Friday, February 29, 2008

Personal Asides: Limbaugh Starts Eulogizing Buckley but Gets Sidetracked.



I snapped on THE GREAT I AM-- Rush Limbaugh-- yesterday as I got in the car and drove downtown. Aha, said I: he’s going to talk about something other than himself today. Usually the Limbaugh shows are all about Him. Now he’s going to eulogize Bill Buckley.

That’s how it started out. But after the first sentence, THE GREAT I AM became distracted. Somebody…somebody… the day before in paying tribute to Buckley said that the one thing Buckley had was civility. He could stake out a position with wit, gentle disclaimers, deftness, nuance. Unfortunately, that somebody said, this generation is composed of people who do not have that skill—like…

Guess who?


So the entire show was focused not on Buckley but THE GREAT I AM and why he does indeed have the same skills as Buckley.

Pathetic. It always is and always has been…all about HIM. Limbaugh. When he calls himself the Great Maharishi Yogi, El Rushbo you think he’s kidding. He’s not. He’s desperately egomaniacal. He simply cannot concentrate on anything else if his name is used in the media. All political commentary and any seriousness of purpose diminishes before the fountainhead of narcissism.

His voice was rattling on, saying he is indeed civil, as civil as Buckley used to be…when I snapped off the radio.

Pathetic, isn’t it?

Flashback: Humphrey on McCarthy and on Misguided “Reform.”

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

In 1970 after having been fired by Richard Nixon (which has risen higher on my resume as the years progress) and having served as number 3 in the Peace Corps in charge of public relations and winning approval for its budget, I returned to Quaker to re-assume my duties as director of its government relations, social responsibility and community relations functions. I was promoted and was put in charge of its PAC (political action committee). At an executive committee meeting of the company, the CEO said this:

“Now as you know there is no requirement for anyone to give to this PAC that Roeser is heading up. As a matter of fact it is against the law to make it a requirement or to suggest, even subliminally, that by not giving anyone would be disadvantaged in his job. Let me make this clear.”

Everyone looked up at the ceiling.

“On the other hand, if you don’t understand that everything the government does affects this company and others like it, you don’t understand this business. We process food which is dependent on agriculture which is affected by government. We safeguard the integrity of our product which is overseen by the Food and Drug administration which is a government agency, the nature of which changes through appointments by every administration, with regulations that can either drive us crazy or regulations we can and must adapt to. We advertise on television to the tune of billions of dollars, television watched over by the FCC. Our economic security is under the purview of the SEC. Our employment practices are judged by the EEOC. Our plants in 32 states of this Union are regulated by the Labor Department and OSHA. We manufacture toys with the Fisher-Price company and Marx toys which are zealously watched by the Consumer Product Safety commission. The other day we wanted to bring an executive in to run our toy division. He was an overseas national and we had to get him a passport super-quickly and we had to rely on help from our congressional friends because the goddamned State Department was taking too long. Why am I telling you this?”

Everyone looked at themselves, winking: why?

“Because as good Quakers you should understand how important government is to us. Now in this free system of elections, campaigns cost money. Lots of money. The system this country has embraced since its founding is that people voluntarily—and I stress voluntarily—give money to candidates, good candidates, so that good men and women will run. You should no more decline to give money voluntarily to good candidates than you should decline to vote. God knows organized labor has a requirement that extracts dues involuntarily that are put to the disposal of union stewards who see that the money is given largely to one party. We executives don’t belong to a union here. But we have an obligation to voluntarily—and I stress voluntarily—give to the PAC Roeser runs.

“Now let me tell you something. Some of you have been coming to him trying to earmark your money to see that he gives it to your own suburban congressman or somebody like that which is a quick and easy way to avoid giving on your own. He will not do that. His job for which I hold him accountable is to be sure that your voluntarily given contributions go to men and women who are outstanding candidates of both parties—not just Republican—who will take into account the fact that our company must survive in a dog-eat-dog world. So don’t go running to him to say that you want PAC money to go to some guy in Winnetka who is a sure-bet to be elected anyhow. That’s not how PACs are supposed to work. To tell you how they’re supposed to work and how this one will work, let me call on him now.”

So I told them that giving is VOLUNTARY, number one. Number two, the Congress was controlled by Democrats so don’t be stunned out of your wits if we give some money to Democrats who are our friends. Like for instance, I intend to give a hefty contribution to Hubert Humphrey who is running for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, having been vice president of the United States. Don’t come whining to me that you’re a Republican and you can’t understand why your money is going to this candidate or that candidate. This is not a Republican front. This PAC is designed to be bipartisan. We are passing out a recommendation—a mere recommendation, not binding—of how much people should give to the PAC. About a half of one percent of your annual income including bonus. If you don’t want to do it, if you want to pass it up entirely, you can do so and there will be no disadvantage to you. This is NOT COMPULSORY. Everyone understand this?”

Everyone nodded and looked at the ceiling as the slips were passed out.

After question time, I went back to my office and the checks started rolling in—VOLUNTARILY. A guy came in and said, “I didn’t want to bring it up at the meeting but--.”


“My congressman, who represents my suburb, is an outstanding defender of the free market system. A good Republican. Were he to leave the House, it would be a tragedy.”

What’s his name? He told me. “He’s my Congressman. A solid Republican district. He only has token opposition.”

He said: “Well, you can’t be too sure. This could be a Democratic year.”

Tell you what.


I suggest you give to him personally. I do.

“Would I get the same credit as giving to the PAC then?

No. Giving to the PAC is your choice.

“I mean--.”

I know what you mean and the answer is no.


What did we say in the meeting earlier today?

Okay. I just thought I’d try.

Nice try.


Since former vice president, former longtime senator and now once again a first-termer Hubert was on the Ag committee but with a lot more influence than any other first-termer, I made out our PAC check for his campaign committee, tucked it in my file along with the others. The next time I went to Washington, I called him, said I had a check for his campaign. The rules said you can’t give it to him in his congressional office so we met at the Carroll Arms hotel, across the street from his office at 3 p.m. When I got there the bar was all but empty. He was sitting at a table with an iced tea looking at a sheaf of papers. I gave him the check—maximum for a PAC, $5,000.

“Very nice,” he said. “You and I have gone a long way. I once tried to hire you. I’m glad I didn’t. You were always too Republican anyhow which I didn’t perceive at the time—but, but look at this, you could never give me five grand if you were working for me.”

Very true, Hubert. (I didn’t tell him that I had collected money for Gene McCarthy from various non-Quaker sources in the early primary days and gave it to Blair Clark which gave Gene a leg up in New Hampshire).

What are these papers you’re looking at?

“I’ll tell you. You want an iced tea or something stronger? I’m buying.”

Iced tea.

“What I’m looking at here is a breakdown of votes that my campaign manger Jack Chestnut provided for me—votes going back through history. You’re Catholic so this will interest you. Look at this: massive support from Catholics for Democrats in all the presidential elections from Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden, Al Smith, FDR, Harry Truman and John Kennedy. Catholics gave a majority of their votes to Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956. See here?” and he led my finger over to a column of votes.

No surprise.

“Why have Democrats been successful? Simple reason and I reason I can’t say in public. The New Deal and Roosevelt coalition, the electoral alliance of white Southerners, northern Catholics, Negroes (after FDR’s second term), intellectuals, laborers. There are inconsistencies of course. White southerners and Negroes, intellectuals and laborers some of whom can hardly read. Now take a look here” and he pulled out another sheaf of papers.

“This is the pre-New Deal era from 1896 to 1928. Terrible. Now this is what I noticed when I ran against Nixon in `68. As I traveled around, although I damn near won, I could sense that the principal force that was breaking up the New Deal coalition was the Negro socioeconomic revolution and the remainder of the FDR coalition’s inability to deal with it. We in the Johnson administration aligned ourselves with so many Negro demands that we triggered conservative opposition among other parts of the New Deal coalition from the South, the West and Catholics. Lookit here, Mississippi and Alabama didn’t give us a single presidential elector since 1960 while at the same time, many northern states like your Illinois and Michigan voted Republican out of racial concerns. The overall white vote as you will see here and here and here didn’t go Democratic in 1964 or in 1968 with me. Now lookit here.” He unfolded another sheet.

“This is Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania. We carried this county every time since 1932 but do you see how the margin is trailing off? Now here is West Virginia. This heavy white state has consistently gone Democratic but do you see the falloff? There’s going to be a time if things go this way that Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will go Republican.”

What does that tell you, Hubert?

“It tells me a very politically unpalatable truth. That we in the Democratic party are going beyond our base and are losing the FDR coalition that elects us. Frankly, I think we have done all we can for the Negro. The 1964 bill I passed and the one we passed in 1967 were sufficient. The major gains now will come from the Courts. But we have to retrench. So the retrenchment shouldn’t have to come from pulling back on civil rights. It has to come from cutting back on all the other exotic liberal things that our younger friends in the Democratic party espouse—abortion rights for example. You start losing the blue-collars, the Catholics and we’re up the creek without a paddle.”

Where do you see the danger?

“When we had all the trouble with seating Negro delegates in 1964, we—the Democratic party—set up a reform commission. First it was run by Dave Lawrence, the mayor of Pittsburgh. Good man. But he died in 1966. Then we had all this trouble with Gene and his people. He won some primaries but the rules concerning delegates weren’t tied to the primaries. Now there is a great push in the offing. Another so-called reform commission to be headed by McGovern. You know what this means?”

He didn’t wait for me to say no.

“The very insurgents have a heavy representation. You know how many on the Commission represent organized labor? One. One! You know where this could lead? It could lead to the gradual elimination of people from the party councils—the mayors, people like Chicago’s Jack Arvey who is 73 years old, people who have won for us all the time. The McGovern commission is turning this political party, a great party, into a goddamn left-wing movement, that’s what they’re doing. Don’t quote me.”

And I didn’t. Until now.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Personal Aside: William F. Buckley RIP…Free Trade II


William F. Buckley RIP.

