Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Personal Asides: Solving the Patrick Fitzgerald Question Enraged Some Readers: Why?...How to Conduct Yourself in the Presence of a Political Amateur…The Fred Thompson Near-Hoax…Another Trivia.


Patrick Fitzgerald.

Last week I suggested that it is far easier to find out the politics of U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald than could possibly be supposed. Reason: he is a fan of WWDTM (“Wait-Wait! Don’t Tell Me!”), the NPR quiz game that tests players on how closely they read the papers and whether or not they can identify quotations with their sources. Nothing wrong with that except that the moderator of the game is a typical NPR lefty with a sardonic, down-his-nose braying laugh at conservatives wherein the entire audience joins in with hooting laughter. No one, I wrote, can listen to the program and enjoy it without being either an actual or a crypto-lefty…which, I submitted and do submit, Patrick Fitzgerald indubitably is.

This caused something of a flurry including a response written in kid-talk semi-English by his cousin who kept on using the terms BTW (“By the way”)…stuff that is used frequently in text messaging. But the most sarcastic response came in the defense of Fitzgerald’s actions on Scooter Libby and the Valerie Plame case. The passage of time has convinced me what the Plame case is…but let me restate my position on Fitzgerald’s action. It is given as a surety that Libby told an incidental lie under oath so Fitzgerald was right to indict him for perjury in the case. But President Bush was partially right in commuting Libby’s sentence. Partially right and partially wrong since he should have pardoned Libby withal. Now to the guts of the case to see where Fitzgerald fits in the breadth of history.

1. Joseph Wilson has been unmasked as a chronic embellisher to fit the modishly long-haired rather handsome con man-scamp he looks like and indeed is. One you wouldn’t want you daughter near for even one date and whom you would gladly run out of the house on healthy suspicion of saturnine seduction if you caught him even talking to a teen-aged girl.

2. Do you believe the Plame affair was about the outing of a covert
CIA agent? At the end, it was not in the least and the fact you may
still be under that illusion. Ms. Plame was listed in “Who’s Who”
as the wife of Joseph Wilson and a CIA employee. Her value as a
covert operative was ended years ago by the traitor Aldrich Ames
The name of the game was to get Karl Rove for alleged-
ly wreaking vengeance on a defenseless, beauteous woman who
is the wife of the hated Joseph Wilson who had to be punished for
trying to knock in the head the view that Saddam was trying to
buy nuclear materials from Niger. That was the reason for the
media stakeouts in Rove’s driveway and the frenzied bulletins that
engulfed all newsrooms: “Rove will be indicted today!” that lasted
for weeks. The liberal media were so eager to see Rove indicted
that they forgave Fitzgerald for what otherwise they would have
regarded as a hideous sin: the throwing of reporters in jail for
refusing to disclose their sources.

3 There’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around. Just as liberals brushed off the jailing of a journalist (she was a rarity: Judy Miller, a “New York Times” Iraq hawk), conservative paleos like Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran chortled that Libby got what is coming to him for deigning to serve his country in wartime and hoped that Rove would as well.

4. Where does Fitzgerald come out in the matter? No one does he
resemble more, as the “New York Times’” David Brooks has written, than Javert, the fictional character from Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables” who has set on a lifelong quest to arrest Jean Valjean…a zealot who cannot conceive of justice tempered by mercy and who pursues his hunting down of a good man who had been imprisoned on a minor charge and then escaped…heedless of the good he has done in his life…and physically incapable of understanding that to act lawfully would be to act immorally…so he drowns himself in the River Seine. Here’s where Fitzgerald resembles Javert. Fitz is given a task to find out who leaked Plame’s supposed “covert” status…a status that does not exist because it has been uncovered earlier by a traitor. Fitz takes the case all the while aware of who told Robert Novak that Plame worked for the CIA: Richard Armitage, a critic of the war and an associate of Colin Powell.

Fitz and the Justice Department keep the knowledge to themselves. That is where Fitz should have bowed out—saying the mystery he was hired to solve has been solved. He did not do this. He perceives through a long investigation with Justice’s support and finds that Libby did lie in another matter so he hangs Libby. Thus like Javert Fitzgerald possesses probity, sincerity and sense of duty but which are hideous when wrongly directed., It is the “honest, pitiless joy of a fanatic” or exactly the words Hugo uses to describe Javert.

Fitzgerald as Javert is indeed a fine prosecutor—but he has lacked
the essential perspicacity of a great public official. I have no doubt that his love of WWDTM is further depiction of what liberalism really is: a love of means without appreciation of ends.

Where Brooks and I part company is over Bush. Brooks says Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence was “exactly right”—adding “it punishes him for his perjury but not for the phantasmagorical political face that grew to surround him. It takes away his career but not his family.” I say no. There should have been a full pardon given to Libby. While one purpose of the pardon clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) is to temper justice with mercy, it is also to do justice in the event that new or mitigating evidence comes to bear on a person who may have been wrongly convicted as Hamilton has said in “The Federalist” 74. Another aspect of the pardon power focuses not on obtaining justice for the person pardoned but rather on the public-policy purposes of the government. My view is that Libby was so honorably involved in the public policy purpose of government at war that he should have been pardoned—if for no other reason than to offset the foolishness of Fitzgerald to proceed like Javert when the perpetrator of the leak had been identified and in fact identified himself. Ergo: Fitzgerald being Fitzgerald prosecuted Libby for a lie that had no relevance to the case; Bush appreciating the national security picture as Javert-Fitzgerald did not, should should have backed Libby with a full pardon.

Somehow there has grown up a myth that the presidential pardon is an exit—a dishonorable one—from justice. We Republicans have often been guilty of that. Now Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin have used that one. The power to pardon is one of the least limited powers granted to the President in the Constitution. It is derived from the royal English prerogative of kings, which dates before the Norman invasion. Our Republican colleagues have criticized the pardon of Marc Rich and others by President Clinton (which Libby himself as a lawyer for Rich sought). The fact that in some people’s eyes Rich was a scamp is immaterial.. The pardon power has been and will always be a powerful constitutional power of the president. Only the wisdom of the president…and here possibly Clinton’s action can be criticized…only the wisdom of the president can ensure its appropriate use.


Each summer Lillian and I look forward to a bacchanalian combination of feast and entertainment sponsored by Richard Driehaus at his Lake Geneva estate marking his birthday. We got invited because Richard…a billionaire…once told me he enjoyed my articles in the “Sun-Times” and ever since we’ve been on the list…along with 400 others. Last Saturday the event began with a complete old-time circus complete with festive, authentic, antique circus wagons parading around the estate as we walked to the Big Top where bands, ringmasters and high wire trapeze artists from China entertained. Cost of the annual party must run into the double-digit millions. To show you that no stone was left unturned in the expenses, there were beautiful show-girls in tights with no function more than to look beautiful and direct the crowd to the circus Big Top saying, “this way to the Big Top!” Lillian and I asked one…an exquisite beauty…where she was from and she said “New York City.”

I said: You mean you come here just for this event and for this? She said yes, she had been to several Driehaus events and that in real life she is a dancer with the Rockettes. Can you imagine the cost of bringing them to Illinois…the plane fare, putting them up…when local girls would do?

Anyhow, we were treated to a wonderful sit-down meal and this time, unlike the past, were assigned to tables (rather than serving ourselves buffet-style). We were seated with people we didn’t know and my table-mate turned out to be a physician who had come all the way from Dallas for this event. He was in the process of being over-served with adult beverages however and he let me know that not only did he know Driehaus but was his guest in the adjoining mansion (which none of us had ever entered) for dinner. I was supposed to be edified at this. Well, I was—and edified with him until he said this:

“You know, the other night I watched on HBO a documentary about the life of Barry Goldwater and came to the conclusion finally as to what kind of political animal I am—a Barry Goldwater Republican!”

Fair enough except that in recent years this “Barry Goldwater Republican” stuff has been picked up by the duplicitous left and political naifs who don’t know what they’re saying. The Barry Goldwater who signed off on the “Conscience of a Conservative” book written in his name by Brent Bozell was a Cold War warrior identical with Ronald Reagan. The Barry Goldwater who wound up his career in the Senate was far different, having married a much younger woman who convinced him to forsake conservative social issues that he once espoused…pro-life particularly. The Goldwater who left the Senate was a rather pathetic hulk who drank too much, blasted evangelical Christians when in his cups and espoused gay rights. It is this Barry Goldwater of whom Hillary Clinton has spoken so fondly. A Goldwater who was newly libertarian…pro-marijuana, anti-life, pro-gay…and as enlarged by the paleos entire antithetical to the foreign policy of George W. Bush, although Goldwater who died in 1998 had no inkling of the dimensions of terrorism that would hit the land.

Since then the “I am a Goldwater Republican” crowd has also included people with little or no sense of modern U. S. history. So when my doctor friend, oiled up with bubbly, turned to me and said, “I am a Goldwater Republican” I was not noticeably impressed.

“But anybody for George W. Bush!” he announced.

I said, well, George W. Bush won’t be running because he cannot.


Well, I said, if you’re a Goldwater Republican and a critic of the Iraq War, I suppose you’d be for Ron Paul for president.


Dr. Ron Paul, a Texas physician as you are and a Republican congressman—one of the very few on either side of the aisle who voted against the Iraq War and who regularly votes against appropriations to carry out the War and who wants our troops to come home.

“I don’t know him very well.”

I’m surprised. He comes closest to the fit of a Goldwater Republican such as you describe although Goldwater was not a Goldwater Republican in his middle years.. But Ron Paul is decidedly against the War.

He was dismayed. “Well, I don’t know much about him but I am for Barack Obama.”

And Barack Obama fits the bill of Goldwater Republican?

“Closest I’ve found.”

You realize that Goldwater voted against the civil rights bill of 1963.

“Well, though, on other things.”

Foreign policy?


You realize Goldwater espoused the use of nuclear weapons for the purpose of defoliating the jungles of Vietnam but did not exclude them on other things.

“Listen, who are you for?”

Given that I am a Republican and that by the sharpest estimate I can ascertain, there is only a 35% chance of we Republicans retaining the presidency, I would say that the one who could come closest to holding on to it…if and only if there is another terrorist scare…is a man who is not my first, second or third choice in preference but would be most likely to win—Rudy Giuliani.

