Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Personal Aside: More Presidential Trivia from Terry.


Terry’s Trivia.

Two items of presidential trivia from the master of same, Terry Przbylski. Turn off your search engines, now.

1. Who were the last two presidents to outlive their wives?

2. Both Nixon (1972) and Reagan (1984) won 49 states but who came closer to winning all 50 states?

Answers tomorrow.

Flashback: “Normalcy” of the 1920s and the Liberal Abnormality.

[More review of our family for my kids, 13 grandchildren and anyone else who wants to hitch-hike along.]

When Frances Catherine Cleary, head of the J.Walter Thompson Chicago office production department (my mother) and Harold Nicholas Roeser, sports writer for the old “Chicago American” (my father) played golf at Dempster public course in 1919, a year after World War I (she playing along at first that she was from the steno pool so as not to make him uncomfortable) , the nation was poised on the lip of a great boom—a boom that ever since has been calumniated as an era of greed, selfishness and stupidity which inevitably led to the birth of modern liberalism and the exemplary growth of the corporate state. Only now are historians beginning to understand that the `20s were not evil, greedy and pleasure-bent—but the era of liberalism that followed, pursuing denser regulation, higher taxes and more government overseeing…carrying into the present day…has been decidedly deleterious.

The idea has been promulgated that wild speculation participated in by people of the whoopee era who danced on the edge of a volcano caused the stock market crash of 1929 and brought the so-called “flapper” age to sobriety. That view has been ingrained into history by three villains: H. L. Mencken the equal opportunity hater and Nietzsche buff, John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., which was taken up by a pack of imitators in the media. Not so. The era was entirely justified by the chaos produced by Woodrow Wilson—a chaos that must be understand before we get to the `20s which was a justifiable anti-Wilson correction. Several points:

  • Wilson, a grandiose proto-liberal had seen himself in grandiose terms: the leader of the Free World, the formulator of an era of enlightened internationalism with the League of Nations. In fact as we have seen, he led the nation into a war in which we had no business being through a series of contrived “crises.”

  • The Versailles treaty which Wilson wanted the U. S. to approve carried within it the seeds of World War II. In an orgy of anger, Wilson crisscrossed the nation speaking from his railroad observation car to groups. But “the battle over the League” has been seriously distorted by liberal historians. It was not a battle over the League at all but a battle over Article 10 of the Versailles treaty. Article 10 obligated all League members to go to war if necessary to preserve the territorial integrity of member states. Opponents feared rightly that 10 would be an automatic trigger that would embroil us into war without our own self-determination.

  • The bunk that opponents of the League were “isolationists” has been sold for years—but it is utterly false. Chief opponent of Article 10 was Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., distinguished historian, holder of a doctorate in government from Harvard when doctorates had not been around very long (Lodge contesting with the possessor of another doctorate in government, Woodrow Wilson of Princeton). The idea that Lodge was a hopeless, red-neck reactionary is as wrong as rain. He was a super-sophisticated internationalist of the time. Lodge was a close friend to Theodore Roosevelt and served him closely with TR was president. Lodge didn’t oppose the League; he opposed Article 10.

  • Lodge wrote a “reservation” which if approved would have ended all controversy about the League. It said “The United States assumes no obligation to preserve the territorial integrity or political independence of any country…under the provisions of Article 10 or to employ the military and naval forces of the United States under any article of the treaty for any purpose”—except if and when Congress wants to declare war.

  • But Wilson, the monomaniac…also undergoing the stress that would shortly cause him to suffer a major stroke…believed it was all or nothing. Had he accepted the Lodge reservation, the U.S. would have joined the League and would have behaved as a member just as it does the current United Nations. But frankly as we have seen with the UN, the idea of a concert of nations acting like a parliamentary body is useless and the UN, as the League, has been impotent. So for many reasons, we are lucky we didn’t join the League.

  • But liberal historians and the liberal media have propagated the myth that “evil old men” in the Senate killed Woodrow Wilson’s dream and caused in him a stroke that made him a martyr…and that our isolationism led to an impotence of the League that made inevitable World War II. That is so far from the truth as to be almost laughable. H. L. Mencken was one who popularized it—ignoring that details of the struggle, fictioning that old curmudgeon Lodge hated the League and wanted us to be Fortress America. The terrifying thing is how history has been bent just as contemporary media are bent every day to liberal ends.

  • And look what the historian makeup artists have portrayed: Wilson a saint, Harding an evil crook, Coolidge a lazy dunce, Hoover, coldly insensitive to the unemployed; FDR a compassionate architect of prosperity and peace, Truman one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived, Ike a dunce and inactive, JFK a scholar-statesman-martyr, LBJ warm-hearted lover of the poor, Nixon evil, Ford dumb, Carter a man of conscience, Reagan a lucky dumb guy, Bush I an elitist with no popular feel, Clinton a near genius, Bush II a clumsy dunce and warmonger. It all started with the cosmetics job given to Wilson and his successors. Back to Wilson, now.

    Driving himself with frenetic energy, Wilson’s own language became intemperate and grandiose. The treaty, he said, constituted “the incomparable consummation of the hopes of mankind.” The treaty “is an unparalleled achievement of thoughtful civilization—the first treaty ever made by great powers that was not made in their own favor.” Nonsense, even with the liberal hype historians are concluding that (a) the Kaiser was in no way an approximation of Adolf Hitler and (b) the punitive sanctions on Germany spurred a demagogue like Hitler to arise to appeal to the patriotism of the German people.

    Wilson produced such a grandiose scenario as he crossed the nation by train, that he turned off the public. It had had enough of grandiose dreams and wanted to get back to peace. The candidate named by the Republicans to oppose this was Warren Harding. Again, the spectacle of Harding that has emerged has been wildly inaccurate. Harding was far-far from the worst president of the United States as he has been commonly adjudged in polls by liberal professors. Indeed, he was a surprisingly good one. Here’s why:

  • He had a super cabinet: starting with Andrew Mellon in Treasury who put into practice the tax cuts that rejuvenated the economy, reduced the national debt and promoted business confidence…Charles Evans Hughes as Secretary of State who launched the London naval conference, spurred better relations with Latin America, arms limitation. .

  • His priority was to reinvigorate the economy which had slumped into recession following the war. He was the first president to get the budget organized, setting up the first Budget Bureau under Charlie Dawes, the Evanston banker. He cut spending by $1 billion, a big number in those days, had the guts to reject a popular war bonus for soldiers that would have depleted the Treasury; initiated disarmament treaties that reduced U.S., British and Japanese fleets, caused all civilized nations to reject poison gas in warfare which has lasted until the present—all done in little over two years before his death in office in 1923.

  • Even the scandals with which he has been associated—and trumped up by the news media offended that he had made their hero Woodrow Wilson look so bad in contrast—were minor league by contrast with those that happened since, including under the man the media say was one of the greatest of the 20th century, Harry Truman (who had three straight IRS commissioners dumped in scandals). Teapot Dome, clearly wrong, opened national oil reserves to private companies in exchange for bribes. The head of the Veterans Bureau took kickbacks from land speculators in return for placing hospitals on their property. But in replacing him and straightening out the mess, Harding won praise from many contemporaries and later historians such as the highly acclaimed Robert H. Ferrell.

  • Believe it or not, Harding’s bad rap comes from a disclosure after his death that he may have had an illegitimate daughter with one Nan Britton (he had had an affair before he was president with one Carrie Phillips who moved to Germany). Britton wrote a sensational book claiming this after his death which was promoted by H. L Mencken. Prof. Ferrell discovered that Harding was indeed sterile (had no children with his wife) and had sought doctors’ treatment for it to no avail. But before Ferrell made that finding, a pack of liberal advocate historians had condemned him and the prosperity he began as greed—William Allen White, Frederick Lewis Allen, Samuel Hopkins Adams.

  • Believe it or not Harding was an average guy with a better than average sense of where the public was on issues. He may have fooled around with women but he didn’t conceive a child out of wedlock for the simple reason that he could not—he was as sterile as a lead pipe (like the childless George Washington). He was much more of a sound, commonsense guy than his predecessor Wilson with far better instincts.

    Harding was a small town newspaper editor (Marion, Ohio) who could write well but on occasion had trouble with syntax. What he wanted to do more than anything else was to restore this nation to normality. Instead of saying “normality” he postulated an ungrammatical word “normalcy.” There is no such word as “normalcy” but liberal historians and effete newspaper commentators have used it ever since to maintain he was a boob. But his private papers reveal how well read he was—his favorites being Carlyle, Dickens, Pope and Shakespeare.

    The rumor out on Harding from the first time he ran, for the State Senate, was that there were African-Americans in his lineage. Answer: probably but studies of his heritage were never fully resolved. What is certain is that he was the first president to issue a pledge to fight discrimination, to receive an honorary doctorate from a black college.

    Harding had some limitations. He liked the girls, he liked playing cards and drinking with his buddies. But his instincts were far-far better than Wilson’s. He has been accused of returning the nation to laissez-faire economics and isolationism. He did on laissez-faire but favored membership in the World Court which the Senate refused to endorse. He ended the rigid controls on the economy placed there by Wilson during World War I, assuredly.

    If, in fact, Warren Harding was the first president to be partially of African American heritage, he did his black ancestry proud even though he has never received sufficient credit. To-wit:

    During World War I the top income tax rate had been hiked from 7% to 73%! Harding believed this was unconscionable and produced tax relief with the aid of his treasury secretary Andrew Mellon. Wilson’s supporters cried that if the high taxes were cut there would be ruinous inflation. Harding and Mellon denied it and were proved right. The top rate went down from 73 to 40 and later to 25. And as result federal revenue increased but economic activity multiplied many times over. Was Harding a miserable failure and was his successor Calvin Coolidge a bumbler? Listen to this: in 1926 unemployment reached a low of 1%. Yes—one percent.

    It is inconceivable that the president who followed Woodrow Wilson is regarded as the worst of all 43 presidents than his predecessor who (a) got us into war and (b) formulated a peace agreement that inevitably produced World War II—seen as gigantic martyr and statesman. In fact, he was one of the more successful presidents. It’s a great irony that because he liked the girls, his reputation has suffered at the hands of the same liberal progenitors of the current crop who call Bill Clinton effective. Warren Harding belongs not just in the middle category of effective presidents but somewhere in the top third.


    Times were very good when Frances Catherine Cleary and Harold Nicholas Roeser went out together in Chicago. There was a prudent morality in effect that largely negated chance for impropriety: young people lived at home with their parents until they married. Were there young people who misbehaved? Absolutely—but nothing…nothing…in that so-called “riotous age” compared to today. If there was a reaction against Victorian ideas of morality, it came from the intellectuals. Assuredly women changed their dress styles, some took up smoking. Prohibition, an unwise policy, came during World War I largely through the feminist movement and the fact that many young men who would have opposed Prohibition were in the military.

