Tuesday, May 15, 2007

January 23, 1973: A Revolutionary Change in Direction for the Country and Me as We Take to the Streets.

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

While creating and running a small federal agency changed my outlook from so-called moderate to conservative…and the defeat of Richard B. Ogilvie which convinced me the best political practice was to be the practitioner of a small, efficient state government that did not duplicate the federal government (as Ogilvie’s did with a separate EPA and various auxiliary branches)…yet another convulsion put me irrevocably on the social conservative side: that was the landmark decision by the U. S. Supreme Court that snatched the issue of abortion from the purview of the states where it belonged and enacted it as a federal constitutional right.

The fact that the Roe decision was written by a Republican appointee, Harry Blackmun of Minnesota and supported by such Republican appointees as Chief Justice Warren Burger of Minnesota made me wonder why—since I had known both slightly at an earlier time (Blackmun who was around Rochester and a supporter when Quie was in Congress and Burger who had been a big shot in the Minnesota Republican party)--I had not perceived their gross insensitivity to (a) the biological facts of life, (b) the genesis of the U. S. Constitution, Natural Law and (c) plain and simple humanity. Some time ago I launched an Internet conversation with some people in Minnesota who knew both Blackmun and Burger better than I. We delved into the strangeness of their friendship…ranging from their early days in St. Paul to Blackmun’s in Rochester as a lawyer for the Mayo Clinic and beyond.

In addition, we know from Linda Greenhouse’s (Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times) valuable biography of Blackmun and Bob Woodward’s “The Brethren” something I in all my years previously had not sufficiently understood. That was the propensity of the human condition to be corrupted by jealousy and flattery which can shape great federal policies…documented further by my contacts in Minnesota.

Why I didn’t perceive this when I had been all my life involved in political negotiations of one sort or another, I don’t know—but my research has satisfied an inner need I had to find out how two people, originally fast friends (with Blackmun the best man at Burger’s wedding) could have supported such an egregious error. At the bottom of it was collusion by mischievous liberals William Brennan and William O. Douglas working on Blackmun’s insecurities at being overshadowed and dominated by Burger and Douglas-Brennan telling Blackmun he was smarter than Burger…not the other way around…and he should rebel against Burger’s autocracy so as to bring out legalized abortion which Brennan and Douglas favored.

By writing into the law a constitutional “right” to abortion, they said, Blackmun would show Berger what’s what and get his attention: no longer would Harry be regarded as a back-bencher on the Court. That and stand tall in Georgetown, the wealthy suburb where liberals abound and where Blackmun and his socialite wife passionately desired to be loved.

We are told that with Brennan and Douglas’ best wishes (“we trust in your scholarship, Harry!”) went with Blackmun as he flew back to his home town of Rochester, Minnesota and researched his opinion at the Mayo medical library.

How could such a miserable job be done researching human biology at the nation’s foremost medical center? Everybody knew —as all of us had learned in high school biology—that a child’s life begins at fertilization, the joinder of the male sperm and the female ovum. After 18 days…18 days…the unborn child’s heart starts to beat. At six weeks, when the child weighs 1/30th of an ounce, he/she has every internal organ he/she will have as an adult: mouth, lips, tongue and twenty buds for his/her milk teeth.

At 43 days his/her brain waves can be detected by electroencephalogram but this does not mean that he/she begins life at that point: he/she has begun life much earlier. At 6 weeks the unborn child has recognizable fingers, knees, ankles and toes. If you could stroke his/her lips, he/she will bend his/her body to one side and make a quick backward motion with his/her arms—a “total pattern response” which involves most of his/her body. At 8 weeks his/herbrain is fully present; a stomach that secretes gastric juices and if you could tickle his/her nose he/she will flex his/her head backward from the stimulus.

At 9 weeks, electrocardiogram recordings of his/her heart can be taken; he/she squints, swallows and moves his/her tongue. If you could stroke his/her palm he/she will make a tight fist. At 11 weeks he/she has fingernails, all his/her body systems are working and he/she sucks his/her thumb. He/she has spontaneous movement without stimulation. He/she breathes fluid steadily, gets oxygen through the umbilical cord. At 10 weeks he/she feels pain. At 12 weeks he/she will kick his/her legs, turn his/her feet and fan his/her tones, bend his/her wrists, turn his/her head, squints, frown, will open his/her mouth and press his/her lips tightly together. At 16 weeks he/she has eyelashes and at 18 weeks he/she cries, although we hear no sound because there is no air in the womb.

