Monday, March 31, 2008

Personal Aside: The Clintons Will Get Even with Obama—Count on It…To E. A., a Message


The Clintons.

Obama leaders believe that there is a solution to the impasse with Hillary Clinton that will not tie up the convention in knots. For a glimmer, get thee over to The Chicago Daily Observer and read Don Rose. His solution…brilliant…workmanlike…is likely to be employed. The Democratic party simply cannot afford…and will not try…to alienate its huge African American constituency—not from a purely pragmatic angle, should it. You think they’d be nutty enough to have super-delegates reject a charismatic African American senator in order to run Bill Clinton’s wife? Give me a break.

But the nomination of Obama will not be the last act. The Clintons play hard-ball. Hillary will make a few obligatory speeches in behalf of the nominee but will go about her own political business. Bill is the one to watch. There already have been subtle overtures to McCain by emissaries of the Clintons. The sole interest of the Clintons after Obama is nominated is to have McCain win. He will be 72 on inauguration day, 76 for reelection. That will be Hillary’s golden chance. She will be 64—not too old at all to run. There is some credence to think that she may run and get elected Governor of New York in 2010, two years before the next presidential election. David Patterson has confessed to everything except jaywalking and is soiled merchandise. Andrew Cuomo should be ripe to be rolled.

As how to help McCain: there are many-many ways Bill Clinton can subvert the Obama campaign and tie in to the McCain effort without being tagged or found out.

To E. A.

I understand you have a very interesting blog but I can’t locate it. Would you…if you choose…give me its title by using my personal e-mail… ? I promise not to pollute it with observations. In fact there will be none at all. TR

Flashback: Thanks to Dwayne Andreas’ Management of Hubert’s Blind Trust, Hubert Becomes A Rich Man. Then Scandal, Mostly Posthumous.

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

Hubert Dies a Rich Man.

Hubert Humphrey’s lust for the presidency was not slaked. He decided to run for president in 1976 at the age of 65, not terribly old by current standards (Reagan was 68 when he first ran; McCain is 71) but privately he thought he could detect by a feeling in his gut that his health was not the best—but he said nothing, not even to his doctor. The fire for the presidency consumed him—but we interrupt the saga here to analyze his financial status and the extraordinary good choice he made by handing his financial affairs over to Dwayne Andreas and forgetting about them. Andreas through his superior management made him a rich man—although Hubert never knew how rich, since he abided by the rules of a blind trust.

Like many politicians obsessed with trying to become president, Hubert Humphrey was always hamstrung by lack of campaign funds. However despite this he was …more than most people I ever knew …personally uninterested in amassing wealth, just concerned that enough money was on hand to pay his bills. When he arrived in Washington as a newly-elected senator, his furniture sat in a van for two days until his father in South Dakota could rustle up enough money to pay the cartage and get it unloaded. From that time on, in addition to his Senate salary, he relied on out-of-town speaking engagements that paid honoraria (acceptable under the Senate rules of the time). His campaigns were in the main floated by contributions from labor unions and small business—but also were heavy with contributions from the Jewish community which he assiduously courted. A loan from Morris Ebin of Minneapolis helped him finance the first house he bought in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Another friend, Ray Ewald, a rich dairyman sold him a plot of land in the town of Waverly west of the Twin Cities for a giveaway price that was a favor ($200). Two other wealthy friends, Bill Benton (the former Connecticut senator and multi-millionaire ex-owner of the Manhattan ad firm Benton & Bowles) and Dwyne Andreas (then of Honeymead, later to become the enormously successful CEO of Archer-Daniels-Midland) jointly paid his sons’ tuition at Shattuck Military Academy in Faribault, Minnesota.

Hubert’s tax returns which can be examined in his personal papers showed deductions for an average middle-class head of household—deductions for getting his kids’ teeth straightened. He bought some government bonds and had a scattering of stock. Finding funds to build his Waverly, Minn. house was tough and he had to borrow money from his longtime friend Freddie Gates, himself a rather modestly endowed manufacturer of pinball games (who held the Bible when Hubert was sworn in as vice president). In 1959, a typical year as a Senator, his speech-making additional income registered $27,648 but he had to ask for an extension to pay his income tax. In 1960 he had an even tougher time because he was running for president against multi-millionaire legatee JFK and couldn’t charge for speeches. He was dismayed when his property taxes on his Waverly house were hiked by $225 and he sent his buddy Freddie Gates to rush to the courthouse and protest.

By 1964 when he was running for vice president, it was required that he file a statement of his personal worth. He and his aide Norman Sherman were very worried—worried that it was so small in number he would be embarrassed. Sherman wanted to pad the net worth but Hubert yelled, “Christ no, Norman! The IRS will think that I’m slipping something by them! I’ll go to jail! Do you want that?” When he did file the disclosure it showed $171,396 in net assets consisting of a $36,000 equity in hjis Chewvy Chase house, $28,000 in his Waverly property, a $3,900 share in the family drug store in Huron, S. D. and a helter-skelter list of securities adding up to
about $40,000. It looks skimpy by today’s standards and indeed it looked skimpy also by 1964 ratings.

When he became vice president Lyndon Johnson who was always his growling, malevolent “boss,” ordered him to heighten his lifestyle. How to do it? He sat down with Dwayne Andreas and Andreas agreed to take over his finances and put them in a blind trust. That was the best decision Hubert ever made on his finances. Andreas became CEO of ADM in 1966 and was an exceptionally astute investor. He took Hubert’s stocks and bonds, then worth $80,000 and put them in a blind trust. He was smart enough to insist that it would be a blind trust in fact and deed. Hubert didn’t care and he never inquired as to what it grew to, only to ask Andreas if he had enough money to pay bills. Unknown to Hubert—and not known by him throughout his life—Andreas who was probably the most bipartisan guy there ever was (having given to Richard Nixon in 1972 and a host of Republicans as well as Democrats) got the advice of one of his top buddies—Thomas E. Dewey, the former New York governor. Dewey told him not to handle Hubert’s money separately but pool it with other Andreas family funds in an equity called Mutual Income Fund (this could be criticized if known today but it wasn’t known until quite recently and in fact Hubert didn’t know it: actually he was so preoccupied he didn’t care).

Dwayne Andreas and Tom Dewey were the best financial things that ever happened to Hubert although he died not knowing the facts—his money was pooled and Mutual Income Fund invested in ADM stock which rose phenomenally thanks to Andreas’ entrepreneurial talents. From that time on, the commingled fund grew spectacularly as ADM stock alone increased 12-fold over the next decade. One day at lunch Andreas told Hubert, “Hubert, you’re a wealthy man!” Hubert said, “if you say so, Dwayne.” He was so caught up in the chase for the White House, he didn’t comment after that. The fund grew so fast that Andreas set up trust funds for Hubert’s kids and grandchildren and made annual gifts to them up to the maximum tax-free limit of then $3,000 a year. Within a few years the trust funds for his kids had grown from $100,000 to $200,000. Andreas gave Hubert an inkling of this but there was a nod and no comment. . Hubert’s own trust fund grew more slowly because Andreas tapped them to pay some heavy expenses which he assured Hubert he could afford. In 1975 Andreas withdrew $240,000 to pay taxes and penalties after the IRS ruled Hubert was not entitled to take $199,000 ij deductions for the years 1969-73 for donating his papers to the Minnesota Historical Society. Andreas was furious at the ruling and told Hubert this but there was scarcely a comment.

Hubert asked Andreas if he could afford to purchase title to 14 acres of land around his Waverly, Minnesota house and Andreas said yes, drawing sufficient funds to cover the outlay. You must remember that the dollar figures are not contemporary but are by 1970s standards. When Hubert ran for reelection as a Senator for the last time in 1976 his lawyers had to accommodate a law that required a declaration of net worth. By that time his share of the Mutual Income Fund was $388,000. By the time of Hubert’s death, 18 months later, the total Fund, including trusts for some 88 persons had grown to a value of well in excess of $100 million. His share was about 1-1/2% of the pie or $500,000. This was exclusive of the funds he had transferred to his four children and ten grandchildren and exclusive of the proceeds—close to $1 million—of sale following his death of the Waverly estate and his Washington condo. On his death bed, Andreas bent down and whispered into Hubert’s ear, “Anyhow, Hubert, I can tell you you die a rich man.” There was a soft murmur of thank you.

Scandal with Aides.

But the fortunes of some of his aides were not so blissful. His top aide, Herbert Waters, who virtually made Hubert a success in his early days in running his Senate office as well as his campaign manager in a masterfully astute way, ran into trouble. When Kennedy became president, in 1961, Herb Waters went to Hubert and said he thought he wanted to do something else (he had been Hubert’s top man since `1949). Hubert enthusiastically endorsed him for the job of assistant administrator of the Agency for International Development (AID), a key foreign service post. But Waters discovered the internal auditing by the feds is tough. He had to resign under fire after a charge was made that three assistants had accepted gratuities including the favors of women form a Belgian firm that held a $2.8 million AID contract.

Another involved Universal Fiberglas of Two Harbors, Minnesota which got a $13.3 million government contract through the Small Business Administration at Hubert’s behest. SBA was then headed by one of Hubert’s supposed best and brightest, Eugene Foley who overruled a field report criticizing the company. Well, the field report was right. Universal was supposed to build 3-wheel “Mailster” trucks for the Postal Service but shut down after building fewer than a third of the promised 12,714 Mailsters. “Your friends are using you for their personal gain, Hubert” warned Mrs. Katherine Graham of the “Washington Post.”

A third involved Andreas which didn’t involve Hubert but was embarrassing. As soon as Watergate broke, it came out that funds used by the White House burglars included a $25,000 check to the Nixon Committee to Reelect the President by Dwayne Andreas. After Nixon resigned and two Republican attorneys general—John Mitchell and Richard Kleindienst—went to jail, the Senate committee turned to investigate Democratic fund-raising and subpoenaed Humphrey’s 1972 campaign records. They found that Hubert’s campaign manager, Jack Chestnut, just like Maurice Stans, had destroyed all the pertinent campaign records before April 7, the date the new law went into effect. Investigators working with the records that survived the Chestnut purge found that one of Hubert’s top supporters, John Loeb, of Loeb, Rhodes, the New York investment banking had responded to Hubert’s plea for funds by supplying his own money in the form of $5,000 each to nine of his subordinates, laundering the money to them to make the contribution. Loeb said he was ignorant of the law and paid a $3,000 fine.

