow so strong that two men raced over to force the door closed—but not before two tottering abominable snowmen stumbled in, ice and slush from head to toe. We literally couldn’t identify them at first. Initially, I thought the storm had blown open the door and the two mounds of snow that tumbled in had piled up next to the door. No, as it quickly developed as the studio janitors with brooms beat the snow away, the two mounds were Quie and Lindroos.

Both men slowly appeared to be recognizable as thick sheets of ice were pulled from their noses and mouths. They looked like Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd as pictured in our high school geography books after he waved stiffly to a camera having reached the South Pole. Their car had twice run off the road and both men like Hercules rocked it to and fro to push it back to the highway. Viehman, all set to go on, groaned. Quie was clearly becoming recognizable as studio men unwrapped unwrapped him as one would pull off the layers from a frozen-stiff onion…while Lindroos stumbled into an anteroom where the station manager found him some whiskey. He wasn’t as strong as Quie who, it seemed, with help from passing farmers twice pulled the car back on the highway. Lindroos hobbled to a couch in the rear of the studio and immediately fell asleep.

Removed of his overcoat, Quie, crimson-faced, blowing on his clenched fists to unlimber his fingers from stiffness, bounded, all six feet two of him with melting ice running down his face from his frozen crew-cut, to the table across from Viehman as the floor manager intoned, “We going live, gentlemen. Five-four-three-two…” For once in his professional life, Viehman was petrified since he was on a TV set with a wild, un-caged animal who had not the faintest understanding of the script and had utterly no stage presence or experience in improvisation. Viehman grinned in bogus joviality, signaled Quie to look at the teleprompter, told him to wait for the studio announcement, then watch the teleprompter which would move upward like a piano roller. Both waited.

The booth announcer said, “The regular program, Huntley-Brinkley and the NBC News has been preempted by the Quie for Congress Committee. Here is the Quie for Congress Campaign Chairman, Ed Viehman!” Then the floor director threw the signal that they were on live.

Before Viehman could begin, Quie, having been blinded by the snow glare all day was looking at the rising piano-roll-like script in huge letters for the very first time with narrowed, uncomprehending eyes shouted “Good evening!” in a voice that had been attuned to shouting to helpers over the storm. The sound man sprang up holding his ears as the booming voice exploded in his earphones. “Tonight…” Quie said, his head jerking down to upward as he inexpertly read the rising words on the piano roll of the teleprompter, “tonight you are to meet Al Quie!” Realizing he had just read Viehman’s introductory line, sank in his chair, momentarily defeated.

“Yes,” said Viehman recovering smoothly but interiorly ready to kill our candidate. “Tonight we are to meet you, Al Quie the Republican nominee for Congress in the 1st district” and he rolled on dispassionately while Quie’s eyes were rooted to the rising piano roll, moving his lips silently as he silently read to himself Viehman’s lines. So there were two talking heads, one actually pronouncing the words and the other moving his lips silently in perfect time, jerking his head from down to up as he read, in order to catch the words quickly as they rose on the piano roller of the telepromper, occasionally wiping his nose which had started to run in sudden reaction to the warmth after having endured hours of cold, squinting at the teleprompter as his head jerked up and down spasmodically. Viehman initially hadn’t noticed the compulsive head-jerking, but quickly did. Watching it, I thought it could be an ideal screen-test for an uproarious comedy on how a television show could be destroyed…ideal for Abbott and Costello who were then thriving.

“Tell you what…” Viehman said, poking Quie whose eyes were mesmerized by the piano-roller script, “let’s just talk, okay, Al?” and with the other hand tried to signal the teleprompter operator to cease—but the operator didn’t understand and kept the piano roll moving upward. The action mesmerized Quie, still reading to himself and not evidently hearing Viehman.

By this time they were taking me out in the rear of the studio as I was collapsing with mixed hysterics and near-sobs. Then Viehman almost grabbed his chin, turning Quie’s face to his and roared:


At the end of the telecast, the crew didn’t know what to do so it watched in a silent stupor. Viehman’s reputation as the best, most unruffled, announcer in Twin Cities history evaporated among the crew which shuffled embarrassedly away. There had never, ever been a television show like it—in Rochester or anywhere else since the medium had been invented. After it concluded, Viehman and Quie went into a private conference. As they conferred, the phone calls started coming in. One old lady said, “What is wrong with that young man who is running for Congress? Has he had a stroke?” After answering a few, I decided to go back to the hotel and caught a ride with a snow-plow operator in the cab of his heavy machine as he shoved the mounds of snow aside.

“So how did the Quie show go?” the driver shouted over the noise. “Sorry I couldn’t watch it!”

That’s okay, I said, thinking of the reaction of the national press, holed in at the Kahler which was watching the show since there was nothing else to do. I prayed they wouldn’t be in the bar. And they weren’t.

It turned out the bar was all but empty, the media having gathered for sandwiches, drinks and TV viewing in a hotel suite courtesy of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. A few salesmen were in the bar and also, sitting alone, Congressman Eugene McCarthy, dark-haired, age 42, who was nursing a nightcap after addressing a Foley rally at the hotel. I joined him and became wary because his greeting to me was so effusive.

“I think,” he said to the bartender in a voice distinct enough for me and others to overhear, “the Republicans ought to be saluted for running a victim of cerebral palsy for Congress at this serious time in our nation’s history and for having the originality of putting him on live television, don’t you?”

The bartender, very impressed to be asked a question by a member of Congress agreed but was startled. His eyes widened. “Huh? Cerebral palsy? Quie? I didn’t know that Quie had cerebral palsy!”

“The sight of Quie,” drolled McCarthy with the seriousness of a theologian, “his head jerking up and down”—and here he imitated it perfectly—“gave us a newfound admiration for the Republicans’ decision to nominate him despite this lamentable condition.”

“Gee,” said the bartender. “Cerebral palsy, huh?”

His eyes twinkling at me, the Congressman arose, paid for his drink and mine and prepared to leave saying, “I imagine you’ll want to be alone anyhow.” After I straightened out the bartender that this was McCarthy’s weird brand of humor, I wasn’t alone very long. Viehman came in, ordered more, much more for us, and we sat together. When the bartender came back with our fresh drinks, he said, now excited to be serving ex-radio star Ed Viehman: “So Quie doesn’t have cerebral palsy?” Viehman eyed him with hostility. I collapsed in hysterics one more time. Viehman quickly pieced the scenario together, having just seen McCarthy exit, figuring that calumny was McCarthy’s.

“We just did a screen test to give him a part in a new film that’s coming out—a sequel--called `Around the Block in 80 Days with the Cerebral Palsy Marching Band.” “Around the World in 80 Days” had been an award winner in 1956.

The bartender frowned and said, “You know, I don’t understand anything you guys have been saying tonight. McCarthy comes in here, has a drink and tells me Quie has cerebral palsy. One of you said it’s not true and when the next guy comes in says Quie’s done a promo for a new movie. I figure all of you have been pulling my leg. Anyhow, it doesn’t matter to me `cause I’m voting for Foley. With that said, gentlemen, the house is now buying until we close at 1 a.m.”

As we drank, I speculated that possibly very few watched the show what with the need to shovel their walks and all. Viehman would not be assuaged. “My boss, Dan Gainey watched,” he said mournfully. “I told him to.” He was thinking about the industrialist’s irascible temper which made for a long, long evening.

And the election would be held in just 10 days.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Personal Asides: Why Do So Many Jews Vote Democratic?...


Why Do So Many Catholics Shun Bush Who Agrees with the Church on Social Issues?


“Your Catholic church has the same problem Judaism has,” Ariel Sharon told me more than a decade and a half ago after he spoke at a synagogue in Skokie as a leader in political exile (and who later addressed a luncheon at the Sun-Times). “People who are little- or non-observant tend to embrace secularism as a substitute religion—and secularism demands no sacrifice.”

Neatly said. Compact. And today the fact remains that a heavy preponderance of Jews disdain to vote for Republicans despite the fact that George W. Bush, key GOP leaders in Congress and Ronald Reagan all support or have supported Israel’s foreign-defense policy with few reservations. Why is that so? Because, clearly, liberalism—not just secularism—is for America’s establishment its civil religion. And liberalism now (not originally) demands no sacrifice.

Not that this Blog is in literal agreement with the draconian formulae of evangelical Christians who, applying the words of the Apostle John, have us all on the plain of Jezreel in northern Palestine arrayed in what Revelation 16:16 calls Armageddon. Revelation 15-16 describe seven angels who pour out seven bowls of the wrath of God upon the earth. The sixth angel pours out his bowl on the Euphrates, causing its waters to dry up, preparing the way for the Kings of the East.

At the same time, three demonic spirits go forth to prompt the kings of the whole world…the whole world…together for a battle of the great day of God the Almighty which takes place at Armageddon, generally thought to be the town of Megiddo, located between the western coastal area and the Plain of Jazreel. Like most of Revelation, the passage is difficult to interpret (I’ve pondered it since young manhood). While literalists see it as a violent war of wars, a figurative interpretation argues that John is symbolically portraying the ultimate worldwide clash between sinful mankind and the forces of Christianity.

That’s how this Blog sees it, cognizant that Armageddon has placed a role in U. S. history, particularly in Chicago where in 1912 Teddy Roosevelt, accepting the Progressive party nomination for president, shouted: “We march to Armageddon and battle for the Lord!” He was referring to opposing both the conservative Republicans of William Howard Taft and the Democrats of Woodrow Wilson. (In that tangle, by TR’s standard, the bad guys won and Wilson was elected).