At 20 weeks he/she will react to loud noises and his/her mother’s voice. If he/she is given an intrauterine transfusion, frequently two people have to do it; one to hold him/her, to keep him from jumping away from the needle and the other to make the injection.

How did it happen that with outstanding medical research at his fingertips at one of the nation’s premier health centers, Blackmun did not take into account the biological truth? Easy. The guidance Blackmun received from Mayo from a younger cadre of physicians wasn’t biological; it was political, my contacts at Mayo confirm. Such medical authorities whom Blackmun consulted couldn’t deny the biological facts—nor did they. They sublimated them with liberal pragmatic philosophical theory. Doctors and scientists there were, like many in academe, influenced by the residual experience of John Dewey’s “Humanist Manifesto” which has been the foundation of liberalism at its outset in the 1930s--not fully digested by the old liberals such as Hubert Humphreys and others who ran in the post-Depression years but which has sprouted with McGovernism since.

Dewey dictated that “man is a part of nature and he has emerged as result of a continuous process” since “moral values derive their source from human experience.” Thus support for abortion and unrestricted sexual behavior “between consenting adults.” Also, “an individual’s right to die with dignity, euthanasia and the right to suicide.”

Those scientists were not different from many of the intelligentsia educated at modern universities…in scientific laboratories and political science seminars...or in law courses taught by those who had absorbed the identical views of Hans Kelsen…all of whom who were swayed by the dogma of Sir Julian Huxley who said “all belief in absolutes, whether the absolute validity of moral commandments, the authority of revelation, of inner certitude or of divine inspiration” is subject to intellectual evolution.

Or as Humanist Barbara Wootton has written, “We ask no longer what is pleasing to God but what is good for men.” Thus the physicians and scientists at Mayo…as have modern legal theorists, modern theologians and philosophers... did not deny that human life is present in the womb. They could not. They did deny that what is present is a person. Thus they influenced Blackmun to postulate that an unborn child is not a person and therefore has no right to live. Tax lawyer Blackburn took that down in almost stenographic style. In his decision he said that an unborn child, even in the third trimester of life, is something other than a human person—but has “the potential of life.” What was essential, the Mayo scientists said, was the a woman shall have control of her body. The contradiction is ironic: it was a new absolute to replace the timeless absolute about life…only it dealt with a woman and her body.

How Blackmun could have bought the humanist philosophy cannot be appreciated until one reads his writings, Greenhouse’s commentaries and Woodward’s book…as well as my research…which instructs about his human condition. He was born in tiny Nashville, Illinois and whose family moved to St. Paul where they lived in the poor Dayton Bluff area (I know Dayton Bluff, having lived near there in a rooming house as a bachelor—and it had not progressed much since Blackmun’s time; now, however, it is upscale). Lonely, a young recluse, Blackmun’s only joy was academics; he chafed at his inability to make friends. Indeed by young manhood he had made only one close friend, his old high school classmate.

He was the stronger- willed Warren Burger with whom he went to high school in St. Paul. Burger was the one who dominated basis his having excelled in football, baseball, swimming and track at their high school, who worked building the Robert street bridge over the Mississippi summers and who sold insurance while going to the St. Paul College of Law. Blackmun, the more introverted, who shunned fast friendships except Burger’s, got the more fashionable education, winning a full scholarship to Harvard for undergrad and proceeding from there through Harvard law school. Still all the while he felt insecure before Burger and Burger unintentionally rubbed it in…glorying in his gregariousness, his participation in campus athletics, his growing circle of friends.

Rubbed it in by doing what often a friend should not do—he sought to dislodge and upset Blackmun’s comfortable life by pressuring him to abandon the lucrative tax law career he had initiated and become a federal judge so as to be a colleague of Burger. In fact, goad the brilliant but insecure tax lawyer to become first an appellate federal judge and then join Burger on the Supreme Court. Evidently Burger needed to have Blackmun around to impress…and Blackmun, knowing that he was the weaker of the two, didn’t want to repeat the old stance of being a nebbish who was fated to be impressed by Burger.