Incredibly, the Watergate probe targeted Hubert’s most liberal adviser who was also involved in forensic campaign duels with me—Norman Sherman, a good friend. The Senate investigators found that Associated Milk Producers, Inc., a large farm co-op, made donations to Hubert as well as to Nixon. Two of Hubert’s aides, Bill Connell and Ted Van Dyk, became consultants to the company. Connell recommended that Jack Chestnut, Hubert’s campaign manager be retained to handle Associated’s legal business in Minnesota. Sherman was hired to supply computerized voter lists by Chestnut who manipulated it to appear that Associated did not pay for Sherman’s work although it did. AMPI’s checks to pay the Humphrey 1972 campaign obligations went through Sherman’s company. Sherman’s company drew up false invoices but it was found that the company made unlawful $82,000 worth of corporate contributions to Humphrey’s campaign. The probers found Chestnut’s memos setting up the deal. Chestnut, Humphrey’s campaign manager, pleaded 5th amendment, declined to answer all questions, was tried, convicted and sentenced to four months in prison in 1974. Sherman was tried separately and fined $500.

While documentation of Hubert’s pre-April 7 fund-raising had been destroyed, the Senate probers zeroed in on how Hubert got the dough to effectuate a start-up in the first place. There was no record in the file turned over to the probers. Under pressure his lawyers came up with the answer. In December, 1971 when he decided to run Hubert asked Andreas if he could tap his own blind trust for the start-up money. Andreas said yes and he did for $116,000. Then Andreas, his daughter and a friend of his daughter sold blocks of ADM stock adding a further $348,000 to the treasury.

A Howard Hughes Scandal and Other Questions.

The worst disclosure then occurred. In probing Nixon’s contributions, the Senate investigators found that a Howard Hughes contribution had been stashed in a safe belonging to Bebe Robozo. Now a Hughes aide, Robert Maheu, charged that he had given $50,000 in cash to Humphrey on July 31,1968 as Hubert was leaving Los Angeles’ Century Plaza hotel after a rally. Maheu said he jumped into the vice president’s limousine and left a briefcase containing the cash at Humphrey’s feet. Hubert said he didn’t remember it and denied that the contribution had found its way into his campaign fund. Indeed, in April, 1968 Hughes wrote Humphrey asking for his help in getting nuclear tests stopped near his home in Las Vegas. Watergate investigators put into the record Maheu’s handwritten notes of a July 31,1968 saying

$25,000 Kennedy

50,000 Nixon

50,000 Humphrey

…along with a cancelled check dated June 27. 1968 to Robert Maheu Associates signed Howard Hughes to which was clipped a note from Maheu saying, “received for non-deductible contributions.” “Kennedy” in the note meant Bobby. There is little doubt that the money reached the campaign treasuries of all three.

Hubert’s campaigns for president were money-starved and it is reckoned as certain that he cut corners—but there are no grounds to imagine the checks went to his personal needs but to his campaigns. . When as a legacy of Watergate, big corporations began confessing unlawful contributions, Hubert’s name i.e. his presidential campaigns was almost always on the list of recipients-- from Gulf Oil, Ashland Oil, American Airlines and others including Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing. When the confessions from big business came out, Hubert was dying and incommunicado but it was clear that he was so hard up for campaign money he would from time to time grab checks and stuff them in his pocket, not checking where they were from but it is a certainty he knew better. As his life was slowly snuffing out, probers found that the corrupt Korean importer Tongsun Park may well have made inroads. Humphrey’s name was found on Park’s lists with mysterious numbers after it. At one time Park was dating Humphrey’s niece and hads given $10,000 to Hubert’s 1972 campaign so that the niece could fly out to help in the California primary. But there is no evidence that Humphrey helped Park land government contracts.

Before the bad news got out as he lie on his death bed, Hubert was planning one last hurrah—a run for the presidential nomination in 1976.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Personal Aside: Obama Starting to Resemble McGovern in `72. Here’s Why.

McGovern Was a Synthetic Lefty Who Really Didn’t Believe It.

Increasingly, Barack Obama’s campaign is starting to resemble the George McGovern campaign of 1972 which was the most disastrous one in modern U. S. politics.

McGovern’s race was a contrived total left-wing excursion, serenaded by the liberal media and fanned to a fair-thee-well by all the usual left-wing suspects. But it was not pre-ordained from the outset that McGovern would lose…especially on the national security issue. . Indeed, to start out with, McGovern had far more going for him than Obama. The real McGovern story is solid TV documentary fare. A high school gym teacher once called him a coward because he trembled before vaulting a gymnastic horse and never really leapt over it. Disgusted with himself because he really and truly felt he was a coward in failing to jump over the horse and terribly afraid of heights, he gritted his teeth and signed up for a civilian pilot training program. You can imagine how dizzy and woozy he felt as he was learning to fly. When he soloed, he felt cold sweat rolling down his back. But when he walked away after that solo, having won his certificate he was never afraid of heights again.

When World War II came he volunteered for what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces. He served as a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot with the 15th Air Force and flew 35 missions over enemy territory from bases in North Africa and Italy, piloting the craft through rains of artillery fire. When his plane was hit, he skillfully maneuvered it to a successful crash landing on a tiny Mediterranean island and saved his crew, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the eternal admiration of his crew.

I knew George McGovern because I had a lot to do with him in his chairmanship of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs and Quaker worked closely with him on some major proposals adopted by the committee. I was the lobbyist for Quaker at that time and worked with him trying to trim down his idea of a “Guaranteed Minimum Diet” for Americans similar to a guaranteed annual wage. I helped kill the idea which was truly visionary but I got to know him pretty well.

With his military background, McGovern could have had great credibility challenging the Vietnam war. Gene McCarthy who opposed the war had no military service whatsoever; thus his appreciation of the military was severely limited. Hubert Humphrey who supported the war likewise had no military experience so his defense of the war was not very convincing. Only McGovern could make the case that some wars are necessary and others are not. But McGovern flunked the test. Why? Because he was hearkening back to Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 race and thought Bobby was where the country was. Not so. Bobby was a charismatic character who would have shown the world how he could switch back to the old Bobby who was Joe McCarthy’s second-tier aide.

McGovern allowed himself to be misinformed by the Bobby-aping left…and the media…to the point of espousing their favored causes. None other than his former running-mate, Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton who was dumped by McGovern coined the phrase…used by Bob Novak but never credited to Eagleton at his wish so long as he lived…that became affixed to McGovern like pinning the tail on the donkey: Acid…Abortion…and Amnesty.

In 1972 the so-called 3 A’s spelled defeat since they alienated the middle class. By acid, Eagleton meant that McGovern was secretly supportive of a relaxed drug culture. He wasn’t. His daughter later died of an overdose but he was passive about it since so many of his followers were on hashish and stuff like that as were Bobby’s. Although he ran a year prior to “Roe v. Wade” when certain states were passing legislation to legalize abortion—a highly controversial issue which alienated Catholics—Eagleton perceived that the McGovern forces were highly sympathetic to the practice. McGovern never really felt secure on abortion rights but figured what the hell Bobby’s people were.

Insofar as amnesty was concerned, McGovern was least responsive on that issue of them all as a decorated military hero. But Bobby—well you know the tune. Rather than take firm positions against these issues, McGovern sailed along allowing the left to pin him decisively as a man close to its own heart. McGovern never used his legitimate military background and honors as ballast. He never made a move to move to the center. He viewed the wildly favorable liberal-left news coverage of his positions as representative of Middle America. He once told me a Chinaman could beat Nixon. That’s where he was wrong. Running with that superimposed Bobby supposed lefty baggage against Richard Nixon he was a sitting duck, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Suppose McGovern had moderated his stand a bit. Suppose he had not supported an immediate pull-out from Vietnam. His opposition to the war was known: why didn’t he give himself some wiggle room and adopt a moderate plan to Vietnamese the war? His military credentials were superbly justificatory; his liberal credentials were the highest. He didn’t. He matched the 3 A’s with wild plans that excited the most liberal of the news media: a $1,000 per person grant from the federal government which pleased the National Welfare Rights lobby. A massive counter-budget slashing the role of the military. A stupendous re-ordering of priorities that instituted a huge domestic government in place of defense. A not so covert support of tax hikes to play for it. All these things won for George McGovern the title: He Stands Tall in Georgetown. Indeed he did. And then…pffffft!

What caused the failure was this: At no time did McGovern ever try to moderate his stands into a centrist position. It was all Far Left to please the news media.

Obama is a Lefty Who Truly Believes It.

Obama starts off with a biography that is far less distinguished than George McGovern’s. Raised the son of an atheistic mother and an absentee father, his education…financed largely by his wealthy white grandparents…was decidedly middle class. There was no military experience. There was some incidental recreational drug-taking and some quite considerable feeling sorry for himself as recounted in his two autobiographies…that of a black trying to make it in a white society. The only thing we can say about Obama’s youth is that he has an uncommon facility for story-telling that is not always accurate even concerning his own autobiography. He went to Harvard at a time when affirmative action was high and became president of the Law Review.

Any corporate executive who hired Harvard people about that time knows that regrettably African Americans were prized and sometimes idealized by the ivy league schools which pushed them unmercifully at times up the ladder. Maybe Obama WAS the smartest guy in his class which would warrant Law Review; maybe he wasn’t. Who knows? Not even he, sadly. The curse of affirmative action is that it denigrates all minorities who matriculate during its regime. We hired an African American Harvard law grad at Quaker who was such a poor lawyer that we had to detail an intern to help write briefs. Language and spelling were poor. We had some who were okay. But more minorities from Harvard disappointed than majorities I am sorry to say. That unfortunately is the legacy of all affirmative action and poisons the well for all who received it. My guess is that Obama would have made Law Review without it: judging from the incisive way he handled my interviews on ABC radio. But who knows?

