Thursday, January 31, 2008

Personal Asides: A Suggestion that We Cool It to Spare Me Penitential Fires...Rush Limbaugh Does It Again…And Jim Cramer the Financial Populist.


Cooling Off Time.

To all my friends who so kindly defend me on this blog against Lawrence…and to Lawrence as well: Let us continue to express our views apart from personal recriminations. The threat by Freiderich March not to submit his views because of the fighting causes me to suggest this. So the purpose of this note is to say your views are all welcome but let there be no battling back and forth between participants—but make your cases robustly and honestly. As one approaching eighty, I am not offended by being called traitor to principle, precept, precedent, flag, conservatism, church or institutions of any kind. In addition, my Opus Dei confessor has given me a sweet penance before he granted absolution from my many sins. It is this: I am to endure all of Lawrence’s comments and not respond—or have any of you respond. If you do, you will deprive me of the requisite days off from Purgatory. So do not answer him or defend me—do not answer him in any respect--or I will be shorn of the good and the days off from the penitential purgatorial fire. Further, if you do not heed me and continue assailing each other, Mr. Powers is herewith instructed to impose the most severe punishment of all—deletion of your remarks. Well, then, we shall resume in that spirit. TR.


Rush Limbaugh’s show yesterday after McCain won the Florida primary was, I hate to say it, an exercise in juvenility. I don’t know how many of you heard it. He took Mort Kondracke’s view that he had lost and orchestrated it into a rally with himself as the candidate while a crowd of voices screamed “Rush! Rush! Rush!” Clearly this man is giddy with the symptoms of ego-illness. Every little mention of him causes him to inflate so hugely that I fear he shall explode like a big float having broken its moorings and drifting over New York city in its pre-Christmas procession, growing bigger by the second, rising ever-near the warm sun with the helium gas expanding dangerously at the joy of being even further recognized It is not enough that he is the nation’s premier talk show host, that he addresses 20 million listeners and that he earns about $40 million a year. He has determined to sacrifice what often is good analysis to make all of politics a referendum on himself. Thus evidently, normal recognition that comes from his profession is not enough--an evidently shriveled sense of un-worth demands evermore and evermore attention and hoped for adulation: like a spoiled child acting up before the adults at dinnertime. Now it is getting embarrassing—rather like Mussolini strutting and shoving out his jaw on the balcony as thousands cheer.

Once more I say that I normally get a lot out of Rush but whenever his name is mentioned by whatever national source is cause for him to interrupt his show and make it a reaffirmation of himself. In so doing, I think he shall soon become very dull and the balloon will burst with the helium spewing out and the rubber covering falling shriveled to the ground. People do not turn on Rush to hear him carrying on about himself—but to hear what very often are excellently phrased opinions. Ever since he has been on I have been bothered by his exaggerated sense of self but have decided he is not egocentric just joking. You know: “talent on loan from God” from “the all-high Maharaja Rushbo” and extolling “every inch of my glorious naked body” and “as I am uniquely trained as a communications professional I will now take my awesome talent in hand before this golden EIB microphone and allow you to ask me any question whatever.” These lines repeated endlessly every day for years have alternatively bored and baffled me but I always had the idea that it is his way of making fun of himself. I now think that is not the case. He has genuinely confused his role as commentator with conservative panjandrum who will not hesitate to destroy a candidacy ratified by the voters if they do not agree with his suppositions.

The other surrogates who share his views I don’t bother about: Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter. As with him whom they imitate, there are no greys with them, only blacks and whites, only chiaroscuro. But that is the nature of the trade of conservative talk show provocateur. Rush is something different. He insists that he…no one else…shall be the ultimate topic. If he harms the Republican party, so be it. But if he continues with these absurdities he will harm himself and deprive us of what usually is very constructive views. Now your views.

Jim Cramer.

Whenever I see this madman I await the appearance of attendants in white uniforms carrying straightjacket, muzzle and a wheeled cart to trundle him off. I thought I was alone until I read Robert Samuelson the other day. One of the best economics reporters with “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek,” he calls Cramer “the hyperactive, loud and opinioned host of CNBC’s `Mad Money.’” And Samuelson tells me what I must know about this frenetic performer who has become a multi-millionaire (supposedly worth $100 million) through his own hedge fund, graduated cum laude from Harvard College, then from its law school, made his haul at Goldman Sachs which he left to start his own hedge fund, quitting that and trying to get hired by District Attorney Rudy Giuliani who decided he was nuts. Anyhow, enough about him. Samuelson calls him one of a type. A type of financial populist, people who “have fundamentally altered the climate in which the Federal Reserve makes economic policy.” Now the populists…hordes of money managers, commentators and economists follow Cramer in assailing Ben Bernanke to “cut interest rates, revive the economy, boost stock prices.” They’re a powerful lobby and last week Bernanke seemed to capitulate. Did he?

No, the Fed thought its rate cut was to avert a panic but the shouting and chair-throwing (Cramer’s specialty) goes on purveying sensationalist views that promote short-term conditions, instant gratification, “higher stock prices tomorrow, better trading profits” shrieking that the economy is in dreadful shape. The cool-headed Samuelson counters: “The Fed’s first responsibility is to keep inflation at low levels because, without that, its other goals of maximum economic growth and low unemployment become impossible…Trying to make matters better now may make them much worse in a few years if higher inflation emerges.”

Is Jim Cramer nuts? Or simply emotionally unbalanced? Who knows? But there’s one index into his mindset that interests me. Guess who he favors for president?

Alan Keyes. Now what does that tell you?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Personal Aside: McCain’s Biggest Problem…and the GOP’s…Lies With One Man. He Can Determine Whether the Base is United for Next November.


McCain’s Problem.

John McCain’s smashing victory in Florida certifies that he is the front-runner—but his biggest opposition…one which can lose him the presidency…is Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh is an institution in this country and holds a definite hold over conservatives. Unlike some, I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Rush. He has contributed enormously to the upbuilding of a conservative consensus in this country. He is far more than a phrasemaker but a thoughtful, witty—even erudite at times—analyst of the conservative mood. As one who got into the talk radio business late in life, I have a fascination and deep admiration for the man who has transformed talk radio into an invaluable educational device for conservatism. There is a snide, smirking view among the intelligentsia in this country that anyone who purveys conservative ideas on talk radio is wafer-thin shallow. Such is not the case. Rush Limbaugh is not only resourceful but he has been at times stunningly ahead of other so-called pundits. And he has produced a legion of talented associates who are very effective on their own—Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin: anyone but Michael Savage.

But all the same, Rush Limbaugh as good as he is, has a distinct liability which carries over, I think, to some of his listeners who tend to echo his refrains, sometimes quite mindlessly. Limbaugh like many communicators has not had any first-hand experience with politics on his own. Which means that he hasn’t faced the necessity to lobby for legislation, to do what it takes to build coalitions. He is solely a microphone practitioner (assuredly an extraordinary one). But there is a difference between people who have been in the political game and those who comment on it. People who have been in the political game, either as a candidate or even a failed candidate, a campaign manager or lobbyist or fund-raiser are not as brittle as commentators. Commentators tend to view politics through only one lens: issues. Politics are more than issues—far more.

To a commentator like Limbaugh who has assailed McCain repeatedly, he could be disastrous for the Republican party because of his more recent record—supporter of immigration reform, global warming, McCain-Feingold, a key formulator of the Gang of 14. They have such a high regard for issues that they cannot imagine how one can turn his back on past issue stands and formulate an entirely new platform based on the necessities of the present. To them this is lack of character. But as I have tried to point out many times—to no avail with some readers—politics is more than a fistful of issue cards. It is not a science but an art. Aside from Calvin Coolidge no presidential candidate or president has approached his task with a boilerplate of issues not subject to instant revision. I know whereof I’m speaking, as an architect of getting legislative programs passed in the Minnesota legislature, as a corporate lobbyist, as an assistant Commerce secretary charged with winning support for my program, as number three in the Peace Corps charged with galvanizing conservative support for my agency.

To rule out John McCain because of his past flirtation with liberalism is not to understand the dynamics of public policy. It is nigh unto impossible for radio talk show hosts who are interested in building listener numbers to dwell on the grey areas. The name of the game is to project black and white attitudes: chiaroscuro. I am still for Romney but I can tell you that with McCain you will not have any of the old liberal nonsense that was born of frustration when he sought to even up the score with the George W. Bush who defeated and humiliated him in 2000. All this McCain liberal stuff was generated from that attitude of misgiving. Times have changed and you will now have a McCain who has reverted back to his old stance of Reagan Republicanism, the Republicanism he signed up for when he first ran for office.

Trust me. I am only worried about one thing. Rush Limbaugh will not understand it because he has never had to get a bill or piece of legislation passed but simply has to sound good over the microphone. As one who has tried to do both—serve as a legislative strategist, lobbyist, publicitor and radio talk show host—I can tell you that they are vastly different disciplines. And Rush can determine whether the Republicans win or lose by the way he handles McCain in the future. Sometimes it does no good to ask a radio talk show host on the right if he would rather have a President Barack Obama or President Hillary Clinton than a President John McCain. Maybe in a commercial sense the answer is yes—railing against a liberal president can build great numbers. But I am confident Rush is more sensible than that and more responsible.

He should set himself to the task of understanding how complicated the presidency is…understand that McCain may well be the nominee…and ask himself if he feels the nation can afford the luxury of him beating up on McCain from the standpoint of McCain’s past stances—stances which now are on the way to being obsolete.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Personal Asides: Bush’s “Stimulus Package” a Disappointment: Why Did He Do It? To Keep the Presidency Republican, Naturally: Rising Above Principle….Ah, Teddy Kennedy Wants to See a Return to Kennedy Camelot with Obama. Let’s See: How Was it Again?


The So-Called “Stimulus.”

What I want to know is this: why in his final year in government, when he is not running, when he has much to point to for proof of his intransigence against fad politics…why has the president proposed a Keynesian “stimulus package” on the fallacious pretext that it can “jump start the economy” when there is absolutely no proof that the economy is in trouble—and the so-called “cure” will prompt the government to borrow lavishly providing a higher tax burden on somebody to show phony transfer payments for abjectly political purposes? And why haven’t the so-called analytical media tried to supply a reason, especially if it is not pretty?

