Saturday, September 2, 2006
Personal Asides: Congratulations to Pat Hickey Another Trivia Only Liberals With Few Absolutes Care About Chief Illinewek Topinka Nixes Social Conservatives The Two Newspapers
Not using a search engine (or so he says) Pat Hickey, an erudite contributor to this Blog, remembered from one of his textbooks in college the identity of the distinguished Brit who raised his glass in toast to Albert Einstein: George Bernard Shaw. Good going, Pat.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day on the Kennedy which caused me to ponder. Only because I am in the final stage of decrepitude from old age did I finally get it. I dont think a search engine would solve this one only if you are a dinosaur. Here is what the bumper sticker said:
What if thats what its all about is what its all about?
Other blogs report a hubbub from bobble-head white liberals who wish to retire Chief Illinewek, the University of Illinois mascot. Only those with few if any absolutes at all would be thus interested. Since the human constitution must produce a moral sense, theirs is taken up with worry that the prancing U of I Indian in authentic costume is a race insult. Years ago white liberals tried to do it to Quaker Oats Aunt Jemima, screaming accompaniment to the Pouting Buddha that she was a symbol of a southern slave. By removing Uncle Ben from Uncle Bens rice they felt they did a great service to blacks: removing a black symbol of culinary excellence. They failed with Aunt Jemima. I told them they should go to General Mills in Minneapolis and protest that Betty Crocker should be made black. Somehow that didnt seem as exciting as picketing Aunt Jemima.
The Illinewek farce is on a par with the lofty concerns for ducks and geese by Alderman Joe Moore who, were he to die, could well be embalmed and placed as a stand-up in a plastic container at the Harvard Medical school as genus white liberalismus. May he live forever as he serves a vital role on my Political Shootout radio show. When he sits down at the mike, all ten phone lines burn brightly. As Ive told him, hes not dismayed about the killing of unborn children but worries about ducks and geese who are forced to over-eat to satisfy elite culinary taste. That guilt over ducks is identical as the drive to kill Illinewek. Call it creeping Paul Simon-ismafter the unlamented consecutively-elected bow-tied dreamer who was the first major dewey-eyed pol to sign on to the Illinewek stunt. To be consistent, liberals should object to the portly Quaker man on the oatmeal package with curls for misrepresenting current Caucasian men. But that wouldnt have liberal bleating/bleeding heart value since white males are discounted as unexotic by the trendy.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka met with two leading social conservatives the other dayRalph Rivera and the Rev. Bob Vandenbosh, key Springfield lobbyists who represent grassroots pro-life, pro-family organizations, the very groups that she needs to force a coalition as described in Paul Greens excellent Sun-Times column yesterday. They asked her whether she would support a key item in their agenda: state funding for teen-age abstinence which could cut down on youth promiscuity and unmarried pregnancies. Topinkas answer: no way. She says she supports comprehensive sex-ed which has a very small component of sex abstinence in it and goes the Planned Parenthood route including condom instruction et al. Topinkas social policies are called by the Big Foot media moderate i.e. liberal. Shes for abortion rights, gay rights and has opposed the proposed state marriage amendment: thats moderate. Her flat no to a modest conservative appeal slams the door on any hope that there could be social conservative backing for her candidacy. Thus social conservatives ask themselves why support her when theres very little difference between her views and those of Gov. Blagojevich?
The Two Newspapers.
For those who tuned in late, Chicago has two newspapers: The Democratic Partys Newspaper of Record (the Sun-Times) and The Newspaper That Doesnt Know What it Believes (the Tribune). The Democratic Partys Newspaper of Record is the one you pick up first when it lands with the others on your driveway. Its compelling; its graphics beckon you to read it ; its sassy and filled with a lot of I-I-I-I youth columnists who are schooled to write from the standpoint of its all about me will there be World War III or IV? What will that do to me? Global warming? How will that affect me? A nuclear winter? How will I survive? Its all about me: the youngish 20-40ish consumer with liberal tastes. As a matter of fact, its preoccupation with me is its undoing. If one thinks only of me one can easily buy abortion as the paper does.
