Monday, October 23, 2006

Personal Asides:

The 1st Amendment Forum at Loyola Where Facts Don’t Intrude on Prejudice…A Letter to the Editor of the “Sun-Times” Illustrates The Scandalously Flagrant Journalistic Sensationalism of Michael Cooke…Get That Gutsy “Trib” Editorial on Obama?...Speaking of Whom: He Should Run Now…Peraica’s Long-Range Future.

1st Amendment Forum.

Once yearly, for five years now, I have been the lone conservative member of a 6- member panel on the 1st amendment sponsored by the Chicago Headline Club and Loyola University. The only advantage I had was that the panel’s moderator, the witty and incisive Federal Appeals Judge William Bauer is usually fair and asks intelligent questions of the group including the liberals. But otherwise…with the ACLU and the American Library Association and assorted lawyers from the left, I have been outnumbered but I hope not out-pointed. This year to further support the preponderance of liberals they added Dick Kay, the former political editor of WLS-TV (now retired). He began his testimony by saying “now I can say what I really think!” I couldn’t resist saying: “now? You’ve not only been saying what you really think when you report the news, Dick, but as my union president of AFTRA you’ve been supervising the expenditure of my compulsory dues for largely political purposes.” Which made me very popular.

Here are some of the ripostes I dropped from my lonely seat on the panel:

o Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to break this news to you but we are at war. And being at war through an attack on our shores that took more lives than were lost at Pearl Harbor, it is good to recall Justice Robert Jackson’s words issued during the Korean War, that “the First Amendment is not a suicide pact.”

o I have steadfastly sat here and listened to a number of my angry liberal colleagues including Dick Kay who as a journalist is reputed to have a sense of history. Unfortunately I have not noticed it. He has said that the presidency of George W. Bush has usurped more personal freedoms that at any other time in our history. Notwithstanding the freedoms that Abraham Lincoln “usurped” when we were in the midst of a Civil War. But Lincoln had an excellent reason: the revolutionaries were camped just 24 miles from the White House and he could see their campfires from his second floor window. But there have been times when the threat was not so great…war was not declared nor in any sense authorized by Congress…and the offenders were ideological liberal Democratic soul-mates of this panel’s majority.

o I would call to their attention the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt who occupies a high station in liberal sainthood. On June 9, 1941, six months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR issued an executive order seizing an aircraft manufacturing plant operated by North American Aviation in Inglewood, California. Why? It was necessary, said the president, to prevent union employees from crippling aircraft production that was vital to national defense. No act of Congress authorized the seizure and we were not at war and polls taken showed a heavy proportion—some 60 percent—against involvement in war. Procedures for condemnation of private property were not followed, making the president’s action’s illegal. I checked: There is no record of ACLU protest; but there was a protest, led by conservative Republican Senator Robert A. Taft who is scorned by the ACLU because of its liberal heritage.

o In addition, FDR ordered a 48-hour work week and barred payment of double-time for weekend and holiday pay in the nation’s manufacturing plants all by executive order and in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act because although we were not at war, he deemed the actions necessary to the nation’s war effort. Again, I checked: No protest from the ACLU which is so extremely critical of President Bush today.

o A decade later…on April 8, 1952…President Harry Truman ordered the seizure of the nation’s steel mills in order to avert a strike that would cripple steel production necessary for our military involvement in Korea. Like Roosevelt’s before him, Truman’s order did not comply with the statutory requirements for condemnation of private property. Unlike Roosevelt’s actions, however, Truman’s seizure was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court which held that none of the president’s constitutional powers—including those as Commander-in-Chief—were sufficient to sustain seizure. Again, no criticism except from Senator Taft, a conservative. But on the Court, a liberal, Justice Jackson found “alarming” the claim that the President could “vastly enlarge his mastery over internal affairs of the country by his own commitment of the nation’s armed forces to some foreign venture.”