“Giuliani? Sir, we have nothing further to talk about!”

I had suspected as much. Indeed, you have probably talked too much.

Fred Thompson.

I have come to the tentative conclusion that the “wait for Fred Thompson to come in with a dynamic, charismatic campaign to save us” theme is a hoax. The only thing I can compare it to was the Dwight Eisenhower candidacy that urged the 5-star hero of World War II to return to run for president which lasted for several years. But then Republicans knew what they would get with Eisenhower, a genuine world leader. With Fred Thompson they are getting a so-so former U. S. Senator and a nationally known actor on “Law and Order.” The impact he left as U. S. Senator was very vague and immeasurable; the impact he has left as a television actor was important but not substantive.

More than many, I have been waiting for Thompson because I thought he would give a genuinely different delineation. The fact that this hasn’t happened has baffled me… dates for his announcement pushed back from July 4 to August to now September. I wondered what was behind it. Did the Washington, D. C. madam have his telephone number? Was his cancer acting up? I can only conclude that the one who has been acting up is his looker wife who, 24 years younger than he who has had about 18 months as an expert in politics working for the RNC, has been busily firing and hiring people for the campaign and thus stirring the pot. Firing a campaign manager before the campaign has started is ridiculous. Obviously he cannot control her. And when voters really get a look at her and listen to her they won’t be entranced. Nor happy with the fact that this old man seemingly can’t control her.

The second thing about Thompson is this. Look at him on “Law and Order” and you see a 6-foot-seven inch icon of conservatism and principled law enforcement. But that’s because the professional lighting and makeup is of the highest caliber that a studio can afford. Look at him as he makes a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and you see an old geezer, looking every bit his wrinkled age with words and thoughts that are commonplace. You also haven’t seen him on a stage with the others: Romney, McCain or Giuliani. He is benefiting by missing the debates which is good for his image but not good for the Republican electorate which deserves to hear and see him react to debate stimuli.

Finally, you have to take a look at realistic politics. Start off with the state of Illinois. Giuliani has the benefit of two co-chairs who are skilled at what they do: Ron Gidwitz who has been raising funds statewide for a generation for everyone from Henry J. Hyde to numberless candidates…and Tom Cross, the state Republican leader who is one of the state’s most vigorous Republican political leaders. Who does Fred Thompson have? He has Roger Keats who 20 or 25 years ago was a state senator but who has been earning money and out of the game for many years. The other leaders are either unknown or not known for organizing. McCain has Jim Durkin, a moderately known state legislator and Romney has a well-known state senator, Dan Rutherford. My point is that the Giuliani, Romney and McCain types, whatever you think of them, know the state and can pull the levers. The Fred Thompson team here is distinctly second-rate. And frankly I don’t know anyone across the country who has been identified with them who is well-known.


When a very snooty…and snotty…Manhattan waiter died…a man known for his disdainful looks and inattentiveness to all but the very wealthy in the posh restaurant, a number of discomfited guests chipped in for a tombstone if they were allowed to write the epitaph. They were allowed and so what epitaph did they write?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Flashback: Awake with a Jolt and a Sudden Urge to…and the Entire Recovery Room Staff Tells Me to…the Entire Recovery Room Patient Load Wishes I Would.


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

My eyes beheld a white light…yeah thought I, this parallels what I’ve been told by those who had a glimpse of the Hereafter. I am indeed with the echelons of generations since Adam, in that waiting room marked Purgatory, pent up for release. Then the white light focused and it was a fluorescent. One of several on the ceiling. Purgatory was filled with fluorescence. And the great yearning to go to heaven was…surprising to me…a physical pain. As I thought about it: a great pain. Interesting, when one waits for heaven it is a magnificent pain—almost like: gee, this is scatological but I must say it: the pain of having to urinate badly. So awaiting heaven is like having to go to the bathroom urgently?

It must be. But the pent up feeling, painful, like I was going to explode, caused me to wonder if I had not through some major sin which I had neglected through oversight to confess, recent the outer precincts of Hell. Then it occurred: the grinding pain in my gut seeking release was, sad to say, not the pain of being separated from God but in fact the spectacular need for urination. Which led to me reconsidering the old joke: if I am alive, why am I staring at a white light but if dead why do I have to go to the bathroom so urgently? Then I shook my head and realized: I am not dead, not in Purgatory and the pain that is very real, very pent up, is in fact the strongest need to urinate, to squeeze, indeed wring my kidneys dry. How can I satisfy this? I will arise and go to the bathroom. But I could not. I was bound tight by a sheet onto a bed as hard as a pallet.

But how shall I communicate this need? I opened my mouth; bah! my lips were like dried sausages and my voice did not emit. I shall try my damndest by seeking to yell. I went: EEOOOWOWOWOW! There, that did it! Nurses rushed to my side. Now I know where I am. I am in the Recovery Room and there are others having been operated lying there, all of us looking up at the white fluorescence. How to communicate this most basic need? They must let me up. They began talking to me. Damnit, I tried to say, you’re seeking to pacify me. I know where I am! I’ve had the operation for subdural hematoma and have survived. But now I must…oh I should not use the vulgarism for urination but perhaps if I do and shout it out over their comforting babble…shout it out: Nurse, in the name of God I have to _ _ _ _!” And so I did, fighting to sit up and lean on my elbows. NURSE, I HAVE TO _ _ _ _! DO YOU HEAR ME! IT IS URGENT! I TELL YOU I CANNOT HOLD ON ANYMORE! THIS IS AGONY!

Every other patient in the room started to call NURSE! NURSE! WHAT IS GOING ON? My wife’s face appeared over mine. LILLIAN, WHY DON’T THEY LISTEN TO ME! She said, “you’re not listening! They’re trying to tell you and you’re not listening! They are telling you that you have a catheter and you just should release it. It’s all right!” The round, balloon face of an olive-skinned Indian doctor hove into view. In their sing-song he said, “Mistah Roeser, this is Dr. Patel and I tell you it is all right since you have a catheter inserted sir to allow nature to take it’s--.”

But I could not! A wheezy voice called out from another surgical patient who heard me. “Who the hell is that? What is he saying? Aren’t you letting him go to the bathroom!” “Quiet him down,” said Dr. Patel. To me: “Mr. Roeser, can you hear me, sir?”


“Then I tell you that it is entirely permissible, indeed advantageous, for you to go now, sir.”


“Mr. Roeser, this is Dr. Patel. It will not happen in front of anybody. The catheter is inserted in you and all you have to do is to relax and allow nature to happen! If not we can give you a pill that will relax your inhibitions and allow you to although I frankly--.”


“Good, Mr. Roeser.”


I said AH. AH.


It was then, with my pain subsided, that I discovered a huge apparatus hooked to my head. Pipes and wires, tubes of every kind. “Mr. Roeser, this is Dr. Patel. You are doing quite well. All you need to do now is relax and sleep. You are in the recovery room. The operation has taken four and one half hours. Now it’s all downhill from here, sir.”


Not hardly. The next time I awoke I was in a private room. True, I was getting the hang of having confidence in the catheter. But very drowsy. And for some days that was it; my sleeping, awakening for a short time, sleeping again. Then I would be assisted to my feet to walk, my wife watching and cheering silently…if one can cheer silently. A private room, she said, was a rarity at this hospital, arranged by the ever-so-thoughtful Dr. Jerry Bauer. My wife of course was exhausted and had to go home on occasion. The nurse I had during daytime—a real Nurse Mildred Ratched from the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”—was totally unmoved by any of my requests. Again, not to be elementary about it, but I always had to be helped to the bathroom by a nurse who would have to await my summons to assist me back to my bed. Nurse Ratched was singularly unsympathetic to this request.

She would say, “why didn’t you think of this earlier after you had lunch?”

I said: Lunch? Good God, that was four hours ago!

“Planning,” she said sternly as speaking to a retardate, “is everything. We must think ahead.”

I thought: ten days of this but I don’t think I can hang on with this woman. And she seems to be always here—night, day, mornings, afternoon, whenever I ring it’s that same old groan of exasperation.

Then a few days into the stay a letter came to me at the hospital from the White House. I opened it and saw it was from President Reagan. I smiled; Reagan knew not and cared less what was happening to me. Henry Hyde’s wife had a job in the White House basement working for Anne Higgins who was the director of presidential correspondence. Some letters obviously the president wrote himself and the office sent them on their way. Many letters—ceremonials, greeting citizens who had turned 100 years of age, letters to certain college valedictorians which were requested by Congressmen—were prepared by Jeanne Hyde. She was a gifted and fluent writer. She also had an auto-pen, a device with an engraved plate on which a fountain pen was placed that traced “Ronald Reagan.” Or for short: “Ron.” I knew the drill. It was pleasant to know that the Hydes were thinking of me. Nothing to do with Reagan, of course.

The letter Jeanne wrote was magnificent. It said something like this: “As Nancy and I are flying to the London Economic Summit on Air Force One, I am taking the time to write to you, Tom, to wish you well, to recall the times we had together, especially at O’Hare when you picked me up and we went to lunch at the O’Hare Hilton before you so kindly placed me on the plane for California.”

It went on for two and one half pages, recalling days in which Ronald Reagan had no possibility of knowing. Then it ended with a kind fatherly summons to obey the help at the hospital and that he and Nancy would be seeing Lillian and me after I recovered in the White House. It was signed “Ron.”

But the letter was a veritable godsend to me. I immediately called for help to go to the bathroom although I did not have to go and Nurse Ratchad appeared, grumbling as usual, chewing gum and asking why I was choosing this particular moment when I had just gone about three hours earlier. I was cheery, allowed her to assist me. And I left on my bed the letter from Ronald Reagan.

Once in the bathroom, I sat down and reflected a long time. I could hear her rattling the pages as she read. Then after five minutes I rang and asked for help to be escorted back to my bed.

Her attitude had changed from stormy to the brilliance of a summer day. As she tenderly assisted me, she pulled back the covers and sought to make me very comfortable. She said, “I know you like chocolate ice cream. It so happens I can get you a Dixie cup, maybe two. Would you like that in recognition of being an understanding patient to all of us who have had so much to do?”