All conservatives, indeed all Americans, owe William F. Buckley enormously. You can’t imagine how poverty-stricken we were, bereft of conservative thought before he came along. Everything we had in the post FDR years was vestigial liberalism with no challenge. And then came 1955 the the year he began “National Review.” I was 27 at the time, already working for a living in Minnesota as researcher, organizer and speech-writer for the state’s GOP. Robert Taft had died two years earlier. The only thing we had to read was Robert R. McCormick’s “Tribune” eloquent editorials—and McCormick died April 1, 1955 which led to a winnowing down of the newspaper’s positions and the loss of its hardiness which continues even today (although it is improving vastly). There was a magazine that was very strange—“Freeman”—which was Ron Paul-style leave-us-alone libertarianism, pinched, crabbed, opposed to making any stand whatsoever against Communism despite that the disease was at that point threatening to engulf the West. There was the “American Mercury,” founded by that cockeyed closet racist and anti-Semite H. L. Mencken. And the John Birch Society had a publication that linked President Eisenhower to the Communists (which passed as “conservative”).

The reigning so-called “conservative” intellectual was Peter Viereck of Mount Holyoke college who was trying to atone for the sins of his father, a Nazi sympathizer named George Sylvester Viereck. George Sylvester, born illegitimate in Germany to the actress Edwina Viereck, was reputed to be the bastard son of Kaiser Wilhelm and he very likely was. He came to this country and preached undiluted Nazism including anti-Semitism that he was convicted under a sedition act in 1942 and was imprisoned for several years. His son tried to make amends by writing a book “Conservatism Revisited” that went exactly the other way—lionizing FDR and Adlai Stevenson and claiming that the New Deal was really the kind of so-called “conservatism” that should be espoused. He was a total nervous wreck, turning to the Left to eradicate the memory of his father and of no help or hope to any conservative whatever.

Then there was a weekly mailing, mimeographed, from New York that was called “Human Events.” “Human Events” was well written and was the progenitor of the newspaper we now, all of us (or almost all of us: certainly I do) rely on. “Human Events” was the only thing we had following the demise of the editorials in the “Chicago Tribune.” The “Wall Street Journal” editorials were valueless, concerned with economics only, pro-Keynesian as I recall. There was Fulton Lewis on the radio who read the news and commentary so poorly, screwing up the sentence structure, trying to correct his mispronouncing, we thought he was drunk (maybe he was). There was Westbrook Pegler, a brilliant writer and rhetorician who soon would be silenced for libel who would go over the side to the Birch Society; George Sokolsky who was pretty good but hardly well known. WGN radio belonged to the Mutual network and had a commentator named Robert F. Hurleigh (pronounced Hurley). There was Bill Baroody’s two-man “American Enterprise Association” that analyzed legislation and sent mimeographed copies to conservative members of Congress. And the Intercollegiate Institute. Basically, that was it.

That was it until WFB began “National Review.” I remember when I picked it up in Minnesota I thanked God for it—and him. I had read “God and Man at Yale” of course and “Up from Liberalism” and thought them wonderful but now we would have a magazine! Buckley swiftly built a cadre of people who reshaped conservatism into the edifice it is today. They had no time for the Birchers or anti-Semites, residues of which had survived from the “America First” committee. Now, “America First” was a noble organization (I’ve written about it extensively) but as with all ideological groups it had its share of nuts. After we entered World War II, the leaders, young men and women, themselves went to war leaving a small string of nuts. They tried to infiltrate Buckley but he tossed them out, rightly so. We’re indebted to him for befriending that genius of the West Whittaker Chambers—and among other things, encouraging Chambers to write his great negative review of the “Atlas Shrugged” by the crackpot duenna of selfishness Ayn Rand and her Objectivism. We’re told that whenever Buckley entered a room where Rand was she stalked out because of Chambers. Great tribute to them both.

What has come from WFB has been all we have today: Barry Goldwater the first conservative movement leader to run for president (far different from Taft because Taft, a brilliant logician, was in conservative strategy, torn between MacArthur and his own lessened foreign policy instincts, ambivalent, I thought, on fighting Communism, so concerned was he that the bureaucracy should not grow, but a genius nonetheless). The Goldwater campaign begat Ronald Reagan and all that followed. All the while there was Regnery Publishing, a literate “National Review” and a string of marvelous instruments—the Conservative Book Club, “The Weekly Standard,” “The Spectator.” Talk radio followed along with Fox. All these things can be traced back to William F. Buckley. He was not an organizer exactly—he was an inspiration. It is hard to envision it now, but before he began, conservatism was regarded as a variant of nuttiness: either anti-Semitism or racism or anarchism or Peter Viereck who idolized the Left and wanted conservatives to follow suit.

You know, the poet Ben Jonson wrote in his book “Timber or Discoveries” in 1630 a critique of his contemporary William Shakespeare who had died in 1616. The world was still trying to make up its mind about Shakespeare and Jonson, a minor poet and playwright but still an uncommonly good one (and undoubtedly jealous of Shakespeare) wrote this: “I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted a line. My answer hath been: would he had blotted a thousand.” Well of course no one would say that of Will now—but of Buckley I can say I wish he had blotted some of his actions which were foolhardy. But they doesn’t diminish his greatness.

I wish, for example, he had not taken up the defense of marijuana legalization just because he liked to smoke it (and which incidentally certainly inculcated the emphysema that killed him). I wish he had not supported our giving away the Panama Canal although it was fun to see him bested, the only time in his life in debate, by Ronald Reagan. I wish he had not written “Nearer My God,” the book about his religious faith which surely was not a confusing testament that did him credit. Lillian and I took a cruise with the “National Review” and met him briefly but in the panel discussions he led, I always thought he labored too mightily to infuse even the most simple statement with memorable verbal appendages. But these are minor blips. he was unique, very-very kind, a genius with incomparable facets and a treasure.

I guess selfishly I wish he had not so diffused his talents—skiing, surfing, yachting, sailing—and had harbored his energies for communication more. But then how could you ask one to produce more than he did in his 82 years? These slight misgivings are incredibly minor things and to write them now sounds like Jonson anent Shakespeare. We should thank God…and I mean this religiously…that we had WFB because all of us who want to salvage the culture and historical significance of America and the West could not have made it without him. Reagan simply could not have mobilized his movement without Buckley’s having gone before, collecting intellectuals and writers. Take George Will alone: he occupies a signal place in U. S. conservatism and would never have gotten anywhere without having worked for Buckley—or Paul Gigot the editorial page editor of the “Wall Street Journal.” To the very end he had the ability to slough off the nuts including people who were once great but who became nuts—i.e. Joe Sobran.

The fact that WFB had so many friends in the liberal was a great treasure—because until he came we were pariahs. In fact the entire mobilization of the “Commentary” magazine people, observant Jews and their harnessing to the conservative movement could not have been accomplished without him. The entire edifice of modern conservatism which is impressive indeed, far more so in its intellectual ballast than liberalism, is attributed single-handedly to William F. Buckley. It is sad to imagine that we could never see his like again.

Free Trade: II. Continuing from Yesterday.

Both Paul Samuelson, a Nobel laureate in economics and Paul Krugman, a Princeton professor who is a “New York Times” columnist, gingerly accept that in the overall, free trade will help everyone: but both are rather inextricably tied to the political here-and-now and so they fudge. Both know the doctrine of one of the economics classicists, Ricardo (1772-1823) who argued that low-wage labor in faraway countries like China and India would not jeopardize the wages of English manufacturing because of high transportation laws. But Samuelson and Krugman say this is no longer true and in the short-range there are penalties for global free trade and they stress that politicians cannot afford to wait it out since according to Samuelson, the benefits of free trade can take oftentimes up to a generation to bear fruit. Then you have the always negative media which will report Ford laying off 10,000 workers with big emphasis and at the same time underplay Google’s going from zero to 10,000 jobs in the last decade. What to do?

The short range is dominating the Democrats who are out of presidential power now i.e. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But also Republican Mike Huckabee. He was a free trader as governor of Arkansas but has risen to the top tier with statements like “If somebody in the presidency doesn’t begin to understand that we can’t have free trade if it’s not fair trade, we’re going to continually see people who have worked for 20 and 30 years get the pink slip and told, `I’m sorry but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here.’”

Then there is Ron Paul who is a real mystery to me. I thought he was a libertarian and that libertarians were not supposed to be protectionists--but in the House he has voted against every free-trade proposal (somebody tell me why aside from the usual short-range pragmatic political interest). Then, of course, there was H. Ross Perot in 1992 and one who increasingly has moved rightward so much that he is rounding the circle and coming up left—Pat Buchanan who left the Republican party. They’re on the fringe now with Ron Paul and John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are and were free trade candidates. And given that Perotism and Buchanan-ism don’t count anymore in the GOP and Huckabee is playing himself out and seemingly auditioning for a talk show, the greater likelihood is that a Democratic president will be more “fair trade” orchestrated than free trade. Buchanan is particularly ghastly to me as he comes close to the Gene McCarthy post-1968 line in foreign affairs, almost seeming to chortle in that high-pitched voice of his on “McLaughlin” when he hears of an American reverse and sounding like a soul-mate of Eleanor Clift for God’s sake. .

But even so their position is couched, not embracing protectionism formally but desirous of tightening the terms of old agreements and a harder-nosed position with our trading partners. Looking at Obama and Hillary jousting on this issue does not give me reassurance but hearkens back to the old fallacies that produced Smoot-Hawley with the potential of converting what might be a slight recession into a full-scale depression.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Personal Aside: The Democrats’ Anti-Trade New Wave.


For one with an historical reach…extending back to the 19th century and up to the present when Democrats from William Jennngs Bryan on embraced free trade…the bickering between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over who is more protectionist is a revelation. Free trade was a firm principle of the Democratic party since Andrew Jackson and the 1820s—and even before. As with all the colonies founded in the Western hemisphere, the U.S. began as an exporter of raw materials and an importer of almost everything else. The southern colonies exported tobacco, rice and deerskins; the northern colonies wheat, flour, pig iron, furs and lumber. Jealous of the colonies, Britain required them to pass through its own middlemen and be subject to British tariffs—a prime cause of the American revolution.