As the Chicago economist Brian Wesbury shows (he won the WSJ prize for guessing to the last decimal point how the economy would do two yars ago), while retail sales fell 0.4% in December and fourth quarter real GDP rose at a sickly 1.5% annual rate, real GDP spurted at 4.9% annually in the third quarter, retail sales topped 1.1% at year’s end; personal income is up 6.1% and small business earnings—when you deduct income taxes, rent mortgages, car leases and loans, debt service on credit cards and property taxes—rose 3.9% higher than inflation. Wesbury’s models based on monetary and tax policy show the GDP will grow 3% to 3.5%, the probability of recession is at an un-frightening 10%--all of this prior to any Bush fire alarm bells ringing off the hook calling for a “stimulus.”

Since then the Fed cut interest rates by 175 points there is a strong possibility that there will be a surge in growth in 2008. His most telling argument: “What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke estimated as a $100 billion loss on sub-prime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations. Even if losses ballooned to $300 billion, it would represent less than 0.3% of total U.S. assets.”

The reason is something that no analyst has yet pronounced. Bush knows far better than this. He is doing it to goose the economy later down the road in mid-2008 and so protect the Republican candidate for president for attacks by the Democrats. He is doing it not for economic reasons but for international ones. He has calculated that either John McCain or Mitt Romney would be infinitely better for the country than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. It shows how seriously Bush views 2008, knowing that the pendulum swing naturally favors the Democrats.

For that reason…since the Democrats are committed to withdrawal from Iraq…he is ready to rise above economic principle to deliver the political goods to forestall a Democratic triumph such as occurred in 1960 when the economy slumped due to the Fed’s mismanagement by Arthur Burns enabling Kennedy to devise the slogan “Let’s get this country moving again.” He doesn’t want the Democratic nominee to get elected on the basis of the old tried and failed liberal nostrums—area redevelopment, more urban renewal involving housing, transportation, water, fresh air, space, schools, libraries, hospitals—and win on those issues. So he is willing to apply the old Keynesian nostrum to give us a booster shot to obviate the demagoguery. In essence, goose us with Keynesianism so that we may not have a worse prospect than John McCain or Mitt Romney as president.

That’s why we’re hearing this nonsense about tax rebates of $600 per individual and $1,200 a couple “refundable,” meaning they will go to 35 million voters who don’t pay income taxes. The last tax rebate happened in 2001 which saw modest growth but did nothing to spur investment or job growth. The big change didn’t come until after the 2003 tax cuts. Now the White House seems to have dropped its bid to make the tax cuts permanent in order to accommodate congressional Democrats.

It’s all designed to keep the presidency Republican in 2008. It’s so important that Bush can afford to compromise his perch with which he can frame the economic debate, deserting his once adamant demand for pro-growth policies, extending the tax cuts and cutting capital gains. The president has surrendered his once solid reputation on which strong economic demands can be based. Now it will be up to Mitt Romney to make the case why it is insufferably bad policy to provide tax rebates to people who don’t pay any income taxes. But as to why Bush did it? Consider the prospect of another John F. Kennedy coming to the White House spurred by a wish to emulate what is falsely called the Kennedy Camelot years.

Teddy Kennedy.

There’s at least one more squeeze in the liberal whoopee cushion. Any vague mistiness that Barack Obama evokes for “change” and “hope,” stems from the colossal hoax played on the American people—from which they have already awakened—with the Kennedy delusion. The grimacing old fraud, Ted Kennedy, used the old clichés in referring to Obama yesterday. He “is a man of grit and grace.” To which David Axelrod who knows hokey political showmanship when he sees it said, “I don’t think anybody believes that Ted Kennedy would endorse a candidate who wasn’t thoroughly committed to the goal of--.” Now it’s “universal health care” but the same bromide can be used for anything Axelrod needs.

“I know he’s ready to be president on day one,” said Teddy. Just like his big brother who had a term and a half in the Senate, enough to give a little more oomph to the “let the word go forth” bromide in his inaugural but who was so paralyzed by the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion launched three months down the road from the inauguration…an invasion that failed because JFK suffered a failure of nerve by canceling its air cover, losing 1,100 and forcing this country to humiliatingly pay $53 million in food and medical supplies to barter their release. Such a failure of nerve that continued that he had to have an “executive committee” peopled by retreads like Dean Acheson run the crisis team for him…generating a weakness that led Nikita Khrushchev to believe he could seal off East Berlin from the West without interference (he was right) as Kennedy himself admitted to the journalist Charles Bartlett…and emplacing nuclear weapons in Cuba spurring the Cuban Missile crisis, all due to Kennedy’s immaturity and inexperience and leading the arrogant Kennedy tribe to retain the Mafia to try to rub out Castro.

Ah those lazy, hazy, misty, womanizing, hedonistic, insufferably arrogant, days of Camelot. At least now perhaps we can see why Bush is prepared to jettison anything to forestall the possibility of Kennedy re-treads coming to power. If a phony rebate will do it and if other Keynesians antics would prevent it, I suppose we should gulp hard and accept them.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Personal Asides: “Sun-Times” Does Well in Firing Elfman, Poorly in Letting Ace Religion Writer Go…Key Presidential Candidates Going Through Shifts in Presentation



Having to unload a number of employees, the Chicago “Sun-Times,” has made some grossly wrong choices under Michael Cooke but some good ones as well. The best decision thus far has been to throw over the side Doug Elfman a TV editor of lamentable taste; the worst by far is torpedoing the best religion writer in the city, Susan Hogan/Albach. Another is to keep the religion “columnist,” the sad joke that is Cathleen Falsani, who writes like a bubble-gum chewing shallow Hippie-sounding nihilist, famous for “ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead” with which she serenaded the death of Jerry Falwell. Of course the ex-publisher’s wife, Jennifer Hunter, is still on the payroll and running up expenses as a “political” writer…one of three…covering Barack Obama. What clout has Jennifer Hunter retained now that her husband…and the only possible reason she was promoted to political writer…has vacated?

The ex-publisher, John Cruickshank, has returned to Canada to run a TV station there but wifey Jennifer continues on the “Sun-Times” staff. If anyone should have been fired it is she: her stories are vapid and predictable. And then, there is the triple-paid Carol Marin, chalking up state-by-state travels on the “Sun-Times’ dime, getting paid for the same dreadful gibberish by NBC-TV and diminishing the taxpayer-supported payroll of WTTW-TV with predictable and yawningly unmemorable excursions in boilerplate political trivia while that station calls around to replenish its coffers—yet still paying Marin. God, are we that hard up for political journalists covering politics that we have to have her summation of the Democratic presidential race so pertinent, so relevant, so challenging, so rhetorically sparkling with which she concluded yesterday’s newspaper column: “this will be a fight to the finish”! By which she evidently means there will be a fight until it is finished. This stale porridge from the successor to the late Steve Neal —oh forget it.

Shifts in Presentation: Lincoln.

Almost all successful presidential candidates have through the years gone through shifts in presentation. When Abraham Lincoln ran for president he observed the general custom of being silent on the issues and resting on his previous record—which meant since he had been a private citizen during much of the struggle his views enunciated in the 1858 senatorial debates with Stephen A. Douglas. It is amazing now to consider that remaining silent on the issues for nominees was the standard operating procedure for campaigns while supporters carried the day.

In the presidential campaign of 1860 regular Democratic nominee Stephen A. Douglas violated custom and barnstormed the country but “National Democratic” nominee John C. Breckinridge and Constitutional Union nominee John Bell stayed home and mute, like Lincoln.

How did Lincoln shift? His stand in 1858 had been indistinguishable from Douglas’ on (a) continuation of white supremacy,(b) the right to hold slaves in the South, (c) the right to retrieve runaway slaves and (d) the need to preserve the Union. The dividing issue between them was (a) the immorality of slavery and (b) whether it should be allowed to expand into the territories. Douglas believed that voters in the territories should have the right to either endorse slavery or abolish it; Lincoln opposed the expansion. When Lincoln put Douglas in a rhetorical trick box in 1858 he maimed Douglas for the presidency two years later. The trick box: You say, Mr. Douglas, you support the Dred Scott decision but you also say you support the territories’ right to vote on slavery. How can you have it both ways? Dred Scott found that slavery was an inalienable right. Let me ask you this, Mr. Douglas: If a territory wants to keep slavery out by popular vote, how can it reconcile itself with Dred Scott?

Douglas answered: by not enforcing Dred Scott. Great Scott! said the South: this guy has sold us out! So by staying mum in 1860 Lincoln won. But we know his views on slavery were evolving—evolving to the point that he was willing to suspend constitutional liberties to keep the Union together in time of war…a kind of contradiction. The people learned after his election in 1860 how strongly he felt.

Franklin Roosevelt.

Franklin Roosevelt ran for the presidency in 1932 on the pledge of submitting a balanced budget yet promising increased aid to business under the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, increased aid to farmers in stabilizing prices; for the jobless he pledged immediate relief and public works projects. All achievable with a balanced budget? Of course not. He hadn’t the faintest idea of the extensive programs he would launch when he ran, as Jim Farley acknowledged. His means of presentation changed by the day and week.


In 1952 Dwight Eisenhower realized the Korean War was nigh unto insolvable without a threat of nuclear reprisal on China but to mention this possibility would be political disaster. On the other hand there was the political impossibility of supporting the continued stalemate in negotiations that was being carried on. And to make things even more complicated, there was the political impossibility of endorsing Douglas MacArthur’s recommendation of taking the war into China. Some political sleight of hand had to be employed.

The campaign did not particularly go Ike until October, 1952 when his strategists hit upon a public relations device that was not a solution but sounded like it was: the declaration “if elected, I will go to Korea.” The meaning was clear but unstated: a 5-star general, hero of World War II would go to Korea to see first-hand what to do, which trumped any card the Democrats might play. But what did this mean in realistic terms? Go to Korea and decide to enlarge the war? Go to Korea and decide to sweeten the bargain to get us out of war? Go to Korea and decide to go further into China? Eisenhower said nothing. Just that “I will go to Korea.”

Adlai Stevenson couldn’t counter that. Eisenhower was elected and indeed went to Korea as president elect in December, 1952. What we didn’t know was that as the negotiations droned on following his presidency, Ike sent word roundabout that he would use nuclear weapons—which caused China to put pressure on the North Koreans to settle…and settle they did—in July, 1953. Had Eisenhower told the voters candidly when he was running that he would use that device, there is every indication he would have been defeated because the risk could involve nuclear conflagration and World War III.

