Thursday, May 31, 2007

Personal Asides: Frank Nofsinger Wins “Nature Boy” Trivia and “Reality” Confirms It…Who Will Fred Thompson Hurt Most in the GOP Lineup—or Will He be a Dud?...Bush’s Legacy Can be Further Enhanced by…Guess.


Frank Nofsinger.

Steady, dependable Frank Nofsinger of Connecticut wins the “Nature Boy” trivia and a new contributor named “Reality” confirmed it. “Reality” added the name of the composer-lyricist, Eden Ahbez. The song was composed in 1948 by Ahbez whom probably never wrote another thing after that. The hit record was done by Nat (King) Cole. The words Frank supplied were “…a very strange, enchanted boy” who “wandered very far over land and sea”. The profound truth supposedly conveyed in the song was “to love and be loved in return.” Congratulations, Frank! “Reality” didn’t cheat with a search engine since he was very familiar with the 78 rpm record—(as was I).

Fred Thompson.

News that former Senator Fred Thompson will announce for president on July 4, prompts speculation. Is he the wonder boy whom so many conservatives are pining away for? Or will he be a dud? Who will he take votes away from among the list of candidates? My view is that he will not be the Great Answer conservatives are waiting for. I don’t know why. Just don’t think so. I will say he did a great U-Tube on Michael Moore…and if his television stays to that mode like a fireside chat, he will strike sparks. But basically, isn’t his persona…repeated through his many films…too gruff, too southern cracker? Or am I wrong. Reagan as an actor had that warm geniality…a twinkling civility…that made you like him. I tend to link Thompson the actor with Wilfred Brimley, the gruff guy we hired at Quaker to extol oatmeal. To demonstrate I’m not a marketer, I never cared for that old cuss with his walrus mustache but I’m told he sold a lot of product.

Your comments.

Bush’s Legacy.

There are no two ways about it, George W. Bush is going to leave the presidency as one of the most unpopular presidents in history…ranking with John Adams (with the Alien and Sedition acts)…James Madison for plunging the nation into war without preparation and for incompetence in pursuing the War of 1812 which saw the White House and capitol burned by the British…John Tyler who was a man literally without a party when he retired…Herbert Hoover, blamed justly for mishandling the economy which worsened the Depression…Harry Truman, blamed for presiding over an era of corruption but heralded just as unrealistically for supposedly supplying more thrust to the Cold War than he actually did.

When he leaves office, George W. Bush will be remembered initially for either being fooled by incompetent CIA intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction—leading to the attack on Iraq and subsequent failure (after a successful invasion) to understand the complexities of pacification of the country. My own personal view is that Bush acted wisely and courageously in invading Afghanistan and Iraq by employing a defensible preemptive strategy—my guess being that the war was wise from the standpoint of the entire Islamic world, showing that we are not fainthearted—which did much to keep further violence from our shores. As for the occupation, there is no doubt that we misgauged the effort and that mistakes were made. I would have to grudgingly concede that a man I happened to have known earlier in his career, Don Rumsfeld, bears the blame for being niggardly in approving troop buildups.

But all the same, wars are untidy things to run as we learned from the Civil War and also…although a number of us forget…World War II. I well remember the disastrous tumble FDR’s, Ike’s and the whole European command’s popularity took during the period of the Battle of the Bulge which began December 14, 1944 and which, before the Nazis were turned back, took 80,987 American casualties. Until history finally rings down the curtain and proves that Iraq was a mistake, I shall continue to believe that it was a wise exercise of judgment and shocked the Islamic world back on its heels…which must continually happen in this global war we are waging.. The view that America is soft and cannot satisfactorily endure a war is the worst thing we have to face now given the Democrats’ insecurities about the War. I think it’s entirely possible that George W. Bush will be rehabilitated and will be viewed, before his ultimate death, as a courageous and far-sighted president. In essence, I think Bush will deservedly be called another Truman, notwithstanding that Truman’s later fame was hyped by courtesan historians.

However, there is no doubt that Bush will descend into ignominy for a time. There is one thing he can do for his country that will not add immediate luster to his name—but which, since he is a man who has resolved to serve his country heedless of unpopularity, he should do. And that has to do with Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has steadfastly denied that he means to build a nuclear arsenal—but at the same time informs the world what he intends to do with it: an obvious contradiction. He intends to “wipe Israel off the map.” That is no cause to go to employ decisive action—but the likelihood of his dominating the entire Middle East, controlling the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf, would not mean using nuclear weapons…just intimidation. Ahmadinejad has not hesitated to speculate about “a world without America.”

I personally believe Bush’s 2002 State of the Union was the most powerful statement delivered by an American president in my lifetime—stronger than any of his predecessors. Recall what he said:

“We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons. “

Where I disagree with Norman Podhoretz whom I greatly admire is not that Bush should refrain from allowing Iran to build a nuclear arsenal…he should not…but where I disagree with Podhoretz is that Bush should not take such a decisive step in order to save Israel. I’m sorry but Robert Taft was right in that the principle aim of the foreign policy of the United States should be to preserve the peace and freedom of the United States…which transcends Israel. I support Israel mightily from many standpoints… but for too long have neo-conservatives like myself equated Israel’s well-being as equal to our own, thus falling into the trap of being accused of pursuing a dual loyalty and dual policy. Bush is no different than a succession of American presidents in that regard. Not a single American soldier should be asked to die for any nation but the United States, no matter how we value Israel. Not Britain, nor for western Europe.

Thus if George Bush were to decide prior to leaving office to take the action that will defrock Iran…vowing not to leave office with Iran in possession of nuclear weapons—on the pretext that the only thing worse than bombing Iran would be to allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb…he would belong to the ages. And as I think I know the measure of this gallant man, I believe he will do the right thing for us and all civilization.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Personal Asides: Burt Natarus at Least Had a Better Idea…McCain’s Throttling of Free Speech Challenged…Pop Song Trivia: “Nature Boy.”



I miss Burt Natarus already. Since smoking has been illegal in public accommodations in Chicago for a year and a half and the Illinois House has approved a similar ban which the governor has promised to sign, there is rampant insanity in this city that sorely needs Burt’s level-headed, common-sense.

There are certain scenes in stage plays that require smoking. One is the great scene in “Streetcar Named Desire” where Stanley Kowaksi strides in with a can of beer and a glowing cigarette to challenge the phony old-world southern concepts of Blanche DuBois. Natarus had the brains to ask for an exemption for artistic purposes in the play but a City Council committee voted it down 4 to 2. A generation ago A. J. Liebling wrote in “Second City” that Chicago was still a bit like Fond du Lac, Wisconsin—unaware of the need for artistic allowances. Which Alderman Ed Smith ratified when he told the press, “It’s an adversity [sic] to people who come to se those plays and the stagehands.” Well, Alderman, it’s an adversity to see Chicago return to equal the rural confines thanks to dopes like you.

Add to this the fact that Doug Sohn, owner of “Hot Doug’s” my favorite hot dog joint, got whacked with a $250 ticket to serving his customers a haute dog containing foie-gras-and-duck sausage with truffle sauce.

What an adversity!

McCain’s “Free Speech.”

While I don’t think John McCain is going to make the nomination because of his role in the immigration mess, he certainly shouldn’t due to his authorship of McCain-Feingold…which was spawned during one of the Senator’s anti-Bush periods where he wanted to punish the president for trouncing him in 2000. Still being considered by the Supreme Court is “The Federal Election Commission vs. Wisconsin Right-to-Life” where even aborton rights supporters are pulling for Wisconsin RTL to win.

That’s because a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Wisconsin could end the “blackout” where advocacy groups are forbidden to run issue ads. Of course President Bush should be equally condemned for signing the measure—hoping the Court would rule it unconstitutional. Restricting grass roots lobbying will silence core political speech that is mandatory for the proper functioning of our government…as the rise of 527s which are being utilized 23 months in advance of the next presidential election demonstrates.

“Nature Boy.”

Twenty years before the hippie generation…in 1948…a singer with long hair and a beard vaguely reminiscent of Renaissance portraits of Christ…produced a song “Nature Boy.” With no search engines, see if you can answer these questions about this top-rated song.

1. Who was the composer?
2. Who recorded it—which became a hit?
3. Give us the first line beginning: “There was a boy…a very ____ _____ boy.”
4. “They say he wandered very far ____ _______ and ______.”
5. “And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me.”
6. What did he say? It starts: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is…”

A perfect score without search engines gets you a free cup of coffee from me at the “Windy City.”

Flashback: Newman College Comes to an End: Finale of the Great Experiment.

[More than 50 years of politics, a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

After a number of years in which Newman educated two and one-half of our children (Michael attended the school through half his matriculation), the great experiment came to an end. And in an unusual way. While we feared that the eccentric Milwaukee philanthropist Harry John, sole proprietor of the world’s largest Catholic charity, would be alienated by the departure of the college president, the erratic mega-multi-millionaire was having his own domestic problems. First, a description of him and his lifestyle needs to be told.

Harry G. John, Jr. was born in 1919 in Milwaukee. His mother Elise was one of two daughters of brewery founder Frederick Miller. John graduated from Notre Dame with a B. A. in 1941 and was president of Miller Brewery from 1946 to 1947. He was not the ideal executive…was consumed with missionary Catholic spirit almost to excess… and the family replaced him in the corporation shortly. But he kept control of the family fortune. He married Erica Nowotny in 1956 and the couple had nine children.

He lived a life of good works, funding leprosaria in India and camps in Milwaukee for inner city youth as well as seminaries in the Philippines. All these donations were given anonymously. When Miller Brewing was sold to Philip Morris the value of his stock soared to $97 million. He founded the De Rance foundation making it the largest Catholi charity. De Rance was named after Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rance, a 17th century abbot of the Benedictine monastery at La Trappe, France.

Determining to live as a monk, he became religious ascetic, with a religious brother to prepare the food on his estate. A huge chapel had been constructed there for the celebration of daily Mass. After Mass a kind of communal gathering was held for brunch—and lunch centered on vegetables, no meat. He was an exceedingly reclusive and withdrawn individual. His wife and children were allowed to appear for brunch after Mass only sparingly. The trick for eager recipients was to get invited to brunch.

