Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Multiple Personal Asides: Zell…Tackett…Tim Novak…Fitzgerald…Kristol…Big Bad Jim…Sinclair Lewis…Judy Baar Topinka.



There’s some hope for the “Tribune” in that Sam Zell has contributed to the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani at least. But answer me this: what does his choice of attire mean? No tie, an open-necked shirt, ragged jeans. Pick one of these options or write one yourself in Comments:

1. Even though I am a multi-billionaire I dress like a slob in order to allay suspicion that I am an elitist.

2. In this way I thumb my nose at the world and ridicule its conventions.

3. I am so deep intellectually I give no thought whatever to what I wear as incidental things matter very little to me.

4. Actually my choice of slob clothes is not an accident. I dress this way to show that unlike other CEOs I am eminently approachable.

5. My high-powered public relations counsel advises me to show some distinction between other financiers and mega-bucks investors. It’s rather like Warren Buffett who lives in Omaha, eats with good old Charlie Munger at Al’s Italian Beef but who flies in a chartered jet and thinks he should pay more taxes and supports Obama—suitable for canonization by “The New York Times” magazine any Sunday now.

6. It is the one way a little guy like me with a forgettable persona can get attention. Put me in a suit and I fade into the woodwork.

Actually it’s more pathetic to see the “Tribune” executives aping Zell—all showing up jacket-less, without ties. In this they are not different at all from the executives of my bygone era, where everybody wore button-down shirts, “sincere” ties and had Thom McAn shoes. Before Zell came on the scene they were all literally “suits.” Now they’re Zell clones. God help us.


The nominees for the most pretentious Washington bureau chief now writing who gives off an aura of knowing something about his craft but who is woefully ignorant on both history and politics have been considered…and the winner is Michael Tackett, hands down. The Washington bureau editor of the “Tribune” who has mastered the knack of deconstructionism i.e. writing only things that square with his point of view and ignoring all others.

Tackett captured the award easily and does so almost every Sunday with his column which he turns out so effortlessly…containing barren thoughts which take no effort. Yesterday Tackett wrote gloriously of one Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma…a conservative who is high on Tackett’s list—a founding board member of Heritage, national chairman of the American Conservative Union, chairman of the annual Conservative political Action Committee conferences et al-- who spouted stuff liberal Tackett would like to get across. Like the fact that Edwards has written a book “Reclaiming Conservatism.” Says Tackett joyously: “In it he unsparingly criticizes his party and his president for, as he sees it, turning conservatism inside out.” Then to Tackett’s unutterable satisfaction, Edwards “thinks of conservatism as Barry Goldwater did: as a governing philosophy emphasizing limited government and individual liberty.” Tackett: “The 1964 convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco where Reagan’s speech launched him to national political prominence had a party platform that Edwards says is antithetical to the one the party produced in 2004.”

Enough. Reagan, of course, did not make that speech at the Cow Palace but in a film weeks prior. And Tackett could tell us Edwards real name—Marvin Henry Yanowsky—which he changed to Mickey Edwards. Not that I dislike the name Yanowsky but he must have to have discarded it for Edwards. Always known as a wild card in the House, he left office after having been defeated for having 386 overdrafts on the House bank and a number of other personal traits that caused him to stand out from the crowd. Edwards finished third in the primary to Ernest Istook. After leaving the House involuntarily (not covered in his self-written autobiography in Wikipedia) he took up with former White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler with whom he served as co-chairman of “Citizens for Independent Courts” which sought to rid us of the tiresome habit of presidents appointing to the federal bench people who share their philosophy (a goo-goo group that raises the standards purportedly so no carry-through of a president’s views can be derived, which in the case of abortion would be a great boon to the Left). Edwards was also chairman of another Bill Clinton goo-goo, Abner Mikva in a drive to limit the use of constitutional amendments as a substitute for the normal legislative process. Sounds good until you remember that the great Mikva saw as an exception to the rule ERA for which he crusaded. Ergo: the wrong constitutional amendment would be one which guarantees the primacy of human life after “Roe v. Wade.”

Yanowsky, er, Edwards also served as co-chairman of goo-goo groups sponsored by Brookings (not known for a conservative bias) and the New York Council on Foreign Relations (ditto) as well as Brooking “Working Group on Campaign Finance Reform.” You don’t have to imagine what campaign finance “reform” it favors: I can tell you. One which about the same as McCain-Feingold except that it would block any independent expenditures of any kind which would have been death for the Swift boats. He has been a regular commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He is married to…aha…one Elizabeth A. Sherman Ph.D “a well-known Democratic political operative from Massachusetts” his Wikipedia says. None of which Tackett in his adulation of a true conservative informs us of. Call it judicious reportage.