Rather, many Christians believe in the historic and spiritual destiny of Israel—and realists understand that Israel is the only democratic country of the Mideast, beset with forces on all sides that wish either its destruction or dissolution. It is fitting that the U. S. under Harry Truman co-sponsored the formation of the doughty little country. And for historic and religiously significant reasons (if not literally because of Revelation) believing Christians are prone to support it. Especially now when the Muslims have produced terrorists who are willing to die and kill others in the process including our own country.

Only the paleos and far-left, aligned mysteriously after so many years, see Israel as the great fomenter of problems for us. But secularists, those who are lukewarm, either believers in God or agnostics, tend to accept as their substitute religion, as Sharon said, the dogma of the mainstream media: for charity and love they substitute civil rights protection backed by law and equal treatment for gays. For foreign policy they will accommodate any challenge because to them the worst sentence that can be levied is death—death of themselves and their families since there is either no hereafter or the slight possibility of a God that is just due to evident injustices that befall many people on earth. Paleos (and I know them well) believe truly in God but feel, whether they choose to admit it or not, that Jews are the great fomenters of trouble and that they have been persecuted for reasons that generally, not always, lie with their own derelictions: either materialistically or residually as those who killed Christ.

To them our foreign-defense has been guided by a strategic coterie of Jews or Jewish supporters who have infiltrated both parties—mainly Republicans. Paleos truly are a misguided and often hatefully self-disguised people. Leftists rarely believe in God, have no religion, spurn it and see as their salvation the up-building of the perfect kingdom on earth, to whose dimensions the U. S. is woefully short: aggressive, imperialistic and swayed by Jews who favor the persecution of the innocent Palestinians. The warlike adherent of the religion of Islam is of no concern to them since they view all religion as folly anyhow. That takes care of the paleos and the leftists.

A great middle includes those of nominal religious belief but who are not observant and who have either covertly or officially substituted liberalism as their civil religion: civil rights laws, tolerance toward all practices notwithstanding their societal effect since there is no certainty, anger at those who believe in absolutes, those who believe the U. S. is, in fact, the culmination of John Winthrop’s City on a Hill that Reagan cited. No group better fits this designation than the owners and operators of The New York Times, which is the Sulzberger family, officially of Jewish adherence but who are “citizens of the world,” priding themselves on their broadmindedness, their ability to stand apart and survey foreign policy rationally, objectively: with no U. S. chauvinism, no Jewish chauvinism, no Christian chauvinism—just the ever swaying doctrines of civil religion.

They are a product of affluence, largely. And they will not change until and unless they feel the sting of either persecution or poverty or penalties or such severe challenge that they feel their survival is at stake. Then they will shuck their liberalism as civil religion and join those of us who believe in eternal verities. The Jewish Bible and New Testament are filled with examples of people who forswore old covenants and returned as penitents. Let’s hope realization will come to these adherents of liberalism as civil religion before horrific occurrences.


Catholics are different, a group of whom this Blog can speak with personal knowledge. Most U. S. Catholics seem to accept the beliefs of the Church on a cafeteria basis, thanks to the willing acquiescence of liberal theologians, some liberal bishops, some liberal priests. This collection generally are over-aged, having been influenced in the Sixties. You can list them randomly as Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Fr. Andrew Greeley of Chicago, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who just retired as archbishop of Washington, D. C., a flock of lesser bishops and auxiliaries—all of liberal political and theologically acccommodationist persuasion.

They reflected their leader, el supremo, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. He was not just their lodestar but as one who had the best touch with the secular media along with the most influence in Rome was the most important prelate since Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York in the 1940s. Gifted with inherent Italianate skills of nuance, diplomacy, flattery and the iron fist in the velvet glove, Bernardin knew how to gain and wield clout. His rise in the American church was greased via his early role as a young priest as chief staffer of what was merely regarded as an impotent trade organization of bishops. This group he galvanized into a political force: the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Before the NCCB became powerful, U. S. bishops were on their own running their dioceses. Bernardin devised a rulebook and research with a large staff that molded institutional liberalism.

In his role, Bernardin applied the high arts of his colleague in ethnicity and temperament, Niccolo Machiavelli. He used the job in three ways. First, to gain familiarity with the lower level but important and on-the-rise monsignori in Rome. He had an ample travel budget and he winged often to Rome to sip wine and schmooze with them; to them he passed along advice on who were up-and-comers in the U. S. Second, in the U. S. he told his clerical constituents who were busily running their dioceses, that “Rome wants this, Rome wants that.” Third he duplicated the process in Rome saying that the mood of the U.S. was this and that. What “Rome wanted” and “the U.S. mood required” conformed exactly to the liberal ideology Bernardin held. He ruled supreme since Rome didn’t check much with anyone else but Bernardin and the U.S. bishops didn’t check often with Rome but relied on him.

Bernardin’s ideology had little theological relevance because unlike almost all of his fellows, he was reared in public, not parochial schools, and espoused the civil religion of liberalism without many absolutes except those that were pragmatically needed for him to carry out his work. This view tailored neatly with the prevailing civil religion of the U.S. media: no rough edges in foreign policy and accommodation to the Soviets in pressing for nuclear freeze…no rough edges in U. S. domestic policy where the “U.S. bishops” signed off on Bernardin’s ideas for a bigger welfare state, support for higher minimum wages, environment protection, affirmative action in race, enhanced regulations over business: a miniature of the national Democratic platforms. The media rated him as a strong “comer.”

Thus to the media in the U. S. he was a “progressive who lobbied against useless ancient traditions in Rome” and in Rome he was a “faithful translator of progressive attitudes in the U.S.” Neither side caught on until later. It was a brilliant strategy which could have been authored by Machiavelli. Rome developed such confidence in him that it counted on him, as NCCB executive director, to pass on unofficial but highly influential recommendations for new bishops. The new bishops were, in turn, indebted to him and recommended him highly to Rome for advancement. To both groups, Rome and the U.S. bishops, he became indispensable.

When it came time for him to move on from his staff position, he rounded up enough support here and in Rome to get himself appointed archbishop of Cincinnati. On the death of Cardinal John Cody of Chicago, the media touted he was the logical successor which he became, a post which guaranteed him the red hat. There were serious secular media stories that he might be considered for the papacy, although by then his stratagem had been deduced by Roman traditionalists. Anyhow, cancer struck him down and soon he was gone.

But before that, he befriended liberal priests in this archdiocese, favored them, rewarded them and ignored the ones who followed the old authenticist tradition. The media loved him as he became the living archangel of negotiated peace with the USSR, of enhanced civil rights, higher wages, pressure on corporations for more benefits. He gave lip-service to anti-abortionism but having tied that issue to two others in what he called “the seamless garment”—nuclear freeze and anti-capital punishment—he had guaranteed that Democratic candidates for office would score two out of three “pro-life” stands and Ronald Reagan only one.

He even had a stunning program for Jews. Taking a number of rabbis and key media people to Jerusalem, he made a speech that declared John the Apostle as either an anti-Semite (improbable since John was a Jew himself) or victim of bad biblical translation in his gospel where Christ argues with a subset of Jews. Not bad for one liberal life’s work. His theology was improvised, unlettered, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants but played well in Peoria and many places elsewhere: particularly with U. S. liberaldom. To say his theology, what there was of it, was secular is not to exaggerate. The last person who talked to him on his death bed and who was with him to the end was none other than Eppie Lederer known to the world as Ann Landers, the advice matron who had severely ridiculed John Paul II for his pro-life theology. And there is no gainsaying that for a time Chicago Catholics were stunned when, at Bernardin’s request, his funeral Mass was sung by an ad hoc group known as the “Gay Men’s Chorus.”

The Bernardin civil religiosity in place of theology is alive and well in Chicago where priests in place have given a rough time of it to Bernardin’s successor, Cardinal Francis George who unlike his predecessor is a gifted theologian and philosopher with doctorates in both and is a shining exemplar of orthodoxy. And the people Bernardin appointed in his youth still reign in many dioceses of the country and have graduated in some cases to the cardinalate. Slowly under the teaching instruction of the late John Paul II and now Benedict XVI, the theological sense of orthodoxy is coming back. But much remains to be done. Cardinal McCarrick, while retired, still thrives and has led the fight against penalizing Democratic Catholic politicians who thumb their noses at Church dogma.

Other bishops are less skillful but not less liberal. Faulty and irresponsible teaching from the bishopric in many dioceses have conditioned American Catholics to a cafeteria concept that thinks warmly of all Catholic politicians, especially those with acceptable Irish names (Kennedy, Kerry, Daley et al) so these dissenters have—with the exception of Kerry—had little to fear from aroused Catholic constituents at the ballot box. But Kerry’s failure to win a majority of his fellow churchmen has sounded an alarm—an alarm which the Democratic party, wedded to the civil religion of liberalism, hears but cannot heed. The Democratic party seemingly cannot shuck its social liberalism until its strongly nominal Catholic component realizes that to embrace the party of abortion and gay rights is anathema to the Church and all Judeo Christianity to the point where dissenters may be barred from receiving the Eucharist which to Catholics is essential for the inculcation of sanctifying grace without which they cannot be saved.

Flashback: Campaign Manager Viehman Picks Up Faltering Quie Campaign… National Media Focus on 1st District…DFLers Humphrey, McCarthy, Freeman, Rolvaag, Eugenie Anderson Go Town to Town

[More reminiscences from 50 years in politics for my kids and grandchildren]

As previously cited, with Ezra Taft Benson, the agriculture secretary, having cut dairy price props to the bone the preceding Christmas Eve spurring a national farm outcry, the mid-winter special election in Minnesota’s highly dairy 1st district continued to win top honors in 1958 as the test market of farm and small town sentiment for the November congressional and the 1960 presidential election. People in Rochester, the biggest town in the district, turned blasé as they bumped into David Brinkley (of NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley), Dave Broder, Nancy Dickerson (the only female political TV reporter), Teddy White (doing a warm-up for his “Making of the President: 1960”) as well as Harry Reasoner (then a Minneapolis local TV reporter), Bill Lawrence (ABC-TV) and Sander Vanoecur of CBS. All camped at the Kahler hotel along with our Quie campaign staff (me, Lindy Lindroos, Herb Johnson, the GOP’s state executive director). The new Quie campaign manager, former radio celebrity Ed Viehman, stayed at home in nearby Owatonna, driving in as a commuter each morning.