That being said, thanks to affirmative action is was not a great leap to get a berth in a major law firm. One helper there was Newton Minow who a legendary liberal Democratic cardinal in a blue-chip firm. Barack marries another middle-class kid who went to Whitney Young magnet school, failed for a time to get a Harvard scholarship on academic credentials in contrast to her brother who got one for athleticism but got a assistance anyhow and went there, since there are plenty of resources around to assist reasonably qualified African Americans who apply themselves. Michelle was unhappy at Harvard because she felt out of place with all those white people she felt belonged there and made her feel (she wrote) that she didn’t.

That bitterness soured her. Having been benefited by either formal affirmative action or what they suspected was informal, unseen but hidden affirmative action through condescending guilt-ridden white Americans in highly connected law firms and social occasions produces a kind of unresolved anger. Goddamn! White America wants so awfully much to help me but that’s fakery. White America always puts the black person in a box and pretends to be so-so compassionate. Affirmative action breeds insecurity and from insecurity comes anger. Anger at self, anger at white America, anger at the system. Even the sudden promotions she got at the University of Chicago Hospitals…ending at $300,000 per…was it due to her or her celebrity as the wife of Obama? She probably understands it’s the latter. And it sure was. It would make anybody angry.

That anger was like a fuse to be touched off by Jeremiah Wright. Here was a man who linked religion with the anger. If you believe Obama was drawn to Wright because of his simple Christian charity and turning the other cheek, you’ve got another think coming. What drew Obama to Wright was the very thing that caused Wright to stand out when unmasked—a fervent hater of whites, America and the system. He said things Barack and Michelle didn’t feel they could say…but they gloried in it.

George McGovern doubted the left but decided to ride with the current thinking he’d be the next Bobby. Not so Obama. There’s the difference. McGovern truly believed in 1972 that the mediacentric left embodied the country’s majority. He did not feel he had to make any distinctions and so he cruised with the left. His background…his small town South Dakota Methodism, his gallant military service…could have led him to make a sharp distinction with the left but he misjudged the temper of the times. In essence: he WOULD NOT make the distinction…although personally he did not share the views of the left… because he felt sure that the left, embodied by the activist media, was the majority as the New Bobby.

The difference is that unlike the McGovernites, Obama and his people ACTIVELY SHARE the views of the left. Unlike McGovern’s Senate record, their record in the Senate is almost 100% left. He is indeed the most liberal senator of all 100. There is no concession whatsoever that Barack Obama has made with the center or the left. None. He is for tax hikes. He is for drastic slash of the military. On social issues he is not only pro-abortion, unlike almost all his Democratic colleagues, he is pro-infanticide…for allowing babies born from botched abortions to die. He has not only stated this—declaring that his fear that the Born Alive bill would jeopardize abortion rights…the same position his lawyer wife had taken in a written statement…he is just as George McGovern was: a living embodiment of the left in every particular. If you think he is not, tell me where he differs in any important particular from the left’s credo. Any important difference—in foreign policy, domestic, social, whatever. Don’t give me this niggling haggling thing in health care anent Hillary. I mean meaningful things.

Had Obama any interest in drawing a distinction from the abject Left, he could have done so with Jeremiah Wright. He could but he would not. The distinction would have been painful but politically salutary. He could have said that like most men, regrettably, he attended church and thought of other things while the sermons were being delivered. Yes he knew that Wright was propagating hatred and anti-patriotism but he was more interested in the social aspects of church—the soup kitchens Wright ran, the nutrition clinic, the day care services. He could say that the time is long overdue to make a distinction. And he could ably describe the distinction. He need not lose his black identification: he could separate from Wright and affiliate with the broad overall view of Christianity. He need not choose another church. He wouldn’t have to split with them. He could just restate his religion as in support of overall Christianity. And he could draw on a great model: Abraham Lincoln who went to no church but was a generic Christian.

But he didn’t do it because he WOULDN’T DO IT. He stood with Wright as a friend and said stunningly that to disavow Wright would be to disavow the entire black community. That was probably the most politically stupid thing he said in his entire life but if he had he would have been untrue to himself because he is WITH WRIGHT. In saying this, he decided to stand with the narrow, bigoted, anti-white, anti-American minority of militancy. Make no mistake this is not only on religion. The determination that he would take off the American flag lapel pin was that of a leftist ideologue—something McGovern never was. The determination not to place his hand on his heart with the playing of the National Anthem was that of a leftist ideologue something McGovern was not. . Michelle’s statement that for the first time she was proud of America…when her husband won primary elections…is pure 100% Jeremiah Wright.

Ergo: the man who maintains that he is the one to unify America is a bare-faced glaring, grimacing fraud. The man to unify America is John McCain who has crossed the aisle hundreds of times to the discomfiture of his own party! Further the man who maintains he is of moderate mien and disposition is a bare-faced, glaring, grimacing fraud. There is no meaningful moderation whatsoever that has been displayed in Barack Obama: nothing.

The distinction is this. George McGovern of 1972 was essentially a man of moderate disposition who listened to the song of the liberal left media and miscalculated, decided they could make him look like the next Bobby and with their push, enable him to win. He lost because of that miscalculation. He later lost his Senate seat because of that legacy. But Obama does not take his leftist stands as a stratagem. He is the Man of the Left incarnate. The liberal media rightly celebrates him as a man of some honesty. He is honest all right. An honest to God leftist- secularist who has little patriotism because he can’t honest-to-God quantify what the country has done for him-- but who has doubted his own worth for many years for one reason. Affirmative action has denied him a precious right: the right to say that he earned it on his own. That frustration has led him to embrace the Left and to affiliate with a preacher who blames whitey for it. Actually, ironically he is right to blame whitey for some of it. Whitey…the liberal whitey…the LBJ brand of liberal domestic whitey has done him in. And as one who played a major part in affirmative action by applying it to government contracts, I had a somewhat major role in doing so. So this is self-condemnatory as well..

Mea maxima culpa.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Personal Asides: If I Can Think of This Why Can’t the Feds?...David Axelrod Has Been a Busy Boy…HUH? Wanna Hear Obama Cuss? You Can.


If I Can…

Why doesn’t the Treasury…along with other agencies such as the Comptroller of the Currency and bank regulators…announce that no longer will the feds write down the value of sub-prime mortgage packages but will only do so only when there are actual losses i.e. a bank will recognize a loss only in the case of a defaulted mortgage? Also why doesn’t Hank Paulson buy dollars in the currency exchange markets that will shore up the dollar allowing the Fed to eliminate some of the liq uidity that has been awash since 2004 while at the same time making essential loans to those banks and financial houses to keep the economy afloat? If I can think of it why can’t they? Just asking.


If you think David Axelrod has more than enough to occupy himself with the media strategy of the thus-far-successful Obama race, take a look at “The Chicago Daily Observer” at which has a story from “Newsweek” about a hitherto unknown secret company Axelrod is running which floats up public relations schemes for a variety of corporations and front groups dear to the heart of Mayor Daley. The move, for example, to move the Childrens’ Museum into Grant Park which has sparked strident opposition thus far is being quarterbacked by Axelrod & Company known as ASK, Inc. Why did it take “Newsweek” to uncover this gem and not the local media? Because most of the liberal media here are in the tank not just to Obama but Axelrod?


Like all successful authors, Barack Obama has recorded his two books, including the first best-seller, “Dreams from My Father.” In it there is some modified cussing and of course the author records that, too. The cussing is rather mild, scatological mostly but let it be understood that for the first time in U. S. history a presidential candidate has recorded himself cussing…unlike the Nixon explectives that came out on the secret taping system (when Nixon forgot the machine was on) and Dick Cheney telling Sen. Pat Leahy to perform an impossible biological act while reporters overheard. Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt for this one. How much you wanna bet that some dirty trick artist will doctor the tape, string the explectives together and mislead the public?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Personal Asides: “Peace Protesters” at Holy Name Cathedral Jeopardize Their Cause…”Careful, Your Racism is Beginning to Show”


Peace Protesters.

It was a sacrilege of ignorance that produced the invasion of Holy Name cathedral during Easter Sunday Mass when six members of the aptly named “Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War” interrupted Cardinal Francis George’s sermon and tossed vials of phony blood on people. Aptly named because it was indeed a immature insult to civility, more evocative of a bad baby tossing over a bowl of porridge than a legitimate protest.

It was also a sacrilege because as all Catholics should know, the celebrant at the altar is offering Mass in the name of all of Christ’s members, since he represents Christ, the Savior, head of the Church, the Mass offered in the fullness of Christ’s mystical membership which includes all who belong to the Mystical Body. By standing up, raising a ruckus, terrifying children and tossing vials of “blood,” the latter day hippies who carry the name Catholic failed to recognize that the Mass they intruded upon represented the most sublime example of peace. The disreputable ones failed to understand that they were defiling worship of the Prince of Peace whose principles, were they to be applied to the world, would rule out all war as being at variance with the Sermon on the Mount.

The stark inappropriateness of choosing Easter Sunday for the demonstration is so gross as can hardly be contemplated. By His death on the cross, Christ won human salvation, making it possible for those before and since to receive the grace they need to merit heaven. Just as the crucifixion means the end of our estrangement from God, the resurrection means the beginning of justification, a mystery which takes on startling implications when we realize it is the risen Christ, the symbol of peace, One who will die no more by whom the faithful are continually taught, governed and sanctified. Thus to demonstrate for “peace” at that time is as inappropriate as jeering at a funeral or disrobing in public.

Thus the six were unknowing, uneducated ignoramuses not to understand the high inappropriateness of the location of their demonstration. Nor do they appreciate that senseless demonstrations like theirs, when conducted in the scandalous way they performed, reinforce the contention in average citizens’ minds that war has some higher purpose than it has. None other than Richard Nixon whose cynicism has still been unplumbed understood that rioters, unkempt demonstrators work a contrary effect which is why he gloried in raising his two arms aloft and making the “V” for victory sign to goad them on. This does not mean one should avoid protesting war…but like anything else in life, the protest should be done with maximum regard for the need to win converts. Cardinal George, we need not emphasize, is not a symbol of war—he has spoken out against it and in his meetings with political leaders has undoubtedly expressed his opposition in meaningful and respectful terms. The fact that he met with the president is no cause to evoke a demonstration. Rather such meetings should be encouraged.