Its marketing schema has positioned it that way: the paper for me. . Its tone is managed by editor John Barron, the successor to its great editors of the pastbut is propelled by the me-centered publisher, John Cruickshank, a Canadian with a heavy connection to the local Democratic party and its operatives. I dont know how Barron, a finely educated man with a sensitive spiritual side sleeps running a paper that incardinates me, but it may not be well. Cruickshank, I have no doubt, sleeps exceedingly well.
The me liberality and Democratic slant is locally inclusive from Carol Marin (who doesnt know politics but who is a visceral feminist and aging TV celebrity paid $60 grand from WTTW which is supported by public and government funds plus a bundle from Channel 5 not to forget what she is overpaid by the paper. She has only liberal feelings with one notable exception, expressed the other day. She is one of many, including to the waspish over-age post-Vatican II screwed-up, dissident liberal priest who calls God she, Father Greeley who in a more courageous time would be sacked by the Church, not for his politics or salacious novels but because he spreads bad me theology in contradistinction to his ordained mandate: his view on the Holy Spirits role in choice of Popes schismatic, theologically illiterate and scandalously un-corroborated by scholarship.
Of all its columnists, I suppose Sneed has the best right to me since she is a gossiper whose news comes to her because she is me. Debra Pickett is a self-invented nobody who has no right to be me but is all menow me is pregnant and we hear all the details. Roger Ebert is a me movie reviewer; Richard Roeper is overwhelmingly mea 40sh kid who never grew up. Mary Mitchell is heavily methe black female, somewhat suspicious of black patriarchy but in the end willing to go along, as she is with the Great Pouter with whom she travels in Africa. Mark Brown is probably less me than anyone else but thats saying a lot.
What conservatives there are on the paper come from syndicates and dont deal with local issues: George Will, John OSullivan, a Brit nobody reads and the Heritages Ed Feulner who is a good read. But the local tenor of the paper is unremittingly me and as result lefty. If you think of everything in terms of me youre going to be a lefty. It has to be.
When the paper sinks to the scatological level of the New York Post or the Daily News and then the National Enquirer it gets so me obsessed that its disgusting. It happens quite often. How different it has become from the thoroughly progressive, solid paper that Marshall Field, Milburn (Pete) Akers and Jim Hoge ran! With engrossing analysis that editorial page editor Emmett Dedmon supplied! Todays kids dont know what a good newspaper it was. Dedmon wrote one of the truly great histories of the city, brimming with superb insights: a literary and scholarly standard workone I refer to regularly, Fabulous Chicago. The disintegration of what was once an extraordinarily good moderately liberal newspaper which just happened to be a tabloid is profoundly depressing. Like seeing a one-time Miss Illinois selling herself for $20 on Clark street. But thats what concentrating on me exclusively doesit cheapens and ultimately degrades.
Recently the paper has added editorial page editor Steve Huntleys conservative commentaries on international and national issues: pro-Israel, anti-Joe Wilson. But carefully. Huntleys stuff, very good, equals Dedmons at its best. Its add-on, doesnt affect the papers relentless me liberal Democratic marketing youth posture. Thus because its me-driven, it is the local Democratic partys Newspaper of Recordand thus it shall continue until the end of the Cruickshank era. But remember this: with all the aforementioned me cheapness and tawdry hype, it is a newspaper that knows what it is, what it believes, has carved out a marketing niche, adheres to it and for all its lefty-ness has excellent city coverage. Fran Spielman, the city hall correspondent, is outstanding. Not a me in a carload of her stuff. Abon Pallasch, the legal correspondent: outstanding: no me-me-me. You go down the list of bylined correspondents: outstanding. In fact it seems to be endemic: All writers who do not have columns are outstanding because there is no me. Hence no selfishness, crawling bravado. QT or Quick Takes is much mefunny, clever but drowning in the cult of me as liberal Bush-phobe. Limbaugh-phobe. Coulter-phobe.