I remember I made several visits to his estate in behalf of a right-to-life organization I headed for some years—“Friends for Life.” The ritual could easily be turned into a hilarious comic novel by Evelyn Waugh. There was scant possibility of talking to him as he was in the chapel saying his prayers. Letters sent to him went generally unanswered. The one shot you had to communicate with him was at Mass at the point in the Sacrifice of General Intercessions. At that point the priest can choose to invite the worshipers to express aloud their request for God’s help. I remember attending several times and at the Intercessions expressing loud enough that the old man could hear it…as he stood with his head bowed…the need for financial help for this particular charity.

The game was that if you made an impression at General Intercessions with your loudly expressed verbal prayer so that Harry John (if not God Almighty) would hear it, you might be invited by a functionary to attend the brunch in company with others. At the brunch you maneuvered delicately to try to get a seat near the Font of all Generosity. I recall thinking that I had almost nabbed a seat next to His Honor only to have it snatched away with a superb football player’s block by a nun who also gave me the elbow which reeled me off balance. As it turned out, she was Mother Angelica, the soon-to-be-world-famous entrepreneur of the cable network “Eternal Word” which made her a household figure in Catholic circles…she building the network, stemming from initial Harry John grants to one of the most powerful religious stations in the country.

As result of this role playing, the financial needs of “Friends for Life” were communicated to the Oracle. He said little, munched his fruit and vegetables…murmured inaudibilities and smiled. One day in Chicago we received an envelope from which, when ripped open, produced a scrawled check for $130,000. Why $130,000? Who knew? With no letter or other visible communication, the next question was: was this a one-time grant or the beginning of more…or how do we plan? Harry John’s responses at lunch were always enigmatic i.e. “God will tell.” We were always grateful for the money but the uncertainty made life a little tense.

While Newman had a far better advocate than I for funds, the college president, I was elevated to the chairmanship of the Newman Board in the dire expectation that as it must to all men, the college president who had the only touch to Harry John might get hit by a bus and the college put out of business. But I was in no danger of rivaling him for the largesse. The college president was by all odds the most successful player at Harry John’s table ever, probably only topped by Mother Angelica. The president had in rapid succession led John to (a) buy the grounds and buildings of an old chiropractic college in suburban St. Louis, (b) build a chapel there, (c) give lavish seed money to hire a faculty and (d) equip a library. The amazing thing about him was that at table the college president spoke tartly, chidingly—even insolently—to Harry John while everybody winced. The old man seemed to enjoy the cajoling.

Thus when I removed the college president was removed for alleged misbehavior, all of us groaned and decided the money tree had withered. This was to be true—but not right away and had nothing to do with the college president’s removal. We hired another president and continued—all the while being despised by the Catholic archdiocese of St. Louis, the Jesuit St. Louis University and a number of other Catholic institutions. I could never for the life of me understand why—but I put it down to two main reasons. First, we were conservative…not reactionary…totally in conformity with Vatican II and the Pope…but which in the 1970s with church liberals inhaling the bogus fumes from the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” made us suspect. We stressed Aquinas and Augustine and not the newer theologians which disturbed the moderns as old hat. Second, we had the Harry John money tree which, I suspect, caused Archbishop John May to be very envious and decide that we were not to be recognized formally or informally as having any connection to the archdiocese.

Eventually…after the graduation of our daughter Mary…news came that there was—of all unpredicted things—a revolution in Harry John’s family. And it had nothing to do with us or my firing the president. It happened that Erica John, his wife and Donald Gallagher, his top aide—and both De Rance directors—had become alarmed at Harry John’s increasingly extravagant expenditure of De Rance assets. A great deal was given away on the merest speculation. One movie producer came to him…shouting at General Intercessions his wish that God would enable him to film the life of Christ…was invited to brunch and walked away with a huge bundle—from which he filmed the life of Christ as a dedicated Communist revolutionary.

There was the case when John commissioned a treasure hunt for sunken ships plus risky investments in gold futures and junk bonds. Mrs. John and

Gallagher filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee county circuit court to have John removed as a De Rance director. After a five month trial, the judge announced the plaintiffs had proven their allegations. John was permanently removed from the board. He divorced Erica (separation and divorce is acceptable in the Church if there is no remarriage) and moved to California. He returned to the Milwaukee area and took an apartment in Brookfield a few years later.

That was the end of our money tree. With the hot enmity of the archdiocese, we had little or no chance of raising alternate funds. But two of our kids graduated from Newman (we sent our son Michael to Ignatius Institute run by the famous Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio who had the same concept as our elderly Jesuit at Newman, Ignatius being an approximate copy of Newman, part of the University of San Francisco). Harry John, incidentally, was found unconscious on the floor of his apartment. He had suffered a massive stroke. The serious illness had him in a coma but his wife and children were at his side when he died on December 19, 1992.

There is a kind of fatal significance to the rise and fall of Newman College. After he was received into the Catholic Church but was regarded as an apostate of the Anglican church (where he had been the leading intellectual light), John Henry Newman (1802-1890) was asked by the Irish Catholic bishops in 1854 to become rector of a dream university that they created—the Catholic University of Ireland. That university was to be on a much larger scale but identical to the concept our venerable Jesuit priest had envisioned for Newman. For one reason or another…mainly distrust from the Roman curia which felt Newman was a double agent…the Catholic University of Ireland failed and went out of existence.

Thus it is highly ironic that the greatest Catholic intellectual and teacher of the 19th century…whose matchless “Idea of a University” essay paved the way for liberal education…who was suspected by one Pope (Pius IX) but loved by his successor (Leo XIII) who made him Cardinal…was unable either to continue at Oxford or to serve as Rector of his own university…and that fatal conclusion carried through to our own very modest wish to build a college in his name.

But Newman College was well worth the experience.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Flashback: An Idea is Born: Creation of a New Catholic College.

[Fifty plus years of politics remembered for my kids and grandchildren].

If your major spiritual wants have been answered already by Almighty God, pray that you be spared the job of serving as mediator between an angry Jesuit priest-classicist and the president of a small college. Such grey hair as I have began when I filled that role of referee.

In the latter sixties an idea was born in the fertile mind of a Jesuit classicist at Loyola University and one of the most outstanding experts on ancient and medieval thought and architecture. Dissatisfied as many of us were with the dumbing down of liberal arts curricula, he sought to get funds for a brilliant experiment: the creation of a new Catholic college which would have absolutely no electives. Regular colleges were substituting technical electives in place of devoting four years to the classics in order to placate those to whom higher education was seen as a conduit to jobs with higher pay and prestige. To the Jesuit, times had changed so that graduate study should be undertaken by everyone. First, he reasoned, should come four years of solid academics and liberal arts education. Then, following that, graduate school should be the place where the professions are learned—law, business, whatever you want. The Jesuit, an academic idealist, believed (a) no one should pursue a technical education without a background in the liberal arts and (b) in undergraduate years, there should be absolutely no electives.

His thinking was very much along the order of Mortimer Adler whom I knew late in his life and Robert Hutchins who reformed the University of Chicago…both of whom inventing the Great Books as a course of study. The Jesuit improved their concept noticeably. He designed a curricula that devoted the first year…the freshman year…to the ancients: ancient philosophy of the Greeks, the study of ancient art, ancient literature with the plays of Euripides and others, ancient history, ancient polity and even the ancient religions that had an impact on the formation ultimately of Catholicism and all Christianity. The second year would do the same with the medieval age…philosophy, art, literature, history, variations that change brought to Catholicism. The third year would deal with the renaissance with all its glories. The final year would delve into modern thought with an emphasis on selecting the right standards for art, polity, philosophy et al. culminating with a great understanding of Catholicism stemming from all four years.

After that the students could…nay should…go to graduate school. He recruited another Ph.D as potential college president--who had a great touch with one Harry John, an eccentric mega-multi-millionaire who was heir to the Miller brewing fortune in Milwaukee.

The idea intrigued Lillian and me and we decided to send our kids to the college which was located in St. Louis and named after an idol of ours, John Henry Cardinal Newman, the former Oxford don who as an Anglican clergyman led the famed Oxford Movement to purify the Anglican religion and make it more authentic to the original formation of Christianity. Newman, one of the most prescient intellectuals of the 19th century, underwent a conversion to Catholicism and was ordained a priest-- for which he was persecuted direly in Britain. He lost great stature as the ranking intellectual-clergyman of his time and was in the center of a storm that shook Britain’s identity with Anglicanism.

Newman was in many ways a martyr for his faith. Not that he was led to the lions but he lost everything—reputation, the love of his fellow dons at Oxford, the followers he had in Anglicanism. Moreover as a Catholic, he sought to create a new Catholic university in Dublin based on the same verities that the Jesuit had imparted to our college that was named after him. Unfortunately, the university in Dublin failed due to irreconcilable differences over Newman’s controversial nature. But his fame as an educator, essayist, homilist and intellectual who suffered for the Church was such that in his old age he was elevated by the Pope from priest to Cardinal. For at least two generations he has been considered for sainthood in Rome. That it hasn’t happened is seen to be caused by the archaic ineffectual relations between the Church of Rome and Anglicanism. But John Henry Newman does not depend upon humans to vouchsafe his sanctity; and his canonization will come some day.

The first year I sent our oldest child, Tom, to Newman College. It worked out and the next year we sent his sister, Mary Catherine. Then we sent our third, Michael to the school. Eventually, I was tapped for the board—which I didn’t particularly need given that I was chairman of Project LEAP, the anti-vote fraud unit in Chicago, president of the City Club of Chicago and working a pretty heavy schedule as vice president-government relations for Quaker Oats. But since the funding was precarious due to the idiosyncratic nature of the prime philanthropist…and since I had had some meager experience with him enabling him to fund the “Friends for Life” organization in Chicago…it was recommended that I take the board seat. There were a number of convivial people on the board. One was a distinguished federal judge from Chicago with a gift of words, deft wit and judgment I have always admired.