Now to Barry Goldwater who is the idol of true conservatism, the one that Edwards and presumably Tackett himself compares favorably to the Ronald Reagan brand. Right off take his vote against civil rights in 1963—a mild bill. I take it Tackett cheers that one. No? What about Goldwater’s position taken in the August, 1963 issue of “The Saturday Evening Post” by Stewart Alsop. Asked if he opposed the progressive income tax, Goldwater said yes and then was asked this follow-up: “Do you really think it’s fair that a man with five million a year should pay the same rate as a man with five-thousand?” Goldwater: “Yes, yes. I do.” What Goldwater is anticipating is the flat tax explaining that “the poor man would benefit from the rich man’s investments.” It’s a terrible way to describe the flat tax but I take it this finds favor with Edwards and Tackett. However Tackett never reports this.

Goldwater favored selling the TVA. Many others do now although Reagan could not find sufficient support for it. Evidently Edwards and Tackett do. (I think so but that’s not the point; they just haven’t reported all the things Goldwater advocated). Then Goldwater advocated that the NATO supreme commander in Europe “be given authority over the tactical nuclear weapons appropriate to NATO’s defenses.” Which would leave the decision whether or not to go nuclear to the NATO commander rather than the president. I am not sure Edwards or Tackett would support this.

On Jan. 5, 1964 Goldwater told “Meet the Press” that he favored using a threat to break off relations with the Soviet Union as a “bargaining effort…to try to get some things accomplished.” When questioned further he said, “We have to keep in mind, though, this would take an action of the Senate of the United States.” The Senate has no role whatsoever under the Constitution in granting or withdrawing diplomatic recognition. This eluded Goldwater but perhaps Edwards and Tackett think this is the prerogative of the Senate. Or maybe it should be. That would take a constitutional amendment and Edwards, we are told, is against “unnecessary” constitutional amendments.

On the same show when Goldwater was asked if he would renounce the partial test-ban treaty then in effect, Goldwater said: “I would have to cross th at bridge when I got to it. I still think it is of no advantage to the United States and just the other day, Dr. Hans Morganthau, one of the greatest physicists in the world, backed my position up on that by stating what I said on the floor that the treaty had more accrual of good to the Soviets than it did to the United States.” Wrong totally. Dr. Hans Morganthau of the University of Chicago could be expected to believe Goldwater had had a stroke. As he had every right to expect Goldwater to know, Morganthau was an eminent expert on international affairs not a physicist and was no foe of the test ban treaty; in fact Goldwater had actually debated Morganthau on a televised panel in Chicago just three months earlier.

On Jan. 7, 1964 after the “Meet the Press” Goldwater flew to Concord, New Hampshire and, according to Robert Novak, “while not proposing that the U. S. invade Cuba, he called for another exiles’ invasion of Cuba with U. S. air support.” That same day he, according to Novak, “proposed that the [Social Security] system be made voluntary.”

My point here is not to question Goldwater whose views have become, in effect, standard for extremists wanting to overthrow tyranny wherever it exists (i.e. some of whom are neo-conservatives) or those who want to privatize Social Security (i.e. some of whom are libertarians). It is to question whether Tackett or Edwards for that matter really know what the hell Goldwater actually advocated. Edwards has a reputation of being a high-flyer with the truth; Tackett evidently appropriates his stuff without looking at it for a second. Which is why Michael Tackett is about the lousiest Washington bureau head any paper could have.

Where Edwards and Tackett fall in love with Goldwater comes from the Arizonan’s late-in-life criticism of the religious right intruding itself into politics. But this view did not come in his presidential campaign; nor did it come right after “Roe v. Wade.” When I picked up Goldwater at O’Hare in the latter part of the `70s here for a United Republican Fund dinner, he was in support of pro-life and made no distinction. You must remember that Goldwater was not a great thinker in the way that Bob Taft or Eugene Milliken were. He was light as a cork with some generally decent instincts. He was fun to be with. But the nation was spared a great ignominy when he self-destructed. And while this flies in the faith of certain mythology, it is nonetheless true.

