Monday, December 3, 2007
Personal Asides: Jingle Answer Crowding the Hyde Mourners Bench The Soft Liberal White Bigotry of Lessened Expectations The WSJs Misunderstanding of the Meaning of a Political Campaign Fr. Andy and Laissez Faire for the Unborn.
No One Got It.
No one knew the complete jingle and I am amazed because it was relatively common during my youthbut then again who is as old as I?
A flea and a fly in a flue/
Were imprisoned so what could they do?/
Said the flea Let us fly!/
Said the fly, Let us flee!/
So they fled through a flaw in the flue.
Frank Nofsinger, you mean you never heard this? Didnt they have this in Rochester, Minnesota, Salt Lake, Connecticut and all the other places youve worked?
Crowding the Mourners Bench.
No sooner did Henry Hyde die than the Tribune rushed out with a story long on laudatory and very-very short on analysis topped by the Sun-Times which had more of a story. The difference between the two papers is starting to be thisin obit news of the greats, for the sanitized version read the Tribune which is like reading the establishments official bio; if you want to learn more than he official typescript you read the Sun-Times.
Two who crowded the mourners bench, burbling their lachrymose tears into their hankies were, predictably, Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel who was White House political director for Bill Clinton when Hyde led the House impeachment and the recently resigned (to spend more time with his family, of course) Republican Denny Hastert (good ol Denny, his eyebrows waggling up and down, his lips pursed as if to say perhaps major but then thinks better of it).
Now that the dead Hyde cant contradict, Emanuel said that Hyde was like a friendly mentor to him in the House. (This after Emanuels service as White House political director when he had looked heavenward in innocence as Larry Flynt and Salon detailed a 40 year old story about Hyde in an attempt to destroy him and the charges of perjury against Bill Clinton. You see, everybody does it!). Warm, greathearted old Uncle Henry put a grandfatherly arm around him and--. (Knowing Henry hed pull that scrawny neck to his bosom so tightly the ex-ballet dancer couldnt breathe).
Then the newly-thin Hastert crowded into the pew with his misty-eyed reminiscence that Hyde waslo and beholda mentor to him as well when Hastert was in the state legislature.
The Trib mentioned nothing whatsoever of any possible connection, even subliminal, between Emanuel and the payback recycled smear on the late congressman. Nor that Hastert refused his fond mentors request for an extension of his judiciary chairmanship and then backed a rival to head the House International Relations committee. There is no institutional memory at the Trib evidently; not even to remember to look at the Morgue clips or what passes for them these days. It can remember the Flynt charge but nothing else, no Illinois connection. Thats because its Washington staff is largely out-of-town, thus out-of-luck and historically out-of-pocket.
If the Trib didnt have John Kass and Dennis Byrne, well, I dunno what itd be.
Over at the Sun-Times, Chicago smart Lynn Sweet and Abdon Pallasch gave a revelatory précisechoing the tabloids once great coverage of old-- of what happened as Hyde prepared the bill of impeachment against Clinton. They interviewed Ab Mikva, former Jimmy Carter-appointed federal judge who was Clintons ethics chief in the White House (self-adulated Mr. Ethics who like the bordello piano player didnt fathom what was going on in the anteroom of the Oval Office while his chief was being pleasured by a eager and willing to please taxpayer-paid intern).
Mikvas job was to water down House impeachment to censure. He told Sweet real historical news: that Hyde originally was favorably disposed to censure but swerved away from that decision after as Ab said (for the first time I ever read) officially that somebody in the White House orchestrated the leakage of the old affair against Hyde. Thats right: someone in the White House leaked it, Ab said. Never came out before. Great, Lynn! You deserve far more dough than what you obviously must get for that great revelation. And who in the White House ? Aw forget it.
This is all news to the Tribune which has much more staff and resources than the Sun-Times but is afflicted with corporate journalistic memory that doesnt extend beyond the day before yesterday. Like when youre teaching political science and a kid asks who was Hubert Humphrey? Makes you want to swat him. And he asks angrily because hes bored that you are intruding on his precious relevance with today by bringing the name Humphrey up.
But the world cup for vacuous came to me last week. The Herald newspaper which covers the northwest suburbs who had someone collecting comments with the tabula raza of somebody who just arrived from Mars. When told the Congressman reflected what few others didthe full nature of the office which goes by the title United States Representative in Congress it seemed like fresh news to him but not enough news to print. He copied down the title like it was news to him: United States Repre--.