I was 28 and the only bachelor, Lindroos 26 with Johnson the old man among us, 54. Viehman, at 36, was a dark-haired, gregarious, occasionally bombastic and outrageous, occasionally breaking out in song in his campaign office, puffing a cigar and acting, well, there’s only one person who resembles him, something I’ve thought of many times: Rush Limbaugh. (An aside: To the uninitiated, Rush Limbaugh is a tough act to take on the radio if you don’t know that his supposed self-praise and extravagant claims for his own sagacity is a deliberate put-on. Rush will say he possesses “talent on loan from God,” that he is “having more fun than a man should be allowed to have” as a fast-talking conservative prognosticator, declaring that every word that emits from his silver-tongued mouth is the truth and that there is not a duplicitous bone “in any inch of my glorious, naked body.”

( Continued aside: To someone of moderate political inclination, the Limbaugh put-on is a definite put-off unless you have listened long enough to realize it is unashamedly invented. Don’t get me wrong: assuredly Limbaugh is an egotist but not in the way he fulminates outwardly which he milks for laughs. Yet he has a right to some egotism. For most conservatives he is a morning and early afternoon booster shot of energy after a séance with mainline media that continually predicts conservative disaster which has made him a mega-multimillionaire with a net worth conservatively—very conservatively—estimated at $250 million. Two years ago I met him for the first time when I with all other WLS talk show hosts were on stage at the Chicago theatre. I had told myself: perhaps you’re wrong and in person he doesn’t resemble Ed Viehman. But backstage as he clapped our backs and revved us up for the performance he was—irony aside—a dead-ringer in actions and mannerisms of Viehman, a man who today would be 84 and easily could have been father to Limbaugh.

(Further aside: The other day Howard Fineman, regarded as an astute analyst for Newsweek in the space of one interview with Chris Matthews, Tip O’Neill’s ex-publicist who is on MNBC, declared that Bush’s memory will be linked forever with defeat in Iraq, mistakes in Afghanistan, callousness to human need on stem cell, wastrel budgeting, an economy whose boom is not from his doing plus. Yes plus: Bush’s own body movements betray a man haunted by his own failures. Fineman said everything was going wrong except Laura Bush hadn’t skipped out to a motel with Karl Rove…and he was just about getting down to that when I turned him off. Limbaugh parodied him the next day in a remarkable satire that made me laugh so hard I almost drove off the road.

(Almost concluded aside: Limbaugh is the great antidote to the deep-barreled media voices of doom, the antithesis for, and indispensable to, those who can likely be caught up into a wave of defeatism by what he has termed the “drive-by media”—media which, like drive-by shootings on Chicago’s South and West Sides, spray a hail of bullets, demolishing all hope and then flee. In the 1950s with no recourse to the Big Three , NBC, CBS, ABC, their pessimism threatened to dishearten even a warrior like me. The nearest person I have ever heard and the heartiest, best-schooled, smartest, best-researched man—indeed one who could have easily have been the major national predecessor to Limbaugh —was ex-radio star Viehman--may he live forever in the eternity he so passionately believed in.

(Concluded aside: Why did he quit radio? Because in that era of before the FCC repealed `equal time’ there was no opportunity for a program to air opinions, hence no talk shows and no opportunities for any. The only alternative for an activist was to run for office. And I think it’s clear that Ed left radio for southern Minnesota and a lucrative job in order to position himself to run for the U. S. Senate—a dream that, because of his tragic death, could not come true. Had he lived, as a vibrant campaigner, phrase-maker and fellow Catholic to Gene McCarthy, he would certainly have been nominated as challenger to the somber, introspective McCarthy in 1964 when Viehman would have been only 41. But, then again, that being the Goldwater year, McCarthy would probably have defeated him; but as with the tradition of so many, Bill Proxmire and others, Ed could well have made a second run for public office and won.)


Those were the days when private public opinion polls were very few. We relied on the liberal Minneapolis Tribune’s which came out only twice during the campaign and on one produced by NorthStar polling, a covert polling adjunct of General Mills and 3M. NorthStar showed that while 1st district Minnesotans were learning how to pronounce the name Quie (“kwee,” as in “It’s kwee for Me: a Family Farmer”) relatively few had any sense of who he was, just a state senator from Rice county. Accordingly, Viehman rolled the dice and did what it those halcyon days a campaign could do: he preempted the top-rated Huntley-Brinkley NBC News Tonight show on KROC-TV Rochester, which beamed to the whole district and decided to supplant it with one-half hour of personal interview between Quie and a well-informed reporter. In those early days of television, Quie had never been on live TV for any sustained period so he needed a well-informed reporter. The well-informed reporter would be, you guessed it, Viehman himself: a better choice that all agreed could not have been made.

But he and I had a terrible fight over the preemption. I thought it was a disastrous thing to preempt such a popular TV news show (in those days it was only one TV news show of three in the nation) for a political telecast. He told me (a) I knew nothing of communications and (b) basis my stupidity in questioning his judgment as the greatest state communicator in modern times, obviously I was a near-retardate who not only knew nothing but was incapable of learning anything. These gigantic exaggerations made him lovable but I still fought until the closing bell when I lost. And I would have lost the final strategic round as well had the show not proved to be such a disaster that we prayed no one had seen it. But that wasn’t Viehman’s fault but due to an Act of God.

When the newspapers carried the news that “Huntley-Brinkley” would be preempted by the Quie committee, there was an immediate outcry in the 1st but Viehman was prepared for this. He said the outcry was from the yokels and that the show would be so dynamic as to electrify the district’s majority Republican base. I was dubious but was told to shut up and write the Q and A script for the show which I did. I then had it put on a teleprompter, then an archaic instrument that ran the script in HUGE letters down a narrow column which made one no initiated with TV to bob his head to catch the letters as they were coming up to eye-level. Viehman privately ran through the script twice on the teleprompter, performing smoothly. Then he ordered that Quie cancel all his appearances earlier that day, come to the studio and as a novice, rehearse the script with him as the tutor over and over until it ran smoothly. I really agreed with the need to practice with Quie. (For those moderns who ask why we didn’t tape it the answer is simple: it was before the era of video tape; only dull, smudgy film. To make an impression, the show would have to be telecast live.)

But like all candidates, Quie hated to give up even one carefully scheduled series of coffees in the far reaches of the district. Thereupon he and I had a fight, where I, exasperated by having lost a fight to Viehman was now likely to lose another with the candidate who didn’t particularly care for the Huntley-Brinkley preemption either. I asked him: what in the world is the matter with your head—refusing to give up coffees of 30 or 40 people in Nerstrand, Minnesota and another 40 in Red Wing for a chance to address many thousands on live TV? He finally agreed, with one proviso. He would have to keep the coffee with a handful of people in Nerstrand, his all but actual home-town because his Lutheran minister’s wife was hosting it and he couldn’t bear to face her and ask for a cancellation. This is symptomatic of the first-time candidate, equating a tiny audience with a potentially huge one, a view which has killed many able men, some more able than Quie who was a very good candidate. Humphrey would have scrubbed a meeting with his own aged mother for a chance to get rested up for live TV.

Very reluctantly Viehman and I allowed him to do it: a mistake on both our parts. Nerstrand was about 50 miles away from Rochester and he could easily return in an hour. The coffee was mid-morning which meant that Quie could be in the studio at no later than Noon, grab a sandwich and put in five hours’ practice with Viehman and the teleprompter before the show would go on live at 6 p.m. Lindroos my fellow staffer would drive him so all he had to do was to relax on the way back and get in a mood to be good on live TV. But, I tell you, God intervened in an exasperating way.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Personal Asides: The Bells of St. John Cantius…The Wrecking of An Historic Chapel



It is one thing to be the Democratic newspaper of record which the Sun-Times indubitably is…and to allow its version of the late George Tagge, Lynn Sweet, to do commentary that fits snugly with the Democratic party’s objectives (laudable)…but it is another to spur its food editor to write Hispanic-flavored politics and Op Eds, with the same predictably liberal bent. Nothing wrong and everything right for a paper that is uniformly interpretative of the news (as this Blog has repeated dozens of times) to pitch a unified view throughout. But the food editor? Does she know whereof she speaks? What qualifies one Sue Ontiveros to take positions on foreign policy and other things except, of course, on Hispanic matters? After all, she’s an Hispanic woman which means in the hyper-sensitive attention the paper gives special categories (minorities, gays, disabled, the chronically left-handed) grants her a special platform to expound on subjects different from describing how to prepare flank steak so that it is tender. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t paying her enough so she has to represent Hispanics on issues of moment in her off hours away from the stove. But now she has become an oracle on the need of tradition to accommodate gentrified neighborhoods.

Ms. Ontiveros does not write a column that costs much intellectual exertion. Her topic yesterday was the St. John Cantius bells and why they should be silenced at certain times to accommodate a changed neighborhood. It is plain that she is not a traditionalist nor one with a particular affinity for Old World tradition. After 108 years, a church that served principally Polish congregates rang its bells from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. has been ordered to silence them at 9 p.m. to accommodate the upper classes which have condos in the now swiftly economically improving sector. These are people largely, it could be estimated, without either a feeling for church disturbing their sleep or an interest in tradition. Ms. Ontiveros agrees with them. But why is Ms. Ontiveros writing about this? Because those who are disturbed about religious significance penetrating their secular society are disturbed, certainly—thus it is just one more bleat in the uniform orchestration of liberaldom for which her newspaper is so passionately solicitous.