The academics exercise went well at Newman but friction kept a number of us up at night. There was the beginnings of a heated disagreement between the president of the school and the venerable Jesuit. Both were scholars and intellectuals but it developed that either the president hadn’t told the Jesuit he was in disagreement with the non-elective nature of the school or the Jesuit hadn’t ascertained the president’s true views. In any event, the chairman of the board was an elderly lady of considerable renown in St. Louis, former Congresswoman Leonor K. Sullivan-Archibald (D-Missouri). She had been the widow of Congressman John Sullivan and served as his administrative assistant when he died in office. She succeeded him and was secretary of the House Democratic caucus. An old-line conservative Irish Catholic Democrat, she was beloved—but having retired from the Congress and married an elderly gentleman named Lee Archibald who urged her to take things easy. He had a point as she was not exactly up to the task mentally to negotiate the sparring between the president and the Jesuit.

The board, listening to the incendiary battles between the president and the Jesuit was at some pains to know what to do. On one hand it was clear that the Jesuit had all the academic grounding to make his point; on the other, the president had a close personal tie Harry John who gave us a massive outpouring of funds for the college. A goal was to move the College away from the precarious point where all our funding was to come from primarily one individual—but that was difficult. The archdiocese of St. Louis was not sympathetic to our mission, the archbishop being an ex-Chicagoan progressive, William May. The archdiocese was clearly motivated to close us out. In the midst of all this, former Congresswoman Sullivan-Archibald decided to step down as chairman but would continue on the board. To my further discomfiture, the board unanimously elected me chairman.

The battle lines formed like this: On one side was the Jesuit who had friends in the conservative Catholic community and had a national reputation in academic circles. He was leaking to The Wanderer, a very influential newspaper that was the nation’s oldest national weekly, allegations that not only was the president violating the original stricture of no electives but had hired some faculty who were less than orthodox on Catholic theology. I suspected the allegations were untrue but I wasn’t in the classes to ascertain whether or not they were. On the other hand was the president who claimed he was hearing from parents of students who wanted their kids to be prepared to make a living in the world and a strict diet of Aristotle and Aquinas, undiluted by today’s realities (which were postponed until the fourth year) was impractical. It seemed our financial angel, Harry John, reposed confidence in the president.

It was truly a dilemma. The board clearly could not proceed without the president’s close relationship with Harry John; but the heart and soul of the Newman venture was encapsulated by the Jesuit. My son Tom graduated and then Mary graduated. Both not only got a great deal out of the college but made lifelong friends. My daughter Mary became engaged to Tom Magnor, who was my son’s roommate. My intention was to (a) seek divergent funds to allow us to diversify from Harry John while (b) continuing to welcome Harry John’s funds and (c) seek to resolve the conflict between the president and the Jesuit. But the intransigence of the Catholic archdiocese negated any attempt to woo donors in the area. Our main donor, Harry John, was not affected by the hostile archdiocese since he lived in Milwaukee.

A great number of people who played roles in this melee are now dead which makes the telling of the story easier—but I still refrain from enumerating the names of the two principal protagonists, the Jesuit and the president. The Jesuit is dead; the president is dead; Mrs. Sullivan-Archibald is dead; Archbishop May is dead. A relatively few others are still alive…but only I am sufficiently alive, as it were, to tell the tale.

What do you do when things seem insoluble? Pray. I had decided I was on the side of the elderly Jesuit but I didn’t want the college to be rent apart in division or to lose its funding. Also I couldn’t see that the curriculum was being watered down as he maintained. He kept saying, “no, no, it is. You are not a classicist. You don’t understand!” True but I was not a classicist but I wasn’t born yesterday so as not to understand the bitterness of academic jealousies where I saw them at Harvard, Princeton, the U of I-Chicago, Loyola and DePaul to make a judgment. So I continued to pray. The Jesuit was pulling all the stops to get the president out; the president was pulling all the stops to get the Jesuit out. The college stood in the balance.

Then, rather than an answer there came more complications. A Newman professor called me in Chicago from St. Louis and told me that a young student at the college was being importuned improperly by the president. This was a serious matter. But as I was told by legal counsel…and wise legal counsel…you have to be very sure that the importuning took place. Students have been known to nurse grudges against college administrators and level charges against them that are unfair. Moreover, it was clear that the professor in question who relayed the charge to me was not in sympathy with the president.

The delicate balance was this. You had to follow up whenever a grave charge like this was made—but you had to be sure that the person named in the charge was not assumed to be guilty…or the college would be hit by a damaging suit. I met with the student and ascertained that the charges did not seem frivolous. But who could tell if malice was contained therein?

So a few of us on the board…the college’s general counsel and the federal judge…not the Jesuit because there was great animosity there…asked to meet the president off-campus.

He came in and was jovial. Then we sat down over coffee and I said, “A serious charge has been leveled against you. Before I outline it, we want you to know that we on the board are entirely `tabula rasa’ on the charge. We do not accept it as truth nor do we reject it as false. We want to give you every possible benefit so you will not be railroaded or even intimidated.”

He interrupted me. He said, “okay—I’m out. I’m out. I’m gone. It’s been satisfying work to lead this college but I’m gone!”

I said: Wait, Mr. President! This charge has not convinced any of us of its validity. We are here to hear your side! Moreover, we have worked with you for years! You have not only every right to denounce the charge but to clarify the record!

He continued: “No. I’m out! That’s it! I’m gone!”

His preemptory resignation convinced us that very possibly if this charge couldn’t be proven, there were others—if not on campus but elsewhere which threatened his reputation which he sorely wanted to protect.

So just like that we had an opening in the presidency. Moreover we had people on the board who were not present…including the very influential Mrs. Sullivan-Archibald…who suspected we railroaded him out the door. Then the Jesuit began nodding and saying, “see? I told you he was a bad apple—worse than any of us ever suspected!”

Then the other side: the great donor in Milwaukee, the close friend of the president possibly infuriated and declaring he had written his last check, this before we had any chance to balance his donations with new ones. And then the archdiocese of St. Louis. Hearing the president resigned under unflattering circumstances, would not this reinforce it’s determination to have nothing to do with us?

What happens now? I wondered. I had a son still in the college. The Wanderer was happy the president was gone—but what about our “juice,” Harry John?

I thought: well, maybe my prayers were answered with the debacle involving the president. It looks like he was a bad guy and if so I’m glad I got him out. At least he’s gone which resolves some of the difficulty. The big problem now was to assuage Harry John that his college would continue as he…and all of us…had wished after I fired his close friend.

You continue praying. This time I prayed directly to John Henry Cardinal Newman. I said, I’m sure you’re up there; a saint. You’ve been through devilish controversy like this—all of Oxford’s Anglicans against you; you losing your post as Oxford Don. Will you intercede Up There and resolve this thing?

The answer came in surprising force—far different than I expected.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Personal Asides: “Hit Parade” Trivia Winners…”Opus Dei” Will be the Salvation of the Modern Church


Hit Parade Winner.

Mike Buck has them almost perfect…almost. He got #1 right: The TV cast featured Dorothy Collins; Snooky Lanson; Gisele McKenzie and Russell Arms. He even can call McKenzie’s real name…which I didn’t know, Marie LaFouche. Incidentally, I went to the search engine to check but couldn’t confirm it—but Mike’s memory is usually perfect.

He got #2 right. The TV bandleader was Raymond Scott. And that Scott was married to: Dorothy Collins.

He missed very slightly on #3. The announcer for radio and TV was Andre Baruch. Mike had it Andre LaRouche. He’s thinking of the far-right, far-left wacko who runs for president every four years.

Mike nailed #4: The most memorable feature of the TV show was its opening with the voice of a tobacco auctioneer.

He easily called #5. “Your Hit Parade” changed to “Your Lucky Strike Hit Parade.”

He got conceptually the answer to #6: what killed “Hit Parade” Three words: Rock and Roll.

And wondrously he got #7: what caused the show to be laughed out of existence when a Hit Parade singer dismally sang a song that was identified with a fast-rising phenomenon? This is tough. It was, as Mike described, Snooky Lanson singing Elvis Presley’s “You’re Nothin’ but a Hound Dog.” And Mike signed off with the answer to a question I didn’t ask: the “His Parade” windup song: “So Long for a While.”

In return for an almost perfect score, I bought Mike a cup of coffee where I usually see him after 11 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. John Cantius, at the Windy City Café, the gourmet’s delight. (Incidentally, Mike: this special trivia is just for you because you’re obviously a “Hit Parade” expert. The bandleader, Raymond Scott, changed his name so as not to be confused with his more famous brother who was also a band leader. What was his brother’s name? No search engine help, please. All right, I’ll tell you. Mark Warnow who had a big name then. Hence his kid brother chose Raymond Scott.

Steady contributor Frank Nofsinger got one right, one wrong and gave up after that—but I’d buy him a coffee at the Windy City anyhow were he to come here from Connecticut: he listed Betty Grable and her husband Harry James.

On the earlier Terry Trivia, WPD has it right: The last president who smoked cigarettes in the White House was FDR with a long cigarette holder. Other presidents…Reagan, LBJ and Eisenhower...smoked before the White House but kicked it before election. JFK smoked an occasional cigar.

Salvation of the Church.

Let this fallible believer affirm: sometimes irreverent, irascible, not unduly scrupulous and, sadly, not always meticulously proficient in Catholic obedience, that at this time of crisis for the Church which I love, “Opus Dei” is and will be its salvation. We in my family just observed the high school graduation of Kaitlyn, one of our 13 grandchildren, the graduation observed with Mass, a homily and distribution of diplomas—followed by a Gala attended by Lillian and Kaitlyn’s father, mother and little brother Joseph (which I am sorry to have missed because of my WLS radio gig).