o The Korean War was not sanctioned by either a declaration of war or a resolution of support by the Congress (different from the congressional-passed resolution of powers given to George W. Bush after 9/11). But it is important to note that Justice Jackson did not deny that the president would have the power had Congress passed a resolution of any kind supporting the war. He pointed out that Truman acted by claiming his own constitutional powers in the face of congressional silence. The problem for Truman, said Jackson in the majority decision, was that Congress had not authorized the war and that the steel mills were too far from the theatre of war to fall under Truman’s powers as commander-in-chief. To my colleagues here who are worried about civil liberties that the ACLU worried not a whit over FDR or Truman.

o Therein lies the difference. Now, Congress has authorized the use of force in broad terms which gives sanctions to President Bush’s actions. The Supreme Court has already held that the statute passed was broad enough to give the president authority to detain U. S. citizens as enemy combatants. Surely it is broad enough to serve as authority for the much lesser intrusion of personal liberty at issue with a wiretap of international phone calls made to our enemies. The protests come from the left but largely because they are political critics of the president just as they have been political critics of other presidents who waged a tough fight in the Cold War.

o Ladies and gentlemen, as September 11 has made clear, we are living in a theatre of war. And this bickering about our “lost rights” is not a cry for civil liberties on your part but a complaint based on base partisanship and partisanship only. You seem to care not whether the agents of stateless, terrorist enemies are on U. S. soil, aiming to strike at our infrastructure, our citizens and our way of life at every possible opportunity. Even if the “Use of Force” authorization were not sufficient to sustain the president’s executive order, his own powers as Commander-in-Chief and as president, derived directly from the Constitution itself, allow this carefully circumscribed effort at thwarting the next devastating terrorist attack against our nation.

o There is much emotion on this panel for journalists’ right to withhold information from the courts based on a spurious understanding of the 1st amendment. Regarding Judith Miller’s stand that the 1st amendment contains a journalistic right to keep sources secret, the Appellate Court in Miller’s case found no precedent, no previous court ruling that the journalistic withholding of information is covered by the 1st amendment. I know it is extremely hard to take for those in the newsgathering profession but under the Constitution they have the same responsibilities we all have and no more privileges.

o A majority of Americans initially support the National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the U. S. in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington “Post”-ABC News poll taken last May. Sixty-three percent of Americans say they found the NSA program an acceptable way to investigate terrorism—including 44 percent who strongly endorse the effort. Thirty-five percent said that the program was no acceptable including 24 percent who strongly objected to it.

o FDR’s removal of 120,000 Japanese to internment camps came after representatives of western states pressed the administration and Congress to have Japanese-Americans removed from the West Coast. When the Justice Department objected on constitutional and ethical grounds, FDR issued executive order 9066 that directed the U. S. Army to transport them to the camps. Most of them were U.S. citizens or had permanent resident alien status. They were detained for four years without due process of law or presented with any factual evidence against them. As one who lived during that period, I recall that rather than opposition there was a deep breath of relief that people who might very well become enemy sympathizers were removed and quarantined…with contemporary liberals’ shining beacon, Earl Warren, then California attorney general, doing the dirty work.

The remarkable thing about this panel was that it proceeded to vilify President Bush as if they had not heard me at all. And the excesses of the liberal past were judged acceptable under the law and unchallenged by the Supreme Court, under liberal presidents…with the exception of the Truman steel mill seizure: and even here it would have been justified if there had been a congressional resolution of any sort supporting his action in Korea. Even then, Judge Bauer entered the fray by saying that there is a hallowed legal phrase in Latin that vilifies the argument that others have committed the same “offense” and “so what?” Not apt, Judge. The fact that others committed the same “offense” and were not found unconstitutional is very pertinent and the heart of my case. No precedents for challenge is not incidental in this argument.