And the same orchestration of the deep-dyed blue newspaper may well have led to the selection of a letter on the same topic—denouncing the bells—from a powerful liberal resident of the neighborhood, one Jonathan Daniel Edelman, scion of the powerful Daniel Edelman who has been the towering figure of political influence in the Democratic party for many years. Reading Jonathan Daniel Edelman’s assault on the church makes clear that he is not only a non-parishioner (which we may have easily assumed anyhow) but that he resents any intrusion of more enduring values than are concerned with developers’ needs and allied commercial expansion. In his letter Edelman is vexed with the fight that the church put up against him and his lawyers who serve his will.

This Blog does not understand Ms. Ontiveros’ motivations other than the laudable one: she wants to keep her job with the Democratic newspaper. But Jonathan Daniel Edelman we can understand. He has a business interest that he may feel is jeopardized if residents are made uncomfortable and spurred to De Profundis by the ringing of the same bells that called immigrants to prayer of more transcendent issues than the making of money. In any event, the Sun-Times has weighed in on what it considers important—just as the slowly improving Tribune in taking Cantius’ side has done more eloquently than its tabloid competitor (to which the presidential-prompted beatification of Barack Obama represents its deepest view on spirituality).


This Blog has written somewhat disparagingly about the Vincentian Order of Catholic priests which has run DePaul University into the ground by sponsoring a minor in Queer Studies and shucking crucifixes from the schoolroom walls so that non-Christians will not be embarrassed by representations of the Christ a billion of the world’s population believes gave His life that redemption should come to all. If the Vincentians, who carry the imprimatur of St. Vincent DePaul don’t want to see people embarrassed by Christ’s sacrifice, that’s their call: just don’t continue mislabeling their near-brothel of dorm decadence and academic sacrilege America’s largest Catholic university. But now there is another nadir of bad taste scooped up from the muck of disrespect by the Order.

As architecture expert and key businessman John Powers, a friend of this Blog, points out that Barat College in Lake Forest, a marvelous old educational institution owned by DePaul didn’t evidently make the requisite profit for its cost accounting clerical leaders so it was sold to the highest bidder to a real estate developer. That Vincent DePaul, founder of the order that bears his name and the Sisters of Charity, established a society that renounced all materialistic gain and be entirely devoted to the poor, would be disgraced by the big businessmen and Democratic party Irish hacks who serve on the board which carries his name is evident.

Not content with failing to put Barat to good use, the Order is sidling up to the most crass evidences of the developer trade by trying to make a quick buck by bowing to the autocratic whim of the developer who has ordained that the ornate and beautiful Chapel of the Convent of the Sacred Heart which is part of Barat must go for him to satisfy the latest whim of his despicably bad taste. John Powers who published an outstanding book showing beautiful churches asks: “Is simony a good enough reason to destroy the sacred architecture?”

A meeting of the Lake Forest city council two days ago was inconclusive but evidently holds out some hope. John has promised to send this Blog photos of the church which we will be happy to post. Godspeed, John and to the Vincentians who has forgotten their mission here and elsewhere: Good God, gentlemen: have you no soul whatsoever?”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Personal Asides: The Penalty Against Big Box…The Publisher’s Wife…Marin’s Nonsensical Support of the Artificial Minimum Wage…The Answer to the Trivia Question which Nobody Got.

Mayor New York Jimmy Walker 1927

The Penalty.

The higher minimum wage levied as a punishment to Wal-Mart and other big stores can only be seen as an unconscionably reactionary act…one which had the support of the penny-ante careerists in the City Council. Their eyes have a common optical property: they can see their own aggrandizement and have no interest whatever in the real poor who will be deprived—just their own fat wallets. For once this Blog feels sorry for Mayor Daley who knows the penalties that will be exacted on his city. Organized labor which has taken over political campaigns and funding has become the giant boss in the city and is running a machine that becomes the new 12-cylinder, air-cooled, four-wheel brake model. The two papers did all they could do but there is no stopping a special interest when it seizes power or weak-character councilmen who smell the meat a-cookin’.

Publisher’s Wife.

Jennifer Hunter who does a column under that name but who is the wife of the Sun-Times publisher John Cruikshank, talks a good game about being an ex-magazine editor but still gets her clout at the paper the old-fashioned way by being married to the boss. Anyhow, she wrote yesterday that she wonders how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can be a Republican when she is (a) smart, (b) a child of the South where blacks were discriminated against. That is only the latest vacuous contribution the ultra-feminist pro-abort has made to intellectual discussion. Rather than answer it, one has to examine the blatant arrogance of the column which says she cannot understand how somebody as smart as Rice is not just like Jennifer Hunter and a passionate Democrat. It ranks right up there with some other egregiously liberal but undocumented and prejudicial contributions to the newspaper her husband runs as the Democratic newspaper of record. Baldly it asks: what right has Rice not to agree with me? Blacks are supposed to be liberal and Democratic. How dare she be different from my preconception of African Americans!

Being so partisan a Democrat fits the wife of the publisher of the Sun-Times. And running a Democratic newspaper of record is o.k., in fact salutary to a newspaper that purports to be “objective” when it is not, ever so slyly as long as the news is thoroughly interpretative and the editorials, columns and Op Eds crisp and challenging. But commentaries like Hunter’s should contain a grain of rationality. Ignorant, a giveaway of mal-education, it ranks with the immortal statement made by New York state Democratic chairman Paul Fitzpatrick who said in 1950 that Dwight Eisenhower had to be a Democrat because “a man of his convictions cannot be a Republican.” We all know how that one came out. Eisenhower became one of the most effective Republican presidents of the 20th century. Rice is not going to run for president but she is a Republican, is the most stunning symbol of the new age of independence for African Americans where they are not chattel of a single party. She will be regarded as one of the more intelligent and dexterous secretaries of state in history. And she got there the old-fashioned way, through ambition and intellect, Ms. Hunter.


This Blog sees less and less value in the kind of personal perpendicular pronoun “I-I-I” commentary that Carol Marin does in the Sun-Times. It believes it will shortly take the vow of not commenting about her as she comes from the intellectual level where there is no analysis served up but conformity to liberal ideology is the highest of goods. What she has to say is simply what any slightly trained pro-Marxist circa 1917 would bleat so it is entirely without merit. Let this Blog make a vow not to mention her or her wafer-thin columns again. If it violates that trust, you are empowered to write and hurl down the imprecations of Zeus.

Trivia Answer.

Everybody tried real hard, particularly Frank Nofsinger out there in Connecticut. And he came pretty close: Al Smith or Fiorello LaGuardia. Very close, Frank—but not quite. The answer is that the speaker at the ship christening was the former song-and-dance man turned New York Mayor, Jimmy Walker, the predecessor to LaGuardia…the man who popularized the song “Will You Love Me in December as You Do in May?” Not exactly a big number now, understand. Thanks for trying. I’ll serve up an easier one soon.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Personal Asides:

Tony Peraica 3
Jesse Taylor Wins the Trivia Contest…Tribune is Really Starting to Reclaim the Old Bite on Big Box…Tony Peraica and Russ Stewart on “Shootout Sunday”…Censure Durbin Signatures Hit 1,000…Gen. Schwartzkopf’s Views on Forgiveness…Oh-oh, We May Have Spoken Too Soon About the Trib…And Another Trivia.


Jesse Taylor, one of several twice-weekly dinner and Saturday afternoon lunch partners who get together with me from Haymarket Center, has won the big Trivia Contest which no one else has even tried to decipher. The erudite Taylor supplied the correct answer to the puzzle which I will re-state thusly:

Comedian Joe Frisco, a man afflicted with a terrible stutter who used it as a standup comic to make a good living in Hollywood in the `30s, was also addicted to playing the ponies. One day Bing Crosby was at the San Anita track when Frisco lumbered up and said, “B-b-b-bing, you gotta twenty?” Crosby peeled off a twenty from his wallet. Frisco said, “N-n-never forget this, B-b-bing. If I w-w-w-win I’ll repay you.” Frisco plunks down the $20 on a 10 to 1 long shot and it comes home paying him a lot of cash. He goes up to the stands and finds Crosby conferring with a number of Kraft Food execs with whom he has just signed a renewal contract for the top-rated Kraft Music Hall Starring Bing Crosby.

Frisco comes over, tosses the twenty in Crosby’s lap. As everybody looks up, he says: “Here k-k-k-kid, sing us `Melancholy Baby.”


I’m delighted to say that yesterday’s Tribune on the subject of Big Box—whether Wal-Mart and other big stores should be forced to raise the minimum wage—was generally—not in all points—a delight, a glimpse of a return to the old era of the old hair-on-the-chest editorial and news bite. The front page headline which lampooned the city council for regulating Chicagoans but not saying no on its salary hikes was superb and was the editorial against the ridiculous Big Box special minimum wage.

Eric Zorn did his expected thumb-sucking rationale. He bobs right, feints with a left and then with a deep frown veers left letting us think he’s made a reasoned decision. He served cooked up with statistics from liberal sources, only one of which he freely acknowledged was liberal to make the following rationale. He says the hiked minimum wage will have no effect on the economy and part of his citation was the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development which reflects the views of liberal Democratic governor Jim Doyle, a union darling, there. Another source is, guess what: “economists at the University of California-Berkeley. Yet another, one whose slant he disclosed is the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

The sources there said that “living wage” in Santa Fe did not deter private sector employment growth in that town that outpaced the average of New Mexico. There is no direct correlation in the statistics about what happens if a Big Box leaves or if and when a Big Box leaves as result of an ordinance like that what happens to the poor. But Zorn thinks they’ll stay.

