Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Personal Aside: Super-Tuesday with All the Trimmings.



Under the weather a bit yesterday—sorry. Back in good form today.

Some thoughts written last night before many of the final-final returns are in.

1. It is a great joy to see that the old Republican party elites are not picking the nominees. Even if my candidate, Mitt Romney, didn’t do well, it is of great satisfaction to me to see that here in Illinois, the candidate all the panjandrums agreed on…with Big Buffo Jim Thompson pronouncing that this candidate is “my kind of Republican”…Rudy Giuliani…flopped as did John Connally, leaving the GOP head honchos stranded in 1980.

2. Likewise it is a joy to see that the arrogant so-called pundits of talk

radio did not triumph. Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity tried to use their leverage to lead the party by the nose—Ingraham amazingly saying…though a lawyer…that she will not vote for McCain. Not to mention Ann Coulter who has pledged to campaign for Hillary if McCain is the nominee. Limbaugh opposed McCain and Huckabee and deeply strove to have their audiences follow their lead. In South Carolina McCain and Huckabee drew 63% of the conservative vote, a clear repudiation of these pundits.

Not long ago I wrote what I thought was a balanced piece, saying that Limbaugh is very eloquent and that I agree with him about 90% of the time—but that I felt his adamant attacks on McCain and Huckabee, reading them out of the conservative faction, showed that Limbaugh is after all a broadcaster who has not had political experience. A friend of mine wrote to say that Mark Levin has—since Levin worked in the Justice Department. My friends, what I mean by political experience is not a job in the bureaucracy of the bowels of government. What I mean by political experience is the experience of carrying a precinct or working a piece of legislation through to passage through the arts of compromise. Compromise is a dirty word for Rush—and that is because he is isolated in that glass booth before the golden EIB microphone, from political negotiations. Laura has been a speech-writer in the Reagan White House’s domestic affairs division, was a law clerk for Clarence Thomas. Very nice and very impressive as she earns possibly seven figures annually as a talk show host. But that is not political experience.

What do I mean by political experience. Will you excuse me if I point to myself because of the experiences I have had? Shameless egotism I know. At 27 I had the job of strategizing for the Republicans in the Minnesota legislature that was dominated by Democrats. At 29 I had to advise a Republican congressman on how to get his farm agenda through a Democratic Ag committee and Democratic congress. At 30 I watched raptly as the very senior congressman I served showed me how to get his foreign affairs resolutions and programs through a Democratic House.

At 33 I went to work as a press secretary to a governor and worked with others to strategize how to get his legislative program through a Democratic House and Senate. At 37 I went to work for a corporation and designed its legislative program, supervising how it could be passed through Congress and in various state legislatures in states where we had plants. At 39 I went to the Commerce department as an assistant secretary where I was required to design my own program in minority business and work to get it passed. At 41 I was number three in the Peace Corps and charged with the job of getting the Peace Corps appropriations through. Then back to the corporation with lobbying work from which I retired in 1991. As a diversion as chairman of an anti-vote fraud organization I battled with the El Supremo Mayor Daley on anti-vote fraud legislation and got walloped.

Am I bragging? God, I hope not because it’s Lent. I think not because my won-loss record against odds was very average, not spectacular. But that’s what I mean by political experience. It is very-very easy to earn $20 million a year like Rush and define what is white and black. Just yesterday I heard him say he is proud that he is not in the Beltway. Well, hurrah for him. But maybe it would have been better for his listeners if he had had some experience rather than running his mouth. Essentially while I still buy him at 90% I think he ought to get out of his air conditioned studio and mingle with lawmakers, trying to get something passed or defeated. That’s what I mean by political experience. Your comments now.


  1. Glad that you are back in the blocks, Don Tomas!

    As for the flannel-mouths, they should work their lamps over John Kass's great thought piece today and much less of their gums.