I said: That would be fine. Of course, if you had chocolate chip that would be better.

“That can be arranged,” she said and whistled out the door.

After thumbing a magazine for a minute, I looked up and she was there not with a Dixie cup of chocolate chip but a hefty bowl of it with silver spoon.

I cannot thank you enough, I said.

“Can I ask you something?”

Of course, uh-uh…


Ask away.

“I could not help glancing at the letter on your bed—this one—which appears to come from the President.”

Ron? Of course. Read it if you wish.

“Well, I don’t make it a practice of reading patients’ mail.”

I insist. Read it!

“You know the president that well?”

Yes, Ron and Nancy are very special people.

“Mr. Roeser, I must tell you that you have become a very special person in my book.”

Really? Why?

“My husband and I have been fans of the President since he was an actor in the movies.”

Is that right?

“…and the fact that you know him gives me a very special thrill.”

I’m so very glad.

“I have to go on my rounds right now but I will only be a short buzz away. And before I leave this evening, I’ll check you to see if you need anything.”

Like more ice cream?

“Yes and whatever you wish. And I’ll be talking to the night nurse who is my special friend. Both of us drove to Eureka a few years ago just to see him speak at Eureka College. And to imagine that we have one of his best friends here, well, it’s mind blowing.”

Well, I’m glad.

Glad was not the word for it. Gratified, edified and exhilarated because the remainder of my hospital stay was like living in a penthouse with a flood of eager nurses seeking to respond to my call to go to the bathroom.

When I finally was allowed to use the phone, I called the White House, asked for the Correspondence Unit and Jeanne Hyde.

“Oh,” she laughed. “I thought you’d enjoy it!

I said, Jeanne, I enjoyed it far more than you know and told her why.

“I’m not surprised,” she said. “You know you’re not the first hospital patient to benefit from it. I thought that line about `as Nancy and I are flying over to the London Economic Summit’ was particularly good.”

Bless her. She died a decade later leaving Henry a widower but she will always be the greatest correspondent the White House ever hired. God love her.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Flashback: The Sober Discussion of What a Subdural Hematoma Is Plus—What’s This? A Priest Giving Me Last Rites Wearing a Green Dickey?

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

After I was hustled out of my clothes and into one of those impossible hospital gowns that is tied in the back but outrageously open to viewers of one’s backside, I was placed on a bed in a tent-like makeshift “room” where I looked at my wife’s excited eyes. Then in burst all my children—the eldest, Tom, 27; Mary, 25, and her husband, parents of six; Michael, 24, and his wife parents of two; and Jeanne, 18, unmarried—and I wondered at the rapidly accelerating speed in this kaleidoscope…who notified them, how did they get here all together…but my concentration was diverted when a dark haired young man in surgical gown entered along with two others, identically attired.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Jerry Bauer. I’ll be operating on you tonight.”

Listen, I said, trying to rise up and lean on my elbow, did I give an okay for this to happen? Here I was at the Marriott hotel all ready to down my first scotch and soda and my wife rushes over, asks if I had tasted the drink and I said I didn’t and she says we’re going to the hospital immediately because you have a blood clot in the brain. But I’m damned if I ever gave an okay for an operation. Maybe I will but I’d like to have a second opinion.

“Sure,” he said. “You get not only a second but a third”—nudging his two solemn confreres who nodded silently. “Let me tell you a bit about this and it’s good your family is here as well. First, do we have to operate? A resounding yes”—my family nodded as well—“because what you have is known as a subdural hematoma. That’s a form of traumatic brain injury where blood collects between the dura or the outer protective covering of the brain and the arachnoid, the middle layer of what is known as the meninges. Subdural bleeding results from rips in veins that cross the subdural space. This bleeding causes an increase in intracranial pressure. I can go on and on but let me tell you that if we don’t operate—and in a relative hurry—you’re a dead one. Acute subdural hematoma which is what you nearly have has a high mortality rate and is a severe medical emergency.”

I said: Okay, operate.

“Thank you. Now you should know that while I think this operation will go well…and we’re going to take some more pictures shortly…what I’ve seen now leads me to tell you that several things can happen which can go wrong. One is that despite our best intentions and work, you’ll be a dead one.”


“Another could be that despite our best intentions and work you’ll be…impaired.”

A vegetable?

“Oh that’s too drastic. Impaired, limited.”

A liberal Democrat?

He laughed heartily. “God, I like you! The third possibility which I assure you I will deliver with the utmost of my ability is that you will recover totally. Do you have any questions?”

None of you, doctor—or your assistants. But I do want to go to confession. Is there anything like a Catholic priest in this Lutheran hospital?


You are also entitled to know that my wife and I have picketed this hospital because it sanctions abortion. That doesn’t actually endear me to the medical staff, I would warrant.

“Matters not to me. I’m a Jew and not a Lutheran so I don’t take it personally. No, you have made me laugh so I shall save your life. And when patients can joke at times like this, I automatically look at my colleagues like this two here and say, `let’s do our damndest for this guy.’ As we will. I understand you’re a Republican. We need as many of you as we can so I will be doubly sure to pull you through.”

A youngish man stuck his face through the curtain and said, “You asking for me?” He had a roman collar but I noted alarmingly a green dickey. The dickey is the cloth that runs under the collar in place of a shirt. A colored dickey is usually the mark of a Protestant-=either High Church Episcopal or Lutheran.

What’s with the green dickey?

“Gee, I am a priest. Father Keating, Passionist. Our order was founded by St. Paul of the Cross. Tell me, do we all have to be so everlastingly the same on everything? I like a green dickey because I’m Irish. I guarantee you I am in the Roman Catholic club even though I wear a green dickey. Now…” to my family, “if you will excuse us I’ll hear your father’s confession and you can come back soon. Or I think it will be soon.”

Depends on how long a tale of woe I have for you to forgive.

My wife said: “We’ll be back soon, Father.”

The classic biblical mention of anointing occurs in the Letter of James, a cousin of Jesus. At Trent the sacrament of anointing was recommended by James. `Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” After the priest in the green dickey heard my confession, he conferred conferring the oil on my forehead while reciting prayer, the hands while reciting prayer. As he was doing so I was recalling the classic case that was discussed in my theology class on Aquinas years ago: the case being of an old seaman, dying in a house of prostitution who called for a priest. The priest arrives and finds the old man in the last stages of a massive heart attack. The priest bends down and listens to the old man’s gutterally whispered confession. It appears his prime sin was carnality and that he had expended it on many women. The priest said, “are you sorry for all these women?” Probably the wrong way to put the question—but there it was.

The old man gasped, “sorry for all but one woman many years ago. Her name was Mae. I cannot be sorry because I loved her. I’m not sorry. I should be but I am not.”

What to do? The old man was expiring and the rules of catechetic study mandate that contrition should be expressed for all sin and expression of firm purpose of amendment before absolution can be granted. Firm purpose of amendment would be easy because the old guy was over 80 and dying. But if he continued saying he could not muster up sorrow for this one particular babe who might be dead or age 80 also—what to do?

This Aquinas answered, of course. The question to ask the penitent is: “Are you sorry you are not sorry?” The priest asked it; the old man sighed and said “yes.” Fulfillment required and absolution was granted, eighteen minutes before the old man was ushered into the throne room of the Lord.

I had no experience like that and was truly, really and truly, sorry, motivated by at first what Aquinas has defined as imperfect contrition…the terrifying fear of dying un-contrite and going to hell for all eternity…but then as I bit my lip and prayed for what Aquinas postulated as perfect contrition…that feeling I have rarely fully mastered since because I am so unforgivably shallow…the feeling that apart from the loss of heaven and the pains of hell because I had offended God Who is all good and deserving of all my love. Then comes the easy part: I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to confess my sins (which I have just done), to do penance and to amend my life—amen or so be it.

Then he took oil out of a vial, blessed by either him or a bishop and anointed my forehead while he said prayers, then my hands. I must confess I was still thinking of jokes (probably because I was scared out of my wits)…thinking of the old man who had been so mean he had not a friend in the world and who was dying and the priest who anointed him asked: “Do you renounce the Devil and all his works?”

The old man looked up at him and said, “well, frankly, Father, at this stage of the game I don’t want to alienate anybody.” It was weird that I was thinking that; sacrilegious too, but I was. Then I shut my eyes and ears and bit my lip hard to avoid sillyness and distractions as this as I prayed: please let me live. I’ve got this wife and kids to continue to love and I may be egotistical but they need me and I need to stick around here rather than be off with You. I’ll promise to go off with You another time.”

“That’s all,” said Father Keating. “I’ll pray for you. I’ll look in on you after the operation. That’s a promise.”

To Jerry Bauer: “You can come back now, Jerry!”

Jerry was gone to the operating room. They wheeled me over there, looking up at the rows of fluorescent lights rolling by. When we got in, he peered down at me. He looked dreadfully tired and stifled a yawn.

I asked: What time did you get in here today?

“Six a.m.” I looked at my watch: 11:10 p.m. He noticed it on my wrist.

“Hey, what the hell! You still have your watch on? Take it, nurse.”

Easy, I said. It’s a Timex.

He grinned and looked at the nurses. “See what I mean?”

Then all was black.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flashback: 1987: A Subdural Hematoma Interrupts the Placid Flow of Life.


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

With the “Quaker Oats Anti-Takeover” bill unpassed but well-covered in Canada, causing Brascan to pitch in its cards, I resumed lobbying and government relations advocacy on a more placid note for Quaker Oats. In the Spring of 1987 I went to White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia and the “Greenbrier”—a classy resort—to attend a conference in government relations at which I was to speak, sponsored by the Public Affairs Council, a trade association consisting of companies with government relations programs. On the night before I was to speak, I spent several hours reading in my room, then went to bed. At about midnight, as was usual for a distinctively middle-aged gentleman, I arose to visit the bathroom in a semi-slumber.

On the way back to my bed I hazily imagined where the bed was in my mental formulation and threw myself down on it…only to discover that in the darkness I had missed the bed and flung myself on the floor where I cracked my head severely on a piece of furniture. In fact so loud was the smack caused by my head that the guy in the next room called downstairs to inquire about the commotion. I groggily got up and made my way to the bed. There I slept a kind of disturbed sleep and awoke the next morning with a severe headache.