This “so what” thing, I have noticed, is commonplace in discussions of with liberals on so-called civil liberties when their past heroes have acted to defend society. These liberals are not interested in precedents. Nor do they make much of an effort to condemn them. Mention of these things were merely passed over in silence while the panel members examined their papers and waited to speak. When they spoke, they did not answer me…they proceeded as though nothing untoward had happened in the past. It should be expected that some recognition in the argument over actions of past presidents. Not in this case. The only answer I can give for their silence is that they had no answer. But if FDR issued an order like the aforementioned before we were in war and it wasn’t ruled unconstitutional, it is of sufficient precedent to give Bush at least the benefit of the doubt. But their pathological hatred of Bush is so evident that they are disinterested in precedents which validate him.

The panel was so heavily lop-sided and partisan blinded for this fifth time in a row that I doubt I will participate next time. Not only was I the only one on the panel who supported Bush but my arguments were dismissed as so much chaff…unworthy of comment despite their validity in history. When I mentioned FDR’s seizure of the aeronautics factory before Pearl Harbor, the pompous ACLU panelist said that he was not born when it happened and if his organization hadn’t squawked, so what? It reminds me of Benjamin Disraeli’s complaint on the floor of Commons that because his opponents dismiss history, they are unable to be reasoned with.

Scandalously Sensationalist.

A letter to the “Sun-Times” editor published the other day was more eloquent than anything I have yet written about the seriously adverse sensationalizing of the newspaper’s journalism by schlock artist Michael Cooke…who spent a short time as editor of the New York “Daily News” before being fired and returning to the “Sun-Times.” The usual explanation for Cooke’s travesty in headlining and layout if that the “Sun-Times” must depend to a greater extent than the “Tribune” on street sales…and garish headlines do the job. It is problematic that garish headlines do the job. But it is not just the garish headlines to which I object. Writing of news stories on crime have taken on a vividness that rivals the old “Police Gazette.” But that isn’t all. Occasionally, an element of crime novella writing appears with some fictionalizing as well.

A letter by Julie Peterson and Anne Breen-Greco from Lincoln Square cites a horrific crime that was reported recently. A woman was held captive for four days and raped repeatedly in the alleged perpetrator’s apartment at Cullom and Western in Lincoln Square on the North Side.

The writers claim justifiably that the “Sun-Times” in reporting it added a degree of exploitation and sensationalism. This has become a hallmark of Michael Cooke. The story was headed “Artist allegedly holds woman hostage in chamber, rapes her while keeping notes on others.” Wrote the women: “…The style in which the story was written created a different perception and provoked an angry reaction. Some defined the article as insensitive and offensive, glorifying the crime and the alleged perpetrator with no concern for the victim, reporting facts as if they were `clues in a novella.’ Especially troublesome is the fact that, while the alleged perpetrator was known locally as a `handyman’ he was referred to as an `artist’ in the title to the story instead of as the `accused rapist’ and in the article he was written about as if he were some sort of fictional rogue figure.”

You see, it is more sensational to think of a mad artist plying his trade than a handyman. Think of it as a kind of takeoff on “The Devil in the White City.” It is as if a scriptwriter has decided an artist is more intriguing at the center of the tale. This is the style that is destined to get the “Sun-Times” into credibility trouble. Maybe it’s the kind of stuff that got Cooke kicked out on his posterior in New York.

That picturesque writing is a hallmark of Cooke-ism…named after the Brit who has inhaled the most noxious fumes of the scandalously poisonous London tabloids which are the nadir of the West. Aside from the paper’s excellent City Hall coverage by Fran Spielman, Cooke-ism reduces the newspaper to one step ahead of comic book style. We are only a few weeks away from the cliché headline: “Man’s Headless Body Found in Topless Bar.” The sad point is that degeneration of writing from accurate dispassion to lurid exploitation usually comes at the end of a newspaper’s existence—which may not be too far down the road for the “Sun-Times” according to some reports. As for the “Tribune,” it could easily die of reader boredom with its temporizing timidity and lukewarm country club style.

Go, Gutsy Trib!

That roaring organ of unconventional thought, the “Tribune” has a zinging editorial on potential presidential aspirant Barack Obama. Did you read it? It says Obama is an attractive person. It says that if he runs for president it will be exciting. It says that if he decides not to run, somebody else will come along who is also exciting. Wait and see. What analysis. What verve. What prescience.