After the revolution, a tariff on imports here became a major source of revenue for the new government. When the Brits imposed a naval blockade on the U. S. in the war of 1812, domestic manufacturing rose, especially in the North. After the war, southern textile mills, fearing the intense competition from more efficient British mills, lobbied and got protection—a duty of 25 cents a yard that effectively blocked British cloth from entering the U. S. market. While this was salutary for the North, it was not for the South which depended on moving raw cotton to Northern and British mills while importing most manufactured goods. Thus in 1828 a higher tariff, called by the South “the tariff of abominations” precipitated the nation’s first secessionist threat. Andrew Jackson won the election of 1828 by insisting that tariffs be cut to the bone: and the lower tariff with the accompanying goal of free trade became a major plank in the Democratic party. Four years later Jackson ended the abominable tariff crisis by doing two contradictory but politically wise things: (a) defending the constitutionality of tariffs while (b) at the same time pushing a lower tariff through Congress.

With the Civil War and the need to increase revenue to fight it, higher tariffs became de rigeur but following the war the economic architecture of the nation changed. The South was the epicenter of free trade while the new industrialists of the North—Republicans all—supported higher tariffs and there was very little the South, subservient under Republican presidents, could do about it. But the Northern high tariffs hit the South hard and by the time of William Jennings Bryan there were the seeds of economic revolution. Bryan in Chicago in 1896 (at the Coliseum, delivering a speech my Irish Democratic grandfather thrilled to) launched a fight against high tariffs. He crusaded for a low tariff and the free coinage of silver, to induce inflation to help debt-strangled farmers pay their bills. This would be the Democrats’ crusade until World War I.

It took a dispute within the private confines of Carnegie Steel to show a dispute within the privately held company on the tariff. The battle led to the public release of documents that showed the company was garnering unheard of profits which created quite a scandal. The split between William H. Taft and Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 led to the victory of Woodrow Wilson for president and enabled the Democrats to win Congress. In 1913 tariffs were significantly lowered and the economy prospered. But, aha, the Republicans came back in 1920 and with them higher tariffs. In 1928 Herbert Hoover campaigned for the farm vote by promising legislation to protect farmers from cheaper foreign imports. When Congress met after his election, there was a line a mile long of corporate lobbyists seeking similar protection. And with the stock market crash in October, 1929 there came the blind nonsense of the Smoot-Hawley tariff which raised tariffs to the highest point in U.S. history. It signed a reaction from overseas against American goods which triggered an even worse great depression: Smoot-Hawley being considered one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation in U.S. history and Hoover one of the most disastrous (albeit well-meaning0 presidents.

FDR turned the situation around with lower tariffs. Two years after Roosevelt’s death, Harry Truman established GATT (the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) to cut tariffs and promote world trade leading to creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. Thus world trade prospered; there was a tripling of trade in farm products between 1950 and 1970 with the following decade producing even more spectacular increases. World exports of manufacturing, farm and mining increased by a factor of 80 against which in contrast world GDP, net of inflation, grew by a factor of only six. The beginnings of NAFTA came with George H. W. Bush but it is to Bill Clinton’s credit that it was negotiated under his aegis. It was a far-sighted deal. Most trade agreements were conducted between two countries or at least a group of countries sharing economic circumstances. Not here. NATA involved three countries, the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with each member facing greatly different sets of circumstances. The U.S. and Canada were highly developed with educated populations and high per-capita GDP. Mexico with the world’s 14th largest economy had a much smaller GDP than Canada or the U.S. It is fair to say that Hillary Clinton weighed in against NAFTA inside the Clinton White House councils but lost the battle.

No sooner had NAFTA been concluded than Mexico found itself in a terrific financial crisis and a radical curtailment of its economy. But thanks to Clinton and Bob Rubin, the crisis was resolved in 1996. Mexican GDP has doubled in the past ten years, poverty has fallen and exports have been surging. Thus on the basis of earlier results, there is every reason to expect that Mexico can finally emerge as an industrial and post-industrial economy. But since it has not occurred yet, politicians are claiming that NAFTA is to blame for flooding the U.S. with illegal immigrants, that NAFTA has kept down wages on the bottom rung of the economic scale here. The Democratic party has recoiled and reexamined its position. Thus we have Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both railing against free trade. In the short range, as prominent economist Paul Krugman of Princeton (and an influential “New York Times” columnist—influential with Democratic party thinking--says, growing U.S. trade with third world countries reduces the real wages of many and perhaps most workers in this country, although he realizes that in the long run free trade will help everyone.

What is likely to happen in the eventuality of a Democratic president? We’ll look at that next time.

Flashback: McCarthy Continues Down the Nihilist Track, Saying it Wouldn’t Be So Bad to Lose an “Unjust War” Verifying the Godfrey Diekmann OSB View…Hubert Becomes the Old Hubert Again...

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

Split from his wife but never to divorce, Gene McCarthy moved from his three-story home across from Washington’s National Cathedral to a $450 a month apartment in a nearby hotel. Their four children continued to live with their mother when not away at school. Abigail was active with Church Women United, an ecumenical liberal group, and served for a time on the board of the Dreyfus corporation headed by Howard Stein who was a major funder of McCarthy’s presidential campaign. She began writing her autobiography. In 1970, Gene was sent on a three-nation South American trip by a foundation to meet with governmental, civic and business leaders. When he came back after eleven days he held a news conference in the Old Senate Office Building’s caucus room, the place where he announced his presidential candidacy, and said he noticed nothing new about the Nixon policy anent Vietnam. “If the president does have a new policy, he should tell us what it is. If he has a secret policy that he cannot tell us about, as in the campaign, he must run the risk of criticism while carrying it out.”

McCarthy Embraces U. S. Defeat: A First.

Then in a little-noticed event (October 15, 1970 the same day as a giant peace moratorium in Washington), McCarthy delivered a speech at Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ that formally broke with earlier elements of the peace movement to embrace non-patriotism, or as he might say, non-chauvinism. Heretofore the movement had embraced the idea of withdrawal from Vietnam as a kind of declaration of victory, leaving Vietnam to itself. Now McCarthy formally embraced U. S. defeat. Speaking to more than 4,000, McCarthy criticized Nixon for saying he would not be the first president to preside over the military defeat of America. Then he said—and this is an historic rupture with the past: “None of us feel history would be badly served if Richard Nixon did preside over the first military defeat of this country.” The comment evoked a one-minute long standing ovation. This was the beginning so far as I can ascertain of a downturn from patriotism on the part of the Left. Before this speech, pro-peace people wanted us to pull out of Vietnam. With this speech, the more radical of them echoed McCarthy saying (in some cases) the U.S. as a kind of war criminal deserved to be defeated. A whole new generation was spawned by the McCarthy speech at Rutgers. In a very real sense it was the birth of a new breed of Left which owes fealty to global peace, lassitude and anti-poverty rather than national self-interest. McCarthy, ever his enigmatic self, deviated on occasion from this view but his pronouncement of it at Rutgers was a turning-point.

He then said that he doubted without a “reform mechanism,” the Democratic party could mount a satisfactory opposition to the war. Thus, he said, “if party procedures are not reformed, both in the Democratic and Republican party, I anticipate that a third or fourth party will develop on the liberal side with the same strength and thrust that the George Wallace party had on the conservative side in 1968.” He told a television interviewer that he questioned whether he could be useful to the Democratic party in the future, saying “it is a little like they say with Lazarus when he came back from the dead. They didn’t want to deal him into the card game. They said, `Look, we don’t play with you any more. We don’t know what you’re up to.’” (This is really a funny parody. It’s not biblically based but McCarthy’s conjecture of what possibly happened after Lazarus was raised. I smile at this whenever I think of it).

Hubert: the Rebirth of the Intensely Political Man.

If McCarthy became the spokesman for a brooding, enigmatic anti-establishment, anti-U.S. view, Hubert Humphrey was not so complicated. Always the peppery corner pharmacist, he grew tired of teaching at Macalester and grew tired of consulting with the Encyclopedia Britannica people even if the pay was excellent. He was, after all, not in any sense an intellectual but a pragmatic politician. He put a lot of energy into his plan to run for the Senate in 1970 to replace McCarthy. At a dinner meeting with Jack Germond of the Gannett news service, he admitted he was intoxicated by politics so much that he was like an alcoholic eyeing a fresh drink. He denied he was thinking of running for president in 1972, saying first-things-first (the Senate in 1970) but he talked about having Ted Kennedy run with him for vice president to rehab Kennedy after Chappaquiddick.

At first he advocated a unified front on Vietnam with Nixon (and met with President Nixon for an hour on the issue). He was appalled at Nixon’s and Kissinger’s anger at the peace movement but held his tongue. He looked at his having lost six states in the South that JFK had carried and privately warned that the Dems should avoid looking like McCarthy, McGovern, John Kenneth Galbraith and Gloria Steinem. But he didn’t know, frankly, how to unify the party. Instead he said the hell with it and resolved to let events decide. He announced for the Senate on June 13, 1970 and did not rule out seeking the presidency again. He faced a black radical, Earl Craig, a University of Minnesota instructor, for the nomination: Craig having been active in McCarthy’s campaign and beat him in September easily—by 250,000 votes.

Minnesota Republicans nominated Rep. Clark MacGregor who represented the tony Minneapolis suburbs. The left-tilting Minneapolis “Tribune” editorially sensed a drift to the right by Hubert which he indignantly denied. He easily defeated MacGregor by 220,000 votes or nearly 59% of the vote in an election where the DFL elected the nation’s youngest governor, 37-year-old Wendell Anderson. So Hubert returned to the Senate. Never before had a former majority whip, vice president and presidential candidate returned as a freshman senator. He was sworn in on Jan. 21, 1971 as the new junior senator from Minnesota, the oldest of 10 freshmen. He had been 17th in seniority when he became vice president. Now he was 92nd. He settled in Gene McCarthy’s former suite in the Old Senate Office building. He found it somewhat discomfiting to be a new kid after all his earlier service. He wanted Appropriations as a committee assignment but got the ones he had when he was a freshman in 1949—government operations, agriculture and joint economics. He hoped to get a larger staff befitting his having been vice president but he didn’t: the staff was only a fourth of his veep staff. He had a big speech to deliver on the first day by Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the whip, stuck to the 15-minute rule.

