Monday, August 21, 2006

Personal Asides: Andrew Young’s Gaffe—Or was it?..The JonBenet Ramsey Killer (?)…The Rahm Emanuel Contract…Minutes Apart Answering the Trivia Quiz: Charles Ryder and Pat Hickey



The supposedly anti-Semitic quotation from Andrew Young which led to his resignation as a consultant to Wal-Mart requires some examination before one should equate it with the tirade of Mel Gibson. Of all the civil rights leaders from the Martin Luther King era, I knew him best…and respect him most. At the suggestion of my boss at Quaker Oats , Bob Thurston, a good friend…we decided to do a documentary on Young without knowing at all how it would come out. Young was running for Congress in an Atlanta district that was 57 percent white…and it would be a test as to whether or not the bad old segregation days had passed sufficiently for a district largely white to elect the first black Congressman from the deep south in over a century. Georgia Republicans pitted him against a progressive southerner in an attempt to soften the racial polarization that could have arisen. (Incidentally, the staff which Young put together implemented something very much like the Neighbor-to-Neighbor training program that I describe further down this Blog in “Flashback”). We hired the very best in the documentary business, Charles Guggenheim, to supervise the production.

Our thought was that either way…Young wins or loses…the documentary would be historic. As we know, Young won the election. So the documentary that we had in the can was an illustration of how the campaign was conducted. Bob Thurston also had a good name for it: “From King to Congress.” The film not only told the story but showed how politics had changed not just in the south but in the nation in the preceding decade. In the old days, segregation aside, a candidate would have to begin at the bottom and rise through successive chairs in order to be considered for a run for Congress. Young short-circuited the process. He came from the most dynamic segment of our politics: grassroots movements…civil rights, labor, peace. Not having involved himself much in elective politics, he was such a force in Atlanta that he captured his party’s nomination—and then the congressional seat.

How did Young win in largely suburban Atlanta in 1972…57 percent white and upscale…the year McGovern ran for president against Nixon, where the deep south voted overwhelmingly for Nixon? Easy, a sliver of the district was from Atlanta proper (which was black) and the white exurban area was largely Jewish. Jews had always been supportive of other minorities, particularly blacks. Young didn’t have much trouble at all in a southern district in Georgia the year McGovern ran because the 57 percent of the district was Jewish.

I stayed in touch with Young throughout the years: as Congressman, mayor of Atlanta and ambassador to the United Nations (in which position he deigned to address a class I taught at Harvard). I supported him in his run to be governor of Georgia. In all these endeavors, the Jewish people were important. He realizes this. When I was young, before the civil rights movement, Jews were in the forefront of philanthropy and voluntarism to help African Americans. Among others, Julius Rosenwald of Chicago, a co-founder of Sears Roebuck, contributed not only huge sums of money but volunteered resources and time to help them.

No one knows these things better than Andy Young, with whom I discussed the election since then many times. And a closer look at his remarks shows that they were not anti-Semitic at all but realistic about urban conditions. Hey, the official Catholic church was probably the least sensitive of many organizations to recognize racism…which is why Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, soon to become canonized, I hope, said of the church: “She is my mother, a whore but I love her”—a condemnation of bishops and the hierarchy who were as cold to her voluntary poverty programs as to the black poor. Young showed an equal candor which was not politically correct. He said Jewish, Arab and Korean store owners had “ripped off” black neighborhoods, “selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables.” True—and it was said in the context of a long interview. To imagine that Andy is anti-Semitic because he said these things is to—taking a lesser comparison—imagine I am anti-Catholic because I have criticized bishops and this Cardinal. When will we get over this infantile stuff? Now Jesse Jackson’s reference to “hymie-town” and all the other slurs he has heaped on—that’s anti-Semitic.


The fact that the search for the Jon Benet Ramsey killer has taken so long…and may, indeed, take even longer now that the purported killer is being shown as a wacko who may not have been in the vicinity during the killing…should not be laid entirely to an inept police department in Boulder, Colorado. The perfectly hideous idea of parents dressing a 6-year-old child , in rather seductive attire and enlisting her in a beauty contest with lipstick and training her to give an adult come-hither look (a come-on to perverts) may well have led authorities…as it did me…to speculate that it was an inside job. And the fact that other parents rivaled her by dressing their girl children in similar costumes is equally sickening. Were I a cop, the first people I’d look at as suspects would be parents who would enable this sort of thing.