In another city, our elder daughter, Mary, the mother of eight and her husband Tom receive extraordinary spiritual nourishment because of the prelature as have their children. Mary is a “supernumerary” which title is given to those who work hard within the prelature but lead traditional family lives and have secular careers. (The other three classes of member—numeraries, associates and numerary-assistants are celibate and often live in special centers). Lillian and I are “cooperators” which is nothing more than people who do what they can to help as foot-soldiers in the mission of this great organization whose credo is: everyone is called to be a saint and ordinary life can be a path to sanctity. If they can make me a saint, God bless them: my faults are so numerous and obvious as to make it very difficult. But that they have not given up on me is evidence of its divine nature.

“Opus Dei”…literally “God’s work”…was founded in Spain in 1928 by Josemaria Escriva, a priest who was raised to the level of saint by John Paul II. In 1982 it was made a personal prelature—with jurisdiction not linked to one geographic area but extending to all persons in “Opus Dei” wherever they are. Some ex-members and certain liberal Catholics have argued that “Opus Dei” is cult-like, secretive and highly controlling. In fact the novel “The Da Vinci Code” projects a weird scenario that its “monks” are in league with fomenters of secrecy of the early Church to hide the fact that Mary Magdalen became the bride of Jesus Christ and that the two had a child, starting a blood-line that culminated…voila!...with a beautiful French secret-service-like agent. Well, there are no monks in “Opus Dei” and the theory that this secret was hidden for 2,000 years became a yarn that unfolded for the pecuniary enrichment of the writer, one Dan Brown. The yarn is of great interest to anti-Catholic bigots, to liberationists and feminists who see male-centered conspiracy for two millennia to keep women from realizing their true potential in the Church i.e. becoming priests.

Just as the Jesuits were formed to help the Church propound a counter-reformation…an Order which has fallen, sadly, into some disuse by the influence of modernism (take a look at the anti-Catholic, secular and sacrilegious practices at most “Jesuit” universities including Marquette in Milwaukee and Loyola in Chicago) “Opus Dei” fills a great need today when the church is beset with bad influences outside and in. It has 87,000 members in more than 80 countries—60% in Europe, 35% in the Americas. It runs splendid educational centers throughout the world—in one of which I taught a few summers ago…taught disadvantaged kids from the inner city (I decided I was a failure at that particular type of teaching: far too old to tolerate the natural boyish pranks at large in the inner city; so I retreated back to teach college). “Midtown” is a school available to the poor for a pittance and the education…renewing and refreshing what the public schools don’t do well…is superb.

Then there is “Metro” for girls; “Lexington” which is a hospitality training center on the South Side. These are only a few of 608 social initiatives, schools and university residences, technical or agricultural training, universities, business schools and hospitals. The University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain is a corporate work of “Opus Dei” which has been judged as one of the major private universities of the world. Its business school, IESE, has been rated one of the best in the world by the “Financial Times” and the “Economist Intelligence Unit.”

The best exposition that “Opus Dei” has going for it is a book written by John Allen of the liberal “National Catholic Reporter.” He examines the criticisms the prelature has received in a volume that is not an official history of the Work by any means—and has turned out a first-rate read and exposition. I told more than one “Opus Dei” priest that the book ought to be placed in the Work’s book racks at its many fine retreats—coming as it does from a progressive and independent writer who is by all odds the most informed journalist on Catholic activities in the world—and one who has been a critic of some variants of Catholic orthodoxy in the past…not so with “Opus Dei.”

Why I think “Opus Dei” will prove to be the salvation of the Church

is because the Church is suffering self-imposed wounds struck by careless prelates, weak prelates and those who desperately wish to be regarded well by the secularist media…who have in turn ordained weak, sometimes scandalously decadent priests. There are few resources to which one can turn by “Opus Dei” and Lillian and I will be grateful to the end of our lives that it exists. You cannot imagine, if you are not Catholic, how so-called “Catholic education” has been traduced—most seriously in the elementary and secondary schools where Catholic formation must be impressed. To counter this, “Opus Dei” has created a great many wonderful schools that match the rigorous training in Catholicity that we oldsters had in the golden years of the Church (prior to post-Vatican II chaos) with superb intellectual and educational resources. It is to one of these schools that Kaitlyn graduated from…an all-girls school, “The Willows”…and to which her younger brother Joseph will attend…an all-boys school, “Northridge.”

While the battle inside the Church goes on to reclaim the institutions that have been lost to secularism i.e. DePaul and Loyola…a battle is being won every day by “Opus Dei” to form new institutions and re-sanctify old ones. That is why “Opus Dei” was under attack by scatological novelists and fiction writers—attacks that melt away under the burning laser light of truth.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Personal Asides: Immigration Bill Will be McCain’s Undoing. Giuliani Doing an About Face on Issue Smacks of Romney--Who, Incidentally, Seems to be Rising…”Your Hit Parade” Trivia.


Immigration and McCain.

This is a personal take. The Senate immigration bill may well be John McCain’s undoing. What he needed least of all at this time is an issue that separates him from the conservatives of his party. The one issue he is identified with that the GOP base likes is pro-life. Everything else has turned out to be ashes in the mouth of the Republican electorate. The McCain-Feingold act is poison. His failure to support Bush’s tax cuts…pretending that his big objection has been failure to cut spending is not sustainable since he used the Left’s class warfare rhetoric, complaining that the rich got undeserved breaks when any examination of the budget shows the rich pay 90% of the freight. His fore-square support for the Iraq War doesn’t really take off because while the base wants to win the War it is not cheerleading for it. It could well be that what we’re seeing is the self-immolation of John McCain.

Rudy had a pretty good week at the South Carolina debates when he objected to Ron Paul’s presentation. In fact, the best thing that could happen to Rudy has lain at his feet and he hasn’t picked it up. Paul has challenged Rudy to debate the war. That’s a perfect format for Rudy—playing to his strength. That’s a scenario where Rudy can’t possibly be hurt. Paul has some following among the paleos but his priorities for government involvement are such that Rudy could easily knock him out of the park. Unless he’s afraid that Paul might knock him out of the park. If that’s what he’s worried about, he’s too timid to be a presidential candidate—or a president, for that matter.

Now Rudy has taken a sharp turn and has rejected the Senate immigration bill. All of us who were at Dave McSweeney’s fund-raiser where Rudy did so well remember that when I asked him the immigration question, he supported the concepts that he now disowned. I think the abortion issue wouldn’t necessarily kill him if…if he had stuck firm to his pledge to name strict constructionists to the Court. But by declaring that a strict constructionist could also embrace “Roe” as well as oppose it, he nullified himself seriously. There was a time when some of Rudy’s advisers urged him to go the Romney route and embrace pro-life. He could have had a great rationale: that 9/11 brought home to him as never before the fragility of human life. When he was flirting with that option, I felt he had some attraction…for me as well. But holding on to the old pro-abort label, saying that the Constitution gives a poor woman the right to expect federal funding for abortion (ridiculous) and his bobbling the strict constructionist issue looks like downers to me.

The guy who seems to be coming on is Mitt Romney. No reasonable critic can believe that previous positions on social issues should be held against him…given that he was governor of Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the nation and now runs for president. You can say his opinions changed at politically convenient times and they have: along with every other presidential candidate since Thomas Jefferson who espoused strict construction and then consummated the greatest loose construction gamut in history—the Louisiana Purchase. Increasingly I think Romney is running the winning campaign. He may not win the nomination but his campaign is expressing the clearest rhetoric. If you disagree or agree, tell me.

Lucky Strike Hit Parade. Memory, not Search Engines.

No one can legitimately be called an old duffer without knowing something of “Your Hit Parade.” The radio series started on April 20, 1935 when I was age 7 on NBC’s “Red Network” and during the next two years both NBC and CBS carried it until `37 when it landed on CBS Saturdays. Ten years later it veered back to NBC.

The TV version began in 1950 as a simulcast of the radio program. By 1953 the radio version was canceled. The show continued on NBC until 1958; then back to CBS until it was canceled in 1959. Enough of these dull facts. Here are some questions. He or she who gets them all right without search engines will get a cup of coffee from me…free…if and when you collar me in Chicago—either at the Chicago Athletic Club or the Skyline, two of my favorite hangouts. All set? Here are the questions.

1. The TV cast featured—give me their last names: singers Dorothy_____; Snooky ______; Gisele _________ and Russell _______.

2. The TV bandleader was ____________. He was married to _______.

3. The announcer for radio and TV was a famous name with a wonderful voice: Andre ___________.

4. The most memorable feature of the TV show was its opening with the voice of a ____________. (Two words).

5. “Your Hit Parade” changed its name to “The ______ _____ Hit

Parade.” Supply the two words.

6. What killed the “Hit Parade”? (Three words).

7. In that connection, the final demise came when a Hit Parade singer tried to duplicate a fast-rising national singing phenomenon and struck out so dismally that the show was virtually laughed out of existence. Who was the Hit Parade singer, what phenomenon was being duplicated and what was the song? (I happened to see that particular show).

For me, a geezer patriarch these aren’t tough. We’ll see how many real trivia experts there are.

Flashback: The Meeting with Byrne and Both of Us Change Our Point of View.

[Fifty years of politics written as a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

Naturally I brought my new, best old friend Claude Murphy (whom I didn’t realize was so tight with Mayor Jane Byrne) to the meeting in her office on the 5th floor of City Hall. When we walked in, she was at her desk—a tiny, taut woman—talking in no-nonsense style to a 6 foot 4 inch Chicago policeman. Seeing us, she doused a cigarette in an ash tray. I had to step aside as she hugged Claude. “Hi, Claude!” she said. “Who did you bring?” “Oh somthin’ the cat drug in,” he said. Laughs all around.

After we sat down, she lighted a new cigarette, inhaled deeply and said: “Your City Club has been very unfair to me, Tom, saying that I was trying to short-circuit the open bid process on the South Loop. Just today I signed an executive order that open bidding shall begin.”

Wonderful, I said. Now there’s no reason for us to be hostile to each other.

“Claude has been trying to get you to call me for quite some time,” she said, “haven’t you, Claude?”

He chuckled and in his best black ghetto accent (entirely put on) said, “wal, ah was just tryin’ to wait foh de raht time.”