Burger did more than entreat Blackmun; he lobbied the White House to appoint Blackmun to the federal district court of appeals. Then after two disastrous appointments to the Court which were voted down, to the Supreme Court where he could work with Burger. Blackmun tried to resist; in fact he pointed out his livelihood was much more affluent than Berger’s. A federal judge’s pay was far below his standard. Burger wouldn’t hear of it and Blackmun gradually assented. First to the Court of Appeals he went and then to the Supreme Court. In fact, the whole tale of one strong willed judge pushing a boyhood friend to join him sounds…well…odd. And the reclusive partner allowing himself to be pushed sounds…well…just as odd. There may be a deep psychological need underlying Burger’s wish to be with Blackmun and Blackmun’s agreement to be with Burger—but I don’t want to think about it now.

Once on the Court, Burger did what he had done in their youth—dominate Blackmun. Their rulings were so identical, the two were called disparagingly by the media, “the Minnesota Twins.” Being junior to Burger may have been all right for Blackmun as the two grew up but now, as a Justice, Blackmun felt the comparison bitterly, believing people thought him by far the junior partner. Now Brennan and Douglas moved like Iagos to Macbeth, whispering treason to the old friendship, telling Blackmun that he was too as good as Burger…even brighter…and that they were confident he would “grow” and “mature” on his own. Essentially this was the serpentine cooing of lascivious praise in Eden’s garden.

The goal was to get Blackmun to take the lead in an issue they knew would come before the court—legalized abortion. Burger had indicated he would oppose legalization and had expected Blackmun to go along as well. Burger’s sole preoccupation was to preserve the political balance, to keep as much unity in the Court as was possible to maintain. Then, in conference, Blackmun astounded Burger by saying he favored legalized abortion. Burger still wouldn’t give up. He did an unusual thing. He said he would join in the decision! Why? Because a Chief going along meant he could name the one to write the majority decision…and Burger named Blackmun with the intention of moderating the decision when it was finally written. Douglas, the Iago, whispered to Blackmun later: He still thinks he can roll you and soften the decision! Blackmun became enraged—but quietly.

Thus to show Burger that he, Blackmun, was a man and his own man, Blackmun in his draft not only circumvented human biology and adopted Huxley’s and Dewey’s humanism as explained by the young doctors--but re-wrote constitutional law as Brennan and Douglas applauded from the sidelines.. The fact that a court, not a legislature, was entrusted to make the decision and to overrule legislatures was unconscionable. Blackmun was repeating the Humanist dogma by stating the Court need not decide whether the unborn child is a human being, he/she is a non-person and therefore not entitled to the right to live. Since then the Supreme Court will be nothing more than a free-floating constitutional convention on the issue of abortion. A convention because of a weakness in the U. S. intellectual framework behind the Constitution. The weakness of U.S. law has always been that there was no room for an external moral interpreter—and John Locke who believed in Natural Law but Natural Law as defined by a majority, is not the source which is God.

Thus are we driven to morality by consensus. When a Supreme Court says unborn babies can be killed, objecting citizens ought to be able to cite a source acceptable to the community as the interpreter of Natural Moral Law. Unfortunately we cannot because of the Lockean influence on our founders. But it is erroneous. Natural Law stands alone and is not what a bare majority says it is. The conclusion: If the state which possesses the power of coercion is its own interpreter of natural law, it is really not subject to it and people are at its mercy.

The decision written by Blackmun in which Burger half-heartedly concurred marked the end of the trail for the two. When Burger died…his one-time best friend, the man who served as his Best Man at his marriage, Blackmun…did not even go to his funeral. Blackmun felt that he had finally shaken off the figure who had dominated him for most of his life.


Once one makes a decision that the Supreme Court has erred…as it did with Dred Scott…a prudent man will seek to move heaven and earth and do what he can to change it back—at least I did and still do. Just as Lincoln refused to accept Dred Scott and labored mightily short of war…and then utilizing war to undo it…Americans who disagreed with the abortion became enlisted not in politics but a movement, spanning demonstrations…legal briefs…plans to pass constitutional amendments…plans to elect pro-life presidents and congressmen. The U.S. political scene has not been the same since. Where once liberals and conservatives could disagree and drink with each other after hours, the chances grew less likely after “Roe.”

Normally, my inclination would have been to support Republicans or various types and exercise the luxury of endorsing this or that variant of them regardless of shading of legal view. Not now. The situation changed.

