Friday, August 31, 2007

Flashback: Two Presidential Candidates from the Same State and Their Differences.


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

It so happens I knew extremely well two presidential candidates who figured importantly in U. S. history in the 20th century—one who codified liberalism as it used to be understood…at least so that it was acceptable to me in some aspects....and another who tipped the balance, effectively unseated a sitting president of the United States and fomented the non-patriotic side of the modern Democratic party.

One was a kind of liberal legend who became a multiple candidate for president, serving as a longtime senator: Hubert H. Humphrey. I covered him extensively and later jousted with him as a staffer for the Republicans. The second was a graduate of my college (many years before me) who had been a Benedictine novice, preparing for the priesthood who left the monastery shortly before ordination: Eugene J. McCarthy. I drank, dined and mused with him. He I knew better than Humphrey—but it is fair to say I knew both of them better than I came to know most politicians ever since.

What were the differences between them? The circumstances of birth for one. Humphrey said: “I must say that the Depression left a lasting impression on me. Much of my politics has been conditioned by it.” Hubert Humphrey, born in 1911, the same year as Ronald Reagan, was indelibly affected by the Depression—in a much more drastic sense than was Reagan. The prairie country of South Dakota where Humphrey grew up had been settled by people who were inured to battling natural forces beyond their control. He was born in the bedroom of a three-room apartment above his father’s drugstore in the tiny town of Wallace, S. D. (population: 181). He was named Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. but men as far back as 1843 in his family inversely used either Horatio Hubert or Hubert Horatio. His mother, Christine Sandnes, was the daughter of a Norwegian sea captain and she unashamedly favored him among her other two children.

Humphrey’s maternal ancestors came from Kristiansand, a southern Norwegian seaport. His grandfather, Andrew, worked on Norwegian merchant ships and was captain of one of the first ships to pass through the new Suez Canal. But he wanted to do better and particularly stay at home with his wife and twelve children—so he came to the United States in the 1880s and, following his bent, followed Norwegian settlers to claim a hundred acres of land near Lily, South Dakota where he built them a sod hut.

The future senator’s paternal ancestors had come to the U. S. even earlier—from the British Isles in pre-Revolutionary days. An Elijah Humphrey of Massachusetts served in the Continental army; Mark Humphrey, a great-grandfather married a cousin of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and came to Minnesota in 1855, three years before statehood. The last of his nine children was John Wadsworth Humphrey who settled on a farm north of the Twin Cities and who set out to make his farm the showplace of the upper Midwest. His son, Hubert, Sr. broke with farming, went to Drew School of Pharmacy in Minneapolis and went to work in a drugstore in Lily, S. D. where he met Christine Sannes. Her father was delighted when she announced that she was engaged because he feared she would marry a Swede, a nationality he felt was distinctly beneath them. Hubert, Sr. and Christine his wife, moved to Wallace, S. D. where they bought their first drugstore and then Doland, a town of 550. Hubert, Sr. was an impractical dreamer and reader. His wife once grew angry at him and dumped a crate of books he bought (when he should have purchased more necessary supplies) into the Minnesota river.

Humphrey told me about “Dad Humphrey” who imbued him with liberalism—reading to his children William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech and Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points. The Humphreys were technically Lutheran but were far more concerned with the social gospel ala Bryan—trying to make life on earth fair and just rather than sticking their nose into theological tracts.

Hubert was called “Pinky” by his mother because of his fair complexion (he was called “pink” later for his liberal political coloration but his legislation to abolish the Communist party ended that speculation). He was seemingly born with a love of the limelight; also a yen to negotiate schoolyard battles. He was in a hurry from the outset, called by one teacher “Hurrying Hubert” because he would bound up the stairs two at a time even when he wasn’t late. He was naturally a bright child (not so much a scholar as his father who loved ideas) but the more practical type. In high school he got all A’s except for a B in Latin and B+ in music. He was the star of the high school debating team.

He told me one time that the most meaningful day in his life was when on Armistice Day, 1932 he was hunting pheasants when the first serious dust storm hit eastern South Dakota. “The sun was blackened out and all you could see was a small, shining disk which was the sun. The heat was terrible and the dust was everywhere. The wells ran dry and people bought bottled water. Then the grasshoppers came, millions of them it seemed like and they even ate the paint off our houses. I thought it was the end of the world.”

The Depression meant that people lost their land and their houses. Homes had to be sold to cover debts. He came home from school one day and found his parents standing together in their orchard and his mother was weeping. There was another man there. His father told him that they would have to sell their house. “And I seemed to learn then, that no matter how competent my father was or good my mother, they could be wrecked by forces over which we had no control.”

That was the day, Humphrey told me, that he vowed to harness a force to fight back against these natural elements—to provide for people who were wiped out. That force was to be, in his estimation, the federal government.


Five years after the birth of Hubert Humphrey, in a small town 150 miles due east—a town named Watkins (population: 760) in Meeker county, a town and county I know very well (which I covered as a young newsman) —Eugene McCarthy was born. Thought of as an Irishman, McCarthy was really not. He was more like his mother, Anna Baden, a brooding, reflective German whose parents were from Catholic Bavaria who came with the surge of Germans to farm in Minnesota after the Civil War. His father, Michael, was a long, lanky dark-haired Irishman, who farmed and did well at it. So well, in fact, that he paid for a huge stained glass window for their church of a haloed saint kneeling, his face uplifted to sunlight. Towering over the town only slightly smaller than the water tower St. Anthony’s church…huge as many are in that heavily Catholic area compared to the size of the town…standing, next to a red-brick school building where Eugene McCarthy went to grade school that was taught by strict German nuns.

And so here’s one contrast. First Humphrey:

The kid Hubert Humphrey was a hustler, fast-moving, a negotiator, who was emotionally destroyed by the dust storms and Depression and vowed to harness a force to fight them—the federal government. He went to the University of Minnesota in September, 1929 to join his older brother Ralph. But then both of Doland’s banks failed, bankrupt farmers were bringing in milk, eggs and butter to barter for drugs and the Humphrey drugstore was wallowing in debt. Hubert had to quit and come home to help out in the middle of his sophomore year. Beneath his exterior optimism was a streak of insecurity and a fear that forces beyond his control could darken his world. Humphrey once told me, “I saw what happens when there’s no money and no crops and when the drought hits. Even now when I see tight money and the Fed raising the discount rate and the prime rate, I’m rightly suspicious of the manipulators of money. One of the reasons I thought so much of FDR is because he was the first president in my lifetime to challenge the power of those money-changers.”

Now McCarthy. A moderately wealthy farm kid:

McCarthy was a serious, reclusive, non-political kid, born to a family serious about Catholicism. He would devour the Harvard Classics, owned by his mother’s oldest sister who lived next door. While his brother and great rival Austin read the comics, McCarthy would devour Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and think deeply about them.

He was powerfully good—almost too good for a kid. Never any trouble. Gene went to nearby St. John’s prep school, a Benedictine academy attached to St. John’s University, 25 miles north of Watkins which meant he had to board there. It was the adjunct to the college where I went. Kids were regimented there and many of them went on to become priests. When Gene spent the summers in Watkins, he drove an old Hudson car making deliveries for a grocer. Other kids in the summers occasionally sneaked a cigarette, once in a while boozed and even tried to fool around with the town’s floozies. Not Gene. He was destined for higher things, his mother said. Silent, thoughtful, McCarthy was somewhat like his father, Mike.

Mike was a strong Republican and Gene was at that time as well. Mike had been the town’s postmaster but got fired when Woodrow Wilson’s Democrats came in. Then he turned to the livestock business for a living and did pretty well. Mike was ornery, never forgetting a fancied insult with a knack of making fun of his enemies that would drive some of them to the point of threatening to beat him up. Mike never forgot a slight. That trait dominated Gene McCarthy. Mike never was self-deprecating; neither was Gene. But they were different, too. Gene, a natural athlete loved baseball; Mike thought sports a waste of time. One summer after high school, Gene signed up as a semi-pro and went to northern Minnesota to play for a pittance. Mike scoffed. Gene suffered a ruptured appendix and had to come home. Mike said, good—a waste of time anyways. But Gene played baseball in summers at Watkins and was a very good first baseman on the St. John’s prep team.

While Hubert Humphrey was comforting his parents for having to sell their house, McCarthy—the scion of a moderate but comfortable income—was learning about Benedict and one of his mottos, “Keep death daily before your eyes.” St. John’s, where I went to school (not at the same time but in the same conservative German era as McCarthy) is situated in the middle of 2,400 acres of woods and two lakes, laid out like the Bavarian abbey of Metten which sent monks to form St. Vincent’s monastery in Pennsylvania and from there to Minnesota in 1857. It’s the oldest college in the state. When I went there as when Gene did much earlier, you heard about Benedict as if he had only recently died (he founded the Order in 529). When Gene went there the abbey was dominated by an early architect of liturgical renewal—Father Virgil Michel OSB.

Virgil (as he is still called around there although he died very early, in his 40s in 1938) was a living antecedent of Vatican II. When Gene went to St. John’s, Virgil Michel ran the place: spoke of vernacular in the liturgy, of social justice. When I went there, he had been dead six years and a counterbalance was setting in. I count myself lucky that I gleaned some of the pre-Vatican II stuff from Virgil’s inheritors but also the traditionalism of Virgil’s great counter-balancer, Father Ernest Kilzer OSB whom Gene never had a lot to do with since he was a Virgil disciple.

So while young Humphrey was vowing to work for a bigger federal government to stave off natural disasters and take care of people from cradle to the grave, Gene was poring over “Rerum Novarum,” the encyclical of Leo XIII and “Quadragesimo Anno,” a refinement of “Rerum” published 40 years later by Pius XI. Virgil took the encyclicals and spun up a social gospel which Gene ate up. I was taught by Ernie who stuck to the text and didn’t depart in flights of liberal fantasy. Ernie told me once: “I think Virgil was great but he went off the deep end, tied liberalism to Catholicism and took Gene and a lot of others with him.”