It’d be fun to see Zorn explain this to the poor who may well be deprived of work by the short-sighted ordinance. But then Eric never has been much to do public confrontations like that. It has struck some that Zorn resembles the late Paul Simon about whom it was said, “Paul loves humanity; it’s just people he doesn’t feel for.” As when the sainted Paul decided to leave politics and didn’t raise a finger to help place his staff in other jobs, one of the only lawmakers not to do so. I know people who have testified to that.

The Sun-Times weakly editorialized against the special minimum wage hike but in line with its role as the city’s Democratic paper of record doesn’t really have its heart in it because big unions are so supportive. The contrast on this issue between the two papers is really great.

Peraica & Stewart.

Cook county board president Republican nominee Tony Peraica will be on WLS on Political Shootout Sunday (8 p.m.) featuring the articulate, fighting challenger to the handpicked Democrat Todd Stroger and one of the most well-researched journalists in the business, attorney Russ Stewart of the Nadig newspapers. Stewart has made a career of analyzing battles such as the one between Peraica and Stroger. Don’t miss this one.

Censure Durbin.

Censure Durbin signatures hit 1,000 yesterday. Now’s the time to add yours at Someone called and asked about the anomaly of my serving as chairman of the City Club of Chicago and the City Club’s announcement of Durbin to speak there. The president of the City Club is my good friend Jay Doherty, a good Democrat. I would expect to be on hand to take notes. The bifurcated nature of this club is one reason why it’s the premier public affairs club in the state. My suggestion: add your signature to the list and go to the City Club to hear him—thus you can have it both ways.

Gen. Schwartzkopf.

The most vexing question confronting Christians and other people of faith is forgiveness. How can you forgive someone of horrendous and horrific acts such as planning the bombing of the World Trade Center? General Norman Schwartzkopf supplied this answer: “I believe that forgiving them is God’s function. Our job is to arrange the meeting.” What’s your view? Does forgiveness automatically weaken our resolve into a whimpering, simpering wuss nation? Isn’t the answer: We can forgive but not forget? Your responses will be interesting.

Too Soon?

The Trib editorial on Big Box was superb—but lower down the editorial page the paper was again suffering from the wobblies but it narrowly rescued itself—indications that there are some on the editorial-writing staff who are wedded to the old pro, con, on-one-hand, but-then, malady that has infected it for years. The subject is John Bolton, the fore-square UN ambassador who was denied Senate confirmation because his tough-talk offended some pip-squeaks in the Senate. One was Republican George Voinovich of Ohio who actually wept on the floor which caused some to think he is very strange, which is verifiable from some who know him well. Anyhow, the wilted lily solon has now decided to endorse Bolton and wrote in his behalf in the Washington Post. That should have been enough for the Trib to weigh in with affirmative might in Bolton’s behalf. Which it did ultimately but before it rendered judgment, it sounded as if the days of The Whisperer, evasive and temporizing Don Wycliffe, had returned. The editorial veered first to quoting the New York Times as if it were a dispassionate source (“As praise grows at home, envoy faces UN scorn”).

Then the editorial goes: “Of course, one person’s stubborn blockhead is another’s reformist provocateur.” True Wycliffe. Then it replays some of the revisionist Voinovich (“…if he and his Senate colleagues don’t confirm Bolton at a time when he’s spearheading so many U.S. priorities, that decision will `jeopardize our influence in the United Nations”. After an agonized pause the paper concludes “Voinovich is right.” Gee, a masterly display of guts for a simple decision. That the editorial has so many varied ingredients in it leads one to suspect it may have been concocted by Marcia Lythcott whose prior experience was editing a cookbook.


Some say a search engine turned up, for some, the answer to the Joe Frisco thing but to find the answer to this Trivia I don’t think it will. A public official who was a song-writer earlier in his life once went to a ship christening and unwrapped a speech his staff had prepared for the occasion. The official was so good at reading a script, even before he saw it the first time, the words came trippingly off the tongue meticulously. As he started the speech he said he had a joke for the audience. Then he read it. When he finished he howled with laughter saying, “I never heard that one before! It’s terrific! I’ll have to remember it!”—a clear indication his stuff was not only ghost-written but not even perused by him before he delivered it for the first time. Who was the public official? You probably will have to be (a) as old as this writer and (b) as much a political junkie as he to solve it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Censuring Durbin: The Numbers Roll In: Part II.

Jim Leahy announced the campaign to censure Richard Durbin last night on my radio show. By the time he got home, his web-site showed 170 signatures. By the end of business Monday he had more than 500. He figures that he’s tote up ast least 5,000 signatures a week. He wants to get at least 250,000 to present to the Senate. Do you realize that there is no other sitting U. S. Senator who can draw that much of an early response than Durbin? Russ Feingold doesn’t have the drawing power despite all the effort he has made to corral the left for his future presidential drive…Getting signatures for Ted Kennedy, no matter how long he has been in power would be a dud since Kennedy is oracular but rarely goes over the edge…Can you imagine trying to get signatures for Joe Biden? Barbara Boxer? Chuck Schumer might get some but only because he’s obnoxious—and most people understand he stays within bounds. But Durbin? He’s a natural.

Why? Because he is so slippery that were he to lose his balance and stumble walking up to the Senate podium, he’d glide up there. No one in Senate history has been so patronizing—and that’s stiff competition. Take a look at his apologies for the Pol Pot, Nazi storm troopers and Soviet gulag statement. Wringing his hands, he apologized for being misunderstood that he had insulted veterans (“I never, ever intended disrespect”. Or to Jews: “I’m sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time”).

Durbin is an orator of a type. Not one who speaks with conviction, just an orator who orates with salubrious effect. After he finished apologizing not unconditionally but “if”—“if I have unintentionally” hurt anyone, he turned on his critics with this persecution-prone utterance: “My critics from the Republican side have carefully orchestrated this! They have used all the resources…Fox, the Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh. They clearly want to keep the spotlight on me and away from other issues!” One can’t be censured for no class—but Durbin’s lack of it makes it easy. Thus the numbers roll in to Jim Leahy. Cast your vote and add your signature today. You’ll find the link-up in the left-hand column. This Blog and Jim’s will be among the very few to carry it: it’s too unconventional for many others to do so. And don’t count on the media to refer to it. We’re blacked out: are you surprised? But the liberals know about it. Check the names we’re called on this Blog’s Reader’s Comments to get a flavor of some of the vitriol. Then gargle with Listerine.

Personal Asides: New York Post Says I’m for Giuliani: Right—But Not for Long Unless He Changes…The Trib Ought to Get With it on Race…Hastert Ought to Get With it On Searches…Neil Steinberg: Did He Forget to Tell You He’s for Abortion Rights?


The Post.

The New York Post political columnist Ryan Sager reported yesterday that I’m for Rudy Giuliani, listing me as “Mr. Conservative” in Illinois, talk show host and blogger, saying that I would go along if Rudy would moderate his social policy positions somewhat. There’s no “Mr. Conservative” in Illinois: just check around; we’re all different. Nor am I boilerplate. Rudy would be my first choice if he adjusts a change, not impossible or improbable in presidential politics. But if he does not, I’m prepared to go with another guy who has some baggage personally, Newt Gingrich because he has a Churchillian elegance. Rudy, however, has the winning charisma basis his heroism in New York that is requisite to win the presidency and I’d like to be for him. If he’d change.


The Tribune’s Clarence Page is a longtime friend and ex-sparring partner who on the day he won his Pulitzer came over to a fund-raiser where I was being roasted and added to the flames: good guy. Clarence is now in Washington where he is being wasted because he is assigned to write only on African American topics whereas the day of specialization…black columnists to tell us how it feels to be black etc…is long over. In fact, his assignment is a residue of old-time racism. What’s more archaic than to have a few blacks writing about the misery of their condition ala the Sixties? We can’t expect the Trib to catch up with the 21st century when most Old Media have not, but it is to be hoped that it would be pretty soon. Page should be writing about any number of topics and not just being the “black writer” in a white shoe paper.

Page writes a column about what he would tell the NAACP were he Bush. I think that were I Bush I certainly wouldn’t have apologized as Bush did. Sometimes in an effort to woo respect, Bush gets too craven (although he is still the best president in my lifetime). Bush said, as you will recall, that the Republican party has much to regret in its dealings with African Americans. Really? While the GOP was founded to sunder slavery and racism it was the southern Democrats who held the committee chairmanships that blocked progress. When I went to Washington as a staffer in 1958 civil rights had been held up for decades because of southern Democratic control of key committees—“Judge” Howard Smith of Virginia, chairman of Rules in the House (along with the second in command, Bill Colmer of Mississippi who succeeded Smith as chairman)…Sen. Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia, chairman of Finance but who had powerful sway in how the Democrats ran the Senate…Richard Russell of Georgia…William Eastland, head of Judiciary…J. William Fulbright of Arkansas (liberal on other things: not race).

Such legislation as passed was done by the adroit salesmanship and diplomacy of Everett Dirksen of Illinois who was the conduit between the South and the Senate progressives when major legislation was passed including in the era of LBJ when even that masterly Texas wire-puller had to rely on Dirksen for help with the South—for which Dirksen got no credit and few black votes whenever he ran. The myth that Republicans overshadow southern Democrats on race matters should be dissipated. But it never can so long as people like George W. Bush go to the NAACP and foster that misconception.