The Old Order changeth. Richard Nixon,we are told by Monica Crowley (Nixon’s own Monica), a bitter-end feminist whom I know, that he was in sympathy with “Roe” to the end of his days. Certainly Monica who worked with him in his exile made sure he stayed firm. Gerald Ford was in sympathy until pressure got him to change over the strident objections of his wife. Ronald Reagan signed California’s severe abortion law and changed, over the objections of his wife and her physician father. George H. W. Bush favored abortion and changed over the strident objections of his wife. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were both original pro-lifers and changed. George W. Bush always was a pro-lifer and is so now…over the private objections of his wife. So the fight goes on.

Although I was a the political officer of Quaker Oats, a corporation whose officers normally supported the ruling as a matter of course…and whose wealthy wives were predisposed to it…I did several things to advance the pro-life cause. First, I got active in pro-life activities through education and training sessions on political action. I joined the board of the Illinois Right-to-Life committee and ultimately headed two different groups.. I formed a new group—the Illinois Pro-Life Coalition (IPC) which endorsed candidates. When the IPC went the way of all flesh and disappeared for lack of funding, I joined with a few others and formed Friends for Life, a 501 © (3) with excellent foundation backing which we obtained from a sympathetic heir to the Miller brewing fortune. We went to Milwaukee often to importune him for funds which came through in a huge amount. I even held informal pro-life sessions off-hours to train pro-life volunteers at the Merchandise Mart until we were tossed out on our ear by a fellow officer who was so opposed to the effort he couldn’t contain himself.

Secondly, I formed a specifically Republican organization of grassroots activists, the Republican Assembly of Illinois. While working to reform the Republican party, I found it necessary to support Democrats who were pro-life against Republicans who were not. Sen. Charles Percy was a pro-abort. Normally I would be his supporter. Not any more. So when he ran for reelection in 1972 without making a great fanfare of it, I voted for Roman Pucinski, the Democratic nominee…even though in line of political duty I had to debate Pucinski’s daughter, Aurelia, in the suburbs. In 1978 Percy was opposed by Democrat Alex Seith who while not pro-life was markedly less pro-abortion than Percy: so he it was whom I supported. Third, I served as chairman of Family PAC, a funding mechanism that supported pro-life candidates for state office.

In 1984 I favored State Sen. Phil Rock, a pro-lifer, Democratic leader of the Senate and chairman of the Democratic state party for the U. S. senatorial nomination but as a Republican, I voted for Rep. Tom Corcoran of Illinois who challenged Percy in the primary and the RAI endorsed Corcoran. In the general election when the candidates were both pro-abort—Percy and Paul Simon—I abstained. In 1998 I voted proudly for Rep. Glenn Poshard for governor over Secretary of State George Ryan, having been told from discreet inside sources that Ryan had made a deal with pro-abortion forces to support their cause once he went to the governorship. A good friend of mine, Bob Kustra, started out as a pro-lifer in the legislature but he determined his career would advance more quickly if he abandoned the position and became a pro-abort. He was named Illinois lieutenant governor and the day he was named, he announced his switch.

Before he switched, he phoned me at Quaker and said that despite my earnest advice, he was doing so. I said flatly—more in sorrow than anger-- that I would do everything I could to defeat him…a neighbor whom I once served as finance chairman. We never spoke after that. When as lieutenant governor he determined to run for the U. S. Senate against Dick Durbin, I chaired a meeting in the suburbs…we called it “The Council of Trent”… to find a primary candidate against Kustra. One was found and I worked in a leadership position to fuse conservative grassroots movements together: pro-life, home schoolers, 2nd amendment people, tax cutters, even motorcycle riders who disdained mandatory seatbelts (they belonged to a group called “Abate”). We defeated Kustra with State Representative Al Salvi. We did not win the general. Republican regulars said: “see? Now because of that primary split, you’ve got Durbin who is much worse.” That cuts no ice with a true movement conservative.

Another “Council of Trent” I served on recruited Peter Fitzgerald who went on to defeat the pro-abort Republican state comptroller, the favorite, and to defeat the incumbent Carol Moseley Braun. Fitzgerald’s single term was more accomplishment-filled than many other Senators who have served decades…in that he found a U. S. District Attorney who convicted Governor George Ryan—who angered all pro-lifers by abandoning his position. That’s how movement politics works. The movement takes precedence over the party.