    Gradually as they came to fall in love, Frances Catherine admitted to Harold Nicholas that she was doing far better at J. Walter Thompson than she had led him to believe. But rather than making him jealous, before they married in 1923, it spurred him to leave the newspaper business and do what he really wanted to do—get involved in promoting European travel. Because of his facility with German, he joined a one steamship line, then transferred to a German steamship company as salesman and quickly became top salesman of the line to a number of Chicago businesses.

    By the time they married, she was still making more than he but he was coming up—coming up to the point that she felt she should leave J. Walter…regretfully but with no inner-confusion.

    What did he see in her? His diary says that he was smitten with her deep blue eyes and her saucy attitude of practicality which was a welcome relief from his Germanic-style deep thinking which could lead to melancholy. She convinced him to drop the deep thinking stuff and be practical—although he could never be so practical as she.

    What did she see in him? She kept no diary but I know full well. She was two-years older than he and she felt sorely that in her ambition to get ahead at the ad agency, she had missed out on a lot of things: books, culture and the study of politics. She had become convinced that the World War was needless but until she met him, didn’t really know why. She didn’t care that he didn’t dance; she preferred to ask his advice about a lot of things she had never thought of before—the economy, politics, international affairs. She couldn’t feel the same way with, let us say, Ted Jardin who was her equal at the agency: he was interested in just what she was—getting ahead. But she wanted more than that.

    She was rather concerned, it is intriguing to note, that perhaps Harold Nicholas was less interested in the Catholic Church than was she (as it turned out, he became so passionately involved…so prayerful…that she thought he was over-doing it just before he died). And too, she felt that she should get married and have a family. There was nobody in the ad business who talked with her the way this German did or who could get her to laugh.

    Most importantly, at 27—somewhat late in working-class genre--she wanted to get on with building a family. She had been told that it might…just might…be very difficult for her to conceive and, after marriage some people told her she should break free of the enervating cycle of energy that was the advertising business and become a housewife. She had two sisters who had already married—one, Marie, an older sister, married George Helfrich…the second, Alice, a younger sister, had married William Kane. Frances decided: Harold Nicholas Roeser was the guy for her. Not Ted Jardin who would bring J. Walter office politics home every night to her. She had dated a lot including a lot of good dancers but after the dancing was over there was too little to talk about—just mundane, dumb things. Not with this German.

    With that in mind, they married on January 17, 1923…he the assistant western passenger manager at the North German Lloyd and she staying at J. Walter until she would have a family but still determined to become a housewife, learn how to cook (she had never learned how because she spent her young adult years at the office and her mother cooked for her). They pooled their income and decided to buy a house right off—in a scarcely developed area on the far northwest side of Chicago, a subdivision called Edison Park…Edison after the man who invented the lightbulb…Edison because it was one of the first areas of Chicago to install electric street lights. And they went to Europe on the North German Lloyd steamer “Berlin,” which gave Father got a discount. Going to Europe in the early `20s was rare indeed for non-super wealthy. On the ship she stumbled going downstairs and badly sprained her ankle: he dutifully brought her meals to her easy chair.

    In Italy, she still had a bit of the kid in her at 27. They were biking in Rome and she saw a devastatingly handsome policeman directing traffic. She gave him a flirtatious look which she had practiced evidently at J. Walter, batting her eyelashes flapper-style only to find that when she and Harold stopped for coffee, the cop came into the restaurant, sat down and importuned her to see him, heedless of my father’s presence! “God,” said Father, “we were both amazed! Then she got terrified! I wanted to deck him but swinging at a cop in Rome wouldn’t exactly be the smartest thing to do. This guy was gesticulating in Italian that Fran wanted to go with him!” He left, backing out of the restaurant, with many honeyed Italian words to describe his affection for her! That cured Frances Catherine Roeser nee Cleary and she never raised her eyes to look at Italian cops again.

    “Enough of that,” she said when I reminded her of it when she was in advanced age. “You get me talking too much!”
  • Tuesday, January 30, 2007

    Personal Asides: After All the Protesting, the Obama Muslim Story Insofar as We Can Know It.


    The “Washington Examiner,” a new daily in D. C. which, along with the “Washington Times” is breaking the almost monopolistic stranglehold of the liberal “Washington Post” on the printed news, has as complete a background on Barack Hussein Obama’s Muslim orientation as can be told without the wholehearted cooperation of the Obama office or the slavishly sycophantic pro-Obama press corps. The “Examiner” has a story by Bill Sammon (formerly of the “Times”) which relies on his reading of Obama memoirs, statements from the Senator’s office and some logical deductions. Obama’s office was so tight-lipped during the foray, so unforthcoming, so reliant on CNN that it led to suspicions of seeking to rely on deniability.

    First, as his first autobiography had said, Obama’s office has confirmed that the school he went to in Indonesia was Muslim and did teach the Koran to him when he was nine and ten. Obama’s book, “Dreams from My Father” had the cute little observation that the teacher complained to his mother that he made faces during Koranic studies—from which we are supposed to deduce, I guess, that he was unsympathetic.

    Second, the office says it was not a madrassa or radical Islamic school. Wonderful; if they had done so originally, it would have been much easier.

    Third, his father, stepfather, brother and grandfather were Muslims. His own first name, Barack, means “Blessed” in Arabic.

    Fourth, in his second memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama says when his father met his mother he was a confirmed atheist.

    Fifth, it is noteworthy that a statement issued by Obama’s office last week listed his father as an atheist but made no mention of his Muslim upbringing.

    Sixth, when his father, a black Kenyan named Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. died in 1982 “the family wanted a Muslim burial,” Obama quoted his brother Roy as saying in “Dreams.”

    Seventh, Sammon quotes civil rights author Juan Williams of National Public Radio as saying, “He comes from a father who was a Muslim. I mean, I think that given we’re at war with Muslim extremists, that presents a problem.”

    Eighth, Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama for whom it is said the Senator was given his middle name, Hussein, was “fiercely devoted to Islam” according to the book “Dreams.” His grandmother was quoted as telling him “What your grandfather respected was strength. Discipline. This is also why he rejected the Christian religion, I think. For a brief time he converted, and even changed his name to Johnson. But he could not understand such ideas as mercy towards your enemies, or that this man Jesus could wash away a man’s sins. To your grandfather, this was a foolish sentiment, something to comfort women. And so he converted to Islam—he thought its practices conformed more closely to his beliefs.”

    Ninth, when Obama was 2 his parents divorced and his father moved away from the family’s home in Hawaii. Four years later his mother married an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetoro, a practicing Muslim and they moved to Jakarta. During that time, Obama says in his memoir, he was first sent to a neighborhood Catholic school and “then to a predominately Muslim school. In the household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita [a book sacred to Hindus] sat on the shelf…Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate. One day soon, he promised, he would a piece of tiger meat for us to share. It was to Lolo that I turned to for guidance and instruction. He introduced me as his son.”

    Tenth, Obama was not raised a Muslim, the Senator’s office said. Nor as a Christian by his mother, a white American named Ann Dunham who according to Sammon was “deeply skeptical of religion.” NOTE: To my knowledge there has not been a photo released of his mother nor has there been information disseminated as to where she’s living. “Her memories of the Christians who populated her youth were not fond ones,” Obama wrote. “For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness.” As a result, he wrote, “I was not raised in a religious household.”

    Eleventh, later in life Obama says he was influenced by the writings of a famous U. S. Muslim, the spokesman for the militant Nation of Islam, Malcolm X: “Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different,” Obama wrote. “His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me, the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will…Malcolm’s discovery toward the end of his life that some whites might live beside him as brothers in Islam, seemed to offer some hope of eventual reconciliation.”

    Twelfth, while working as a community organizer for a group of churches in Chicago, Obama says he was frequently invited to join Christian congregations but declined: “I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won.

    Thirteenth, he was eventually baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago: “It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

    Fourteenth, Obama’s family connections to Islam would continue; his brother Roy chose to be a Muslim over Christianity. Writing of him, Obama says, “The person who made me proudest of all was Roy. Actually , now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam and h as sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol.”

    Fifteenth, Obama is sharply critical of what he calls “the religious absolutism of the Christian right.” The Democratic party has “a core segment of our constituency [that] remains stubbornly secular in orientation and fears—rightly no doubt—that the agenda of an assertively Christian nation may not make room for them or their life choices.”

    Sixteenth, he does not believe any one religion should define the United States. “We are no longer just a Christian nation,” he wrote in “Audacity.” “We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation and a nation of unbelievers.”

    That’s about as definitive a statement of his religious views as can be found. How much easier it would have been if Obama’s office had provided such a compilation rather than remaining silent while such authorities as CNN attempted to respond. Nor is it racism or particular-ism that centers on Obama. Just as John Kennedy’s religious beliefs depended on his going before the Houston ministers, George Romney’s Mormon faith necessitated his delineation of religious views as it is now required for his son.


    speaker madigan
    You won’t know the players from the pundits if you don’t study the Scorecard showing who’s announced, exploring, strongly interested, And just plain hoping lightning will strike.

    By Thomas F. Roeser

    [More on presidential politics written for The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest national Catholic weekly—with some updating since publication.]

    CHICAGO—Showing how the badly-fractured Democratic party here can agree on one item to unite all the factions—political self-preservation…pro-Daley, anti-Blagojevich, the warring supporters of Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones…everybody is gung-ho on moving up the date of the 2008 Illinois presidential primary a number of weeks—from mid-March to Feb. 5. Ostensible reason: to benefit the announced presidential candidacy of Sen. Barack Hussein Obama. Real reason: to court favor with the huge African American voting bloc which is essential for Democrats to stay in power here.

    The real Obama zealots are white liberals; as for some black Democrat pols, a number of them including Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, his son Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. and others would privately agree with the late Everett Dirksen. When asked what he thought of his junior colleague, charismatic wonder-child Chuck Percy, the old Senator replied: “My friend, there are some days when I do not think of him at all.”

    It’s common wisdom that liberal whites get weak in the knees when they hear “We Shall Overcome.” Me, I don’t want to vote Democratic but have been known to sway and snap fingers to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”. Black voters are counted on as naturals to vote for any and every black candidate including the guy who stashed $600,000 in his freezer, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). Whites are a little more choosy but adore Obama.

    And white liberals will rule early in primary season. Next year’s presidential season starts with guilt-ridden Dems in largely white states (Iowa and New Hampshire), fewer than 350,000 in a nation of 300 million. Then soon after would come Illinois with its heavy black turnout. If the Obama strategists can keep Bambi relatively uncontroversial for the next 13 months (ten months before the general election), continuing the strategy that presents him as a blank slate brimming with idealism (despite his ultra-liberal voting record to the left of Ted Kennedy’s) they could wrap this thing up quickly.