He was in the habit of coming up with ideas and having a Humphrey amendment to this or that but times had changed. In the old days a Humphrey amendment would be swiftly prepared. Now he staff would tell him, “Hubert there’s already an amendment like this submitted.” “Goddamnit, I want my own!” he’d say. “See to it!” Then as a freshman his proposals would get short-shrift in the media. He wanted to get a group of House members to support his idea of a national health insurance plan, which he had first suggested 20 years earlier, but a bipartisan group sniffed at it and decided to go with a similar bill introduced by Ted Kennedy.

I met with him at this time, as a lobbyist for Quaker Oats. He said, “Tom, don’t ask me to do anything for you because I don’t think there’s a damned thing I can do.” I said: I just stopped by and say hello. Yeah, he said, that’s what everybody else does—say hello. Hubert, I said, is it possible that you can ever be happy? I mean, I’ve known you for 30 years now.

He said, “I was happy when I first came to the Senate.” Oh? “Then I ran into Harry Byrd and was boycotted.” Yes, were you happy then? God, no. I worked myself out of it. Then—then, I wanted to climb the leadership ladder so I ingratiated myself with guys like Lyndon who wasn’t higher in seniority to me but who had the ear of Dick Russell. Now they just buried Dick Russell today, did you hear? Were you happy then as you rose through the hierarchy.

Yeah, I guess so. Then I wanted to be vice president. Were you happy then when you got it? Happy? The worst years of my life except when I was the building super in Minneapolis starting the furnace every morning at 4 a.m. before I’d go to the university. Hubert, I said, I concluded you can’t be completely happy but you love the thrill of the chase.

Yes, he said thoughtfully, I guess so. Did you hear—I have an idea where I can get more staff! I can make a deal with the government ops chairman to have some detailed here. More staff, that’s what I really need!

Not long later a journalist I knew from Minnesota—a writer who was as close to Hubert as Charlie Bartlett was to JFK, a confidant who would never write anything bad about him--popped in and found freshman senator Humphrey disconsolate. What’s the matter, Hubert? Well, said Hubert, you must keep it quiet but Muriel has left me.

“Muriel has left you! WHAT?”

Well, said Hubert, maybe left me isn’t the right word but she’s gone back to Minnesota. We’re in love, of course, but she’s had it with this life. So I knock around in the condo out here all alone at night. Turning 60 and all alone.

The journalist grew worried and when he came back to Minnesota he looked up Muriel.

“Good God, did you LEAVE Hubert?”

She laughed and said: . That’s what he always says when he’s feeling sorry for himself. I told him I’d always be around for him but we have grandchildren now so I want to spend some time with them. Let me tell you about Hubert which I learned after more than 30 years of marriage. He gets up in the morning and says he has so much work that nobody can help him with, he doesn’t know what to do. HE ENJOYS PROBLEMS, you know? He comes home after the Senate, changes his shirt and goes out to a series of events in Washington with visiting firemen, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the Minnesota Chamber and once again is dreaming of running for president. So I said, “Hubert I’ll always be here for you but I don’t want to hang around in this place at home by myself and I’m sick of banquets with visiting firemen. So you know where I’ll be. I’ll be home with our grandchildren. I’ll come back when I’m ready but I’m 60 years old too and I need to be with family.” Upshot, no family trouble: Hubert was once again feeling sorry for himself, something he innately enjoyed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Personal Aside: Hillary Can’t Win the Nomination but She Might Have Fared Better than Obama Against McCain…Why Compare Sandi Jackson to Michelle—Because (Gasp!) She’s Black?



Hillary Clinton can’t win the nomination unless through an act of God, but something tells me that as a nominee she would be better than Barack Obama. Nowhere has the exotic, snob-appeal ivy league elitism of Obama who rivals John Kerry (remember his wind-surfing) been exploited more than by Bill Kristol in (God how they must hate to read his stuff there) “The New York Times.”

Obama is so much the drawing room candidate, the Franchot Tone if you will of the candidates—slim, wispy, a suave presence, no rough edges, typifying a generation that lends its patriotism to the world rather than to the nation. He is perfect for the role of the semi-white “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” protagonist, the kind of half-black, half-white guy with a Harvard law degree you’d not mind your daughter marrying…or even more so, the kind of guy you might want to scoop up your daughter. But wouldn’t you know he’s married to a Princeton undergrad and Harvard lawyer who so bitterly feels isolation of an African American in a world whitey made and to whom whitey is insufficiently patronizing?

Both of them feel patriotism is so-so provincial, so “Reader’s Digest,” not “Vanity Fair.” We must be patriotic for the world not one country. Anyhow have we eradicated poverty here to the extent that we should thrust out our chests? I think not! So to downplay that vulgar patriotism, Barack said that his removal of the American flag pin was a resolute gesture. “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that become a substitute for, I think, patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pinon my chest.” Parse that sentence for clarity, English majors. But you get the drift. He is so-so-so c-o-o-l not the vulgarians the Republicans are. Excluding Kirk Dillard, of course. (He’s going to be the next U. S. Attorney for Barack, that boy—but that’s another matter).

And who is this “Gentleman’s Quarterly” centerfold male model married to? Ah, Michelle Obama of course. There’s another bereft child of discrimination with a Princeton and Harvard education who feels so-so-so estranged from the white power structure. You earn $300,000 from whitey’s University of Chicago hospitals as a-a-a- what? Lobbyist, that’s it. Awful name. Anyhow you earn that and you feel estranged too.

Enough for you to say: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country. And not because Barack has done well”—oh no-no-no, how vulgar to imagine! “…but because I think people are hungry for change.”

I’m telling you, friends, this stuffy elitism is going to be fun once it gets on the late-late TV shows as it will, even despite their political correctness. Maybe not Katie Couric but the later ones that people watch. All fodder for guffaws: the swooning women, the peach-fuzzed adolescents, the limp-wristed polyglots in a party where white males are 27%, the mal-educated grad students of which we are up to our asses in huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I’m telling you that long about mid-October the Dems will be slipping out of their upholstered seminars and wishing they had a tough talking Hillary rather than this honeyed-tongued poet of vaporous nuance.

E. A.: Here’s Why I Compare Sandi Jackson to Michelle Obama.

Because,…gasp!...both are…well…black? Sure! How racist of me, ! Because both are black, yes, both are women, both are friends, both are married to powerful politicians, both are Chicagoans, both are lawyers, both are one year apart in age, both are mothers. Who else would I compare Sandi to, Cindi McCain for God’s sake? Hattie McDaniel? Also look up your own definition of fulsome. You’ll find it has two meanings including mine. Not that definitions mean anything to me when I write. But do keep on writing me with your acerbic one sentence zingers.. We must meet. I can just draw a portrait of you in my mind. An attractive lady intellectual with reading glasses perched on her abundantly coiffed hair sipping at Starbucks. Right? An Obama fancier. Who thinks Cardinal George is a-a-a- saint. Garcon, another latte please!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Personal Asides: 3rd Annual Speaking Tour Starts…Pick McCain’s Ideal Running Mate…Ditto with Obama…Sandi Jackson & John Powers a Hit on WLS-AM Last Night.


3rd Annual Tour.

My third annual for-profit speaking tour will start soon (mainly in the Chicago area and Illinois but occasionally outside this area when fees warrant). Each year I speak to (a) civic groups, (b) political gatherings, (c) church sodalities, (d) bar mitzvahs, (e) old Minnesota gatherings, (h) old Illinois gatherings, (i) baptisms, (j) funerals, (k) university classes, (l) you name it. The purpose is to speak for FEES which I tuck aside for mad money to supplement other income. For more details write to me at

Ideal McCain Running Mate.

I have suggested that the idea running mate for John McCain would be Mitt Romney because of his strong economic and social views plus his managerial talents. Others might be Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi because of his strong geographical and conservative connection with the South…North Carolina’s governor Mark Sanford. I would suggest that Fred Thompson, age 64 and an arrested cancer victim would be inappropriate running with John McCain, age 71 and an arrested cancer victim. Make your suggestions and give us reasons why.

Ditto with Obama.

For Republicans, play the game straight: put on your political strategist hat and pretend you are David Axelrod the top adviser to Barack Obama. Who would be ideal as a running mate? Granted, pro-forma, the first invitation would be given to Hillary Clinton who undoubtedly would reject it—but the invitation should be made protocol-wise anyhow. After she turns it down, who?

Gen. Wesley Clark, the 4-star retired general, to make up for Obama’s non-military record? Wouldn’t Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, an Hispanic make the ticket too exotic? What about a white moderate like former Virginia governor Mark Warner? Or, an even better idea perhaps, Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, a decorated hero of Vietnam, novelist and Ronald Reagan’s navy secretary? He’d be my first choice were I Obama. Make your choice and give the reasons why.

Jackson & Powers.

My WLS-AM radio show last night featured two excellent protagonists of different philosophies—Alderman Sandi Jackson [7th] who is also Democratic committeeman for the ward…wife of U. S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. …and John Powers, co-inventor of PayPal and president of the “Chicago Daily Observer.” Both were superbly knowledgeable about Chicago’s politics and economic needs and presented their views concisely, with verve and wit. I will say about Sandi Jackson whom I met for the first time last night that she strikes me as infinitely superior…in depth, sophistication and street-smarts…to Michelle Obama. John Powers, of course, has no equal.

Flashback: Hubert Flies Back to Minnesota and is Duped by Billboard Mixup but is Cheered Up and Prepares to Run for the Senate (and Maybe President) Again…Gene is Zinged by Lowenstein for Russell Long Vote, Opposes Warren Burger Dating from 17-Year Contro

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

Hubert Embarrassed, then Joyful.

On November 22, while he was still vice president but a lame duck who would become a private citizen in a few months, Hubert Humphrey flew to Minnesota for a speech to the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association but also to meet with friends to decide what he would do in the future. He was depressed and thoughtful. On the plane word came from his staff that an insulting series of billboards had just popped up all over the Twin Cities: no picture or artwork but the cryptic words: Big Mouth is Coming!

