Monday, May 7, 2007

Personal Asides: Who Won the Debate? Easy: Romney…Alderman Joe Moore Responds in Defense of Obama on Rezko “Slumlord” Charge.


The smoothest, most practiced and articulate performer in the Republican debate last Thursday was…to my mind…Mitt Romney. Not only from the standpoint of looks but, essentially, he was the fastest thinker in the house. A reaffirmation of a past error was brilliantly sidestepped—his handling of the bin Laden question: is it worth spending billions to get one guy? He had given a flaccid answer earlier, indicating it was not; now his correction was so deft, it created no waves. But he did stumble—although none of the media critics seemed to notice it. In defending his change on abortion, he cited the following who changed—Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and…believe it or not…Henry Hyde! Henry Hyde? If Henry Hyde was ever pro-choice, it was before his service in the state legislature. At least I never heard of it. Anyhow and despite this slip, I give him an A.

Next, I give an B to John McCain who is by no means an eloquent man but who scored highly with his determination to win the Iraq War. Also I thought his views on foreign policy were coherent and well-stated. He is not as poised as Romney nor as articulate.

Rudy Giuliani gets a C in my scoring. One year ago…after I first indicated interest in his candidacy… the Giuliani people were tussling with whether or not he should announce a change of heart and support pro-life; they decided it would tax his credibility and he should stay pro-choice. I think they were wrong. He had the possibility of a golden answer: that the loss of life of 9/11 brought home to him the importance of all life and caused him to re-think the issue. He’s stuck now with an unbelievable dichotomy…including the argument, made a few weeks ago, that since abortion has been defended by a Supreme Court decision, federal assistance to poor women is a constitutional right—a stand he reversed last week by supporting the Hyde amendment.

But since he has hardened his abortion stance, I cannot imagine how he can get elected with a big defection in the social conservative base. For some strange reason he says that strict construction can also embrace support of Roe v. Wade which taxes credulity. When he concentrated on winning the war on terrorism he was good but social issues are his downfall and it was clear last week that he had made a major goof in not realigning his social views. It is too late for him to reverse course.

The lesser lights were all pretty unimpressive to me with the exception of Mike Huckabee the former Arkansas governor. Sam Brownback, it is clear, is going nowhere and the only way he can score is by doing so in Iowa with his Kansas aw-shucks Reagan imitation—which is a distinct long-shot. Tommy Thompson doesn’t belong up there. Congressman Ron Paul is as out of date and as unrealistic by the yardstick of today’s problems as is possible to be; he looks like he should we wearing a colonial frock coat and knee-breeches. Congressman Duncan Hunter spoke well as an expert, based on his former chairmanship of Armed Services, on military power. But I thought Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, is a true portrayal of Americana to belong on the national ticket as vice president. I can see him running with any of the leaders…although it would be an internecine impossibility and politically disastrous for him to run with Giuliani.

I have said this before but in contrast to previous years—even though the GOP is in a downturn—the selection is uncommonly good. Yet I along with many others are waiting to see what Fred Thompson can show us. I can see a ticket of Romney-Huckabee (that would be superb; the world’s most sophisticated drawing-room candidate with un-mussed hair and a drawling, down home potential folk hero, canny Arkansas preacher who lost 115 lbs, McCain-Huckabee (very good). Fred Thompson-Huckabee would probably be too down home…Thompson’s drawl is unmistakably rural as is Huckabees… but America has had two southern fried candidates before, down-home Bill Clinton and down-home (then) Al Gore.

One other observation: all during the Republican debate I was mentally pairing any one of them with Barack Obama and imagining how Obama would do. I can tell you he would be forced to rely on more than dreams of his father or the audacity of hope or vapor-filled rhetoric—but solid facts. The greatest entertainment as well as education would come from a debate between the tall, slender poetical Obama and the grits-chomping Huckabee. All the other GOP majors—McCain, Giuliani, Romney (as well as Huckabee) would eat him for breakfast.

Alderman Joe Moore.