    Everybody’s getting into the act here for Obama but one player. Demonstrating how one hand washes the other, Mayor Richard M. Daley endorsed Obama for president in 2008 and Obama approved Daley for reelection as mayor this year notwithstanding that there are two blacks running against Daley. The only one not pumping for Obama is Rep. Rahm Emanuel who owes what passes for his soul to the Clintons.

    Meanwhile Hillary Clinton forces in New York have, thanks to Harold Ickes, the squinty-eyed son of FDR’s old squinty-eyed interior secretary, leaked reports that as a kid Obama went to a radical Islam grade school. Obama has been put under wraps and kept from responding. Instead, liberal CNN sent a reporter to the Indonesian school and found it ducky—not unlike the mission Iraq War critic Joe Wilson at the suggestion of his CIA-en-bedded wife to complicate matters for Bush which both of them used in propaganda wars against the president. With no response from Obama, this city’s unofficial Democratic newspaper of record, the “Sun-Times” recruited its number one Obama idolater, Lynn Sweet (of the George Tagge school of advocacy journalism) to write that bad people have sought to ruin Bambi. Bad from her viewpoint but Hillary’s people as it turns out. Yet Sweet allows Bambi’s press mouthpiece to say it was by the awful Republicans. Thus the world turns in the Democratic fray.


    Voters who oppose abortion and gay rights have no candidates in the Democratic party but a full field with the GOP. But voters who oppose global interventionism have many candidates in the Democratic party but none in the Republican. What if a voter supports both conservative social issues and global non-interventionism? There’s only one choice: and he is a very-very dark horse for the Republican nomination and election, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Lots of luck.

    The nation’s presidential candidates fall into four categories: “announced,” which means they are actively in the race; “exploratory,” which means a committee has been formed to raise money for polling and staff help; “notable,” those candidates who merely enjoy being mentioned; and “waiting for the lightning to strike”—candidates without a chance but who believe in the efficacy of prayer to get the job done.

    Announced Candidates.

    Three people who officially announced last week were Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Brownback is a 51-year-old Ronald Reagan look-and-sound-alike. He’s a social conservative. Rep. Paul is the one I mentioned in the sixth paragraph above. A 72-year-old non-denominational Protestant libertarian, who under Texas law can run for both president and reelection to the House and Rep. Hunter, 59. Hunter, a Baptist and a highly decorated Vietnam war hero, has support among traditionalists as well as social conservatives. A critic of unrestricted free trade, abhors our wide-open illegal immigration status, supports pro-life and marriage between one man and one woman and almost unprecedented support for our military, Hunter was House armed services chairman. He supports the Iraq War and earlier endorsed Pat Buchanan for president. He’s been no slouch at getting gravy and pork for his district but he does have the disadvantage of not being well-known.

    They are all running along with a man named John Cox. With Cox there lies a story. He should be listed as “waiting for lightning to strike” but he’s not: he’s announced. He’s a bright Chicago multi-millionaire CPA and lawyer social conservative who came up the hard way from a south shore housing project, whose father skipped and who worked his way through school. Instead of doing many useful things, however, he runs for office as a hobby. He has an impressive set of views on a wide range of issues, from pro-life to anti-embryonic stem cells to the economy and foreign-defense policy—but as everyone here whom he asks tells him (me just the other day) his quest is quixotic at best.

    But he insists he fills a niche not yet occupied by other Republican candidates. First and foremost, he is a social conservative but differs from Sam Brownback in being against George W. Bush’s guest workers immigration plan. He criticizes John McCain’s for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law among other things (as well as immigration). He says Bush has been insufficiently conservative; the Republican congress spent the moon; Romney is a fast-switch artist given his previous record as candidate for the Senate and governor; Giuliani is far too liberal socially; Ron Paul is far too extreme in behalf of an inactive presidency; Duncan Hunter too protectionist. I wait until I hear from him about the disadvantages of all the others.

    A 52-year-old Catholic, Cox has already lost for every post he has sought—from the U. S. Senate, the U. S. House and even Cook county register of deeds and he is sufficiently well-heeled to run for two decades in the future. He announces he is not a professional politician: right, but not because he hasn’t tried. He can be called a professional campaigner, however. He is well-versed as he is on issues but so loves the trappings of campaigns that he has even recruited private security plain-clothes guards to follow him around on Washington, D. C. at a conservative conclave--to protect him from assassination, young dark-haired suits with buttons in their ears who could be confused with Secret Service, talking smartly into their jacket sleeves.

    Spending lots of money visiting all the presidential primary states, setting up headquarters and distributing fancy brochures, Cox worries some of his Chicago friends that he is wasting the inheritance of his wife and kids. To me, Cox proves it is entirely possible to be as hooked on running for office as booze or drugs. I have seen the disease hit victims in two states. Nevertheless, let it be recorded that John Cox is an announced candidate for president. And I expect I’ll be hearing complaints from him as soon as this story hits the Internet.

    Democrats gained three announced aspirants. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), 59. a Methodist who is fast becoming my favorite Democrat because the little lady isn’t about to take her tall, flap-eared, Lincolnesque rival lying down. And Obama, once called “the Messiah” by the Illinois Democratic state chairman until he wised up after looking at the polls from the black community. Obama’s code name is Bambi because he looks so innocent about it all. He’s the coolest cat around: pencil thin, open throated shirt, no tie symbolizing…symbolizing what? Hope! That’s it! Hope! He hopes he can get elected. Anyhow, at age 45 and a member of the United Church of Christ, Bambi officially joined the fray last week as first-tier candidate.

    Also jumping in was New Mexico governor Bill Richardson who as ambassador to the UN offered a distraught, jilted Monica Lewinsky a job in New York to get her out of Washington, D. C. for the benefit of Bill Clinton. The Catholic pro-abort governor, 60, is an Hispanic despite his anglicized name. He once said he was a professional baseball player in his youth but no one found a record of it. But he was a congressman and a top friend of Bill. So here’s the first box-score.

    The box-score: four announced GOP candidates—Brownback, Paul, Hunter and Cox, and three announced Democratic candidates—Clinton, Obama and Richardson.

    Exploratory Candidates.

    The “exploratory” Republican candidates include neo-conservative Sen. John McCain (R-Nevada), 71. neo-conservative former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, 63, and a neo-conservative former social liberal who now supports social conservative tenets. He’s the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, 59 who sure sounds like a social conservative in contrast to how he sounded running in Massachusetts and when he campaigned against Ted Kennedy.

    This is the category from which it is most likely a Republican winner will emerge. Giuliani, a Catholic, is leading the pack right now but odds are his formidable personal liabilities—three wives and sharply liberal social views on abortion and gay rights—will serve as a ball-and-chain in the primaries when there is greater focus on them. McCain, an Episcopalian, is running second in popularity due to his Vietnam war hero status but this has diminished because of his support for President Bush’s “surge” for more troops for Iraq.

    Romney is the Bush-favored candidate but his Mormon religion and switches in positions on social issues has been impeding his progress. No sooner has the issue been put to bed than it rises again—as last week. The question as to whether the Mormon religion is a cult or a branch of Christianity will confront Romney for a time. There have been varying responses, the latest of which came from highly respected theologian Fr. Peter Stravinskas in the latest issue of Catholic Response.

    Fr. Stravinskas points out that Mormon baptism is not regarded as valid by Catholicism “for the simple reason that Mormons are not Christians and they do not intend what the Church intends in the sacrament of Baptism. What keeps them outside Christianity, for starters, are their Trinitarian doctrine and their Christology—Arian at base, with the result that humans who die and go to heaven end up as gods equal to Jesus.” A similar judgment appeared in James Drummey’s column “Catholic Replies” in The Wanderer. The Constitution bans a religious test for office but that doesn’t mean people aren’t interested in religion—wacky and otherwise. So far as we know, Abraham Lincoln was never baptized and was assailed throughout his political life for being a non-fan of organized religion. Yet his rolling prose extolling the majesty of God evidences a deep faith—and unlike all his successors down to the present day, he wrote all of his own stuff.

    Also with an “exploratory” committee is social conservative former Republican Virginia Governor James Gilmore III, 57, who served an obligatory one-term (Virginia has a one-term limit for governor). Richmond-born, the son of a supermarket meat-cutter and a church secretary, despite the “III” following his name, he is not a Virginia Brahmin. He graduated from the University of Virginia law school, served in the army and practiced law for 10 years before running for attorney general with 56% of the vote. He sought the governorship to succeed George Allen, a popular governor, opposing a Democratic lieutenant governor, Donald Breyer, wealthy owner of a Volvo dealership in Northern Virginia.

    Breyer’s dealer ownership played into Gilmore’s hands. Gilmore’s single issue running for governor was to cut the car tax; Breyer made the mistake of defending it initially and when he recanted, it was too late. Most northern Virginians paid more than $1,000 a year and Gilmore vowed to cut it to zero. He won by 56%, carrying normally Democratic northern Virginia, the area hardest hit by the car tax. He is pro-life. He felt the calling to the presidency at exactly the same time as George Allen, who was a front-runner, lost reelection to conservative Democrat Jim Webb.

    An “exploratory” candidate with a passionate right-wing following who wants to put a kibosh on not just illegal immigration but all immigration for a length of time is Cong. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, 61. He’s a lapsed Catholic turned evangelical Presbyterian, the darling of traditionalists and some social conservatives. He originally said he would serve only three terms, but changed his mind, because, he said, immigration woes required his leadership for solution.

    Finally among the “explorers” is former Wisconsin governor and Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson. His baptismal name is Tommy. At 66, he is Catholic and pro-life but “not a fanatic about it” as one of his advisers was quoted as saying. He’s rather indistinct on gay rights but vocally stentorian on embryonic stem cell research. His categorization would be a hybrid: somewhat neo-conservative and a tad social conservative but here there have been some irregularities. As governor he championed vouchers which won him plaudits from free-marketers but as HHS secretary also caused to be rammed through the Republican congress the massively expensive prescription drug program which alienated most economic conservatives—so it’s a wash..

    Thompson aims to put the most emphasis on the Iowa caucuses where he believes he, as a rural Wisconsinian, can make the sale to farmers and small-towners.

    Box-score of “exploratory candidates”—six Republicans: McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Gilmore, Tancredo and Thompson.

    “Strong Interest.”