Humphrey immediately figured that the Minnesota Republican party had set this up. Angered after losing the presidency by a handful of votes… having been chided for his loss by Lyndon Johnson who had him over for dinner at the White House and bluntly said the defeat was caused by Humphrey’s not listening to Johnson’s advice (when in fact the polls showed that splitting with Johnson over Vietnam was the issue that moved the election as close as it became)…outraged at the perfidy of California’s Jesse Unruh who sabotaged the Humphrey campaign in order to set himself up for a run for governor in 1970, Hubert was apoplectic at the news of the billboards. When he landed he was greeted by an avalanche of news reporters and cameras but he wasn’t the happy warrior any more.

He decried the vicious partisanship of politics and cited the mushrooming of billboards “Big Mouth is Coming!” as a wholly uncivil welcome from a GOP that knows no civility only abject vicious partisanship. It was then that a newsman told him that the billboards had no political significance at all. They were an advance promotion by Hamm’s Beer to announce the forthcoming introduction of a new bottle beer with a wider, more drinking-friendly top rather than the narrow opening on its other bottles. Hubert almost fainted. Here he had anticipated this appellation as a scurrilous reference to himself. It was the low-point in his career. The TV stations graciously underplayed his erroneous response because of their sympathy for the Minnesotan who came closest of all to winning the White House. The pass they gave was the last mark of civility of a fast evaporating bygone age when reporters could spare a politician they liked humiliation.

In Minnesota, Hubert had a few decisions to make about his future. He was told that the presidency of Columbia University in New York was open, that Brandeis wanted to give him lifetime tenure as a professor. Neither was interesting because this would require him moving from Minnesota where he intended to stage a comeback. His old friend Bill Benton (former Connecticut senator) offered him an assignment as a roving ambassador for Encyclopedia Britannica enterprises based in Chicago but he could fulfill them by continuing to live in Minnesota—which was exciting. DeWitt Wallace, founder of “Reader’s Digest,” was a major financial angel of Macalester College in St. Paul where Hubert had once taught (Wallace’s father had been president of the school) and offered him a teaching assignment there. Malcolm Moos, president of the University of Minnesota, a former speech-writer for Eisenhower but a college chum of Hubert, wanted Hubert to teach and conduct a university seminar at the U of M. So he brightened slightly: things were falling into place.

Muriel toted up the financial potentials. They had never been wealthy but some of these offers gave some financial independence. Let’s see, he was entitled to a federal pension of $19,500 a year. The endowed Macalester professorship would pay $30,000. The job with Britannica would bring in $75,000 with travel and other expenses paid for. Then there was an offer sight unseen for memoirs which would carry an advance of $75,000. As a private citizen, he could charge fees for speeches which could bring in, she estimated, income so that the total for 1969 could well be in excess of $200,000 which meant a good lifestyle by 1969 standards. And some corporations were offering some board directorships.

Muriel Humphrey was ecstatic with the prospects. And Hubert was still relatively young, only 58 so there could be opportunities to run for other posts (already the DFL wanted him to run for governor). Still, Hubert couldn’t shake the depression and some unaccountable bouts of nervous stomach which his doctor said was residual from the campaign. The campaign was over but his tummy didn’t know it. The doctor prescribed travel for the last days of the vice presidency—anything to get away from Lyndon Johnson with his sad beagle eyes, mournful hangdog look and continuing rumble that Hubert would be president if only he had listened to LBJ: nauseating.

Anyhow, he took the Macalester professorship and the Encyclopedia Britannica job; he signed off for a book and for a lecture bureau. But he had to get away. A Soviet official had offered to host him in the USSR which he decided would be a good tonic. Britannica volunteered to pay for the trip. He importuned his number one money guy, Dwayne Andreas of Archer-Daniels-Midland to go along with him and Muriel. After the agonizing U.S. Capitol experience of (as vice president) presiding over the casting of the electoral votes resulting in Nixon’s election (just as Nixon had had to do in 1960 when the electors picked John Kennedy), Hubert began teaching, winging every so often to Chicago to confer with Bennett on Britannica projects, then back for lectures at the U of M and writing his book: so he was pretty busy. Time passed but his stomach still hurt and he was often sleepless, rehashing in his mind in the middle of the night what he might have done differently to win the presidency.

In July, 1969 they all left for the USSR. Benton, a multi-millionaire former head of the Manhattan ad firm Benton & Bowles had hired Ben Read, the former state department official who now headed the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, to plan the trip and go along as tour director. “Don’t give Hubert a lot of time to brood,” said Benton. Read didn’t. A skilled scheduler he arranged parties and gatherings with world leaders wherever they stopped. Ostensibly it was to be on Britannica business but it was a grand tour. They stopped at Claridge’s in London and hosted a party among whose 40 guests was Tricia Nixon, Happy Rockefeller and a number of junketing senators.

Hubert asked Read to take them to an unscheduled stop, in Geneva. They went and while the group enjoyed the scenery Hubert went to a business meeting where he made one of the more fortunate decisions of his life which saved him a lot of future embarrassment. He met with Bernard Kornfeld who invited him to join the board of Investors Overseas Services. Hubert was mightily interested but something inside warned him that he was becoming too involved in business—and there was something also that piqued him about Cornfeld. It was good luck because less than a year later Kornfeld’s speculative bubble burst and it could have taken Hubert’s name and reputation with it. The group then proceeded on to Moscow.

In Moscow key members of the Soviet leadership including Premier Alexsi Kosygin tried to get everybody drunk—Hubert, Muriel, the Andreases, Read. Read nudged Hubert who was not a prodigious drinker and said that this was to be a test. The conversation raged but whenever there would be a lull, Kosygin would rap his glass on the table and there would be a toast of vodka. Read told Hubert to dominate the conversation and keep rattling on so the drinking would be postponed—which Hubert, a superbly garrulous speaker, did. But even Hubert had to pause for breath and when he did, Kosygin would rap his glass and everyone would chugalug, bottoms up.

The radio was blaring and Neil Armstrong, the U.S. astronaut, was preparing to land on the moon. It was July 20, 1969. Hubert worried that Kosygin would be jealous of our advantage but after the seventh bottoms up of straight vodka, Kosygin said he didn’t really give a damn about the U. S. beating them to the moon; they were all brothers. Hubert drank to that and Kosygin drank to Hubert’s drinking to that. And so on.

By midnight Hubert and the party rose unsteadily to their feet and signaled they had enough. Kosygin and his guests pretended they were offended but Hubert said he didn’t give a damn: he had never had that much to drink up to now and if they were offended, they’d have to consider declaring war but by God he was going to bed. Kosygin roared good-naturedly.

When the tipsy Hubert got back to his hotel (Hotel National) he noticed that a group of Soviet soldiers were standing in the lobby listening to a short-wave radio. He was ready to turn in but even in his muddled state of inebriation he wondered what in the world could be happening now that the U.S. had landed on the moon that so engaged the Soviets who were giggling.

He tottered over to them and asked. What they told him instantly sobered him up and kept him awake all night with joy. They told him that while Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon, Sen. Edward Kennedy had driven off a bridge at Cape Cod and that a female companion in his car had drowned. Immediately sober, Hubert put on the greatest acting stunt of his life, feigned astonishment and then sorrow as the soldiers huzza’ed. He hustled to his room clear-headed and opportunistic, thinking cogently of all the options. Up to now Ted Kennedy was regarded as a shoo-in for the 1972 Democratic nomination but it was clear the way had opened up for Hubert. Hubert could get back in the game again. Let’s see, how old would he be in 1972? 61. Not bad. Just right.

Now he really wanted to get the hell out of Russia and go home. As they flew home, Hubert was clinging tightly to Muriel’s hand as they consorted about the future. An aide rushed down the aisle to him and said that Gene McCarthy had just made it official: he would not run for reelection to the Senate in 1970. Hey—Hubert said, break out the bottles. Muriel said: “huh? It’s only 10 in the morning.” He didn’t care. It was one helluva week: drank almost to the point of irredeemable intoxication with the possessor of the greatest iron bellies in Moscow, Alexsi Kosygin and lived to tell the tale. The U. S. astronauts land safely. His major potential opponent drives off a bridge and kills a girl: he’s dead meat. And McCarthy says he won’t run, leaving a seat open for Hubert. The plan would be to run for the Senate in `70, get elected in friendly Minnesota in a walk, go zipping back to the Senate and get ready for the presidency in 1972 for a repeat against Tricky Dick. Everybody stood up and drank with him. “Bottom’s up!” Hubert said in Russian, imitating Kosygin.

Gene Settles Old Scores.

In the U. S. Senate, in January, 1969, lame duck Gene McCarthy had still more old scores to settle. Rubbing his scabs and ruminating about past slights to his pride, he saw that Allard Lowenstein, the anti-war radical who had defected to Bobby Kennedy—now Congressman Allard Lowenstein—was blaming Gene for voting for Louisiana’s Russell Long, the oil and gas industries ambassador to Washington, against Ted Kennedy for Senate Democratic Whip. The press called McCarthy for a comment. McCarthy, master of repartee, figured he would dominate this confrontation. He said, with all the sarcasm he could muster, “I see that Congressman Lowenstein has been in the U. S. House. Five days teaches you a lot.” The press thought it was cute and raced over to Lowenstein for a counter-comment.

Lowenstein had had it with McCarthy. Like Gene he was no slouch in the sardonic department. As the cameras moved in on him the reporters recited McCarthy’s acid comments: Lowenstein had only been in the House for five days.

Lowenstein said: “True. I have a lot to learn. But I don’t need five days to tell the difference between a Russell Long and a Ted Kennedy.” That crack took care of McCarthy and no longer was Gene the idol of the reformist left. Note: Only in 1960s liberal Democratic party circles would a vote for Russell Long be regarded as horrible. Long happened to be one of the more outstanding members of the Senate and was (as this history earlier described) a very good friend of Hubert Humphrey dating from the days when both were debaters on the University of Louisiana team. Long’s representation of oil and gas interests would be as normal for Louisiana as an Iowan’s representation of agriculture.

