Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Personal Asides: Carole Pankau Scores, Dorothy Brown Mystifies (or Does She?)…A Bit About Jack Franks Who Kicks Off My Roosevelt U Course…My Disagreement (?) with the Bush Foreign Policy.



State Senator Carole Pankau scored effectively on my Political Shootout program Sunday, showing expertise and detailed familiarity with budget issues appropriate for her campaign as the Republican nominee for state comptroller. There was virtually no question I tossed at her that she was not familiar with. Her personality is warm, witty and entirely relaxed. Her social policies disagreement with the leader of her ticket, Judy Baar Topinka was deft, pragmatic and wise. Pankau is an excellent candidate whose expertise is a great state asset. More than that—she is a great star for the Illinois Republican party.

I am still mystified at Dorothy Brown who made her first appearance as a candidate for mayor of Chicago on my show along with Pankau. First, her strengths. They start with a warm, contagious personality that is absolutely a natural for politics. Second, a matchless resume brimming with honors: a law degree, MBA and CPA—you can’t do better in politics than that. Third, solid experience in government. Fourth, superb civic and church connections for a city run including prominent membership in the Church of God in Christ, a large, influential and socially conservative congregation in the African American community. The drawback is this: she is unwilling to do more than straddle issues which inevitably leads one to conclude that she is a “ringer”—involved in the campaign to draw black votes away from Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. or fractionate the totals to Daley can win. Her unwillingness to take positions that are contradictory to Daley’s appears to be a dead giveaway. Her decision not to draw specifics on the issues where they conflict with Daley’s is highly suspicious.

Yet, the theory of a “ringer” is not fool-proof, as none other than liberal strategist Don Rose has pointed out to John Kass. I am told that Jane Byrne enticed Harold Washington to join a battle between she and Richard Daley expecting that Washington would siphon black votes from Daley and allow her to slip in. Washington took the whole caboodle! Brown could easily draw votes that would normally go to Daley: from the black middle-class. In fact she could go all the way but for her lack of specifics and program. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to draw her to specifics: casino gambling, Big Box et al. In all her answers she parsed so well that it was almost impossible to decipher where she is. She’s about as good in parsing as Cardinal George who holds the World Cup in that endeavor. But George isn’t a candidate and his parsing has become tiresome. No candidate can be elected applying that kind of evasion on everything. Brown entered the race either without having formulated positions or purposely blurring them as a ringer. I think the latter. If I am wrong and she’s really in the race, she needs an issue portfolio pronto!

Jack Franks.

Those who say that because I am a partisan, I don’t have friends on the Democratic side of the aisle are wrong from the standpoint of history…Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy et al…and wrong in these contemporary times. One of my favorite politicians is State Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) with whom I disagree on a number of issues including some aspects of social policy (as well as the bigger issue of foreign policy but that’s beside the point)—but for whom I have enormous respect for his intelligence and high integrity…as well as a great feeling for his family: wife, Debby and parents. He has been a guest on my radio show a good many times.

Jack will kick off the Roosevelt University seminar which meets at 6 p.m. this Thursday at the main campus, his and the students having first to endure my warm-up of how I believe public policy is shaped in America. Let me give you some background on Jack. First, consider that he is the first Democrat to be elected in solidly Republican McHenry county (aside from the cumulative years when 3-member House districts existed) since 1834! His ability at getting elected and returned with higher and higher majorities (in fact he is now unopposed by the Republicans) tells you much. For one thing, he and Debby go door-to-door and have done this consistently.

He (and Debby) were raised in McHenry county and live in Woodstock with their two sons. He is chairman of an important committee—State Government Administration which has oversight over the entire state government’s functions. He is also chairman of the Task Force on Prescription Drugs and serves as well on the Committee on Aging, the Committee on International Trade and Commerce and the Committee on Electric Utility Oversight.

Jack is a partner in the Marengo law firm of Franks, Gerkin & McKenna. He received his law degree with honors at American University’s Washington College of Law in 1989. As an undergraduate he studied international relations and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is extraordinarily well-traveled, speaks Portuguese and conventional Spanish and enjoys reading and basketball.

It is important to stress Jack’s independence in politics. He was probably the first state lawmaker to endorse the gubernatorial candidacy of Rod Blagojevich but soon after election, he became extremely dissatisfied with what he criticizes as the governor’s posture on some issues and his way of performing his tasks. Jack and the governor don’t agree on fundamentals in governance with the result that Jack has refused to endorse the governor for reelection, a very individualistic and independent stance. Jack’s early private warnings to the governor have borne out and the difficulties the governor has were cited early by the McHenry lawmaker. But it is important to state that Jack has not left the Democratic party—far from it. He is a vital part of the party in the legislature and has the intellectual and moral resources to go all the way in the future.

