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.


  1. Insulting a readership is probably not a great idea. The Chicago Sun Times lost great writers - Ray Coffey e.g. & Dennis Byrne - promoted lightweights. With exceptions of Steinberg, Spielman and Sports sans Mariotti writing is diminished or non-existent.

    John Kass, the Tribune's best writer and most important talent, explained the simple Chicago style that is lost on newpaper management - witness the cork-screwing of the STNG.

    'If readers like my column ( Kass was talking about the Lawyer who keyed a deploying Marine's car) they should write or call and tell our editors that 'this is the type of story they want to read.'

    Instead - newspapers allow lightweights to dictate tastes - thus Mr. & Mrs. Mendlebaum are treated to lessons on Madonna's True Judaisim as opposed to the faith that helped them survive Auschwitz by Kathleen Falsani; The five generation police family, the Kolbs, in Edison Park, that Chicago Police Systemic Racism and Brutality is the most pressing issue on earth; two families of two murdered Leo graduates -the Riley and Lyons families - were not important enough to feature, because their sons were gunned down by Gangster Disciples and not the Chicago Police. The Sun Times helped lawsuit lawyers create a Thug Comfort Zone in Chicago - gee, people stopped reading? It must be due to Conrad Black.

    The Tribune has an opportunity to give Chicago readers real news -the clock is ticking.
    Death by 1 ,ooo cuts is still death - I'll send a Mass Card - even though it was a suicide,

  2. I feel the pain of those of you who seek news in printed form.

    Out here, in the so-called cradle of liberty, the local rag The New Haven Register ballyhoos its 150-ish year existence. Twenty-five years ago when I darkened the East Coast, it was better by a barnside than the Hartford Courant, which truly is linked to the earliest print in America.

    They are now almost in a death spiral trying to prove how hapless and vapid they can become- For an audience that can hardly read--

    On my creaky football knee I march out to get a slimmer paper than we have experienced in metros such as Roswell, N.M.

    Read it, and weep--

  3. We all heard that JBT had the best chance to beat Blago. Now we're hearing the same thing about McCain. McCain will lose just like Topinka did because he won't hold the base.

  4. Richard all of this comes from Tom's wallowing in the Weekly Standard. It was the Neo-Cons who wanted McCain as President in the year 2000..... Then they crawled into the Bush Administration and putrafied its foreign policy. But Tom's compromising mushy moderate attitude toward McCain PROVES that he would compromise on his anti-abortion stance because McCain was part of the group blocking Bush's judicial nominees. SHAME ON YOU THOMAS ROESER! The nuns have stopped praying for you! Pergitory waits!

    But because of the Weekly Standard, Tom is more worried about the Islamo-boogey men under his bed than the abortion doctor who is taking lives around the corner. Shame on you Tom! Shame on you for believing the neo-con tripe about the LIBERAL John McCain. And you crab at DePaul for going down the wayward path.... you HYPOCRITE!

  5. Larry el Perro Pedorrero-
    Just suffering your incoherent ramblings is "Pergitory" enough-

    Buy a dictionary you ignorant bastard!

  6. It's not "Pergitory," Lawrence, it's "Purgatory;" as in the mental and physical suffering experienced when one reads your comments.

    With that kind of a spelling error, I'm sure that the Nuns have stopped praying for you too.

  7. She took a buyout, according to Michael Miner's blog at the Reader.

  8. For all of us who have endured reading L's words of inspiration and wisdom, are we entitled to a reduction of our time in purgatory for have been tried for our faults and omissions in advance of the hereafter?

  9. Also it is nice to have volunteer spell checkers. And such good Catholics too!

  10. Larry el Perro-

    Pious words from a peckerhead! We don't want you to go away mad, but please DO go away!

  11. Frank I am sure that your wife Lillian will appreciate hearing about foul mouth and brain and what you are up to on the computer. You defile this blog with your vile ignorant potty mouth. With "friends" like you, Tom does not need enemies. For example I am sure he would not appreciate your foul ways at his City Club events. You demean everything he stands for and you demean your wife, Lillian and family by acting like low class street thug rodent. At your age of 70, you should be ashamed but you are obviously too stubbornly ignorant to realize it. I'll bet that Lillian and your children have a real hard time putting with you because the way you handle yourself goes far beyond the pale. I pity you.

  12. Larry-
    I have a family. Do you? They laugh at your wretched messages.

  13. This would be funnier than a radio broadcast of "The Bickersons," but for the fact someone has decided to make some unchivalrous comments about another person's family members. That crosses the line. Please, stop such thoughtless behavior now.

    You might find some useful books on how to win friends and influence people when you visit the bookstore for that dictionary.

  14. Am I to assume by your silence John that you are now in favor of foul language in this blog? It was my understanding that you would not tolerate it seeking rather to have a discussion of the issues presented by Tom Roeser. In my opinion political discourse can be intellectually rough without being foul. Just listen to the McLaughlin Group. When I did cross the line with my description of Oberweis and you called me on it. Have you now lowered the bar by allowing Frank's foul language insults?

  15. What does John Powers have to do with any of this? Unlike you, Lawrence, many of us posting here do not make use of assumed identities or suffer from multiple personality disorders. From what I can discern, you seem convinced that several of the blog readers who post comments have adopted your ruse of pretending to be someone else and not revealing your identity.

  16. Frank, please clean up your language.

    People read this blog not to be littered with obscenities.