McCarthy made a note to scratch Lowenstein off his favorite list (the two never reconciled. Eleven years later in 1980, Allard Lowenstein, still a Congressman, was shot to death by a severely mentally disturbed man who was found not guilty by reason of incorrigible insanity. Lowenstein has been the last U. S. member of Congress to be assassinated).

Now Gene had at least one old score to settle. In 1952 South St. Paul lawyer Warren Burger was campaign manager for a long ago Republican candidate Roger Kennedy. He represented Kennedy in a debate with Gene when McCarthy was seeking his third House term. The issue was McCarthy’s having supported a measure to wipe clean alleged U.S. security risks from federal employment—a legitimate issue. McCarthy grew bitter at use of the issue so years later he voted against Burger’s judicial nominations. He voted against Burger for the U.S. Court of Appeals and as justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Now Burger was up for chief justice of the Supreme Court. McCarthy became one of only three senators to vote against him.

The McCarthys Separate. Their Imperial Selves.

Shortly after Gene announced that he would not run for reelection (July 22, 1969) both McCarthys told the media that they were separating. Their best friend, Bill Carlson said that it was evident since the 1968 convention they were not getting along—but their disagreement had extended far longer than that. Essentially Abigail was an ambitious, bright—even brilliant—wife who wanted a successful political career for her husband and recognition in her own right: she was a gifted writer and speaker. As a Democrat, she was an Irish liberal from Wabasha, Minn. who could be described as a worldly-wise sophisticate suited for friendship with the Burkes—Ed and Ann, probably more liberal than Ann.

But while in 1960s terms Abigail became pretty much a woman of the left, she saw no need in tearing down people who helped them along the way and could be a very forgiving person. As we have seen, Gene was less his Irish father’s easy-going man than his mother’s son (she a cold-hearted German who lavished her praise on him). If you helped Gene along the way get to where he wanted, you were his friend; if your agenda collided with his, you were not his friend and he would detour in his tracks, knife you and walk away with an epigram on his lips. She was appalled that Gene regarded Eugenie Anderson as despicable when all Eugenie did was run against him for the endorsement. The marveled that Gene had this “how dare she run against me!” attitude to which she responded, “well who the hell do you think you are anyhow, Gene?”

There was no such thing as forgiveness, let’s-make-up-and-start-over with Gene. He saw himself in no debt to anyone who helped him; he was vain, unutterably proud of his intellect, wit and good looks. While classified as a “devout Catholic,” he was in fact a devoutly relativistic post-Vatican II Catholic who believed in few if any absolutes except the adulation of self. This was in part a legacy and in part an invention that he put together with Fr. Godfrey Diekmann OSB. Diekmann was as far off the mark of authentic Catholicism as is possible to imagine. Abortion held no horror for him because it was a sacrament of the Left and he wouldn’t give the right the satisfaction to criticize it, not would he dream of leaving his party over it; homosexuality (though he was decidedly not gay) was no different than the color of eyes. He was an admirer of Rembert Weakland OSB, the Milwaukee archbishop and once abbot primate of the Benedictines, because the two hated ecclesial authority; it was immaterial to Diekmann that a partial reason for Weakland’s retirement as archbishop was the revelation that he paid blackmail to an angry gay ex-lover from diocesan funds.

The paramount issue was anti-authoritarianism, the leveling of authority in the church from the Vatican to the people in the pews. The people in the pews, that is, who agreed with Godfrey—not the others who were invincibly ignorant. All others i.e. “Wanderer” readers were banished to the outer limits of hell. But as often been said here, it is unfair to blame Godfrey Diekmann for Gene McCarthy; it may well have been Gene McCarthy who exerted more influence on Godfrey since they were roughly the same age.

Given that Gene had that kind of mind-set, it would logically lead to disruption with Abigail who saw it essential that he—and she—become a power in the Democratic party. His decision to run against Johnson and become stridently against the war worried, then excited, her but his haphazard way of running the campaign repelled her since she knew that he would destroy the Democratic party for a time and imperil its—his and her—rise in it.

Because of Gene, she lost some good friends in the press like Joe Alsop and her friendship with Muriel Humphrey, Lady Bird Johnson and with the largely influential leaders of the left in Georgetown; she was regarded for a time by other pols and labor people of the middle class who liked the Great Society as the wife of a man who was weird, a freak. She begged him to be more serious in his run for president; when he did, she tried to help but his hippie style of rhapsodizing with the nihilistic alcoholic poet Robert Lowell scandalized her. When he did so well in the New Hampshire primary she had a momentary surge of hope; indeed she was outraged at the Kennedys when they tried to usurp Gene’s role after New Hampshire. In her heart of heart, the decline of the Kennedys (Bobby’s death, Teddy’s subsequent fall from grace) had created an opening for Gene but he was maddeningly incapable of capitalizing on it.

Gene’s awful behavior in Chicago where he wouldn’t shake hands with Hubert at the convention was the last straw. And she regarded his purposefully holding out his endorsement of Hubert so that it would kill his chances of election as despicable, savage, cold-hearted, mean-spirited, anti-Christian and almost inhuman for a man who had been befriended by Hubert. Hubert at bottom a great gladiator against the hated conservative Republicans but inside the Democratic party little more than a very friendly fuzz ball; not so her calculating, Nixonian-style husband.

Gene’s friendship with The Little Sisters of the Media—Shana Alexander, Mary McGrory and Marya McLaughlin—didn’t bother her because, frankly, she couldn’t stand their sycophantic ways with him. She fully understood that Gene McCarthy had many faults but that he was not a lecher. If anything he was still a remote, semi-celibate monk with them—hugely enjoying their adulation at his epigrams. She subtly checked up on him to see whether he was being unfaithful to her with McLaughlin but found instead that they were English lit soul-mates rather than lovers. When later he moved in with McLaughlin she felt it was more of a roommate, poetry quoting society. Her friends told her she was surely wrong there, but who really knows? He was a very-very strange man.

When the two of them finally had it out, he told her a stunning thing: that he could not be faithful to her or anyone else for the remainder of his life. By this she took it not to mean sexual; it had not been faithful to any other absolute heretofore so why should it be different?. In her autobiography “Private Faces, Public Places” [Doubleday: 1972] here is how she put it:

“Gene left our home in August of 1969. He had long since come to the conclusion that the concept of lifelong fidelity and shared life come what may--`for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part’ to which we agreed in church—was no longer valid. And many people do find this—or any permanent commitment—an impossible ideal.” Quite a benevolent comment on one who was trained in Catholic theology, one who now says any permanent commitment was impossible. Perhaps the falling away of permanence involved them both. With that comment she returned to the subject of the book—herself.

She added: “I do not regret that for thirty years, in the words of Simone de Beauvoir, `I spontaneously preferred another existence to my own.’ I think I am a richer person for having shared that existence and because of the sharing that my own existence developed dimensions otherwise outside its scope.”

So with Abigail as with Gene, whether there was a parting of a marriage or not, it was always…always…all about “me.” Get this: she was a richer person because of it. Strangely, it seemed they were more alike than they believed—both supremely self-centered with no absolutes save self.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Personal Aside: McCain’s Romance with the Blonde Hussy “Reform.”


Sorry to be late.

Thirty-five years ago, there was another white-haired candidate of rectitude and another blonde hussy who threatened to turn his head.

God’s angry man of finance reform then was a good friend of mine--white-thatched John B. Anderson of Illinois, a liberal Republican, chairman of the House Republican Conference and darling of Common Cause and “The New York Times.” Anderson, in whom there was very little modesty (or humor) represented Rockford, Illinois and started out as a man so right-wing that in 1961 he introduced a constitutional amendment proposing that Jesus Christ be designated as the model for the United States of America.

Let us say that he moved leftward from that point beginning with a deciding vote on House Rules to send to the floor the 1968 civil rights bill for which he won fulsome praise from the Georgetown elite. Praise from that quarter affected John but turned his wife’s head leftward. A dramatic force in his life at her beckoning (while the remainder of us Anderson people gasped) soon he was enlisted in any move of the left that would enable him to Stand Tall in Georgetown—from pro-choice to ant-Vietnam War to becoming the living breathing symbol of public financing. The bill that preceded McCain-Feingold was written largely by Anderson which became the principle target of “Buckley v. Valeo” in the Supreme Court.

Anderson’s bill defined the strict campaign limits we have today. However he was thrust upward on his own petard because after running unsuccessfully for president (against Reagan and others) in 1980, he determined to float an independent candidacy. Literally scores of multi-billionaires came to him with pledges to write checks unlimitedly in his behalf. Anderson was thrilled; the money could be used to spur a candidacy at least equal to, or beyond, what Ross Perot did for himself in 1992. But due to Anderson’s own legislative folly all he could accept from Warren Buffet and others was a measly $1,000 apiece. Thereupon he came cheek-to-jowl with his own idealistic folly. “Fair” campaign financing is to take the shackles off the shekels and allow individuals to give unlimitedly to candidates so long as their contributions are forthrightly declared. This Anderson discovered too late when his own fate was involved.

Discovery of his foolishness came too late for Anderson. He was too well advanced in age and liberal habit. He became a Democrat in 1992 and supported Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and has a few weeks ago at age 86 and in marvelous physical health announced his enthusiasm for Barack Obama in 2008.

But the lesson should not be wasted on John McCain. At a tender 71 he has just finished—for good, let us pray—a long romantic involvement with a true blonde hussy…the Georgetown liberal dynasty. Thank God the tryst hasn’t involved turning soft on the war, but it has embraced several other things. When McCain got over-involved in the Keating 5, he shrewdly decided to make lemonade of that venture by becoming the poster-boy for “campaign reform.” For writing McCain-Feingold he was carried almost literally on the shoulders of the reformers. Now, like Anderson, McCain should be led to repent his liberal sins. He had to hire a battalion of lawyers to enable his campaign to stay afloat last November.

After taking out a $3 million loan, he applied for public funding certification to which he submitted the consideration of his public funding certification as collateral. However lawyers quibble about that. McCain now says he had no intention of accepting federal funds for the primaries. Chairman of the FEC David Mason still has questions about the terms of the loan. Former FEC chairman Brad Smith, a Republican, says “there is certainly an argument that what they did amounts to a pledge of funds as collateral.” But McCain’s lawyers say no. However he will accept federal funds for the general and is dismayed that Barack Obama evidently will not.