I made the talk, caught the plane back and resumed work but day after day I was bothered with a dull, recurring headache. I would take aspirin several times a day which would temporarily relieve it. Then a few days later came some light nausea which passed. I had to emcee a political dinner honoring Henry Hyde and felt…strange for me…that I did not want anything to eat or drink. In the midst of the event I had the unmistakable feeling I would destroy the evening by throwing up. It didn’t happen. The next day being a weekend, I went to a so-called “Doctor in a Box,” a commercial establishment funded by Resurrection hospitals where you would be treated by a doctor on a moment’s notice. She said it was probably a sinus infection. The weekend passed and I returned to work only to bother the company nurse for some aspirin.

She was a veteran nurse and a very good one who undoubtedly saved my life. She asked, “why are you coming in here so often for aspirin?” I told her it was probably a sinus infection which is what the doctor in a box had said. She asked if I had a fall recently. I thought back and said yes I had about a month ago at the Greenbrier. She said nothing judgmental but added that if, by chance, I had an irrevocable urge to throw up I should go immediately to a hospital and ask for a cat scan. As a matter of fact, she added, if she were me she’d go to a hospital and get one anyhow. That afternoon while having coffee, I raced to the Men’s and threw up so I called my wife and we arranged to go to Lutheran General Hospital for a c-scan.

After the c-scan as I was buttoning my shirt, I suggested that Lillian and I grab dinner at the Marriott-O’Hare near our house. When we arrived at the Marriott, Lillian was called to the phone by the waiter—an occurrence I thought strange. When she returned, white-faced, she said: “We’re not eating. The hospital called. You have a blood clot in your brain and they must operate tonight—as soon as we get there.” As we drove to Lutheran General Hospital, I thought: ah, it’s so soon over for Tommy Roeser. All of age 58 and now to undergo a brain operation. Then I thought: do they have a Catholic priest at Lutheran General? I have to go to confession and make my final peace with God before I come sauntering in to His company.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Personal Asides: How Sweet it Is--Lynn Adroitly Covers for Obama…Patrick Fitzgerald’s Cousin Writes—or Tries To.


Lynn Sweet.

Lynn Sweet, the personal successor and throwback to the days of yore in newspapering when newspapers hired political writers to do more than report but analyze in ways favorable to the boss, has proved once again her inestimable worth to the Barack Obama campaign. Not only is Ms. Sweet a fine writer with a superb sense of political theatrics…in contradistinction to the ham-handed Jennifer Hunter, the publisher’s wife who is there because she is the publisher’s wife…she is not a hired gun. Sweet is doing what she believes in the Lord’s work since she is a true believer in the same way…I know you tire of my saying this…as George Tagge did for the old “Tribune.” And just as Tagge would do every so often, his ideology would occasionally gag him and he’d be an honest man…as Sweet sometimes becomes an honest woman. Sometimes that is. Not now.

Whether he ran against Alan Keyes or not…and whether Keyes is an “ultra right-wing” candidate or not…Barack is on record and Keyes documented it as favoring sex education for kids in kindergarten. Ms. Sweet can call Keyes a far-right nut if she wishes…and I could add a few descriptives to her litany to categorize a man who took my thousand dollars and then declined to want to win the campaign (which is basic fraud)…but I have seen and heard the tape, unedited, where Obama has espoused this. Name-calling Keyes is okay, Lynn, and I will agree with you that somehow perversely he wanted to lose…but this is not in dispute. Or should not be.

The tape exists and I don’t have it but have heard it. And it is an important issue whether this slippery presidential candidate wants to stand by it or not. He should denounce his old view or stand by it. In fact, Lynn is right, the entire subject of abstinence funding is important and should be pursued in the debates. In the meantime, supporting sex education for toddlers is not going to get Obama in trouble. What will is not the subject of this essay…but his idiotic answer in the YouTube debate to, as a first order of business, sit down with the leader of Iran after he becomes president. Which convinces me and some others that were he to be elected, he would be another Jimmy Carter. His answer also convinced me that in contrast to this Boy Scout, Hillary Clinton is much to be preferred…not that I want her to win God knows…but as an adult option to the entire Democratic field.

Fitzgerald’s Cousin.

Maybe you can help me out with something. Take a look at Reader’s Comments for yesterday and you’ll find a statement written…or an attempted to be written…by one Gerald Horgan who says he is a first cousin to U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. I don’t know if he is or not but Horgan does have trouble formulating a sentence. But I get the drift…if, indeed, this is Fitzgerald’s cousin...but what I don’t get is his reference to BTW. I am writing this after midnight after a long day but what does BTW mean? Since I am possibly entering the last phase of senility is it a phrase I somehow failed to connect with? Anyone who can translate this for me would be in my debt.

I guess I shouldn’t have said that Patrick is a liberal judging from his NPR tastes—but anyone who can stomach “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” ought to be seriously adjudged as never being allowed close to any designation conservative. I await your interpretation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Personal Asides:

Franks & Hinz—Todd Stroger and Ralph Martire Get Some Comeuppance…. Wait-Wait, Don’t Tell Us. You Don’t Have To—We Have Patrick Fitzgerald’s Politics Figured Out...The “Sun-Times,” Liberal, Working Class: Just Ask Roger; He’d Know…Cheryl Reed Evidently Gets Rid of Mark Steyn (for the Working Class)…Michael Miner Again Pegs Big Jim Right.

Franks & Hinz.

Usually I have one liberal and one conservative on “Shootout”…or one Republican and one Democrat. Last Sunday I had two liberals—State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) and Greg Hinz of “Crain’s Chicago Business” who as a good reporter does not have a party designation but who is an acerbic and pretty darned good independent critic of the bipartisan establishment…but, no doubt, a liberal as well. Result: while I worried that there would be only one side presented…there were two…with attacks on the Left—featuring sharp criticism for two personas, one powerful Dem politician and another philosophical big government liberal. And both did probably better than any two conservatives I could have found.

The toughest assessment of Todd Stroger as president of the Cook county board came from Hinz who agreed that Stroger was (a) incompetent, (b) lackadaisical about being held accountable because of the solidity of the bloc vote in Cook and (c) unenthusiastic about being president of the board at all but who just accepted it to please his father. Sure, I fed Hinz the choices but he enthusiastically agreed and said Stroger fit “all three of the above.” Not Jack who, I feel, needs the approbation of Stroger for his Hillary Clinton campaign.

And a searing assessment of Ralph Martire, the Op Ed contributor to the “Sun-Times” came from Franks…while Hinz demurred. Martire wrote last week that the problem for Illinois is that there has not been enough tax dollars to go around to satisfy social needs especially with regard to the pensions. Franks, chairman of a key House committee, powerfully and eloquently objected and stood up for the taxpayers. Hinz felt we have an obligation to provide the assistance the voters were informed of.

Nevertheless, it means that the candor of the show…when participants express what they really think…means that both sides are presented. Congratulations, guys for a terrific show.

Patrick Fitzgerald’s Politics.

Ever since he became U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, many people…including I…have been trying to deduce Patrick Fitzgerald’s politics. An Irishman born to a lower middle class family whose patriarch was a Catholic Manhattan apartment house doorman may mean (a) a Reaganesque Republican, blue collar, possibly pro-union but with traditional family values or (b) a hard-shelled Democrat who believes the Republican party is less interested in people than in preserving the patrimony for Wall Street and entrepreneurialism. Which is it?

Fitzgerald started off in Chicago becoming a terror to George Ryan, a turncoat liberal Republican crook…well that could mean either that he felt Ryan—a big, puffed-belly blowhard—was the worst the Republican party had to offer and cherished an inner sympathy with those who defied him…or that the prosecutor was offended by the graft which had turned the Republican party in Illinois into a receivership for graft. Then when he moved against Daley’s abuse of patronage, the view came crystal-clear that Fitzgerald was appalled at the bloated excesses of a Democratic machine in power since 1931 and inwardly wanted a change. By and large, conservatives felt he was one of them.

But all this came to an 180 screeching U-turn when Fitzgerald investigated the Valerie Plame leak. His conviction of Scooter Libby despite the fact that he knew the identity of the true leaker was all the time, seemed to make clear that he was unmoved by the patriotic selfless serving of a leader in the anti-terrorism war and wanted to Stand Tall in Georgetown. His being graded as “mediocre” by the White House—which flies in the face of his legal skills—implied that the Bush people feel he is not one of them.

On and on it goes…but Saturday I submit that the answer came where we would least expect it. Fitzgerald appeared on the NPR radio show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” taped in the Chase bank auditorium. He joked that by being on the show it was the only way he could get tickets to view it. That’s enough…we don’t have to wait any more and you don’t have to tell me. WWDTM (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”) is the essence of a liberal, snooty, affluent, wine and brie cheese show that features snide laughing up one’s expensively cuff-linked sleeve at conservatives, traditional values and sports an upper class veneer of snobbery. A kind of self-punishing monitor of NPR (where I used to be a regular panelist under Bruce DuMont’s direction at WBEZ’s “Inside Politics”) I have yet to hear…and I mean yet to hear…a criticism of any liberal action while Bush, Cheney and the entire Republican cast are skewered to the delight…and applause…of the studio audience.

The quest is completed. Patrick Fitzgerald is a blooming species “democratus liberalas” elitist snob, superior, condescending, patronizing…Democrat in deep blue hue, probably pro-Obama with a hidden desire to STIG (Stand Tall in Georgetown). That wasn’t hard at all.. No one…and that’s no one…can listen to the snide gaffawing of the announcer and players with the liberal cheers of the crowd without turning it off—which means that we’ve finally pegged the elusive Mr. Fitzgerald. The rest of the pattern can fall into place nicely: a Catholic, personally pro-life but who like the Hynes family, the Madigans and the Daleys respects Roe v. Wade until it is repealed…reveres the Kennedy mystique…heterosexual but who supports gay rights probably one step short of gay marriage…wants more affirmative action…who feels the Iraq War was the “wrong war at the wrong time”…who worries about global warming…heedless of embryonic stem cells. There: that wasn’t tough, was it? All because of his favorite radio show. If you listen to NPR enough to have a favorite radio show…especially that elitist one…you’re not a conservative, baby.