But heres the payoff. When told that the Congressman on his retirement, after 32 years in the cockpit of House action from Watergate backlash from Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan. George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, having headed two House committees, was savaged by the White House and blocked by his own Speaker after dealing with the first impeachment of a president since Andrew Johnson and going on to defend a war with Iraq all the while doubting its efficacy the kid asked brightly--
A book? On what?
On gardening, of course.
The Liberal White Bigotry of Lessened Expectations.
Not long ago the top Cook county commissioner next to Todd Stroger, the president, told the media that white racism is afoot and that since Todds budget hasnt been passed, it was Whiteys doings. The commissioner, Bill Beavers (who happens to be a friend of mine because I admire his chutzpah) is black; Todd Stroger is black. There was a great uproar on the board and in the editorial boards because notwithstanding that Stroger is black as are most of his major associates, Cook county government is run by incompetents.
Refreshingly, the two major papers here editorialized by rejecting cynical use of the race card. But there is always at least one white liberal chirruping in the front of the bus (too young to remember the civil rights battles) to whom there is no such thing as incompetence if the purveyors are black. It is the soft bigotry of lessened expectations, pretending that it is oh so wrong to label it incompetence since that would somehow be racism. Chesterton was right: when you believe in nothing you grab for an absolute anything thats around.
One who believes white racism is afoot is Mary Mitchell of the Sun-Times. But thats understandable. Writing while black is her job description. Mitchell was hired to fill a nichethat being the angry black woman so as to accelerate the readership of the paper by polarizing its readers. Other segments fall into line like dominos. The white north side bachelor swinger (a little long in the tooth now because hes well over 40), Richard Roeper who has a predictable liberal hate Bush whine A liberal cum secular-agnostic Jew (as he repeatedly reminds us) who was locked up for wife-beating, Neil Steinberg who regularly comments on Catholic theology which he doesnt understand or comprehend. Item from Friday: Until I saw the musical onstage [Jesus Christ Superstar] when I was 17, good Jewish boy that I was, I was unfamiliar with the storyoh, I knew who Jesus was and his mom, too, I guess but Herod and Pilate and the Garden of Gethsemane were all new to me. A reminder that one man sacrilege is anothers Intro to Religion 101. Such a secular, world-weary schmuck.
Followed by a black gossip columnist whose sole qualification is that she was the secretary to Kup but who sports near ebonics, who seeks to bring celebrity to her pals by telling us what restaurants these nobodies patronize. Top it off with a bubble gum chewing stringy-haired woman with an Italian surname, turned faux-evangelical from Wheaton as a religious columnist who cheered ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead when Jerry Falwell passed and you have pretty much the guts of a paper going pfffft. Without the indisputably great Jack Higgins, Lynn Sweet, Fran Spielman and Abdon Pallasch what would we do?
The WSJ Doesnt Get It.
Dont ask a policy wonk to analyze politics. Fusty, dull Dave Broder is one and tries hard but he hasnt broken a story in decades was dazed when two police reporters pulled Watergate from under his nose but wouldnt have known what to do with it had it bit him on the thigh. Because he writes with such tedium that you can hear the plaster harden on the wall, he got the Pulitzer prize when the awardees got down to the Bs-- but the only paper around here thats carrying him is the Herald in the suburbs and I swear the copy desk doesnt read him either. Any day now hell write that the Middle Easts problems will take a long time to solve.
The Wall Street Journal is my all-time favorite newspaper because it has superb issue analysis depth but I was in enough campaigns in the past even some winning ones where the rule was: dont let the policy wonks determine the strategy. When, for example, a speech writer not policy wonk came up with the idea of Eisenhower whose early 1952 campaign was flat and dull announcing that he would go to Korea, the policy wonks laughedindeed as did Ike at first. What is the sense of sending a 5-star to Korea when he would do nothing but confer with Ridgeway and have mess with the troops? Then the light-bulbs glowed on. And Eisenhower caught on. Of COURSE! Thats the way to top Adlai Stevenson who is a civilian and to emphasize the 5-star generals resume. The policy wonk desk working for Ike still didnt get it until after he came home and his popularity had zoomed beyond Stevensons.