Speaking of Obama…

There’s a strong consensus among political types of both parties that Obama would be best served to run for president in 2008 for several reasons. One, as conservative Frank Penn (no Obama supporter but a smart analyst) pointed out at our breakfast at the “Windy City Café” Sunday, the natural thing to do is to run before one’s Senatorial record gets messed up with the compromises and complexities that bedeviled John Kerry (“I voted for the bill before I voted against it”). Second, there’s no way that “seasoning” is going to make Obama hotter politically than he is now. For Republicans, the entry of Obama into the race would be sweet: to see Hillary, John Edwards and John Kerry have to tangle with him. Obama’s style is that of great negotiative appeal. On my radio show, he always told a conservative caller, “You know, you make a good point. Now let me ask you if you would agree with--.” The ingratiating style is better suited to him…and perhaps the electorate these days…than polemics.

One-Term Tony.

A highly-placed Democratic office-holder told me the other day that Tony Peraica is within striking distance of victory…and he pledged me not to quote him (which I am not). I remain agnostic on his chances…although I’ll vote for him and have endorsed him…because I can’t imagine that he can mount a ground-game that can possibly overcome the Democratic machine which so sorely wants to keep its power…nor the black ballast of the machine which is so strongly Democratic.

But odds are that if Peraica does become the first Republican president of the Cook county board in forty years, he will take a leaf from the book written by his last Republican predecessor, Dick Ogilvie. Ogilvie who was sheriff before getting elected president, decided early to serve one term as president because even then he viewed the county as impossible for a Republican to win reelection in. So he left as board president after two years and ran for governor of Illinois and won. There was always animosity between Ogilvie and Cook county GOP chairman Tim Sheehan who wanted Ogilvie to stay and build a patronage army. Ogilvie undoubtedly chose the right course.

There seems little doubt that Tony Peraica would, if elected, do the same thing: achieve savings and reforms and move on to run for governor in 2010. In that year the colliding may come from the acting governor Pat Quinn who may be challenged by AG Lisa Madigan. Of course, even if Tony loses a heartbreaker for president of the county board, he may just run for governor as well. So it seems clear that if the campaign goes as well as it has been, you’ll see Peraica run for governor next time. The difference between Ogilvie and Peraica is that Ogilvie had set his sights on ultimately running for president after two terms in Springfield which would bring him up to 1976. Peraica can’t do that because he was born in what was then Yugoslavia…unless--. Unless the United States can somewhat acquire Croatia and make it our 51st state.

Ogilvie started out as a Goldwater conservative and capitalized on law-and-order to win the sheriff’s spot. When he ran for president of the county board in 1966, his TV commercials showed him stepping out of his sheriff’s squad car with the slogan emblazed on the screen: The Right Man for a Tough Job. But he thought he foresaw an era when Republicanism would mean stronger and bigger government…setting the administrative goals of Nelson Rockefeller as his lodestar. Deciding along with Republican Senate President W. Russell Arrington that the state needed an income tax, he was mum about the issue when he ran for governor against the incumbent Sam Shapiro. Once he got in, he took a great chance and supported a state income tax. It was called courageous which I doubt but was merely pragmatic as he wished to build a strong state government with its added revenue—a government in his image. The state income tax killed him and he lost in 1972 to Dan Walker.

Times are different now, and Tony Peraica will likely not seek to increase the size of government but cut it back…and will vow to do the same in Springfield. There’s no doubt that in Peraica…whether you like him or not…you must respect that he is tough and courageous: two virtues that lend themselves well to political success in Illinois.


  1. Tom, so sorry to hear you were outnumbered at Loyola. The inability to correct the abuses of power a half century or more ago hardly justify ignoring current executive abuses of power. In spite of this administration's misleading buildup to the vote authorizing the president's use of force in Iraq, there were 23 nays in the senate; 114 in the house.

    Instead of griping about the checks applied by the courts not reflecting your citation of polls showing public support for the NSA program, be thankful that this judiciary didn't fail in protecting minority rights as badly as in America's past.