Those who have columns and must follow the marketing plan and usually not worth the read: with the exception of the very bright, witty and uncommonly good writer with a fine literary style, Neil Steinberg. Hes me but ever so slightly becoming aware of others. Then it has someone else who is superlative. Jack Higgins, the cartoonist. No good cartoonist can really be me-driven and Higgins isnt. All you have to do is to see other newspapers offerings: the pathetic Toles of the Washington Post who makes a fetish of not being able to draw but has no ideas either and is a primitive. Higgins ranks with the great cartoonists of Chicago history: Vaughan Shoemaker of the Daily News who created John Q. Public Cecil Jensen of the Daily News who created Col. McCosmic the parody of Col. McCormick John T. McCutcheon, Cary Orr and Joe Parrish of the old Tribuneeven Herblock of the old Washington Post and the heavily-drawn, as if with charcoal, Fitzpatrick (he never used his first name) of the once good St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In contrast to the Democratic Newspaper of Record, is the Newspaper That Does Not Know What It Believes, the Tribune. In essence, it is a cowardly newspaper and has been so since the death of its last editor-publisher who knew what he believed: Colonel Robert R. McCormick. The Colonel has been reviled for having opposed our entry into World War IIbut his opposition against FDRs eagerness to get us to help Britain proved to be helpful in the end. The fact that we did not enter until Pearl Harbor didnt prove McCormick wrong but right. Pearl Harbor did not prove McCormick wrong but McCormick right, Roosevelt having put the screws of embargo on the Japanese that made the attack inevitable. McCormick and the isolationists delay enabled us to enter the war after Hitler invaded the USSR, sparing us the human carnage that our allies endured. We emerged from the war with fewer casualties than all others on the allied side. Mostly due to the so-called isolationist pressure that was stirred by few more than McCormick. But his faint-hearted successors, buying the common argument that McCormick was at best stupid and at worst evil, jettisoned his philosophy in order to appeal to the common liberal sense. It was the dumbest thing anyone could ever do. The man who did it was Clayton Kirkpatrick, once the old mans financial editor who trembled under his sway but had no core convictions himself.
Kirkpatrick and his successors bought the idea that as McCormick produced an interpretative newspaper that presented what he felt was the truth, he presented a biased product. Not so. McCormick believed that there is objective truth and the truth shall be proclaimed in his columns uniformly: from news coverage to editorials and completed by brilliant cartooning. To get to that objective truth, the paper was interpretative but not unfair. When Arthur Sears Hennings mis-read of the 1948 election led to the unfortunate Dewey Beats Truman headline, Henning was let goand rightly so.
Objective truth and its presentation should really be the mission of all newspapers, not a dash of liberalism here, a bit of conservatism there: a Molly Ivins here and a Denny Byrne there. If by objective is meant that one must allow error to be run equally, it is wrong. An editor should view the news and allow what he believes is the truth to prevail uniformly: in the news and editorials. In the old days, the Chicago Daily Newswhen it pursued the policies laid down by Colonel Frank Knox which crusaded for warwas a great newspaper. As McCormick pushed to keep us out of war, the Daily News pushed for us to enter it. When the Daily News was sold to John S. Knight it became what the Trib is todayand unworthy. Field put it right.
Thus I wish to insist as a given that The New York Times can be criticized as liberal, wrong-headed (even disloyalas I do) but has greatness: from which it occasionally departs in unfairnessbut still a great newspaper. McCormick made his paper great and recognized that this sense made The New York Times great, albeit liberal. It led him to join with the paper in setting up a singular news service. But from his death on April 1, 1955 to the present, his newspaper has wallowed in uncertainty. One of the very few vestiges of good journalism the paper has is as I have said so often John Kass, the columnist, who gravitated to the top despite all the mediocrity from the front office with which he has had to face. He is better than Royko, as I have earlier explained, because he is more than a jokester, although he can certainly be that. At bottom, he knows Chicagos political news better than Royko and has a finely attuned social conscience. Kass saw from the start that Daley couldnt lie straight in bedbefore any of us certainly before me. He writes of himself and his concerns but is never me. If you still have trouble fathoming it, think about it more. Itll come to you.