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 sidesteppedhis 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 stumblealthough none of the media critics seemed to notice it. In defending his change on abortion, he cited the following who changedRonald 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. Hes 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 righta 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 imitationwhich is a distinct long-shot. Tommy Thompson doesnt belong up there. Congressman Ron Paul is as out of date and as unrealistic by the yardstick of todays 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 yearseven though the GOP is in a downturnthe 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 worlds 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 Thompsons 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 rhetoricbut 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 majorsMcCain, 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 heres Joes, who is a great talk show guest and who will be on my show again and again in the future. However youre welcome to comment especially on whether you want to see your kids enter politics (as I dont 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 senators 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. Its not their job.
Tom, you didnt buy that argument. O.k, Ill 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 Rezkos company actually did a very good job at acquiring abandoned and troubled buildings on Chicagos 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 Rezkos 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. Thats 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 cant 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 Obamas 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 , Im certain your children and grandchildren would as well.
Thanks for the opportunity to fill up your blog. Im looking forward to my next guest appearance on your show!