Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Personal Asides: Politics—a Fascinating Albeit Dangerous Vocation…The National Journal: Ditch it Not Because It’s Liberal but Crooked.



As a political junky, I will always go out of my way to ferret out political news and enjoy nothing more than leaning back and sharing insights on politics with friends. Why, then, some readers ask, did I say yesterday that I would steadfastly resist any of my kids embracing politics as a vocation? Because if in this fading but still recognizable Judeo-Christian world where our first mission is to save our souls, an auxiliary one would be to avoid “occasions of sin” where salvation would be jeopardized. Therefore, to take a very simplified and extreme case, it would be natural that I would advise a daughter not to try to be, let us say, a torch singer in a gambling casino. Moreover and frankly, I would advise my daughters and sons to avoid popular show business…grand opera and concert stage excepted… because of its propensity to corrode spiritual life and endanger their souls.

Likewise, I would advise them not to hang around with gamblers or go out with people who have been skittish with the law. That pertains to politics. While I have been and will forevermore be fascinated by politics and political types, I cannot for the life of me see many ways that a politician or a political staffer can undergo the activity even in a regular context and avoid what theologians of my church since Aquinas have called the serious occasion of sin. That doesn’t mean only taking bribes or winking when high roller contributions come in. It means the kind of compromises that are made to get elected which necessitate bargaining away principle. I think the Jim Merriner story of George Ryan and Henry Hyde is a very good case in point—an episode in which I figured to a minor degree and to which I bear some minor responsibility.

If you take it as a given, as I do, that the paramount issue of our time is the protection and preservation of unborn life, you will do everything you can in a political context to advance it. This I think Hyde has done in his career to a great degree. But in the political game as we all know, tensions exist that require support of those who have countervailing interests. The normal thing for a man of prudence and moral conscience to do would be to avoid giving help to those who are constrained to oppose the principles you hold dear. In the gubernatorial election of 1998, Secretary of State George Ryan was damaged goods—irreparably harmed in the long run by the corrupt operation of his office vis-à-vis commercial drivers licenses.

It is common wisdom that while he was running for governor, Ryan determined to gain the office and turn as sharply left, veering as far leftward as possible so as to ingratiate himself with a number of publics including the major media, which would intercede for him at a later date when an indictment would come. It was also a given…and if I knew it, Henry Hyde knew it…that social conservatives were getting increasingly turned off by Ryan and veering to Glenn Poshard. Therefore, Ryan made a pitch to social conservatives with the only pretext he could since his credibility as a man of truth was far fading. I knew personally…and if I knew it Hyde must have known it…that Ryan was bargaining with pro-abortion and pro-gay rights forces in the campaign. It was corroborated to me; it was simply undeniable although not admitted.

Ryan called a meeting of social conservatives in which Hyde was propped up as Exhibit A as a “fetcher”—for those interested in Hyde’s anti-abortion career continuing when it was in danger of being ended through a redistricting that, it was hinted, a Democratic governor would sign. In that case Hyde allowed himself to be set up as a “fetcher”—no two ways about it—in behalf of a toxic pro-abort candidate (Ryan) rather than a pro-life one (Poshard) with Ryan expected to preserve the Hyde seat in return. Knowing the excreable nature of George Ryan, Hyde allowed himself to be used anyhow due to party loyalty. Ryan’s duplicitous nature would not have guaranteed that he would have signed a favorable map for Hyde anyhow; since with him, it was bargain basement day, anything that was on the shelf was available for selling. Ryan absolutely had the moral tone of a gerbil. But the nature of politics mandated that Hyde do it. A governor would have more options to do bad things than a pro-life Congressman to do good while approaching the end of his career in a Congress that was pro-life anyhow, given that the president was a pro-abort.

I criticize Hyde, but not unduly, for this—because old-fashioned politics for which he was a practitioner sets as a given that a political careerist’s first job is to get reelected. Helping George Ryan get elected in the hope that he would forestall a remap which could cause Hyde to lose was a meager and unrealistic ploy…based as a crass favor to Ryan with not much credibility going for it.

Let me say there have been congressmen who have risked defeat in behalf of principle and have embraced defeat. In my “Flashback” yesterday, I mentioned George Weltner who resigned as Congressman rather than sign the Democratic party loyalty oath that would have made him support Lester Maddox. My experience has been that there are very few Weltners. The proper thing for Hyde to do would have been…if not endorse Poshard (a politically disastrous course)…to refrain from allowing Ryan to use him and to attempt to use Ryan in return. “Not remembering” the situation as both Ryan and Hyde told Merriner is an old dodge used by all politicians and unconvincing to say the least.