It’s important to state that this course is not about political issues so much as it’s about how the system works. Thus Jack will be telling us about the qualities he sees are needed to get elected to the legislature…how he continues to maintain contact with his constituents…how he views his work in the legislature…how he reaches consensus with his largely Republican voters. He’ll discuss fund-raising and the ethics of it which are so important in the process…if he sees a need for more laws in that regard…the distinctions which are in every state legislator’s life between his own interests and a public career…the way he budgets his time so as to spend as much with his family…his views on the future of the legislative process…the needs for reforms (if any)…the role of the media…the legislature’s intersection with other governmental entities. In short—the works. Join me in welcoming to the historic first session of the Seminar, State Representative Jack Franks.

Remember, if you want to be a part of it, you can sign up by showing up and bringing your check made out for $250 to “Roosevelt University” which will carry you through the Fall. Tell me on my e-mail if you wish to do this at thomasfroeser@sbcglobal.net.


Now that William F. Buckley and George Will have fallen off the boat after having supporting the Bush foreign policy anent Iraq, will I follow suit? Not on your life—but there is an argument some of my fellow neo-conservatives make which I repeatedly hear which I think is imprecise. It is that the war was justified because Saddam Hussein was a monster. Saddam Hussein was and is a monster, no doubt about it—but the monstrosity of a foreign dictator is no reason per se to go to war. One goes to war because a dictator threatens the peace, liberty and safety of the people of the United States. George W. Bush has proved to me that what happened on 9/11 should be responded to by a preemptive action. He signaled out Iraq among others. The fact that he, other presidents and intelligence agencies across the world believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction which were not found (for one reason or another) does not…in any sense, it seems to me…mitigate the need for such preemption. But Saddam’s tyranny over his own people does not, I believe, qualify as a reason to go to war to change it.

In a larger sense, Bush believes that democracy is the solution to world peace—and I agree with him. But strictly speaking, we seek to encourage democracy because it is for our own well-being rather than as an idealistic venture. As Tom Barnett has cited—and I believe correctly—it is very difficult for democratic nations to go to war with us or we with them but very much easier for tyrannous nations to be fomenters of such attacks as occurred on 9/11. Strictly speaking, the monstrosity of Adolf Hitler against the Jews was a hideously immoral act which produced his aggression against the Free Nations…but the United States was not warranted to go to war simply and exclusively because he was a tyrant. Get the distinction? Do you agree with it? Let me know.

About the change of heart with Buckley and Will, I have no question as to their true change of heart…but the situation has not changed since they initially supported the war except that it was not ended as quickly as they had believed. With Buckley, I think it’s a matter of the uncertainties and tremblings of old age that has taken over. With Will—I think he is undergoing a reversion to his old libertarianism which is far more serious. His original book, “Statecraft and Soulcraft” sounds far different than the Will of today. As such, he is the first great defector in the war. A serious loss to the administration. But it is important to note that his defection does not only pertain to international affairs but to social policy as well. Once an eloquent voice for pro-life, Will is becoming cantankerous and cranky on that issue which presages at some future time a broad-scale restatement of his positions.


  1. What is mystifying about Dorothy Brown's career is its inception. How did this chronically baffled, eye-ball rolling person get eleceted in the very first place?

    I witnessed Ms. Brown's antics on the night that she announced her candidacy for mayor on WTTW ( Window To Toney Winnetka) and she could not even field the puff balls underhanded her by Phil Ponce's stand in. Dorothy Brown, given her parade of psycholelic responses, should be ushered out of public life altogether. Perhaps she could pen a heart-tugging tale of struggle and courage that would be snatched up by the media for syndication and make wow reading on Oprah's list.

  2. Tom, I have to disagree on your foreign policy plank.

    The true conservative position is much simpler--we should go to war only when Congress declares war. If Congress doesn't declare war, the Army can stay home and the Navy can stay in port.

    Anything else is Unconstitutional with a capital U.

    Forget Presidential handwringing. Forget Presidential emoting. The constitution is clear, and the framers were clearer--to put the power to declare war into one persons hands is tyranny.

    Somewhere along the way, conservatives changed from opposing unchecked executive power (as in FDR) to embracing it (as with Nixon, et al. including GWB).

    I know this hurts, but it is also Unprincipled, also with a capital U.

    Tom, can you give us your recall of great consrvatives of the poast, such as Taft and Dirksen, who were wary of presidential warmaking? Can you tell us who it was that led conservatives to embrace this dangerous, Unconstitutional and illegal practice?

    Thanks for sharing your institutional knowledge.

  3. OK, not really, but Tom, surely you know that democracies do war with each other.

    You should also know the difference between democracy and dictatorship. One pertains to the method of selection of leaders, the other pertains to the breadth of powers available to one person. They are separate and distinct, and you can have both. Surely you know that Adolph Hitler was democratically elected in 1933, and received his "emergency" powers through the infamous enabling act after the Reichstag fire.

    Your recall of the sequencng of Hitler's persecution of Jews and his agression in Europe is faulty.