Monday, July 16, 2007
Personal Asides: With Chuck Hagel as a Litany of Conservatives-turned Liberal, Its the Age-Old Stand Tall in Georgetown Seduction Ronald Reagans Favorite CIA Story (as Retold by Ed Meese).
Hagel Standing Tall.
To one who has been involved in politics covering it, staffing it, serving in governance and lobbying it since he was 25 and is going on 79 each bracket of years brings new cases of standing tall in Georgetownan unique liberal malady but which has great attraction to Republicanswhich first reared its ugly head with the GOP in 1941. From 2000 until last year, it was John McCain. Now its Chuck Hagel. The pattern is so familiar that it makes me want to slash my wrists so as not to witness it again. But as self-slaughter is outlawed by the canons of God and man, I just have to grit my teeth and endure it and media to whom all is ever new because STIG always favors their liberal prejudices.
STIG or Standing Tall in Georgetown is the phrase invented by the newsman and novelist Allen Drury who covered the U. S. Senate for years for the New York Times beginning with the best novel ever written about Washington politics, Advise and Consent. It is the story of controversy over the Senate confirmation of a secretary of state, clearly inspired by the investigation of Alger Hiss. With Drury, novel surnames are pretty closein this case, the secretary of state is named Robert A. Leffingwell but a similar Senate confirmation battle was fought over David E. Lilienthal, TVA chairman and head of the AEC under Roosevelt and Truman. The novels are written from a conservative and anti-communist point of view, surprising from a New York Times Washington bureau staffer.
Georgetown in Drurys 1959 novel is the same Georgetown as exists today, the home of culturally literate, guilt-ridden and politically correct affluent white liberals who formulate much of the media agenda. If you are a repentant conservative and embrace liberal dogma supposedly heedless of what it will do to your career because you are an idealist you will (a) stand tall in Georgetown and be invited to its cocktail soirees and (b) thereupon get a huge bunch of favorable media attention in the main journals that excite liberals: the Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and powerful media interests in the east. That will enable you to catapult to the topmost stature overnight being depicted as one who has grown has become mature through sobering events. The intriguing thing is that while STIG gets adulatory coverage for its protagonists in the short-run, thus far all of them have failed to score with the subliminal object: the presidency.
STIG runs through all of Drurys phenomenal political books which are sequels to Advise and Consent and I have read them all A Shade of Difference (1962), Capable of Honor (1966), Preserve and Protect (1968), Come Nineveh, Come Tyre (1973) and A Promise of Joy (1975). In Advise and Consent, which won a Pulitzer prize, the character of Sen. Bob Munson is clearly Sen. Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio), a Drury favorite. In the book, Munson resigns as majority leader out of conviction but is reelected to the post, identical to the case of Sen. Alben Barkley (D-Ky.) who stepped down in a fight with FDR but who was reelected by his colleagues. In the book, the suicide of Sen. Brigham Anderson resembles that of real-life Senator Lester C. Hunt (D-Wyoming). The fictional Anderson was fearful that his homosexuality would be uncovered by political enemies so he shot himself in his Senate office and died instantly; in real life, Hunt feared his political enemies would publicize his sons homosexuality: he shot himself in his Senate office and lived for a short time. Whether Drury was a homosexual himself is not known, but he was a lifelong bachelornot that theres anything wrong with that as professional political correctionists were prone to say in Seinfeld.
In addition to conveying the utmost realism, the second book in the series, Capable of Honor, skews the media as only Drury, a knowledgeable reporter who knew all the vainglorious players could. There is Walter Dobius, a snide liberal political columnist. There is one Frankly Unctuous who resembles David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. It is here where the zest to stand tall in Georgetown is shown as politicians try to capture instant acclaim for changing stance and embracing as a matter of conscientious conviction long-held liberal ideas that have been current in Georgetown salons since FDR.
John McCain was a regular STIG because he embraced campaign reform, dissed evangelical politics, supported global warming initiatives and generally criticized George W. Bush (while putting his pro-life credentials on the back burner). But when he started running again for president by trooping it up with conservatives in the 2006 congressionals, he lost the franchise; and now with his determination to gasp!...WIN the Iraq War he is definitely persona-non-grata. His hawkishness on the War dispels any luster that may have come from support of amnesty with Ted Kennedy. So he is a no-no. Dead meat with those who value STIG.
Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, was in STIG until he decided not to run for president. He belongs in the Drury books because he is supposedly a straight arrow, coming from a solid conservative corn-stalk state who out of conviction grabs at the brass ring of popularity and basks in the glow of the big newsmagazines, the networks, the thumb-sucking big daily columnists and the wire services. Hagels big passion has been to become president. Not a chance now because of STIG. And before Hagel, there was a long line of them.