You see, Obama, another “reformer” has discovered that he has tapped into such a rich mine or ore that applying for federal funds would be self-limiting. So John McCain will be out there with the federal limitation while Obama will not…while it is clear from today’s perspective that McCain can easily match Obama in private fund-raising.

So the same snarl that tied up John Anderson is at the very least hobbling McCain—an example to him and to all of us of the folly of any so-called “campaign finance reform” that does not include full disclosure with utterly no limitations on individuals’ rights to support the candidates of their choice with their own dollars.

To John McCain whom I passionately support for president: You almost got burned by the blonde hussy of misguided “reform” this time. Let that be a lesson whenever you are tempted to turn from the path of rectitude to the adulation of those who want to see you Stand Tall in Georgetown.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Personal Aside: Great Scott! A Sex Scandal Looming at Last!


The Beautiful (?) Lobbyist.

Just when the presidential campaign had degenerated into arcane bickering over who stole whose words…whether Hillary pilfered Obama’s “I’m fired up!” rhetoric or how Obama appropriated the catchwords of the Massachusetts governor to defend his (Obama’s) reliance on vague, misty poetic allusions, the campaign has turned exciting with the prospect of a real sex scandal. Huzzza!

The “New York Times” uncovers the a supposedly good looking female lobbyist, a partner at Alkcade & Fay, Vicki Iseman, had spent a good deal of time hanging around McCain’s office eight years ago. And she accompanied him on her client’s (Home Shopping Network chief) Lowell Paxon’s corporate jet. There is even a hint of romantic interest by the two although both deny it.

Two conclusions I draw from this, the romantic angle first. More than a century ago, Benjamin Disraeli, the conservative leader of the British parliament and prime minister, was informed by an agent that his great enemy, William Gladstone, a thoroughly reputable and over-stuffed walrus of propriety, had fathered an illegitimate child. The agent was thrilled—but not Disraeli.

“This is the worst news I’ve heard,” Disraeli thundered. “If proof of Gladstone’s potency were to gain currency, his forces would sweep the country!”

I say this only jestingly. Obviously if McCain had chased around with a beautiful corporate lobbyist and it can be proven, he would not sweep the country. But it would tie up the over-70 male vote. However his denial and Ms. Iserman’s denial will leave some doubt. There is the angry backlash of McCain idolaters to this disclosure as a plus. Another McCain plus is that it would lead to even more egregious gestures of rectitude by The Pope of Hope which is succeeding in turning off some, not all, of the population as he saunters, loose-limbed, tie-less, on the stage twirling his hand mike. Hey, that’s odd. I cannot think of a negative for McCain in all this.

The second would be to fathom from whence the leak came. You start out by asking: who benefits? Well, poor Hillary is just about gone so there is little doubt that she isn’t going to benefit if McCain was playing knees-ies with a girl lobbyist on a corporate jet. So scratch Hillary. Which means scratching the guy who could have easily leaked it if it could possibly have benefited Hillary—Harold Ickes, Jr.,

The candidate who benefits is Obama. He is the one who has made a crusade about creating a bright new world where there are no lobbyists. It does away with the constitutional guarantee of redress of alleged grievance, but Obama’s people who sway to the calls for revolution aren’t interested in constitutional niceties anyhow.

Now why would Obama’s people do this? Well, just the other day Cindi McCain was the conduit by which Michelle Obama’s words were brought to the fullest national attention—you know them…the fact that this dew-eyed child of poverty, alienation and disaffection by old white racist America has had to wait until just now to be proud of her nation. You have to blame this absurd statement on Mrs. Obama’s disadvantaged education as a child of poverty—on her undergraduate days at Princeton and her graduate days at Harvard Law. A true victim of racism she is.

But to get back to the story, the McCain capitalization of the Michelle Obama statement coming to full exploitation by Cindi McCain stung. And Obama didn’t make it any easier…in fact made it worse…when in explaining it he changed the entire graphology of his wife’s statement, saying she meant she was now proud of the nation’s politics. That the ceiling did not fall in…the glass ceiling, I mean that has blocked Michelle from lawyerly advancement…with the Obama whopper is amazing but it did not.

Now a third point, only a hint. Who is so desperate to be of service to the Obama campaign, to rectify himself from the rotten judgment of picking Hillary to support, rather than Obama that he would need to get some credit from the Obama people? Why Rahm Emanuel, of course, who having owed his soul to the Clintons for allowing him to prosper politically and financially now has to scurry down the rope leading to the dock while the SS Hillary sinks slowly into the ooze. Anyone who knew the ropes of convincing the gentleman with the bad breath to collar Henry Hyde and warn him that his reputation was in dire peril for a lengthened episode a generation earlier would be up to this. And of this there is no doubt: the two co-conspirators who dine after each election at Manny’s and sometimes more frequently—David Axelrod of Obama and Emanuel of Hillary (but now a free agent—have much in common.

Emanuel doesn’t want to scurry down the rope to the dock without ingratiating himself to his soul’s next owner. And what a nice way to do it. With the Obama’s all nonplussed we give this old guy McCain who can’t even comb his hair a comeuppance. Or as Rahm would say…he who cannot enunciate a sentence without overuse of the “f” word…:How’s this for f------ justice? Obama needs to change the subject and with this you get a f------ two-fer, McCain and wife!”

In this scenario, the pietistic Axelrod who speaks very quietly without benefit of scatology, raises his eyes heavenward and smiles.

Flashback: McCarthy Has to Decline Nixon’s Cabinet Offer but Bit by Bit He Gets Even with Democrats and Liberals who Abandoned Him. Cutting the Notches in His Gun, One by One: Teddy…Mansfield…Fulbright

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

A favorite parlor game of post Vietnam War liberals was to try to figure out Gene McCarthy. Was he so mistreated by the Democrats that a man of his superb intellect had to rebel? Answer: no. He was pushed to the head of the line by Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson when they were in the Senate. Was he humiliated by Lyndon Johnson at the time he was considered for the vice presidency? Answer: of course not. Being considered for the vice presidency was an honor and got McCarthy more attention than he had heretofore. Was not being picked an unsettling blow to his psyche? Answer: yes. As Abigail mentioned many times, her husband was the kind of man who ridiculed others but circumspectly avoided his own liabilities. Any time he lost…whether it was on the baseball field or the very minor tussles he had at university…he resented and became embittered. Then on reflection he was imbued with the desire to get even. He was, she concluded, a very spoiled, selfish, self-centered individual who entertained no loyalties. Her judgment has been the conclusive one with those who knew him, including by me.

Nixon’s Offer—UN Ambassador.

Following his inauguration on Jan. 20, 1969m Richard Nixon with his often too-clever-by-half strategizing, met with Gene and received Gene’s assurance that McCarthy would be loyal to Nixon if Gene was appointed as ambassador to the United Nations. Accepting that pledge was surely one of the more stupid things Nixon did, considering Gene’s earlier pledge to be loyal to execution of the Vietnam War if he were made Johnson’s vice president, and what happened when Gene resolved to get even. But Nixon, a dark, brooding Irishman himself, thought it would be fun to twit the Democrats with a McCarthy appointment to the UN and hopefully capture Gene’s following for himself in a 1972 reelection bid.

The deal was set; the two shook hands and Gene saw himself giving the bird gesture to the entire Democratic party that had treated him (in his mind) so awfully as to deny him the presidential nomination. But there was one major hurdle. Gene had to resign from the Senate to take the post, of course, but his replacement would have to be appointed by the governor of Minnesota. That governor was a Republican, Harold Levander. And when contacted surreptitiously, Levander very candidly allowed that he would appoint a Republican to fill Gene’s seat. In that light, Gene’s acceptance of Nixon’s offer would be regarded as not just heresy but treason to his party and could easily—probably certainly—deny him the votes for confirmation. Enough Democrats were made at Gene anyhow for challenging Johnson, running against Hubert and holding back his support of Hubert until the last minute when Hubert died on the vine. To usher in another Republican in the Senate would kill McCarthy’s confirmation chances. This drove Gene up the wall quite irrationally to the point where he disliked his Democratic colleagues: he sorely wanted the UN post with which to make political points on television in debates with the Russians.

So to spare himself ignominy by failing to get confirmed by the Democratic Senate, he passed up Nixon’s offer. To content himself he spewed ridicule on Gov. Levander who he announced had a surname which when spelled backwards was “red navel.” Only a Gene McCarthy would come up with that. But the impossibility of naming Gene to the UN was one of the luckier things that happened to Nixon for there could be no doubt that as Nixon fought to end the war on the basis of saving the country’s honor, Nixon became unpopular. If he remotely thought an ambassador Gene McCarthy in the UN would be more loyal to him, a Republican, than Gene had been to LBJ who had promoted him in the past, Nixon would have to have another think coming.

So, frustrated by having to pass up the UN and sticking with the Senate until his term would expire in 1971, Gene decided to get even with a whole lot of Democrats in the Senate and journalistic liberals whom he blamed for insufficiently recognizing his greatness. At least one observer from those years told me recently that McCarthy’s actions were free-form and unpredictable, not unlike the shooter at Northern Illinois University or the one at Virginia Tech: at random and without reason.

Liberal darling Ted Kennedy had been serving as Democratic whip (assistant Democratic majority leader) not for his sagacity but only because he was a Kennedy, in recognition by his Democratic colleagues of John and Robert’s assassinations. He was regarded as the heir to the Lost Prince, the inevitable president-in-waiting. McCarthy had disliked John and had actively hated Bobby but had had excellent relations with Ted. In fact at one point before the 1968 convention, he tried desperately to get Ted to run with him as vice president; later when it was clear Gene couldn’t be nominated, he actively supported the recruitment of Ted for nominee—anything to beat Hubert. McCarthy told Ted that he would not consider doing this for Bobby (which didn’t make a big hit with Ted as one would expect). Ted turned it down, of course, since he was trying to recover emotionally but was grateful to Gene for the thought. Now Ted was running for reelection as assistant majority leader, being touted as the liberal white hope.