Switches in Presentations Today.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama is a symphony in switched presentations. Once he indicated he would pull the troops out of Iraq ASAP. Now it varies as time goes on. Hillary Clinton voted for the resolution that was interpreted as support for the Iraq War. Now she talks about a phased withdrawal, battalion by battalion at a spaced interval. But no one believes there is a fulsome discussion carried out until after election—for the reason that neither she nor Obama want to tie their hands unduly and lose the election with an unpopular stand.

On the Republican side, only John McCain has been straightforward on winning the Iraq War. It is consistent with his original stance as a first-termer from Arizona, a conservative, pro-tax cut guy in the mode of Ronald Reagan. Then he ran for president against George W. Bush. He won New Hampshire but, angered at Bush for defeating him in South Carolina and ending his presidential hopes (he thought then) he took a decidedly anti-Bush turn in the Senate—opposing the Bush tax cuts, taking a more liberal stand on another of initiatives that Bush opposed, just to vex Bush. It was a standard political operation. Result: he lost much of the conservative Republican base. Now in running again, he is repositioning himself as the John McCain of old, the Ronald Reagan devotee. But on one major issue he has never deviated: winning the Iraq War.

Mitt Romney has presented himself variously—as a moderate to liberal Republican to win election as governor of Massachusetts then in a lightning turn-around as a Ronald Reagan conservative to seek the presidential nomination. He presented himself first as a presidential candidate as a born-again Reaganite. But now he has changed the presentation without tossing overboard the Reagan stuff. He is the superbly sophisticated businessman and economic expert of the private sector which can lead us to overcome our economic woes as he led Bain to great wealth.

Republicans Need to be Realistic.

As this will enrage many Republicans who read this, it is necessarily true that variance in presentations have accompanied all major presidential candidacies. Ronald Reagan crusaded in 1980 to, among other things, abolish the Department of Education. What did he do when he got in? He appointed as secretary of education Terrell Bell who supported continuation of the department and it was continued—because, confronted with other problems, Reagan perceived he didn’t need to rile up congressional liberals from whom he needed to achieve support for tax cuts to revive the economy and a stronger defense which was key to overcoming the USSR.

He campaigned against Jimmy Carter saying he would never yield to terrorists but in Iran Contra his people—Oliver North—solicited sultans, Saudis and Swiss bankers to fund them behind the backs of the people in order to enable the Contras to win in Nicaragua. No use railing about me for writing this—Reagan was still one of our greatest presidents. But it is one thing to listen to Rush Limbaugh and thrill to his uncompromising rhetoric and to govern.

That’s why the first thing Republicans should do in 2008 is to consider what the chances are to keep the White House. Are the chances very good? I don’t think so: with an unpopular War, an unpopular president, an economy that could be weakening. Then you decide who can win? Can Ron Paul win? I don’t think so. Can Mitt Romney win? Maybe (he’s my first choice). But if it comes down to John McCain and he is the only way to win, he should be nominated.

I like Rush Limbaugh as well as the next guy—better, actually, since he is the master of my newly adopted trade--but as a talk show host myself who held posts in federal and state government…and who ran campaigns in two states…let me tell you it is vastly easier sitting in front of a microphone pontificating in uncompromising tones than in actually performing the tasks in the cold light of day in a system that demands support of the electorate to pick a president.

There, I’ve said it. Now let the great purists have at me. Go! Have a field day.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Personal Aside: Sunday’s Radio: J. B. Pritzker and Russ Stewart Plus--.


J. B. Pritzker, co-chairman of the Illinois Hillary Clinton campaign and journalist Russ Stewart will be the guests on my WLS-AM (890) radio show Sunday night at 8 p.m. I’m sure J. B. will give us the Clintons’ side of the imbroglio with Barack Obama and will answer charges from some…not all…pundits that the Clinton attacks on Obama are a tactical mistake. I don’t think so and believe very strongly that Don Rose’s analysis in “The Chicago Daily Observer” a few days ago was the only route for Hillary to go and has paid dividends. But it will be interesting to hear what J. B. has to say.

Russ Stewart, political analyst for “The Chicago Daily Observer” and Nadig newspapers…now that he’s freed from running as a Fred Thompson delegate…will give his famed predictions of what will happen in local races (I don’t know whether we can intrigue J. B. to play the prediction game or not). Russ has a very high degree of right predictions—about 96%--across the board stemming from his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago and Cook county demographics. Among the races we’ll discuss are these:

o Cook county states’ attorney Democratic primary with first assistant states attorney Bob Milan, chief deputy states attorney Anita Alverez, Alderman Howard Brookins, and ex-state official Tommy Brewer. The Republican nominee will be Tony Peraica who is unopposed.

o Cook county board of review 2nd district with incumbent Joe Berrios, Cook county Dem chairman and Jay Deratany, wealthy lawyer with Deranty backed by Assessor Jim Houlihan and Jan Schakowsky; Berrios being Madigan’s guy who has raised $5 million in three years.

o Selected Democratic ward committeemen races including the 50th with Bernie Stone (I refuse to spell Bernie the way he wants: “Berny”) versus Ira Silverstein…the 41st between Ralph Capparelli, Frank Coconate, Mary O’Connor and Pat Mulligan, and the 7th between Sandi Jackson and Bill Beavers.

o Selected Dem congressional races: the 3rd Dan Lipinski and three opponents—Mark Pera, Jim Capparelli and Jerry Bennett…the 8th Republican between Steve Greenberg, Ken Arnold and Kirk Morris to face Dem Melissa Bean…the 10th with Dems Dan Seals facing Jay Footlik the winner to face Republican Mark Kirk…the 14th between Republicans Jim Oberweis and Chris Lauzen.

All these things plus your calls on Sunday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Personal Aside: Tom Cross’ Future.


I introduced Tom Cross, the House Republican leader, to the City Club of Chicago yesterday in my capacity as chairman of the venerable civic group. In my remarks I said that he has been a healing force in the leadership and is one of its truly grown-up leaders. Tom and I don’t agree on some things…important things…but I deeply respect his refusal to demagogue and his steadfast disinclination to instill vitriol in the long budget deliberations. His geniality and sweet disposition are assets for this state as are his plain-spoken elucidation of issues that forebear anger and vehemence.

For that reason I made a prediction in my introduction—a prediction I think could very easily come true. I think he is an incipient Speaker of the House and an incipient governor of Illinois. Having watched legislative leaders in two states for more than fifty years, I am highly impressed with this young man’s capabilities. As can be expected there is always a fringe group that substitutes vitriol for analysis and personal recriminations for dispassionate discussion and they fall upon Tom Cross as they have in the past at selected times fallen upon me. These are people who cannot bear compromise of any form which they misconstrue as weakness. Were they in charge of our national policies during the Reagan years they would have surely fomented war with Gorbachev rather than managed negotiations with firmness and decorousness.

So on Tom Cross, hear me out: I think he’s a comer and a harbinger of a totally reasonable Republican leadership in a state that has vastly changed from the old Bourbon families and the era of lobbyist-czars—a harbinger that I would be very pleased to welcome.

Flashback: An Emergency Room is Set Up in the Conrad Hilton to Treat the Injured from Grant Park Melee; McCarthy is Placed in Nomination, Humphrey Wins Nomination But Rails At TV for Biased Coverage. The Raid on McCarthy’s Staff Quarters.

[More than 50 years of politics written as a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

A Whiff of Tear Gas for the “Fresh Air.”

On Wednesday, August 28, 1968 Gene McCarthy got a whiff of tear-gas through the open window of his hotel suite from the struggles in Grant park across Michigan avenue. He put his handkerchief to his nose as he watched the crowds of kids fighting with the cops and National Guardsmen, commenting on the irony of the sign hanging on a monument across the state reading “Gene McCarthy—a Breath of Fresh Air!” as the kids fell back from the tear gas gasping. He said he thought it resembled the battle between Hannibal and the Romans. “It didn’t have to be this way,” he said to Abigail. She remained silent. They closed the window and returned to the TV, watching his nomination speech by Gov. Harold Hughes of Iowa: “The McCarthy campaign caused a clean wind of hope to blow across this land. The people found Gene McCarthy for u. They found him, they followed him and they have urged him on us. He is more accurately the people’s candidate than any other man in recent history.”

His nominating speech was seconded by Julian Bond and John Kenneth Galbraith. Abigail called McCarthy to the window again and he saw even more violence with paddy wagons arriving carrying more cops. He decided to withdraws his name in the hope it would reduce tensions but his floor lieutenants, Blair Clark and Dick Goodwin, disagreed.

The balloting opened and Gene could see he was losing badly. Somebody in his suite made a comment about Hubert; Gene said, “It’s no use being bitter about Hubert. He’s too dumb to understand bitterness.” Meanwhile in his suite at the same hotel, Hubert was watching the same show on TV and alternatively going to the window looking out on Grant Park. He was in a rage, storming that the demonstrators “don’t represent the people of Chicago. They’ve been brought in from all over the country. We knew this was going to happen. A kind of sideshow.” He watched clips of the violence being interspersed with nomination speeches and fell into his habit of talking back to the television set: “I’m going to be president someday! I’m going to appoint the FCC—we’re going to look into this!”

(It was the same view Richard Nixon had later when he was president to use the FCC to deny the “Washington Post” the right to make certain television and radio station purchases in punishment for the paper’s Watergate coverage). He thundered back at the TV when after San Francisco mayor Joe Alioto’s nominating speech of him and Carl Stokes, the black mayor of Cleveland came on to praise Hubert’s civil rights record, the TV cameras switched to the fighting in the park. He was apoplectic and conspiratorial, sure the TV coverage was engineered by technicians to denigrate his civil rights accomplishments.

At 11:19 p.m. on the 28th the balloting for president began. Muriel Humphrey occupied a box seat at the International Ampitheatre while Hubert stayed decorously in his hotel suite surrounded by aides and press people who wanted to record the scene.