News that Denny Hastert is persisting in challenging a judge’s order allowing FBI agents to examine documents that were seized at a Louisiana Congressman’s Hill office safe is discouraging in that it presumes that members of Congress are more privileged people than others. The idea that there is a rupture of separation of powers by this probe shows that after serving a couple of terms as Speaker, Hastert believes he belongs to an elite class that is above the law. He should get over it—or comes the next election he won’t be so privileged: starting off as Minority Leader and after that maybe Mr. Private Citizen. The anomaly is that he is an inheritor of a Gingrich tradition that reflects the grassroots—but Denny Hastert is not good ol’ Denny the ex-wrestling coach. He has long been a charter member of the Combine. A former close friend of George Ryan, he sought to block Peter Fitzgerald’s effort to eradicate privilege and patronage from the Lincoln museum in Springfield…who wanted to steer the appointment of a prosecutor who would be friendly to the Ryan-Daley-Thompson-Edgar-Topinka combine. Yes: that man. And that man should watch it.


The way the Sun-Times plays it with its columnists, even one has a role to play to generate an all-round hip-ness. Mark Brown is the world-weary Royko type (without the wit but reflexively liberal),... Richard Roeper the young unmarried good-looking mod guy (albeit a little long in the tooth)…Debra Pickett the “with it” young smart girl with the know-it-all smirk (with the depth of a soda cracker)…and then we get to Neil Steinberg, the best writer of the lot of them; his job is to play the liberal sophisticate. But Steinberg has been growing somewhat conservative which runs against his sophisticate type so he has to apologize for it. Take the issue of the Cook county board presidency. Understandably he can’t take Todd Stroger who is a know-nothing but Steinberg can’t just say he’ll vote for Peraica and be done with it. That unalloyed comment could disillusion his liberal base. So he has to say he’s so turned off he’ll vote for Peraica. “I don’t care if he’s [Peraica’s] anti-abortion. I don’t care if he [Peraica] wants to bring back the Spanish Inquisition.” Ho-ho, that Steinberg is still hip because he has reaffirmed the cardinal Sun-Times tenet: abortion is its secular sacrament. Rest easy, Steinberg: you’re still in good paper with the publisher of the abortion paper.

Flashback: The Quie Run All Comes Together with a Brilliant Campaign Manager. Dumb Enough to Think it Really Matters?

snow fall smalltown
[More reminisces for my kids and grandchildren about the special Congressional election in the winter of 1958. Since it was the only test in the nation of farm strength for Republicans, the vulture national press were hovering in Rochester, ready to report the first election of a Democrat in many decades as a striking repudiation of the Eisenhower-Benson back-to-free-market farm program.]

I was the press guy for State Senator Al Quie and I told him, “Look at how well I’m doing getting your name in headlines!” One read, “QUIE MAY BE FIRST GOP HOUSE CANDIDATE TO LOSE.” Another said, “A NICE GUY BUT QUIE HAS FARM PROBLEMS.” We were struggling to put out the message that Quie was a supporter of the Ike farm program but with some reservations: just the muddy stuff that doesn’t get through reporters’ prejudices when they have already written their stories in their heads. Slowly but surely, Quie’s soft-spoken, Reagan-esque humility was capturing them but there was a bigger problem. Who would pull it all together and see that there were ground troops of volunteers working in the sub-zero cold to get people out to the polls? Who would charge up the financial people to give and raise money? That wasn’t my job but it became my—and all of our—problem.

Then, as if in an answer to a prayer, there came a great boon to the campaign and to the entire Republican party of Minnesota. For many years I had awakened with my clock radio tuned to WCCO, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis which had a morning show that started with the “Syncopated Clock” music and a fresh shot of news, wit, modest commentary and back-and-forth between the main host, Ed Viehman (pronounced “vee-man”) and a few others. It was number one in the morning, piloted by a young man who had been a decorated Navy veteran in World War II in the submarine service, born to wealth as a grain company scion whose family lost it all in the Depression, a former priesthood student at Nazareth Hall seminary. After the war he took radio training and made the obligatory circuit in small town radio until he came back to his hometown of Minneapolis to become the czar of early morning radio. As such he knew such other established radio stars as Cedric Adams, George Grimm, who had a fascinating world affairs commentary show and Halsey Hall (the sportscaster who, rather than Harry Caray, invented the exclamation when a home run was hit: “Holy Cow!”). Ed Viehman had hit it big in Minneapolis at a time when morning radio hosts were near the pinnacle of the profession. He also did TV both in cameo appearances and commercials and he was just a tad over thirty years of age. He was a celebrity who knew celebrities in the news and entertainment business.

I heard the show when he announced he was leaving it, to become sales manager for the nation’s leading school class ring and yearbook company, in Owatonna, Minnesota. I never knew why he chose that profession except that I had been told he wanted to hone his talents—formidable talents—as a salesman and as manager of a sales team. The company, Josten’s, was run by a mega-multimillionaire named Dan Gainey, a huge Republican contributor. Then it turned out that Ed Viehman, who had followed a non-partisan line of patter was not just a Republican but quite a conservative one.

The pay he got at Josten’s was either equal to or better—probably better—than the high stakes salary he was reputed to make in radio…and he could use the job not just to amplify his sales talents but possibly to run for public office as a Republican. In any event, here was Al Quie struggling in his run for Congress in Viehman’s southeastern Minnesota neck of the woods—and with Gainey’s approbation, he volunteered to be our campaign manager at a time when our fortunes were not at high ebb. In a few short years, Ed Viehman not only saved the Quie campaign but became state Republican chairman and reinvigorated the state GOP with an early Reagan philosophy: the result being the state defeated the DFL governor, supplanted him with an outstanding Republican governor. Then at the height of his success as communicator and political campaigner, with the thought that he would in the fature challenge Eugene McCarthy, a fellow Catholic, Ed Viehman came down with the most advanced case of colon cancer one could get—and died at the outrageously young age of 39 in 1961. But that was in the future. Now, in 1958, Viehman at 36, in apparent vigorous health, took on the management of the faltering Quie campaign.

At last I had someone to work with who would build an organization to match what I hoped would be a first-rate press campaign. We worked together with single-minded reverie of fun, zest and excitement and hugely long hours. We tackled the hideous problem of the name Quie. What even Norwegians thought was that it was a French pronoun. How to get people to pronounce it correctly. Along with one Maurie McCaffrey, an ad man Ed recruited from Minneapolis, we devised the slogan “It’s Quie for Me! A Family Farmer!” and placed so many billboards up emblazoning that name that people would greet the candidate with, “Hey, Quie! It’s Quie for Me!” The Foley people started to get worried.

Moreover, we were startled to find that Ed Viehman, while a master communicator, was also a real bug on volunteer political organization. Hoisting himself into his big car delicately to accommodate a severe arthritic condition he seemed to have with his back and legs, this handsome, black-haired dynamo would roar down the highways to address organization meetings and lay out the elements of nuts and bolts organization. He was such a celebrity, so brim-full of wit and jollity that people naturally flocked in from the countryside and small towns to hear him. It was on a smaller scale what Ronald Reagan was doing for General Electric.

Ed would give them not just organization lessons but a healthy dose of conservatism such as they had never heard—got them standing on their chairs screaming and then gave them a master-plan for political organization. Quie was what was known even then as a “moderate” Republican—thoughtful, pensive, slowly charming. Good but it didn’t generate enthusiasm. Viehman was a gregarious and irreverent conservative Republican who hit the rural people in the solar plexus. They roared back. And soon he had a volunteer organization of Quie zealots to combat the Foley DFL organization built largely of labor union people and Farmers Union imported professionals.

All of us would work in Rochester, the center of the district and all of us—the national media included—would stay at the same place, the Kahler hotel. Media was determined to predict a Democratic upset victory and so, committed early, they bolstered their predictions with helpful and carefully selective news stories to advance the case. Viehman couldn’t stand the negativity and usually ate breakfast in his room so as to not to be bothered with the static as he prepared his day. I ate breakfast, lunch, dinner and drank with the national media, some of whom from that day on became my good friends, even though I understood they were stacking the deck in commentaries they hoped would be self-fulfilling. In between times, junketing campaigners for Foley stopped by, too. Eugene McCarthy was campaigning hard for Foley in anticipation of his campaign for the Senate the next November. Hubert Humphrey would stop by too as the major domo of the Democratic hoped-for victory. Often during breakfast we would battle at the same table. Something told me to retain my civility and so we spent a lot of time roaring at each other’s jokes.

I remember one in particular—not a joke but an aphorism that told me more about Gene McCarthy than I thought I knew earlier. Once I came down for breakfast at about 6 a.m., just as the coffee shop opened and found him huddled over coffee and pancakes, reading the poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins. When I joined him he put the book down with a sigh and observed—in words I will never forget—“Now I must talk politics because you’re here. Roeser but remember this: Being successful in politics is like being a successful football coach. You must be smart enough to know all the plays but dumb enough to think it really matters.” He was looking out of the corner of his eye at someone walking up to our table to join us. It was Hubert.

And certainly the aphorism was meant to describe this ever-ebullient, peppery liberal who lived, loved and ate politics. In my down moments, I think of that aphorism and think maybe Gene really had something there. In the millions of words everybody spilled out over the 1st district: soil bank, flexible supports, rigid supports, surplus, cash grain etc. what did it all matter in the flow of history? And who remembers Augie Andresen now? For that matter who remembers Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy, Al Quie, Gene Foley? No one remembers Augie; very few remember the others. I know because whenever I guest lecture, the kids look at me bemused when I mention Humphrey. So, I think, all that energy is forgotten? What doth it matter?

But then I think: it does too matter. If the Democratic party of today stays rooted in its extremely liberal phase where people like Richard Durbin can play politics with appeasement and non-patriotism, it certainly does matter. Perhaps the best thing we can do is to encourage the Democratic party to rebuke and reject the craven weakness Durbin stands for, in order to return to the strength of Scoop Jackson and Hubert Humphrey. The day is coming—it must come—when Democrats by the cyclical order of change will take over the presidency. With all my heart I want to make them worthy to remove Republicans from office when that time comes. Because the future of my children and grandchildren will depend on it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why the Censure of Richard Durbin is Imperative : Part I.