Liberals cherished the all-but-certain reelection of Ted Kennedy as Senate Democratic whip. Having lost the presidency, the young heir to Kennedy charisma was a definable hero they could pin their hopes on for 1972. Even more exciting for liberals was that Ted was being opposed for reelection as Democratic whip by none other than Russell Long of Louisiana. Liberals smacked their lips and made Ted’s reelection as Whip a major “moral issue.” Long was a super-hawk on the Vietnam war and had been the go-to guy on oil and natural gas interests. They were sure Gene would support Ted Kennedy and indeed Mary McGrory of “The Washington Star,” a charter member of the Little Sisters of the Media and idolater of Gene’s regarded that Gene’s support was not even to be questioned.

That’s where Mary-Mary-quite-contrary was wrong. The ultra-sensitive McCarthy hated to have his support taken for granted—so he pulled it. Gene announced that he would support Russell Long for whip which came as a thunderbolt to the liberals. Mary McGrory was hugely offended and enraged. A melancholy, ironic, poetically inclined Irishman herself, she ruminated that early in his career, Gene was befriended by Long and placed on his Finance committee with help of the oil and natural gas lobby. Now McCarthy had gone back to his fat-cat lobbyist roots. So she wrote: “Last year’s shining knight has become this year’s old politician.”

The real reasons McCarthy supported Long were four --based on realism and a financially secure future. First, while Teddy had the charisma, he didn’t have the legislative skill or work ethic of Russell Long. Second, oil and natural gas could come up with some interesting future consultancy opportunities for McCarthy when he would leave the Senate. Third, if McCarthy decided to take another run at the presidency in 1972 it would be helpful to have Kennedy who was sure to be a rival pulled down a peg or two. And there was a fourth reason which McCarthy never mentioned but Long blurted out: he never doubted that McCarthy would back him because of Long’s past help as finance chairman to Minnesota industry. The same reason led to four other Democrats to fall into line for Long: Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin (a progressive); Gale McGee of Wyoming, a conservative; and conservative Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico with moderates Joseph Montoya also of New Mexico.

Ted Kennedy was reelected whip and McCarthy relied on an old tactic: dissing the importance of the Senate whip job and wondering why the media and liberals were making so much of the contest. Holding the number two Senate leadership job was not good for Ted Kennedy. Looking forward to his inevitable presidential candidacy in 1972, his insecurities won out and his drinking and partying proclivities increased round the clock. This led to the Chappaquiddick disaster of July, 1969 which removed him from the presidential lists. McCarthy could breathe a sigh of relief. There would not be another Kennedy to spook him out of the nomination were Gene inclined to try for it in `72.

Scoring himself (like making notches on his gun handle), McCarthy had (a) zinged the last surviving prince of the Kennedy clan, had taken care of his earning power in retirement and (b) got back as liberals who abandoned his presidential run for Bobby Kennedy. Now he was ready for (c): getting even with those Senate liberals who hung back when he ran for president and neglected to support him, preferring Hubert instead. One was Mike Mansfield the Senate majority leader and good friend of LBJ and Hubert. Another: J. William Fulbright, chairman of Senate Foreign Relations. Fulbright talked a good peace game but didn’t lift a finger to help Gene against Hubert, playing it safe. Now Fulbright depended on McCarthy’s liberal votes on the committee and counted on Gene hanging around on the committee to help with the hanging of Richard Nixon—until Gene’s term would expire in 1971. Mansfield headed the powerful Senate Democratic steering committee which ladled out committee assignments on which both Fulbright and McCarthy satr.

Fulbright ruminated often privately to McCarthy that he would prefer a smaller, more cohesive Foreign Relations committee and Mansfield wanted a smaller committee as well, which could produce more unity among Democrats.

Both Fulbright and Mansfield, a vocal dove but still LBJ and Hubert friend when it counted, complained the committee had a lot of dead wood, a lot of conservative Democrats who supported the war and he’d like to dump some of them off the nearest pier. Wyoming’s Democratic Gale McGee, a war supporter and super-hawk, had been on the committee but had to surrender his seat because Republicans had picked up a few Senate seats in 1966 and the Democratic majority on the panel had to be reduced. Mansfield and Fulbright didn’t mind losing McGee at all but McGee wanted to come back and Mansfield said yeah, sure, when there’s a Democratic opening, figuring it wouldn’t come very soon.

Now once again, McCarthy startled all the Democrats on the Steering Committee by announcing that he was going to give up his seat early and switch to Government Operations. An astounded Mansfield leaned over and whispered, “do you know what this means? I must offer the seat to McGee who supports the war.”

Well, whispered back Gene with a sardonic smile, you shouldn’t have trouble with him since you and Bill Fulbright got along so well with Lyndon and Hubert, Bill wanted a smaller committee anyhow; just tell McGee it’ll be a smaller committee and he’s not coming on.

You know I can’t do that, pleaded Mansfield in his plaintive whisper. I gave him my word.

Ah, said McCarthy, so you have. Well, Mike, I know you and Bill will work it out. You guys have been talking for a long time about how you’re going to take care of this Lyndon supporter and an enthusiast for the war. Now you have been given a way. You guys have a knack of getting along with supporters of the war. I gotta go to Government Operations now. Have a good day.

On the way out the door, Fulbright bolted over to Gene, motioned that he wanted to talk to him outside the committee.

Gene, he said, you can’t do this. It’ll drastically change the character of the committee.

Well, said Gene, keep McGee off and keep it smaller.

We can’t do that and you know that. Mike [Mansfield] has promised Gale would get first consideration for--.

Seems to me, said McCarthy, that you guys say one thing to some people—that you’re for peace—and something else to others. You guys are great critics of the war but you are good friends of McGee and tell him you’d support him coming back. Tsk-tsk, it’s a bit embarrassing but you work well enough with hawks so you’ll figure out how to do it. I must run to Government Ops. Thanks.

Fulbright stormed back to the committee and looked at Mansfield. Mansfield’s lips moved silently in words which were not prayerful. Mansfield had to keep his word and invite McGee back.

McGee went back on the committee and regained his voice as a vocal supporter of the war, driving Fulbright nuts by opposing everything the chairman wanted, making votes against Nixon’s foreign policy very dicey and causing trouble for Mansfield on the Senate floor.

Gene was very happily ensconced on Government Ops, learning the domestic management of agencies having mastered foreign relations earlier. He didn’t much care if Fulbright and Mansfield were mad. As for Mary McGrory of the Little Sisters of the Media, who cared? The others—Shana Alexander and particularly Marya McLaughlin laughed a lot at his jokes and understood where he was coming fro

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Personal Aside: Aw, How Touching! For the First Time Michelle Obama’s Proud of Her Country.


Note: Sorry for the delay. Put it down to old age and incompetence.

For several times in this presidential campaign, the Obamas have been caught seeming rather embarrassed about their country and old-fashioned patriotism.

And it’s not by happenstance or accident. Barack Obama, the rock-star who sets crowds of young philistines swaying who are too young and too ignorant to know who Che Chevara was but who thrill to the coolness of revolution, purposely disdained wearing the American flag symbol on his lapel because purportedly patriotism is too intrinsic to be worn as an ornament. He has been photographed many times during playing of the national anthem with his hands at his side rather than his hand on his heart as candidates for office have been doing for decades. When questioned: oh, patriotism is too precious to be trivialized in this way. One time in a debate he seemingly let slip a view, but he caught himself, that at last he can be proud of his country—but the view was cut short and inconclusive.

But the idea at last we can be proud of our country because voters elect him or voters are worked up about universal health coverage is part of political scat talk that substitutes for issues and hard thinking in the Obama camp. Imagine: at last we can be proud of our country because of Obama. How shallow a token tribute for a country which has become the epicenter for freedom, decency and moral probity around the world. The country John McCain sacrificed five years of his life for and endured beatings from jail guards is all too-too sacrosanct to be glorified by candidates wearing the flag in their lapel. Uncool.

Political scat talk from the Obama side—similar to the decision to diss wearing the flag symbol or to refuse to place your hand on your heart as the anthem is played —is equated with being cool. Now Michelle Obama has become the first to let the idea completely slip out. In Milwaukee on Monday, she said: “Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well but I think people are hungry for change.”

This political scat talk from the candidate’s wife is the semi-pornography that has passed as substitute for sentiment since the Obamas became a national phenomenon. It is mindless, yes, thoughtless yes and as shallowly self-centered…all about Me…as the campaign itself. About as logical as the thought enunciated by The Pope of Hope that “you”—the people—“are the change.” Well if the people cheering him as the change and they are all around this Matador of Self-Indulgence, what has taken so long for the “change” they think they want to come? Political scat talk.

If anyone is spoiled from excess advantage either from affirmative action or condescension from guilt-ridden white know-nothings because of the supposed “infirmity” of being born black and female in a white man’s world it is this pampered and over-lavished Princeton undergrad, Harvard Law grad who has been needlessly revered, overpaid and overhyped not because of what she has done but of her race card playing with adroit aplomb. Not to be proud of your country for any reason other than certain cult liberals swaying to her husband’s political scat talk says it all. These are the words of an over-pampered celebrity who has become obsessed with her own importance. Her acumen is on par with her legal scholarship which she demonstrated by defending her husband’s opposition as a state senator to allowing babies born from a botched abortion to continue life.

The time is coming when this scat talking duo start understanding that the change in their lives will come, all right…and is about due to hit…when Late Night talk show hosts plus John Stewart of The Daily Show start playing verbatim transcripts of the mindless Barack scat talk nonsense and making justified fun of it. Obama’s brief explanation “what she meant was, this is the first time she’s been proud of the politics of America.” REALLY? Yeah. “Because she’s pretty cynical about the political process.” REALLY? Does she think she hasn’t benefited from it or her husband from a process that elevated him from a law firm to the state senate to the U.S. Senate before he was 45? What—too slow for her?

Poor baby. Get the hook. It’s about time to subject the two pampered rock stars and their scat pol talk of exaggeration and hype to the criticism every other candidate gets…so she gets a taste of what some of the others less pampered are going through.