  2. Tom, if you would please read the article I linked to, you will see that Mark Levin started working as a grassroots organizer at the age of 19, long before he was a White House lawyer. Hugh Hewitt also has done plenty of grass roots work. You are unfair to dismiss all talk radio hosts as ivory tower purists. It's a cheap shot that you have used on others as well. Yet when those of us who have detailed knowledge of how the inside of a university works offer hands-on reasons why certain proposed solutions to problems with Catholic higher education won't work well, does our hands-on, inside experience count for anything? (And conducting occasional classes in politics at a university is not the same as hands-on inside "grass roots" knowledge of how the institution works.) You can't have it both ways.

  3. Limbaugh is thinking tactically. His sphere of "grass roots organizing" is different than others. They are all important. The grass roots work you did for many years is still important. But Limbaugh's and Hewitt's tactic was to try to stop McCain before it was too late precisely for tactical reasons. Hewitt has already this morning begun the tactical process of trying to urge the anti-McCain forces to come home. I predicted that he and the others would in the end vote for and encourage others to vote for McCain, but they hope, for strategic reasons, to avoid having to face that situation. Hewitt hammered McCain, not because he's a purist ideologue who doesn't understand how politics works. He's a party man to the utmost and many real purist conservatives consider him a toady.

    But precisely because he knows in the end that we have a two-party system and that purist third-party folks or "I'll take my ball and go home" hyperbole only plays into the Democrats' hands, his commitment to the party system and hence to the Republican nominee, even McCain, is firm. So he can hammer McCain for all its worth and then be a gracious loser the next day.

    This is a form of "grassroots" organizing on the new playing field, crucial for politics today--talk radio, alternative media. It does not and cannot replace all the conventional methods of grass roots organizing--even if telephone banks have replaced some of the door-to-door get out the vote stuff. But Limbaugh and Hewitt glimpsed early on the potential for these new modes of communication, including blogging--Hewitt was one of the first to visualize its importance.

    They are not naive heads-in-the-clouds blowhards. They are working in their corner of the vineyard at a grassroots level in a culture in which bricks and mortar neighborhoods have broken down and virtual communities on the internet and talk radio, sadly perhaps but very really, have begun to replace them--as networks linking conservatives who otherwise feel isolated and alone. These audiences then take things from the blogs and radio back to such surviving bricks-and-mortar neighborhoods as are still available.

    Wouldn't it be great if we still lived in the neighborhood world of 50 years ago? Yes, in fact it would be better. We have a mess as a result of the breakdown of "intermediate instances." But given the breakdown, Limbaugh and Ingraham and Hewitt are doing grassroots organizing in a new way. They failed to stop McCain. He will be a disaster in the general even if virtually all of those Republicans who tried to avoid being saddled with him hold their nose and vote for him, as most of them really will, including myself. All we wanted to do was, if possible, avoid a 72-year-old whose lack of alacrity was on display for all to see in the last California debate going head-to-head with the media darling Obama.

    You thought your piece was balanced. It was in many ways. But what I objected to was that instead of debating Limbaugh's tactics on their merits and demerits (trying to stop McCain now) you pulled rank on him and the other talk radio folks by dismissing their standing because they don't even, in your view, know tactics like you do. In other words, you went ad hominenm rather than debate the merits.

  4. Sure, the Radio Guys are Ivory Tower people. So what?

    The issue is PRINCIPLES. When you start without principles, it makes little difference what legislative "achievements" you have--

    McCain's "principles" are not inclusive of a thorough and rational pro-life position, a thorough and rational free-speech position, a thorough and rational 2A position, nor a thorough and rational Immigration position.


  5. I cannot think of any candidate that is thorough and complete, or whatever- They are all political bs artists trying to get elected- No more grace and class ala Abe Lincoln- Sad but true-

  6. Thank you for posting the Kass piece, Mr. Hickey....

    I agree with Tom's satisfaction that neither the party elites nor the talk radio people prevailed. We listen to them, but make up our own minds. And Hastert's endorsement of Romney cuts no ice with me.

    Mr. Martin's points are good and well expressed....

    Gordon Liddy said on his radio show "Vote for who you like best in the primary and vote for your party in the general election". Who among us would vote for Clinton or Obama instead of any of the Republican candidates??

  7. Laura Ingraham = "A good looking cookie" ? Oh how the quality of the bakeries of Chicago must have degraded!