Humphrey the poor boy (not very interested in religion) who had to drop out of school (he returned much later) and had a fear of uncontrollable events which he wanted to allay with government…and McCarthy who was afraid of very little but tied Catholicism indissolubly to the liberal Democratic party with the feeling that virtue depended on implementing the outlines of the Popes’ social dogmas to politics. They were to meet later and clash in a fight that changed the course of the nation and their party.

More next time.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Personal Aside: The Lauzen-Oberweis Differences.


The Difference.

Earlier this week I suggested rhetorically that if there are no ideological differences between conservatives Jim Oberweis and Chris Lauzen in the 14th district, perhaps one or the other of them should vacate the lists rather than run the risk of a third candidate…a liberal, pro-choice Republican, the mayor of Geneva…winning the nomination.

A number of views came in, most of which are from Lauzen people and are revelatory. Of course as is expected someone named “Lawrence” responded by calling me names—but Lawrence who salts his missives occasionally in capital letters is a pretty sick puppy. Anyhow, there have come in several items that list the differences between Oberweis and Lauzen which necessitate, a number of people said, a primary race. These observations come from a variety of sources—not directly from either candidate…but these I present now reflect the views, pretty generally, of Lauzen supporters. So here goes. If you favor Lauzen or Oberweis, give me your views which I will record here (I am sure Lawrence will; having called me a traitor to my country and now “pig” he will have to think up others if his keeper allows him a sharp instrument like a pencil or pen with which to write).

From the first batch I received over the past days:

First difference: Lauzen has been doing for 15 years what Oberweis has promised in three campaigns.

Second: Lauzen wins elections; Jim loses them. Lauzen has an 11 to 1 record since March, 1992—the only loss coming in November, 1998 for comptroller. However in that race he won each of the five largest counties in the 14th: DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Lee over Dan Hynes.

Third, Oberweis ran: for the U. S. Senate in the GOP primary and lost in March, 2002; ran for the U. S. Senate again in 2004’s primary and lost. Then he tried for the Republican governor’s nomination in 2006 and lost. He sp;ent an average of $2.5 million per primary. He lost campaigns for: State Republican chairman; Kane county Republican chairman and 14th district GOP state central committeeman.

Fourth, Lauzen debates with statistics in a temperate manner; Oberweis with a blunderbuss. In a state Senate debate, Lauzen was the only member of the 59-member body to speak and vote against providing 2/3rds tuition discounts to illegal immigrants (thus taking admission slots away from legal citizens at Illinois public universities). Oberweis’ approach was to fly a helicopter over Soldier field and misquote statistics. While in the state Senate a subsequent vote was won by a single vote because the political line had been drawn in Lauzen’s first debate, Oberweis had become an easier target to caricaturize and damage which would be easy prey for a Rahm Emanuel-type campaign in the general.

Fifth, while Lauzen has been unambiguously pro-life, Oberweis has been quoted as saying that pro-life people demonstrated an intolerance and zealotgry comparable to the Taliban. He is still trying to clarify where he stands on a number of issues and the Taliban issue comes up all the time.

Sixth, Lauzen sponsored the successful “Truth in Budgeting” and “Truth in Pensions” bills to bolster his reputation as a fiscal conservative, Oberweis reiterates campaign promises.

Seventh, the fact that Oberweis has spent $7.5 million of his own money in three earlier runs and thus far $5 million in this, a question must be raised whether he is in sync with voters who have to get the mortgage paid, pay for college, not being wiped out by a medical emergency

Eighth, 88% of the people in Kaneville, Ill. and 80% in Big Rock have voted in the referendum against the Prairie Parkway or “Sprawlway” or “Outer Belt” aka “Hastert Highway.” Whether well-founded or not, there is a widespread, serious resentment about the perception that he may have profited $2 million directly or indirectly from transportation decisions made in Washington, D. C. Dick Morris, in his recent book “Outrage,” used one of Hastert’s two sons who worked as lobbyists as examples of what’s wrong with our system of self-governance.

Ninth, now that the centerline has been established by IDOT for the future transportation corridor, the current decision is “how do we best spend the $207 million earmark that we are grateful Hastert secured for the “north-south connector between Routes 88 and 80?” A great majority support the “Route 47 Plus Plan” which reliecves immediate traffic congestion and for now protects many environmental concerns rather than building a 5-mile stretch of the Prairie Parkway between Routes 34 and 71 which could most likely benefit land speculators rather than relieve traffic. Since Jim Oberweis has said he supports “the Hastert legacy,” he will frustrate his neighbors’ immediate traffic concerns about Rt. 47 and the surrounding network of north-south roads in Kane and Kendall, starting with widening Rt. 47 through downtown Yorkville. Lauzen is in favor of the “47 Plus Plan.”

Tenth, Lauzen stood up to the big drug companies and their huge profits by allowing consumers to purchase drugs through safe Canadian suppliers while it was a legal process. A program that his volunteers started at no cost to taxpayers saved customers an average of 50% on their prescription bills. The question is what is the Oberweis position of helping people on this issue.


Oberweis people are invited to contribute to this further discussion. We might as well understand that there will be a primary and the debate could well be conducted right here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flashback: McTavish J. Puppy Makes a Pig of Himself by Eating a Whole Box of Chocolates. Talk About Being as Sick as a Dog!

[Reminiscences, with special attention to our grandchildren. Please note that if you are bored, there are some in our family…children (but more adults than you can imagine)…who are decidedly fascinated.]

By his first Thanksgiving at our house, McTavish J. Puppy, Esq. was in full form…greeting everybody at the door with tail wagging so furiously I thought it would fly off…sniffing all the guests and ingratiating himself with everyone. He weighed seven pounds, had been housebroken and was bursting with delight at all the children in the family who played with him. He occupied center stage, even dominating the field over some of the babies—and then we went to the dining room for the inevitable turkey. No one paid attention to where McTavish was (some of us thought he would be making the rounds under the table begging for human food). We didn’t give him a thought (which was a great mistake). When later I strolled into the front room, I saw him standing on his hind legs, finishing the devouring of a box of chocolates one of our kids brought.

McTavish was admonished to drop down and abandon the chocolates—which he did. The move to take him out of the front room to a discreet place came too late. Violently ill, this was the culmination of his Thanksgiving. The siege continued throughout the night, long after the guests left (although the out-of-towners were staying at our house). When he was completely empty, I picked him up at midnight, lay down on the sun-porch couch and placed him on my chest.

“Now, sir. You have just been an object lesson in why puppies like you are not given human food.”

I don’t understand.

“No puppy ever does. It was our fault. We left the box of chocolates where you could get it. How do you feel?”

Empty. I could stand a treat.

“No we must give your innards a rest. Your nose is warm. If I could impress on you that your innards are not the same as ours and hence what tastes very good to you is not good for you—if I could do that, I’d save you a lot of grief. See, your regular dry food that the Mistress puts in your dish—the food you have every day—supplies you the nutrients you need and also spares you what just happened. Happened to you and to our carpeting, in the front room, down the hall as you made your way to my room…all the way through. But being a puppy you are passion’s plaything: what tastes good is fun to eat.”

Not right now.

“No but in the future. That’s why while you think us cruel, we deprive you of human food like chocolates in order to spare you—and us—what we went through tonight.”

Everybody has gone?

“Yes, they left while you were sleeping it off in the tank in the garage. Do you think you are well enough to spend the remainder of the night in your usual spot, in the television room?”

I would prefer to spend the night here, on your chest.

“Well maybe I’ll let you do this for awhile. Your tummy is rolling.”

Well, let’s not talk about it anymore. I’ll just try to sleep on your chest.


That was bad enough but Puppy awoke the next morning…no, not on my chest…I had carried him to his regular sleeping quarters in the TV room and he stirred not a muscle…he awoke the next morning having forgotten it all. It was scary but not the worst. No, probably the most scary thing happened the following year when on the 4th of July we went to the Magnor farm, owned by the patriarch of the Magnor family whose son married our daughter Mary.

We brought Puppy for his first excursion, allowing him to run free across the fields without a leash over many acres of fertile fields. All was fine; we had a wonderful picnic dinner and I must admit I sneaked a few bits of hot dog to him on the porch. The Magnor dog, Nick, a large Laborador with long, springy legs who could cover the distance between the house and the nearby fishing pond like a Greyhound, was on hand, paying very little attention to Puppy as befits a big dog’s habit of ignoring a little fellow. It didn’t bother Puppy who was on his glad-handing tour, greeting everybody, sniffing and barking delightedly at squirrels.

Then some of the men in the family began the ritual of preparing to set off firecrackers and roman candles. Shrewdly, Nick the Labrador, saw them getting ready and ambled up to the porch. With his nose he opened the door and settled down in the living room, an ear turning only slightly to the noise. We enjoyed the noise but then one of us said:

Where is Puppy?


Frightened out of his wits at the noise, terrified that something dreadful was wrong, McTavish J. Puppy raced unobserved down a trail and into the woods. On and on he went, his ears laid back in fright at the terrible sound.

Lillian and I thought that it would be very possible that we might not ever see McTavish again. The woods were alive with animals including fox and other predators. Puppy would be a dainty white-fur morsel. We canvassed the area and called his name. Finally one of our number, in a road runner vehicle trundled down a remote trail and out of the timber came Himself, badly shaken. He was scooped up and returned.

That night back in our house while he ruminated as he lay on my chest, he seemed to feel that for a time he would be irretrievably lost.

“You should have followed Nick,” I said. “He opened the door with his nose and went inside.”

Of course. But I just kept running further into the brush.

“No matter,” I said. “You’re back home now. The wild-wild outdoors is not for you, eh?”

I won’t go that far. But a time around the block on that super-long leash, running back and forth at squirrels, barking at dogs who try to invade my territory, is sufficient.

Then he fell asleep and once again was carried back to his appointed place.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Personal Asides: Can’t Wait `Til I Climb the “Fred-Head” Express…Susannah Mendoza a Democratic Charmer…This May be Oberweis’ Time at Last.


“All Aboard!”

