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 .

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