And Cardinal George as the most revered of all the nation’s Catholic hierarchy for his sympathies for peace and resolution of conflict the least deserving of barbarity such as the “Schoolgirls” displayed.

If the “schoolgirls” had any knowledge of history, they would realize that the last time protests of this type were waged against a war, in 1968, they sparked a counter-attack that led to the election of Richard Nixon and the growth of the George Wallace pro-war third party movement. Four years later with the memory of riots still vivid, George McGovern, a purported candidate of peace who called for Vietnam troops to be withdrawn, suffered the greatest electoral loss in the history of the country, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Were we cynical we would suspect the “Schoolgirls” were recruited by pro-war forces and duped by them so as to increase the public outrage against such despicable forays as had happened on Easter Sunday. The proper way to oppose the war is to become informed, participate in acceptable public forums and vote. Invading Mass with vials of ersatz blood is the scenario for postponing any favorable resolution of conflict. Why didn’t the “Schoolgirls” know this? Because they were, by their own admission, producing a polarization that can immeasurably lengthen the conflict caused by their hoping to cause attention and gain 15 seconds of celebrity.

Thus they have performed an incredibly tasteless and selfish act which is repeated will make the job of winning peace enormously difficult.

“Be Careful, Your Racism is Starting to Show?”

I rarely respond to Readers’ Comments because they are entitled to express their view here without contradiction from the conductor of this website—but I must make an exception for the March 21st comment from Elizabeth Alexander…(how I would like to meet her)…who wrote concerning my article on Minister Money in Chicago, the phenomenon of Barack Obama’s minister and Fr. Michael Pfleger: “Be careful, your racism is starting to show.”

Then she goes on to make what I think are condescending remarks about blacks in this country. She says, “You don’t understand their world. It isn’t your world and you need to accept that. If you knew more of how they have been shaped and why their thinking is not your thinking, then I think you would write differently. There is a wide gap that I think you are not interested in spanning. What you want is to see their world as you do. It’s not going to happen.—Elizabeth Alexander.”

Well, gosh. Let’s take the issue of whether or not they—all blacks, I guess—live in a different world. What does that mean? I don’t know, Elizabeth, if you know my background but my track record in working with and for African-Americans and other minorities is extensive: possibly going back before you were born. In 1961 as a legislative aide to a governor of Minnesota I lobbied to passage that state’s open occupancy law. Later that year I went with my governor to National Governors’ Conference where we passed the first human rights resolution ever adopted by that group, over the strict opposition of Governors . Ross Barnett of Mississippi and Orval Faubus of Arkansas, two arch segregationists who were joined by other lesser known southern governors. We carried the day in that engagement.

Later as assistant secretary of commerce for minority business enterprise I devised the program which welded 116 individual federal projects together to help fledgling minority entrepreneurs. In that connection I took the Small Business Act of 1953 which gave government contract preferences to “small business” and got the administration to add a minority component to that—for which I was honored by the Urban League for spawning a program that to-date has resulted in $400 billion worth of business and contracts to-date to the minority community. I also wrote a set-aside program that required the feds to set aside specially for minority enterprise—largely black enterprise—a certain percentage of federal contracts for minorities. Working with the private sector I took up the case of automobile dealerships of which only six were owned by minorities and met with the then Big 4—Ford, GM, Chrysler and American Motors—and secured 100 minority dealerships within the space of six months. That breakthrough was achieved by my going personally and insisting on meeting with all the CEOs in company with minority and significant black leadership. I was honored by the black-run National Business League for that.

You say I don’t understand “their world” (which I must say is a rather white patronizing thing to bring up on your part). In designing the minority enterprise program I met with (a) Whitney Young of the Urban League; (b) Roy Innis of CORE; (c) Andrew Young of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; (d) Rev. Jesse Jackson, then of Operation Breadbasket; (e) Ralph Abernathy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; (f) Jackie Robinson who was then a top executive with Chock-Full-O-Nuts coffee; (g) Vernon Jordan of the United Negro College Fund; (h) Rev. Leon Sullivan, pioneer minority enterprise leader in Philadelphia; (i) Berkley Burrell, head of the National Business League, Washington, D.C.; (j) James Farmer, pioneer civil rights leader who antedated Martin Luther King, Jr.; A. Phillips Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters who was chairman of the 1963 March on Washington. I am leaving out John Johnson, president of Ebony, the first African-American to become a major business force in the nation…and a host of Hispanic leaders as well as native American leaders since we’re talking African Americans here.

Beyond that I worked with both sides of the aisles in both houses of Congress to get my program enacted and spoke before the House and Senate Democratic caucuses as well as Republican.

Following my departure from Commerce, involuntary since I antagonized the Nixon administration because I alienated…they said…the architects of the Southern Strategy i.e. John Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldemann, I went to the Peace Corps as director-public affairs and congressional relations there. There I managed the School Partnership program where U. S. corporations joined in partnership to improve the quality of schools in largely black areas in U. S. urban areas. After that I went back to my company, Quaker Oats, where as vice president I instituted a program of tutoring in disadvantaged areas, reorganization of philanthropy, free nutrition education for the poor without product commercialization. I managed negotiations with Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH and secured agreement for widespread improvement in hiring and promotion practices in behalf of African Americans. The program of plant location was placed under my direction which saw for the first time in any corporate activity, a private company declaring it would only locate new plants in communities that passed open housing ordinances (this being prior to passage of the federal civil rights act that guaranteed this across the nation).

In the corporate connection I secured approval for Quaker to finance and produce a documentary for use in the African American community showing the election of the first African American congressman from the deep south in more than a century—Andrew Young. Andrew Young and I became fast friends as result of that activity and when I was named a John F. Kennedy Fellow at Harvard, he came to lecture in his class as the UN ambassador. My class was enlarged to encompass the black students of Harvard and Radcliffe.

Last year I became one of the prime supporters of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s incipient campaign for mayor of Chicago in preference to the mayoralty of Mayor Richard M. Daley. I supported Jackson until for many reasons he declined to run. I supported the candidacy of his wife, Sandy Jackson, a lawyer, as alderman in Chicago which resulted in the dethroning of an old-line machine candidate. After that I supported the candidacy of Sandy Jackson to be Democratic ward committeeman, a position of singular power in the Democratic party notwithstanding that I was and am a Republican. In connection with my ABC radio show here, I was the first to offer interview time for a young community organizer and lawyer who was seeking a state senate seat, Barack Obama by name who was running against a full field of better-financed opponents.

And lest you say that my contacts with African Americans has been with the more prominent, let it be said that one of my closest friends is one Frank Penn, a decorated veteran of Vietnam…an African American of superior intellect and verve as well as a legion of people going back 40 years including Hosea Williams, an aide to King who became a solid drinking buddy and associate when we were filming the Andrew Young documentary, a relationship that continued until his death.

Thanks for telling me that I don’t know “their world.”. In response let me say that the African Americans I agree with most heartily believe that they don’t have a world that they occupy in isolation but that they want…yea insist…that we all share the same world. Believe me, those people I know…from a host of people who have worked in community affairs with me up to Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and others don’t agree with you when you said to me “your racism may be showing.” They are about as offended as am I.

Thanks for writing, dear Elizabeth and thereby allowing me to set the record straight.

“Be careful, your racism is starting to show”? Your upper-class 1960s elitist white provincialism has betrayed you, my dear. “They’re not like us and we have to understand their demeanor and their special world…so different from our white world… so as to accommodate them. It’s, after all, noblesse oblige. The least we superior white people can do for them.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Personal Aside: Douglas Kmiec’s Decision to Switch to Obama is Stunning. “All Things Betrayest Thee Who Betrayest Me.”


The decision of conservative, pro-life constitutional scholar and authenticist Catholic Doug Kmiec, a close friend of mine, to switch from having co-headed the Romney presidential campaign’s Committee on the Courts and Constitution to announce his support of Barack Obama for president is…well, how to I say it…as if Ed Meese were to quit the Heritage Foundation to accept appointment to the Herbert Marcuse Chair at Berkeley to co-teach “The Dialectics of Liberation” with Angela Davis. No other analogy will fit since I have dealt with Doug over the years and have depended on his solid, workmanlike analysis of the law as background for some of my own writing.

He is the Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University’s School of Law. He served in an extremely sensitive post, director of the Office of Legal Counsel with the rank of assistant U.S. attorney general for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, a post previously held by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia in the Nixon and Ford administrations. His legal credentials are impeccable. An honors graduate at Northwestern University, Kmiec, 57, received his law degree from the University of Southern California wher he served on its Law Review and won the Legion Lex commencement prize for legal writing. He was a White House Fellow, a Distinguished Fulbright Scholar on the Constitution and Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the national constitution center. With leaves for government service, he served on the law faculty of the University of Notre Dame where he directed the Thomas White Center on Law and Government and founded the “Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy.”

From Notre Dame he was named Dean of Catholic University of America law school where he wrote the book “The Attorney General’s Lawyer” and three books on the American constitution, a two-volume legal treatise and hundreds of published articles and essays. He and I rotated writing Op Eds for “The Chicago Tribune” until I was terminated for writing an article that speculated how Catholic Richard M. Daley could square the tenets of his faith with his advocacy of abortion and gay rights—but happily Doug kept right on contributing until he moved to an even higher plane. As Dean of Catholic U’s law school he appeared frequently from Washington on “The Jim Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS, “Meet the Press” and national public radio, analyzing constitutional, cultural and political developments.

Following his CUA deanship, Kmiec assumed a really juicy assignment, the chairmanship of the chair in constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law. His brilliance shone even more brightly there and he assumed, along with Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, the role of top advisers on constitutional law questions to Mitt Romney’s presidential

campaign (until Glendon was named ambassador to the Vatican by President Bush).

How in hell a dedicated pro-lifer and astute constitutional theorist moves from that position…key adviser to Mitt Romney…to announced advocate for the election of Barack Obama in a matter of weeks confounds, puzzles, baffles, bewilders, dazes and stuns me—and I mean to ask him deferentially…because my respect for him remains pinnacle-high…how he manages it. In his statement endorsing Obama he says he believes Obama “wants to return the United States to that company of nations committed to human rights.” Well, if so, Obama has certainly hidden it. He personally killed, as Judiciary chair of the Illinois state senate, a bill that would make it illegal to allow babies born live as result of botched abortions to languish and die. The very same bill that Obama opposed and stabbed to death in its crib passed the U. S. Senate almost overwhelmingly with the support of Democrats Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Pat Leahy, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer—meaning that Obama stands in stark contrast to them in his disrespect for BORN human life. Of course Obama has been consistent as an opponent of legislation banning partial birth abortion as well as every single pro-life measure submitted to him for vote.

