Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Personal Aside: Father GreeleyGetting Away with Murder.
The waspish overage destroyer, the priest who writes a weekly column in Chicagos unofficial Democratic newspaper of record but stays clear of any theological or moral advice, concentrating on bitter diatribes of a political Democratic bent, vented his sanctimonious spleen last week against Republicans once againbut made a gross mistake for which he could well be remembered. Andrew Greeley, pop novelist and publicity gadfly who delights in pontificating about the Catholic Church in political terms who has frightened a number of Chicago prelates away from exerting control over himall but one whom Greeley savaged in concert with the Sun-Times Roy Larson, the religion editor, where forces were joined to accuse John Cardinal Cody of financial mismanagement and more (personally serious improprieties that were never proven), driving Cody to an earlier death than he would have otherwise met this self-same Andrew Greeley wrote Friday about the presidential campaign of Barack Obama whom he eagerly supports.
Several times in the past Greeley has overstepped in his enthusiasm for the written word. Most times he has rated with Frank Rich in the discharge of partisan vitriol but otherwise caused no harm. But there are others. One was when he inadvertently included in a file sent to Notre Dame notes detailing a rakish plot to get Joseph Cardinal Bernardin elected to the papacy, charting a strategy to switch cardinals votes like one would do with delegates at a political convention. A second was when he publicly doubted the Holy Spirit was at work in selection of the papacy anyhow, at flagrant violation with his Church which has maintained that even when bad men were elected Pope no abrogation in teaching of faith or morals has occurred.
None of the preceding worried the Sun-Times which is more interested in capitalizing on low cleavages on the front page. But this time writing in the Sun-Times, the erratic priest moved from bad taste to abominable dangerous observation. He extolled Obama as being the man the nation has been waiting for and sorely needs in the presidency. Fair enough. But then Greeley lists three reasons why he should not run. This is a rhetorical characteristic with the overly complex denizen of the Hancock Tower. He teases by pointing out the great good that can be accomplished by Obamas election. Then, when his readers approach the final paragraphs, he does a reverse twist to keep his contribution un-cliché-filled and to fulfill the major reason why he writes: to get attention.
The three reasons why Obama should not run: first, Obama has insufficient experience (although here Greeley responds by saying both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had far more and still botched the job of Vietnam so reason number one comes out as a wash). The second is that the political rhetoric in this country is toxic from all the usual conservative sources Greeley hates whom he describes as radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, mean-spirited writers especially at The Wall Street Journal, Republican operatives, spin doctors, publicity seekers, ambitious small time politicians, fundamentalist preachers and rich businessmen [who] will seek to destroy the candidate as soon as he announces. Like the Swift Boat crowd in the last election, they will stop at nothing in their efforts to turn him into political toast. Who needs it?
In reciting the third reason, Greeley gets carried away to the dangerous stance of applying Justice Holmes definition of gross irresponsibility. Not as commonly believed, shouting fire in a crowded theatre but shouting falsely fire in a crowded theatre. Thus in his bitterness he has become the first well-known commentator to raise the question of possible assassination of Obama. He writes: Finally, it is foolish happy talk to say that the United States is ready for an African-American (or perhaps a Kenyan-American) president. Racism is alive and well in the United States and is still as American as cherry pie.
Obama starts out with the South solidly against him. Crazy white supremacists will fall over one another in their attempts to derail the campaign even before the primaries. If he decides to run, the senator is a very brave man. He should invest in flak jackets and helmetsemotional and physical. Emphasis added. By writing thus irresponsibly, the priest has just added his words to make real a hitherto unstated and even unconsidered proposition and has contributed in no small measure endangering Obamas life. His comment ranks with the evil film portraying as a documentary the assassination of George W. Bush. And with that of another irascible partisan, former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N. C.) who got so worked up about Bill Clinton that he publicly advised the president not to come to North Carolina or he would be in danger of being shot at. Helms was widely criticized by the mainstream media. Not a peep out of the mainstream media particularly the Sun-Times which carries his semi-rational drivel written in abuse of clerical privilege about Greeleys warning that Obama might be shot. Because the Sun-Times is so titillated with the idea of a roman collar-wearer writing such vicious hatred against Republicans that its editorial page editor Steve Huntley allows these rants to go un-edited. Let us hope the time will not come when the Sun-Times and Huntley will regret its coddling of its token radical priest and mischievous amateur pundit-wannabe.