Thursday, January 10, 2008

Personal Asides: When Reformers Kicked the Bosses Out of the Presidential Decision-Making, They Harmed the Country…Brian Williams Lets the Cat Out of the Bag on Media and Obama. Oh, It’s So Hard to Be Objective! The Poor Thing!


Bring Back the Old Party Bosses.

Let an old codger tell you that I yearn for the return of the old-line political bosses in both parties who could put together a presidential ticket that could best serve the needs of the nation.

We have urban bosses now in the Democratic party but they are like Rich Daley…panderingly subservient to movement politics rather than to the algebra of politics. The fact that Daley supports Barack Obama flies in the face of what he knows is a true decision. Daley’s doing it not to pick the strongest candidate to meet the challenge of the times but to ingratiate himself with a potent movement that is immature and emotional. This comes about because…as my review of the key year 1968 shows…the leaders of the Democratic party abdicated, changed the rules in favor of a convention based on quotas and thereby short-circuited the process. My series will detail how that came about following the defeat of Hubert Humphrey.

The last boss of the Illinois Republican party…Big Jim Thompson…did nothing more than ape the Democratic mode rather than take an interest in his own party. He was not a Republican leader but a pseudo-Democratic shill. But I digress. In future articles I’ll highlight the great work of political bosses of both parties and denigrate the misnamed “reformers” who have come close to toppling the system.

Consider how the old bosses met the challenge of the times in the Republican party. In 1896 Republican bosses like Mark Hanna met the mischievous populism of William Jennings Bryan by crafting together a ticket of William McKinley for president and Garret Hobart of New Jersey for vice president. Bryan, a real demagogue, crusaded against big business, Wall Street, the big railroads and the gold standard, advocating the country scrap gold and institute the coinage of silver at the rate of 16 to 1, distinctively high regulation and pacifism. . It was reminiscent of what later came to be known as Henry Wallace-ism, George Wallace-ism, Ralph Nader, George McGovernism, Jesse Jacksonism, the Wobblies with a good touch of the economics of Fr. Michael Pfleger to boot…all the things that bring populist blood to a boil. He swept the Democratic convention which tore free of its Grover Cleveland roots (Cleveland was the most conservative Democratic president in history).

The movement-run Democratic party convention here in Chicago (with my Irish Democratic grandfather, a marble layer, cheering from the gallery) called for free silver, tried to topple the protective tariff which at that stage of economic development was essential for the up-building of industry, condemned the Supreme Court for overturning the federal income tax law, called for “prevention of foreign pauper labor” (anti-legal immigration), an expanded role for government in the economy while at the same time disfavored government intervention of labor disputes and expressed sympathy for the revolutionaries in Cuba.

It attacked Republicans and in particular Ohio Governor William McKinley as a tool of the capitalists. Democratic Mayor Tom Johnson of Cleveland accurately described the campaign as “the first great protest of the American people against monopoly—the first great struggle of the masses [the first time the word was used in U.S. politics] in our country against the privileged classes.” The silver mining industry poured in several millions of dollars to the Democrats signaling that they were not insensitive to the need to pour capitalists’ dough to the effort to elect their own.

It was the country’s good fortune to have Mark Hanna and other bosses in the Republican party to find McKinley who had a long-term vision for the country: based on cooperation between business and labor. At the convention McKinley and Hanna wisely supported the gold standard but left the door open to the free coinage of silver with a clever strategy that was incapable of being executed, “as part of an international agreement with the leading commercial nations of the world” which admirably helped defuse the populist appeal. It supported acquisition of Hawaii, approved construction of the Panama Canal, naval expansion, applauded gains in women’s rights and pledged in their behalf “equal pay for equal work.” They opened the doors of the party to immigration and to the inclusion of ethnics. Then they got big business to kick in $12 million to fight the crypto-Bryan socialists.

That boss-led convention led to McKinley’s election and continuance of economic growth which turned back the radical Bryan tide. In 1900 the vice president had died leaving an opening on the McKinley ticket. Here boss Hanna and others used uncommon good sense. Rather than nominate a hack with the same credentials as McKinley, Hanna and boss Tom Platt of New York understood that there was a great craving for responsible liberal change—so they nominated Gov. Theodore Roosevelt for vice president. Platt wanted to get Roosevelt out of New York but Hanna saw that change was coming and that Roosevelt would be the safe custodian of it in the future. The 1900 platform cited McKinley prosperity, approved the Spanish-American war expansionism, reaffirmed its faith in the gold standard, sought to expand immigration, called for hiking the age for child labor and condemned southern segregation laws that kept the blacks in discrimination and once again called for the Panama Canal and the Open Door to China.

The assassination of McKinley in 1901 leading to the accession of Theodore Roosevelt ushered in a new era for the Republican party, a testimony to the sagacity of the bosses like Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. of Massachusetts. One need not favor the egocentricity of TR to understand that he moved the country wisely to sensible adoption of laws that eased the populist pressures on the economy.

Let this article open the discussion so to speak about the wisdom of a party having practical and far-sighted bosses. I personally think now that the Republican party is rolling into free-wheeling which is leading to the selection of probably the most pragmatically astute candidate for president under the circumstances—not one I would have chosen but given the chaotic nature of the opposite party, will give the country the best choice for continued stability. I am still a Romney man but as the ballots unfold, I am becoming somewhat stilled and confident that given everything the nomination of John McCain—an earthen vessel to be sure…whose McCain-Feingold is an abomination…but for his captive courage and insistence on winning in Iraq has become reborn a great man—serves as testament that once again Divine Providence has taken care of drunks, orphans, the United States and the Republican party in that order.

NBC’s Brian Williams.

NBC’s Brian Williams, the TV anchor who began life as an intern in Jimmy Carter’s White House, confessed on MSNBC the other night that “it’s hard to stay objective covering Obama.” Oh now, is it? And what kind of ghastly admission is that? And why is that? What ideas have Obama offered that captivate the media? Is it his vacuous offering of “hope” which constitutes a Rorschach inkblot test where the psychologist shows you a blot and you fathom you can see any number of concepts in it? Bill Clinton for one finally got it right that this guy Obama has been getting away with murder in the white, guilt-ridden self-condemnatory, affluent, ill-educated media for years—witness the tender loving care the fast-fading “Sun-Times” is giving him with the hagiographer Jennifer Hunter, she who was known as the wife of the last publisher and the pouting, hands on hips racial cheer leader Mary Mitchell.

“Hard to stay objective” means one thing. The juveniles who cover politics now and who missed the civil rights era are longing to reproduce it by locking arms and singing “We Shall Overcome” by serenading a faint, very faint, copy of a nondescript male model-styled “Gentleman’s Quarterly” “black leader” to the White House to assuage their own “guilt” for not having been around when King, Jim Farmer, Hosea Willliams and others were in danger of losing their lives. Well the differences are clear to behold if the media and the star-struck Brian Williams would pay attention.

King’s theology was orthodox and rooted in Judeo-Christianity. Obama’s such as it is, is indebted to a materialistic anti-U.S. demagogue named Jeremiah Wright who explains that his church is “based upon the systemized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of James Cone’s book, `Black Power and Black Theology.’” Obama is smart enough not to identify with the Jeremiah Wright view except to purloin Wright’s catchword “The Audacity of Hope”—whatever that means…something that Obama is unable to define and the white-led media is too vacuous to even ponder.

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