Actually, I’m beginning to wonder if Doug might not have had a stroke that has not been detected. He states in his brief for Obama that he still believes that life begins at conception and adds “Sen. Obama and I may disagree on aspects of these important fundaments…” ASPECTS OF THESE FUNDAMENTALS? Such as allowing life that has been produced from a botched abortion to be cared for? What in the name of God is Doug thinking?

Another part of his brief has to do with his opposition to the war in Iraq i.e. “our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or a clear objective.” Very well, I accept that reason—but if so, how long has he harbored it since until a few weeks ago he was a key adviser to Mitt Romney who was no different from John McCain in his professed wish to win that war and not withdraw. Was Doug dishonest then? Did he arrive suddenly at this new conclusion only in the last weeks? If so, what in the name of God took him so long? Is this the measure of reflective thought, that he could support a Republican candidate who pressed for victory and then, with the demise of his candidacy, join the campaign of one who is diametrically opposite?

As a mystified but still friend of Doug’s, I cannot help but speculate if a fear of unfulfilled ambition may have something to do with it. He was mentioned prominently in the past as a candidate for federal appeals court judge and even for the Supreme Court—but the White House passed him up because it was thought confirmation by the Senate for someone so prominent a defender of unborn life…far more prominent than John Roberts or Sam Alito…with a huge paper trail would make his confirmation impossible by the Senate. When I last saw him as I was preparing to introduce him at a dinner meeting of Legatus, I mentioned with dismay the news reports. He brushed them away. There is no doubt that if Obama wins and Doug occupies a major role in securing that election by legal stewardship and mollifying of social conservatives, he would be in a good position to be nominated for a very high judicial post.

…Except that in his own words, possibly unintentionally, Doug Kmiec indicates the odds for confirmation might be against him even here. “No doubt some of my friends will see this as a matter of party or intellectual treachery.” Let’s be clear about one thing. The departure of Doug Kmiec is not just another decision of a Republican centrist or malleable legislative draftsman, to go with a party that could serve his interests better. Because Doug is the very highest legal talent and intellectual theoretician the social conservatives have yet found, his defection will be seen by them as akin to that of Benedict Arnold. Arnold, probably one of the greatest American generals of the Revolution…wounded at Saratoga for his country…felt bitterly that he was under-appreciated: and indeed he was. He left his post after plotting to turn the invaluable base of West Point over to the enemy. Washington sent Lafayette and his army to capture him. Lafayette said: And what shall we do with this very high general and ex-friend of yours if we indeed capture him?

Washington’s answer evidenced the bitterness of betrayal. “Shoot him.” We social conservatives stop far short of that—but his conservative friends, his Republican friends, the friends in his church who worked on pro-life measures in which the church believes—moral questions that transcend partisan or political hue—feel grievously betrayed.

As it happened, Lafayette did not capture Arnold. The traitor slipped out of New York harbor on a British warship bound for England. We do not know how he managed to live with himself but we know that he left orders on his British deathbed to have his body laid out in his old American army general’s regalia. That was the closest he came to being re-accepted by America.

If perchance Doug Kmiec has harbored any thought of being nominated for a high judicial post in an Obama administration…a post that requires Senate confirmation…he had better not count on receiving any votes but from the hardest core pro-abortion Democratic members, as his defection’s sting will last beyond the two term limit…meaning that for Doug Kmiec’s interest an eternity.

Once when we talked long ago it was of poetry and what we were reading. I urge Doug to re-read “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson whose masterpiece portrays one fleeing the advancing chase of him by God, pursuing him back to righteousness after the coward who chose expediency. The pounding of the chase rings in the runner’s ears.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days

I fled Him down the arches of the years

I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated.

But with unhurrying chase

And unperturbed pace

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy

They beat—and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet—

“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Personal Asides: McCain Should Be Pulled Off the Road and Forced to Rest…Pope’s Baptism of Prominent Muslim is Not Smart…Forget Jeremiah Wright—What is this Fresh New Approach Obama is Heralding?...and Black Ministers (and the “Sun-Times”) Want to Hike...


Off the Road.

The media say John McCain flubbed in a statement in Iraq…a sort of “gotcha” to make up for Barack Obama’s rotten week…but not exactly. He said that Iran is suspected of training al-Qaida terrorists when Iran is a Shiite stronghold and al-Qaida is Sunni. But latest information including a dispatch from Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon maintains that Shiite Iran may indeed by mobilizing al-Qaida in contradistinction to supposed tradition. No, that didn’t disturb me. But McCain’s looks in Iraq and the way he corrected himself did. It hearkened back to the old campaign manager in me that communicated one thing; this 71-year-old is either pushing himself too strenuously or is being pushed too hard and he ought to slow down. Let this observer who was in third grade when McCain was born give some caution. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that some namby-pamby national Republicans are nervous because McCain stressed the value of the surge: they think by not mentioning Iraq he can get elected: hah!).

In the meeting with the press, McCain looked haggard and at least 110 years old. He seemed dog-tired, made his off-the-cuff statement slowly…so slowly it seemed as if he were falling asleep on his feet which he may very well have been. He halted, was interrupted by a younger man, Joe Lieberman, listened dodderingly, then made the correction. A bad performance made possible only by the fact that the campaign is literally running this oldster bowlegged. It is all the more stupid since the nomination heat is over and McCain has it. No reason he should have gone yet again to Iraq. None whatsoever. The first time he went…before the surge…he was laden down with armor and exulted that we were winning the war which sparked late night TV quips. This time was no better.

Most good campaign managers see that when their candidate is tired, bad mistakes are made. This was not a bad mistake—possibly not even a mistake…but the overall impression was one of a dog-tired candidate being assisted by a younger man: very bad. It’s time to remember that Ronald Reagan, a master at pacing himself, would perform in presidential campaigns beginning when he was 69 that were the model of sane planning—with largely a 9 to 5 schedule. In fact the media vied with themselves to be accommodated because there were no hectic offhand performances, no helter-skelter running to and fro. McCain is the oldest man in U.S. history to be running for the presidency. If he can’t pace himself…slow down and allow for his advanced age and rest…someone else should do it. Cindi McCain was evidently AWOL: she shouldn’t be. If not, something may happen that is worse than a gaffe. A stroke, heart attack or anything as serious…even if it is not as serious…could toss the campaign into the dead letter box. If McCain would be forced to vacate his candidacy it would be, in my estimation, a terrible eventuality for the United States. Under the rules the Republican National Committee would be empowered to substitute a candidate. Most probably it would be Mitt Romney who ran second (who was always my first choice anyhow)—but as it turns out McCain is the man of the hour and an interruption of the campaign could well be fatal.

That’s why somebody ought to get to his campaign manager, grab him by the lapel and ask if he intends to kill his candidate—because it sure as hell looks like it. There was no reason to go to Iraq after he completed the cycle of winning the nomination. I don’t care if it was McCain’s idea or not. The Iraq trip was a waste of effort which should have been used to (a) rest, rest, rest and (b) make a mature selection about the vice presidency. Running like a puppy dog next to a train, with his tongue hanging out in fatigue, is a sorry way to handle a campaign, guys. Every elderly candidate wants to thumb his nose at his age and make people marvel about his energy. That’s pure ego and should be vetoed. Only Reagan was smart enough to pace himself.

In short the McCain campaign should act its age. Seventy-one, seventy-two when inaugurated. And force if need be the candidate to take ample rest for the long haul.

Pope’s Baptism of Muslim.

No one has ever accused the Vatican of being astute in protecting the Pope, in guarding his personal safety (he still travels with minimum security staff) or public relations…at least not since 1616 when Galileo laced his outline of the Copernican system with bitter attacks on the papacy, then skillfully outmaneuvered Urban VIII to publicize his intellectual martyrdom (when he was allowed to teach and observe the “penance” of reciting 7 psalms a day). In a politically savvy victimology picked up and publicized by the Reformation, he advertised a “persecution” which has continued to pollute history books to this day. But at least then the Vatican was suckered. Now it’s doing the suckering of itself.

News that Benedict XVI publicly baptized Italy’s most prominent Muslim, Magdi Allam, shows stunningly bad judgment for the safety of the Pontiff. Allam should have been baptized if he wanted to be, all right but not by the Pope himself-- unless the Vatican wants to institute a citywide draft and beef up membership in the Swiss Guards by 1000 percent. The fearsome possible retaliation from the Jihad is almost incalculable. Allam, born in Egypt, is deputy editor of the Italian “Corriere della Sera” newspaper and has written often on Muslim and Arab affairs. He is a non-practicing Muslim but passing the word on that score is not good enough.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi said accurately that anyone who wants to become a Catholic of his or her own free will has the right to receive the sacrament. Right he is—but baptism by the Pope? Couldn’t Allam have been baptized by someone else—or did we want to stick a finger in Islam’s eye? Baptized by the Pope when the Pope makes public appearances frequently and travels throughout the world? Already bin Laden has said that the Pope has “played a large and lengthy role” in launching “a New Crusade” against Islam. Nobody wants the Pope to be a pussy cat in dealing with Islam but baptizing a key journalist who has been identified as a Muslim isn’t exactly the smartest thing to come out of the Curia which has been famous for centuries of goof-ups including placing the disgraced Bernard Cardinal Law front and center complete with TV close-ups at JPII’s funeral and sending a verifiable veterinarian quack to attend a dying Pius XII.

The AP tells us “there is no overarching Muslim law on conversion. But under a widespread interpretation of Islamic legal doctrine, converting from Islam is apostasy and punishable by death—although killings are rare.” Well, isn’t that comforting?

Fresh, New WHAT?