He pulled out his sheet of projected votes and compared the actual tally with them. No surprises. He was 100% accurate. From Minnesota he got exactly 38-1/2 votes to 13-1/2 for McCarthy, exactly what he figured he’d get. Then his tally fell slightly into error. He had projected he’d get 61 votes in New Jersey; he got one more, 62. When the convention roll-taker called “New York,” Hubert called out “ninety-six!” It was 96-1/2. When Pennsylvania was called, Hubert leaned forward and took a sip from his Coke. He had calculated Pennsylvania would carry it for him. It did at exactly 11:47 p.m. It was sweet revenge because McCarthy had carried Pennsylvania in its nonbinding primary by more than a half million votes, yet in the convention Pennsylvania gave Hubert 103-3/4 votes. He was nominated and just then Muriel appeared on the screen.

Hubert, to the end of his life an old-fashioned South Dakota small-town sentimentalist, ran over to the screen and shouted “There she is! I wish Momma were really here! She how pretty she looks!” With that he impulsively bent down and kissed her image on the screen as “Life” magazine photographers recorded the scene. The phones were ringing crazily. One call was from President Johnson who congratulated Hubert. Hubert replied “bless your heart!, Thank you!” The other came from Richard Nixon in response to Hubert’s calling Nixon weeks earlier after Nixon was nominated in Miami Beach. The convention roll-call droned on even though the magic number for Hubert’s nomination had passed. The official tally was: Hubert 1760-1/4, McCarthy 601, McGovern 146-1/2, Rev. Channing Phillips, Washington D. C.’s favorite son, the first black ever to have his name placed in nomination for the presidency 67-1/2, Gov. Dan Moore of North Carolina 17-1/2, Edward Kennedy 12-3/4, and others 16-1/2.

Mulling Over the Vice Presidents on the Throne.

Then Hubert went to the bathroom to be alone and while sitting on the throne in solitary splendor considered his possible running-mates. His first choice was Ted Kennedy and indeed had a plane all set up on Meigs field ready to fly to Cape Cod if Kennedy accepted to pick up the young senator and take him to Chicago, but there was no hope, Kennedy refused all offers. There was even a more daring variant of that plan. Larry O’Brien had suggested that a moment of electricity would come if Hubert would resign the vice presidency immediately, fly to Massachusetts the next day and appear with Teddy as his anointed vice president. Hubert considered this for a half hour while sitting on the throne but felt it was entirely inappropriate.

He returned to the parlor and sketched out other names on a pad: Oklahoma’s brash young liberal senator Fred Harris with the beautiful full-blooded Indian wife—but Harris was too inexperienced and Muriel had a definite question about the wife. He thought about Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy brother-in-law but Larry O’Brien had checked and found that the Kennedy family opposed this strenuously. He wondered about Terry Sanford the progressive governor of North Carolina but while Sanford was progressive for North Carolina he wouldn’t make muster as a national running mate for Hubert because he had had a number of contradictions—so he crossed that name out. Earlier he had even wondered about the possibility of getting New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican and had asked Massachusetts Gov. Endicott Peabody to approach him. Peabody did but Rocky decided no. He thought about New Jersey’s Gov. Richard Hughes (not to be confused with Iowa’s Gov. Harold Hughes who was for McCarthy) but John Connally had vetoed this because he felt Richard Hughes had short-changed the Southern delegations as chairman of the credentials committee.

There was one other possibility that seemed good. Maine’s Ed Muskie was like a big, forlorn, long-faced moose. He had been close to McCarthy but split with Gene on the issue of the war. Muskie was a Pole and a Catholic. Hubert decided to pick him for vice president. That decision was later adjudged, as Hubert said, as “damn good.” Muskie was a superb performer for Hubert in that capacity. He called Muskie on the phone, got his agreement and made plans to go immediately to the convention where he would meet Muskie on the platform the next day

By early afternoon of Thursday the 29th , McCarthy held a news conference and used words that were prescient. He said his defeat a “was only a temporary setback to our cause. I think we opened up a new kind of politics for America. I think it will manifest itself after the convention and make itself felt in the next four years.” He called for “one man one vote” at the next convention and when someone yelled, “forget the convention!” he replied “we’ve forgotten the convention, we’ve forgotten the vice presidency, we’ve forgotten the platform and we’ve forgotten the national chairman of the Democratic party!”

“The Government in Exile.”

Then, escorted by secret service, he walked to Grant Park, walking silently past the National Guardsmen with their sheathed bayonets and standing under an elm tree on that hot afternoon (where I had come over from my office in the Merchandise Mart to watch) said “I am happy to be here to address the government in exile.” He added: “My message on this late afternoon is that I will not compromise. All the way, I say! I have not departed from my commitments to you nor have you departed from your commitments to me. And so we go on in this same spirit!” And so I watched the catastrophic change in the oldest political party in the world. From that time on, movement people and movements would begin to supplant political leadership which had chosen so well its candidates of the past including Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

That evening Hubert accepted the nomination surrounded by hundreds of newly printed green and white Humphrey-Muskie signs plus a huge banner unfurled on the convention floor, “We Love Mayor Daley!” Hubert: “I proudly accept the nomination of our party!” Hubert reviewed the party’s accomplishments and cited its leaders who stood where he was standing including Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy—and, he added, “Lyndon Johnson.” The hall exploded with a cacophony of cheers and boos and catcalls. He continued: “I truly believe that history will surely record the greatness of his contribution s tro the people of this land and tonight to you, Mr. President, I say thank you! Thank you, Mr. President!”

Then, true politician to the core, he followed that effusive “thank you” to LBJ with a hint that he would separate from his policies in the future on Vietnam. “If there is any one lesson that we should have learned, it is that the policies of tomorrow need not be limited by the policies of yesterday. My fellow Americans, if he becomes my high honor to serve as president…I shall apply that lesson to search for peace in Vietnam as well as to all other areas of national policy.”

He applied a bit of what he hoped was healing salve: “To my friends—and they are my friends and they’re your friends, and they’re fellow Democrats—to my friends Gene McCarthy and George McGovern, who have given new hope to a new generation of Americans that there can be greater meaning in our lives…to these two good Americans I ask your help for our America and I ask you to help me in the difficult campaign that lies ahead.”

The summation: “I say to America: put aside recrimination and dissension. Turn away from violence and hatred—believe what America can do and believe in what America can be. And with the help of that vast, un-frightened, dedicated majority of Americans, I say to this great convention tonight and to this great nation of ours—I am ready to lead this country!”

And flanked by Edmund Muskie and George McGovern, he waved his support to the convention. There was no Gene McCarthy who had unsurprisingly turned down Hubert’s invitation to come to the podium. Abigail had urged him to reconsider but he would not.

There was one more episode that fueled the McCarthy bitterness. At 5 a.m. the next morning police and National Guardsmen raided the McCarthy staff headquarters on the 15th floor of the Conrad Hilton—Suite 1505A. They charged that objects were being tossed from the windows of the suite. They broke open the doors, beat McCarthy workers with clubs and herded them into the elevators and to the main lobby of the hotel. McCarthy had risen early with the intention to pay another visit to Grant Park where the kids had spent the night but was told of the intrusion on the 15th floor. He went there and found a number of his young campaign volunteers in panic and a number of young women, including his niece, Marybeth McCarthy crying hysterically. He said to Abigail, “what do you think now about reconciliation?” She answered, “I always thought it a good idea.” He had no comment. It seemed they were approaching a parting of the ways.

He demanded that someone call the Humphrey suite to restore order but Hubert was sound asleep and his press secretary, Norman Sherman, refused to awaken him. Later Hubert defended the cops in the same general tones that Mayor Daley used:

“I got to looking at this people and thinking: `Well, they’re just not decent people.’ When they throw stink bomb in the lobby of the hotel and when they stand under your window and utter the most foul profanity all night long, I don’t consider that peace-making. I don’t. I think it was a terrible thing.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Personal Asides: U. S. Treasury Secretary Mentioned for Illinois Governor…Not Again! Keynesian Economics Rears its Head.


Henry Paulson.

I mentioned roundabout that I hear Henry Paulson, the U. S. Secretary of the Treasury might be interested in running for governor. He has an estate in Barrington Hills, is 61, was CEO of Goldman Sachs and like a lot of other Goldman Sachs CEOs is interested in public policy. Unlike a lot of them, he is a Republican. Jon Corzine as you know became the U. S. Senator from New Jersey and governor of that state. Robert Rubin became Clinton’s secretary of the treasury. Paulson who is nearly a billionaire would be almost entirely self-funded so it would obviate going hat-in-hand to the usual GOP sources which exact fearful concessions for their money.

Keynesian Economics.

But probably a central reason for opposing Paulson down the road would be his likely role in formatting the Bush panicky reaction to the so-called recession. Paulson should know that the current view that recession is either hear or about to arrive should be taken with a large dose of salt.

For the life of me I don’t understand why George W. Bush is being panicked to go for an economic stimulus package to “forestall a recession” when the pretext, Keynesian economics, has been so widely disproved. I appreciate why the Congress has been stampeded to this point since they all want to be reelected, but Bush? The idea stems from British economist John Maynard Keynes who believed that spending was the paramount force in the U.S. economy. But his views were hatched during a period of world-wide deflation when deficit spending by governments often appeared to be the only means of getting money into circulation at a time when the markets were beset with lack of liquidity and the Fed’s efforts were impeded due to the closure of so many banks. It is old-fashioned economics by today’s rubric and not very good economics at that. Tax cuts were feared to be inflationary. But economics have come a long way since then. There is no case history showing that tax rebates which Bush supports are effective in kicking starting the economy.

Your views?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Personal Aside: John Stroger and Eugene Sawyer. Two Hacks but Different.


John Stroger.

The newspaper and electronic obits said it as eloquently as they could for John Stroger without being struck by a lightning bolt generated by an angry God who desires some reportorial honesty. They decorously omitted the imperfections. He was a symbol of equality of opportunity in the Democratic machine. Before he came along, the big jobs…save only Bill Dawson’s (and his congressional seat was dependent on the black South Side)…were for pink-cheeked and pinky-ring fingered venal Irishmen and some eastern European hacks. John Stroger paid his dues, hunkered down, became a plantation worker for the Daleys and others, bided his time and rose to president of the Cook county board. They say he was a gentleman. Yes he was. I met with him a number of times and he always remembered to ask about an African American friend of mine with the elegant name of John Tobias Dixon who was the 8th ward Republican committeeman—a man of no power but who nevertheless was a friend of John Stroger. Stroger always meant to help John Tobias Dixon. Not that he ever did but his heart was in the right place. We laughed about John Tobias Dixon from time to time.