Liberal but “Working Class”?

Just once I’d like to be able to fathom what Roger Ebert meant when he told Conrad Black that—to quote Michael Miner of “The Reader”—“he couldn’t understand why readers in a staunchly working-class town like Chicago had to choose between two Republican papers”—meaning the “Sun-Times” and the “Tribune.” I guess when you’re so far left as Roger, there is a yawning gap between a paper that has endorsed abortion and gay marriage (which it did under Black) and a paper that endorses abortion and fudges to and fro between civil unions and gay marriage, asking at the very conclusion: “who knows?”, which is the wobbly “Tribune.” Endorsing either of the major party’s presidential candidates doesn’t really tell the story. And Miner winds up his piece by saying that if Cheryl Reed, the new editorial page editor of the “Sun-Times” has any question, she should ask Roger. “He knows.”

Does he? Mike Royko did; Dan Brown does—but Roger Ebert?

God help us…and with true sympathetic deference to Roger who is fighting cancer…if he were only as good a film critic as mythology holds (which means he’d be the equal of Joe Morganstearn of the “Wall Street Journal” or have the encyclopedic tastes of Terry Teachout in film as Teachout has in the entire field of the arts)…it’d be worth asking him something…or anything…including how to position a liberal, working class paper. Liberal, eccentrically so, Roger is who has loved to go to Cannes to cover the film festivals blasting the U. S. as part of his coverage of the working class.

The horrifying answer is Ebert is not and was never particularly good at film criticism despite the inflated buzz that acclaims him a genius in that department. He has rotten taste, is uncourageous enough to forebear asking the moguls for something better to clean up their deplorable taste, is a toady of the industry for which service he got the Pulitzer prize as most others do through alignment with the prevailing leftward tide of the media with the same kind of fawning obeisance that the Nobel people gave their prize to the worst ex-president in history, Jimmy Carter. His wife, Chazz, has been notable about cashing in on special arrangements through affirmative action, convenient since she is African-American…all without a murmur from the press because she is black and he is the reigning super-white, guilt-ridden liberal.

As Miner brought up, the “Sun-Times” did endorse Todd Stroger…for which it seemingly apologized. Had the paper been truly working-class, it would have supported Tony Peraica…but the fact that Tony is pro-life would violate the canons of liberalism now, wouldn’t it?

While we’re at it…the newly designated working class newspaper has long had a liberal columnist…one of many…who writes about what is called “the Chicago way”—Tom McNamee--who replaced an eloquent, conservative truly blue-collar scribe who truly celebrated working-class in plays and columns, Mike Houlihan. McNamee yesterday defended Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell, the Deerfield “parents” whose son hosted a Homecoming Party in their basement on Oct. 18, 2006 where drinking occurred on their watch after two teens were killed. They were convicted by a jury, may serve a year each in prison and face ruinous civil suits for their negligence. But in this “working class newspaper,” McNamee thinks they have suffered too much for their negligence.

One thing about the “working class” McNamee that caught my eye in this newly-designated “working class newspaper” is a crack he made about talk radio. “But even on talk radio, where stupidity and anger go together like peanut butter and jelly,” he wrote. Typical upper crust snob. What would he know about talk radio?

Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. Years ago Brother McNamee co-chaired a talk radio show on WLS, home of the blue-collars where stupidity and anger go together like peanut butter and jelly…and struck out. “He’s just no good,” said the blue-collar station program manager to me as we watched him struggling with no calls due to his affective liberalism, “what can you do with these liberals who aren’t all that smart but think they’re smarter than the folks calling in?”

Defending the flagrantly irresolute, non-responsible high roller Deerfield parents, that’s the working class icon McNamee for you. If they expressed contrition I never heard it. I think they lied to save their skins. Didn’t their own kid testify against them?

Working class columnists for a working class newspaper? Is it the preppy wise guy New Yorker Manhattan type, Neil Steinberg, lefty on almost everything…anti-Iraq, anti-Bush, pro-abort, pro-gay rights? I don’t think so. Is it the picture of Dorian Grey…the “youthful” Richard Roeper, long in the tooth as he cruises past 40…well-past 40: the bachelor icon? Another lefty. Is it Rick Telander who mixes lefty politics in with his sports? Is it the publisher’s wife, Jennifer Hunter who tells us breathlessly how many Republicans are switching over to the Democrats without checking that they were Democrats in perpetuity and suckered when they described themselves as “anguish turn Democrats”? Is it the food editor, Sue Ontiveros, who sides with Hispanic illegals?

Working class where it’s “religion columnist” an ex-Wheaton college evangelical, a former Catholic, “covers” her topic by whooping “ding-dong the witch is dead” when Jerry Falwell expired. Real working class, that.

Some day we’re going to wake up and the uptown edition of the “National Enquirer” will be gone. What a loss for the working class of Chicago…and the wretched twosome, far worse for the city than the two crooks, Black and Radler—Cruickshank and Cooke—will be scuttling like the small furry animals trying to leave the “Titanic” in the movie of the same name—so frenetic they ran over your shoes.

Cheryl Reed: Nixing Mark Steyn for the Working Class?

The former book editor who wants to return the “Sun-Times” to its working class roots has evidently scrubbed Mark Steyn as columnist. Probably the most vivid political commentator in the press today who slugs heavily against the elites, Steyn has been missing in the “Controversy” section of the Sunday Enquirer for the past two weeks. Atta girl, Cheryl; we wouldn’t want intellectual diversity to soil the paper.

Thanks, Michael Miner…

…for pointing out in “Hot Type” for “The Reader” that the convictions of Conrad Black and David Radler did not vindicate the blowsy ex-governor Jim Thompson who snoozed while the two crooks ran away with the store at Hollinger. Miner’s summation was terrific.

His Elephantine Pomposity said on the radio that the jury had found Black and the others guilty on counts “where it was clear the non-compete transactrions were hidden from the audit committee and acquitted them on “some other counts based on transactions that went to the audit committee but with a false explanation.” In other words, says Miner, “where Black and Radler hit their scheming in plain sight in documents Thompson `skimmed’ they got off. Vindication?” Thompson implied that since the documents were filed a year or two later, it didn’t matter if he only skimmed them since it all came ou the same. “We later sued and got the money back so we were in the same position.”

Miner asked:“Does he [Thompson] think that notwithstanding the collapse of the company and notwithstanding ther millions of dollars that Hollinger has paid out in legal fees, it’s all the same to the Hollinger shareholders whether they got the millions of dollars Black and Radler siphoned off when the deals were made or years later? And what about the $50 million settlement two years ago after shareholders sued Hollinger on grounds that its board of directors had been asleep at the switch. Should Thompson take credit for that windfall?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Flashback: The “Protect Quaker” Hearings Begin in the House and Brascan Throws in the Cards. The CEO Successor Who Agreed with Everybody.

[More than 50 years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].

“The idea is,” Speaker O’Neill explained to subcommittee chairman James Scheuer (D-N.Y,)…whose name I had wrong in the last piece, calling him mistakenly “John”—a multi-millionaire Lefty ex-real estate developer and lawyer--“not to pass the damned thing but to have hearings on the basic unfairness of a system where the Canadian government can veto any corporate takeover of one of their companies and we cannot—the object being that along the line you suggest that the committee will invite Brascan—you got that name, don’t you?—to testify which could result in that company cashing in the chips and dropping the tender offer. Got it?”

“Yeah,” said Scheur, “you know we can’t subpoena them. We can’t subpoena an out-of country--.”

“I know that. We are focusing the press treatment to Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal so they get the full flavor of it. Here’s a list of those who will testify in favor of the bill you so generously authored.”

Scheuer perused the list. “The bill I so generously—holy mackerel! Gene McCarthy is for my bill! He was an early hero of mine! I started in this business volunteering for him. Who’s this”—and he mentioned a Nader raider.

“He’s a Nader guy.”

“And the U. S. Chamber is testifying against it! Not surprising.”

They’re free market, I volunteered.

“But the NAM is on your side.”

That’s right.

“I gave you a list of labor guys who’ll testify,” O’Neill told Scheuer. “Be sure you contact them.”

Scheuer said, “Where are the blacks?”

Reverend Ed Riddick, assistant director of Operation PUSH, will be here, I said.

“PUSH? What’s that?” asked Scheuer.

“That’s Jesse Jackson’s outfit,” said O’Neill with a grimace. “Roeser, how did you get them?”

Never mind.

“Here’s an interesting note,” said Scheuer. Then to me: “I thought you said you were close to Jack Kemp.”

I am. We have two Fisher-Price plants in his district.

“He called up and wanted to testify to oppose the bill! Doesn’t he know it’s yours?”

He doesn’t. But he’d do this anyhow to show his independence: a real hot dog.

“Don’t go near him,” said O’Neill. “He’s a hot dog.”

“He really believes this stuff,” said Scheuer, a terminal-case cynic to whom nothing was on the level.

Right, I said. (True believer: There’s no better description of Kemp). The first thing he’ll do if he finds out is to call our CEO who knows what’s going on but wants deniability but who is also a good Republican and we’d probably be asked to pull the plug on the legislation. .

“He’d do it,” said Scheuer. “Either that or call Bob Novak who’s his good buddy. Steer clear of him. Geez, Tip, if word got out we’re doing this for Quaker Oats--.”

I’d be fired, I supplied.

“You? I’d be defeated!” said Scheuer.

Yeah but as a multi-millionaire you have something to fall back on. To Scheuer: Maybe you’d hire me for your Bronx real estate operation.

Scheuer: “No chance. You’re not Jewish.”

O’Neill: “Look at him; kinky hair, beak nose, the name Roeser. He could pass.”

Scheuer: “Not in my Bronx neighborhood.”

“Well,” growled O’Neill, getting worried, “let’s get this damn hearing over with so we can all get back to work.”