Well, I said, all’s well that ends well, I always say.

She said, “so do I. I understand the City Club is looking for an honoree.”

Yes, I said, and now that you have embraced open bidding on the South Loop there is no reason it shouldn’t be you.”

“What do you think, Claude?” she said. “Do you see any reason why not?”

“No,” he said, “ah t’ink the time’s raht and ah say dat as a frien’ o yors and a frien’ of de Club.”

She said, “when were you thinking of holding this testimonial?”

The sooner the better for the Club’s standpoint, I said.

“Well,” she said inhaling deeply, “do you think people will say you sold out?”

No. Not sold out. Rented out. But seriously, if you and the Club are together on the open bidding, it’s a win-win for both of us.

“O.k..” She looked at her schedule. As she turned the pages and flicked her cigarette ash, I decided that there is a God and he is a little elderly black man with a white fringe of hair, a 140 kilowatt smile who, for some reason—possibly patronizing—has improvised a poor-boy ghetto southern accent.

“O.k.,” she said. “Well, if that’s all--.”

I said: One thing, Mayor. Every dinner has to have a chairman in charge of ticket sales who is close to the honoree. It helps people to understand that when they buy tables through this person, their purchase will be known to the honoree.

“O.k,” she said. “Your chairman is Ron Orner.”


“Ron Orner. He’s a labor lawyer and friend of ours, isn’t he, Claude?.”

“Yas indee’.”

“Here, this is his phone number.”

Thank you very much Mayor. We’ll see you on the big date if not before.

“If you have trouble or any questions get Claude. He knows how to reach me.”

As we walked out, I said: Claude, you and I are going to be very tight. You can hang around my office all day and all night if you want to.

“Not fer awhile. I gotta go outta town.”

O.k., Claude. But don’t be a stranger.


We hired the grand ballroom of the Hilton & Towers (now the Chicago Hilton). I called Ron Orner a dozen times; finally got through. He was very uncommunicative. So I went over to his office. Very quiet office, walnut paneled on LaSalle Street. Noiseless typewriters, prim, conservatively dressed women clericals. Thin young men studying law books in the library.

“Wh-a-a?” he said. “She said that? I never ran a dinner in my life.”

You don’t have to run it, Mr. Orner. Just sell tables.

“I never sold a table or a ticket to a fund-raiser in my life.”

You don’t have the Mayor’s list?

“The Mayor’s what?”

This worries me.

Days went by and Orner was of no help; not only was he of no help, he was hostile to the event. I tried to get hold of Claude; no answer. I scouted around the South Side for his friends. Our news release went out and got a big bang: Mayor Agrees with City Club on Open Bids on North Loop; Will be Honored at Historic Fest.

Where was Claude? No one knew where he was. I tried to call the Mayor. A stone wall. Seven days before the event—exactly one week to go—and when I finally reached Orner he told me he hadn’t made a sale.

“Of course I haven’t,” he said. “I got a law practice to take care of. You better scrub this event. The little lady rolled you.”

But we had signed an expensive contract with the hotel for filet mignon, a band, a group of serenading violinists, placemat gifts. Now we weren’t just broke we were in hock up to our eyeballs.

Another headline: City Club to Honor Byrne with Big Gala.

Then in my door he comes. “Hah, buddy.”

Claude, Claude. We’re in deep [scatological word for “trouble”].

“Aw yeah?”

Yeah. Ron Orner has had no instructions, no list, hasn’t sold a ticket much less a table. I can’t get the mayor to return my call. One week to go. A huge empty cavern with table cloths, white linen napkins, a band, waiters and no guests. The Mayor arrives and speaks to an empty hall with her echo reverberating. A major news story. Major embarrassment for her, for the City Club. I’m a bum. A disgrace. Outside of that, things are going well, Claude.

He walked over to the phone on my desk.

“Do ah dial nine?”

Yes. Please.

He dialed, cradled the receiver on his shoulder and talked so quietly I couldn’t hear.

He hung up.

“Everythin’s all right buddy. We gotta go see her.”

We did. Another embrace.

“Mayah,” said Claude. “As ah says on the phone, we gotta kind of embarrassment.”

“Yeah,” she said. “You told me. Get over to Orner’s office right now. He’s waiting for you.”

I asked: Do you have a list for him to call?’

“Don’t worry about that. Get over to his office right away.”


When Claude and I got to Orner’s office the scene was wildly different. Phones were ringing; the women clericals were scribbling messages; messenger boys were coming in one door carrying envelopes, waiting impatiently to be waited on. The thin young men looked harried, on their phones. Inside his paneled office, Orner was frazzled. His coat was off, tie askew and on the phone.

“Suddenly,” he said to me, “the whole world comes crashing down on me. We have to hire temps to take the calls. Marilyn! Marilyn! She’s my assistant. How many tables have we sold?”

She shouted: “I can’t see you now. I’m on the phone! How many tables—fifty-two in the last 45 minutes! And more coming in!”

He said: “They’re all her friends and contributors. The plumbers union just called me. They want 10 tables up in front where she can see them. How many tables does the place hold, for God’s sake?”

Marilyn popped her head in the door, “The electrical union wants four tables up front. I said they could have them. Is that okay?

Orner said: “I was planning to go out to dinner with my wife but not now. We all have to work. Can you get me a map or something of the grand ballroom? I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’m saying yes to front tables. I think we got so many tables now we’re going to end up in the hall! I wasn’t even planning to go! Somebody put out the word to every special interest in the city—law firms, unions, United Airlines, American Airlines. Black civic organizations; black churches. Hispanics by the carloads.”

Claude said, “Ron, we gotta go. Don’ wanna bother you now; you’re too busy. But I gotta tell you, you’re the bes’ civic fund-raiser an’ dinner chairman in the history of Chicago!”

One thing more, I said. I want a table for Quaker Oats, Ron. Up front. Okay?

“You’re going to leave us here with this mess, huh?” said Orner bitterly.

No, I said. We gave you a winner. You’re on the way to being the best civic dinner chairman in Chicago history.

“How did I get into this?” he bleated.

Easy, I said. The little lady rolled you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Personal Aside: Pope Adrian VI Had it Right…and Thus it Shall Ever Be.

Renaissance Pope Adrian VI (the last non-Italian pontiff until John Paul II) once said of the Roman curia that its deficiencies and sins “were so widespread that those afflicted by the vice did not even notice the stench anymore.” He launched a reformation to cleanse it—which failed.

Journalist Robert Novak who is a recent convert to Catholicism said that while he was considering joining the Church he read a history of its 2,000 years. There were so many rascals running it, high up in it, he said, that the institution has to be divinely incarnated in order to have survived them. While princes of the church were selling indulgences, Francis of Assisi was living in a cave. And Aquinas was teaching.

Their sanctity was the miracle—in the midst of a cesspool.

And so he joined.

Here is DePaul University…which glories in being the “largest Catholic university in the country”…celebrating Gay Pride week. All this while a hypocritical American archbishop in Rome who has the job of re-converting secular Catholic-in-name-only universities doesn’t even answer his mail from Catholic Citizens of Illinois which gives him chapter and verse about DePaul…so pleased is he to have his Episcopal ring kissed by poor dumb baa’ing sheep who think that as he’s in a line leading back to the apostles he’s better than they are. Then he has the unmitigated gall to swing the incense burners and say he wants to return Catholic schools to the Faith.

God help us.

We have an archbishop here who says Hillary Clinton in speaking to the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls was speaking non-politically. Because he himself has two doctorates…is a canon lawyer…and is skilled in parsing language to the point where it has almost lost meaning, he has decided he can get away with this. Mrs. Mary Anne Hackett, the CCI c.e.o., in a letter to him says bluntly, “surely, you don’t believe this.”

Of course he doesn’t.

That’s not important.

He just thinks he can get us to believe it because he’s a Prince of the Church.

And still…and still…it’s my Church and I love it.

Flashback: City Club Leadership Teaches Me a Lot About Chicago.

[Fifty years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].

Involvement in several civic groups helped teach me more about Chicago. One was Project LEAP [Legal Elections in All Precincts] which was a coalition of Republicans and liberal independent Democrats which I headed beginning in 1974…which brought with it a board membership in the Independent Voters of Illinois [IVI] a group of largely left-wing Democrats opposed to the first Mayor Daley. Another was a board membership of the Better Government Association which was formed to investigate city corruption and misfeasance. One venerable civic organization was dying in 1977 which had a long and engrossing history—the City Club of Chicago.

I’m not sure I would have joined the City Club of Chicago when it was formed in 1903 because one of its founders was Harold L. Ickes, a vituperative trouble-maker and trouble-shooter from Wilmette, a lawyer who was starving to death until he figured out a solution to poverty: marriage to a wealthy woman. Thenceforward, living and thriving on his wife’s inherited estate, he became a liberal reformer in the Republican party. Joining the City Club which was supposed to be dedicated to urban and civic improvement, he successfully converted it into a political arm for the 1912 Bull Moose campaign of Theodore Roosevelt.

When that campaign died, Ickes switched to the Democratic party…and as the world knows became Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior in 1933. Ickes brought a lot of liberal Democrats into the Club. The Club prospered in the 1920s and it built its own clubhouse at 315 south Plymouth Court. With members hanging around and plotting fashionable revolutions against the establishment in the 1920s it was exactly the place limousine liberals belonged—bleeding for the poor but sashaying around in a magnificent club building. Then with the Depression, the City Club lost the building. It is now the John Marshall Law school.

The Club eased into the 1930s as a progressive club and probably the only one in town…leading a charge against racism in the police department…becoming the first club to bring in women on an equal basis—which was overturned when the women decided to run their own club. They left and started the Women’s City Club of Chicago at a different location. It sort of meandered along until the election of the first Mayor Daley in 1955. Daley was a member but rarely attended.