Beyond that, John Stroger was beset with the affliction of masterly inattention to detail and an indistinct articulation that was a great asset. More people were fooled believing they heard him right or knew what he meant. It was an innate gift. But in addition, let it be said that he scrupulously blocked any religious sensibilities form interfering with his devotion to the Democratic party. Before him, a fellow Catholic, George Dunne, the last of the old Irish bosses who was from the north side and was a rather lackadaisical chairman of the Cook county Democratic party, was nevertheless a daily communicant. He had his faults, George did: some of them being the ladies. In his widower-hood and long before that when his wife was dying, he got involved in a terribly squalid, embarrassing, humiliating minor scandal with some of the worst-looking and pathetic battle-scarred creatures it was possible to fathom aside from the famed bar scene of “Star Wars.” He was degraded when the news came out but he kept on going to Mass, sitting in the back row of Holy Name. And as president of the Cook county board when the abortion issue started to claim all the Democrats…when Richie sold out along with the others, rising above principle to embrace “a woman’s right to choose”…George served his moral proclivities well by banning taxpayer abortions at Cook county hospital, taking whatever heat there was to take from his party.

Be it noted that his successor Richard Phelan, a one-time seminarian, who succeeded him implemented abortion services at Cook county hospital, marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade arm-in-arm with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin who had a tendency to forget such incidentals. And be it recorded that John Stroger, good Catholic and parishioner of St. Columbanus and friend of the Daleys kept abortion services on at Cook county proclaiming all the while how much the Church meant to him. He couldn’t pronounce it very well with his slurring Arkansas accent and probably wouldn’t have wanted to use the word even if he understood it, but he mastered the art of compartmentalization: the knack of calling yourself a Catholic, of receiving honors at the so-called Red Mass where his fellow hypocrite Catholics awarded him honors for the being the great Catholic lay lawyer he was and giving all due assistance to the poor to kill their progeny at public expense. . He is survived by a long line of egregious Roman Catholic hypocrites who dip their fingers in the holy water, bless themselves and say a Pater and an Ave as to warrant their pedigree of Irishmen and Catholics: Lisa Madigan and Danny Hynes and his father Tommy and Richie Daley and Maggie with their Irish mugs syruping for votes along with the black contingent such as Emil Jones…oh why go into the litany, we know who they are even if the Archdiocese prefers not to single them out because the money and the clout they confer on the Church is very important, don’t you know.

Anyhow John Stroger was the first black to join that august company of rising to the pinnacle and forgetting the moral verities while the media to make them feel better looked the other way and never brought up the contradiction. I visited him once when Orlando Jones, his nephew or whatever, who died in mysterious circumstances was his top aide: the two a symphony of confusion and mismanagement. Topped only by his son Todd. At least John had some political skills. Although I doubt he ever really ran anything because the county under his leadership—“leadership” hah! That’s a laugh—was a heap of penny-ante and major corruption, tax hikes, ineptitude, a haven of waste, a disgrace.

But let it be said that John Stroger became the first black to share the honor and to preside over the pie. In a long line of hacks he was the first to integrate them and became the first black hack. Rest in peace, John. And if before the end you murmured a contrition you just may.

Eugene Sawyer.

Of Eugene Sawyer whom I knew pretty well…not as well as I knew John Stroger…I always felt some sympathy. A man they called rightly “mumbles” he was similar to Stroger in inarticulation but he was a bland, decent soul and it is revelatory to have seen that ace Hispanic demagogue Luis Gutierrez on television feeling a pang of guilt for not giving Sawyer a chance. Instead the liberals like Jacky Grimshaw a beady-eyed operator with a superb sense of wrapping herself in the toga of civil rights being careful to watch out for Jacky all the while, who wanted to save her old job with Harold Washington favored Tim Evans who could make a decent speech but that’s about all. Mumbles tried very hard and had a beatific smile. He was a kind of asterisk but a nice asterisk. Decent instincts although he never really understood how to make a buck in the private sector. But he had a kind of grace that even Harold Washington didn’t have. He was outclassed by Washington and little Looie and the professional civil righter group around Looie destroyed him which paved the way for Richie. Watching Looie feel bad and have some guilt made me feel that Looie has some conscience which all in all is a great surprise knowing Looie. And which is quite edifying really.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Personal Asides: McCain’s South Carolina Win and Lingering Conservative Dissent that “He’s No Reagan.”….The Bill Clinton-Obama Imbroglio is a Risk for Hillary that Can Only be Rectified One Way.



With John McCain’s victory in South Carolina, the prospect of his becoming the Republican nominee has struck a sour note with some die-hard conservatives who lament he is not another Reagan. Of course he isn’t. Nor was Reagan either in the way these ideologues believe.

Some conservative Republicans drive me nuts when they decide adversely what kind of president John McCain…or Mike Huckabee…or Mitt Romney might be—with various glum pronouncements that this one or that one won’t be another Reagan. That’s because they are so cocksure they know—when in all U.S. history there was only one president who remained at all close to his campaign ideology—one president—and that wasn’t Ronald Reagan but Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge granted tax relief for the rich because he understood they would use lower taxes to invest more. He was right. When Mississippi was engulfed in the worst flood in history (topped only by Katrina), Coolidge refused to send federal aid because he felt it ws the state’s job to save itself not the federal government’s.

Next to Coolidge, Reagan was malleable in ideological terms. Mythmaking assures us he was not —but he was. The bargaining he learned as chief negotiator for the screen actors’ guild, playing poker with the likes of shrewd Sam Goldwyn and Jack Warner.

As one who was privileged to spend a one-on-one with the man who was to become the 40th president in 1979 in a room at the O’Hare Hilton where he consumed a lean steak sandwich before boarding a plane back to his beloved California, less than a year before his election, I was charmed to see that his ideology was crystal clear. He had four fixed points: (1) Communism had to be defeated--not accommodated through détente as Nixon and Ford had sought…(2) the federal government was too big and cost too much…(3) abortion, he had decided after some wavering, was wrong and should be steadfastly opposed by government which had the obligation to defend the most defenseless of us, the unborn coupled with almost a Puritan view—astounding from an ex-Hollywood actor-- which severely criticized the culture…and (4) the economy needed fewer regulations and more tax cuts. The simplicity of his vision entranced me. Before him, I had been accustomed to politicians playing a slightly different song to every audience with enough elastic to justify their defense of ambiguity when challenged. Not Reagan.

But all the same I didn’t want to be impolite with my guest about his record in California—because I was indebted to his campaign manager for president with the meeting and the job of seeing he got on his plane without delay for LAX. So I listened and questioned gently. Yes he took a hard-line against anti-Vietnam protesters on campuses in his state—a harbinger (I hoped) of a tough foreign policy line (but who could be sure?). On abortion, he had signed the most liberalized abortion law in the country because he was mis-led by his father-in-law Royal Davis, a society physician from Lake Forest, IL On the size of state government, yes, after inheriting a sizable deficit from Pat Brown, he imposed a hiring freeze on state employees and cut the budgets of state agencies 10% across the board and dropped hundreds of thousands of less needy on welfare. On cultural issues, yes, he vetoed bills to decriminalize possession of marijuana and to establish bilingual education. However the analyst in me sought out possible contradictions. There were some. .

Item: When the fiscal health of the state returned, he created a handful of state antipollution agencies. Item: while railing against the welfare mentality he had increased benefits for those meeting new eligibility requirements (admittedly the very poor). Item: he won an income tax hike from the legislature which he claimed was essential to balancing the budget. Item: he granted conjugal visitation to state prison inmates (a very progressive step in the 1970s but anathema to the law-and-order crowd). Item: he actively campaigned against a state proposition that would have barred homosexual teachers from public schools (which caused conservatives like Richard Viguerie, a frequent critic, to say his conservatism was illusory).

So while conservatives hoped for the best from him, there was still a faint unease. Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL), in fact, who had been his champion in 1976 against Jerry Ford entered the 1980 presidential sweepstakes against him—principally because he proposed to run in `76 with liberal Republican Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, inveighing that Reagan was not as conservative as he sounded.

As the world now knows, as president he achieved much of his agenda. Always shaky on details and prone to avoid as much hands-on as he could, Reagan bewildered me when I questioned him on the details of California state government. Item: There was a hidden open pipeline for federal aid to the states in Washington that was discovered for Illinois Governor Dick Ogilvie by his Washington rep, Tom Corcoran (no relation to the legendary lobbyist of the same name) and Reagan’s Washington rep. named Tom Joe. Siphoning a legendary amount of federal dough to the states enabled some of the bills to be paid—until the feds closed the pipeline. A serious study was written about that pipeline by a conservative think tank (AEI). But when I asked if he knew the story, Reagan clearly did not. Nor—and this was amazing to me—had he ever heard of Tom Joe. I was stunned that he hadn’t and have wondered since then who had made it work if Reagan didn’t know about it. We’ll never know.

When I visited with him, Ronald Reagan was not a supply-sider, yet. He was an old-fashioned enemy of deficit spending and felt that the first thing to do was to cut government spending rather than gemerate tax cuts. But later in 1979 Jack Kemp (to his great credit) sold the concept of supply-side to him—and the idea of tax cuts to stimulate the economy via the Laffer Curve found an apt disciple in Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was not infallible. After he defeated George Bush in the primaries and Bush cashed in his chips, Bush expected that he would be named vice president because that was the logical course to win a united Republican party. But Reagan had the feeling that Bush was a very weak man. Therefore he approached former president Jerry Ford and suggested that Ford run with him as vice president. Ford very nearly did so. It would have been a disaster and in the nick of time Reagan perceived this and torpedoed the idea, picking Bush. He loved statistics to pepper his speeches but would not go to primary sources. He’d rip out clippings from “Human Events” and other right-wing newspapers and add them to his talks. Sometimes the statistics were okay, sometimes not. He drove his researchers crazy with this habit. He announced to an audience one day how terrible it was that Vietnam veterans weren’t included in the GI Bill. They were. He said natural foliage produced more environmental hazards than factory pollution: wrong again.