    Though it's good of you to stick it out, at least, unlike network newscasts or even the Newshour of PBS -- where a study completed by the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting group ( shows that GOP commentators outnumber Dems by 2 to 1 – your Loyola forum doesn't have a national audience 24/7.

    Claims of a liberal media bias are greatly exaggerated.

  2. Tom, I don't often disagree with you, but Peraica courageous? The guy who brags about being Catholic and pro-life, and then won't lift a finger to have an impact on policy when given an obvious opportunity?

    And why don't you take him to task for the dishonest way he spins the issue of abortions at Cook County Hospital? He brings up Roe v. Wade, and tries to make people believe that "the law" won't allow him to make any changes on publically funded abortions at Cook County Hospital. This is completely dishonest and outrageous. In truth, he could do it with the stroke of a pen. But he's not even honest enough to at least admit that he's simply disgarding those pro-life beliefs to try and get elected.

    And what was the deal with Dan Proft on your show last night? You brought up the South Dakota thing, and Dan switches to this "oh yes, I'm pro-life, I'm all in favor of what pro-lifers are doing out there."

    So he supports the pro-life cause when it's hundreds of miles away, and a more undefined, general cause. But when he's part of a campaign that could actually have a REAL impact and almost immediately, he runs away.

    If pro-lifers are just going to be a bunch of opportunistic, dishonest prostitutes, then I really wish they would get off their high horses and bragging about how they are "pro-life" only when it fits their own opportunitic ends.

    If someone wants to be a say and do anything to get elected political whore, that's fine. Just be honest about it.

    But they shouldn't waste our time pretending to be "pro-life." It's just insulting.

  3. Dear Mr. Roeser,

    In a Frank Capra movie, Mr. Roeser, your words of warning on the horrific state of Chicago newspapers would be picked up by an enlightened plutocrat -

    "By Gad, Martha, This Roeser Kid has hit the nail squarely where it does the most good! These ink-slingers are geldings and shills for the Commies! Take this check to Tom Roeser and tell him to put together a stable of good clear thinking American writers and get the news out there! Now, I want this done today! And, Martha, I have always loved you - even though you are a Democratic Party precinct captain - you are a handsome widow and after you do the tasks I have asked of you - will you please honor this old Republican war-horse by taking my hand in marriage? I have been a widower too long and maybe together we can get this country back on its feet again - Now, get to Tom Roeser before it's too darn late!

  4. Chicago is a wonderful, powerful city that is home to worldwide corporations, two Major League baseball teams, the finest hospitals, the best architecture...

    ...but we don't have one decent newspaper.

    You can play out your Capra fantasy to belittle the point, but your newspapers are worthless.

  5. Tom, the refusal of the local liberal journalists to engage you in debate at Loyola calls to mind a time back in the '60s when Bobby Kennedy refused an invitation from Bill Buckley to appear on his "Firing Line" TV show. When asked why Kennedy refused, Buckley replied, "Why does baloney reject the grinder?"

  6. Mr. March,

    Quite the contrary. I bemoan the very pointed facts Mr. Roeser lays before us and far from belittle the issue.

    Please, excuse my insular tendancy to take sadness with some humor - keeps me from being a grouchy bastard.

  7. Tom, Tom,Tom. You know I was Political Editor at WMAQ-TV..not WlS-TV. I don't know where you got the alleged quote about being very popular as union President. Never once did I CLAIM it made me very popular. It cost me a great deal to occupy that post because management did not like my union activities. As for spending your money on political activities I can't imagine where you got that idea. As a union we successfully fought one political battle: to win approval of non-compete legislation to ban that practice for ALL broadcasters including a winning a veto override with the help of Republican sponsors. You benefitted since your station can no longer sign you to a no-compete contract. That was the extent of my political activity. We endorse no candidates or political causes. Can you give me any other example? You are a great adversary and passionate spokesperson for your view. I am looking forward to the next forum.