Some feel too much negative attention has been spent on Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech but perhaps not enough since Peggy Noonan thrilled in the weekend WSJ to the poetry of the oration and neglected to mention how he equated his white grandma with a raving racist black bigot…but all the same some of us may have forgotten to look at the Messiah’s description of conditions in the U. S. and his allegedly “fresh new approach” outlined the other night. At least Peggy did that.

I suppose it is requisite to energize the Democratic base by picturing America in bleak terms--but Dickensian? He sees an America as the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling”…”the white man who has been laid off”…the “shuttered mill”…the millions “without health care”…the soldiers who have fought “in a war that should never have been authorized and never should have been waged”? And all of us exploited by “a corporate culture rife with inside dealing”…corporations with “questionable accounting practices”…triumphant because of “a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests”…and Americans seemingly reduced to scrimping by “economic policies that favor the few over the many.”

In short, to be rather scatological about this, to hear him talk, we’re up to our asses in huddled masses. Even the depression child Hubert Humphrey I covered in Minnesota who evoked the dust bowl of the `30s didn’t conjure up this view of an entire nation resembling the barren craters of the moon. But then Hubert was only a workmanlike legislator and not touted as America’s fresh young hope.

Watching Obama and later reading the text, I thought he would present skinny little bedraggled Oliver Twist standing forlornly before the workhouse master with his empty plate aloft begging, “Please sir, more!” with cruel old Bush-Cheney glowering and saying, “WHAT? YOU WANT MORE?”

And all his fresh, new vision to counteract this is: higher taxes, more “investment” in social programs, a tilt toward protectionism in trade and a quick retreat from Iraq? God help us.

Hike Racial Quotas for Cops.

No one doubts that the legacy of violence in the black community here is due largely to one-parent families and illegitimacy which have spawned chaos. It is not mentioned often because of political correctness (no one wants to “insult” the black community although Bill Cosby and others have courageously brought this issue front and center). Not necessarily many black political pastors, though, who like to prance around their stages with hand mikes goddamning guns and extraneous forces rather than focusing their message on the root-cause of poverty: illegitimacy, teen pregnancy and the resultant chaotic non-family structure where a single family head has to make a living and, overwhelmed with the effort of working outside the home and trying to rear a family, often the kids run amok. The reason so many ministers…and the cynically political Fr. Michael Pfleger as well…don’t make a point of it is they don’t want to ruffle the congregation from which their economic sustenance is derived.

The “Sun-Times” which spirals all black stories except this one to the front page with knock-your-eye-out HUGE railroad-style headlines and massive photos featured a protest by politically-savvy black ministers yesterday. They see as the most important item on their agenda matching the racial breakdown of Chicago…36.5% white…35.3% black…28.2% Hispanic…with the numbers of patrol officers by race—and then the percentages for sergeants, lieutenants and detectives.

As if this were the most important element rather than miniscule on fighting violence and death in the neighborhoods. Which shows the newspaper to be a patronizing vehicle of pecuniary circulative self-interest.

Flashback: Humphrey Girds for the Superbowl Challenge Against McGovern—the California Primary but Runs Out of Money. Meanwhile in 1972 the Air Goes Out of McCarthy’s Balloon.

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

Hubert Runs Out of Money Once Again and Loses.

“This is the damndest thing,” Humphrey told me as he was preparing to rush out the door to campaign against McGovern in California (I had brought a bundle of checks from Democratic executives at Quaker Oats (after the CEO ordered the PAC I ran not to give to him, the executives agreeing to contribute to Hubert as well as to our PAC) and in accordance with the law gave the envelope containing checks for $15,000 to him once we were outside and he hopping into a car to take him to the airport. “I’m now the conservative! When I started in this business—you remember that, Roeser—what did corporate big business call me?”

A far-left near-Commie.

“Right. Now the Left is going after me! Saying I’m no better than Nixon.”

You and I never agreed domestically but I always said you were a patriot, Senator.

“Well now I’m about ready to be called a right-wing extremist like you and I haven’t changed my stance one iota! What’s your advice, something that I will probably ignore, now that I’m going to California?”

California has changed. It’s a key defense state now. It’s elected Ronald Reagan as governor…

He mused, “My old partner who helped me found the ADA! Ronnie and I were good friends at one time. Talked to each other on the phone all the time. You know what turned him conservative?”

I think I do.

“When he hit the big time and was getting big checks he noticed how much he was paying in taxes. That did it! No more emphasizing for the poor! He even told me about it! Continue with your advice. Why don’t you go with me to the airport?”

California’s filled with defense plants. You got to do a 180—be for jobs not handouts, pro-business and pro-union and a strong defense. McGovern is a squish. You can get the blue-collars if you bear to the right on defense. Also get McGovern on this $1,000 per-every-person-in-the-U.S. zany idea.

“What about the new way we’re picking delegates, through the old McGovern commission and the leftward tilt of my party?”

Your problem not mine. And it IS a problem.

As he was getting on his privately-contracted jet, he said: “Why don’t you come with me?

I must be about the people’s business for Quaker Oats.

Landing in Los Angeles he immediately challenged McGovern to debate. McGovern accepted and the TV stations agreed to a total of four debates which they would cover gratis. The next day he went to the Lockheed plant at Palmdale and reminded workers there that unlike McGovern he had voted for the Space Shuttle, was proud to have voted for the $200 million loan to save it from insolvency and charged that McGovern with his $1,000 income supplement to everybody in the United States would raid the federal treasury, adding: “I’ll be damned if I’m giving everybody in the country a thousand-dollar bill. People in this country want jobs, not handouts!” Watching the clip on TV I pinched myself: this was the Hubert I knew? Aw, hell, I was proud of him.

But his California his state finance chair, Eugene Wyman, was in a quandary. He had raised a pretty good bundle (in those days’ terms)--$200,000 for California TV-- but he was being pressed to send the dough to Humphrey’s Washington HQ which faced a $370,000 overdraft. He decided to take it up with Hubert himself. He scheduled a session with Hubert at the Beverly Hills Hilton. But as he walked in the campaign manager drew him aside and said that unless he had $900 immediately Hubert’s plane wouldn’t take off for a tour around the state and they’d have to stay cooped up in the hotel. He gave him the $900. Then he was told unless $16,000 was wired to Washington that day the phones would be shut off. He wired the $16,000. Humphrey said, “you did right. We gotta pay the overdraft. If I must, I’ll win this thing with free media and on the debate.” The overdraft was paid and the campaign went on without Humphrey TV spots or a get-out-the-vote drive.

The debate was free media but the news media were mostly pro-McGovern and actively anti-Hubert, viewing Humphrey as a hawk and warmonger like LBJ and Nixon. So Hubert had to rise beyond the news coverage and concentrate on live TV. The clips I saw made me once again proud. He ripped into McGovern, said his proposed defense cuts were “reckless,” zinged the $1,000 per everybody idea as “preposterous.”

Later I heard from his campaign manager Jack Chestnut a story that made me chortle. As they sat side by side on TV, McGovern—an old protégé of Hubert’s—looked at him and saw tears standing in Humphrey’s eyes. Hubert was always very emotional and occasionally he wiped his eyes. McGovern choked up as well thinking guilty about him debating his old mentor. That’s where he made a big mistake. As he had gotten older—Humphrey was now 61—his eyes became unused to the glare of the klieg lights and watered: it was not emotion. But McGovern a truly emotional man himself felt awful that he was eliciting tears from the man who helped him run for the senate from South Dakota initially. Trying to answer the Humphrey charge, he royally goofed, said the $1,000 per individual idea was just a speculation that he had made to the National Welfare Rights Organization “to provoke discussion.” Provoke discussion! Hubert harrumphed. Well, George, you got it all right! Then Hubert laced into him again all the while dabbing at his eyes. Too late McGovern found out that Hubert wasn’t weeping at all, just the damned klieg lights.

Humphrey won that first debate because McGovern was suckered into thinking the old man was crying. Even the news media grudgingly admitted this. But with the second, McGovern appealed to the lefties by quoting Hubert as saying “Vietnam is our greatest adventure—and what a wonderful thing it is!” Hubert answered it okay but of course the media led by the “New York Times” ridiculed it and called the debate for McGovern. Then President Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong harbor through which war supplies were coming to the North from the USSR and McGovern used it to appeal to the war-frightened liberal Democrats. At that point the Field poll came out and showed Hubert 20 points down from McGovern. Hubert cried: “Impossible” but Walter Cronkite said the election would probably go to McGovern and immediately Eugene Wyman’s funding for Hubert came to a halt. Outgunned and with Walter Cronkite trumpeting he was 20 points down, Hubert lost California—but only by 5 points. A shift of 80,000 votes would have put him over the top and Wyman’s media allocation would have done it.

There was a brief flurry when Jack Chestnut calculated that McGovern was still several delegate votes shy. Hubert then joined Henry Jackson and Ed Muskie in a pact called ABM—Anybody but McGovern. Since proportional representation could be taken into consideration as a legacy of the McGovern Commission, Hubert asked for his proportionate share at the convention which would have made possible a brokered convention.

Chairman Larry O’Brien said that the question would have to go to the full convention but…a joker in the deck…all 120 delegates from California could vote on the issue and as they were all pledged to McGovern it was a fait accompli. Ironically proportionality could have helped Hubert but wasn’t allowed to. The battle was over, even though in all the primaries Hubert got more votes than McGovern: 3,807,726 to 3,523,667. Hubert wept true tears this time—the third time he lost the presidency--as he conceded. His lifelong ambition was ended.

McGovern tried to get Edward Kennedy for veep but Kennedy declined. He offered it to Hubert but Humphrey said “are you kidding? I just couldn’t take the ridicule anymore. They would say `there goes old Hubert again; just can’t stop running!’” So McGovern chose Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.). Had he relied on the bosses someone from St. Louis would have told him that Eagleton had been treated for depression and indeed had received electric shock treatments. McGovern said at first he would stand “1000% behind Tom Eagleton”—but that lasted only a week. He dumped Eagleton and chose Kennedy relative-by-marriage Sargent Shriver.

The 1972 convention was singular in that Mayor Richard J. Daley and a number of honchos were dumped from the Illinois delegation to be replaced by the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Billy Singer, the independent liberal alderman. McGovern piloted the second worst electoral defeat in U.S. history, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

McCarthy Pays the Price for His Diffidence.