But despite these human elements, as president, Reagan showed he was willing to endure severe unpopularity. He hunkered down as Paul Volcker of the Fed (whom Jimmy Carter had initially appointed and he re-appointed) wrung inflation out of the economy which stood at more than 13% to 2% before setting in at the 4-5% range, creating at the outset the worst recession since the Depression. The economy came roaring back in November, 1982 in an economic expansion that was the longest in peacetime since World War II. He courageously adopted supply side economics which spurred the economy even though deficits rose. He was smart enough to see that the deficits were a blessing; they scared the Congress so much, the big-spenders feared to continue their profligate ways lest the economy tank.

And his optimistic reliance on the instinct he picked up in economics 101 at Eureka college so long ago won the day. Income tax rates were lowed, the top-rate from 70% to 28% in seven years. He was forced to renege a bit in the middle of his first term and hike taxes slightly in order to get his budget approved by Congress. In fact, during the Reagan years a record 20 million new jobs were created or five jobs for every minute he was in office. By the time he retired, 118 million Americans were employed—more than any other time in U.S. history.

But in order to build up the military, his budgets, always theoretically balanced were as a practical matter unbalanced. His expanded defense spending coupled with the Star Wars proposal caused the Soviet to back away and ultimately collapse of its own weight, Gorbachev announcing in December, 1988 on a visit to the U.S. that he was unilaterally cutting the military and withdrawing from eastern Europe.

This much Reagan left unfinished—and he regretted it: a balanced budget. Some supply-siders said deficits didn’t matter—but they did to Reagan and he hated them. He repeatedly called for a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget but the national debt passed a trillion dollars for the first time in history in October, 1981 and doubled before he left office. The annual interest on the debt hit more than $150 billion to become the third largest item in the budget next to entitlements and defense. In 1982 the annual deficit rose beyond $100 billion for the first time in history and in three of the next four years exceeded $200 billion. His Supreme Court appointments were only so-so. Sandra Day O’Connor was an evasive centrist who upheld “Roe v. Wade”; Antonin Scalia was great and a superb addition to the Court; Anthony Kennedy was a disappointment but recently has given conservatives some hope on the abortion issue.

I give this rather even-handed assessment of Reagan notwithstanding his role as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century. But it is still a matter of some wonder to me—and to others—on how he accomplished so much with an admittedly shaky, very shaky, command of detail and a proclivity not to be hands-on. Was his broad vision enough or did he have an extraordinarily good staff? That is still the unanswered question where Ronald Reagan is concerned. But there is no doubt that he was one of the most accomplished-filled presidents of the century.

Yet the initial doubts that existed about Reagan, even from some conservatives, should be a reminder to those who so assuredly insist that a John McCain will not be a Reagan, a Mitt Romney won’t be either or a Mike Huckabee. Of course they aren’t. How could they be? These men are all extraordinarily well qualified—McCain because of his war hero status and his prescience and courage to fight for victory in Iraq which has been justified by the successful surge…Romney because he is undeniably expert in a whole panoply of tests, private sector as well as public, Huckabee because he did an almost superhuman thing: rise from an asterisk to a national contender with very little money or support from the media.

In summary, I am still for Romney first of all but have the clear feeling that McCain will get it in which case I would hope the ticket would be McCain-Romney as the strongest that could be devised. I would imagine Fred Thompson will be retiring from the field, with his support such as it is going largely to Romney.

Ron Paul placed second to Romney in Nevada—but the big mystery to me is what Ron Paul has done with the money he has raised. I would have imagined he could have used it to start an advertising program that would lift him somewhat. Perhaps the Ron Paul readers can enlighten us. I am sure he will be running as a Libertarian candidate while at the same time seeking reelection to the House where he can use his tenure to campaign for term limits.

On the Democratic side I am still of the opinion that the nominee will be Barack Obama. Your comments?

Bill Clinton vs. Obama.

The increasing bitterness between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton involves a risk for Hillary Clinton. If she gets the nomination and Obama continues with his bitterness, a sizable majority of the blacks could stay home rather than vote for her. Understand I still think Obama’s going to get the nomination, but if I’m wrong and she does, she has to…absolutely has to…convince Obama to run on her ticket as vice president. If she wins the nomination and doesn’t pick Obama, the blacks will feel that for the first time in U.S. history when they had a chance to win the presidency, the Clintons blocked them. Given the role blacks play in the Democratic party, it would be fatal to allow that bitterness to fester. That doesn’t mean that if Obama gets the nomination, Hillary would agree to run as his vice president. No way. But it does mean that Hillary better be sure that she names Obama as her vice president. There’s no way out—else the Democrats will go down in flames.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Personal Aside: The Chaos in Springfield is a Variant of the Chaos in Grant Park that Convinced Many the Democrats Could Not Govern. The Question is: Will this Happen to Illinois Democrats? It Might.


National Democratic Party Chaos.

Some…certainly not all…readers of this website have been kind enough to express great interest in the memories I supply concerning the internecine battle of two men I knew well who vied for president—men from the same state—Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. Though this happened almost 40 years ago, the tumult that radicalized the Democratic party convinced many voters…some who are still around even today…that the Democratic party was unable to govern.

So turned off were certain factions that had sworn loyalty to the Democratic party…segments of blue-collars, labor (organized and unorganized), lesser educated, average working people…that the history of the country changed accordingly. In 1968 one of the most unattractive and ungainly of men…ill-at-ease, insecure, a man who disliked people in the aggregate…was elected president by 43.4% to Humphrey’s 42.7% with George Wallace getting 13.5%. So climatic was that election that it started a realignment of the South, with Nixon—by 1972 a crook and malevolent but nonetheless a cockeyed genius who had had the insight to go to China—winning over the inheritor of the McCarthy peace tradition, George McGovern by a whopping margin of 61% to 38%.

Thanks to Watergate, the Jimmy Carter election was a brief interregnum that was indecisive and didn’t forestall the continuing realignment, Carter 50%, Gerald Ford 48%. Carter’s continuation of what for all practical purposes was the McGovern-McCarthy peace-in-our-time policy led to an abortive SALT II wherein Carter exclaimed that too many people were over-concerned with communism, a residue of McGovernism. The treaty fell of its own weight and was not even voted on by the Senate because the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. This was followed by the Carter administration’s weak-willed response to the taking of American hostages in Iran. The conservative Republican trend was renewed with the election of Ronald Reagan (51%) to Carter (41%) and John Anderson’s 7%.

And reaffirmed by Reagan’s reelection 59% to Walter Mondale’s 47% where Mondale followed the McGovern foreign policy line, complete with nuclear freeze and a call for higher taxes. George H.W. Bush beat Mike Dukakis, who had adopted the McGovern foreign and domestic policies who refused on television to respond to an incendiary question as to how he would react if his own wife were raped and murdered, 54% to 46%. After Bush reneged on his read-my-lips pledge on taxes and took a path different from Reagan, he lost to Bill Clinton but even here by a very slight margin due to Ross Perot’s 19% tally that no one denied came from largely conservative votes: Clinton 43%, Bush 37%, Perot 19%. And the most lackluster candidate of modern times, Bob Dole, equaled only by fellow Kansan Alf Landon lost to Clinton who still hadn’t been able to get more than 50%: Clinton 49.2%, Dole 40.7%, Perot 8.4%.

Thenceforward, George W. Bush got 48% to Al Gore’s 48.5%, Ralph Nader’s 2.7%, Pat Buchanan’s 0.4% and the Libertarian party’s Harry Browne’s 0.4%., the decision reaching the U. S. Supreme Court. Did the Democrats learn the next time? Nope. They nominated another McGovernite, John Kerry and the results were Bush 51%, Kerry 48%, Nader 1%. Now with all the attendant problems of incumbency, a war and fading economy, it appears that the Democrats have not learned their lesson and are hell-bent on nominating a McGovernite candidate, Barack Obama. When will they learn?

The answer is they won’t. As one who has voted for Democrats in two states, I only wish that party would be able to kick the deadly disease of McGovernism spawned 40 years ago so that the country could enjoy two vibrant parties. The prospect of Barack Obama becoming president with all his wispy rhetoric that beclouds a far-left philosophy can only bring the nation ill—but also a realignment with a vengeance after he leaves office.

Even now, the Republican lineup, barring the lanky, cranky doctor from Texas who wants to repeal the Food and Drug Administration, is infinitely superior to the Democratic phalanx. The cycle demands a change of party, however—and whether that cycle can be deterred by rationality as voters perceive “change” from the very fragile young man from Hawaii who is aided by a media compromised by, as Brian Williams has admitted, a seeming inability to be objective when the Democratic candidate is black (or semi-black) is anyone’s guess. Since Williams missed the civil rights era he wants to play catch up emotionally the only way he can by feeling good as he slants his stuff pro-Obama. But of this there can be no doubt: due to the errors committed in 1968—errors that now have invaded its bloodstream--, the Democratic party has been rendered valueless as an instrument of responsible change.

Illinois and Local Democratic Chaos.

I don’t have to remind readers of the similar chaos that has overtaken the Illinois Democratic party where the governor may well become a case history to be studied by those who believe he has substituted media sound bites for governance. But it is far more than he. The Democratic leaders of both Houses have not been able to supply the grist and muscle needed to tame him. On the Cook county level, similar chaos born of racial politics has subordinated governance to whim and whimsy.

To those who wring their hands about the bankruptcy of the Illinois Republican party I have no answer except to say that this party is bound to repudiate the Combine-accommodationism that was spawned by the cynical Big Jim Thompson and his followers culminating in the moral squalor of George Ryan. If for no other reason than perhaps the secretary of the treasury, a man of great wealth, might decide to run for governor, there is every reason to hope that things will be better because the nature of the GOP is not corrupted by racial or gender politics and McGovernism. It is my belief that the travesty that is happening in Springfield and in the county building here should spur voters to become imbued with the idea of building a strong counter to the decadence.

What do you think?


McCarthy Entreats Kennedy to Run Saying “While I’m Doing this for Teddy, I Could Never Have Done it for Bobby”…But Teddy Refuses to Run…LBJ Jerks the Cord so Connally and Other Southern Leaders Fall Back into Line Behind Hubert. All this and the Battle of Grant Park.

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

Teddy Declines the Crown.

