Friday, September 15, 2006

Personal Asides: John Kass to Guest Lecture at My Roosevelt U Class…Am I Missing Something in David Graf’s Question?



John Kass, the Tribune’s candid, straight-talking, straight-writing columnist, who coined the world “combine” as an illustration of the one-party hybrid that rules Illinois, will be my guest at Roosevelt University in November. In my estimation he is the finest newspaper columnist of this Chicago generation who is endowed with street smarts, integrity and the knack of not taking his profession too seriously. There is no doubt that he was the best city hall correspondent the paper has ever had. A terrific addition to the Roosevelt U lineup.


I must say that I don’t get the full content of David Graf’s question that appeared yesterday in “Reader’s Comments.” To paraphrase he asks why, if Bob Novak is such a good Catholic, did he publish the Valerie Plame story. Huh? What does his Catholicism…whether he is an observant or non-observant Catholic…have to do with the question? The question at hand was why Joe Wilson, an acknowledged critic of the administration, was sent on this quest by the CIA. The answer seemed to be that he went at the suggestion of his wife, Valerie Plame who was working at the CIA. That’s what the deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage admits he told Novak. The political context of the story was that the CIA’s bureaucracy was at war with the administration and that it listened to Wilson’s wife recommend a man who was a critic: evidence that the internecine war was going on. Novak has said, I believe, that he did not know Plame was a covert agent and that he looked up Wilson’s bio in Who’s Who and found that Plame was indeed listed as working for the CIA which would lead anybody to believe that she was not a covert agent.

There are a thousand questions about the matter and not one I can think of touches Novak’s Catholicism. The big question to me involves Patrick Fitzgerald. Why when he was informed by Armitage that he was the leaker and also told by Novak that Armitage was the leaker, did he tell Armitage to shut up about it and continue the prosecution…which goes on today…of Scooter Libby? If one must bring Catholicism into this, let it be brought up in connection with Catholic Fitzgerald. How moral is it to allow a man to twist slowly, slowly in the wind and amass millions of dollars in legal bills when Fitzgerald knew all the time that Libby was not the leaker? If the whole thing hinges on whether or not in trying to recall telephone calls Libby was inaccurate, Fitzgerald ought to stop being a martinet and get on with more important stuff. This action really damages Patrick Fitzgerald in my eyes—unless there is something remaining that we don’t know. There is a very slight chance there could be: but whatever it is, I don’t think moral theologians will center on whether Novak violated even a micro-millimeter of ethics in doing his job. Com’on, David, you can do better than that!


  1. I don't condone or condemn Mr. Fitzgerald's handling of the Wilson-Palme leak investigation. I only know what I read in the papers... and I know how little to believe of that.

    But you talk about Fitzgerald "amass[ing] millions of dollars in legal bills." Unlike special prosecutors past, Mr. Fitzgerald had no arguable profit motive: He was and remains an employee of the Department of Justice. I am certain that his investigation tied up resources that could have been used elsewhere and that amounts to a real "cost." But, as far as I know, he was paid his regular salary while undertaking this investigation in addition to his duties in Chicago. And his office in Chicago seems to have been pretty busy. (And still seems to be.)

    You suggest that, in the Scooter Libby investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald is a "martinet" and should focus his attention on "more important stuff." But my suspicion is that Mr. Fitzgerald does not make distinctions among laws and lawbreakers. If there's a law on the books, even arguably, and he is put on the case, then the lawbreakers must be rooted and out and brought to trial. For Mr. Fitzgerald, I imagine, the world is black and white. There is no gray.

    In an earlier time, Mr. Fitzgerald might not have risen so high in the world. His Irish name and interest in law enforcement would have lead him to police work. But there'd be no 'stationhouse adjustments' at Sgt. Fitzgerald's precinct.

    I submit that what really "damages" Mr. Fitzgerald in your eyes is that he has pursued the Bush Administration with the same zeal with which he pursues the Daley Administration. But you shouldn't be surprised -- or disappointed. Mr. Fitzgerald is just doing what he does.

  2. "But my suspicion is that Mr. Fitzgerald does not make distinctions among laws and lawbreakers" is not accurate.

    Take a look at Fitz website

    Top headline for the last year has been his (flimsy) case against Governor Ryan. There are hundreds of documents posted pertaining to the Ryan case.

    Now try to find information about the conviction of Bob Creamer (Jan Schakowsky's husband). Where is it? Certainly not in the headlines? How about in the SEARCH field? Nope, no results for Creamer at all.

    One might think that the public records of a US Representatives lobbyist husband would be just that **public records**, but Fitz has buried them, cleary making a distinction between lawbreakers.

  3. Curm,
    Thanks for that.

    I may have wrong link, but the point is still valid. There is no info about Creamer on PF site, while there is a pile of information about Gov Ryan on that same site.

    I think PF has some explaining to do.


  4. If Pat Fitzgerald posts hundreds of documents at no cost about the Ryan trial, and has no posting whatsoever about the Creamer trial on HIS OWN website, don't you think he is pushing the information on the Ryan trial a little harder than he is the Creamer trial?

    I can tell you, I have followed the Creamer trial from the start. The information was buried or just not avaiable on Pat's website from day one, while breaking news of the Ryan trial was all over his website.

    I can also tell you that when WBEZ broadcast news of Creamer's conviction, they referred to the Congresswoman's husband "Evanston Businessman Robert Creamer" never mentioning that he was a lobbyist married to a US Representative. WIND did the same thing, and refused to correct it after I called; WBEZ to their credit, fixed the story on their second newscast of the conviction, though noboby save Tom Roeser ever publsihed the fact that Creamer went to prison. Not the SunTimes, not the Tribune, nor any of the network media outlets.

    I think if I plan to commit a large amount of bank fraud, I will see if my wife can get elected to Congress first. It would keep my name out of the papers.

  5. Wow, Peter Fitzgerald and now John Kass! Darnit! Now wish I had enrolled in the class.

    Just wasn't excited by those jamokes Edgar and LaHood. But these other speakers really offset that. You really put together a first rate program Tom. Congrats and thank you for your committment!

  6. Tom,

    You're right. I can do better. And so, please give me a guest column to describe the lack of connection between Novak's faith and what he does at work as a columnist. Don't you think that one's faith ought to make a difference in how one treats other people?

    It may be that Novak separates his faith from his work. If so, then he's not the only Catholic to do that. Just conisder how the late Mayor Daley regularly went to Mass while presiding over one of the most corrupt administrations in the history of Chicago.

    Regarding Fitzgerald's investigation, he knew then as we know now that Armitage was not the only one who pushed the story about Wilson's wife to reporters. And so, it was incumbent upon Fitzgerald to investigate the other leakers as well. Interesting, though, that only Novak published the story about Wilson's wife.