Here it is, folks…a sure-fire way to get pumped up for the next Republican presidential victory in 2008! Fred Thompson in Indianapolis:

“I simply believe that on the present course that we’re going to be a weaker, less prosperous, more divided nation than what we have been. I do not say that lightly, but I think it’s the truth. And I think the American people are ready for the truth.”

Rank that with Reagan at his best…JFK pledging to get the country “moving again”…Eisenhower issuing a call to join his crusade when he campaigned for the nomination in 1952. Not quite.

Susanna Mendoza.

Rep. Susanna Mendoza (D-Chicago), who represents the 1st district composed of the near southwest side, is a tiny, 95 lb. charmer who looks all of 12 but who has been in the House for six years. She was my guest along with Paul Caprio, director-Family Pac, Sunday night. I have never heard such leveled criticism both of the governor of her own party and of Sen. Emil Jones, the Senate president of her party. It seems to me that the ingredients may well be ripe for a Republican comeback in the future. Why?

Democrats have proven that the more of them who get elected the more fractious they become and are unable to govern. I understand that Speaker Madigan is biding the time when his daughter runs for governor—but that won’t be until 2010 and the avalanche of discontent will have hit high tide by then.

Oberweis’ Time?

It appears obvious that Denny Hastert has all but endorsed Jim Oberweis as his successor for the 14th. If that is true, a candidate who has embodied all that conservatives have really been seeking is on the cusp of winning. But what about State Sen. Chris Lauzen who I would distinctly prefer? I asked Chris where the differences are between him and Jim Oberweis and he pointed out that they appear to be indistinct…the fact that Oberweis has not been able to get elected over a period of time. But given that Hastert has seemingly endorsed him and that Oberweis is flush with money, the next loser may well be Chris. Perhaps he might want to discard his intention to run for Congress and wait for a better opportunity.

The danger is that with Lauzen and Oberweis dividing the conservative vote, a liberal Republican like the mayor of Geneva may get in. Of course, despite no discernible differences, Chris Lauzen will lower his head and plunge right into the brick wall along with his followers…repenting at leisure as they have so often in the past when they rejected a change of course when circumstances required it. For the record, I am still for Lauzen but is there no accommodation for circumstances? We’ll see.

Flashback: And so the Romance Begins Between McTavish J. Puppy and His “Master” (Only Technically).

[Continuing the memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

At 2 a.m. in the midst of his first night at home with his new adoptees, McTavish J. Puppy, then two weeks old, began to complain loudly in his cage on the sun-porch…which woke me up (sleeping on the couch). I pulled him out of the cage and perched him on my chest as I lay there in the dark. He began to cover me with kisses which he was wont to do anyhow. Dogs, as you must know, are completely self-engrossed creatures, having been created thus by God who meant them to be supremely concerned with survival.

But Puppy was a bit different. He expressed thanks for the rescue and looked at me steadily with his deep brown eyes.

“I thought,” said I, “that you would feel secure in your cage. At least that is what the dog manual says. You are content within four close walls to give you a sense of security.”

You read wrong, he intimated, continuing to lick my face. I deeply miss all the other dogs and the fragrant smells in Aunt Betty’s house.

“Fragrant smell! My eyeglasses steamed over when I entered the place. There are more dogs in that house than the Health Department warrants, assuredly.”

It is what you are used to. I was fast asleep until now when I woke and began the miss the chaos and the cacophony of Aunt Betty’s. Tell me, will I like it here?

“I dearly hope so. Now all two pounds of you are lying on my chest which rather makes it hard to breathe. But what say you lie next to me on this soft couch and sleep? It’s only 2 a.m.”

I’d prefer to lie on your chest but now that you’ve moved me I will lie next to you on this couch but very close to assure me of a human presence. This is what I used to do with all my colleagues in the same bed as Aunt Betty.

“Good night! You mean she slept with all of you?”

All of us who could fit in the same bed. Some of us would tumble out and cry to be pulled back which she would do.

“I have one worry, however.”


“You aren’t housebroken and the mistress of this house will be angered if you behave as you did with Aunt Betty on this couch. Why don’t I return you to your cage and let us begin the procedure of training you tomorrow, our first day together?”

Well, if you insist.

“I am sure you would feel better with the security of the cage and the fact that I am sleeping nearby. I know I would without worrying unduly about your free-spiritedness on this couch.

You will remain here?

“I will. Only a few steps away from your cage.”

Very well.

“I’ll just pick you up like this and give you a tender kiss goodnight like this—and then carry you to your cage.”

Is what you just did a kiss? Bringing your lips together in a smacking sound on my mouth?

“Yes. It is what humans do.”

Very well. It is strange. We lick. You--.


You will stick around here, very close?

“I shall. Now both of us should get some sleep.”

In the next few days, Puppy learned that whenever he felt the urge, he should go to the back door and be lifted up to a cage in the garage. Soon he had accomplished this lesson. That was a major achievement.

“I am proud of you,” I said.

This is something we never had to do at Aunt Betty’s.

“I fully understand. But this is something you will get the hang of soon.”

What do you call this again?

“Civilization. We relieve ourselves in a certain place—I in the bathroom and you in the tank in the garage and not wherever you pleased as at Aunt Betty’s.”

Ah well. I will try to remember. You will take me for walks and continue to throw the stick?


Will I continue to get treats that you introduced me to today?

“Of course.”

Then we’ll continue to get along fine. You notice that occasionally I run through the house in a wild fashion, turning on a dime, from room to room as fast as I can just to get the thrill of speed in my legs while you call out “crazy puppy!” as if I were demented?

“Yes, that’s fun.”

. And that I like to tug on the leash when we take a walk in hopes that you’ll tug back?

“I do. Charming.”

Then I go to sleep in a secluded nook near the kitchen.

“I’ve noticed that.”

Well, I’m adjusting somewhat.

“Very well, too.”

Whenever I can think of something you can do for me I’ll let you know. I think we will get along fine.

“I’m sure we will.”

One thing. I notice I get one treat every time I come in from the tank in the garage. That’s to--.

“Encourage you to follow that routine.”

I understand. But only one treat at a time?


Not two? I have been hoping for two.

“I realize that. But this is how the world works. Not as many treats as we would like, what we call…”

Civilization. See? I’m catching on.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Personal Asides: Vetoing a 3% Pay Hike for the Social Service Workers Who Perform the Most Disgusting Yet Essential Work, as “Pork,” the Governor at the Same Time Signs Hefty Pay Raises for Himself and the Legislature…Thomas Magnor Graduates...

Personal Asides: Vetoing a 3% Pay Hike for the Social Service Workers Who Perform the Most Disgusting Yet Essential Work, as “Pork,” the Governor at the Same Time Signs Hefty Pay Raises for Himself and the Legislature…Thomas Magnor Graduates with Honors from U of Wis.…Fred Thompson Really Gets One Pumped Up (Sarcasm).


“Then let them eat cake,” pooh-poohed Marie Antoinette as she turned from the Versailles window after watching the impoverished hungry demand bread.


Vowing to veto “pork,” the governor has excised what is known as the “cost of doing business” or menial 3% pay raises for those across the state who do the most unutterably of unattractive work in our mental institutions and addiction treatment centers…people the poor depend on…paid by essential state help to continue serving the poorest of the poor. Total bill: $3 million out of a total near $60 billion in spending.

At the same time he has given himself…although he has not accepted it…and the legislature itself hefty pay raises. Our praise of Tom Cross the Republican House leader who has fought for the cause of these essential people who clean toilets, minister to those who are burdened with illness and carry on in their activities loyally…while being bruited around as recipients of “pork.”

Vetoes that deprive essential but menial workers of the social justice of a living wage which they are due…to use their condition as hostage for an utterly out-of-sight major expense for a universal health care program deemed to suffuse the governor’s personal political agenda….provide a case study in the height of cynicism to which this state is witness.

In total he has slashed $463 million from the budget the legislature sent him on August 13 with well over $100 million coming from health and human services…including the 3% to the essential institutional workers. Instinctively, Rod Blagojevich is a plunger, a gambler who is throwing a Hail Mary pass, hoping for a big score. He is willing to use any means at all—bribery with public funds included—to intimidate or seduce the legislature to come up with support for his Orwellian health care scheme which the state cannot support.

Thomas Magnor.

Thomas William Magnor of Brookfield, Wisconsin has graduated with high honors from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. His major was accounting and he will continue for a fifth year when he will get his masters in accounting and prepare for the CPA. Why do I mention this? Because he is smart. Because his mother is youthfully exuberant and because his father is a terrific role model. And because Thomas Magnor is my eldest grandson. In that order. But his accounting skill and masterly attention to detail comes from his paternal grandfather…W. Thomas Magnor…an early University of Chicago MBA and top accountant and not from me (I have delegated totaling our checkbook to Lillian).

Fred Thompson.

Boy, the message on the stump from not-yet-announced-presidential-candidate-maybe Fred Thompson really gets one pumped up. Take a listen to his message in Indianapolis Saturday, delivered to the Midwest Republican Leadership conference numbering about 500 party activists from 12 states. Here are his bitingly enthusiastic statements from the speech which really pumps one up:

According to the Associated Press, “he spoke mostly in general terms on serious matters, saying that one of the most pressing challenges facing America was national security and the terrorist threat from Islamic radicals. Not enough people take the threat seriously” he said. Wow!

He said: “Our country is in danger and it’s going to be in danger for a long time to come. We’ve got to be more united and more committed than ever before.” Be still my heart.

Government spending is out of control and people have little faith in government solving problems in areas such as energy, education and health care. Huzza! Huzza!

“We probably have more cynicism toward our leadership than in a long time. How do people follow when people don’t have any confidence in what is said and who is saying what?”

Really stimulating stuff. The cadence, the enthusiasm, the optimism—just like Reagan!

Also at the Illinois State Fair, State Sen. Bill Brady, a supporter, who may or may not head up the Thompson campaign in Illinois (odds are, rumors say, he will not)…warmed up the crowd by discussing the Thompson big money contract with NBC.

Just what Republicans need to be revved up.

Yesterday on Fox, films of the candidate moving through a Fair crowd. You can really appreciate what professional makeup and studio lighting can do by seeing the contrast…a big man, baggy pants, cavernous eyes, speaking in a monotone. No, I don’t have a dog in this fight but let me tell you, this buildup is leading up to the biggest letdown since 1898 when the Hero of Manila Bay, Admiral George Dewey told the media he had surveyed the presidency and felt qualified to run because the only duty specified by the Constitution was to enforce the laws…and since Dewey had been obeying orders all his military life, he wouldn’t have any problem doing that.

Let me tell you that was a big disappointment, particularly to me, as I was a GOP party intern that year.

Flashback: Beginning the Long Life of McTavish J. Puppy, Esq., 1991-2007.

[Memoirs for my children and grandchildren].

Long before I retired from Quaker Oats, I had begun to worry how life would be after retirement. Would I join the legions of bone-bored men following their wives, pushing a metal cart in a supermarket while the exciting world whirled without them outside? I have never golfed, have never done well in any sport (a little bit of tennis which I played badly). What in the world would I do with myself? Oh, I would begin a consulting business but no hired-gun work could be as satisfying as that of Quaker…and certainly no client would allow me the freedom of action that I had there.

The kids had long moved out to live their young lives…Tom living in his apartment, Mary having married and busy with her family, Mike having married, Jeanne having married. There were books to be read but good Lord was that all I would be doing? Writing Op Eds and doing the WLS radio show once a week would take very little time at all. Well, I resolved to find things to do—but one thing I wanted was to have a little buddy to be close to. Not as a wife is close, nor one’s children nor one’s grandchildren; indeed, not as another human would be close. But a puppy, male preferred so there would be solidarity. Yes, that’s it. A male puppy.

As a child, I had three dogs which didn’t live long—about a year or two each. That was because in those days they were fed, in addition to canned dog food, the scraps from the table which they devoured happily and with great gusto. But as later science proved, dogs’ innards are not made to grind up and otherwise redistribute into nutrients human food. They love human food but human food is degenerative to their interior organs. It is no act of kindness to give them beefsteak and potatoes from your own plate (which as a pliable tender-hearted puppy fancier I would be sorely tempted to do); it is an act of short-sightedness as it gravely cuts their life span. Well, I could control myself on that score. But the more I thought about it the more I determined I could not live a day without a puppy.

So we decided (Lillian more reluctantly since she knew the primary care of it would fall on her) to buy a puppy. She, as ever the more organized and methodical one, went to the library and researched all the qualifications of a good puppy pet: one who was non-allergenic (I had asthma), very friendly with children (thinking of our grandchildren), one who had a track record for learning the rudiments of being housebroken, one who did not shed unduly…and a few more qualifications. She hit on the decision that it should be a Bichon Frise.

They weigh between 7 and 18 pounds, stand from 9 to 12 inches, have curly, soft white fur that must be groomed regularly to avoid matting; their tails are carried curled over their backs; black or brown eyes provide a striking contrast to the all-white fur. Often they appear to be smiling. They do not shed their fur. They are intelligent little dogs, having inquisitive personalities, are very energetic, like long walks, are most comfortable being close to their owners and enjoy lounging at lap dogs. As show dogs, they usually are full-headed of white fur; but they are more attractive wearing a standard “puppy cut.” They are housebroken using the crate method but males tend to be a bit easier to train than females. They can become territorial, sometimes jealous of attention given to other household animals; they are extremely friendly, are easily excited when encountering people. There is such a thing as a “Bichon Buzz” when—as in the case of an advancing mailman trying to poke letters through a door-slot—they can growl, bark loudly and run feverishly around in circles for a few moments to scare the mailman away.

I had never heard of a Bichon Frise but looked at the photos of them in the magazine and thought this was a good idea. One night—this during the time I was doing the late-night trick on WLS-AM (from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) I mentioned that we were thinking of a Bichon and asked for some advice. All ten lights on the phone winked excitedly. Peggy from downstate, the lady with the velvety voice and provocative turn of phrase (who had once argued that Ladies of the Evening deserve an set, handsome fee so there would be no haggling), said she had a Bichon. And a few days later a book arrived with no return address but from downstate that seemed to settle the matter.

From it I learned that the creature we were to adopt and name McTavish J. Puppy, Esq. came from a far purer blood line with a lengthier pedigree than Lillian’s and my own. While it has become a show dog, the original purpose “was not to chase game, flush birds or herd animals—it is a domestic companion first and foremost.” It is definitely an aristocrat of dogdom. Hailing from Spain, the breed came to be known as “Bichon Tereriffe” the largest of the Canary Islands to which Spanish sailors brought it on their travels to those Islands. It was imported into Europe as a pet for Italian and Spanish noblemen in the 1500s. Under Francis I of France (1515-1547) the Bichon became established into French court society. And Henry II (1574-1589) it became celebrated as royalty of dogdom; Henry could not bear to be separated from his “Woofie” and had a basket fashioned with which to hold him and in which vassals transported him. Of course ladies of the Court, trying to capture the king’s fancy, also adopted their Bichons and soon everyone who was anyone in the female contingent came to court with the small animals in their arms to please the king—which they did.

This carried over to the royalty of Spain where to please the King, Francesco de Goya, official court painter to both Charles III and Charles IV painted included them in various paintings. A Bichon has been immortalized in fine porcelains, one owned by the Marquise de Pompadour in 1750.

I am told Queen Victoria cherished a small pet which was given to her by a Spanish nobleman. Once in a formal throne-room setting, the pet struggled for attention and then gave up, dirtying the royal carpet. The court tittered with laughter. The Queen looked at them tittering, then down at the pet. She arose, swept it up in her arms, announced, “we are not amused!” and stalked out. Thereafter the Court was divided on her use of language. Did she use the royal “we” to refer to herself? Or did she use “we” to refer both to her and her pet? This has not yet been settled. But “we are not amused” has been remembered throughout British history. I like to think the pet was a Bichon.

A portrait of a Bichon on porcelain is on exhibit in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; in the France of Napoleon III (1852-1870) it was at the height of its popularity. However it fell from favor, as most aristocrats did, in the disgusting proletarian era in the France of the late 19th. The blood line was shamefully watered down but resurrected by Madame Nizet de Leemans. She has become the exemplar of Bichons and when she visited the Greater New York Bichon Frise Fanciers Show some two decades ago she triumphed that over her half-century experience as a dog show judge, in her estimation American Bichons “are far superior to those ion France and Belgium.” That did it with me. If I am fated not to be an aristocrat from birth (which as a non-WASP I decidedly am not), I will adopt a true aristocrat--an American Bichon.

Then came the question: where to get one? A neighbor with a Bichon said that there was a very eccentric old Bichon lady who called herself “Aunt Betty” living in an adjoining suburb. Some day Aunt Betty might have to be put away as her house was running with Bichons and she, laughing happily, was antithetical to discipline…with the effect that to enter that house was an unforgettable experience. But we resolved to do it so we called Aunt Betty and were invited over.

On entering her home, my eyeglasses steamed over: the odor to which Aunt Betty was impervious since she never seemed to go outside, was atrocious. She allowed us to sit in her front room (I looking carefully where I was sitting so as not to disturb anything live). I can only describe the odor as overpowering to which Aunt Betty was unaware. The house was running with white furry Bichons. A litter of five had been born just a week ago, she said, and almost on cue a number of siblings came running in. One stopped, looked at me warily, and went on its way. “That’s Agnes!” shouted Aunt Betty. “She’s very aloof! Now here’s her brother! I call him Mr. Personality!” She scooped one up and gave him to me.

He examined me and quickly covered my face with a warm tongue bath. “That’s how he kisses everybody!” shouted Aunt Betty. There were so many balls of white fur tussling, falling around her legs, some of which she scooped up that she seemed engulfed. Still she wasn’t too eager to sell one but decided to do it. I sorely wanted Mr. Personality. So the purchase…or adoption…was done. Some years later a newspaper reported that neighbors had called a suburban health department and an elderly lady who had an ungodly number of Bichon dogs running through her house, was taken away to a more disciplined confinement. That was the end of Aunt Betty.

In the car ride home we named him McTavish (after a similar dog who had lived in our neighborhood). I took McTavish for a brief walk, then in accordance with the rules placed him in a cage on our sun-porch—and to keep company with him, slept on a couch that night. What happened thereafter—and the bonding that made us inseparable—next time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Personal Aside: Publisher’s Wife Touts Her Column For Spotting Michelle’s Possible Dig at Hillary.

Publisher’s Wife.

Apologies: The “Sun-Times’” publisher’s wife who doubles as a high visibility political correspondent chronicling hour-by-hour episodes of the Obama presidential campaign did report the purported dig made by Michelle Obama…and this web-site was derelict in not noticing it. Yet the possible slur could easily have passed in the night as Jennifer Hunter buried it in the fifth paragraph of her story and was suffused in a blob of quotations that made it easy to ignore.

It occurred to Hunter, she said yesterday, that her remark may have been a dig at the Clintons but the Publisher’s Wife let it pass, a fact she now regrets. Well, we here regret it too, but let’s not be inconsolably guilt-ridden about it. The quote, floating in the midst of a paragraph about how diligent Michelle Obama is about her family responsibilities, was presented by Hunter as an observation made more specifically to the need for herself to be more concerned with parental responsibilities, winding up “So our view is that if you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House.” However Hunter is gratified that her column, which in this blog’s estimation is cluttered with girlish exuberance for the Obamas, at least was picked up by the national media.

So if a correction is in order for this website, here it is:

We regret saying that the Publisher’s Wife didn’t report the purported slam at Hillary because it turns out she did, sandwiched it in the fifth paragraph without follow-up, didn’t think enough to muse about it the day after it was printed but is pleased as punch that other news agencies did what she didn’t and gave the Publisher’s Wife some attention nationally. Whee!

Flashback: More Talk Radio Leads to the Moniker for /his WLS Program “We Love Salvi!”

[Fifty years plus of politics written as a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

When I had accumulated enough experience to “run the board” at WLS…meaning punch the right buttons, keep an ear out for obscenities, “go to break” for commercials and say things of sufficient interest to encourage listeners to call in…they decided that although I was in my mid-sixties and the oldest geezer on the station, I could do some choice spots—like the early morning drive where you show up at 4:30 a.m. to prepare as substitute for full-time hosts on vacation for a 5 to 9 a.m. push when the listenership is at its height, and evening drive (2 to 5 p.m.) in similar circumstances. The early morning drive was what I hated most. I had a terrible time being wide awake and bouncy at that time of the morning when my fellow retiree colleagues were sleeping in. Afternoons weren’t so bad but a combination of the two started to get to me. So I asked management for a gig of my own.

They gave me a choice one (at least I thought it so): Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to Noon. Saturday mornings is when most of the world is recreating, driving to the store with a high listener rating. It so happened that a favorite of mine, Al Salvi, was seeking the Republican U. S. Senate nomination against the establishment favorite, Bob Kustra, the lieutenant governor of the state. Kustra and I had been fast friends during his career in the legislature since we both taught at Loyola (me part-time when I was at Quaker) and lived in the same town, Park Ridge. When he asked me to support his initial run for the state House, I was at Quaker and asked him how he stood on abortion. He didn’t look me straight in the eye which made me think the issue was inconsequential to him and mumbled some equivocation.

I told him: Bob, this issue may not strike you as important but it is number one with me. You’re running for the state House in my district and you’ve asked me to support you. If you’re not pro-life, forget it.

I knew the pressure he was under. He was a favorite of Park Ridge Mayor Martin Butler who typified the get-along, go-along Republican good old boy run-of-the-mill follower-man-ship of Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan. Thompson was a legendary pro-abort; Edgar was a mild-mannered pro-abort; Ryan was a fairly (then) flat-out pro-lifer but he was downplaying it. I could see that Kustra’s inclination was to get along with Butler whose wife Jeri was a formidable organizer. Jeri was a pro-abort but Marty technically was not. Kustra didn’t bat an eye but said he was pro-life.

I said: I don’t mean now, Bob. I mean after you get in. A lot of people begin as pro-lifers and then when they get in with the liberal GOP establishment start to “grow” and become pro-abort.

Kustra said: “You’re really tough on that issue, aren’t you?”

I said yes. Tough enough to have demonstrated, having run the risk of picketing abortion clinics which were I to be arrested could conceivably jeopardize my business career—if not get me fired. So yes, my friend, the issue does mean much to me and I’m tough on it.

He said: “Okay, I’m pro-life. I’m a Catholic, teach poly sci at Loyola and went to St. Benedict College, Atchison, Kansas where the Benedictines indoctrinated me—so yes, I’m pro-life.”

I said: I don’t mean that you’re personally pro-life but will rise above principle to support legislation and actions on the other side…just like Jimmy Carter. I mean I will hold you to pro-life votes all down the line, from opposition to public funding of abortion to anything else that comes your way.

He replied: “Okay! Okay! Enough already! I’ll do it!”

That wasn’t the kind of response I wanted but he was the only candidate at that time who gave me that pledge—so I became his finance chairman, appealed in his behalf to brother and sister directors of corporate PACs. He won, became quite popular and after a few terms sought the state Senate. At that time he asked me to support him over a dedicated pro-lifer, John Nimrod whom he was eager to challenge in a primary. Nimrod’s pro-life credentials were not in question but he was an erratic individual, having run in congressional primaries and approached campaigns in a half hazard way. As an example, when he announced for Congress for his second go-round he not only put my name in his press release as a supporter without talking to me but said I was his campaign manager—again without talking to me. I had to disavow the campaign manager “appointment’ and talked to him, saying: John, why didn’t you cal me first before you issued the release?

His answer: Aw, I thought my staff did. Baloney. No way was I going to support someone with that kind of cavalier approach.

So when Kustra, a Ph.D in politics and a bright, astute guy, asked me to support him against Nimrod, I did but asked him to reaffirm his stand on pro-life. He said: “Hey, don’t you know my stand by now? “ I said: well, frankly, Bob, there were times when I had to pull your arm out of its socket to vote pro-life.

He said: “But I always did, didn’t I?

Yes. But tell me you’re going to continue to do this as my state senator as you did as my state Rep even though I had to call you on the phone in Springfield to remind you.

“I will.”

So I joined his campaign, raised money and directed a lot of the organization. He won.

In the state Senate, he became quite a power—the epitome of a suburban moderate, supportive of social needs but fiscally conservative.

After a term or two I kept hearing from him how Park Ridge and his suburban district was changing. No longer as conservative as it had been; Marty Butler and his powerful wife were after him to switch.

I said: “Listen, I’ll give you two reasons why you shouldn’t. One, it’s not right to view a paramount issue in that way. It’s not like an appropriation where you can cut down the numbers—say support a grant for $10 million rather than $15 million. It’s life and death to me. Second let me tell you this: the time for changing on abortion, practically, has long passed. There was a time when the issue was new—before Roe v. Wade—when one could be pro-abort and switch. That happened to Reagan when he was governor, although to be frank with you I don’t think his switch had to do so much with his conviction as the pragmatic nature of the issue…but the point is—that time is over. It’s the 1980s. You switch and it becomes a character issue.

After he became senator, one time we had lunch in the M&M Club downtown and he told me: “Of all my advisers I value you the most. But of all my advisers, you are the only one who insists I stay a pro-lifer.”

Oh, I said, and what are you going to do about it, Bob?

“Nothing. I’m just making the point that the suburbs, especially the fairly well-to-do suburbs like yours and mine, tend to favor Republican lawmakers who have a more moderate approach and I regret to say that being a pro-lifer is a label that they sort of hang on you so that you become known as a rightist.”

I said: It’s Jeri Butler, isn’t it?

He reddened. “Well, yes but also others. There are a good many economic conservatives like you—some who are even more conservative than you on economic issues—who think I’m running under a handicap as a pro-lifer, that’s all.”


“You know them.”

One is Mike Hudson, isn’t it? (Hudson, a neighbor and friend, had my kind of job with Illinois Tool and whose boss was Harold Byron Smith, Jr., a pragmatic party wheel-horse and legendary fund-raiser.)

‘As a matter of fact it is.”

It’s up to you, Bob.

“Okay. Glad to hear you say that.”

It’s up to you but I’ll tell you, you can kiss me goodbye. And so help me God I’ll tell the world how disappointed I am with the switch.

“You wouldn’t.”

I promise you I would.

He buttered a roll, looked down and said: “You have a column in `Crain’s Chicago Business.’ Would you--?”

I tell you I would talk about the character issue and relate this conversation.

“It’s privileged.”

Hey, you never told me it’s privileged.

“Okay, forget it. I’m not switching.”

Good. What you should do is to remember your political science. Remember Edmund Burke who told the electors of Bristol that he would vote his convictions, not be a weathervane and they had the option of defeating him at the next election.

“You know the trouble with you? The Burke thing is everything to you and you ignore the more complex sides of issues.”

Bob. I’m telling you. You switch and I’ll go after you. I mean it.

“You see? You’re putting pressure on me to vote your way. If I were to follow your example and be like Burke, maybe I’d vote pro-choice and take the consequences.”

Go ahead. I’m not stopping you.

“But you’ll blast me.”

So what do you care? You say the suburbs are changing and your being a pro-lifer is akin to being a far-right extremist, you ought to welcome any blast I write and become a moderate hero.

“Forget it. I’m not changing, just examining how strongly you feel about the issue.”

In 1990 with Kustra widely respected as a senate moderate Republican leader despite his pro-life voting record, he was placed in consideration by pro-abort secretary of state Jim Edgar as his choice for lieutenant governor. When I got a call from Kustra the day his name appeared, he didn’t ask. He told me.

“I’ve thought about it and I’m going to announce that I am pro-choice. You have to look at it reasonably.”

I don’t look at the issue of life and death “reasonably” as you put it, Robert.

“Well I’m going to do it. And you?”

I’m going to (and here I described a pincher movement that would remove a male from his manhood).

“There’s something you should know.”

What is that?

“I had the occasion to be with (and me mentioned my boss whom I called General Patton).”


“I brought up the fact that we have been friends and that we disagree on this thing and he said not to give it a thought. Your PAC will support me and he will personally support me.”

And, I said, I hope the money you get will offset the column I’ll write for `Crain’s’ about your lack of character and the wheedling you’re doing on an issue that deserves serious contemplation and not the personal jockeying you’re using. Robert, listen to me--.

“No, you listen to me. I’m going to meet with Edgar tonight and I’m going to be picked. And I’m not going to let something we talked about many years ago when I first ran for state Rep get in the way.”

Goodbye Robert.

Goodbye, Tom.

A day or so later General Patton said he wanted a PAC contribution to Kustra and he expected--.

I said, I hope you’re not expecting that I support him.

He certainly did.

Too bad. Incidentally another year has gone by and each year at an appropriate time I tell you something, I give you some scatological directions and then I go home. So here’s the directions…

And I went home.

When I got home, Lilllian said my boss called three times.

I said: let him wait.

I sat down and wrote the “Crain’s” column and never felt better in my life when I finished it.


The Edgar-Kustra team was elected and reelected. Whenever we saw each other, at political meetings, at conventions, we looked the other way. Once I got on a hotel elevator on the 5th floor; it stopped at the 3rd and Kustra got on. Nobody else. We rode in silence.

Bored and convinced he was getting nowhere as lieutenant governor, he cut a deal with WLS to become a talk show host. Instead of winning applause, the media scorched him, saying that out of craven ambition for the future, he quit the second highest post in state government—even if it wasn’t powerful—to make big bucks as a talk show guy in order to boost himself for future office. It was the truth. But before he could resign, Edgar had either a heart attack or a serious cardiac insufficiency and Kustra couldn’t exactly leave with the governor’s health in jeopardy. So he stayed. He waited for the next chance which was to run for the U. S. Senate against Dick Durbin. Paul Simon had packed it in and had given his troth of Durbin. Everybody said…Bob Novak included…everybody said Kustra was the logical guy.

So a group of conservative activists, me included, called what we called a “Council of Trent.” We settled on a young state representative, Al Salvi, to run for the nomination against Kustra. By then I had the WLS Saturday morning program and I leaned so heavily on the issue that the manager saw me in the Men’s Room, said he liked my listeners’ numbers and said: “Hey, I know what WLS means to you, Roeser! We Love Salvi!”

He didn’t like Kustra either because Kustra had signed a big ticket contract as a talk show host and begged out of it.

He said, “I don’t like the guy at all. But have you considered that he might be a better candidate against Durbin than your guy Salvi?”



I said: It’s a matter of character. When a guy lies to me that’s it.

He said, “okay. Anyhow your numbers are good so go get `im tiger!”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Personal Asides: Gee, Why Didn’t We Read Michelle Obama’s Sniping at Hillary in Chicago’s Democratic Newspaper of Record—or for that Matter, the “Tribune”?...Coming Up in the Observer

Michelle Obama.

If, say, Fred Thompson’s wife took a verbal poke at Hillary Clinton’s stewardship as First Lady, the national networks and all the ships at sea would be posting an urgent: “We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an urgent news bulletin!” But although Chicago’s Democratic Newspaper of Record has the publisher’s wife as special correspondent in charge of publicizing the Obamas on the campaign trail…and its political columnist Lynn Sweet is extraordinarily careful to report all doings of Democrats on the campaign trail, either the strident attack on Hillary Clinton from Michelle Obama eluded them or somehow was Deep Sixed.

Last week Mrs. Obama had enough of the Clintons. Frustrated with her husband running second to Hillary due to Bill’s recruitment of a huge machine of fund-raisers, media consultants and big city power brokers, Mrs. Obama said when asked about Hillary Clinton:

“If you can’t run your own house, you can’t run the White House!”

The skewering by Mrs. Obama was doubly well-aimed. First at Hillary’s so-called lack of attention to her roving husband and her discount of the first report on his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky by shrugging it off as evidence of a “far right conspiracy”…and second to Clinton’s own notorious background as a presidential philanderer.

Lynn Sweet who is the nearest equivalent to old George Tagge of Col. McCormick’s Chicago “Tribune” just happened to pass this up. I understand why Jennifer Hunter Cruickshank avoided it (she is not the professional Lynn is). I just thought that since the “Sun-Times” is so knee-deep in soft-porn and sexual wanderings under the leadership of Michael Cooke, even he would not pass up this reference. All of which proves that there is something more important to the two Canadians than prurience…political solidarity in lockstep with the liberal Democratic party.

Coming Up in the Observer…

The succeeding issues of The Chicago Daily Observer will feature an article by Dr. Paul Green on Mayor Richard M. Daley…Charlie Johnston on key Illinois congressional races—the 14th held by former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R); the 18th by Rep. Ray LaHood (R), the 8th by Rep. Melissa Bean (D) and the 15th by Rep. Tim Johnson (R)…and Scott Richert of The Rockford Institute about homegrown terrorists.

Flashback: A Post-Quaker Career in Talk Radio.

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

Talk radio as a phenomenon only came into vogue in 1988 with repeal by the FCC of the so-called…and misnamed…Equal Time provision. Before that radio stations were skittish about running anything controversial. Under the old rules, not only would the station manager have to accommodate another side…be it political party or social movement…equal time but often on the very same program which would make scheduling next to impossible.

Before the repeal, however, on Chicago’s public radio station (WBEZ), there was an ingenious attempt at broadcasting views from a panel of political activists. What made the program fascinating is that where previously journalists had talked about coverage of politics, this program featured political activists themselves laughing, bickering and generally demonstrating the vitality of politics where no program really had done this before. It was the creation of an brilliant broadcaster who had been a political candidate himself—Bruce DuMont. DuMont had a job as producer for Lee Philip’s “Noonbreak,” an NBC TV program of interviews conducted by a very popular woman, Lee Philip. Then he moved over to WTTW-TV, the city’s public television station to become a producer, a political analyst and occasionally a TV host himself for the popular program “Chicago Tonight” normally hosted by John Callaway.

DuMont began his then two-hour program on WBEZ as something to do for which he was paid only a nominal fee for a program that would run every Thursday night. This antedated the McLaughlin Group and any other presentation. Indeed, there had never been a show like it. McLaughlin features journalists disputing and before him the late Martin Agronsky hosted a similar program with commentators vying. Bruce DuMont was singular in that he featured not journalists but political actors. He invited me to be on the very first program. Regulars included Alderman Dick Mell, Alderman Cliff Kelley, political activist turned lobbyist Phil Krone (a former Republican turned Democrat), Grace Kaminkowitz, a strident feminist, Marilyn D. (Dee) Clancy, a moderate-liberal Democrat who had run against Henry Hyde. Often Rep. Harold Washington was on when he was in town; as was Carol Moseley Braun, the Cook county recorder of deeds. I was billed as a conservative and corporate lobbyist, although I had to make the point that to please my boss my company affiliation could not be mentioned (but it was not long before everybody who listened knew where I worked).

It was not long before for a variety of reasons, the show took on a cult character. For one thing, we concentrated usually on state and local politics, with some extension into national affairs—but…and this was prior to the FCC overruling the Equal Time provision…people had rarely had the opportunity to hear local politicos snapping at each other. Soon regular journalists were listening in order to get a leg-up on the news. There was laughter, derision and even some bitter fights…but it gained quite a cult audience. From that show, a number of us were invited on the “Chicago Tonight” presentation on WTTW-TV. Soon “Chicago Tonight” seemed like a TV reenactment of what was going on WBEZ. But it never reached the status of irreverence that the WBEZ show had. People tuned in to hear what would happen next.

I remember one time when I told Cliff Kelley, an African American, who was trading about the legacy of slavery that he needn’t worry about white owned slaves since by becoming indentured to the Democratic party, blacks were treated like plantation surfs…and this somehow infuriated him so he invited me and I accepted the invitation on-air to go outside where we would settle it like gentlemen. We never did but cab drivers and people on the street would occasionally stop me and ask who won. (Note: I was much younger then—well, 58 and not in the present state of ancient decrepitude I find myself today). Cliff Kelley and I became the best of friends afterwards. When we went to Arnie’s, a steak joint downtown one noon, Arnie the owner bought us our lunches because he was so glad we were not at each other’s throats…as he had surmised when he listened the night before.

Marvelous things happened every Thursday night on Bruce’s show. One night he had scheduled a program with representatives from various presidential campaigns—this was 1980. I was to represent Ronald Reagan, of course—my hero. I think Jim Wall, a Methodist minister and friend of Jimmy Carter represented the then president. Then there were to be various people who would bring in alternatively liberal and conservative points of view. As we were getting ready to broadcast, one prominent liberal who was supposed to join us failed to show up. With only two minutes to go, a pizza delivery kid came in toting hot pizzas that were donated by Geno’s, a deep dish pizza joint in Chicago. Bruce asked the kid: are you a liberal or conservative? The kid said: liberal. Bruce said: sit down; you’re on the show.

The kid did and in a robust discussion on the air where he was introduced as a pizza delivery boy, he caught me in an error and verbally knocked me out of the rhetorical box. Listening was state senator Dawn Clark Netsch who called over and hired the kid on the spot to work in her campaign. That show started the kid on a career that lasted about a decade as a staffer in Democratic politics. No, it wasn’t David Axelrod.

After a few years, Bruce moved the show to WLS-AM the giant ABC 50,000-watt radio station that had taken advantage of the FCC repeal of Equal Time to bring on locals to precede and follow Rush Limbaugh who became the 5-star media personality in national talk radio. We moved with Bruce who had a show on Sunday nights. All the while I was working as vice president of Quaker Oats…and my colleagues in industry were intrigued that I was allowed to purvey my conservative views over the air which was then and still is a no-no for members of the corporate culture. At the same time I was writing weekly columns of opinion for the “Sun-Times”. (After a few years the “Sun-Times” switched as papers always do with Op Eds and I moved over to the “Tribune.” Then the “Tribune” would switch and I would go back to the “Sun-Times”. The only Op Ed columnist who never seemed to switch was Father Greeley whose boilerplate Irish liberal columns still roll out without a single reference to anything deeper than the spiritual wellsprings of the Democratic party.

In the late 80s a popular feature on WLS-AM was the team of Eddie Vrdolyak (the former Democratic county chairman) and Ty Wansley, a liberal but affably civil African American. The show was magnificent and to my mind has never been topped. Vrdolyak, accused of being a racist because as an alderman he ran the all-white group of 29 aldermen who opposed Mayor Harold Washington, was not a racist at all—far from it. But he had a brilliant Chicagoese idiom. A superbly educated lawyer at the University of Chicago he nevertheless spoke for the average white guy in the street. His radio presence was true Chicago and unequaled. His shows with Wansley were legend. After a few years of topping the ratings and earning a handsome 6-figure salary as a co-host which came on top of his already huge earnings as a powerful lawyer, Vrdolyak did what he often does—he grew restive. At one time the station ran the show on both AM and FM. Then the station did what made good business sense for it since AM listeners are different than FM listeners. It kept Eddie and Ty on AM and scheduled rock and roll on FM. This outraged Vrdolyak whose friends in the Loop had trouble listening to AM since the big buildings put out so much static.

Eddie told WLS an astounding thing. He wanted the show to be returned to FM. The station very rightly said hell no, it’s our decision and we won’t. Whereupon Eddie announced that he was coming down with a terrible cold, that he was losing his voice and he would have to seek medical care. Which meant he was going on a strike! The station wanted to have a conservative voice opposite Wansley’s rather moderate liberal voice so it called me to fill in. When I talked to Eddie, he said he would only be gone for a week or so, just to show the station he was boss. By this time I had retired from Quaker and had opened my own office at 333 N. Michigan where I was trying to serve new clients with government relations counsel. But the Vrdolyak-Wansley show ran from 2 p.m. to 5. So every day I was on the air with Ty, a wonderful fellow while, I fear, my clients wondered what happened to me since I was gone every afternoon. Vrdolyak never came back and Ty and I were on for many months…each afternoon from 2 to 5. But I never got the huge fee Eddie did and Ty received.

Finally I got tired of working for a modest union fee (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists AFL-CIO)…as well as watching my consulting business go down the drain. So I asked the management if I could have my own gig at a different time. They said they would think about it and finally gave me Saturday morning on condition that I learn how to run the “board”—watch the hot button which would mute out a caller with an obscenity, read the weather and cut for commercial breaks. To test me out…as I am not a good technician…they said they were going to start me at a late night gig—from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. So for what stretched into several years, I was a 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. man. I remember the first time I showed up for the job…a retired guy in my late 60s (my wife definitely not favoring the hours at which I would come home; my neighbors thinking I was out howling at the moon). What do you do in the middle of the night when seemingly most sensible people are in bed and only a battalion of drunks and very-very lonely people are listening?

The first night I did the late evening trick (10 to 2) I brought an armload of newspaper clippings to help me with topics as I would watch the lights on the phones either light up or fail to light up. Let me tell you it is a stark horror to sit there with one engineer reading “Playboy” behind a glass window, your tongue running dry talking-talking-talking and no calls…absolutely none. So to forestall that horror on the first night I brought an armload of clippings that would assure that I would have something to talk about. I placed them tenderly in the Green Room and went to the executive washroom. When I returned…with 5 minutes to air-time…I saw that the Polish cleaning lady who spoke no English had scooped up all my clippings and had taken them to the trash chute. I raced to the chute just as she finished shoveling my clippings down it. As I stood paralyzed, my engineer friend shouted: “Roeser! Come in! You’re on the air in 30 seconds!”

That I survived still puzzles me. When I got home and crawled in bed next to Lilllian, she turned over, gave me a kiss and said “poor baby, I’ll bet you’re tired!” Tired! I was so wrought up I lay there staring at the darkness all night rehearsing what inanities I had parroted for four hours to Chicago. I decided at 4 a.m. that I would be fired. That I was not is still amazing thing to me. Long about 1:30 a.m. I became the only ABC talk shows host to throw Thomas Aquinas at the audience. I still remember the drunk who called up and said…Thomas who?

The best caller was a woman named Peggy from downstate Illinois who called in every morning at 1:15 a.m. when she said she was getting off work. Once she spoke very persuasively about the need to legalize prostitution so as to be sure the working girls could unionize. Her voice was so velvety, so provocative, so evocative of world weariness that all ten lines on my phone lighted instantaneously with…you guessed it…gentlemen callers. I decided that if I kept her on the line with her double entendres the FCC would come calling…so I’d switch to commercials. The next day when I went to work my cabbie told me he was sorely disappointed that I cut her off just when she was getting interesting. Ah, I said, but the essence of show business is to end with the audience demanding more rather than staying on too long. I don’t think he agreed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Personal Asides: Finally—On “Political Shootout Sunday” State Rep. Susan Mendoza (D-IL) and Paul Caprio…George Ryan Gets What’s Coming to Him…The “I Didn’t Have Enough Money to Buy a Contraceptive” Story.

Mendoza & Caprio.

Guests on “Political Shootout” Sunday on WLS-AM (890) will be State Rep. Susan Mendoza (D-IL) and Paul Caprio, director Family PAC. Mendoza spent her early childhood in Chicago before moving to Bolingbrook. She attended Northeast Missouri State University, got a BA. After returning to Chicago she coordinated business outreach for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. She has been a guest before; Paul Caprio, of course, is a leader in the state’s pro-family movement and a highly regarded conservative strategist.

George Ryan.

All those convicted murderers sprung from death row, all the money spent pro bono by Winston & Strawn, all the exercises in p. r. to woo support of a presumably liberal jury…stemming from the early days of the Ryan governorship when the bulbous-nosed cynical grunter figured he’d be tried for corruption—the trip to Cuba to see Castro about which Sneed rhapsodized…the overnight change on social policies including the gubernatorial veto of a bill the venal old crook had promised to sign…all the exertions by Big Jim who obviously Ryan had something on... and the firm’s partners paying the freight in reduced bonuses to accommodate the most prestigious lawyer in the nation, Dan Webb…all the delays…the sentence lighter than expected—still the scythe of justice was not deterred as the court of appeals upheld the procedure of the trial. The elephantine exertions of Big Jim which, along with his naptimes on the Hollinger Board, got him demoted as firm chairman. The system still works: Deo Gratias

Not Enough Money to Buy a Contraceptive.

The barren, secular-hedonistic-pagan character of the “Sun-Times” under the Canadian twins (John Cruickshank the publisher and Michael Cooke, editor-in-chief who’s responsible for the “National Enquirer” lurid displays in the newspaper that is hemorrhaging red ink), was laid bare to its stark nakedness earlier this week…which tells you more about the one-sided prurient tabloid than you’ve ever suspected. You know, the paper that’s supposed to be blue-collar working class.

The story: 20-year-old pre-med student Elizabeth Harris of Waukegan has to skip her trip to Costa Rica for fun where she was eager to wine and dine on a break from college studies at the U of I-Chicago. And since Elizabeth is black, the dictum from schlock-meister Cooke was in effect: in a play to get more African American readers, Harris was shown standing by the window, sadly. She is a victim. Lonely: a black single U of I junior in the cruel city.

Why? Because federal funding is cut off from birth control and although the single Harris can afford a cell-phone, she couldn’t find the scratch for contraceptives. How sad. One almost expects the “Sun-Times” resident columning Pout, Rev. Jesse Jackson to write a column blaming George W. Bush for this tragedy.

“Cost hikes across the country are a result of new federal regulations that removed incentives for drug makes to provide birth control at low cost to colleges,” wrote the “Sun-Times.” And so “Harris encountered the increases when she wanted to c0ontinue with the NovaRing, a monthly vaginal contraceptive through UIC. She was shocked”—shocked!—“to find the new cost was $35, up from $15.”

So she went without. Tragedy writes sympathetic Cyndi Loza of the “Sun-Times.” “Some health officials fear students will be forced to rely on condoms, which may not be as effective.” And there is a crisis. `When it’s not planned sex, something like a condom mayh not be used’ said Dr. Nandini Khatkhate, UIC medical director at Family Medicine Center.”

Aha. “The price increase in hormonal birth control can be traced to the Deficit Reduction Act signed by President Bush last year, aimed at reducing federal spending by $39 billion…[T]he U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued regulations that dropped college clinics from a list of agencies to which drug companies could sell discounted drugs.”

The tear-jerker. “Harris, coming from a low-income home, said she cannot afford to pay so much for birth control.”

And, of course, since the black female poor are animals who must have their sex, goes the tone of the article, there is a hardship. Not a word in the article about the alternative of practicing abstinence—because in Michael Cooke’s rag which should be published on soft paper and hung on a roll, there is no such thing as abstinence. Nobody abstains. You do what you feel like doing. Not a line about studies that show that poverty stems often from single-parents…like Harris is evidently going to become. After all, sex is a great human need which compels its young to participate. No such thing as self-control. No such thing as morals. Just the stark figure in the paper of a young black girl looking wistful. Bad Uncle Sam: bad Uncle Sam for driving a girl to have an unwanted baby since she had to achieve her crazed biological need…that’s what the story implies. I can almost hear Jesse Jetstream whine that those who oppose abortion should have enough compassion to at least see that the taxpayers provide low-cost contraception to keep such playthings of passion as Harris from conceiving.

That story ran Monday. Tuesday along comes the secular, worldly wise,,,the African American Everywoman…the columnist played up by Cooke to “understand” the black hassle, Mary Mitchell…standing with hands on hips looking up at the ceiling (as with all other columnist’s photos) giving the aura of the black woman’s savior against black male sexism, Mary Mitchell. Hey baby, she says to the crestfallen Harris, young people “fortunate enough to get into universities like UIC are supposed to be smart.” Mitchell’s cynical advice, equivalent of wisdom Harris could have heard from any run-of-the-mill hustler on the street: “Did it ever occur to Elizabeth Harris…that maybe she should have gotten rid of her cell phone instead of stopping her birth control pills?” Hey, that’s the advice one expects to get from a mother. No mention of abstinence, just the “hard lessons” we “try to pass on…to our daughters and granddaughters.” The hard lesson is that kids are not cheap, AIDS is deadly. But by all means don’t defile Michael Cooke’s porno paper and espouse morality. That’s not black authenticism.

Mitchell’s rejoinder is about as vapid as the paper. You don’t forestall sex because sex is…well…as essential for fun when you’re young. You just assess priorities. Give up the cell phone but by all means keep on copulating whenever you’re of a mind to. Mitchell, the journalistic “model” for black females, is enough to typify generations of young people trapped in poverty without absolutes, is enough to make one sick.

I can hear this adviser to the passionately immature say—when the feds stop subsidizing, ditch you cell phone to pay for contraceptives and then…

You go, girl!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Personal Asides: Alderman Brookins, Call Your Campaign Office! Attention Jimmy Lago: Any Chance of Reversing Pastoral Term Limits?...and Coming Up in The Chicago Daily Observer.



I am very grateful to Democratic strategist Mike Noonan (a columnist-contributor to the Chicago Daily Observer) for arranging the appearance of his client, Alderman Howard Brookins (21st) for my Sunday WLS radio show—but I’m not sure the appearance did much good for the very nice young man who seeks the Democratic nomination for Cook county state’s attorney. Between political pundit Russ Stewart of Nadig Newspapers and I, I would guess we made hash out of Alderman Brookins’ prospects.

And it wasn’t because we ganged up on him. It came from the answers the alderman gave to what both of us assumed were very reasonable questions.

Was Brookins’ appearance a disaster for his campaign? I would think so. But since the ways of even routine African American politics in Cook county defies reason for me, maybe I’m wrong. In more than fifty years of watching politics, I have been inured to black candidates seeming to nurture their political base and then moving out to embrace others. For example Harold Washington: after he secured an impregnable black base he ventured to the northwest side and danced the polka with Polish ladies whom he charmed. Washington had charisma, talent, a masterful speaking style (even if he used the word “burgeoning” too often) and a ready wit.

That seemed to end with the latest generation. Todd Stroger, for instance. Nice guy, gentle, soft-spoken, laid back, not showing familiarity or even interest enough to read the Cook county budget book when he was nominated.

He broke some of the basic rules and still was elected.

I remember the only black states attorney, Cecil Partee. He had a mellifluous voice brimming and covered all the bases—including the black base. Now we have another black candidate who appears to be in the tradition of Todd Stroger. Maybe this is a new day dawning in African American politics, ladies and gentlemen—I don’t know.

The Brookins’ experience last Sunday may be the final test. Here is a nice young (age 43) candidate, a lawyer, former assistant prosecutor, former assistant state attorney general, a man who in private practice represented a group of people who claimed they were victims of Chicago police abuse and who were ignored in their quest for justice. Brookins’ history screams to heaven for an initial statement that “I am running for states attorney because I want to improve the county’s record in convictions, to make the streets safer and to call a halt once and for all to the specter of police brutality!”

Is this what Brookins said in my very first question to him: why are you running for states attorney? Nope. His answer is that he is running in order to put more blacks in the states attorney’s office, to modernize the procedures to make the office more efficient than before. Huh?

This was a stunning answer. Moreover when we pressed him he didn’t really amend his first answer that he would hire more blacks and still placed crime fighting second. I had to remind him of alleged police abuse. He agreed and made that item number three.

Baffling. Incredible. Astounding. Almost like a statistician rather than a prosecutor. Sure, if you’re a black candidate for states attorney say you’ll hire more qualified blacks in the office but is this is first major step you’re going to take with prosecutions and fighting police abuse ranking second and third? Sounds goofy to me.

Later in the program I happened to give him a chance to say he’s supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president, his fellow church member from Trinity United Church of Christ. Now Trinity is the epicenter of black activism in behalf of Obama. Not only that, many white Democrats starting with Mayor Daley and going down the list from Sen. Dick Durbin to state constitutional officers all hail Obama as Illinois’ favorite son. More than a favorite son, Obama may lose the nomination to Hillary but he’s been giving her a very tough race, out-raising her in money, exciting young crowds white and black.

So I ask him if he’s supporting Obama—a real throw-away question, a softball that he can hit out of the park as the cliché goes. And his answer?

Not particularly. He has a good friend in Hillary Clinton. Am I missing something here?

On the issue of gun control, a favorite grassroots movement issue for Democrats and I mean all kinds of Democrats, ranging from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson through a range of gradations of white radicals like Fr. Michael Pfleger all the way through the upper crust white, guilt-ridden suburbs. Brookins said he feels there are enough anti-gun laws. I happen to agree with him; I happen to be a 2nd amendment guy. I happen to favor conceal carry. And sure enough, Brookins said he will continue to have an open mind on conceal carry. Obviously I am happy about that but--.

Am I missing something here? Is there a new politics in the African American community…a groundswell to Hillary Clinton for president…a disinclination to be interested in overcoming police brutality?

Mike Noonan, I have testified before to your political perspicacity. Maybe I’m nuts but don’t you want to have a good long talk with this guy before he gets out further on the public stage?

Attention Jimmy!

Attention Jimmy Lago the first lay chancellor of the Catholic archdiocese of Chicago…the best Democratic precinct captain Eddie Vrdolyak, who was the county chairman, ever saw: the man who runs the archdiocese--.

Is there any chance to overthrow the hideous pastoral term limit rule that causes good priests who have no family other than their churches into which they’ve poured out their lives and energy to move and start all over? It’s demoralizing to many pastors and congregations. I can cite parish after parish where outstanding pastors have built a tremendous receptivity, have wisely served and have much more to do—but an arbitrary term limit must uproot them and send them packing…while the congregation awaits possibly a new insouciant successor who may just dismantle all the good that has gone before.

The term limit idea was started by a liberal priest, aflame with the “spirit of Vatican II,” who wanted to see tired old pastors shuttled off…the late Little Bob McLaughlin…a red-haired fireball who gladly superseded environmental cleanups for the fight against abortion. This old line radical gloried in preaching change for the sake of change from the pulpit at Holy Name Cathedral. He was the architect of term limit.

And then his own term as rector of the Cathedral came up and he had to move on. You should have heard the screaming! The reform he had charted for others turned and nipped him on the cassock. But rules were rules and he had to go. Of course the rule never applied to Fr. Michael Pfleger…or for the longest time Jack Wall who gave Old St. Pat’s its biggest block party fund-raiser in the world…spiffed it up and made it the focal point for Irish weddings. Now he’s going to the Extension Society and then Bishop. But all the same, he basked in seeming perpetuity. Why not others?

Since Pfleger is going to stay on at St. Sabina’s forever while the chancery winks, hey Jimmy, how about extending the Pfleger rule to everybody? You’re the one in charge, the one who makes all the decisions. It’s no good even to ask the archbishop since the answer will be flawlessly parsed. How about it, Jimmy? Why don’t you make a break with your liberal past. Pfleger’s going nowhere; why do the others have to go? Huh Jimmy?

Coming Up in The Observer.

In future issues of The Observer: Dennis Byrne tells why it is not treason for an Irish White Sox rooter to boost the Cubs now…Tom Fleming, president of the Rockford Institute, a classics scholar and former professor, talks about the decadence of higher education…Charlie Johnston writes about his own illness which brought painfully close to home the hardship imposed by the tyranny of trial lawyers in Metro East…all these and much more as diversity of opinion comes back to Chicago journalism.

Personal Asides: Mike Deaver in Retrospect…The Decline of “Sun-Times” Editorial-Writing.


Mike Deaver.

Mike Deaver, Ronald Reagan’s public relations guru who died yesterday, was a guest at my DePaul University class a decade ago and in connection with that class we spent a lot of time together talking about Reagan. When my wife Lillian picked him up at O’Hare to drive him to DePaul and my class, he no sooner got in the car when he told her that he had been sober for seven years, four months, three weeks and five days. I don’t know whether that’s de rigeur for AA’s on not, but he certainly got that off his chest early.

Of course the news media glories in proclaiming that Ronald Reagan was exclusively a media creation, a kind of tinsel tin god who was created and sold to the public like a loaf of bread—hence Mike Deaver is used by them as a kind of movie director, staging all kinds of events that made Reagan look good. To that extent, he did—but to imagine that (a) no one else could have done what Deaver did; (b) choosing advantageous sites for cameras made Reagan the most effective president in a generation and a half; or (c) other presidents ala JFK and FDR didn’t do this is sophomoric. But sophomoric when directed at the contemporary news media is to flatter them. There is more to them than that. Sophomoric usually goes with the word callow…which means shallow. Callow and sophomoric the media are but they are not just balefully ignorant: they understand full well that Reagan amounted to far more than pyrotechnics and they duplicitously continue to portray it falsely. Looking at the 1984 presidential campaign between Reagan and Mondale, if a Deaver could be recruited to “direct” Mondale’s photo ops and radio actualities and no Deaver would be allowed to handle Reagan’s, who would win?

Mondale? Of course not. Reagan. Mondale’s campaign was defeatist, centered on nuclear freeze or unilateral disarmament and higher taxes; Reagan’s was optimistic and idealistic tinged with hard realism. But until a generation of liberal journalists die off (which was created by liberal universities), the idea that Reagan was a media creation executed by Mike Deaver will continue.

Actually Deaver was far more than a selector of stage sites for news ops for his boss. He was deputy chief of staff and far from a Reaganite on most issues. He was very close to Nancy Reagan who was a country club Republican, not pro-life nor particularly interested in a hard line against the Russians. Nor was Deaver. He was the mirror image of Jim Baker, Reagan’s chief of staff. Aside from Ed Meese, the Reagan White House had very few Reaganites in it—with the one prominent Reaganite of all who dominated it: Ronald Reagan himself.

For that matter, George Shultz never understood it, was always trying to blur the distinctions when Shultz was secretary of state. Deaver told me very casually that he was not pro-life, that he joined with Nancy in trying to see that the Reagan who identified with issues on the right that proved to be authentic were muffled. He took pleasure in that, regarding himself as a cosmetician in the same way that John Sears, the first presidential campaign manager sought to blur the old man’s edges. It is significant that evidently to the day of his death, Deaver, a very nice man and a charming one, did not fully comprehend the Reagan presidency…while Ed Meese does in its entirety.

Decline and Fall.

Steve Huntley whom I’ve had occasion to criticize here on other matters did write “Sun-Times” editorials that carried ballast, good documentation and a sense of understatement, trying nobly to tie his craft to the childish dictates of the two Canadians who believe nothing but are rudderless pragmatists. The replacement of Huntley (who has gone on to be a full-time columnist) with Cheryl Reed is a victory for the two rudderless ones. At first Reed was doing okay. Now she degenerates into name-calling as substitute for thought.

Take a look at yesterday’s comment on the departure of Karl Rove. In one sense it’s accurate. It’s entitled “We saw Rove’s influence in everything Bush did.” I’m sure Cheryl Reed did but that is far from the case as historians will discover when they examine the value and significance of the Bush administration. But look at Reed’s language: “…as Rove leaves the sinking ship SSGOP”…the “Republicans shrewd courtship of the religious right”…”the tactics that did in Bush opponents like John `Swift Boated’ Kerry.” For the record, a Huntley would have utilized his conscience to state that Rove never was involved in the “Swift Boat” venture as John O’Neill who has come to Chicago often still insists. Nor aside from the Left’s paranoia was there anything inaccurate about the “Swift Boat” campaign…or else why hasn’t Kerry who promised to divulge his record actually come through and divulge it?

In a remarkably swift time, Cheryl Reed has demoted the once high standard of “Sun-Times” editorial writing…which was one of the very few things the paper had to boast about…to bumper-sticker sloganeering. Which is in line with what the two Canadian sharpies…one having been kicked off the “New York Daily News”—the inestimable Michael Cooke –want to happen. They insult the Chicago working class by insisting that a semi-porno rag is beloved by the blue collar working class. Now the only thing they have going for them is the great Jack Higgins, the cartoonist without peer in the United States. The paper has really slipped down the sink-hole.