The pro-abortion, pro-gay rights change in Goldwater that Hillary Clinton cheers came later. When he grew older, more crotchety and tending to share with a good friend Daniel Patrick Moynihan his close acquaintanceship with (a) Jim Beam and (b) Jack Daniels, Goldwater decided on several occasions not to run for the Senate again. His wife, Peggy Johnson died. While she was indeed an active contributor to Planned Parenthood, Goldwater kept that view to himself and echoed the standard pro-life line. But after she died and he married a much younger woman who wanted to preserve a certain standing in Georgetown—and when he decided to retire—Goldwater came out of the closet so to speak and assailed many traditional concepts of Judeo-Christian morality: anti-abortionism was one; anti-gay rights another…earning for himself and his new wife an eminence in Georgetown that the by then semi-dotty old geezer never really understood. This emergence of a very senior senator not running for reelection has given birth to the concept of the strict libertarian Goldwater lionized by Mickey Edwards and propagated by his faithful servitor the indispensable if ill-educated and hopelessly liberally ideological with hostility to current conservatism, Michael Tackett, Washington bureau chief of the “Chicago Tribune”—once again, God help us. .

In fairness, Edwards is probably duping the naïf Tackett. Writing just enough in his book about the elderly Goldwater to mislead anyone who wasn’t around during his 1964 presidential campaign. Nothing that Goldwater said in domestic policy or international policy could possibly be supported by Mickey Edwards who to his credit is a smart guy—a lawyer and ex-journalist. All Edwards is happens to be a de-constructionist…one who like Garry Wills takes bits and pieces of statements and discards those statements not serviceable to him. That is what Edwards would do in the House.

In fairness, Tackett is not that kind. He’s a dupe. Just an ill-educated guy with a liberal streak who thinks, dumbly, it would make a great column to zing current conservatives by hearkening back to a Goldwater he probably never knew or cared about. Again…there were some things Goldwater talked about in the early days that were prescient, although not researched or thought out well enough to be viable such as the flat tax, such as a plan to partially privatize Social Security, such as to get rid of the TVA. Goldwater had not the faintest idea of how to accomplish this; he had no more a concept of what he was really advocating than he was when he made Hans Morganthau a distinguished physicist. But Tackett doesn’t know this stuff. He’s a routine Washington beltway liberal boob-- the Tackett who hews to the liberal line every Sunday in the “Tribune.” That’s my whole point. Again, your comments welcomed.

Tim Novak.

It’s intriguing how the “Sun-Times” with all its imperfections…run by Michael Cooke, a slavish imitator of the “National Enquirer” who has debased his once-legendary product…still in its weakened condition manages to run circles around the “Tribune” on investigative news. Here’s a bed-sheet-sized newspaper which spends far more than the S-T, double teams them in reportorial staffs, and it still gets blanked on major city news. The “Sun-Times” Tim Novak does certainly deserve a Pulitzer for a series of tremendously well researched stories that have changed the dynamics of this town starting with Hired Trucks. Add to him Jack Higgins the best cartoonist in the Western world, Fran Spielman the best city hall reporter, Dan Miller the most knowledgeable business editor in town with a sophistication that rivals any editor on “The Wall Street Journal,” Abdon Pallasch who is fast becoming one of the best political reporters in this town and you have the ingredients for a first-rate publication which is direly offset by Mr. Cooke and his debased taste. The “Tribune” has excellent taste, has improved vastly in its editorial writing, has excellent columnists John Kass and Dennis Byrne (Op Ed) but is humiliated almost every day by its S-T competition.

Example: “Tribune” writes a purely journeyman’s tale of deputy U.S. Marshall John Ambrose suspected of leaking secrets to the mob. But the “Sun-Times” comes along with an article by Steve Warmbir defending how gently Marshall was questioned by U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald didn’t want to see Ambrose kill himself. A tremendous coup. Where was the “Tribune”? Sleepy. Your comment?


My usual take is that Bill Kristol, editor of “The Weekly Standard,” is one of the most astute guys covering politics—topped only by Michael Barone who is my all-time favorite. But here was Kristol making a prediction on yesterday’s “Fox News Sunday” that the Republican party at its convention will nominate Dick Cheney for president and will win. I don’t know if I tuned in late or if Kristol was drunk. Or am I missing something? Do any of you think that this is a remote possibility?

Big Bad Jim.