Thereafter the Club took several positions that were critical of the mayor and it lost influence. It dwindled from a high point of about 1,000 members to just about sixty in 1977. Original members included Richard B. Ogilvie and Michael J. Howlett. By 1977 the Club’s board was filled with crotchety old types…most of whom were younger than I am now. But its future seemed well behind it. For some reason, Ogilvie did not want the Club to die.

He and others hired Larry Horist, president of L. P. Horist & Associates to provide it with fund-raising guidance and public relations assistance. Horist, whom I had known slightly when we were both in Washington, D. C. with the Nixon administration, thought that I would be a natural for president in that I had keen interest in the city. He asked if I would be interested and I said no because I was just leaving for the Kennedy Fellowship at Harvard. When I came back from Harvard, he asked me again and again I said no. He then asked Ogilvie to call me and urge that I take it. Ogilvie did. There was something persuasive about being telephoned by a recent former Illinois governor and I seriously considered it. I then talked to another former governor, my frequent lunch-mate, Bill Stratton aka Billy the Kid who said that I should definitely take it.

Stratton thought I should take it, build it up and “use it” to run for public office…maybe Congress in the suburbs (although he added: “I hope that seeing the political realities you would revert to your old status as a progressive Republican instead of the right-winger you are”)…but an uncanny atypical wisdom has always caused me to veer from elective office. There was a time when a former governor of Minnesota thought I should run for 4th district Congress in St. Paul, given that Ramsey county was overwhelmingly Catholic and a Catholic Republican might suffice. I took a look at the demographics and the fact that I had a wife and three kids and decided not to.

When Bill Stratton said I should think about Congress he was thinking that I should run in a primary against Phil Crane. But I told him if I ever ran…and that was highly unlikely…I would rather run in a contest where I could put my heart and soul into it…and that would be to oppose Ab Mikva who was in fact my Congressman. But saying that was a lark. I always believed that a guy without great wealth should not fool around with politics. Also, I had the world’s best job at Quaker—and why should I quit it to possibly lose and start the job search all over again?

So when I told Billy the Kid I was not interested in running for office, he said: well, you say you would rather have the fun of participating in public events, why don’t you take the City Club for a year or so and see how it goes?” So I did. For a time I was head of both Project LEAP and the City Club. But after the old mayor died in 1976, it was clear that some of the liberal Democrats were not interested in continuing the battle for an honest vote count since they saw an opportunity for themselves to capitalize on dishonest counts.

The anomaly is that there is no Project LEAP today…not because there is no vote fraud in Chicago or sloppy procedures or criminal misbehavior by precinct captains…but because the second Mayor Daley is a liberal-progressive and the liberal community is entirely happy with his being reelected, no matter how inaccurate and incompetent the vote count is. After all, one of their number, the Cook county clerk, David Orr, presides over the most serially incompetent election process in modern history without a word of serious complaint. Reason: the people the liberals like get elected. Similarly, the Independent Voters of Illinois are not much of a force anymore. Not because there is no need for independence…but because the mayor who presides over the government agrees with the IVI on all major issues. So why fight him?

In an earlier piece I reported that I decided to build interest in the Club by inviting challenging speakers. We had a good number of them—from Jesse Jackson, Sr. to Eugene McCarthy to Paul Simon to Jerry Falwell. Larry Horist was of great help as the executive director whose company managed the Club. Our first fund-raising dinner was in honor of former Governor Ogilvie. Our second was to honor Mike Howlett. Successively we honored key business types from the city (all who happened to be Jewish because a fund-raising consultant was herself and knew them): A. N. Pritzker…Leonard Lavin…Philip Klutznik…on and on. The membership list built up to about 600—but we never, ever realized the enormous financial success that much better stewardship than I could supply has been provided by my successor, Jay Doherty. Under him the Club has truly embraced the entirety of the Chicago business, labor, civic and political community.

It goes without saying that Jay Doherty will be…and should be…president for life of the City Club. He has been a brilliantly wise and astute leader. One thing he did that I didn’t do because of my rather rebelliously maverick background is to tie the Club into the Daley organization and the Democratic party. I think it was a wise thing that he did it. It has surely made fund-raising easier. His luncheons are a civic club treat to behold. The Club under my leadership was involved in controversies that gained it press attention but also significant enemies. Under Jay, the Club is not controversial but a booster for the ruling class of the city.

I don’t think there is a soul in this city who does not like, admire and love Jay Doherty—me included (I have written about him and his wife Colleen a number of times). When I was president it was touch and go whether there were more people inside hoping we’d may payroll or outside hoping we wouldn’t. We had contentious board meetings. I got the Club involved in support for vouchers in education which almost split it. Because I had to spend a lot of time at Quaker…which was paying my bills…I ran the Club with masterly inattention to detail. I am indebted to Paul Green among others for protecting my rear on a number of occasions.

But I will say…with all the controversies we had…running the Club was fun! Great fun! Jane Byrne was in as mayor shortly after I started. Her tenure was about as controversial as Rod Blagojevich’s as governor is now. She campaigned as a reformer, was elected because of a series of snowstorms, and when she took office she made peace with those in the City Council whom she called members of “an evil cabal.” She tied in with Eddie Vrdolyak and Ed Burke and Charlie Swibel (not a city council member) and instantly the “cabal” became the “caballeros.” Then she engaged in sweetheart deals with favorite developers and saw that the rebuilding of the South Loop was given to a favorite.

As the City Club president, I would hold news conferences to blast her to the skies. At the same time I was on a weekly radio talk show run by Bruce DuMont on public radio (more about this later) and blasting the mayor. It was fun to get the widespread public attention but blasting the mayor of Chicago was no way to cause the City Club to prosper. The Club would live from fund-raiser to fund-raiser. There were times when I thought we were sure to be evicted for nonpayment of rent—but, Lord, it was fun. We had what I called “the Monday Morning Forum” held at the M & M Club over coffee and rolls where speakers would show up, speak off-the-record scatalogically and profanely about their work and sometimes engage in what was just short of fisticuffs. One of our most vociferous participants was Kenny Hurst, a dinosaur conservative who through no effort of his own was unintentionally uproarious.

On a number of issues, the City Club…and me as president…zeroed in on Mayor Byrne. Every so often a guy would show up at our luncheons whom few really knew, but of whom I was signally aware. He was a short, bald, 70sh black man—well-dressed--by the name of Claude Murphy. He was, believe it or not, a Republican ward committeeman on the South Side…when Republican committeemen in black wards were hardly worth noticing. But Claude was because he was truly bipartisan. He was also thoroughly involved in one of the more confoundingly complicated games of the day in the black neighborhoods—numbers—which helped make him an independently wealthy man.

In those days before cigarette smoking was banned, Murphy would show up, suck a cigarette down to the size of a half-match which almost singed his lip-line, walk over to me and say in a hardly understood whisper and flash a grin that was 140,000-kilowatts-worth: “hah, buddy.” It was supposed to mean “hi, buddy.” He started showing up when the City Club, having alienated the mayor, was regarded as off-limits by the power structure that needed the mayor’s approbation. We were starting to draw 40 or 43 members at a lunch and the tables we had set up had to be scaled down.

The money was draining off. We had to have one hell of an annual fund-raiser in order to save the Club. I thought eagerly of quitting but I didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who saved the City Club only to steer it into bankruptcy and default. We had to find a sugar daddy to be “honored” by the Club at a luncheon. We had honored every living elderly Jewish philanthropist in town and were looking for some gentiles but many turned us down. No big businessman wanted to be honored by a Club that no matter how much fun it was to be with, was alienating the mayor of Chicago.

Then Claude Murphy started a bad habit. He started popping in to my office, sitting on the sofa and read a magazine while my daily work went on. Sometimes he would beat me to the office, at 8:15 a.m. (I came in at 8:30 p.m) and was leafing through some of my books on the shelf when I’d come in. For about two weeks I forgot about him being there. He was very much like the walnut furniture—and about as talkative. My Quaker government relations work passed over his head, between his legs, over his permanent seat on the couch. My secretary thought he was a cute, little, fat old black man with a rim of white hair—like Uncle Remus. Then one day I said, apropos to nothing at all, “Claude, why are you here? Why are you here every day? Why don’t you take the magazine you’re reading and get the hell out of here? Don’t you have a home, Claude? Don’t you have an office?” The more I continued the angrier I got as I thought about him being with me all morning, all afternoons and so I raised my voice and said, “CLAUDE, DOES A HOUSE HAVE TO FALL ON YOU? GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

Nothing made Claude mad and this didn’t either. He smiled his 140,000 kilowatts and said, “who ah you going to honor at de City Club, buddy?” That was exactly why my nerves were becoming frayed. I retorted: “I have no one, Claude. No one! Now you know. I have no one? What’s it to you?”

“Wal,” he said in his drawl, “ah think you oughta honor de Mayah.”

I said, “Honor the mayor? Now I know you’re senile, Claude! I’ve attacked her verbally, in the papers, on radio and TV for the last two months. The City Club is calling for her investigation. How can we honor her?”

He said quietly, “wal—ah know but have you ast her?”

“Asked her? Asked her if we’d honor her? We’re ready to go out of business, Claude! You’ve been around here overhearing my telephone conversations long enough to know that! We can’t pay the staff, we can’t pay the rent. She will kick up her heels when we go under which will be next week at the latest! Honor her?”

“Yas,” he said walking over to my desk. “You oughta talk to her.”

“Talk to WHO?”

“Mayah Byrne.” He picked up my phone and said shyly, “do ah dial nine to git outside?”

I said yes.

He dialed, waited ten seconds and then said, “Mayah Byrne. Tha’s somebody ah hope you will talk to. Tom Roeser.”

He handed me the phone. It was Byrne. He had dialed her private number.

She said in her shrill machine-gun rat-a-tat voice: “I was hoping you’d call. Come over this very minute and let’s see if I can help you keep the City Club afloat.”

I hung up and looked wonderingly at Claude.

He was smiling his old 140,000 kilowatt and reading my magazine.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Personal Asides: The Immigration Issue Aside—Won’t it be the Death Knell for the Republican Party?...Tony Blair, the Complete Wilsonian—but Abject Political Correctionist as Well.…Terry Przybylski’s Latest Presidential Trivia.