    Then there are Republican candidates who have strong interest—neo-conservative/ social conservative Newt Gingrich, 64, interdenominational Protestant whose pedigree was covered in this series last week: a thrice-married, stormy petrel, called half-genius and half-erratic who churns out more position papers than any three presidential candidates and who is basing his hopes on the inability of the front-runners to gain traction prompting voters to turn to him later on in the season.

    Another is former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 51. Who ever heard of a former Arkansas governor getting elected president? He’s a social conservative with unassailable Christian evangelical credentials as Baptist minister, former CEO of a religious TV station and former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Huckabee is not only an evangelist for the Christian faith but is also one for draconian weight loss—his own tally totaling more than 100 pounds.

    Born in Hope, Arkansas, Bill Clinton’s hometown, Huckabee is a kind of right-wing Clinton retread with secular burnish. Clinton made his mark as head of the Southern Governors’ Association; so did Huckabee. Clinton played the saxophone to entertain crowds; Huckabee strums a base guitar. Like Clinton, Huckabee has been phenomenally popular with the country-folk because of his “shake and howdy” personal warmth; he’s like Bill except you can trust him with your daughter.

    He became only the second Republican in state history to be elected lieutenant governor and upon the conviction of Democrat Jim Guy Tucker for ties to Whitewater became governor. He was elected on his own as governor in 1998, receiving the greatest plurality ever given a Republican. He broadened health care but received criticism for its being too costly and unresponsive to the free market. He matches his evangelical social conservatism with an ambitious program to boost state environmentalism, declaring that “evangelicals ought to be concerned with the stewardship of the earth.” He has also exhibited concern for the stewardship of big construction and asphalt plants by rebuilding state highways which returned the favor by serving as stewards to him.

    Realizing he has to jump ahead of the Republican pack, Huckabee doesn’t give his all for dear old George W. Bush. His latest words on Iraq, are evasive and cool. He says “the president’s plan is one that sort of lays it all out there for him. If it works, then, thank God, we may have a stable Iraq and we’ll finally be able to start a complete turnover to them. If it doesn’t, you know he’s really put a lot of things at risk including the lives of a lot of young Americans.” Hmmm: “the lives of a lot of young Americans.” If that’s being pro-Bush, I’ll take vanilla. But, some say if Mitt Romney’s campaign begins to fall apart and Republicans look for a progressive yet socially conservative southern governor, there’s good ol’ Huckabee—and 110 lbs. less of him than there was a few years ago.

    Huckabee has a slim chance of being nominated but he has a far better one than Chuck Hagel, 61, Episcopalian, former newscaster and TV talk show host and self-made multi-millionaire who is the senior senator from Nebraska. Hagel, a neo-conservative who is passionately interested in landing on network TV talk shows, is undoubtedly George W. Bush’s most vehement Republican critic and a strident critic of the Iraq War. His animosity for Bush comes through on the subject of Iraq to the point that he rivals the meanest Democratic critic including Howard Dean. That is killing Hagel as a presidential choice but he just can’t help himself. He can always console him by reading his clippings which shows he has the fervent admiration of Peggy Noonan, the “Wall Street Journal” cutsy-pie columnist, sort of a reverse Maureen Dowd. Noonan was a Ronald Reagan speech-writer and is a future permanent TV talking-head wanna-be. Her new-found criticism of George W. Bush can give her some hope of being picked up by MSNBC.

    Hegel’s Vietnam heroism entitles him some right to criticize because he paid his dues in Vietnam where he and his brother who served together in 1968. When their armored personnel carrier hit a mine, Hagel, his body on fire, dragged his brother from the vehicle to safety. Returning to Nebraska, he made a fortune as a principal of a company that manufactures half of all the U.S. electronic voting machines. Once John McCain’s principal presidential supporter, Hagel has split with his old mentor who wants more troops for Iraq. Hagel won’t get the presidential nod but his anti-Bush stands have won him great favor with the media and he contents himself with that.

    Usually any governor of New York is mentioned favorably for a presidential nomination—but this is not the case with neo-conservative/libertarian George Pataki, 62, a former governor with an excellent record on curtailed spending and taxes, who would like to get the Republican presidential nomination but has scant hope of doing so. Reason: he made a disastrous left turn many years ago falling under the influence of a U. S. Senator who eschewed enduring social philosophy in favor of the politics-of-the-moment. He ended up with a dismal record of hiked spending and taxation which makes his plausibility as presidential candidate highly dubious.

    Obedient to Al D’Amato, known as “Senator Pot-Hole,” Pataki scrapped principle to win office just as D’Amato told him to do. Fittingly, D’Amato lost to possibly the only New Yorker who could top him in wiles, Chuck Schumer. But D’Amato’s bad influence ruined Pataki and a number of other potentially good candidates. While he voted pro-life to nurture his base, his advice to other candidates to repudiate social conservatism started conservatives to wise up. Failing to support him fully, they sent him out to pasture.

    But Al D’Amato’s legacy lives on. Once an anti-spending, pro-tax cut conservative assemblyman of Catholic Hungarian-heritage—though pro-abort--Pataki won popular support when he hung tough, especially by supporting the death penalty which enabled him to beat Catholic pro-abort Mario Cuomo. And Pataki held firm on lower taxes and reduced spending—but his heresy on abortion and gay rights rankled his base. His languid speaking style doesn’t capture anyone’s imagination. He decided not to seek a third term in 2006 because polls strongly favored popular Manhattan Democratic reform prosecutor Eliot Spitzer. Odds are Pataki will not even make a ripple in the presidential waters.

    Box-score of “strongly interested” candidates—four Republicans: Gingrich, Huckabee, Hagel, Pataki.

    Hoping Lightning will Strike.

    The following are pathetic hopefuls--savoring the memory of William Jennings Bryan, a lowly House member who won a presidential nomination with a single convention speech in 1896, they cherish a hope that somehow, someway they might get tapped. Leading the pack is former U. S. vice president Dan Quayle, 60 a social conservative and evangelical Protestant, now a resident of Arizona. As a House member, he once went on a bachelor golfing vacation with several buddies wherein they rented a house near a golf course. One of the buddies smuggled in Paula Parkinson, a highly attractive, seductive lobbyist to spend mucho hours with the boys. Whether the others participated in after-hours recreation with Parkinson is unknown—but all testify that it as only Dan Quayle who didn’t know what was going on and was highly concentrated on his golf. Whether this is a comment on Quayle’s obtuseness or passion for marital fidelity, his own wife says she fully believes nothing can distract him when the issue is golf.

    Highly accident-prone when he stumbled in defending his national guard service, in becoming a poster-boy for improved spelling, he was regarded as a dolt in general IQ. Not so: he has a sophisticated knowledge of national defense but it’s too late for him. He will go down as the only ex-vice president in history to have a museum dedicated to him—in Huntington, Indiana. His is the fate of being sentenced to a continued lifetime of playing golf in Arizona.

    He’s joined by Rep. Mike Pence, (R-Indiana), 48, a bright young Irish Catholic born to a family of Democrats who’s an insurgent conservative leader in the House and a sure bet to be in the leadership soon, a strong social conservative with excellent intellectual and media skills, having been a radio and TV talk show host. Then there is Ralph Reed, 46, a social conservative, an evangelical Protestant and former executive director of Pat Robertson’s old Christian Coalition. Good looks are usually an asset but, strangely, no longer for him. He looks like a jaded choir-boy cherub-type in a Michelangelo painting—i.e. one in the beginning stages of Dorian Grey.

    He was booming along as the young evangelical southerner of the year when, unfortunately he was badly tarnished by lobbying associations with the jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Reed was just climbing up the ladder of elective politics, having forsaken his cushy lobbying company to run for lieutenant governor of his home state of Georgia. It was regarded as an easy pick; the next step, the governorship and up and away. But the connection with Abramoff cost Reed in 2006 when he tasted defeat.

    Trained by Robertson, he’s still interested in politics and would love to be around when lightning strikes but it won’t. He’s a great handshaker, though. Just remember after you shake hands with him to re-count your fingers. A tad this side of being idealistic but still better than the ever-chuckling (heh-heh-heh) ministerial TV wacko who hears God’s voice like the stereophonic “Attention Shoppers!”—his old boss, Pat Robertson.

    Third Parties and Independents.

    So-called third parties haven’t chosen their candidates yet as of this writing but they are the “Constitution,” headed by Howard Phillips; the “Green” and the “Libertarian” whose leaderships are somewhat indeterminate. Other smaller parties include the “Peace and Freedom,” “Reform” (the party under whose banner Pat Buchanan ran) , “Socialist,” “Socialist Workers” and “Vermont Progressive.” Independent candidates who will run without party identification include Michael Charles Smith of Oregon and Richard Michael Smith of Texas—they’re unrelated—both of whom announced in April, 2006.

    Don’t go away. Next week, the fun resumes with an analysis of the hard-ball played by loyalists of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the image massagers of Barack Hussein Obama.

    Monday, January 29, 2007

    Personal Asides: Carol Marin’s Sunday Best…Blest Are the Meeks…Snap! Crackle! Pop! Here Come More of those Gutsy “Tribune” Editorials! Zzzzzz.



    Let is be said that Carol Marin’s Sunday column in yesterday’s “Sun-Times” was another ten-strike. In the face of serious budget cuts which harm those least likely to help themselves, huge salary payments and promotions in Cook county government constitute a series breach. For the second Sunday in a row she laid out the case brilliantly, in crisp style. The columns represent commentary at its finest and it is with sincere congratulations that I view her as a political columnist who is beginning to acquit herself with distinction. I don’t take back what I’ve said in past scorching critiques but I am quickly coming to the opinion that perhaps she needed some time to come forth with extraordinarily deft analyses and courageous articles that perform a distinct public service. Let’s also say that she’s coming along at a pace that brings to mind the analyses of one of the finest Chicago woman columnist of our time, Lois Wille.


    Those who expected “The Reader” to be typically irreverent with its front-cover treatment of the latest reincarnation of the old rascally Father Divine—the ultra-materialistic “you can have it all including pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die-with-ice-cream-on-the-top”—Reverend-Senator James Meeks, should have known better. Satire and tough broadsides against big-time money religion and politics in “The Reader” are reserved only for white right-wing clergy offenders such as Pat Robertson. With Robertson, any kind of opprobrium is welcomed (see my reference to him yesterday in “The Wanderer” piece). He has a fat wallet that passes for a soul and the soft chuckle of a carny hustler who will allow you to cut the cards (heh-heh-heh). But when the opportunity come to give similar treatment to a demagogue like Meeks, of course “The Reader”—wedded as it is to liberal correctionism--can’t measure up.