[As the founder of the Republican Assembly of Illinois, a grassroots organization not tied to Combine Republicans, I feel this project launched by Jim Leahy, its executive director, is very important. In this the first of several articles, let me tell you why. This Blog now installs www.censuredurbin as a permanent link. ]

As one who has studied the role of Congress as Congressional staffer, member of the executive branch, a foreign service officer and as a John F. Kennedy Fellow at Harvard, I have long been engrossed in the question of what limits of debate should be applied during time of war—especially when our nation has been attacked.

First, the United States was attacked wantonly and cruelly in major degree for the first time since the Civil War. The Congress responded immediately by giving the president the sanction of girding our defenses so that at no future time would such so many lives be taken as were on September 11. Senator Durbin supported this action. But from the outset, in his special role as Senate Democratic Whip, he has involved himself in strenuously opposing all major actions by the President as Commander-in-Chief while engaging in a masterly subterfuge. The bill of particulars will be detailed here at a future time. Suffice it to say for now the question is: Given our respect for dissent by elected members of Congress, is it possible for one to commit sedition and serve as an obstructive force to conduct of the war?

U. S.. historical tradition has been exceedingly lenient with those who criticize presidents on their war plans. Congressman Abraham Lincoln for one was a great critic of President James Polk’s wish to enter the Mexican War. He served one term, declined to seek reelection and was far from a leader of the then Whig party. His criticism was marked but he supported appropriations to continue the army in the field and in no way could be said to have given aid and comfort to the enemy. His opposition was well within the circumscribed boundaries of responsible debate.

In my own lifetime, Republicans have criticized both the intentions of presidents to go to war and/or the decisions of a president to go to war. Ohio Senator Robert Taft, regarded as a Republican leader from the first day he joined the Senate, whom I supported for president in 1952, was a critic of our joining Britain in World War II if there would be no overriding action to commit us to the conflict. Taft, along with almost all Republican Senators of the period—including Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan—followed the same policy which can be described as supporting a build-up of our defenses, aiding Britain in all steps short of war: the same position advocated by both President Franklin Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie in the presidential campaign of 1940.

Taft voted for all appropriations for the military services as well as the Lend-Lease Act, supporting an increase in the number of aircraft to 6,000, supported the National Defense bill, the bill to establish a reserve of strategic and critical materials, the bill to create a two ocean navy, legislation increasing the Army to 375,000 when FDR didn’t recommend an increase beyond 225,000. While he expressed hope that diplomacy would not draw us into war, Taft’s position was clear as a supporter of a strong national defense and an ally of Britain in all ways short of direct involvement. Likewise with the leading Republican foreign policy lawmaker in the pre-war period, Senator Vandenberg.

Assuredly there were Senators and Congressmen in both parties (Sen. Burton K. Wheeler, D-Montana, Sen. Gerald P. Nye, R-N.D. and Sen. C. Wayland Brooks, R-IL among them) who harshly criticized FDR on a personal basis charging that he was leading the nation to war. None were in the leadership of their parties and none hurled attacks on soldiers in wartime; none ever remotely spoke of comparing our troops to troops of harsh, repressive dictators. Sen. Durbin is the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate and, as is widely known, used an anonymous source in the FBI to compare our soldiers guarding prisoners at Guantanamo, Cuba with the vilest torturers in world history.

Obviously there have been Senators who have so exceeded the bounds of civility that they have been censured by their fellows. The most recent case was that of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.). While latter-day revisionists now say that McCarthy was right in his estimate that some persons high in the federal government were active, conscious and articulate instruments of Communist conspiracy (as the Venona Papers now attest) there is no doubt that in many specifics he was reckless and in certain cases in total disregard of civil liberties. Sen. McCarthy, a subcommittee chairman not an elected leader of his party, was censured and died of acute alcoholism: in all, his period of influence did not exceed five years.

There can be little doubt that Sen. Richard Durbin as the second ranking member of the Senate minority has been given one of the highest posts within the power of his party to confer. By listening to him and watching the visual on the Blog you can hardly equate his highly inflammatory charge…a charge which has caused him to apologize to the Senate not once but twice…a charge that earned him criticism from Mayor Richard M. Daley among others…a charge that so cruelly misrepresented the work of our soldier-guards as to give active aid and comfort to our enemies.

As this nation and all the world, sadly, knows, he likened American interrogators of the vilest terrorists, quarantined from society to protect this nation from assault, to “Nazis, Sovietsd in their gulags or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings.” His vicious language which stunned even liberals in his party dominated the news cycle for days. Then Durbin hastened to the floor to do the usual explanation without accepting blame, declaring that he regretted any misunderstanding over his remarks. That failed to quell the furor. He returned to the Senate floor and issues an emotional non-apology, complete with tears which said “if” he had offended any, he apologized.

For this alone—a totally unpatriotic tirade that the dispassionate Almanac of American Politics says was extreme—censure should be applied. But there is more. Earlier, in July 2003, he took to the Senate floor to declare that the Bush administration was trying to push him off the Intelligence committee—but it is open speculation and far more than rumor that Durbin leaked classified information to the detriment of the United States and its troops. To try to defend his unpatriotic misrepresentations as just par for the course in a nation which values dissent…ignoring that we are in a war for our survival where all of us should watch our language…would be the height of incredulity.

It is safe to say that no one in the modern history of the Senate—and perhaps none in the entire history of that body—has been so identified with actions that are deleterious to conduct of war in which our survival is at stake. His abject, slash and burn partisanship is the scourge of the Senate. He voted against the Gulf War authorization in January, 1991 and voted against t he Iraq War authorization in 2002—but he did vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq when Bill Clinton was president, in February, 1998. The late Steve Neal, the liberal Sun-Times political columnist dismissed him as “a hustler.” Always twisting and turning remarks with a masterly legerdemain, Durbin is probably the nation’s most obvious national security risk: completely at variance with the liberal tradition of Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy, both of whom were patriots and neither of whom were security risks.

In my lifetime, it was a former American hero, Col. Charles Lindbergh, who came the closest to Sen. Durbin in his assaults on those who were empowered to defend this country. Lindbergh was a private citizen, was unelected but in a series of town hall meetings inflamed the country although we were not at war. As a rebuke to Lindbergh, FDR held a news conference in the Oval Office. The president reached over and picked up a Nazi Iron Cross which had been sent to him by one (not Lindbergh) who was returning the decoration out of disgust for the Nazi criminals running Germany. Noting that Lindbergh had received high decorations from Hermann Goering, Roosevelt said that for Lindbergh’s service to Nazi Germany, the flier deserved the Iron Cross. Even the press corps gasped.

The differences between Lindbergh and Sen. Durbin are several. As earlier stated, Lindbergh was a private citizen and did not represent the government of the United States—Durbin is a high member of the Democratic minority in the Senate. Lindbergh was up to that point one of the nation’s foremost heroes for being the first to fly the Atlantic: Durbin has not compiled any record aside from his lifelong careerist status of politics. Lindbergh never apologized (in a sense, Durbin has not either, having used the old dodge that “if” he offended anyone, he was sorry). Lindbergh offered to enlist in the Army Air Corps even at middle age. His offer was understandably turned down. Then Lindbergh went to the South Pacific as a private citizen and, as history records, in an aerial encounter with several Japanese Zero aircraft shot down several of them. Even this has not rehabilitated Lindbergh but did serve to make the point that, however benighted, he was a patriotic citizen. Unfortunately the book on Durbin’s support of this war effort ends with his insult to American troops, an insult that presents doubt that he is interested in anything higher than his own and his party’s left-wing factional partisan ends.

Thus the record shows clearly that Senator Durbin’s irascible and viciously partisan behavior threatens the lives of American troops is unparalleled for a Senate leader in American history. Should the Senate receive 250,000 signatures calling for censure, one would hope it would take the matter under advisement. The idea, expressed by some, that to consider censuring Durbin would be a waste of the Senate’s time, is fallacious. Just as Joseph Welch told an arrogant Senator McCarthy “at long last, sir, have you no decency?”—a statement that caused many Americans to insist on a limit to vituperation—the censure of Richard Durbin would show that the tolerance of the American people with unreasoning demagoguery that puts our troops and this nation in grave danger--a far worse offense than Joe McCarthy committed in his most excessive hour--is not unlimited.

Personal Asides: Tribune Editorials and Op Ed’s--Now Some Editorials Have a Bit of a Bite and the Sun-Times’ Huntley has a good Op Ed While the Trib’s Chapman Apes Buchanan…The Trivia Question


Editorials and Op Ed’s.

Recently there has been a marked improvement in Tribune editorials. Rather than drifting off into inconclusion, some of the most recent ones have been showing up with a point of view. Take the one Saturday which warned the City Council not to fool around with Wal-Mart in a stagy effort to hike the minimum wage—pointing out that the giant company is fully capable of moving on and out. Very good.

Another had a bit of the old bite. That was the piece that reproved two secularists in the West Town area of St. John Cantius church for kicking about the nightly ringing of the venerable church’s bells and getting the city’s EPA to crack down on the basis of “noise pollution” with the result that the bells will cease ringing at 9 p.m. rather than 11 p.m. You will say this Blog likes that one because it is a parishioner of St. John Cantius and you’re right. But still the editorial had bite, citing that the church had been in place for 108 years and the cowards who protested are still anonymous. Yet another was “The Dance of the Dinosaurs” which lampooned the Cook county Democrats for picking Todd Stroger. This Blog disagreed with the one on embryonic stem cells but it had a point. One yesterday was a little more on the weak and vague variety, saying that the UN should focus on “perilous nuclear research and development” which is idealistic in that it imagines the weak UN will do anything about it. Don’t wring your hands about what the congenitally impotent UN should do, Trib: prescribe what should be done by bypassing the UN which as an organization is meaningless.