The Republican Party.

I presume that by writing this I shall be regarded as hopelessly shallow, parochial and partisan…but, friends, I am a national Republican, have always been…and given the lamentable state of the Democratic party and its likely effect on the national polity…will always be. Therefore let me share with you my central concern. Don’t be so naïve as to imagine that political consequences have always been at the heart of any major federal program. I frankly don’t think President Bush has any lasting concern about the consequences for the Republican party, so bound up is he in a religious ethos of “compassionate idealism.” In the immediate post-Civil War Republicans wisely saw that an influx of new immigrants could…not absolutely sure but could…help the voting populace of the Republican party.

But then conservative Republicans passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a combination racist and economic blockade against a flood of low-income workers whose employment could throw U. S. workers out of jobs. Interestingly enough, liberal environmentalists who are concerned with undue population growth see widespread immigration as counterbalancing the lower population growth rate, fearing projections showing that largely through immigration U.S. population will reach 400 million by 2050.

The see-saw battle goes on. A Rice University economist, Donald Huddle, has reported that in 1994, legal and illegal immigration drained $51 billion more in social welfare and job displacement costs than immigrants paid in taxes. But the Urban Institute, a liberal think-tank, says immigrants contribute from $25 billion to $30 billion more in taxes than they receive in services.

I cannot imagine that opening the floodgates to legalize Hispanic Americans—given their strong Democratic voting ID—would do anything but solidify this country into a one-party nation. And since the destiny of the West depends on a strong conservative…neo-conservative, if you choose…attitude, I am not exactly thrilled at this prospect. None other than Winston Churchill told Franklin Roosevelt as they discussed the postwar world: “I did not become the King’s first minister to preside over the liquidation of the British empire.” The fact that the empire faded away came as result of many factors, but not Sir Winston’s intransigence. Few people exceed me in my support of George W. Bush—but I believe his idealism could well stand a corrective.

The political battle over immigration blurs distinctions. Free marketers seem to merge with ethnic advocacy groups; trade protectionists and many labor groups converge. Corporate interests that profit from low wage-earners, supply side economists cite the fact that the U. S. economy would shrink seriously without illegals; Catholic Church leaders support freer immigration on supposedly humanitarian grounds but also to swell their ranks. The polarization has radicalized many; Lou Dobbs on CNN has built a wide following as active critic of permissive immigration. Democratic party activists see a groundswell of voters among Hispanics if they get through the mesh and get legalized. Some neo-conservatives who fear a recurrence of terrorism here link the possibility with wide-open immigration; people active in trying to control illegal drugs see widespread immigration as a serious threat.

So with that said, let me open this up to a plebiscite. As a Wall Street Journal reader, I can well appreciate the good effects loosened immigration will have on business and the economy. What effect will it have on the party that I firmly believe must prosper if the nation is to survive? Living in a one-party city and county…and remembering what it was only a few years ago when Illinois was a swing state…I am not interested in being carried away by non-sectarian idealism. Please: the line is open for your comments.

Tony Blair.

Probably because Tony Blair is a consummately articulate practitioner of the English language, unlike George Bush, we can view his views with a clearer focus than we can the president’s. Conventional wisdom has it that Blair has been a great British leader whose career was diminished by Iraq. But those who say this don’t know much about Blair. It’s like saying Churchill was an empire-builder whose goal was shattered by World War II. Churchill was indeed an fervent empire-builder and his empire was reduced by World War II and its immediate aftereffects but World War II “made” Churchill…and were he alive today would not fret about the dissolution of much of the Commonwealth because it would be his belief…and a correct one…that by reacting properly to the challenges of World War II he saved the West.

Blair is the consummate Wilsonian. He passionately believes in globalization; thus the venture in Iraq was as natural for him to support as participation in World War II was for Churchill. It was here in Chicago in 1999, at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he brilliantly listed all the unifying aspects of globalism that have the potential to weld humanity into one. If any speech was idealistic, it was that one. He listed trade, communications, fighting disease, financial markets, human rights and immigration, declaring, “Globalization begets interdependence and interdependence begets the necessity of a common value system to make it work.” Blair, as an intellectual, should be seen as the great rival of Harvard’s Samuel Huntington. Huntington, author of “The Clash of Civilizations,” sees possible disaster in the clash. Blair on the contrary sees not a clash of civilization but, rightly, I think, a clash of civilization…ours…versus the barbarism of an Islam whose religion was never hijacked but is, when fervently observed, an enormous threat to the peace of the world.

George Bush believes that, too, but is not as eloquent…or perhaps as thoughtful…as Blair. Having said something good about Blair the world leader, I am appalled that his domestic policies in Britain have embraced a kind of neo-fascism that punishes freedom of speech. The stupid “political correctness” law threatens the freedom of the British peoples.

A complex man, Blair.

Terry’s Trivia.

He’s b-a-a-a-k! Terry Przybylski has a presidential trivia for us. If you’re not as old as I or Frank Nofsinger (who’s not as old as I either) you may have trouble with this one.

Who is the last president to smoke cigarettes in the White House?

For added credit, name three presidents who used to smoke cigarettes but kicked the habit before they got to the White House?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Personal Asides: On Falwell, Falsani’s Ignorant Insult Proves His Point about the Culture…The Condoleezza Rice Biography.


Falwell & Falsani.

“When doctors pronounced the Rev. Jerry Laymon Falwell, Sr. dead at 12:40 p.m. EST Tuesday, I was sitting in the departures lounge of the Key West airport in Florida with a dozen other journalists who had just attended a three-day conference on religion and politics.

“As word spread—a producer for National Public Radio got the first call—my colleagues scrambled to their cell phones, BlackBerrys and laptops in preparation to write stories and, as was the case with a few, give radio interviews about the impact of the Rev. Falwell’s death.

“…In fact, my very first thought upon hearing of the Rev. Falwell’s passing was: Good.

“And I didn’t mean ‘good’ in a oh-good-he’s-gone-home-to-be-with-the-Lord kind of way. I meant `good’ as in ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead.’”

--Cathleen Falsani

Religion Columnist

The Chicago Sun-Times.

I yield to no one in disparagement of the immature, early college-kid, bubble-gum snapping know-nothingness of delayed adolescent (age 37) Falsani. But she does prove what Jerry Falwell decried about the debased public taste. Nor is tastelessness hers alone. She was named “2005 Religion Writer of the Year” by the Religion Newswriters Association: which tells you something about the genre of the religious journalist craft. And you should know that her first book, “The God Factor” which explored the spiritual depth of basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon and Al Sharpton among others “won critical acclaim,” her Wikipedia biography says…cognizant of the fact that Wikipedia says often what its subjects hope to believe. But she has signed with publishing giant Zondervan for two new non-fiction books, has left the religion editorship of her newspaper to be its religion columnist and is up for the prestigious Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year award to be announced this September. Were she to win, it would say a great deal about a calling that not long ago featured writers like Kenneth Woodward and the “Tribune’s” Reverend John Evans.

Falsani’s successes lends validity to Falwell’s frequent criticism of a decadent culture…for which as an exhibit in “religious writing” she is indubitably a pinup. He affixed some of the blame for 9/11 on God’s outrage with homosexuality--which was needlessly selective with so many bad heterosexuals around and for which he apologized. Perhaps if he erred, it was not to have spread blame for decadence including to those who decided to fill a once-great newspaper’s Religious Editor niche with people with no absolutes as Falsani, who dignifies her vacuity with bad Camus imitations. You get Falani when you buy the paper for 50 cents which, when you compare the great reportage that comes from Fran Spielman, an astuteness from Lynn Sweet and an extraordinarily good business section edited by Dan Miller, a sports section equal to none, a QT column filled with superb one-liners, equates to about a penny for Falsani’s thoughts. She’s still overpaid but what the hell.

Falsani’s insult to Falwell (although the piece concludes with a wish his spirit finds peace) should be understood since she moved from street reporter to just the agnostic materialistic relativist “religious writer” type Cruickshank and Cooke wanted her to be…a kicky adolescent whose views are wafer-thin. Falsani might grow up one day—but, then, realistically, she very well might not. One article she did on her mother’s illness and Falsani’s trying to cope with it had promise. Since then, nothing. But hold on: she says she was led to God by watching Jimmy Swaggert whom she despised at the same time.

Talk about being screwed up.

Condoleezza Rice.

A late biography of Condoleezza Rice is “Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power” by Marcus Mabry, chief of correspondents and, believe it, the supervisor of the magazine’s domestic and international bureaus. The fact that Mabry is an African-American is touted to give him some freedom in criticizing Rice in the same tones that the far-left newsmagazine does. It is worthless as a read except for her early years which Mabry delves into with some thoroughness.

The final call on Mabry is this, however, and I treasure it because it reflects the anti-Bush mindset prevalent in liberal Washington. After 9/11 Vice President Dick Cheney went to CIA headquarters and probed about himself in the intelligence files. To Mabry the idea of a political official disturbing the immaculate files of the unelected bureaucracy is appalling. But you have to consider the anomaly: that the one man besides the president who was elected to national office had the temerity to push aside career bureaucrats is regarded by Mabry as an offense against established governmental procedures and highly disturbing.

And the interesting thing is that Mabry doesn’t even perceive the ridiculous objection he makes. Imagine: a nationally elected official having the insolence to go over the heads of the bureaucracy. Incredible!

Flashback: Harvard Beckons, then Shakes its Head, then Beckons Again.

[Fifty years of political life in a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

Working full-time at Quaker and teaching part-time…mostly nights…at Wharton and Northwestern led me to perfect a course involving nine constituencies that make up public policy. After a few years, I wanted to try it at a university that seemed hopelessly out-of-range for a conservative—the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. Shortly after JFK was killed, the public revulsion for the hideous murder was such that many people sent contributions to the Kennedy family. Well, the Kennedy family didn’t need free-will offerings nor did it encourage them--but the money amounted to tens of millions of dollars over the length of time between the Dallas slaying, the long majestic funeral, the pathetic salute to his father’s bier by little John-John, the eternal flame on and on. The Kennedy family decided to turn the funds over to Harvard, where JFK had gone to school, for the creation of a John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics which was an independent entity but pinioned to what would ultimately become the Kennedy School of Government.