Meanwhile Gene McCarthy was paying the price for his earlier diffidence in 1968, when he would take time out of his campaign to drink and read poetry with Robert Lowell, his lackadaisical attitude about working hard on the trail and his thin-skinned paybacks to supposed enemies. Trying to oppose George McGovern for the Democratic nomination was next to impossible since McGovern, a highly decorated bomber pilot in World War II, was at the same time an anti-war populist with a pleasant, unassuming personality and reputation for seriousness and hard work. McCarthy’s old fundraisers, Stewart Mott the billionaire General Motors heir and Martin Peretz who married the Singer Sewing Machine fortune had switched to McGovern. So had Blair Clark, McCarthy’s old campaign manager. They all told McCarthy “nothing personal, Gene, but you see, George is in the race to win.” That’s exactly what Abigail had told him four years earlier.

McCarthy went to a student rally in Madison, Wisconsin where in 1968 he had a throng of 15,000 and he found several hundred. One kid told him the truth: “I wasn’t around when you ran in 1968,” he said, “but those who were tell me you were a frivolous, unpredictable and haughty candidate.” He tried to make a deal with Muskie to stop McGovern but Muskie who was running himself and who was aware of Gene’s shortcomings wasn’t buying any. Typical Gene, he then turned bitter toward Muskie. There was one shot left and it was the Illinois primary. Gene harbored all his resources against Muskie in Illinois. I saw him in Illinois while he was campaigning quite frequently. He wanted money but only one contributor turned up at Quaker—the wife of a senior vice president who gave him $1,000.

When I gave him the check, I had to listen as we had drinks to a McCarthy tirade on Muskie. “He’s the latest Polish joke,” he said. It was the latest example of the cold, dark Irish (maybe it was German from his mother’s side) misgiving, a vendetta against Muskie. He spent $260,000 against Muskie in the Illinois preferential primary. Muskie was already slipping badly in the national polls, having allegedly wept in the New Hampshire primary when he stood in front of the Manchester “Union-Leader” and assailed them, a very uncool thing to do. Slipping as he was, Muskie still defeated Gene in Illinois, 63% to 37% even though Gene outspent him heavily.

McCarthy vowed to carry the battle on to California and its primary but when he got there he was undecided about whom to attack first—Muskie or his one-time patron, Humphrey. He decided that with personal animosity seniority rules, and he concentrated on ridiculing Humphrey, winding up endorsing McGovern just to punish Humphrey. McGovern won the primary, of course, and McCarthy was persona non grata with all of them—McGovern, Muskie and Humphrey. Back in Washington, Abigail wept as she talked with friends: she had no explanation for the weird behavior of her separated husband.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Personal Aside: Fed’s Opening the Discount Window to a Non-Bank Means the Game Will be Changed Forever.



The Federal Reserve’s intervention in approving the JPMorgan-Bear Stearns deal…opening the discount window to a non-bank for the first time in history…means the game will be changed forever. With this action the Fed substitutes for the working of the free market. The Fed also announced over last weekend that the discount rate had been cut by 25 basis points/ Bit the announcement that JPMorgan would acquire Bear Stearns for $2 a share or $236.5 million was a stunning shock especially since Bear Stearns had a market cap of more than $20 billion a year ago. Later on Sunday Carlyle Capital said it would liquidate its entire portfolio of mortgage securities, huge news since Carlyle had $940 million of client money but had leveraged that 24 times and held $22.7 billon of mortgage bonds.

This action shows two things: (1) aggressive Fed rating cutting has not been effective and (2) without liquidity and capital financial institutions and/or trading vehicles are in deep trouble. Increasingly it occurs to me that continued and aggressive Fed rate-cutting has been and is a mistake. There is no doubt that interest rate cuts since the past summer have been impotent. In fact they have supplied one powerful reason for businesses to delay activity—and consumers as well. Why act now when it’s likely that there will be lower interest rates next week? Besides, lower interest rates undermine earnings at banks, causing adjustable rate loans tied to prime to slide.

For the past decade the Fed has been on a different roll. It has been asset-centric in the words of Brian Wesbury rather than inflation-centric. This started in the late 1990s when the Fed hiked rates to deflate the stock market bubble, but it strengthened the dollar and caused U.S. investments to soar while in the last analysis tight money slugged the market severely and prompted deflation.

Then in 2002-03 it cut rates to 1% to accommodate the NASDAQ debacle and head off deflation—pushing rates below inflation and sitting on them not caring that hiking gold prices were telling us the worst of deflation had moved on. Then the Fed stalled and postponed raising rates while the Consumer Price Index moved form 2% to 4% and gold reached a 25 year high. So what happened? The Greenspan accommodative policy triggered the housing bubble and ergo today’s headache. I love McCain but his saying that when Greenspan dies he’d put that stiff back in the Fed shows he needs economic help. I am not sure he understands that the team of Jack Kemp the let’s-not-worry-about-deficits supply sider and Phil Gramm the deficit hawk won’t tie the McCain administration in knots—but one look at Barack Obama and Hillary and I’m signed on to McCain no matter what happens.

But still the Fed continues hooked on asset prices not inflation. Dunno but Uncle Ben doesn’t give me much confidence. Your comments please.


An article in The Wanderer the oldest continually published national weekly Catholic newspaper published March 15, 2008. Slightly updated since publication.

By Thomas F. Roeser

Minister Money.

CHICAGO—Almost fifty years ago when I was a Republican political staff operative in Minnesota, the GOP was readying itself for the knock-down-drag-out general election between Richard M. Nixon and John Kennedy. The contest in Illinois was so important that a key GOP strategist—my boss--was detailed by the Nixon people to go to Illinois and try to swing that state for Nixon. The advice given him from national Nixon headquarters: “Take some Minister Money with you.”

My boss, a naïve country boy familiar with the clean politics of Minnesota and Wisconsin, said: “Huh? Minister money?”

Yes, Minister Money, said the Nixon people. You’ve got to get wads of soft folding money to give to black preachers on Chicago’s South and West Side.

He went to me because I was a born-in-Chicago native. What, he asked, is Minister Money?

Oh, I said, that’s the money that historically politicians have given to black churches that motivate charismatic pastors to extol the virtues of particular candidates.

They do that in Chicago?

Yes, I said. But it’s not a singular Democratic stratagem. In fact, Minister Money was invented by the last big-time Republican crook ever to govern Chicago—Mayor Big Bill Thompson in the 1920s. . He carried all the black wards because of his legendary pro-civil rights views, his progressivism, his proclivity to put blacks into city jobs—and minister money.

My friend stuffed a wad of greenbacks in his wallet and went to Chicago. I didn’t want to warn him because it would have spoiled his trip but I knew Republican Minister Money would do him no good. The fix was in for real Minister Money: privilege, jobs, contracts that only a Democratic city administration could supply. But he had to learn sometime.

So he distributed pro-Nixon minister money throughout the South and West Sides and during the campaign had agents pop in at the churches to catch the sermons. From late September through mid-October the oracular preachers extolled the glorious past of the Republican party—starting with Lincoln’s freeing the slaves to the deciding votes for favorable civil rights and urban measures that Vice President Nixon cast as presiding officer of the Senate when the Senate was deadlocked between pro-segregationist Democrats and conservative Republicans. The agents were highly impressed with the spectacular fireworks in behalf of the GOP that came from the pulpits. Then in mid-October the fireworks stopped. Increasingly the rhetoric swung to extolling John F. Kennedy.

The word came back: Send more minister money or the homilies will run out. Especially, they said, since Mayor Richard J. Daley’s organization is starting to put up a fierce fight and we need greenback reinforcements! More money was pumped in but the tide never turned. Thanks to an abundance of minister money from JFK’s father, near billionaire Joseph P. Kennedy and Cong. William Dawson (D-IL), the boss of the South Side, the Kennedy-Johnson ticket overwhelmed the Nixon-Lodge one by a heavy percentage, Republican minister money or no.

That was then. Today I am proud to say there is no need for Republican Minister Money. That’s because the market is dominated top to bottom with Democratic Minister Money so the free market in homilies doesn’t exist. There isn’t even a sham battle for Republican black votes…not that there is any…because the pulpits have been overwhelmed by Democratic preachers who do it for the love of liberal issues—that and the political rewards that come their way. They are spiritually moved by (a) the natural liberal orientation beginning with the civil rights movement of the 1960s on to today and (b) the preponderance of the highly sophisticated Democratic Cook county machine which more than makes up in grants in aid for the meager folding greenbacks folding stuff that typified ancient urban times.

Taxpayers Money to a Church.

To show how things have progressed in this modern media-centric age Chicagoans have the case of Pilgrim Baptist Church in the heart of the city’s Bronzevile neighborhood on the South Side. A venerable black church it was designed as a synagogue by world-famed architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler who built it in 1890. When the Jews started evacuating the South Side shortly after World War I, middle class African Americans bought the building, renamed it Pilgrim and launched it as the birthplace of modern gospel music in the 1930s. Thomas A. Dorsey, the father of gospel music, was its musical director for decades. He was protégé to a number of great singers including Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and James Cleveland. The church was a central meeting place during the civil rights movement and hosted Martin Luther King, Jr. often. The building was designated a Chicago landmark in 1981.

On Jan. 6, 2006 a disastrous fire gutted the church, caused by workers repairing the roof during a $500,000 restoration. A nearby private elementary school was also destroyed and had to be evacuated; even cars parked next to the church were virtually incinerated. After the fire the brick and stone framework still stood. Earlier in city history a number of business types would leap to the fray to finance a rebuilding. But this is the 21st century of mercantilism—also the century where the lines of demarcation between church and state in this city have been erased. Along came Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a mop-topped boyish opportunist with the cold heart of a casino owner (he has been listed as Individual A in a federal grand jury bill of particulars on the ties of lobbying and corruption) and announced he would designate a flat $1 million to rebuild the church. Since 2006 was an election year and Gov. Blagojevich was running for reelection, you can jolly well understand that he polled spectacularly well in Bronzeville.