So the surreptitiously unlabeled Quaker Oats Protection bill called the “U. S. Investment Protection bill” was introduced and referred to committee and thenceforward to Scheuer’s subcommittee. I had hired John Adams & Associates, a Washington, D. C. p. r. outfit headed by a crisp Brit who had been Walter Cronkite’s chief writer on the CBS Evening News. He had an easy job; just focus on the Canadian press; do TV clips and radio actualities just for Canada. Every so often chairman Scheuer would mention a lot of foreign companies that were trying to take over U. S. companies. Adams’ TV crew waited anxiously until…as once every while…Scheuer would also mention Brascan in his litany. The films were processed swiftly in 1980-style technology and flashed to Canadian stations.

Not long into the hearings, we saw the clips from Toronto and Montreal and other Canadian points prominently mentioning the hearings and underscoring Brascan as possibly being an invitee to testify. And not long after that, Brascan tossed in the cards and moved away—the stock they dumped causing our price to decline…but who cared? The covert anti-takeover was a success…a weird collection of allies: two liberal Democrats, O’Neill and Scheuer (of the Bronx, a multi-termed House member, a polio victim who walked with a cane which he twirled with a flourish, who always cherished the thought that he could be the first Jewish mayor of New York), Bill Colby, former head of the CIA, Eugene McCarthy, PUSH, Ralph Nader’s assistant and strongly opposed by the U. S. Chamber.

Throughout the procedure, Geimer, a lawyer with Nelson & Harding kept pressuring me for more money. I had no idea why. No, I said, we had an agreement for a flat fee.

“Well, what about a success fee?”

I’ll see.

But the nagging got persistent. Clayton Yeutter, the lead partner of Nelson & Harding, was on leave as the U. S. trade representative under Reagan and the other partners were pressuring Geimer to hike the fee. My gut feeling was that since Geimer had spent so much time on one special project—the luring away of Arkady Shevshenko in 1978…the highest Soviet defector who left his post as under-secretary of the UN and who was virtually Geimer’s special project as a covert special agent for the CIA where he virtually baby-sat the alcoholic Shevshenko through a second wife and the job of writing his book “Breaking with Moscow”…he was in trouble with his civilian bosses.

We finally had it out at breakfast at the Madison.

I said: Bill, we negotiated a fee with Nelson & Harding and my immediate boss signed off on it. I don’t deny the possibility of a success fee but frankly I’m getting sick of being pressured by you after the contract was signed for more money. I’m rather sick of it! The project hasn’t been completed yet and all I hear from you is more money. It’s unprofessional; don’t you think?

“Well, I have to watch out for myself. Ever since we’ve known each other I have understood that if I don’t, you certainly won’t.”

I slammed down my coffee cup with such a clatter that others in the coffee shop turned their heads. This is what I told him:

Let me set you straight, my little panty-waist friend. I was canned by Maurice Stans. Before I left I got you a job in the White House as an assistant to Steve Hess…a top Nixon staffer…at a higher pay grade than I was earning! So don’t give me that whining that I abandoned you. I brought you out here with you were a patent attorney in Chicago…gave you a significant raise and placed you in the White House earning more than I did when I was canned…and earning more than I did when I went to the Peace Corps. From there you went to Donny Rumsfeld as an assistant so you’ve done all right. Rumsfeld doesn’t return my calls but he does yours. So stop that lachrymose feeling sorry for yourself. All kinds of other people on the OMBE staff had to find work on their own—not you. So don’t put on that crying towel face to me. It doesn’t wash.

He rejoined:

“Well, if you hadn’t got yourself fired we’d have had a chance to turn the thing around and get blacks into the Republican party.”

To which I responded: Yeah, I went out and got myself fired while I had three kids and another on the way. What a terrible thing to do to you, Willie Geimer. How could I? How inconsiderate of me! As far as blacks getting in the Republican party, I invented the doctrine of set-aides in construction, didn’t I? Do you see them flocking in, Geimer? Grow up. There’s a cultural as well as an economic reason why blacks in great numbers haven’t joined the Republican party. You know as well as I that Stans made a U turn on the program and embraced the Southern Strategy. He embraced it because he owes a huge debt to Strom Thurmond who blocked Reagan from getting the nomination and has called his due bill: no effective minority enterprise program. Frankly, I think you’d like to put me on a guilt trip. Well there’s no guilt trip because there’s no need for one, brother. Now I’ll pay for this breakfast and see you at the Capitol.


The next thing I knew my immediate boss…one with whom I had very little rapport…a lawyer, corporation secretary and on the board of directors…called me up and told me that he had received a private, confidential letter—handwritten—by a Mr. Geimer who said that he had delivered the entirety of a legislative package without the slightest assistance from me and that he was underpaid. Then Geimer did me a terrible injustice. He said I didn’t have any understanding of the legislation and that I was unprepared for this venture…that he was carrying the whole load including making the political contacts—a series of calumnies topped by backstabbing if there ever was a masterpiece. That did it with Geimer for me.

He’s crazy, I said and told him the legislation had been my idea and he was hired and paid well to come up with the specifics.

To my surprise, my boss, was unusually reasonable. Understanding treachery corporate-wise, he could smell an example when he saw it.

“That’s all,” he said. “Listen, I’ve been in the practice of law for over 20 years and I never heard of someone in a law firm we retained sending a covert note to--. Drop him. Get rid of him.”

Out of old times, I never did drop him. I simply didn’t talk to Geimer again. The backstabbing was the worst that ever happened to me. Also, it was…unmanly.

He went on to become a star of Shevshenko’s book on his defection although I must say the book reported that when Shevshenko got lonely the CIA found a prostitute in the yellow pages to keep him company…who found her I don’t know. He left Nelson & Harding and found “The Jamestown Foundation” which was devoted to support systems for communist defectors…and which now is the leading private intelligence source for anti-terrorism.

Years later, when I was having an after-work drink in the M & M Club he walked over with Ron Gidwitz, a wealthy donor to Jamestown. I nodded, confirmed my acquaintanceship without a handshake and moved away. The second was when after I returned to Quaker from a lengthy hospitalization where I underwent brain surgery, I was thinking about the inevitability of joining the Hereafter. In a spiritual cramming for finals, I decided to call him up. This time he was the remote one.

“Tom Roeser?” he said. “Tom Roeser?” as if he was trying to recall a once hazy friendship. It was arched and falsetto. I said forget it and hung up. I decided that if I were to soon go to eternity, I’d take my chances answering why I distrusted one who backstabbed me. Thus far I never had to explain it but I’m ready when the time comes.

The “Washington Post” had a brief item, two paragraphs, that he had died of colon cancer—about four or five years ago. It was the final severance of a once firm friendship…although the formal one came much earlier…involving a brilliant lawyer who served his country…and me—for a time anyhow.


The Quaker legislation was last time I was in sustained relationship with Tip O’Neill but I always thought he handsomely repaid the interest the company showed in him but forking over a hundred thousand dollars or so for a documentary. Ergo: we made out pretty well. Quaker survived well into the future until after I retired in 1991 when a callow CEO with a mixed record…acquiring Gatorade and brilliantly adding to our profits…and mishandling the acquisition of Snapple and losing respect of much of Wall Street…was bounced.

It all came home to me when I accompanied the new guy…pencil thin, a skier, workout buff, up from the middle class to big time CEO dough (unlike his predecessor, born to great wealth and who handled it unostentatiously) who insisted on his own private jet…to Washington, D. C. for his maiden trip to meet legislators who represented our plants. When Bob Stuart did this, everyone knew where the venerable chairman stood on issues…and welcomed him from Paul Simon on the left to Jesse Helms on the right.

As we flew on “Oat One,” our jet to D. C., I gave the successor a list of legislators whom we were to see. I appended a paragraph of ideological description to each. Our first visit was with Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a bare-faced fraud who with apple-cheeks and a bow tie strutted in populist fashion…but who was thoroughly identified with the Left. I had so earmarked him for the successor.

To my astonishment, the successor tossed out lines that exhilarated Simon who told me later he was gratified that Quaker at last had a burnished liberal Democrat (at least in ideological tone) at the helm.

The second visit was to the then chairman of the Senate agriculture committee, Jesse Helms…an old guard conservative and a powerfully influential leader. To my stupefaction the successor then tossed out lines that enthralled the old arch-conservative with him almost leaping over the desk, proffering a hand and saying in rich southern tones: “Boy, ah like how you think!” He wouldn’t had he heard the performance that edified Simon.

Since views expressed on the two visits were incompatible, I knew times had changed and there was a total relativistic pragmatist with no convictions in charge instead of a senior executive whose conscience governed his views.

Well, by acquiring Gatorade he became a corporate hero and added to its luster. Then by acquiring Snapple which he mismanaged…placing the blame on his marketing number two whose resignation he accepted…he saw the profits dwindle and the corporate reputation on Wall Street spiral. Then—poof!—he was gone with a fat severance. A soul-less outside mercenary succeeded him whose recourse was to collaborate with fellow vultures on the board who wanted to harvest on the corporate carcass for personal enrichment. And so it was sold to Pepsi. But far in the future. So Canada didn’t buy a piece of the American flag; Americans with no loyalty to its history auctioned it off.

But Tip O’Neill saved us for a time. A valuable stretch of time. He was not the lovable rascal people think: a large swath of meanness was lodged just under the surface. The canard that he drank with Reagan after 6 p.m. and got along because they were Irish. Not true in the slightest. Both were far different: Reagan, a kind of entrepreneur, made his millions as an actor and despised the IRS for taking so much of it; O’Neill who never made that much money but always felt he was better than the Upper Class, truly rhapsodized about the working class and FDR’s “forgotten man” and felt socking the rich with the IRS was elementary justice.

Both made out pretty well in history—one as the most successful president since Roosevelt, the other regarded as one of the country’s more effective Speakers. The CEO who headed Quaker for a time?

He recently told a mutual friend that in politics as everything else I am too ideological. I cherish that critique from a living kaleidoscope of ever-shifting convictions…who by agreeing with both Simon and Helms on the same issues fooled both…but not the one who saw his glaring contradictions.

In our company, he followed a statesman of the industry while he was…is…and will ever be a cipher.

Personal Asides: The Master of Zig-Zag--Pete Domenici Who’s Not Burdened with Issues, Merely Political Instinct…The “Wall Street Journal Flap—Imagine a New Owner Who Wants to Shape the Paper! Outrageous!...All This and 79, Too.


Zig-Zag Pete.