Individual fellowships were created—not so much for political scholars as much as for participants. Obviously, given the nature of the Kennedy family and Harvard, the designees were almost always from the political Left. One exception to the rule was my friend John McClaughry, the ex-Percy campaign worker who designed the brilliant Community Self-Determination act…a program that was never implemented, sadly…but which became a kind of model for my own institution called “Medco,” the Minority Enterprise Development Corporation which I submitted to President Nixon and which, though superb in concept due to McClaughry’s origination and Bill Geimer’s legal craftsmanship, got me fired by Maurice Stans. Few other Republicans were named. Those who were happened to be the lefty kind, tokens. There were absolutely no business lobbyists named. Charlie Barr had pined away until his death for a Fellowship but was not rewarded (a pity).

Long about 1975, I decided to try for a Fellowship. I applied, was called to Cambridge for an interview and sat down with a lady who was relatively famous but who since has become much more so—Doris Kearns Goodwin. As a young student she was taken in, so to speak, by a President Lyndon Johnson who pored out his heart to her which she wrote up to national acclaim. She was named a White House Fellow and while she was being considered, it was discovered that she had been a picketing anti-Vietnam student at Harvard and had in fact written a magazine article entitled, “How to Dump Lyndon Johnson.” She expected to be zeroed out of the White House fellowship but Johnson agreed that she be named anyhow. He said, “oh let her come. If I can’t convince her she was wrong, then I’m not very effective.” Thus the old president with a weak heart and a young school-girl spent much time together. He never convinced her Vietnam was right but he converted her to become an LBJ groupie who celebrated his rampant liberalism.

She married Richard Goodwin, the shaggy former JFK staffer who joined Eugene McCarthy’s anti-LBJ campaign and later Robert Kennedys. Now as a Harvard Ph.D she was a top official engaged in the selection of future Kennedy Fellows. Obviously, her politics were predictable—but that didn’t bother me: her instinctive knee-jerkedness did. She came to conclusions viscerally and they were all boilerplate. She saw no reason why a conservative should ever become a Fellow since the fellowships were to remain like a fly in amber, hallowed as 1960 liberalism. I disputed that but I was on the applicant side. So after the first invitation, I was rejected.

The next year I applied again but this time decided to use some of the lobbying arts to reinforce my application. I started a campaign of encouraging Democratic liberals who were my friends to write. Those who wrote were Newton Minow, JFK’s chairman of the FCC who devised the phrase “vast wasteland” to describe his era of commercial television…Paul Simon who has been a Fellow and who was now a congressman from Illinois, hoping for greater things…Abner Mikva, my congressman, a deep-dyed liberal with an uncanny knack of frowning over an issue in supposed deliberation but who always…uncannily…would come after great reflection on the side of the Left…and Andrew Young. The Georgia congressman was expecting a high appointment from the Jimmy Carter administration which ultimately came—that of ambassador to the United Nations.

These letters made a difference. Once again I was invited to Cambridge and once again I was interviewed by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And once again she debated and found me wanting. However I had anticipated her decision and had on one of my Washington trips stopped in to the office of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Quaker had several plants in Massachusetts and the Kennedys had ties to Chicago, with old Joe buying the Merchandise Mart where Quaker was officing, and Sargent Shriver a close classmate of Bob Stuart (although that was one tie I didn’t want to use). I figured it was enough that I had left Quaker for abortive federal service and it wouldn’t be politick to try to use any leverage to leave again—or I would possibly be allowed to leave imperpetuity.

At Teddy Kennedy’s office, I didn’t see him but a staffer who insisted that Ted Kennedy as the custodian of the Kennedy Fellowships earnestly desired Republican participation. I had a hard time keeping my face straight hearing him say that and I guess he noticed it. He did say something that was very helpful: that Senator Kennedy himself was in the habit of personally interviewing candidates who seemed to make it to the finals. I thought that if I could just survive Ms. Goodwin, I might have a shot at it.

So I encouraged Andrew Young…who by now was UN ambassador… to personally call Kennedy. Young solicited a promise that no matter what…whether I survived Ms. Goodwin or not…Kennedy himself would interview me. I stayed in touch with the Kennedy staffer and found when the Senator would be at his office at the Institute of Politics and deftly…if I say so myself…arranged my interview with Ms. Goodwin to coincide with his presence.

Ms. Goodwin was still unimpressed with me and I must say I didn’t blame her. When I think the die is cast I have a tendency to grow insouciant…as I was when I knew my firing at Commerce was inevitable. We dallied around in a terrible interview and then I said that I was assured, basis the request from Ambassador Young, that I could be interviewed by the Senator. She indicated that this was not the usual procedure because the Senator only interviewed candidates who were approved by her. I again leaned on the Andrew Young card and said, “Madam, would you like to have Ambassador Young call you to verify what I have told you is the truth? He would be glad to.” She backed up, said that would not be necessary and checked the Senator’s schedule. Then a few hours later, I visited with the Senator just before the dinner hour.

I had considered and then discarded a number of approaches to make to him—but concentrated instead on the mission of the Institute of Politics which was to allow candidates with fulsome political experience to be appointed. In describing my work beginning as journalist, political party staffer, campaign manager, assistant to two congressmen and assistant to a governor of Minnesota, I saw that I was making little headway. Then I concentrated on my work at Quaker Oats and the fact that the job had brought me into fairly close contact with the late Everett Dirksen. I saw Kennedy’s eyes perk up at that point. We swapped Dirksen stories and I told him Dirksen’s favorite phrase which he used to describe some incompetents such as the Republican state chairman. Dirksen said the chairman was as “dumb as dog” excrement—only he used the stolid Anglo-Saxon word for excrement.

Kennedy roared with laughter and exclaimed that his two brothers had used that expression and he laughed whenever he heard of it, wondering where they got it. Of course! They got it from Dirksen, a man of whom both were extremely fond…so fond, in fact, that during the Cuban Missile Crisis both men…John and Bobby…requested that Dirksen fly to the White House to consult with them—for the sole purpose of bolstering his lagging campaign for reelection in Illinois against Sydney Yates. Our conversation about the Pundit of Pekin lasted a long time after which Kennedy said, “you’re in!” I said that Ms. Goodwin had placed a veto. He shrugged it off and said he would talk to her. He must have because the very next morning I received a call in Chicago from her which didn’t go into details but filled me in on when I would start and what I wished my teaching program at Harvard should consist of.

I received another sabbatical of sorts from Quaker and flew to Cambridge for six months of what was a glorious experience. The teaching itself was fun but with the Fellowship you got a membership in the Harvard faculty club and the absolute right to call up any faculty member and sit down with him/her. The Harvard faculty was under orders to regard Kennedy Fellows as equals if not a bit superior. So when I called the office of the aged but brilliant John Kenneth Galbraith, then an emeritus professor of the economy, his secretary endeavored when we could have lunch together at the faculty club. The same with James Q. Wilson, the famous professor of government as well as a good number of other faculty people.

That convinced me that all the funny stock of stories I had about Everett Dirksen really paid off. As indeed it did.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Personal Asides: Rahm Emanuel’s Dirty Mouth.

rahm emanuel
Rahm’s Dirty Mouth.

The “National Journal” can easily be described as the glossy-papered edition of the “New York Times.” It scours the Washington universe and somehow…just by chance…material favoring the Left is pushed forward in the copy and countervailing information which would be of assistance to the Right is either low-balled or dismissed as irrelevant. But last week in a burst of intellectual candor, the “Journal” reported on one of its heroes, Congressman Rahm Emanuel whom it has steadily portrayed as the most effective Democratic fund-raiser as chairman of the Democratic triple C (House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee” in modern times…forgetting, as it conveniently tends to do, Tony Coehlo, the Democratic whip of fifteen years ago who resigned his congressional post to avoid an investigation into his receipt of junk bonds from a savings and loan in return for expected favors.

The “Journal” reports on a adulatory book, “The Thumpin’” written about the life of Rahm Emanuel written by a star-struck deputy Washington bureau chief of the “Chicago Tribune”—with the semi-pronounceable name of Naftali Bendavid. In order to make Emanuel human, Bendavid catalogs one of Emanuel’s personal habits, his frequent use of a scatological word beginning with the letter “f” that demeans sexual intercourse. In order to get the picture across of a hyper-energetic Emanuel, Bendavid recorded some of Emanuel’s phone conversations which equates with the late Lenny Bruce at his worst.

The picture that comes through is not one of magnetism but that of a foul-mouthed hack who is so poverty-stricken in language that he cannot conceive of communications without usage of the word that insults (a) the act of human procreation, (b) the intelligence of the person on the receiving end of his conversation and (c) Emanuel’s own somewhat hyperkinetic intelligence which is degraded by his juvenile comments. Emanuel uses the Anglo-Saxon word as verb (transitive and intransitive), noun, interjection and explective infix. It’s wonderful to consider that this Sammy Glick is already scaling the greasy pole of opportunism to attain a high post in his party.

To give you a flavor of this statesman’s conversation, let us substitute for the gross and malevolent word four stars **** representing the word.

Emanuel’s phone conversation as reproduced by Bendavid:

Signing off a phone conversation with a candidate, Emanuel says: “Don’t **** it up or I’ll **** you. I’ll kill you. All right, I love you. Bye.”

“In my house, when you say **** you, it’s a sign of endearment.”

On election night, he shouts to a boisterous celebration that “the Republicans can go **** themselves.”

He refers to Washington as “****nutsville” and to an opponent as “knuckle****s.”

To a reporter: “Don’t rat**** me!”

Now it is true that Vice President Cheney in a moment of exasperation told Sen. Patrick Leahy to perform an impossible biological act upon himself…but Rahm Emanuel owns the World Cup on creative use of the word.