Starting with the very first, Wendell L. Willkie, a Commonwealth & Southern utility executive and lawyer born in Elwood, Indiana with a shaggy dark haircut falling carelessly over his forehead, who became a Republican to oppose New Deal public power monopolies. Willkie was a paradox, a former active Democrat who voted for Roosevelt twice and campaigned for him but who was drawn into the Republican fold by the alleged unconstitutionality of the federal government invading the private electric power field with the TVA. He became the darling of certain Republican newspaper publishers like the more liberal New York Herald-Tribune and the Cowles publicationsnewspapers in DesMoines and Minneapolis and Look magazine.
For a while he seemed to be a media darling, made so by the covert work of his gorgeous mistress who combined a powerfully sexual personality with powerful intellectuality, Irita Bradford Van Doren, the book editor of The New York Herald-Tribune, and the divorced wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Carl Van Doren after a 23 year marriage and three children. The affair which lasted throughout Willkies life was known by his wife as well as the media but covered up. Van Doren, a year older than Willkie and regarded as a great beauty, tutored him, got him to become conversant with books and literary palaver which paid off when Willkie scored big-time on the ranking network radio show that bewitched all intellectuals, Clifton Fadimans Information Please. She wrote Willkies key speeches and ghost-wrote many articles by him. Toward the end of his short life she was teaching him to speak from notes rather than from a script. She could never get him to stop eating cheeseburgers and fries, washing them down with chocolate maltswhich killed him.
Willkie was slated to be a sure loser to FDRbut what got him closer to overtaking Roosevelt was the third term issue and late in the campaign Willkies announced opposition to the U. S. entering World War II, which he insinuated (correctly) that FDR was pushing. That stand united the Republican base behind him which until then had been faltering. Willkie got 44.8% of the popular vote to FDRs 54.7% but the electoral vote was more lopsided449 for FDR, 82 for Willkie.
Then, following his loss to FDR at age 48with apparently many more years ahead of him in national politics--the husky Willkie became to change his political persona with Irita as his mentor as well as lover. He became an instant internationalist, traveled to key hot spots in the world, wrote a book One World (really Iritas masterpiece) which promulgated the global creed and listened to friends of FDR suggest to him that he run for vice president in 1944 with Roosevelt. It didnt work out. But as the media played up his growth, Willkie lost a sizable chunk of the Republican base and wound up repenting his old isolationist stand by describing it as campaign oratory. He lost the Wisconsin primary in 1944 heavily and was not well received by either party. But he stood tall in Georgetown with Irita at his side while the liberals believed that were he to become the GOP nominee in 1944, they would have nothing to fear regardless of who won the presidency: FDR or Willkie.
Then Willkie had a major heart attack and died before the 1944 election at age 52; his old running mate, Sen. Charles McNary of Oregon had died earlier making their deaths the first time in U. S. history that presidential and vice presidential candidates of the same party died before the end of the term to which they sought election (Irita Van Doren, his mistress outlived him by 22 years). Willkie was the first STIG liberal Republican hero to the media. But he was a man without a party, not unlike Benedict Arnold after his defection whose last wish was to be laid out in a coffin in his old Continental Army uniform of general.
A late-blooming STIG was Theodore Roosevelt, who, returning from Africa and longing to return to the presidency he gave up by deciding not to run again, lost the 1912 GOP presidential nomination, switched to the Progressive party, stood very, very tall in Georgetown but lost to Woodrow Wilson. His last act was to try to convince Woodrow Wilson (who was standoffish and definitely not STIG) to send him to World War I as a general with a detachment. No luck. Wilson wasnt that crazy.
Others who STIG have included
Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, defeated by Willkie for the 1940 nomination, who first ran in 1940 for president as a conservative then decided to Stand Tall in Georgetown, running for president in 1944 and 1948, losing both times; Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota, who embraced internationalism, becoming a founding member of the UN Charter, running for the presidential nomination in 1948, 1952, for governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia, for president again in 1968 and for congressman in Minnesota in 1980, losing all attempts. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (R-Mass.), a former conservative who was the toast of Georgetowns salons, then lost reelection; ran for the presidential nomination and lost it. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-Mich.), a former conservative who sought the Republican nomination in 1948 and lost it but who switched to suit the fancy of a prominent and wealthy Republican woman with whom he was enamored. . Sen. Wayne Morse (R-Ore.) who was celebrated for his liberalism, switched to independent and then Democrat.
Then came the big howitzer, Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.), who started as a conservative, cast a deciding vote on House Rules to send the civil rights bill of 1968 to the floor; was elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, became co-author of a campaign reform bill with Rep. Morris Udall (D-Utah), ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, lost it, became an independent and ran for president later that year but was frustrated by the rules of campaign finance which he had written; became a Democrat and is now in private life. Sen. Charles H. Percy, whose campaigns had been favorable to Israel, switched to an even hand and even anti-Israel position which was pleasing to Georgetown; he lost reelection to Paul Simon, who by opposing Reagans tax cuts STIG. Rep. Paul (Pete) McCloskey (R-Calif.), a decorated veteran of the Korean War who challenged President Nixon in the 1972 Republican primaries as an opponent of Vietnam. He later became a Democrat.