I personally thought it was either the mother or father whose abysmal bad taste was evidence of disordered minds—a view I still hold despite Mrs. Ramsey’s sad death of cancer much too early. Assuredly, the police spent long hours—maybe months—trying to see if the murder could be pinned on the mother or father: an entirely legitimate speculation given the tawdry “beauty contest” if I may say so. To those who are horrified that I may have suspected them, just take another look at the TV films of the child trotting down the runway in the weird dress-up show and you might change your mind. It appalls me as the father of two girls (along with two boys) and the grandfather of nine girls (plus four boys). It is a speculation that has not entirely been put the rest, perhaps, since the “confessed killer” appears to be a sensation-seeking self-publicist who isn’t checking out.


Since I first met Rahm Emanuel and sensed that he was in politics from the same motivation that drove the fictional Sammy Glick in Budd Schulberg’s novel “What Makes Sammy Run?.” I have never been surprised at the boldness of his thrusts…from Daley fund-raiser…to the same assignment for Clinton…to the White House as political director…to defender of Clinton in the most egregious violation of personal morality that has been publicly known…to consorting with Bob Rubin as treasury secretary in order to take a short-course in investment banking…to making a huge pile putting together the Com-Ed merger…to using that pile to run for Congress…to outrageously pinning the anti-Semitic label on an honorable and totally honest primary opponent because of something a supporter said…to election and a berth on Ways and Means…to election as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee…to formulator of his own Contract with America…all done by his early forties. Well, it takes your breath away.

A huge double-truck, two-page spread in Chicago’s official Democratic newspaper of record Sunday advertised that it is “Time for a new contract”…excerpts from a book “The Plan/Big Ideas for America” by Rahm Emanuel. Newt’s Contract was a radical departure…as is Rahm’s. But one look at Rahm’s and one sees statism rampant. Forced universal citizen service…forced “universal college access” notwithstanding that there are those who shouldn’t go to college, who want to be good plumbers and machinists…forced imposition of 401(k) on all corporations…forced universal child health care…ending “corporate welfare.” Does it mean an end to all minority enterprise programs? I think not. Accelerated progress on plug-in hybrids to use alternative fuel which is the best idea in the whole bunch—but with no respect for private investment, just massive infusions of public money.

The best thing about it is that Rahm isn’t serious. It is a platform for Rahm to use to run for House Democratic leader after this election in which the Democrats will fall short of their mark…recognition of which he has shown by signaling he will not run for reelection as DCCC chief.

Budd Schulberg’s book should have been entitled “The Harder They Fall.” Sammy Glick got ahead in the short-range but lost overall because of his insatiable drive for power and prestige. Did you read the book, Rahm?

Ryder Wins…and Another Trivia.

The trivia game played without search engines was answered excellently by two players who responded correctly within one minute of each other. The answer is T. S. Eliot who said—too pessimistically I think—that Americans may well be remembered at the end of time only for 10,000 lost golf balls. Winner by the minute first thing in the morning after it was posted is Charles Ryder…with Pat Hickey, a veteran correct answer-er coming next. Congratulations.

Another trivia—again, no search engines…although if you wish to consult old-fashioned sources, like books, I think it’s acceptable: only tell us if you did. It’s a very difficult one so I’ll give some help. This excerpt is from reputedly the greatest oration by the greatest orator of the ancient world (now there’s a clue that practically gives it away). My friend John Kass, if he sees this, will probably know the answer (another hint). Here goes:

“The Athenians knew as well the loyalty and zeal with which I conducted their affairs, as the dishonesty of you and your party: for what you denied upon oath in our prosperity you confessed in the misfortunes of the republic...When my person was demanded—when they brought Amphictyonic suits against me—when they menaced—when they promised—when they set these miscreants like wild beasts upon me—never in any way have I abandoned my affection for you.”

Oh, well…give it a guess.


  1. I believe that it was Marcus T. Cicero.

  2. I'll toast a guess to Socrates. Bottoms up!

  3. Demonthenes(probably spelled incorrectly because I didn't cheat)...was he warning against the Macedonians the way Newt is warning against the Iranians, with the same effect?

  4. king darius or pat hickey