Alderman Joe Moore, who was my guest on WLS last week, has responded to my comments concerning his stand on Barack Obama. In line with the tradition on this web-site, a reader gets the last word with no further response from me…and here’s Joe’s, who is a great talk show guest and who will be on my show again and again in the future. However you’re welcome to comment…especially on whether you want to see your kids enter politics (as I don’t my own).
My good friend, Tom Roeser, raked me over the coals on his radio show last Sunday night and on this blog for suggesting that a state senator i.e. Barack Obama could be forgiven for now knowing the physical condition of all the apartment buildings in his district. I still stand by that argument.

Unlike a Chicago alderman who functions as a mayor of his or her small ward, a state senator’s responsibilities are legislative and more focused statewide. My state senators, who are all very conscientious public servants, probably could not identify more than one or two of the troubled buildings in my ward nor would I expect them to. It’s not their job.

Tom, you didn’t buy that argument. O.k, I’ll accept that. How about this one? The press got it wrong.

It turns out that while Tony Rezko may have many character deficiencies, being a slumlord is not one of them. After the radio show, I did a little digging around and discovered that Rezko’s company actually did a very good job at acquiring abandoned and troubled buildings on Chicago’s South Side, fixing them up and managing them well as affordable housing.

From 1989 to 2000, when Rezko acquired and owned 30 buildings, a grand total of four housing court complaints were filed against Rezko’s company for building code violations. Two were for problems with lead paint and two were for insufficient heat. All four were dismissed at the next court hearing, which means the violations were addressed and resolved. That’s a pretty good track record for any landlord, especially a landlord who owns and manages hundreds of units of affordable housing.

Rezko turned over his buildings in 2000 and 2001 to one of his financiers, the Chicago Equity Fund (CEF), an entity that performed affordable housing tax credit deals. CEF was great at doing tax credit deals but lousy at building management and soon many of the buildings began to deteriorate and become “slum buildings.” They came slum buildings, however, only after Rezko let go of them.

Fortunately, the vast majority of those buildings have since been turned around and now are once again community assets.

Perhaps you can argue that Rezko knew the properties were losing money and were heading for trouble when he unloaded them and perhaps you can argue that Rezko was a snake for breaking his promise to Alderman Preckwinkle and the city that he would own the buildings in the long-term.

But you can’t argue that Barack Obama knowingly accepted campaign donations from a known “slumlord.” An owner of 30 buildings with four code violations over a period of eleven years cannot be considered a slumlord. Senator Obama’s off the hook on this one.

As an aside, Tom, I was sorry to see you write that you would go into “mourning” if one of your kids entered politics. I certainly understand how you can become cynical after years of observing Illinois politics and politicians. But it seems to me that that is all the more reason to encourage young people who were raised with good ethics, morals and values to enter the political profession. Ther are no angels in politics but there are no angels in any walk of life. The fact that “men are no angels” is what led our Founding Fathers to establish our governmental system of checks and balances.

I firmly believe that while people are not angels, most strive to “do the right thing” most of the time. To discourage idealistic and ethical young people of all political philosophies from entering politics is to resign that profession to those who are just in it for themselves. That certainly would not be healthy for our democracy.

Having just emerged from a bruising reelection battle where all sorts of lies and distortions were offered up against me, one might expect me to urge my two young boys to avoid politics like the plague. To the contrary, I would be thrilled if one or both of them considered a career in public service, either as an elected official or behind the scenes. Of course the profession they choose is up to them and politics is not for the faint-hearted but they are good kids with solid values who would contribute much to government and the political discourse. Tom , I’m certain your children and grandchildren would as well.

Thanks for the opportunity to fill up your blog. I’m looking forward to my next guest appearance on your show!


  1. Freidrich MarchMay 7, 2007 at 5:56 AM

    Dick Durbin laid on the pressure to get Barack Obama Secret Service protection saying there were threats. The Secret Service denied knowing about any threats to Obama.

    Was this just theatrical? The newspapers and commentators seem to obliquely refer to the fact that a black man running for president is an automatic target for assassination.

    But who would kill him. Are we left to assume that some crazy white person would kill Obama for being black and running for president?

    I think it goes against the Audacity of Hope to think that we as a country have gone beyond our inability to accept a black candidate. As conservative as I am, I can accept a black President.

    Yet, Durbin, Obama and the media leave us with the foregone conclusion that some white American will try to kill Obama.