Thus far in examining those Senate Republicans who want to cut and run from Iraq, setting their own timetable rather than wait for results of the “Surge” in mid-September, we have examined (a) Chuck Hagel and John Warner…the first named a hot-dog who wants to STIG (Stand Tall in Georgetown) and the second who, at age 80, having utilized two ex-wives to get where he is, doesn’t want to let it blow away until they carry him out; and then (b) Dick Lugar the GS-18 who, were he to embrace an ideological position (as did Reagan on the USSR) would invite a cerebral hemorrhage.

These three are understandable Senate denizens who apply not just ambition but some intellectual resources to determining their positions. Hagel researched his anti-Iraq views first with the understanding that he wanted to STIG and second how he could make the case meaningful. Warner took his polls and then worked his staff (one of whom I know well, who had worked for me) to give him annotated positions with which he could justify his stand to save his political skin in 2008 albeit with a thoroughly manufactured concern for well-being of the troops larded over with a phony rich-guy Virginia accent.

Lugar does his own research and is so consumed with pros and cons, qualifications and counterbalancing phrases…which made him an excellent briefer for Ike Eisenhower…it is natural to expect he could not embrace an ideological view. Lugar constitutionally (his constitution not the country’s) couldn’t announce his intention to go to the Men’s without qualification: “On one hand, when I get there I may find what I felt was an urge to seek relief was merely an accumulation of gas—but is it not prudent to make the move in the eventuality that what I now perceive would become immediate.”

Now we come to one who isn’t bothered by anything like that. He is Pete Dominici, 75, with a face veined like a rural road-map but fitted with a toupee that never ages, always showing a well-varnished veneer, a grocer’s son from Albuquerque, N. M. who has a sharply limited intellectual vista. He is interested in meat and potatoes—solely: i.e. what he can obtain via the pork barrel for New Mexico. A former Commerce aide of mine worked for him and was close to him. She says issues are never brought up—just mechanics: what do I have to do to get this pork through? Foreign policy boils down to: what do I need in the way of press? What do I have to say on Iraq to get the newspapers out there supporting me?” Nothing has to do with issues or ideology, she says. His record shows it. To keep on doing this, Dominici believes that to win again in 2008, he has to court the “independent vote” in New Mexico. Which means he has to veer away from Bush and Iraq. Not a question of details: that’s for Lugar, Hagel and Warner. Just veer away and forget the issues.

Veer away just as Dominici did before with zig-zag, a phrase common with his staff but which means no philosophical or intellectual purpose: just intuitive. He loves Appropriations but his prime post in the past was on the Budget committee, where he not only controlled the spending for New Mexico but could cut back on rival programs so as to accentuate New Mexico’s chances. Without ideology occupying a second’s thought, he supported Reagan’s first tem tax cuts but then—quick as by overnight decision—veered and supported a tax hike. Somebody got to him: he sniffed the wind and decided, by the feel of his gut, it was time to retrench from supply-side.

He chafed in Reagan’s first term when he zigged right to support the Social Security COLA freeze but should have zagged, he thinks, when Republicans were exposed and lost the Senate in `86. He listened to Dave Stockman, the turncoat (Judas, he was called, as a former supply-sider turned apostate) and favored tax hikes immediately after. A small tax hike worked but soon he was back adding to the deficit with his lavish appropriations and deal-cutting. He somehow “couldn’t get no respeck” from his colleagues, as Rodney Dangerfield said. Somehow they figured him to be a rudder spinning to and fro with no direction. Now how in the world could they reach that conclusion?

He re-concentrated, trying to see if he could get the zigs and zags right. He helped shape the budget resolutions in `99 and `00 but at the same time as an appropriator violated the budget caps: that meant both zig and zag. In 2001 he helped pass the George W. Bush $1.6 trillion tax cut where he was less upset with deficits than he was earlier.

“It’s an easy answer,” says my friend the staffer. “He goes by the seat of his pants. Now he’s worried about reelection so he’s against the Surge. After reelection he’ll check the pulse again and possibly will be all-out to win the war.” What happens in Iraq if we pull out precipitously? “It never comes up,” she says. Zig and zag has helped Dominici in his home state but not to get the respect from the Senate or his colleagues he thinks he deserves. He ran against Bob Dole for majority leader and lost; ran for Policy chairman and lost to Don Nickles. He tried again for Policy chairman and lost to Larry Craig.

“My worry,” says my friend the staffer, “is that he has zigged where he should have stayed put. If we lose this war, the voters will be after his scalp and it’ll be too late to zag back again.”

What’s This: An Owner Who Wants to Run Things?

There is no doubt that the “Wall Street Journal,” one of the greatest national newspapers in the world, has been divided between the editorial page which in addition to fine writing distinguishes itself with mature commentary…and certain sections of the news department which resemble 90% of all journalists are: liberals. But what amazes me is that the news staff of the “Journal” is supposed to understand business economics. That they don’t has been obvious by the running battle they are waging against the purchase of the “Journal” by Rupert Murdoch.

None other than Ben Bradlee, the liberal ex-editor of the “Washington Post” made the crack that if the family wants to sell the paper, for God’s sake sell it and don’t sully the market by trying to write a proviso that the owner should have nothing to say about the editorial direction of the newspaper.


Today is my birthday…born July 23, 1928 which makes me 79. I can only remember the good things about the mid-1930s: the trouble our across-the-street neighbor had starting his black Model T Ford (by that year every second car on the road was a Model T (a touring car cost $690), Roadster ($590), Torpedo ($590), Town Car ($900)—which is what our neighbor had…Delivery (a commercial vehicle) $700. It had a hand crank and our neighbor a ferocious temper. One day the procedure was like this: he would jerk the hand crank vigorously which would start the engine and he would race over to take the wheel…whereupon the engine would die. Out again, he’d give the crank a harder jerk (you could break an arm in the process if the crank backed up which occasionally it did) and he’d run to the front door, hop in—and the engine would die. Third time same result. Fourth time, in a rage, he ran to the front of the car, addressed it as if it were human with this shout (as I watched on): “You bastard! Now I’m going to put out your eyes!” and he kicked the two headlights out.

Good friend and frequent contributor Frank Nofsinger sent a card which bears the unmistakable likeness of another contributor and frequent heckler: Lawrence (who often writes to me and all of you twice a day, sometimes even without capital letters).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Personal Asides: Greg Hinz of “Crain’s” and State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) on “Political Shootout” Sunday…A Must-Read: Bob Novak’s “Prince of Darkness”…David Stockman…Now We Get Down to Lugar: The Soul of a GS-18.

Hinz and Franks.

“Crain’s Chicago Business” political columnist Greg Hinz (pronounced “heinz”) and State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), chairman of the House Government Affairs committee and designated by Speaker Madigan as chairman of the important Committee of the Whole House, will be my guests on “Political Shootout” Sunday…the program beginning at 8 p.m. on WLS-AM (890). Such questions as Speaker Madigan’s suggestion that the governor should embrace an income tax hike will be discussed.. Should be very good.

“Prince of Darkness.”

I have known and respected Bob Novak since the days I was at Commerce and…human weakness being what it is…he wrote well of me in my fight against Maurice Stans when I—and Bob—were liberal Republicans. I knew Rowly (Rolland Evans his column partner) as well but Bob was always the more available…and less patrician…one. I’ve stayed in touch with Bob through the years, as he and I gradually moved to the conservative side (he becoming a late convert to Catholicism) but I more than he in foreign policy (he, despite Jewish heritage, being a great critic of Israel, I despite Catholic heritage, being a great supporter of Israel). At any rate, I hired Bob occasionally for Quaker doings where he would put on good analyses of politics and brought Quaker executives occasionally to him when we were in Washington where he would instruct us for nothing more than the agreeableness of our company (and our picking up the dinner check).

His book of memoirs, “Prince of Darkness,” is revelatory and consumed with honesty…Bob’s problems with drinking, his love of the University of Maryland basketball (which confounds me), his engaging in occasional post-cocktail party slugging matches when the sauce got the better of him, his religious conversion. It is an autobiography that has great historic significance. At all times I’ve found Bob Novak to be instructive, to be shorn of pomposity or self-inflatedness. Two elements intrigue me sufficiently to call them to your attention. One is a slight reference to then Governor Jim Thompson—a man I consider a great tragedy…consumed with inestimable talents (intellect, personality, wit, charm, stage presence) which for a reason I believe I know full well, he allowed to be overshadowed in a burst of weak character: to make great gobs of money as a lobbyist and celebrity-collector of the rich and famous.

Here is Novak’s brief picture of Thompson pre- and post-Reagan which delineates the ex-governor’s character.

Talking with Governor Lamar Alexander of Tennessee prior to Reagan’s nomination for president in 1980, Alexander said that Reagan’s nomination would do great harm in Tennessee and around the country. “A few weeks later in Chicago, I was having coffee with Illinois governor James Thompson in his suite at the Ambassador Hotel and heard an identical analysis—through characteristically delivered more vehemently/ `I’m afraid we wouldn’t recover politically for a generation,’ Big Jim told me. (I remembered that doleful prognosis twenty-five years later when Thompson, commenting on Reagan’s death, claimed that he had been Reagan’s man in Illinois from the start.” It reinforces my conclusion that Thompson has had everything to make it to the top of his profession—except character…as his coalescence with the Democrats on every issue has shown and his lamentable winking at the Hollinger accounts when the two crooks were robbing the stockholders blind and Big Jim was supposed to be the watchdog, as head of the audit committee.

Bob Novak’s take on Jimmy Carter is notable. To most people Carter was a kind of wishy-wash as president but one who had acute analytical and administrative skills. Novak interviewed W. Michael Blumenthal, Carter’s first treasury secretary, preparatory to the team writing a book about the 39th president for the 1980 campaign (a book that was scotched because both Novak and Evans believed, wrongly, that Carter would lose the nomination to Sen. Ted Kennedy…why they believed that nobody knows). But Blumenthal’s take on his old boss is intriguing…an insight that has not been duplicated. Blumenthal was probably one of the most highly trained government officials…Berlin-born who fled Nazi oppression with his family as a child…a Princeton Ph.D in economics…a thoroughly brilliant economist with training under JFK in the state department and trade. He was one of very few highly skilled cabinet officers hired by Carter…others being Charles Schultze for budget, James Schlesinger for energy and Joe Califano for HEW…in an ocean of mediocrity: Cy Vance (secretary of state as dull, studied and inconclusive as his boss), Harold Brown, (defense, a scientist who had no discernible influence on the bureaucracy), Griffin Bell (attorney general a sweet-talking Georgia cracker but that was it), Patricia Harris (HUD, a sop to the blacks and nothing else), Brock Adams (transportation, a longtime House crony of Tip O’Neill), Shirley Hufstedler (education, eminently forgettable).