    Its motive is clear. Youthful, nihilistic readers who receive via the paper all manner of inducements for the hedonist lifestyle—including a porno-column of heterosexual and homosexual deviance written by someone named Dan Savage—are still human enough to want to reach out for something like theological surety. What passes for it are liberal politics and assuredly the politics of African Americans whom the kids believe are entitled to any recompense because of past slavery and segregation…not that they learned it all that well in their schools, mind you, but somewhere on TV they saw glimpses of it. The awe comes in many ways: Obama as Lincoln being one. Nothing that outrageous comes in the treatment of Meeks but he’s merely shown as a successful black church leader. In fact, he goes Elmer Gantry one better. While Robertson and Falwell have had to justifiably face the IRS on occasion, Meeks has avoided it by setting himself up as skilled victim-protagonist (“do you know who I am?” he said when the cops stopped a car he was riding in) and bluffs his way by claiming discrimination.

    No mention whatsoever is made…no hint…of the complicated admixture of monies in the Meeks plans to inherit, or at least appropriate, a portion of the earth: his church which is little more than a political organization set up as cheering section for his lobbying and electoral aggrandizements…his salary as church leader (how much is it?)…his political office which requires collection of campaign donations…his forays into exploring higher political office where he uses his ministerial and legislative status without demarcation. Does he have business interests? His wife? What’s his net worth? We aren’t told. But then “The Reader” is a free throwaway paper, well worth the money you pay for it. Yet for everything there is a bright side and they are three: Michael Miner…Ben Joravsky whose political analyses are extraordinarily good…and, yes, even Harold Henderson.

    Snap! Crackle! Pop Goes the “Tribune”!

    And now put those toothpicks under your eyelids to keep awake for here is the latest review of recent tough-hitting “Tribune” editorials…keeping in mind the newspaper’s new marketing slogan is “Tribune—What’s in it for You?” Indeed.

    Anatomy of a false story is an editorial pretending that journalistic ethics should forbid inquiry into first sources as to whether or not Obama ever had fundamentalist Islam training with no mention that secondary sources were used to supposedly scotch the story while preserving the candidate’s deniability…preceded by a so-called Ombudsman’s whitewash which repeated the liberal habit of calling the “Swift Boat” testimony into disrepute without providing documentation. Wonderful for Mr. Axelrod.

    Grade: F-. Not worth further discussion. How soon til the rag is chopped up and sold in chunks?


    Second chances and aldermen recycles an editorial earlier by the “Sun-Times” which said it better. Since the feds are finding the city council fertile territory for corruption there should be “no revolving door between the penitentiary and the floor of the Chicago City Council.”

    Grade: D. I liked the “Sun-Times” one far better…but then, obviously the “Tribune” wanted to see how safe it is to say this without getting criticized.


    License to offend deals with the “Choose Life” license plate issue where federal judge David Coar ruled that the state has no right to reject the pro-life plate because it doesn’t like the message. “Trib” finds it convenient to have it both ways—pleasing pro-lifers and pro-aborts by saying (a) the ruling is correct but (b) it would be scary to have a pro-KKK plate, wouldn’t it? (c) perhaps lawmakers should think about how necessary it is to have any designation on license plates at all.

    Grade: F. A three-cushion billiard shot in gutlessness.


    The anti-surge surge meanders this way: (a) President Bush wants time for his “surge” strategy to work but (b) some Republican as well as Democratic senators oppose it so (c) there’ll be a debate because Bush (d) hasn’t fully explained how he plans to force Iraqis to control their own destiny so (e) stay tuned.

    Grade: D. Bland recitation of the recent past ending with a shrug.


    Separating sheep from the goat is a recitation of the trial of Scooter Libby, whose defense counsel says, if you remember, he is a scapegoat for Karl Rove. Editorial starts out with the biblical story of the scapegoat where the sins of the Jews are placed on a goat who is released to wander in the desert. In this case (a) “all big trials need two competing stories”—(b) “one comes from the prosecution, its version of how the law was broken: Libby the liar”; (c) “one comes from the defense: Libby the victim scapegoat.” Conclusion: “If Libby was a goat who left the White House and headed for the desert, he left many active sinners behind.” Meaning, I guess, that Libby was a scapegoat—but conclusion is murky. Then you get into the doctrine of Original Sin. Oh well.

    Grade: D-. More cowardly than usual even for a “Tribune” piece.

    Flashback: How World War I Shaped My Parents’ World. Graves Registration, Getting Drunk on the Fake Armistice and Why the Soup Had No Oysters.

    [Reminiscences of our family for my kids and 13 grandchildren].

    “Lafayette, we are here!” Woodrow Wilson flack George Creel wrote and, through the propaganda office in the War Department, alleged it was said by General John J. Pershing when he arrived with the American Expeditionary Force in France. It seemed so perfect: the Marquis Lafayette came to the colonies to help it win the Revolution; now Americans were returning the favor to save France. Creel was the perfect publicitor for Wilson and along with him, war. A Missourian, the 41-year-old journalist and muckraker Creel promoted Wilson for president when the ascetic-appearing scholar ran Princeton University; he did the big issues book for the Democratic National Committee when Wilson ran for reelection as the man who kept us out of war: a slogan Creel thought up at the very time the president was seeking war—and what Creel knew was a hoax. . To Creel there were only two classes of men—skunks and the greatest men who ever lived. The greatest men are people on Creel’s side in whatever battle he’s concerned with.”

    Now we were engaged in war with Wilson as head man and Creel was excited. Using cronies of Wilson to get to the president personally, Creel suggested himself for a top job that he himself invented—heading a Committee on Public Information which would disseminate all the propaganda needed to get people revved up. Creel’s self-appointed task was to create a “war will.” But it was not easy, even for a hustler like Creel or a president like Wilson who saw himself as a messiah.

    A central problem was trying to bring about a draft. Creel set up a crew of frenetic war-boosters called the “Minute Men” to spur a wish for a draft but they were striking out. And right at this time none other than Wilson’s nemesis Theodore Roosevelt, the overgrown boy who had been an immensely popular president through adroit public relations starting with an almost wholly fictitious raid up San Juan Hill (which it wasn’t), wanted to recruit a division of volunteers which TR, 59. himself would head. TR had said that the American spirit would send “men volunteering from sunrise to sunset to serve their country.” Wilson detested someone of energy and color trying to move in on his war—and especially short-circuit the draft. Roosevelt seemed destined to live forever and maybe run yet another time for president in 1920. He was as he always had been: a brawny robust man of action with graying brown hair, drooping mustache, barrel-chest, 200 lbs., muscular, standing 5 feet 8 inches.

    Wilson stalled TR on setting up the volunteer division—proving that occasionally if you put off things in politics, things sometimes take care of themselves. Less than two years later Roosevelt died in his sleep at 60 from the accumulated effects of a renewed bout of malaria and a leg infection--maladies contracted in Brazil five years earlier which never left him when he was struck down with illness as he plowed through forests in a 7-month 1,500-mile expedition following his White House years.

    Roosevelt thundered against the draft, declaring that voluntarism was the only way. But Wilson didn’t want to wait for voluntary enlistments: men must be recruited right away, before the damned war would end in a loss to the Germans, without Wilson having a chance to be leader of the Allies. The Germans were sinking 900,000 tons of shipping a month and the Allies were crumbling. Creel, the genius propagandist, sent his 75,000 Minute Men to every theatre in major cities and soon the opinion tide had turned. without him being the leader of the Allies. The big urban newspapers joined in the crusade. “We must save western civilization!” wrote “The New York Times”—and this was a headline, not an editorial. And as for the “Chicago Tribune,” the paper which later steadfastly opposed entry into World War II, crusaded for national preparedness, advocated universal conscription and called Henry Ford an “anarchist” for opposing the war (which prompted a $1 million libel suit from Ford).

    With Creel whipping up enthusiasm and TR dead, conscription passed. On May 28, 1917, Major General John J. Pershing, who had been boosted up the ranks early because he had been a close buddy of Roosevelt in the Spanish-American war, TR promoting him over 862 senior officers as a personal favor and making him a brigadier general…that and having married the daughter of a prominent Republican senator who ran the armed services committee—ramrod straight with a brush mustache and hawkish face—set sail for Europe on the “SS Baltic,” with a first detachment of men. When they arrived in France, Creel’s “Lafayette, we are here!” statement was flashed. Then the American Expeditionary Force arrived throughout June; by March, 1918 there were 250,000 men in France; it increased to 1 million by July and 2 million by November. Two-thirds saw action in 29 divisions.

    Pershing was an old-line military man who believed the president, as commander-in-chief, ruled—all but on one thing. No way would Pershing do what the French’s Marshall Josef (Papa) Joffre wanted: mix American doughboys in with French troops with the mélange under French commanders. Wilson had been ambivalent but allowed Pershing to have the final say. Pershing later had to compromise. American troops were under the supreme command of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, a wily old butcher but U. S. soldiers followed U. S. division commanders. All during the war, Foch operated a communications channel to Washington behind Pershing’s back, urging Wilson that unless he dispatched 600,000 more infantrymen within the next six months unattached to any divisions for use as replacements for French and British armies, the war would be lost. Wilson seemed confused and allowed Pershing to make the decision—which was a firm no.

    Angered, Foch convened a summit of every major allied politician in Europe to force Pershing to allow his troops to be used as replacements: Lloyd George of Britain, Clemenceau of France, Orlando of Italy all beat on Pershing while one of his bosses, Tasker Bliss, the army assistant chief of staff, offered him no consolation, just sat smoking and listening. Foch pounded his fists together and begged Pershing to allow his forces to be dispersed to units smaller than a division while the politicians murmured like an amen corner similar to the British House of Commons. “Without this dispersion of Americans,” shouted Foch, “our troops will be driven back to the Loire! In the name of God, sir, will you reconsider?” Pershing calmly replied, “Gentlemen, I have thought this program over very carefully, deliberately and I will not be coerced.”

    Pershing was one of this nation’s most interesting commanders: on August 15, 1915 a smoky fire had erupted in his family’s quarters at the Presidio outside San Francisco and Pershing’s wife and three daughters were asphyxiated (with one son rescued by an orderly). Pershing measured up to that incredible loss manfully and after the funerals hardly stopped working: but he suddenly turned into quite a ladies man in his late bachelorhood from which he never again ventured into marriage. One of his favorites was Mary Pinckney Hardy MacArthur the comely widow of a general who had won the Medal of Honor and mother of a young officer, Lt. Colonel Douglas MacArthur who would do anything to promote her son to general status which her late husband had occupied. In response to her favors, Pershing grudgingly acceded to move young Douglas along, who was in charge of the Rainbow Division (where he made brigadier general) but he favored far more generally a desk-bound officer who had a superb sense of plans and organization—Captain George Catlett Marshall, who was later to become a major rival to MacArthur.

    In Chicago, 21-year-old George J. Helfrich, single and an office-worker and part-time semi-pro baseball player was drafted. His younger buddy and fellow teammate, Harold Nicholas Roeser, my father, was too young for conscription. Helfrich and Roeser lived near each other in the city’s largely German north side, had attended St. Alphonsus where masses were often said in German and belonged to families that strongly opposed a war to save Britain. But still, Helfrich was rather excited about going and Roeser, 18, was generally looking forward to it when he would get older (but, living at home as all young adults did, was strongly advised not to enlist by his former socialist now conservative Republican streetcar conductor father, Adam).

    Helfrich went through basic training and quickly caught a troop ship to France—but, alas, he was assigned to a new department with the onerous title of the “Graves Registration Unit.” It was mobilized for grisly work in the future, when American dead should be registered so they would be buried with the correct headstones and families notified where their sons were lying. At first there was no work to do beyond getting old-fashioned refrigerators ready to store the bodies for identification and registration before assignation to the graves. Then Pershing deployed the First American Army south of Verdun where in a single day’s fighting he captured 466 guns and took 13,251 prisoners. Then began a trickle of casualties—one hundred from Cantigny, slightly more here and there at first which increased to a full tide and the job for Helfrich was all-consuming: bodies had to be recovered at battlefields after the fighting, bodies entombed in shell holes or collapsed trenches or decomposing in broken soil. Graves Registration marked the plots and when time allowed, recruited chaplains and the dead men’s comrades to watch the solemnities.

    Helfrich’s detachment moved constantly, settling in Montfaucon (Meuse), a 6th century hilltop village which was an observation point for the German army until it was captured by the U. S. 37th and 79th divisions on September 27, 1918. He never returned to Europe following the war, but knew every yard of the Meuse-Argonne U. S. cemetery where battles raged continually until Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, telling me in detail much later. In only three weeks of steady fighting battle deaths of Americans numbered 18,000—a daily average of about 1,000.

    Shortly before the official Armistice, with the Kaiser having abdicated, the German General Staff determined that they would sue for peace—and they wanted to do it so their armies would not be entirely decimated. General Pershing opposed an armistice which involved negotiations, preferring that the war continue until the Germans had no recourse but to give up, obviating any negotiation for armistice. But Woodrow Wilson disagreed. Thus negotiations began on November 5 and every day thereafter came reports that peace had finally come—only to draw on for another day.

    When peace finally came on the 11th, Helfrich’s work was far from done since there were bodies that were unclaimed to be identified and buried. Gruesome as his detail was, Helfrich, a calm, meticulous often laconic German, went about his tasks and returned home a few months after Armistice, opening up to me very late in his life as we drove from Reading, Pennsylvania to Washington, D. C.


    Back in Chicago, when the first rumor of Armistice occurred, on November 5, 1918 Thomas Francis Cleary, the marble worker, took it to be the first day of peace and so, in his overalls, left the foundry and went with his worker fellows to a bar where they celebrated peace well into the evening. Then, radically tipsy, he caught a street car to his home and trod in to face an extremely cool reception from his wife, Anna. “Well, goddammit, I think something has to be said for some celebration for the end of the war!” he said. But Pa, said my mother, Frances Catherine Cleary who had been working late at J. Walter Thompson, peace has not been declared. The war is still on because nobody signed an Armistice! I saw the sign on the Tribune building saying the war isn’t over yet!”

    “Nonsense!” he said, sitting down to his dinner which began with oyster soup. “We were all told the war is over. I tell you the war is over! Don’t contradict me: the war is over! Do you think I’m too stupid to know the war is over! Let me ask, goddammit: why are there no noodles in my soup! No noodles!”

    The bowl is full of noodles, said his wife. You are drunk.

    “Not drunk! There are no noodles here!”

    With that, an elbow on which he had leaned his head, slipped and he almost went to the floor.

    Everybody laughed.

    “You do not laugh at your father!” he thundered to his children. “When I say there are no noodles in this soup, it is not an occasion for merriment!”

    The next morning when he awoke to go to work, the newsboys outside peddling the papers were shouting that the war had not ended. And when the real Armistice came, on the 11th , Tom Cleary was at his home, sober, only having savored his usual growler of beer.


    At J. Walter Thompson ad agency, McQueen, the Chicago manager, was the recipient of heavy praise from the New York headquarters office for increasing his client load and conducting his company’s Chicago business with crisp dispatch. It was because, he told them, he had set into place a Production Department staffed by two former clerical women (called
    “office girls” in contemporary parlance—Leddy and my mother, Frances—who followed the ads every step of the way from initial concept through copy-writing to art execution to half-tone production to final approval to publication. At the same time they followed radio commercials through the conceptual stage to writing to prompt delivery to the stations in behalf of the clients. He was amply rewarded with a fat pay raise and he received more allowances for improved salaries down the line.

    At the same time, he did a courageous thing and fired his dilettante son Alexander who wasn’t any great shakes at copy-writing—getting into a bitter row with his wife and Alex’s mother over the decision. He swiftly promoted Ted Jardin to assistant chief copywriter with a handsome increase in salary. And he elevated his one-time secretary Leddy, head of Production, to an even higher supervisory role to oversee all the business features of the agency including billing. In her place he named Frances Catherine Cleary head of Production at a fat salary increase. She was then 21. As was the unshakable convention, young unmarrieds stayed at home living with their parents as did Frances.

    Frances’ higher estate and salary was welcome at the house on Wellington (not Cornelia as I had mistakenly placed it some days ago; the house on Cornelia came later). Her mother, my grandmother, Anna Kenny Cleary, came down with Irish depression, a neurotic state that ever since has passed down the generations, wreaking on many of Cleary blood. So the Clearys hired a live-in maid, made possible by Frances’ higher board payments.

    Later, sad to say, two daughters of the Clearys came down much later—decades later--with serious depression, Marie and Anne. And it carried over to the third generation with Marie’s son, Fr. George Helfrich who suffered for many years with the malady. Thank God my own mother was spared—a factor she attributed to purposeful lack of introspection and rigid concentration on only practical things. “People who think too much,” she would tell me, “and have nothing to do but think are susceptible to depression. I am not because I am not concerned with all those fancy theories that intellectuals concern themselves with. And I thank God for it.” So do I. Whenever she would catch me musing, she would ask if I had run out of work to do around the house. To her, introspection was the next thing to abject indolence. Ever since then, whenever I catch myself introspecting, I lie down and it passes over.

    At the beginning of 1919, the troop ships started to come home from the war. George Helfrich was on one of them and took a better job at an office in Chicago as salesman for a division of Pratt & Cady, a manufacturer of chains and metal equipment. And he started once more playing semi-pro baseball with his good friend, Harold Roeser, my father. While the experience of cataloging the dead made George Helfrich more religious, another Helfrich brother who came home from the war, one who had seen savage fighting on the Marne and at Soissons and Reims and the Marne had shattered ideals. He had become cynical about the ultimate purpose of life as result of his experience with war’s carnage, abandoning his Catholic religious faith. A droll, lanky young man he would sit on the porch of his family home when the bells of St. Alphonsus would ring calling the faithful to Sunday Mass.

    As his mother, a fat devout German Mama would trot down the stairs to the sidewalk on the way to morning Mass with a rosary in her hand while the huge bells bonged, , he would light a cigarette, blow an insolent puff of smoke and imitate the huge bells bonging …shouting in German “bring gelt! [money!], bring gelt! [money!].” His mother would shake her head sadly at her heretic son but he had seen so much war that he could not believe a God existed who would allow it to happen. In a sense he was a working class version of nihilistic intellectuals who survived the war and who lived in Paris, writing for obscure publications and drawing up fanciful concepts for novels, such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald—the disillusioned whom Gertrude Stein described, along with her lover Alice B. Toklas: “you are all a lost generation.”

    As for George Helfrich, he took up a new game which was starting to make inroads in the middle class—golf. He introduced my father to it. They gradually got weaned away from baseball and then Helfrich met a young women on the golf course to whom he were firmly attracted. She was Marie Cleary who worked in some steno pool, the older sister to my mother. After they played golf, they danced at the country club. She went home and told her sister Frances Catherine, “I just met a great guy. Nothing on looks but a terrific dancer.” The next week Marie said that it might be good to have George bring a friend to play golf as well as she would in turn bring her younger sister, Frances.

    This George Helfrich said he would do. So the next Saturday he brought to the country club his friend, Harold Nicholas Roeser, who was quite a golfer. Harold Nicholas was paired with Frances Catherine and that day, long after George and Marie left for dinner, Harold and Frances continued to play for a total of 36 holes. Harold was a beginning sports reporter for the old “Record-Herald” helping to cover the Cubs. He entertained Frances with funny stories about politicians and sports heroes the inside dope he said he knew. Frances told him only that she was an office girl at J. Walter Thompson, passing herself off as steno pool because she had had experience with guys shying away from a woman who was a fast-rising success…especially when she earned three times their salary. So he told her his dreams: that when things get better in the postwar, Americans will very likely travel overseas, and he meant to get a job with a steamship company and sell people on European trips. To him fun was far-away places with strange-sounding names.

    Notwithstanding their talk about potential growth of European travel once the war rehab was finished, as a German man and Irish woman, they found they shared the same observations about the recent war and the folly of fighting and dying to save England. Harold was sure he was a conservative Republican; Frances wasn’t sure she would go that far since she felt the Democratic party was all for the working man. But they went out to dinner and talked until late. When neither wanted to rush home after dinner, Frances suggested they go to some place where they could dance, Harold said—well, he didn’t dance. With other guys that should have ended it for her. Not this time.

    Surprisingly, Frances said that was all right. So they went to a German place and talked well into the night before he took her home on the street car. When he got her home, her parents were worried sick about her because it was almost 3 a.m., a scandalous hour. But Tom Cleary allowed that Harold Nicholas Roeser was a good man because in a brief talk they had the same idea of the baseless war that had just ended. Father got home at about 4 but Adam and Mary Roeser, no ones to worry, had already clocked about six hours of sack-time by then.

    When Harold awoke that Sunday morning, the bells of St. Alphonsus were bonging and he lay there smiling at the thought of George Helfrich’s brother sitting on the porch singing along with the Germanic “bring gelt! Bring gelt!” Somewhere inside him he wondered if this church and Sunday Mass thing wasn’t all a very clever bunch of baloney to keep the working man in line and pump up contributions to support an army of indolent priests who didn’t do anything productive, who didn’t work and never seemed to do anything but urge “bring gelt!” He had brought that up to Frances the night before; she told him to dismiss it from his mind: it was too disturbing to contemplate. She said he should busy himself with other things and not think too much. But, sneakily, he did now and then.