Over at the Sun-Times, Steve Huntley, the editorial page editor who, if they would let him be on his own would be outstanding, had a great Op Ed, evidently not suitable for an official editorial but good nevertheless for the peacenik Democratic newspaper of record to run: a well-written analysis that points out a cease-fire with Hezbollah wouldn’t bring Midwest peace.

Back at the Trib, it’s so-called libertarian columnist, Steve Chapman hits Israel’s slam-back at Hezbollah to wail that by defending itself Israel only makes the situation worse. Meaning Israel should hunker down and take the rockets. He’s sounding more like Pat Buchanan and the paleos every day. Also at the Trib, the purpose prose writer Eugene Kennedy who astoundingly described the late Richard J. Daley as reminiscent of an ancient Irish chieftain, writes lovingly of the late Earl Bush, Daley’s press secretary who passed up a bribe but neglects to tell us of the deal Bush accepted with restaurants at O’Hare which landed him in trouble.


You should shut off your search engines…but, frankly, I don’t think search engines would help you here. The only thing that would help is if you had spent your lifetime remembering old stories from Hollywood. For some reason I have. Here goes.

Joe Frisco was a famous stuttering comedian in the thirties. Truly afflicted with a stutter, he had used it to good financial effect on the stage and played some cameo roles in the early movies. He was also an inveterate junky for the horses. One day he was at the Santa Anita track when he saw Bing Crosby, then worth conservatively more than $100 million, perusing a scratch sheet. Joe walked up and hit Crosby for $20, saying that if he won on the next race he’d pay the debt promptly. Crosby frowned, pulled out his wallet and peeled off a twenty with great reluctance since Crosby was the tightest singer-actor in memory with his own money. Joe took it and played it on a long-shot. Surprisingly, the long shot came in paying 10 to 1. Joe ran upstairs to where Crosby was sitting. Now Crosby was conferring with the chairman of Kraft Foods and other Kraft executives after just having signed a big contract for renewal of the “Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby” one of the hottest shows on NBC radio. Joe tossed a twenty on Crosby’s lap and said—what?

Since it actually happened, it’s a priceless Hollywood story which has been used every time the late Joe Frisco’s name comes up.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Personal Asides

snow bush
DePaul, Billing Itself as the Nation’s Biggest “Catholic” University Chucks Crucifixes on Classroom Walls but May Reconsider…Sun-Times’ Sweet Starts an Obama Countdown to White House…Tony Snow is Superb in Handling the Media for Bush…The Wall Street Journal: A Great Paper with a Flaw…Addition to the Permanent Links: Jim Bowman’s Review of the Press.


DePaul University which in its catalog bills itself as the nation’s largest Catholic University not only has a minor, “Queer Studies:101” but has done away with crucifixes on its classroom walls. For 2,000 years the crucifix has been the symbol of Catholicism and Christianity but for secular DePaul it’s rather disturbing and may offend secular students. To authenticist Catholics, ditching the crucifix seems to be, to use a word DePaul has become used to, queer. Queer in the original sense of the word: strange, cryptic. The Church that DePaul advertises it belongs to sees crucifixes as “sacramentals” which, unlike sacraments, do not confer sanctifying grace but dispose a person to its reception, the crucifix acquiring an objective holiness from the blessing placed on it, stimulating the faith of one who reverently sees them and thus indirectly become what theologians say are occasions for the reception of divine favors. This Blog is sure DePaul as a Catholic school knows all this full well.

Now reportedly the university may reconsider and bring the classroom crucifixes back. Either that or. to be consistent, the president of DePaul, a Vincentian order priest might shuck his clericals and wear civilian suits to work since a black suit and roman collar might jar the student body at this Catholic school and interfere with their studies toward getting a minor in auto-eroticism.

How Sweet it Is!

As the most indefatigable Chicago newsperson in Washington, and also as head of the one-person Bureau for this city’s Democratic newspaper of record, Lynn Sweet continues doing an impressive job serving the liberaldom her newspaper has espoused. (When this Blog says there is no way to report politics objectively, we do not mean there is no objective truth. There is and for that reason one should not give equal space to both truth and error. For the Sun-Times, liberalism is truth which is its error—but it behaves fairly, if with majestic wrong-headedness, in propagandizing for the left through Ms. Sweet and others.) Anyhow, Ms. Sweet, the female Boswell for Sen. Barack Obama exults that this sainted patriarch of liberalism will journey to Iowa this September and is so thrilled that her girlish heart goes dancing. Yesterday he flew to New Orleans. Is that a significant milestone on the road to the White House? Not necessarily but as the soft, tiny hands of Ms. Sweet create momentum on her word-processor, rest assured it will be made to be so.

Forecast: Snow in the Future.

This Blog watched its first presidential news secretary session with the media in 1958 when Jim Haggerty met with pad and pencil people (almost all of them men) in a room billowing with now politically correct smoke and occasional expletives. It was truly a performance out of the past, with no cameras, certainly no television. Haggerty, a former newspaperman himself, talked with them in old-fashioned journalese, once in a while barking to Bill Lawrence “Com’on, you know better that than! For cripes [sic] sake, don’t give me that crap!” It was wonderful for that era but would be very offensive now. Pierre Salinger was the same. Putting his cigar down on a tray where its ashes would trail off onto the walnut desk, his tie pulled to half-mast and shirt collar open, he was lovable and full of masterly disorganization. Indeed, 45 years ago this Blog would conduct almost daily briefings in its role as news secretary for the governor of Minnesota and it was its intention to be at least as good as Salinger and possibly, with luck, approach Haggerty.

Now all that is out the window because of television’s entry into the field. The model since TV came in has been Mike McCurrie, President Clinton’s appointee, who was witty, irreverent and informative with close touch to the Boss. President Bush’s first press secretary, Scott McClellan, was bug-eyed scared of the media, a disaster who sounded like a robot and not at all close to the president. But Bush has now rectified that failing and has hired one whom this Blog must say seems to exceed McCurrie. That’s because Tony Snow was an adroit TV and radio talk show host with an extraordinarily good touch. First, with a long history of working on the issues so as to make them understandable (as speech writer for Bush 41 and a Fox TV anchor) he comes to the job with matchless confidence.

Second, as a conservative who knows the issues he is quite at ease in knocking the officious and almost devilishly malevolent David Gregory of NBC out of the box on live camera. Witness last morning at 7 on “Today” when Matt Lauer the naïf know-nothing sat nodding while Gregory stood on the White House lawn and dismissed the entire Bush foreign policy as a disaster. Then Snow came on and, smilingly said “David was wrong about such-and-such” with such authority that it was all Lauer could do to keep from nodding as well, which would have been disgraceful for any “Today” host who wants to stay on good terms with his lefty bosses to do.

In fact, so exultant is this Blog about Snow, it runs the risk of sounding like Ms. Sweet about Obama…but Snow is not only a smooth but not oracular expositor, he has the same charm that has come to grace any man who wants to be elected: all of which started with Reagan…the deferential bob of the head signifying he is not cock-sure but concerned fair-mindedly about the truth. This Blog thinks that when the Bush years are over, Snow should be examined as a possible candidate. Of course, if he’s interested he should have his head examined as well—but let this Blog tell you, he’s superb. For proof, go to C-SPAN and catch his daily news briefings. He’s had serious cancer surgery, of course (colon) and should watch it but if he’s interested in serving the commonweal, the Republicans, after Bush finishes his term, should raise tons of money to see he does it. Let this Blog be the first to suggest it.

The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal is certainly one of the great newspapers of the day, principally because of its profound editorial content and smooth editorial writing. The late Bob Barkley made it so and his successor, Paul Gigot, continues. But there is one flaw that continues un-rectified. After you get over the economic news reportage, uniformly excellent and go to the political news coverage, you get the idea that you’re reading two different newspapers. And indeed you are. Those reporters who are not economic experts and who cover developments in Washington, are definitely not of the same philosophy as those of the editorial department. That makes for a bi-polar approach that, were the Journal not topped with the most superior analytical editorial board in all journalism…in all journalism…would make for a so-so mushy performance reminiscent of the Chicago Tribune. The Trib with few exceptions has standard liberal reportage, one very good political columnist (John Kass) and editorials that usually conclude with the aphorism “well, time will tell.” The Journal is great because it has a great editorial board which continually vies with its news staff in its look at the world.

Case in point: Jackie Calmes and John Harwood might as well be working for the New York Times. Together they collaborate on “Washington Wire” which continually tells us how bad things are going for Republicans while the editorials pump up optimism. The result is a journalistic split personality. Yesterday, Calmes journeyed out to the 6th district and in an analysis piece heavily flavored to social liberals cast downward eyes on the embryonic stem cell issue as conceivably (interesting choice of word, that) threatening the election of Peter Roskam. Now since we know where Jackie stands on that issue from past takes, we understand that she is tilting to the left. But we also know that no political pro is going to give that issue potency over the other ones that are going in the district: the Iraq War, the right of the president to protect this country by doing everything in his power to ward off an attack. Ms. Calmes just struck her blow for the Democratic party. Which is why she should be working for the national Democratic party newspaper of record, the New York Times and reporters who can at least approach the Journal’s editorial board’s sagacity should be doing the politics.

This is in line with what you have heard here ad tedium that newspapers should reflect a philosophical unity as in fact the Times, for all its outrageousness does as does the Sun-Times.

Jim Bowman.

This Blog is adding Jim Bowman’s review of journalism and the Chicago press in particular to our permanent links. Jim is the former religion editor of the old Daily News and has a number of interesting Blogs in addition to the one we’re picking up which will also be listed in the left-hand margin: He has a good one on general comments: and one on his editorial business .