Blumenthal told Novak one thing about Carter that registered with me. He told Novak that early in his tenure he prepared a reading list for Carter on tax reform. Carter: “Mike, I’m way ahead of you. I’ve started reading the entire Internal Revenue code.” Wha--? Blumenthal asked why in the world would Carter want to do that saying, “Mr. President, I really don’t think that’s the way to go about it.” Carter looked at him with unblinking cold blue eyes: “But, Mike, I do and I am the president.” To Novak that summed up the Carter presidency. Can you imagine the mind-set of someone…least of all a president…who would read the entire mind-deadening Internal Revenue Code to get an understanding? Unaccompanied by commentary, it would be enough to turn one’s brain to mush.

Later Blumenthal described in off-the-record fashion his observation of the president…remember this is from a seasoned and talented administrator who was well-equipped to be treasury secretary…for a book on Carter that was never written.

“He has a deep sense of inferiority, a very deep sense of inferiority. I discovered it when I began to realize that he confided in no one. Charlie (Chief Economic Adviser Charles Schultze) would have a weekly meeting with him and he would come out and say to me that he had never worked for a man like that before. He never reacts. Occasionally he would ask a question. He never debates. He never disagrees…He doesn’t want strong people. He ruled out [John] Dunlap [for secretary of labor] and he ruled out George Ball [for secretary of state].l He ruled out when he knew the people were strong, aggressive, confrontational personalities. He didn’t from Adam. Had he known me, he would never have invited me in…

“He dislikes people who are very strong and successful. That is why he doesn’t like major businessmen, bankers or people who run big labor unions. You have to watch him and he is very uncomfortable with them. He has this outward sort of politeness and gives his little spiel but his eyes glaze over and later on he frequently makes derogatory comments about them. He feels very put on by these people, and it is essentially that he is afraid that they know more than he does…I could see increasingly that flattery went very far with him—a person who does not recognize when he is being shamelessly flattered and enjoys it…He briefs very quickly with sort of a veneer of knowledge and he can give back in an orderly fashion but he doesn’t retain it for very long….I think…when he came into office he was a very inexperienced and poorly informed man.”

This is just a foretaste of a powerfully interesting and historic book. Not that I agree with my friend Bob on everything. A supply-sider he is (as am I) but he remains powerfully bewitched by one whom I believe is a charlatan on the issue with a depth of a matchbook and an ego of a prima donna…one who came late to ideas after having been a football quarterback too long…Jack Kemp. I think it’s the football aura that gets Novak. Novak is an outright dove on the Middle East…is, if anything, an Arab-ist where in the Cold War he was a hawk (I am pro-Israel and have been called a modified Wilsonian). He is too soft on China. I don’t think he appreciates the reservoir of inner strength that is within George W. Bush. But he is the ranking political journalist of our time; a patriot and great American. We will miss his coverage when he is gone.

David Stockman.

In his book, Bob pegs David Stockman right. He fooled a number of people…Bob as well…including me. I knew David better than Bob, having met him first when he was John B.Anderson’s chief of staff in the House Republican Conference. There is no doubt about David’s intellectual acuity from the time he gained national attention with an article written for Irving Kristol’s “Public Interest,” called “The Social Pork Barrel.” For the first time, David computed the truism…reinforced with statistics from the budget…which had been hinted at by conservatives much earlier: that the Great Society made it much more profitable for the poor to receive benefits…food stamps, aid to families of dependent children and other benefits…rather than getting jobs. Stockman’s brilliant analysis became the underpinning of what was later to become the Reagan Revolution.

He used that article to become the darling of conservatives and get elected to Congress. As a member of Congress, he became a convert to supply-side but…and few know this (but I do having talked with him during that period)…he desperately wanted John B. Connally to get elected president, a big government-big corporation man who was antithetical to supply-side.

Like Jim Thompson, David had…has…all the equipment—intellectual and charm…plus communications skills…to be a success. But like Thompson he has one great flaw—lack of character. Thompson had no stomach to concoct a working philosophy of government that was differentiated from the regular Democrats’ because (a) it would take work and (b) to get it sold would risk unpopularity. In public and with a book he wrote, David embraced supply-side economics with the messianic belief of a new convert but placed in the role of deliverer of the philosophy…OMB director…he preferred to sell-out his philosophy and actively consort with the opposition (in this case William Greider of “Atlantic Monthly”) who used David to blast Reagan. It is again the case of wanting to Stand Tall in Georgetown. Now that David is very likely to go to jail for alleged manipulations, he sees what his chase of temporary fame has got him.

Dick Lugar, the GS-18.

I have been writing of some of the Republican Senators who, unaccountably, have left the president’s side on Iraq…and are pushing him to withdraw troops, to make the decision even before the verdict is in on the effectiveness of the Surge. One was John Warner, a malleable individual or pomp and little more than pretense, who was built with a constitutional inability to withstand pressure. Warner also wants…even at age 80…to STIG: Stand Tall in Georgetown, repository of the media and liberal elites in the nation. That goes for Chuck Hagel too, of course. But does it go for Dick Lugar, the ranking Republican on Senate Foreign Relations…one who has come by a reputation as a serious, thoughtful lawmaker.

He is all of that and he is not infected with STIG. I met with him on many occasions…one when he was the bright young mayor of Indianapolis…and several times as senator (when Quaker had plants in his state, notably our purchase of the Gatorade business). Few people appreciate that representing a company that has extensive holdings throughout the country can get an enterprising lobbyist…particularly one whose interests are more universal than the well-being of oatmeal or Gatorade…to meet with lawmakers in both parties, with them setting aside enough time to talk equivalent to the time they would reserve for, say, newspaper correspondents. Many of them, Lugar included, were surprised that, as he once said, talking to me was not unlike talking to a newspaper correspondent who was also a partisan (Quaker had a distinctively Republican orientation that appealed to him). No great surprise since I was one and like to think that the skills of correspondent and political analyst never left me. (At least I hope not. Who knows as one approaches 79).

No, I decided early that with Dick Lugar you get a man of perspicacity and knowledge who is at heart a GS-18…the highest rank a civil servant can attain in the federal government (the rank I held and then was actually promoted from at Commerce, incidentally after which I became a foreign service officer FS-4). What do I mean when I say he has the heart of a GS-18? A GS-18 is a person intimately familiar with the details of his assigned craft. Bright, aware, quick, detailed and aware of any contingency. He first gained attention in Washington as a young Naval officer when he was an intelligence briefer for Admiral Arleigh Burke, then chief of naval operations. He did that job so splendidly that he was sent over to the White House to brief President Eisenhower because his briefings were so superb…which didn’t bother Admiral Burke a bit since he was an old sea-dog who preferred action.

Lugar the briefer, the quiet-spoken thorough analyst of the pros and cons who does not rise to any ideological status. Because Lugar is instinctively a compromiser or synthesizer, a philosophically committed Jesse Helms, chairman of Foreign Relations, would leave Lugar off conference committees. And for good reason. With Lugar you’d get half a loaf. But Helms wanted more than this: he was a resolute old Cold Warrior and he detested watering down anything. Lugar was born to water down just as a GS-18 is born to weigh and sift the evidence and arrive at reasonable but non-ideologic opinions.

There’s nothing wrong with that and a good deal right with it. You cannot have a legislature filled with Jesse Helmses or with Dick Durbins (although, assuredly, behind the scenes, especially with appropriations, Durbin is not the screaming ideologue he resembles as the Senate’s number two Democrat). But constitutionally, Dick Lugar cannot.. and will not…be a lawmaker whose passion burns for change. He is a GS-18.

Let me elucidate. In the American Revolution, Dick Lugar would start out a Tory—a quiet critic of George III who would prefer to settle for taxation with representation. He would say to John Hancock and the Adams boys (the hot blooded Sam and his cousin the acerbic John): Why don’t we try to get a better Governor General over here? I have some London contacts that argue this can happen. Or…eventually moving from Tory to patriot…let us see if Lexington and Concord won’t convince the British to sit down with us…rather than be a hot-head who would argue for complete independence.

With the Mexican War, Lugar would be an opponent…to the contrived preemptive war and to Polk who insisted that the nation include California and Texas. Would Lugar be remembered and venerated as an opponent of that war? I think not. Polk is even now coming into his own. We wouldn’t have had California or Texas without him.

In the debate before the Civil War, Dick Lugar would be an abolitionist but one who would allay war…rotating between Breckenridge and Seward rather than Lincoln (Lincoln would be too oracular for the dogged briefer Lugar) and see if with a President Seward, war could not be averted and a gradualism could be made on the Supreme Court that would replace Roger Taney, author of Dred Scott, with someone more…more…in Lugar’s constant word…reasonable.

In the fight over World War I, Lugar would be inestimably right—insisting that we stay out. The same in World War II but all the same he would have voted for Lend-Lease. That’s the GS-18. Make a satisfactory conclusion to the conflict.

There’s nothing bad about this man or bad about having the soul of a GS-18. But he is no one to “go to the well with” in the old Senate phrase…no one to stand with those who are solitary in defense of change no matter what. His persona also fits the GS-18. Dull, scholarly with a passion not for action but for analysis…such deep analysis that almost makes one go mad to hear him…he belongs in the Senate…and he is certainly not afraid of losing his seat because Indianans reelected him to his unprecedented seventh term with 70% of the vote.

He has tried to run for president before—notably in 2000. It was short-lived. Dick Lugar is no one to sit in the cockpit seat of action that is the presidency today…beset with terrorism and conflict…without practicing his old GS-18 status. Fortunately God has seen to it that he remains the Senate’s GS-18…a favor to Dick Lugar…

…and the nation.