    Whenever we see candidate Obama with the Secret Service, we will be reminded of the victim-status he was awarded with, and also, he'll look darned presidental to boot!

    As for me, I trust Americans more than he does. I trust America isn't racist enough to kill him. Do you dare to hope as much as I do? Barack has already given up that hope for his country.

  2. Lovie's LeatherMay 7, 2007 at 8:45 AM

    Nobody impressed me in that debate. I thought Giuliani was going to be the one I supported... but now I don't know. Nobody seemed to really touch on issues related to economy (other than "we must cut taxes") or education. It does have something to do with the extremely annoying Chris "I suddenly have blonde hair" Matthews. But a good candidate could overcome his ignorance. I guess now I am waiting for Fred Thompson or even Newt Gingrich (I never thought I would say that). Everyone was a huge disappointment.

  3. I wonder if when asked a question, the candidates privately think, "How can I answer this in a non-offensive PC way so as to not offend the MEDIA or "pet" minorities?"

    I would like to see an outspoken articulate CONSERVATIVE Republican candidate who is not afraid to distance him from the Neo-Con mantra that has been so devisive and destructive to the Republican party.

    Such a candidate should openly question the "open border" stance, the "love of China with no questions asked stance", the love of "free trade globalism", the wisdom of hedge fund manipulation of markets such as energy (gasoline prices), the unrestrained consolidation in the oil industry to the extent of shutting refineries to cut supply and raise prices, and the blind eye toward those intellectuals who promoted the Iraq war through manipulation of the facts.

    They should run with an eye on MAIN STREET not WALL STREET. An eye toward the concerns of the hard pressed MIDDLE CLASS!

    The should also feel free to criticize the Bush political dynasty and its litany of failures.

    They should also bring back good old fashioned PATRIONISM and love of country. They should wave the flag with the fervor of a July 4th parade and with the intensity of Kate Smith's rendition of GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    Why should we have to hang our heads when we want to STAND UP and support the United States and its tradition of social conservative values? Is the down fall of everything that is AMERICAN so important to those who love Globalisation at any price, ie the NEO-CONS?

    It is time a candidate STOOD UP for AMERICA!

    Or is that being "trite" or inconsiderate of the growing list of "Pet" minorities with Socialist attitudes so proudly paraded by the LIBERALS!

  4. The coming Romney/Rudy ticket will take no prisoners and conced nothing to phony Hillary moderates nor white-guilt promoting Obama love-media-fests.
    Simply put: this will be the Thumping Part Two, as Hillary is advised by Bill to jettison any Barrack considerations for VP since blacks will be encouraged to vote loyalty to Bill Clinton to get HIM back in the White House to advise His wife. With Barrack running about the country reluctantly backing Hillary behind Rev. Al Sharpton, who will be the big winner in New york with a personal salutation from Harlem's first black Cheese (Bubba). So Sharpton gets a plane and an agenda to show blacks do not have to vote just for race(how so civil rights-sy). Meanwhile unbelieving Americans will be startled to find out that while all this drama is being so racially fought out beneath radar screens of a compliant media(what racial cynicism?), Romney and Rudy will come out of the Republican convention to face Clinton's secret selling former head of Energy and the former first lady. With nothing to run on by moderate posturing and a bone to Hispanics with an over-reliance on affirmative action and white guilt left-over from the obama default: Hillary/Richardson ticket is eaten alive by Romney/Rudy as Americans decide that four more years of White-Water, stolen nuclear secrets, Chinese financed elections, and pandering to gays and lesbians on all family matters (it does after all take a village and not a family) crashes and burns and not a moment too soon.

    Ralph W. Conner

  5. I agree that Romney performed the best. Excellent content and delivery. Huckabee 2nd for his good delivery and clever lines and strong convictions. Brownback 3rd for good optimism and sincerity and unshakeable convictions. Thompson the worst for his gaffe on the war wounded and McCain 2nd to worst for his odd, almost forced delivery. I'm still for Brownback for President.

  6. "Congressman Ron Paul is as out of date and as unrealistic by the yardstick of today’s problems as is possible to be; he looks like he should we wearing a colonial frock coat and knee-breeches." What's wrong with writing about what the man said, Tom? Your critique of Paul is useless.