Within the corporation, the going was somewhat difficult because the leadership of Quaker seemed unanimous in favor of abortion rights. I had to tiptoe many times but I never had the feeling that the company was out to punish me for my stand; far from it, it was generous and supportive of me in all my activities. Still, I had to be careful that I was not flying the flag of defiance in the corporation’s face since I was the officer to whom most listened to on political matters.

In addition, I resolved to demonstrate and with Lillian we marched many times in the spirit of the earlier civil rights marchers. To learn how to participate in and lead a demonstration, I called upon my earlier knowledge of civil rights actions and even talked with some local leaders who wondered what in the world I wanted to learn their techniques for. It was both exciting and dangerous since I felt strongly that were I to have been arrested, I might well have had to leave my job. Several times I came close to being arrested—one time when our little regiment was picketing the home of Ruth Rothstein, the venerable pro-abort head of Cook County Hospital who helped move the hospital to practice abortion after the pro-life tenure of George Dunne ended.

It so happened about fifty of us were picketing her luxury apartment building…marching in an orderly fashion down the street, turning at an alley, making a “U” and returning, carrying our placards. I looked up at her window at the 5th floor and saw the elderly lady standing there on the phone, hopping mad and shaking her gnarled fists. I deduced she was calling the cops. Sure enough about ten minutes later the Chicago Police wagon arrived. As it pulled up with a screech, I had just approached the alley where we were to make the U turn. Not me.

I stood there and watched my colleagues being loaded into the police wagon very willingly, but thinking of my job and the support of my family, I just kept on sauntering away, watching the wagon, its lights flashing on and off and its horn blasting, roar away loaded with my friends. Staying out of jail may condemn me forever as coward; it was also a prudent action for the breadwinner of the family. Earlier my reporting relationship at Quaker had switched to an executive not nearly so favorable to my independence of action and I had every reason to think that going to jail, even overnight, would have been the end of my career—with three kids in college to support and a little one in high school.

It was with some strained relations that the next morning, Ruth Rothstein was to appear before a City Club of Chicago meeting at which I presided as president. When an intermediary tried to introduce us, she said tartly, “yes, I feel I know Mr. Roeser very well having seen him in action yesterday when he was directing the picketing of my house…and I marveled as his nimble adroitness as he hop-scotched his way down the street avoiding the police wagon. Jail is where he should be this morning if the police had truly done their work well.” I had no objection because the lady was correct. Hop-scotch is what I did; rather nimbly, too, as she said.

There was other examples of anomaly. I picketed Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge which sanctioned abortion where one of our fellow picketers was Virginia McCaskey, owner of the Bears, no less. Not long after, I was driven there in the middle of the night to have its surgeons operate on me to save my life by relieving pressure from a brain hemorrhage sustained in a fall. Ah yes. And once having recovered, I picketed it again.

I was disturbed at no other aspect of my corporation than its continued donations of large amounts of philanthropic money to Planned Parenthood which has a thriving abortion referral division…and which also receives support from the federal government. How to get the corporation to cut down if not eliminate entirely its donations was the point. My immediate supervisor…the new one…was, of course, in full and passionate support of the contributions to placate his superiors—but he was also frenetic about the orderly process of the corporation for which he was also corporate secretary.

So it happened that a group of pro-lifers came to an annual meeting and raised the roof about the donations. Dealing with a grassroots movement for a corporation is vastly different than with other dissident stockholders or even critical politicians. Intriguingly enough (and I use that word advisedly), I was asked to negotiate with the pro-lifers since alone in the company I was recognized as its only pro-lifer.

After some time spent in meeting with them…interesting because they were all friends who had been involved with me in forming the pro-life group…I returned and reported that there was one way to heal the breach which was that the company refrain from so conspicuously providing large contributions. Was I sure they would calm down if this happened, I was asked. Well, pretty sure but of course I couldn’t guarantee anything. The contributions shut down and the company was not bothered further. I don’t know if my supervisor fully understood that in the negotiations I had switched one hat for another. My sympathetic secretary knew and she murmured within my earshot, “duplicitous little devil, isn’t he?” I murmured back: “Duplicitous, yes. Cowardly, too. But prudent.”

I don’t want this to seem as if I have no political friends but pro-lifers. Indeed, some pro-lifers are so cantankerous they drive me crazy. Other pro-choicers like Jack Franks will always be friends no matter what they run for. But this long article happens to give the only explanation of my politics—because the Supreme Court on January 23, 1973 made me a movement conservative irredeemably… rather than a corporate one.

1 comment: