Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Personal Asides: Finish This Bit of Doggerel…Free Association of Thoughts on Political Subjects. .



Finish if you can…with search engines at rest…this bit of doggerel.

“A flea and a fly in a flue/

Were imprisoned so what could they do?




Free Association.

Two Illinois-born septuagenarian journalists are at the head of the line as Washington pundits. Robert Novak, born in Joliet, who for many years has been a friend of mine has the reputation of being a Republican—but that’s not right. He is first of all a news-gatherer and lets the chips fall where they may. He has a tendency to be somewhat mischievous as with his leaked notation the other day that Hillary Clinton people have something on Barack Obama and may leak it.

This angered the Mother Superior of Liberal Self-Righteousness, Carol Marin but when I had lunch the other day with a person high up in the Obama campaign, I learned that the rumor that Hillary’s got something on Obama and may have it divulged has been on the street for weeks. Ms. Marin would like to install the Marquis of Queensbury rules on political journalism so that the onus always falls on conservatives (she interviewed Henry Hyde a few years ago and told him that her elderly aunt couldn’t bring herself to vote for him because the old aunt is Democrat—which I am sure disturbed the venerable Henry not a bit). But sadly the Mother Superior who wears her ideology on her sleeve isn’t making the rules. Anyhow the Mother Superior doesn’t like it when rumors fly that somebody may have something on Obama. That is so-so-so how shall we say, un-genteel. Now if somebody had something on Bush that would be another matter.

Bob is a brilliant economic and social conservative and I would also say an Arab-ist, a tough critic of Israel, a supporter of term limits, what else? He is too much a fan of Jack Kemp for my taste: I believe Kemp is about as much an economic determinist as Karl Marx (only on the free market side). Everything with Kemp is shaped by economics. I vowed that if he ever used that hoary old line “a rising tide lifts all boats” I would regurgitate all over his copy of Adam Smith. Kemp is a classic example of a athletic jock who played ball while his classmates at Occidental were studying, who came late to ideas and has never gotten over it. When I used to go into his office every so often he would drop allusions to Plato’s analogy of the cave. Freshman Philosophy 101. Kemp is also gutless. His running HUD was a disaster.

In addition to everything else, Novak has written the bravest i.e. self-revelatory autobiography I have ever read with the exception of the diary of Samuel Pepys. “Prince of Darkness” is an outstanding piece of work and you should read it—topped only by the TV interview conducted of him on EWTN by Raymond Arroyo who is really one of the best interviewers in the business but who is too much ignored because he is not on the networks or major cable stations. His interviews with bishops are superb.

The other big name journalist from Illinois is David Broder. Reading David Broder doesn’t tell you anything. He eschews gossip of course, eschews ideology and writes ploddingly. In private conversation he is crisp and insightful. He is an excellent speaker. Were he to develop his journalism to match his speaking style he would be truly notable. He is so fusty, so establishmentarian in his ponderous, cliché-driven opinions it is just natural that he has won a Pulitzer prize for commentary. Just the kind of stuff the Pulitzer prize committee would vote for—stuff that doesn’t offend anybody and carries with it a residue of political correctness. I am saddened that Bob Novak hasn’t won a Pulitzer since the stuff he details is fresh and original. But then the Pulitzer people are resolutely unoriginal and if you are a critic of Israel as Bob is that disqualifies you.

Speaking of the journalistic fad to be politically correct, this week we have had a spate of stories about Harold Washington since he has been dead 20 years. I yield to no one in my love for his fun-loving, mischievous personality and his eagerness on election night to privately tell the Sultan of Pout, Jesse Jackson that he should plan to visit Africa more often because the black face and personality here will belong to Harold. I wish I could tell you what he called me one night when we were both on Chicago public radio. He was a Congressman then and I zinged him for refusing to meet with President Ford. At the break in the show he turned to me, roared with laughter and said “Roeser, you’re a whole sack full of a------s.” The engineer waved frantically because we were not off the air and Harold covered his mouth and we screamed with laughter. How can you not like a guy like that.

The outrageous ego-strutting Jackson offended Harold in the election night warm-up before the winner was introduced. But there is no doubt that Harold was the most vivid, warm and ingratiating personality ever to hold the Chicago mayoralty, exceeding even Richard J. Daley. Richard J. was at his best when he forgot about himself and sputtered with anger but Harold was always at his personal best—witty, conversant, literate (far more so than Richard J. or his kid) although he hugely overused the word “burgeoning.” To Harold everything was burgeoning—poverty, the desperation of his enemies, the insidiousness of the Republicans et al.

All these things the media don’t capture in an effort to sanitize and sanctimonize Harold. They also make him out to be a great mayor. He was not. He was a great political movement leader. Government was rather boring to Harold and he exhibited a masterly attention to detail. There was no vision or familiarity with municipal government in him. But politics was a different matter. He said it best: “Politics is more fun than eating Crackerjack or shooting pool.”


  1. Mayor Washington bought breakfast for my wife and me at the old 8th Street Deli in the Essex Hotel on the morning of my Masters Orals.

    Mayor Washington saw me studying and asked why I had a nose in a book with such a pretty red head sitting across the table.

    Mary said, ' This was the only peace she had with me and was enjoying it.'

    The Mayor howled and sat with us for a bit.

    When we got up to leave, the waitress told us that the Mayor had taken care of it - as well as a substantial tip. We duked the lady again in honor of his Honor. Lovely Man.

  2. Tom-
    I think you chose an appropriate word, but perhaps not the best one- I think "Limerick" a doggerel of precise aabba is the right choice. But who am I to say? Well, the limericks I unfortunely learned at college are not for full review on your family oriented Catholic Blog, but a few openers:
    1-There once was a girl from the Azores-2- There was a man from Nantucket--