Friday the WSJ brilliant, incisive Kimberly Strassel who is my favorite when it comes to putting the murky language of economics into plain language ventured into political analysis. She was and is a disaster as a politico critic and she shouldnt touch it again. Her point: the Republicans havent come up with new, fresh ideas on the presidential campaign trail. She doesnt realize that a presidential campaign is not the place for anybody to come up with new, fresh, wonkish ideasjust ideas like Ikes going to Korea. The last time someone tried coming up with a new, fresh idea was Ronald Reagan in a federalism speech which damn near killed him aborning. The complexity bewildered the press, bewildered him turned out to be imperfectly conceived and they fired the guy who devised the idea. You think Franklin Roosevelt would have dared come up with full-blown Social Security while running for president in 1932? Or the NRA? Or the NIRA? Or anything? Of course not! The thing to do on the trail is to restate old positions. Fred Thompsons restating of the flat tax is acceptable because its been around for a half century.
But Ms. Strassel still doesnt get it. She complains the race is about biography. Of course, thats what Eisenhower made of it when he went to Korea. He knew he wouldnt solve Korea by going there; it re-burnished his five stars. She continues: Mr. Giulianis campaign is about his past as a New York tough guy who can face down terrorists. OF COURSE! Why do you think hes been leading the polls among Republicans until now at least because he has a stunning view of federalism?
She continues: Mr. Romneys, his past as an MBA who can manage our border. OF COURSE! Next: Mr. McCains, his past as a Vietnam vet who recognized the problems in Iraq. OF COURSE! She could have added: Mr. Huckabees effective governance in Arkansas. The one who talks issues all the time Ron Paul. He doesnt talk about his having been a physician. And is he leading the pack? NO! (Ill hear from the Paul people now). One who has a vibrant way to solve Iraq is Duncan Hunter. And is he leading the pack? NO! One of the more aggressive speakers on his views to meet the challenges of the future was Sam Brownback. And is he around now? NO! Get with it Kim and return to your economic analysis. To the Desk: Stop her before she kills the editorial page!
Laissez Faire Andy on the Unborn.
Since I dont like Andy Greeley, I dont read Andy Greeley . No, thats not right. Since I dont like Andy Greeley I make it a strenuous obligation not to read Andy Greeley. But as you know I am beset with human weakness so my eye occasionally strays to his column. If ones eye offends you, pull it outwell I blame it quite a lot and before I turn in for all eternity,Ive a mind to.
Since I first met him when he, my cousin George and I were all 13 and he, along with George, the nearest one I, as an only child, had as a brother). They were the twin straight A dimpled darlings of Quigley (I went to public h.s., Taft). George was smarter but Andy was the showboat of the two, not only the first kid with his arm waving in the air (Father, I know the answer!) but the spoiled rotten brat of the class who would stand on his head to get attention. And since then this is what he has proved out to be and do.
The Big Dutchman, Cardinal Albert Meyer, thought him the smartest young curate he ever met and slated him for a future monsignori (purple) which could lead to (after the Dutchman was gone) a bishopric (crimson) and, who knows?, the cardinalate (red). He steered the smartest kid in the class to the U of C. While Meyer lived, whenever Andy performed, everybody applauded politely. Andy then was a model priest-writer of pious thoughts finding the perfect mate, the value of chastity like Daniel Lord, SJ and John OBrien, SJ whose slender pamphlets were found for 10 pennies each in the racks in the vestibules of every church.
Then the Dutchman died to be replaced by John Cody. Cody didnt fancy Andys smarter-than-you gibes trimmed to the liberal Democratic texts so he took him off the fast track to the purple. That meant, so sad, no crimson or red. Other smart young curates like his classmate and my cousin George went on to fulfill their tasks but Andy couldnt take it. He resolved to get attention by sticking out his tongue to gain attention in many ways. He was denied tenure at the U of C and charged bigotry. He became a columnist and to get attention spewed things and ideas no other priest could say. Then he turned to novels and wrote soft-porn being sure his picture in ecclesiastical garb (one even in his Mass-saying vestments) appeared to hype the sales. But he never forgot to even-up with Cody. A so-called scandal over corporation sole surfaced in the Sun-Times in manipulative techniques of ferreting out information for which only an insider could obtain although corporation sole was a Chicago bishops preserve since Mundelein. It alleged the old man pocketed archdiocese dough. Never proven but which raised eyebrows from here all the way to Rome.