    He forcibly dismissed it from his mind—a church as a sham was too distressing to contemplate--and bounced out of bed to make Mass.

    Friday, January 26, 2007

    Personal Aside: Obama—Preserving Deniability--Who’s Fooling Whom?

    martin Luther King 2


    Someone who signs himself the “So-Called Austin Mayor” asked the other day on “Reader’s Comments” this question: “There are rumors on the Internet that you are deleting comments saying you are a fool for promoting the Obama/madrassa slur after it has been discredited by multiple news organizations. Are the rumors true?”

    Answer: No, there have been no deletions. Nor am I such a fool as one who hides his identity behind the cover “So-Called Austin Mayor”—whatever in the world that label means. Replying to possible embarrassing questions through news-media surrogates gives a candidate deniability. Political strategy that preserves candidatorial deniability is an age-old ploy, SCAM but due to either your innocence or ignorance, I wouldn’t expect you to know.

    Let me give you a few history lessons, wide-eyed one. Jefferson replied to charges that he had a mulatto mistress through newspapers to preserve his deniability…continuing for 200 years via conventional historical wisdom or protection until a few years ago. His rival Hamilton answered charges of his affair with Maria Reynolds was through newspapers to keep his deniability. Andrew Jackson’s defense of his wife’s bigamy came via the same route. His firing of his cabinet because of the Peggy Eaton affair the same…including denial of Grover Cleveland’s secret cancer operation at a ship at sea, relayed through the New York “Herald”…new presidential widower Woodrow Wilson’s dating of Edith Bolling Galt less than a year after the death of his first wife in 1914 and his forthcoming marriage in 1915…

    …Warren Harding’s affairs and gambling in the house on F street via the Washington “Star”…the set-up of LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin was through denials routed through the media to preserve credibility through William L. White of the “New York Times”…JFK’s notorious womanizing covered up by Ben Bradlee…Richard Nixon’s involvement in Watergate, stalled for months through the same method of media obfuscation…when shall I stop?

    The trouble with you and your liberal kid fellows, SCAM, is that you phonies get week in the knees when you hear a black choir strumming “We Shall Overcome” and link the Obama campaign to the civil rights struggle you missed by 40 years. Me, my knees turned to Jello the first time I heard “Let Ev’ry Heart and Sing” led by Jim Farmer, the Republican predecessor to Martin Luther King at Little Rock where I went as a GOP staffer in 1957 to observe when Ike sent federal troops there to ensure the safety of black students enrolling at the former all-white Central high there--and they do still whenever I hear it. But those of us who were on hand can differentiate, as obviously you cannot, between the halcyon days of civil rights and David Axelrod’s political strategies in behalf of a political candidate who wasn’t born when the initial struggle was waged and trades off it.

    Now let me answer your ridiculous contention that the news media have satisfactorily answered for Obama.

    We have been treated to Fox News reports about the alleged madrassa and CNN’s denial of it…CNN sending a reporter on assignment to de-bunk the Fox story. The CNN reporter went to the school, looked around and asked the proprietors whether it was a madrassa. They said no. Not unlike Joe Wilson’s trip to Nigeria to my mind. The idea that it is racism to probe into a presidential candidate’s beliefs and early background is as ridiculous as someone hiding behind the façade of a so-called Austin “mayoralty.” The CNN report faithfully related by Obama’s Boswell and hagiographer Lynn Sweet proves very little other than today it is not an open and notorious madrassa. Also it is plain knowledge that the leaks came not from Republican sources but roundabout from the squinty-eyed son of a squinty-eyed FDR interior secretary, Harold Ickes. Sweet asked Obama’s press secretary if the rumor was leaked by the Hillary forces. No, of course not! Give me and all of us a break.

    Now I’ll say this no matter how unpopular I makes me with you and your your Obama romantics. Given Obama’s middle name I maintain there is more to this story than we’ve been told. And judging from U. S. history it wouldn’t be the first time. So, So-Called Austin Mayor, chances are good that you and your fellows have been sucker-bait for Mr. Axelrod because they want to end the speculation without getting their guy on the record thereby preserving the candidate’s deniability. But sometime they’re going to have to answer it head-on as John Kennedy did. Then, even if Obama answers it satisfactorily, he and they will still have been responsible for a bonehead play--because by ducking and relying on CNN and other outlets to do their work for them, thus heightening justifiable cynicism that they weren’t telling the truth, they worsened their problem for themselves.


    You Never Thought of Him that Way but Does Newt Resemble Churchill? And if You Thought Romney was Liberal Running for Governor, Remember When He Was More Left than Teddy?

    Plus: If you are a social conservative-libertarian and yet hate the Iraq War, you just may find Paul appealing.

    By Thomas F. Roeser

    Another in a series of articles on the various Republican candidates for president for The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest Catholic weekly newspaper, with some updating.

    CHICAGO—So far, we’ve covered the qualifications and idiosyncrasies in previous articles of five prospective Republican presidential candidates: U. S. Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas), U. S. Senator John McCain (Arizona), former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and U. S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (California). Conservatives generally come in four categories: social conservatives whose main preoccupation is in reforming the hedonistic culture; libertarian which seeks to pare back sharply on government intrusion; neo-conservative which sees America’s destiny as assisting in achieving the globalization of democracy; and traditional which seeks to shrink America’s involvement in foreign wars, end illegal immigration and repair what it sees as the deleterious effects of unlimited free trade which hurts U. S. domestic manufacturers. Unfortunately, today’s politics give most conservative voters no choice whatsoever in the Democratic party since all its candidates are pro-abort, pro-gay rights, anti-libertarian and non-traditionalist.

    Obviously for many of us it becomes a game of pick-and-choose: perhaps a little bit of trade protectionism here, a dash of libertarianism there, a strong component of social conservatism for biting flavor with a bit of McKinley-like imperialist nationalism for old time’s sake. Candidates don’t come that way, even Ron Paul (to be described below): they’re either strongly one way or the other but most are infinitely malleable. Remember, candidate George W. Bush thundered against nation-building and said a foreign policy must be rooted to total domestic self-interest; now he envisions America as the revolutionary force leading tyrannies to adopt democracy. And those who shrug off Mitt Romney’s liberalism when he ran for governor should go back farther—when he challenged Ted Kennedy for the Senate. Romney was such a far out lefty that Kennedy seemed the stodgy stand-pat. McCain forces are sure to see that Mitt’s pronouncements in that race are given new currency. Any left turns McCain has made in the Senate are nothing compared to Romney’s U-turns between then and now. Such does the world turn.

    Having discussed the first tier, now we go to the second, Republicans who are interested in the presidency but have not yet mounted big campaigns and many of them, not all, with no exploratory campaigns. This list begins with probably the brightest of the pack, the most resourceful and the wild card of the group—neo-conservative and self-proclaimed social conservative Newt Gingrich, 63, a Baptist. Like fellow baby boomer Bill Clinton, Gingrich came from a family fractured by divorce. His real name was Newton Leroy McPherson, changed to Gingrich when his mother re-married, to an army officer named Gingrich. (Clinton’s initial name was William Blythe; Gerald Ford’s Leslie Lynch King, Jr.)

    Former Congressman Henry Hyde, no friend, described Newt Gingrich as being 50% genius and 50% nuts, by which he meant erratic. Before this comment makes you decide against Gingrich, remember that the same description was given to Winston Churchill, the prime minister who supplied Britain with its indomitable will to win the war and inspiration stemming from his brilliant mastery of history and mobilization of the English language. There are many similarities between the two. Irascible, unpredictable, they often confounded their enemies and alternatively confused some of their allies. Both have been superb self-publicists. Neither were adverse to taking risky chances.

    As a journalist covering the Boer War, Churchill was captured and escaped from prison camp, making a harrowing 300-mile trek to freedom—which he himself wrote up in heroic terms which gave him a wide following in Britain. Gingrich was a Georgia history prof, denied tenure at a community college, who ran unsuccessfully twice for the House and on the third try inflamed a placid suburban Atlanta constituency with talk of Disraeli’s conservative reformist ideas applied to Washington (most of whom had never heard of Disraeli) and won a back-bench seat in the U. S. House. After Churchill won a seat in parliament, rather than attending the opening of Commons, he went on a speaking tour selling his books in the U. S. for which he was sorely criticized at home. No sooner had Gingrich won a seat in the House than he wrote a book attacking his own party’s House leadership, proposing a rump group called the “Conservative Opportunity Society,” and went on a speaking tour across the country selling his ideas.

    Churchill became so hated by his own party that he was forced to move his seat from the Tory side to the Liberal wing; Gingrich ultimately became so hated by his Republican caucus that in 1997 members launched an abortive putsch against him which caused him to ultimately resign the Speakership and his House seat. Churchill was pronounced politically dead when he masterminded a disastrous British raid at Gallopoli in the Dardanelles in World War I necessitating his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty, being shunned for a time by both parties which he had alienated. Gingrich was pronounced politically dead when, as Speaker, he was censured by the House ethics committee for accepting a $4.5 million advance for a book deal which he was forced to return. Consumed by selling his books, audio and video tapes to audiences for profit, he was also conducting an affair with a female employee of the House who ultimately became his third wife.

    But nevertheless, both men had the power to stir people with imaginative ideas and rhetoric: Churchill being the first to foretell the danger from Adolf Hitler’s 3rd Reich, Gingrich being the first to prompt his party to win the House after 40 years in the wilderness with an imaginative positive program he largely wrote himself, the “Contract with America.” In June, 2006 Minnesota Republicans conducted a straw poll for president and Gingrich won hands-down, after he delivered an exciting speech there at a convention. Still, professionals tend to cringe when they imagine Gingrich as the nominee or president. But increasingly in an era when ideas carry the day, Gingrich seems like a brilliant bolt from the blue in contrast to the bland cliché-speaking pols seeking votes.

    Conservatives, Liberals and Labor members trembled when Churchill was summoned by the King to become his first minister. When I went to St. John’s College, Oxford as a lecturer on American politics in the late 1970s, I met a former member of Churchill’s war cabinet who was lecturing on the late prime minister’s legacy. The British Broadcasting Company had just conducted a poll of Englishmen who voted heavily that Churchill was the greatest Englishman who ever lived.

    “I will tell you this,” said the former cabinet minister who wanted confidentiality as we lunched together at High Table. “It was all we could do to bat down Winston’s frightening ideas which would have sealed the doom of this island and, practically, that of the United States had Roosevelt been so foolish to follow him. Each day he would have, let us say, seven fresh ideas for winning the war—five of which were disastrous and caused the military staff to gasp, one of which was highly impractical and adjudged unable to be executed. And one which was certifiably brilliant. It was your own Eisenhower who helped us most, keeping the old man on track.”