Spawned by Chicago’s Richard J. Daley and California’s Jesse Unruh, the Teddy Kennedy for President in 1968 began to gain momentum with their breakfast on Tuesday, August 27 and take the size of a possible “Draft Kennedy” move. Hubert once again began to suffer abdominal pains thinking that history would repeat itself with a Kennedy snatching the prize away from him. McCarthy aide Richard Goodwin contacted Kennedy brother-in-law Stephen Smith and arranged a meeting with McCarthy. Smith found McCarthy surprisingly willing to support Teddy and drop his plans to run. “I can’t make it,” Gene said. “Teddy and I have the same views and I’m willing to ask all my delegates to vote for him. I’d like to have my name placed in nomination and even have a run on the first ballot. But if that’s not possible, I’ll act as soon as it’s necessary to be effective.” He added a bit of the old McCarthy bitterness: “Understand while I’m doing this for Teddy, I could never have done it for Bobby.”

But Kennedy felt unprepared for the venture and telephoned Daley, Unruh and Hubert to say that not only would he not run but that he would withdraw his name if it were to be placed in nomination. Then and only then did Hubert know that he would get the nomination. Paradoxically, Ted Kennedy could probably have won the nomination and the election had he agreed to run—because the country was so torn up with the murder of the two Kennedys and the death of Martin Luther King. He thought he would wait until he got more seasoning but with the very next year—1969—came the episode at Chappaquiddick and his presidential hopes were dashed. In the afternoon of the 27th, McCarthy met with Publisher John Knight and said that in his estimation, since Ted Kennedy would not run, Hubert would get the nomination.

McCarthy speculated that Hubert had ascertained that his and Nixon’s position on Vietnam were so identical that the campaign would concentrate on domestic issues. Then McCarthy went to dinner and a long liquid period of reflection with the poet Robert Lowell during which he reflected that he’d probably support Hubert after a few weeks, that he might retire from the Senate when his term ended in 1970, that following his retirement he might want to run for president again and that he doubted Teddy, having turned down the nomination once, could get the nomination again. Jerry Eller went along and survived the drinking bout, falling asleep at the restaurant table as both recited poetry. Blair Clark had sworn off and stayed away. Abigail stayed in her hotel room with their three daughters and son, watching the convention’s procedures unfold on TV.

One of the highpoints of a dull evening was none other than the singer Anita Bryant (later to become the scourge of the gay rights movement) leading the convention in singing “Happy Birthday” to an absent Lyndon Johnson who had turned 60 that day (August 27. He would live to be only 65, dying in 1973; Hubert lived slightly longer, 68, dying in 1979). Hubert’s abdominal pains went away when he was assured of the nomination. He went to bed in his Conrad Hilton suite (2525A) inutes after 1 a.m. watching the demonstrators in Grant Park across the street parading with banners reading “Dump the Hump!” This gave him more abdominal pains.

But these were gone the next morning when he woke up and reflected that this was to be the day he would finally realize his dream come true—August 28. Muriel said “Daddy, it’s time to get up. The mayor wants to have breakfast with you.” She meant Mayor Daley. Not until then had Daley pledged his support and breakfast was being set up in the suite’s spacious living room. As he dressed, getting into a dark suit, pastel colored shirt (popular during those times) and dark tie, he saw the sunlight dancing off the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. Hubert had one desire and one only—to get Teddy Kennedy to accept the vice presidency with him which could get both of them elected. He started a series of phone calls to Teddy. But in the middle of the breakfast with Daley, Teddy called back and said no. Humphrey was downcast. He told Daley of his wish. Daley was laconic and didn’t tell Hubert that the day before he was consorting to try to get Teddy to take the presidential nomination.

It would be a great day anyhow, Hubert decided after Daley left. Louisiana Governor John McKeithen arrived for post-breakfast coffee and rolls and brought with him the pledged support of the Southern governors. Hubert had one thing in mind and one only—to try to get Teddy Kennedy to accept the vice presidential nomination.

Hubert had one more pre-nomination speech to deliver—to a caucus of Connecticut delegates at the nearby Pick-Congress hotel. There he said, “I’ve won a lot of elections and I don’t intend to lose this one to Richard Nixon.” On the way back to the Conrad Hilton surrounded by secret service, Hubert made his way through the packed lobby with his handkerchief to his nose because somebody had unloaded a group of stink bombs. A teen-ager stuck out his hand to be shook and Hubert did. The boy said, “Mr. Vice President, you’re a warmonger!” Hubert said quietly, “You know better than that, son.” The secret service moved the boy back, believing he was rummaging for something in his pocket but it was a handkerchief. Another teenage boy started the cry “Dump the Hump!” and it rang through the lobby as Hubert got into the elevator.

Back in his suite he decided he’d like San Francisco mayor Joe Alioto to place him in nomination and some staffers in an adjoining room began to write the speech for Alioto. Then he lunched with two black athletes, Jackie Robinson and Elgin Baylor after which he watched the Vietnam plank debate on two TVs in his room (attendants moved in two color TVs while he watched: color television being somewhat of a novelty). Hubert had the habit of talking back to television. When NBC’s Sander Vanocur refewrred to the “Ted Kennedy” boom the day before, Hubert shouted: “Shit! There wasn’t a Kennedy boom, Vanocur! There was a Vanocur boom for Kennedy!” He didn’t know at that time that the Kennedy boom was launched by the very same Richard J. Daley who had had breakfast with him.

Two floors down from 2525A where Hubert was, Gene McCarthy was in Suite 2320 with his two color television sets on. I got in there about 11 a.m. and found him playing mock baseball using an orange with his brother Austin, a medical doctor. The phone was ringing all the while and one of his aides Finney was arguing that he should go down to the floor and make a speech in favor of the peace plank for the platform. McCarthy said no. Finney said he should say he’d support the ticket if the convention adopted the peace plank. McCarthy again said no. Steve Mitchell called three times from the floor asking that he could to the convention. McCarthy said he’d only go if Lyndon Johnson showed up.

The Battle of Grant Park Begins.

At 5 p.m. the minority or peace plank lost 1,041 to 1,567 and the convention recessed until evening for the nomination itself.. McCarthy-Kennedy-McGovern delegates put on black armbands that somebody had ordered earlier and sang “We Shall Overcome.” The media sped to Grant Park where 10,000 demonstrators gathered and the first of the day’s two violent clashes with the police occurred. I had gone home for dinner and saw the stuff on TV (black and white; I didn’t have color). The crowds had been in the park for two days and once when I went over there they were taunting the cops. I saw one kid with a Harvard sweater open his pants and urinate on the shoes of an officer.

The cop swatted him with a stick that gave off a sickening thud as it hit his head like the sound of a hammer whacking an overripe fruit like a tomato. The kid fell unconscious to be hauled away; I thought he was dead. Maybe he was but there were no deaths reported so I guess not. But there was no fuss then. The media had not seen it. That came later. The assault made an enduring impression on me. The thing that bothered me was this: here was a Harvard kid, a kid of affluence, equipped to make a vehement and oracular protest to the cop who probably had never gone to college—and instead he urinated on him. I had very mixed opinions about a kid who resorted to that indignity to one who obviously had not the luxury of the kid. Did the kid deserve to have his skull crushed? Nope. But a child of affluence had many other recourses without urination.

At 8 p.m. the nominating process started at the International Ampitheatre. Blue-helmeted Chicago police clashed with demonstrators outside the Hilton. I watched it at home. What happened later and the next day will stay with me for life. It was in a very real sense the changing of the guard for a major political party—a changing of the guard that was made possible when Gene had decided to run for president and to lynch Hubert at a time when the country was at war—a lynching no matter what it cost.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Personal Aside: Oberweis’ Not Elected Yet but Still Overreaching?



Michael Sneed’s column yesterday rang somewhat true to form where dairy mogul Jim Oberweis is concerned. Long known as a man who is a compulsive candidate…who feels he is unfulfilled unless he is elected to something to fill what is evidently a yawning hole in his psyche…Sneed’s column floated the hint that Oberweis has been telling friends he may only serve one term in the U. S. House as 14th district congressman…and will take as his next step a bid to run for governor of Illinois in the next go-round.

The weird thing about that story is that it may very well be true. The arrogance of a candidate for nomination hinting that while not elected yet, he would move on and up the ladder is repugnant. If it is wrong, Oberweis should deny it flatly. He should issue a quick denial and pledge not to fool around in that cavalier a fashion with the job of United States Representative in Congress. If he has said it, he should withdraw immediately from the contest because he has just insulted the electorate. It would be a dirty trick and rates with Denny Hastert’s dirty trick of resigning his berth in order to beat a federal law barring him from lobbying…a trick that trivialized the Speakership and cost the taxpayers needless money. Now comes what? The strong possibility that his favored candidate would cynically use the post as a springboard for higher office?

If this is true, somebody should get an x-ray of Oberweis’ head. Here is a guy who tried to bargain Bill Brady into drawing straws to see who would step down in a race for governor—with Oberweis concocting the deal so he had more straws than Brady: a formulation I am not sure I understand yet. A guy who would use the presidency as a stepping stone.

The media ought to find out the answer to this. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, the better man is Chris Lauzen.

Flashback: Pre-Chicago Negotiations: A Possible Humphrey-McCarthy Ticket to Stave Off Disunity…a Secret Humphrey-McCarthy Meeting…And a Daley-Led Bid for Teddy Kennedy for President.

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


As both he and Gene McCarthy prepared for the 3-day Democratic National convention in Chicago (August 26-29), Hubert decided after looking at the format that the McCarthy radicals could not sweep the convention. The only thing was to try to get some unity so as to make the nomination Hubert would receive worth having. McCarthy made the same determination but, reinforced by Abigail, had determined not to give up so as to keep the morale of his troops high. Meanwhile McCarthy’s effort developed three distinct groups. One was the “Children’s Crusade” led by…a surprise…Blair Clark (who had sworn off any more drinking with Robert Lowell), Curt Gans and Sam Brown. It was working on “youth power” by mobilizing pro-McCarthy sentiment around the country and to intimidate delegates into supporting McCarthy—threatening them with future punishment from young people if and when these delegates had any idea of running again.

The second group was headed by former Democratic National Chairman Stephen Mitchell who espoused “confrontation politics.” Mitchell’s strategy was to build an all-out assault on the convention’s machinery: credentials, rules and platform. In this group Jerry Eller was counted. The third was the orthodox effort headed by Tom Finney who wanted to cut deals with some of the bosses at the convention. McCarthy disagreed that the Finney stratagem would work so he refused to give him permission to deal and insisted that the best strategy was Mitchell and Eller’s.