We have adjudged, have we not, that Big Jim Thompson has no shame. That although intellectually gifted he has allowed himself to become one of the more venal lobbyists, shilling for Blagojevich, then Blagojevich’s wife in return for the state paying Winston & Strawn a fortune to serve as…gasp…an ethics coach for the administration. Now after Blago talks to Sam Zell and both mention using the state to cover Zell’s vast indebtedness at the “Tribune” by using the state of Illinois to buy Wrigley Field…here comes Lord Jim, chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority…saying that the deal is possible. This from the noted watchdog of the treasury at Hollister who never barked when the two crooks were stealing everything but the door knobs…who was so compassionate in defense of his close friend felon George Ryan that he (Thompson) scooped up everybody’s bonuses at his law firm to pay for a $20 million defense of Ryan and then out of the warmness of his heart rode all the way to jail with Ryan in his limousine. Is there no limit to this venality?

Sinclair Lewis.

The words of the late Pulitzer prize-winning and Nobel-prize winning American novelist Sinclair Lewis were used repeatedly by Presidential candidate Ron Paul for the last week. I interviewed Lewis several times in my Minnesota stint, once when he returned to Sauk Centre, the cite of his novel “Main Street” and knew his older brother well, Dr. Claude Lewis of St. Cloud. Paul tossed a zinger at Mike Huckabee by quoting Lewis as saying that when fascism comes to the United States it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. Which would sound ducky if Lewis were anything else than what he was—a variant between a militant skeptic-agnostic and atheist, a view he shared with me at least three times. It’s rather different when an atheist worries about fascism coming draped in a flag and carrying a cross, isn’t it?

Judy Baar Topinka.

This faded wallflower, Tugboat Annie of a bygone era of mushy moderate Republicanism…winking and nodding to Big Jim, Little Jim and Big George… surfaced not long ago as a part-time film reviewer on “Chicago Tonight.” That’s okay because the nature of the show under the eminently forgettable Phil Ponce…who looks from one guest to another like one watching a tennis match all the while trying to think of something he can say…encourages average people to review films. Unfortunately the film Judy got to review was “The Golden Compass.” Whether it was just an accident or by design no one knows but as earlier described here the film is a much bowdlerized version of a children’s book series that is hideously anti-Catholic written by a fervent…if I can use that descriptive…atheist. The point Catholics who are knowledgeable about it is this: that by praising an otherwise bland and meaningless film, warrant can be made for sales of the very damaging and bigoted book.

Of course the “Sun-Times’” Cathleen Falsani liked it; you’d expect her to and be ignorant of the bigoted nature of the antecedent books because Falsani doesn’t read books—they interfere with her vacuum-packed pre-registered opinions on liberalism. Nor of course would Topinka who is an illiterate on Catholic matters and on things she is literate about has shown her disdain, having broken with her church on abortion and gay rights…and further, not knowing what the truth is. She is the only one I ever met who appeared on my radio show and refused as state Republican chairman to endorse a Republican U. S. senator who had not as of then decided he would not run, Peter Fitzgerald…and then lied that she had made the statement when 100,000 people in my audience heard it. That takes chutzpah and ignorance in equal measure.

You’d have to say that the producers of “Chicago Tonight” were indubitably dumb to give Topinka, hopelessly ignorant on the matter, a shot at reviewing a book that was fabricated for the purpose of hustling antecedent bigotry about her church—but then they don’t read books either. Ponce should have known but Phil is far from the sharpest knife in the drawer. Dan Schmidt could have known but he is too busy overspending his budget and trying to get more dough from the taxpayers to really be concerned. But now you know, don’t you?


  1. I would say in the same ballpark as Nos. 2 or 6. I am reminded of certain Texas billionaires who owned five or six year old sedans, and rode in the front passenger seat beside their gorgeous female driver who also doubled as karate-trained bodyguard.

  2. Sammy Zell made his bucks in rental real estate. I am sure he is going after the Tribune properties like the Tribune Tower property which will get spun off and converted or torn down for other use. In my opinion he will gut the Tribune for a profit, stomp on the legacy of McCormick, and in the end destroy another icon of Chicago. Leave it to the classless profiteers like Zell and Chicago will ultimately become not the 2nd city but another big nothing like Detroit. Chicago losing Marshall Fields name and is now MACY SCHMACY and once proud local banks now owned outsiders. What a difference from the glory days of Chicago. And now another pompous putz, Sammy Zell, is doing his part to knock Chicago down another notch in the name of profit!

  3. I was also intrigued by the constant repetition of the Lewis quote by Ron Paul and his acolytes. If memory serves, it is from the 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here." This bestseller was a quickly written novel which Lewis typed with unusual alacrity.
    I rather doubt that too many Ron Paul fans have read it cover to cover. Interestingly enough, a supremely liberal Democratic web site, "Down With Tyranny," also uses this same quote. Rahm Emanuel is a frequent target for liberal complaints at the DWT site.