Mayor John Lindsay of New York, renounced the Republican party and ran for president as a Democrat. Senator Lowell Weicker saw his chance to STIG by becoming a vociferousalmost maniccritic of Richard Nixon on the Watergate committee, then parlayed it to an extremely liberal position on almost every issue. He was defeated by Joseph Lieberman; Weicker then became an independent and was elected governor but never obtained the presidential nomination in either party which he sought. Rep. Paul Findley (R-Ill.) started out as a moderate Republican, serving on the House Foreign Affairs committee. For a long time he got no attention, then he became a vociferous critic of Israel and booster of the Palestinians. He was embraced as a hero and STIG. Not for long; another House member, Dick Durbin, with a fairly conservative downstate voting record (including pro-life) beat him and then moved quickly to the left in the Senate where he STIG by attacking alleged U. S. abuse of suspected terrorists at Abu Grib and Guantanamo (although careful to support Israel).
Sen. James Joffords (R-Vt.) left the Republican party, became an independent, voted to organize the Senate for the Democrats and was revered as STIG for a time. In Reagans time, David Stockman who espoused supply-side economics, split with it when he became budget director and leaked ammunition against Reagan to the Atlantic Monthly. Thus as a former economic conservative who now embraced tax hikes, he was celebrated for STIG. He was taken to the woodshed and ultimately left the Reagan administration, becoming head of a Wall Street investment banking firm, then indicted for irregularities and is now standing trial.
All these were at one time or another Stood Tall in Georgetown. Now cometh Chuck Hagel. He started out as a conservative, somewhat riskily so. Elected to the Senate, he was the freshman who made the greatest impression on his colleagues. But, seduced early to STIG, he got favorable press and widespread TV exposure for his independent stands and because the most acerbic critic of George W. Bush and Iraq in the Senate. Then he broadened it to gain widespread publicity as a foe of President Bush on multifarious issues, ranging past the Iraq War to global warming to commuting Scooter Libbys jail sentence. Hagel, warming up to widespread media attention from his dissent with Bush, indicated he would run for president. Then he invited the media to a huge news conference in Omaha where he said he would announce his decision on a presidential run. All the media were in attendance and the Senator announced that he would not runwhich started a run for the exits as the media wanted desperately to get out of Omaha and back to Washington, D. C. with many a softly expressed oath under their breath. Now Hagel will face the fight of his life in a primary contest with the Republican attorney general.
Ergo: the record is clear. You can stand tall in Georgetown if you are a conservative who turns liberal and recant your past beliefs. But the luster is short, the time on the stage is brief and once discarded youre never revived. Also, dont imagine the publicity widespread TV, radio and news magazine color stories will propel you to the presidency. It has never worked that way with the electorate which historically has suspected turncoats. Still, there are several Republicans standing in line to be anointed. One is Mark Kirk, the Republican congressman from Illinois who has all the credentials: he was for winning in Iraq and has caved since his race on the North Shore was so close. But it is unlikely he will make the STIG cut. If the trickle of applicants runs low, maybe hell be accepted with the past turncoats. Past turncoats.
As indeed they have all been. Whose character have been rightly suspect.
Reagans CIA Joke.
At the Heritage Foundations Chicago get-together Thursday at the University Club, former U. S. attorney general Ed Meese told this story as one of President Reagans favorites.
It has to do with the CIA which at one point in Reagans first term decided to send a covert spy to Northern Ireland to melt into the Irish Republican Army and remain hidden until the CIA would send an emissary over to Ireland to contact him with utmost secrecy. They picked a CIA agent of Irish derivative named Murphy. CIA Director Bill Casey personally instructed Murphy. He was to proceed with utmost caution and secrecy to Ireland and infiltrate the Army, remaining conspicuously loyal but drawing conclusions which he would send back to the U. S. to help the nation mold its policies toward the Irish fanatics. On a rare occasion, Casey said, a CIA operative would come to Murphys hometown to look him up and would frequent certain places of public gatherings. When he thought a man could possibly be Murphy of the CIA the operative would casually say, its a nice day todaybut tomorrow will certainly be better. Then the CIA mole Murphy would identify himself and they would get together for a debriefing.
Two years passed and the CIA sent the operative to a small Irish town. The operative strolled into a pub, ordered a glass of stout and inquired of the bartender if he knew any Murphys in the area.
Yes indeed, said the bartender. Theres a Murphy who is a cobbler; a Murphy whos a plumber. A Murphy who is an electrician and he added, my name is Murphy as well.
The agent looked around, lowered his voice and said to the bartender, its a nice day todaybut tomorrow will certainly be better.
The bartender said, Oh, you mean Murphy the Spy. Hes due in here in about an hour.