In fact nobody—not the newspapers nor the Republicans—asked why the taxpayers were forced to finance a rebuilding of a church. No civil libertarian or ACLU reformer popped up to object to public money going to build a church. Well, the state check was cut but lo and behold in accordance with Illinois’ brilliant track record of governmental administration, the check for $1 million was sent not to the Pilgrim Baptist Church but, through a crossing of wires, to the elementary school which carried the same address as the church at 3301 South Indiana. Only recently was the error discovered. The private school people kept the check and shut up about it. The Pilgrim people wondered when their check was coming and started to raise a howl about the delay. It was then that the error was discovered. So Gov. Blagojevich said that an error was committed—but not to worry, the school needed help as well and they’d cut another one for the church. Since then the state has had the guts to question the paper trail of the school but everybody emitted a sigh of relief—at least Pilgrim Baptist will get its state money.

An outright grant to a church is still unusual in Chicago lore. But what is not unusual is the continued use of church pulpits—predominantly black church pulpits—for outright partisan, Democratic party purposes. This had been going on for a long time as a kind of subterfuge. A minister would get up and invoke a blessing on either Mayor Daley I or his son, Mayor Daley II for his beneficence to the black community and raise his eyes to heaven to plead that good health shall remain in the Daley family in perpetuity. Then it gravitated to prayers for continued good health for Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, the entire Democratic state tickets, the well-being of George McGovern when he ran in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Carter again in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Mike Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992 and `96, Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. But in addition, starting in the 1970s with the frenetic energy of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. who passionately urged election of all Democrats, many black churches were transformed into political rallies in even numbered years.

Campaigning Priest and Pol Minister.

No one can top the blond-haired white priest, Fr. Michael Pfleger, the pastor of St. Sabina’s on the South Side. Pfleger’s innovation was to invite to his church active candidates to speak to the congregants including the Rev. Al Sharpton. Pfleger, who affects black slang and jive talk in his stem-winding sermons to show his African American congregants he is one of them and who has gotten away with threatening a legitimate gun-shop owner that “we will drag you out of your lair like a rat!” without incurring any objection from the archdiocese here, is one of several major Democratic party players in Chicago and regularly shares a box with Mayor Daley at White Sox games.

I am proud to say that the “Chicago Tribune” found that Fr. Pfleger puts his political money where his mouth has always been. He gave Barack Obama’s campaigns $1,500 between 1995 and 2001. Proving that when you cast your bread upon the political waters in Chicago it comes back a thousand-fold, Obama announced $225,000 in state grants to St. Sabina’s various community programs—three months before Pfleger felt the impulse to contribute. Just to reiterate that as a man of the cloth he has nothing to do with partisan politics, Pfleger said he made those donations to Obama personally—not on behalf of the church or to win grants. “At a time when less people vote that ever,” he said (he meant “fewer people than ever”), “I don’t think pastors should be silent on politics.” And Pfleger is not at all silent. His services are virtual Democratic party rallies and he regularly introduces his party’s candidates—including Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Al Sharpton (when he was a presidential candidate)—from the pulpit without a peep coming from the Chicago archdiocese. Not that it would do any good since Pfleger is equivalent to a Cardinal—or prince of the church—in the Democratic party hierarchy.

Thanks to the precedent set by Jackson and Pfleger, it is a regular practice for Democratic candidates (no Republican candidates are invited) to make a round of churches on Sundays during campaign season. When no objection was heard from either church or civil liberties sources, Jackson turned the heat up a notch. The real church of clout is Salem Baptist church House of Hope in the Roselawn neighborhood where the state’s largest congregation—conservatively estimated at 25,000—at many services each Sunday. Democratic politicians regularly stand in line to be hailed at the services by a charismatic 52-year-old preacher, Rev. James Meeks. Many more than the 25,000 catch his sermons on radio and TV. In recognition of his drawing power, Jackson named Meeks the number two man at his Operation PUSH political rallies. Then Jackson, a vigorous 68 who shows no sign of slowing down, announced that Meeks will be his successor. Finally, Jackson anointed Meeks as a candidate for the Illinois state senate which Meeks accepted. He won in a landslide and operates seamlessly as (a) pastor of the state’s largest church which is a non-profit, (b) number two at the city’s most dynamic community organization, PUSH which is a nonprofit and (c) a dynamic politician who collects campaign contributions by the ton to continue his activities.

As a lawmaker, Rev. and Sen. Meeks is deeply interested in getting Illinois to pass a “swap” bill that would reduce property taxes and hike income taxes, a bill that makes no bones about the fact that the end-result would be another drain on the taxpayer. But he sees it as very important to spend more state funds on education and generally muffles his comments to the press when the remarkably low state of the basic reading, writing and math skills in the black community has not budged upward in the slightest despite huge inflows of public dollars to education. He is pro-life but is definitely anti-voucher. Why? A heavy percentage of his congregation are female school teachers who belong to the potent education unions.

He gravitates around Springfield with a swagger befitting a man who occupies an important role in the Democratic state senate and who controls the state’s largest congregation. He tried to get the governor to agree with his “swap” bill and actively pushed the idea that if displeased he would run for governor as an independent. But Blagojevich said he would veto any tax hike. Meeks launched a drive to collect the more than 25,000 signatures to get on the ballot as an independent. Then Blagojevich met with him in a downtown hotel and told him he was thinking of selling the state’s lottery system to a private entity which would free up $10 billion for the schools. Meeks called off the independent bid and Blagojevich pulled the rug out. The lottery wasn’t sold. The smart money decided the slicker governor suckered Meeks. But the gambit with the governor didn’t hurt Meeks in his own church.

In fact the idea has grown that Meeks was just puffing this to become a power broker. Following his negotiations with the governor, Meeks turned to Mayor Daley and held a stentorian news conference asking Daley who was preparing to run for reelection: “We need to ask Mayor Daley some questions like, why are we putting all the inferior teachers in failing schools?” If Daley wanted black votes, he said, he would have to act. He sent 500 congregants to Daley’s office with placards and called for bigger demonstrations: “We want to see the rebirth of the civil rights movement,” he shouted. “Not one black school district in America is doing as well as a white school district.” No one—certainly not the media—cared to bring up the huge rate of illegitimate births in the black community, leading to single-headed families with no fathers present which sociologists cite as the principal cause of poverty, low learning skills and crime, all of which could be rectified if black churches concentrated more on moral issues and less on partisan politics. The issue of illegitimacy seldom if ever comes up in Meeks sermons.

Watching Meeks juggle church and political balls in the air is a favorite media occupation. Segregating money funneled to two nonprofits and his own political activities would seem to be quite an enterprise taxing to any CPA assisted by a few lawyers to keep complicated campaign finance laws straight, but Meeks, a graduate of Bishop College, a small religious school in Dallas and some graduate work at various theological academies, is undaunted. A large, stocky man, he dresses like a banker, in suits that are tailor-made and wears shoes that would grace a CEO; his shirt selections and ties are truly splendiferous. But he has reason to worry about the future. Not because the IRS is after him (so far as we know) but because it seems to be probing a colleague and the scrutiny just might extend to the Meeks religio-political empire.

Obama’s Pastor Causes Unease.

The minister colleague is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. who shortly will be winding up his 36-year service as pastor of the mostly black Trinity United Church of Christ where Obama—the hottest political ticket in the nation—has worshiped for more than 20 years. Because Obama belongs to his church, Wright has the knack of getting more national press for his sermons than either Jesse Jackson or James Meeks. And the sermons are not exactly theologically orthodox. Last Christmas morning he said that Obama’s so-called “impoverished” childhood resembled Jesus Christ’s. The emotional congregation emitted amens and swayed appreciatively but of course the analogy was very-very lame. Obama’s parents were decidedly middle class, his father abandoning the family to go to Harvard for a Ph.D and the mother a white Kansan who raised the incipient senator with formidable help from her parents, Obama going to private schools.

Obama appropriated the title of his second autobiography covering his 45 years of life, The Audacity of Hope from a sermon of Wright’s but that phrase was probably the least controversial one the pastor has spewed to the church in many years. He has excoriated President Bush from the pulpit and has lauded Chicagoan Louis Farrakhan of the nation of Islam. That’s not much different than the run-of-the-mill black pastors do in Chicago except for one thing that greatly disturbs Meeks and others: Wright is Obama’s pastor and by all odds Obama is on a fast track to be elected this nation’s 43rd president. Wright’s noisy sermons, often anti-Semitic, catch the news and threaten to bring down the wrath of the IRS which would queer the entire political ministry business which has been a bonanza for the Democratic party. Sure enough, last week The Wall Street Journal reported in a page-one story that Wright “may be running afoul of federal tax law which says churches can endanger their tax-exempt status by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.”

Good gracious, IRS where have you been for the last 30 years when endorsements and diatribes against Republicans have been stock in trade up and down in the black community with Fr. Pfleger’s St. Sabina’s virtually leading the pack? Well, the end days may have begun for minister money and politics. Trinity’s parent, the United Church of Christ, has reported that it is being probed by the IRS for a speech Obama gave to 10,000 at a church conference in Hartford, Conn. where he mentioned his candidacy and ticked off portions of his program including health care reform.

Naturally in true Chicago pol style the answer would be to claim racism is running amok at the IRS but everybody knows what’s been going on at these churches. If anything, Fr. Pfleger is more notorious, virtually thumbing his nose at the establishment and inviting almost all Democratic candidates he can inveigle to take part in the service. And of course the politically astute IRS is making the probe look bipartisan by also investigating a Baptist church in California which recently backed Mike Huckabee in his bid for the White House.

While everybody is mum about the effort, no one is quieter than Pastor/Senator James Meeks who has been known to fly to Springfield from Chicago aboard private jets on occasion. He, after all, does not just endorse Democratic candidates; he is one and strides around the altar in TV presentations in magnificent robes while he churns up a heady brew of liberal theology and Democratic partisanship. Last year Mayor Daley came out of hiding and stood side by side with Meeks where Meeks proudly endorsed Daley for reelection. Reporters asked Meeks why he wasn’t considering supporting Dorothy Brown, the African American city treasurer with MBA and law degree who was running a lonely and underfinanced run against Daley.

Meeks’ answer embodied the pragmatism that has permeated his theology and politics. The fact that fellow Democrat Ms. Brown is black and qualified didn’t move him.

“Well, “ he said, “I don’t endorse candidates who are going to lose.”

That’s the Chicago Way all right.