McCarthy hoped the Mitchell-Eller strategy would convince the delegates that they would have to have McCarthy in order to win. A federal district judge, Miles Lord, who gave up the Minnesota attorney generalship for the post now surfaced, drinking sometimes with McCarthy people, sometimes with Humphrey people—acting on his own, trying to broker a deal with McCarthy and Humphrey. His solution: have McCarthy run for vice president with Hubert. The fact that both were from Minnesota which would be in violation of the Constitution could be easily handled by one or the other saying their residence was in Maryland (Gene had a house there) and Hubert in Minnesota: easy, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, both residents of Texas handled that one by Cheney reverting to Wyoming as his residence). Finally Hubert got tired of bumping into Judge Lord on his planes and told him, “Miles, stop trying forever to get us together. Gene and I meet on occasion and we’re both agreed that you’re the cause of all the trouble between us.”

Just before the convention convened, McCarthy was invited to Hubert’s apartment in Washington. Hubert said, “Gene, I only want to know one thing. If you get the nomination, I’ll support you. I’ll come right up to the platform of the convention and endorse you that night. I would only hope that you would do the same thing for me.” Gene mused that it would be impossible for him to go up to the platform that night and endorse Hubert but that if Hubert gave him a few weeks for a turn-around, he could do it. Hubert was discouraged to hear this, knowing Gene’s unforgiving nature. He said, “Gene, can you be sure you can do it sometime in mid-September?” Gene said yes. Hubert, knowing Gene full well, doubted that but said nothing. Gene said he knew Hubert had the nomination all wrapped up. But he said he had to keep faith with his supporters who expected him to exert maximum leverage on the platform and party “reform.”

Then they talked about Gene possibly taking the vice presidential nomination. Gene said he could not and said he’d appreciate it if there would be no more talk of offering it since it couldn’t be accomplished. Hubert agreed. On the Vietnam plank, Hubert expressed the problem. He would have to stand for a tough Vietnam plank because Lyndon Johnson expected it—but if the convention happened to pass a dovish plank, he, Hubert, would have to accept it. McCarthy thought about that long and hard. While he was sipping coffee, Hubert asked him if he would be running as a fourth party candidate for president (since George Wallace would be running as a third party candidate). Gene said no very quickly. Hubert was relieved since he felt McCarthy running as a fourth party candidate would kill any chance of the Democrats winning. On that note the secret meeting wrapped up.

LBJ Blows Up the Platform On Vietnam.

The LBJ-stacked platform committee convened at the Statler Hilton in Washington on Monday, August 19, one week before the convention with a Johnson man, Rep. Hale Boggs (D-La.), the House majority leader as chairman. President Johnson said in a talk in Detroit that day that he would regard anything less than his own hand-written platform a personal affront. Hubert sent David Ginsburg as his representative. Ginsburg met with a coalition of anti-war forces representing McCarthy, the late Bobby Kennedy and McGovern and reported he thought the other side was reasonable. But any hope that there would be a compromise vanished the next day, August 20, when Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. This gave the Johnson hawks an opening and LBJ called a midnight—yes, midnight—meeting of the National Security Council purportedly to deal with it. Then LBJ warned Hubert not to placate the doves at the convention.

But somehow a minority platform plank on Vietnam emerged with support from all sides: calling for an unconditional end to all bombing of North Vietnam, beginning of negotiation of a phased withdrawal of U.S. and North Vietnamese troops and encouragement to Saigon to negotiate a coalition government with the National Liberation Front. The draft was cleared with Dean Rusk and Walt Rostow who approved it; it was acceptable to Hubert. Hubert was exhilarated because it meant there would be no floor fight at the convention which would be divisive and endanger his eventual election.

But then LBJ intruded. A minion went to the Statler-Hilton, got the draft over to the White House and returned saying it was unacceptable to the president because it called for an end to the bombing of the North. Johnson wrote new language, saying the bombing of the North would stop “when this action would not endanger the lives of our troops in the field; this action should take into account the response from Hanoi.” Hubert called Johnson and said, “But Mr. President, the draft had been cleared with Rusk and Rostow.” Well, goddammit, it hasn’t been cleared with me, said Johnson and hung up. Immediately, Boggs rammed the Johnson version through the committee 65 to 35. McCarthy welcomed the division saying to the media that “the lines are clearly drawn between those who want more of the same and those who think it necessary to change our course in Vietnam. The convention will decide.”

Long before the convention opened, Hubert was concerned that Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, acting in concert with Johnson, was running a city under siege; rather than setting aside a hall for the demonstrators which Hubert wanted, Daley strung barbed wire around the International Ampitheatre, and with Johnson sent out some 30,000 police, firemen, National Guardsmen, regular army troops, FBI and Secret Service agents. The first day of the convention, I went to visit Hubert’s headquarters and McCarthy’s. I found McCarthy’s people relaxed and enjoying the festivities; but I couldn’t believe what was happening to Hubert. Here was the vice president of the United States and the putative Democratic nominee with so little control over the logistics that he had to send his son-in-law, Bruce Solomonson, to stand in line outside a minor convention functionary’s room to plead for convention tickets for his family. I was standing near the vice president’s room (2525A) one morning when Hubert came stalking out, jerked his head to me. I shook hands with him. He said, “You know what?” I said: what? He related the story of his son-in-law standing in line for tickets and said, “I understand McCarthy’s complaining he’s getting no service. Here I’m the goddamned vice president of the United States and I’m being treated like a [explective] Jugoslav peasant!”

Connally Tries to Run for Veep With McCarthy.

Larry O’Brien, the legendary JFK and RFK aide, had gone over to Hubert after Bobby’s murder. He was trying to gauge a rough count of delegates and figured out that Hubert had between 1,400 and 1,500 delegate votes, much more than the 1,312 required for nomination—but the counting was extremely complicated (the 3,099 delegates had a total of 2,622 votes). O’Brien urged Hubert not to oppose the unit rule, the device that gave the majority control of the entire delegation. But in an effort to placate the reformers Hubert issued a statement urging its abolition. Texas Governor John Connally came rushing up to him and said that this would destroy the delegations from the South and that if Hubert didn’t withdraw his view, he, Connally, would initiate a drive to draft Lyndon. He scared Hubert so he rescinded it and asked that abolition of the unit rule be put on the agenda for the 1972 convention. Connally was mollified.

Mollified but not through playing games. Connally (a close friend of LBJ) was playing a wild game of cards with his own future. Ostensibly loyal to the president, Connally was never one to count himself out of the presidential sweepstakes. He happened to like Gene McCarthy a lot—much better than he liked Hubert. He concluded that if McCarthy cut a deal with him (Connally) and would announce that he wanted Connally to run for vice president with him, Connally would be able to sell it to LBJ. So Connally set up a meeting with Dick Goodwin (a onetime McCarthy aide who switched to Bobby then came back to McCarthy after Bobby’s murder). Goodwin believed an alliance between McCarthy and Connally wasn’t credible. So Connally got hold of Patrick Lucey, the former Wisconsin lieutenant governor and a liberal friend of McCarthy to broach the idea to Gene.

Gene didn’t give it a second thought. It wasn’t credible he told Lucey. When Connally heard of the rejection, he went to Hubert and tried to wheedle himself as a vice president with him—but Hubert had had his belly full of Texans. Connally went back to his delegation thinking: well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Daley and Unruh Decide on Ted Kennedy.

What was going on in the fertile mind of Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago all the while? Daley kept his own counsel but agreed to have breakfast with another boss—Jesse Unruh of California who had the entire state delegation tied up. Unruh was still broken up over Bobby’s death and was against the war but they didn’t get into a discussion of issues at the breakfast. Unruh asked Daley on the basis of a longtime friendship what he really thought. Daley said he didn’t like McCarthy at all but he felt sure Hubert couldn’t be elected. Unruh said: “Well, that’s one hell of a note, isn’t it?” Daley said yes—but. They ought to find another candidate. Daley hemmed and hawed around while Unruh fiddled around buttering his toast. Finally Daley said, “Humphrey’s a lousy candidate. You know, if we’re going to have another Lyndon Johnson, let’s draft the real thing.” Unruh said no-no-no, Johnson was unacceptable. He was ready to pick up the check when Daley said: “I could go fer Ted.” Ted who? Ted Kennedy. So could Unruh. A draft Teddy Kennedy movement.

“Tell you what,” said Daley to Unruh. “I’ll delay Illinois’ decision to give you time to do something along that line.”

The news got to Goodwin very quickly. Goodwin asked McCarthy what he thought of Ted Kennedy. Surprisingly enough, McCarthy didn’t veto it. He’d rather see Teddy drafted and him rejected in preference to Hubert’s getting the nomination. Maybe a Ted Kennedy-Gene McCarthy coalition to block Hubert’s nomination and give it to Ted Kennedy would work. But Goodwin said, wasn’t Ted too young? Kennedy was 36. No, said McCarthy, “after all, experience isn’t really important in a president as long as he has the right advisers. Of course he’s young but, then, those fellows in the Revolution were young, too—Hamilton and Jefferson. But Jefferson had to wait a little while to be president. Still, that’s not important. Let’s see how things develop.”

Goodwin was really excited now. The third Kennedy would emerge. That would confound old LBJ in the White House and Hubert as well and give Richard Nixon a kick in the pants. What a deal! If it could only work!

When I heard the rumor in the Hilton coffee shop, I got hold of Eller. “Aw, Gene never really wanted to be president,” he said. “He wanted to [scatological] Johnson and Hubert. It might work, who knows?”

Since John Connally was famous at the convention for trying to deal himself in to any coalition so he could get something out of it, I said: “Hey—maybe Teddy and John Connally for veep. What about that?”

“Listen,” said Eller, ”that’s the only thing that would queer it. I would not be surprised if after he leaves this convention, Connally would try to work some deal with Nixon for his cabinet and then run for president as a Republican!”

It was so outrageous we laughed heartily.

But a few years later, that’s exactly what happened. Connally became Richard Nixon’s secretary of the treasury and once he beat the milk fund rap, he ran for president as a Republican in 1980 with a variant of Republican fixers (including many from Illinois) on board.