But what was also alleged was that this Prince of the Church had in his coltish days as priest sired a son who, grown to manhood, looked remarkably like Cody, as we were taught to lisp in catechism class, in image and likeness. The shame of it caused the aorta of the enlarged heart in the old man to pop and he tumbled dead in the bunker at 1555 N. State while at bay from liberal priest critics and the media after which Andys colleagues in roman collars and journalism said good riddance. Today Cody wouldnt have had to be ashamed now since demonstrable heterosexuality in the bishopric would be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But you must remember all this was in the innocent age of the Chicago churchwhen an occasional stray priest might be suspected of lifting his eyes up to the choir loft in admiration of a soprano, not a tenor. Then came Bernardin with whom Andy had a mixed relationshiponce promoting him to be the first American pope and then, when spurned, dropped like a hot potato, predicting, archly, that the Chicago archdiocese would undergo sex scandals. Following the written prediction a rapproachment between the two after which came Bernadins ill health and death.
A pinwheel of color and an intellectual show-off, Andy still loves to grab attention. He has done so by violating and ridiculing on occasion the teachings of his church all the while adhering to his clerical garb as to thumb his nose and flaunt his multi-millionaire celebrity to those whose good sense got him precluded from bishop. There was a time when Andy and I, though never friends, were civil. That was when George lived who brought us both together. I was even invited to his home fronting on Lake Michigan in Indiana and was shown by the Great Man where the Great Man composed his novels. Not now because of his heterodoxy: first mild, opposition to Humanae Vitae, then a spate of things. Always Andy has obediently followed the catechism written daily by the Democratic Left, executing each twist and turn of its dialectic with exactitude. When John Kennedy the hawk urged us to bear any burden, Andy was there; when George McGovern did a 180 and caused a cut in funding in Vietnam, Andy was there.
Abortion decimated Catholic fealty for the liberal Democratsnot Andy. Then came the golden saxophone emblem pinned prominently to his black, immaculately pressed suit coat, representing a large donation to Bill Clinton, the abortion president. An ocean-tide of predictable lip-synch Democratic propaganda columns in the slavishly liberal Sun-Times that have lasted through the years. But rarely did he write of abortion. Until now. His one-party (he had boasted to me he had never, ever voted for a Republican) dialectics require he consider abortion and so he did last week.
Any thought that the priesthood, natural law and the rubrics of abortion that have rated Catholic theological opposition for 2,000 years would prevent his joyous support of the Democratic party is, of course, ridiculous. He deserves the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer Award the man who shred the dogma of the church to serve his King for unswerving partisan constancy over all. Thus, when he makes that final journey, across the river and into the trees, to paraphrase Douglas MacArthur his last thoughts shall benot of the Corps, the Corps and the Corps but of the Party the Party and the Party.
He makes a futile effort to have both at once. I subscribe to the position that abortion, now mater how nearly universal in human history, is morally unacceptable Then: But I wonder if it is proper or prudent to try to impose this Catholic moral view on a whole society that does not agree with us, especially when we cannot even persuade most of our own people. Translate this to civil rights as faced by Hubert Humphrey with his civil rights challenge to his party in 1948. I wonde4r if it is proper or prudent to try to impose this on a whole society that does not agree with us, especially when we cannot even persuade most of our own peoplemeaning the Democratic party composed of senior patriarchs with committee chairmanships and millions of voters in the South.
To continue with Andys speciousness: Might it not be a wiser strategy to strive to persuade the Catholic faithful, four-fifths of whom do not believe that it is always wrong, before trying to make Catholic morality the law of the land? Apply that to Humphrey standing before the Democratic convention of 1948: should we not try to persuade the Democratic faithful rather than make it a litmus test now? Which side do you think Andy the party-first Democrat was on in 1948 when he was 20 years old? The side that Humphrey represented for moral solidity even if it jeopardized a Democratic victory and prompted the walkout of the South?
Further: While were doing that, it will be replied, all those babies are dying, and were letting it happen.
His answer: Perhaps for the time that it would take to persuade our own, we may leave the embryos to Gods loving care, the God who also must protect the vast number of embryos who spontaneously abort.
Leave them to Gods care. Just as we do miners who are trapped in West Virginia, eh, Andy? We go to the utmost to save them; we search lakes and ponds for missing people. We dont we leave them to Gods loving care?
Anyhow whats the use since so many of our bishops are guilty of turning their backs on abuse? Andy: Howver, we are not likely to convert anyone, Catholic or not, by apodictic ukases from men who have, perhaps irrevocably, tarnished themselves by the abuse scandal, men who are making a lot of noise to which no one listens anymore.
Finally, the futility: Does anyone think that the outcome of such an election could be affected in the slightest by a statement about abortion from Catholic bishops? His hoped for answer is no. But when it comes to Iraq where Andy has a partisan interest, yes-yes-YES the bishops must speak!
Echoing the words of Henry II, wrong so often but right when applied here: Will no one rid us of this priest?