Now I have, through many decades as staffer and strategist, participated in very similar things as have all others who engage seriously in the political process. In fact, as a participant in “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” deals like this and worse. Alas, I am fated to continue as a political junky but it’s not too late to keep my kids from this despicable bargaining activity where reelection precedes consideration of countervailing good.

Someone must do it, assuredly—by which I mean participate in politics—but one look at Big Jimbo…a once idealistic and brilliant public servant transformed by ten thousand back scratchings, dozing as auditor trusted by a corporation’s board of directors…spending $20 million of his law firm’s money to defend a dinosaur-sized, snout-nosed old reprobate snuffling noisily at the public trough…Big Jimbo now wiping his dry eyes in remorse for Donald Stephens…is enough. Charles Dickens, where are you when fresh characterizations of Mr. Bumbles need to be drawn?

How corrosive political ambition is was aptly cited by Sir Thomas More. He asked Sir Richard Rich (who testified falsely against him in expectation to be named attorney general of Wales through Henry VIII’s favor): “I can understand why you did all these things, Richard—but for Wales?”

National Journal.

There is one thing worse than an abjectly liberal compendium of facts on public policy—and that it a crooked one. The “National Journal” has long been recognized as a tool of the liberal establishment in Washington, keeping sly books on conservatives all the while allowing free rein on the Democrats. Somehow, feigning objectivity, is just always seems that the Democrats make the best cases, the feature stories determine that liberals are more conscience-directed. That makes it the rough equivalent of “The New York Times” to which I have subscribed and enjoy for several reasons: (a) to find out what liberals believe and (b) because the arts section and reviews are particularly good.

But since the “National Journal” is not just liberal but crooked, I will stop reading it soon. By crooked, I mean purposely inaccurate historically. The April 14th issue featuring a cover shot of Dwight Eisenhower has a headline that says: “What We Can Learn from Ike.” Immediately I knew what it was: the “Journal” was cagily using a Republican president to go after George Bush. So I turned to the story written by the magazine’s loudest outraged liberal moralist, Jonathan Raush. It turns out that Eisenhower was so docile that he eschewed any attempt to “defeat evil.” A wondrous lesson to President Bush except that it’s not true.

Three examples not cited by Raush’s article which is as deceptive as a Section 527 loophole in McCain-Feingold. First, Eisenhower instituted “brinkmanship” which dared to push the envelope as far as could be done short of war and which older style liberals, roughly equivalent to the “Journal,” decried as warlike.

Second, when the discussions at Panmunjom were stalled and the stalemate appeared likely to go on interminably, Eisenhower passed the word via leak that he was considering using nuclear weapons on China. The negotiators came to agreement swiftly. Third, the “Journal” goes on to further glorify Harry Truman, continuing the hagiography launched early in the 1950s by the courtier historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., of hallowed memory. Schlesinger it was who devised the scenario that Truman, who left office as history’s most unpopular president, was really a Sandow of the intellect in disguise and either a great president or near-great. Ergo Raush: “With two great secretaries of state at his side, Truman ran a more creative and competent foreign policy than Bush has managed to do.” Really now?

Why do I remember that Truman sent one of those future “great” secretaries of state, George Marshall, to China to arrange an ill-fated coalition between Chiang and Mao that failed…leading to the fall of China? Why do I remember that the second “great” secretary of state, Dean Acheson, neglected to include Korea within the perimeter of our defense and thus misled China to foment the Korean War? Why do I remember that the Marshall Plan, inaugurated by the two “great” secretaries of state—enunciated by Marshall but with the script written by Acheson—utterly failed to resurrect nations of Western Europe which held fast against free market (Britain, notably, which received more Marshall aid than anyone else and which didn’t revive until they adopted market reforms?). But not Germany which adopted the reforms and came zooming back on its own? Why do I remember that the superb foreign policy of Harry Truman lost 400 million allies and ignited a preventable hot war?

Because “National Journal” is not just liberal but intellectually crooked, it should be disregarded as a credible source of information.


  1. Though you can cite numerous examples of compromises made by pols that you can not defend, that doesn't mean you must advise the subjects of your concern to steer clear of politics or singing in casinos. (Weren't you a barroom piano player?) Those you mention may not succeed, but that's a different matter.

  2. Lovie's LeatherMay 1, 2007 at 11:39 AM

    I find it hard to believe that if Hyde had publicly taken sides with Poshard, and Poshard won, that his congressional district would have been changed to make it harder for Hyde. But, I guess Hyde thought Ryan was a safer bet... Atleast there isn't footage of Hyde dancing with Ryan....