Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Personal Asides: Did Clinton Really “Lose it”? Or Was it Another Mahton…Bahton…and Fish?...New Additions to the Roosevelt U Lecture List: IL Manufacturers’ Greg Baise..State Senator and DuPage GOP Chair Kirk Dillard…Former GOP Gubernatorial Candidate


Clinton, Mahton…Bahton…and Fish.

Tempting as it would be to think that Bill Clinton really blew it, referring to Chris Wallace’s smirk on his face, raising the specter of the Far Right conspiracy yet again, tying Rupert Murdock into it…in an attempt to cover his hind quarters over his failure to kill Bin Laden…this skilled politician skillfully applied the axiom: never lose your temper unless for effect. You must remember that in that interview Clinton had no place to go. A technically bad decision to be interviewed by Fox News led to questions to which no one—not even Clinton—can give supportable answers. So when confronted with that problem, the political axiom goes, appeal to your base: defend yourself with visible anger, resurrect the notion of persecution by the far-right.

In 1936 with a recession begin to revive casting doubt on his palliatives, FDR looked around and saw the Republicans gathering strength. He was being assailed by Joe Martin the House GOP leader…by ad money raised by ad mogul Bruce Barton of BBD&0…and by insults to his patriotism by his own upstate New York Congressman, Hamilton Fish. That led Robert Sherwood to write the diatribe wherein FDR listed his enemies as economic royalists and harpooned a litany of names which an excitable Democratic crowd helped him say by shouting back to him—“Martin…Barton…and Fish!” We have fought the reactionaries through passage of Social Security and farm aid, said Roosevelt—but we have been hobbled by the trio of…

Crowd: “Martin, Barton and Fish!” Or as FDR said in his sonorous New York accent: Mahton…Bahton…and Fish.

He didn’t have the time or Sherwood to think up a variant of Mahton…Bahton…and Fish, but by and large, Clinton came out all right…with just a little hair singeing…in what could have been a very dangerous situation. He electrified the Democratic party’s base. He was overheard later in the anteroom threatening to fire the staffer who had signed him up for Fox which more than anything else showed the magnitude of the danger. Going on Fox was the error—but Clinton got out of the box by feigning anger and did it well. That doesn’t mean that there is no doubt about his performance as president anent terrorism. A host of lies and overstatements came from his lips in his own defense…especially the whopper that Richard Clarke was fired (a blooper that appeared also in the ABC documentary)…but Clinton survived an ambush by Wallace that no other reputable newsman would try. The bluster may not have been effective with independents and Republicans but won well with the liberal base and Clinton escaped without much political harm. The residual effect of the ABC program and the Wallace questions harms his reputation, no doubt. But it could have been oh so much worse.

Compare this to the tirade the Stroger people unleashed under the tutelage of Mike Noonan, the campaign manager to obfuscate decades of misrule by Stroger and the Democrats. The Cook county Democrats are in grave trouble and there’s no way to escape except by throwing up a ghost scare of far-right zanies. In the City Club debate, Todd Stroger obediently used Noonan’s catchwords including “Alan Keyes Republicans.” He had a full house of county employees at the City Club and so the Stroger tirade worked out pretty well in the short run. But carried on by Noonan on WTTW-TV later that night in a debate with Dan Proft of Peraica’s staff, the rant didn’t score. Noonan was too excitable, relying too much on repetitive far-right hysterics. You mean to tell me that the most Democratic county in the nation is on the verge of falling into the hands of…gasp…Alan Keyes and the blue-nose anti-aborts, anti-birth control freaks who force women to have children and who warn of Communists overdoing the fluoride in the water, turning government over to the strident evangelical campground Jesus Jumpers? Mike, my spiritual son, give all of us a break.

Still…you must remember that Mike Noonan is the best campaign manager and strategist the Democratic party has: he is the man who managed the campaign in the heart of Republican McHenry county that got Democrat Jack Franks elected by an eyelash…and enabled Franks to build on that victory to an unassailable position now. What Noonan has to do now is to devise a completely positive, even stringent, progressive platform for his candidate, outlining cuts, eschewing tax hikes, issuing a blueprint for reform. Mike’s weakness is that he will try to make Alan Keyes the perpetual hob-goblin in the campaign. If Keyes is, Noonan and his candidate marionette, could lose. I have faith in Noonan the savvy. But if you continually keep hearing Alan Keyes-Alan Keyes and see the pumpkin-head always raised on a stick as a far-right gargoyle, you know that Noonan hasn’t hit on a positive program for the campaign yet. If he doesn’t, the Democrats may very well blow it. Time is ebbing fast.

New Additions to the Roosevelt Lecture Circuit.

New additions to my Roosevelt University lecture circuit are Greg Baise, former Illinois Secretary of Transportation and holder of one of the most prestigious jobs in economic policy-making: president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association. Greg has an inventive proposal for reform of the Illinois General Assembly. He has been in the forefront of state policy-making since he began with Governor Jim Thompson many years ago. He will speak on October 19 at 6 p.m. Baise can talk about his experience in the governor’s office, as a governor’s choice cabinet officer and now a major advocate for business in the state. He was also the highly successful campaign manager for Ronald Reagan in this state in 1984—and Reagan carried the state. So he can talk about several constituencies: executive, bureaucracy, business and political party.

Following him on the same night, October 19—only at 7 p.m.—will be a powerful leader of the Illinois Republican party, State Sen. Kirk Dillard, who is also the Republican chairman of DuPage county. Kirk was administrative assistant to Governor Jim Edgar and is also in the private practice of law. Like his friend Greg Baise, Kirk Dillard can talk about several constituencies: the executive office of governor…the legislature…and the political party.

Speaking the next week—October 26 at 6 p.m. will be Ron Gidwitz, former CEO of Helene Curtis, now a private entrepreneur and a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the March primary. He is former chairman of the state Board of Education and has been a Republican committeeman of the 43rd Chicago ward and has been a key player in business circles in Chicago for many years. Thus he is well equipped to talk about the constituencies of business…state government…and political party. More speakers coming.

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