    As would a Churchill, Gingrich is preparing to seek the presidency but wisely is determining not to launch an exploratory committee until this coming September. The reason: he imagines that some of his competitors will blow up—McCain by being too militaristic in supporting the further buildup in Iraq, Giuliani by being too Giuliani as happened when, one night to amuse the media, he appeared in drag complete with lipstick, high heels and a brilliant blonde wig; and Romney by being too buttoned down, dull and harnessed by the Mormon religion (although he is the only major contender to have one wife). In the meanwhile, Gingrich is making a lot of money churning out ideas by the bucket-full. He is seemingly everywhere—as a think-tank member, a Fox News contributor, a tireless convention keynoter, a college adjunct lecturer, a frequent Op Ed contributor and prodigious author who writes books on an assembly-line basis.

    He has supported the Iraq War but condemns the way he says Bush botched it, saying that the U. S. cannot win Iraq but only the Iraqis can, criticizing the way we ran the country as an occupying force rather than encouraging Iraqis to govern themselves right from the outset. Yet he does not counsel getting out quickly, saying we cannot break faith with a brave people who voted, risking their lives, with an 80% turnout. He was the firsat to declare that the U. S. needed to train the Iraqis as rapidly as possible and pull back from the cities to bases and air fields, serving as re-enforcers rather than occupiers—a view later adopted as official U. S. policy.

    He is pro-life but has not made the issue a specialization; rather he has sought to shore up social conservatives by blistering the way secularists try to remove God from the U. S. identity.

    Possibly more than almost any other presidential candidate in history, he floods the marketplace with ideas: some powerfully innovative, some impractical ala Churchill. Among them: Set aside the money spent for space exploration and convert it into prizes with bigger rewards for the private sector to get into space faster than the entrenched bureaucracy…change the FAA and NASA rules to make it easier for entrepreneurs to go into space at a higher risk than is tolerated in government programs…while working to develop a hydrogen economy, use funds to provide incentives for the private sector to develop renewal fuels, wind, solar and bio-fuels—better to give the money to U. S. farmers than to Middle East dictators…create a $1 billion prize for the first affordable car to get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline and be sold at $30,000 a car or less with the same reliability and performance as gasoline-powered cars…a second billion-dollar prize should be offered for a car getting 1000 miles to the gallon of gasoline.

    Nowhere is Gingrich more impressive than on the issue of illegal immigration where he denounces the Bush amnesty plan, ridicules the fact that this nation is not controlling its borders, supports a heavy crack-down on businesses that employs illegals. He would end federal subsidies to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles which have declared “open sanctuary” for illegals. On education, he asks how much current curricula in K-12 and higher education actually slow down students, waste their time and taxpayer money and has recommended programs to counteract this.

    Ideas from Newt Gingrich pour out of his website every day, ideas that are not staff-produced but are of his own origin, mostly based on free-market initiatives. I know because I first met him when he was a backbencher and on that first day, while we were walking over to his office from the House chamber, he rattled off so many fresh ideas that it was virtually impossible to catalog them. Which has led some veteran Republican politicians who oppose his presidential candidacy to urge that no matter who becomes the Republican president, he should commandeer Gingrich, lock him in a room, give him a pencil and a tablet of paper and hire him to produce at least ten new ideas a day. As with Churchill, of the ten, seven will be impractical, one will be worth examining on a long-range basis, one disastrous for the country—but one brilliant, prescient and a concept of pure genius. The tough part won’t be to get Newt to think up fresh ideas which will come like a splash of water out of a fire-hose but for somebody to pick the right one that will be ingenious.

    Libertarians—more than popularly supposed—prefer as candidate a Congressman from Texas who is a skilled medical doctor with almost as many challenging opinions and ideas as Gingrich except that, with few exceptions, they harmonize in libertarian form. While Cong. Ronald Ernest “Ron” Paul is distinctively a libertarian, he is a social conservative as well, an anomaly, since many libertarians believe that abortion and gay permissiveness are rights. Not so Paul, 72, whose 14th district encompasses an area between Houston and Austin consisting of rural areas and small towns running along the Gulf Coast, once Democratic but now firmly conservative. But in his district are some industrial plants—DuPont, Union Carbide, Alcoa and BP Chemicals. He is so opposed to regular congressional pork spending that he is called “Dr. No.”

    Under Texas law, passed to protect Lyndon Johnson’s Senate seat while he ran for the presidency in 1960, a Texan can run for two offices at once: president and Congress. On January 11th he announced formation of a presidential exploratory committee but he will run for both president and reelection to the House. This will be his second presidential run: he was once the Libertarian party candidate for president in 1988 and has never renounced his membership in that party.

    Dr. Paul would be the oldest candidate running and by all odds the most conservative and most consistent—fiscally, economically and internationally. The candidate, a non-denominational Protestant, was born in Pennsylvania, received his bachelor’s from Gettysburg college and graduated from Duke medical school. He did his internship at Henry Ford hospital in Detroit and was an in-flight surgeon in the U. S. Air Force from 1963 to 1968. After military service, he moved to Texas (with his wife) to practice obstetrics and gynecology. Angered when Richard Nixon cut the connection between gold and the dollar in 1971, Dr. Paul got interested in economics and then politics. He follows his own drummer but arrives at his positions rationally, not viscerally, heedless of whom he will offend.

    He was elected to the House in 1976, served four terms and ran for the Senate, losing to Phil Gramm by a huge majority, 73% to 16%. Then he ran for president as a Libertarian, coming in third election after George H. W. Bush and Mike Dukakis with 432,000 votes, slightly ahead of Pat Buchanan’s Reform party attempt in 2000 (although Buchanan had help with federal financing which Paul disdained). It would be fair to say that even Buchanan as president might well be more of an activist chief executive than Paul who supports the concept of a purposefully weak executive who serves as a meticulous constitutionalist.

    By means of third party candidacies, often ideas are produced there that are picked up by the two major parties. Two of Paul’s ideas have become coltishly popular among conservative intellectuals—term limits and abolition of the income tax (not so radical as it seems, the latter endorsed by Dick Armey, the one-time House majority leader). But some of Dr. Paul’s views are horridly tough prescriptions: ending all government funding of education, cutting $150 billion from the defense budget and returning to the gold standard.

    Returning to the House in 1996 by raising big bucks from gold bugs across the country who still respond excitedly to his economic views, Paul ran 1% ahead of the GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole and beat an ordinary conservative 51% to 48%, a stunning 71.4 % of his contributions coming from outside Texas.

    In the House, Paul occupies a distinctively independent stance. He regularly votes against almost all proposals for government spending, initiatives or taxes. But on trade, he’s not been predictable. Most libertarians are free-traders but Paul voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) arguing that it increases the size of government. Because of his philosophy, he has voted solidly against border security as an intrusion on personal liberty although opposing illegal immigration.

    He has called for re-introduction of the gold standard requiring the government to make large purchases of gold and to issue currency not beyond its ownership of gold. He wants removal of all taxes on gold transactions, wants to abolish the Federal Reserve Board. He has introduced a bill to give the states the power to regulate hemp rather than the feds, the first weakening of the ban on hemp farming in history. This bill goes along with his belief that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to regulate or ban drugs in general.

    Although a pro-lifer, he believes the Constitution does not give the federal government the power to either legalize or ban abortion but that the power to do so should be reserved to the states. He has introduced legislation to keep the Supreme Court from ruling on issues pertaining to abortion, birth control, the definition of marriage and homosexuality with the proviso that previous court rulings on these subjects be no longer binding. His views on the consistent life ethic carries through with his opposition to capital punishment. But hideously unpopular was his vote against governments catching online child predators. Why? Because he believes child-raising in a parental, not a government, issue. He voted against the Federal Defense of Marriage Act but supported a measure to ban gay couples from adopting children in the District of Columbia.

    Although a supporter of Pope John Paul II, he voted against a bill to award the pontiff a congressional gold medal at taxpayer expense along with medals for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and civil rights icon Rosa Parks. He ponied up $100 from his own pocket for the Pope’s medal and challenged congressional opponents to the same. When they refused, he shouted: “See? It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.”

    His civil libertarian moves translate into a strict non-interventionist foreign policy, voting against the Iraq War Resolution, the Patriot Act to shore up domestic security against terrorism because he despised curtailing U. S. liberties; and urges withdrawal of the U. S. from the United Nations. His opposition to the war has gained him support from the Left. Despite the fact that many of his own party don’t agree with him, the contention has grown that Dr. Paul is his own immovable man with fiercely independent views and it is unwise to challenge one who has been elected to the House eight times, at least once in each of the past decades.

    Call him impractical and an obstructionist to the regular course of governmental business, of all the candidates for president, he maintains he is meticulously faithful to the original intent of the founders. His view of the presidency would make Calvin Coolidge look like a power broker, saying that by studying the Federalist one learns that the president should be the mere administrator of policies designed by the people through the Congress. Hamiltonians can disagree but here is a guy who votes as he believes, condemning arbitrary presidential decisions as unconstitutional, indicting Woodrow Wilson in Mexico in 1916, Harry Truman in Korea in 1950, Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock in 1954, JFK with the Bay of Pigs, LBJ with Vietnam, Nixon with the Christmas Eve bombing of Cambodia, Ford, sending federal aid to subdue the former Portuguese colony of Timor in order to please Indonesian dictator Suharto, Carter for the Camp David accords which interfered in Middle Eastern politics and for the “Carter Doctrine” that dictated opposition to any foreign nation gaining control over the Persian Gulf; Ronald Reagan for military action in Granada and Lebanon, George H. W. Bush for the first invasion of Iraq; Bill Clinton in Haiti and George W Bush in Iraq. It would be a far different presidency indeed under Dr. Paul.

    And it would take a libertarian revolution of avalanche proportions to elect him, but that doesn’t nullify his views from being expressed or considered. As a stormy petrel he ranks with the late individualist Republican members H. R. Gross of Iowa who would halt action in the House to block wasteful spending; Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, who defied public opinion to be the only representative to vote against our entrance into two world wars and Jessie (“Give `em hell, Jessie!) Sumner of Illinois who opposed federal farm subsidies by telling farmers to “raise less corn and more hell” to block the New Deal.

    More about Ron Paul can be found on

    Thus far, the polls are almost unanimous in saying the most electable Republican ticket would be John McCain for president and Rudy Giuliani for vice president…his spending four years as veep straightening out his reputation in the public mind so he can take over when McCain who will be 76 when his term expires can turn it over to a vice president who will have re-fashioned his reputation on social issues.

    Next week: so help me, we’ll try once more--before room runs out--to review the candidacy of a contender who lost more than 100 lbs. just to run along with some others.