Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Personal Aside: Pelosi’s Partisan Blast Killed the Deal…The Tribune’s Extremely Bad Makeover.



Let this old House staffer veteran (circa 1958) tell you: the Speaker has the power to affect history by prudential judgment. In April, 1951 Douglas MacArthur appeared before a joint meeting (not session) of Congress to defend his record in Korea. As the world knows he delivered a stem-winding speech, respondent in his simple army jacket with 5 stars appended to his shoulder-straps. The windup “old soldiers never die” ended with a thunderclap. The applause was still ringing when the Senate trooped out and the House went back into regular session. Speaker Sam Rayburn gaveled the session to order. Not fully understanding the electricity of the moment, he personally recognized an old friend, a conservative southern Democrat.

Rayburn, a Truman supporter, expected a sonorous voice of support for MacArthur, nothing more. Instead his old friend turned the tables on him and introduced a resolution on the spot calling for the impeachment of Harry Truman because of his firing of MacArthur. The House, ringed dry with emotion from the speech by the old World War II hero, thundered “YES! LET THE RESOLUTION BE SUBMITTED RIGHT HERE AND NOW AND WE’LL VOTE!’

The temper of the House was such that old partisan loyalties died and as Rayburn tried to gavel it back to order he calculated that votes were there to begin an impeachment of Truman on a highly improbable but emotional cause—exerting his presidential right to fire a general in the field. But Truman was highly unpopular…as unpopular as George W. Bush is now…land the Korean War was grievously unpopular…far more unpopular than the Iraqi War is now because Truman had initiated the war without as much as a single vote (he called his decision a “police action”). Rayburn was stunned to see the Democratic chairman of his own armed services, Uncle Carl Vinson (his eyes misting, his lips curling in anger at Truman) rising to second the motion—and Republicans by the score were thrilled at the opportunity to see the president in the prisoner’s dock no matter what the infraction, even though he would certainly have been exonerated.

The man later to be my revered boss, Rep. Walter H. Judd (R-Minnesota), on foreign affairs, a supporter of MacArthur but also understanding of the crisis a passed resolution of impeachment would become for America’s role in the world, raced to the podium and conferred with the Speaker of the opposite party. He found Rayburn angered, stunned and ready to gavel the resolution into extinction. No-no, said Dr. Judd (a renowned medical doctor who had been a missionary to China), deal with it in a legitimate way.

Rayburn listened. He gaveled the House to silence and said gravely that the resolution would be referred to House Rules. Everyone was appeased and trooped out. The old wise heads of Rules met, had a taste of bourbon and branch water, and decided the resolution was out of order. The moment passed.

Unfortunately the gentle-lady from San Francisco chose another tack. She left the podium, went to the floor and in the guise of urging a vote and purportedly getting Republican votes for the measure she deemed important, utterly lost her cool and turned her speech into a savage partisan attack on the very Republicans she had hoped to woo. The effect was like pouring gasoline on a simmering fire. She strayed from the issue, blasted the “right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation” of financial markets (when in fact Republicans in the Senate following the lead of John McCain tried to exert some regulation on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and were voted down, with Barack Obama voting against curtailment.
An index of her duplicity, her prepared speech…the one that will be in the “Congressional Record”…was bland. Her ad libs did the work. Seeing the lean and hungry Cassius standing behind Barney Frank—Rahm Emanuel—I know what he’ll do. He’ll raise his eyes to heaven and say “what? Us?”

Those who don’t know the House say it was immaterial, that speech by the Speaker. Don’t believe them. A score of Democratic committee chairmen…regarded as part of the leadership… voted with the opposition, emboldened by their leader’s vitriol. Republicans decided they were going to be made the goats anyhow; the milk of human kindness curdled. More than two-thirds of Republicans and 140 Democrats deserted the cause. And because of Ms. Pelosi, the House defeated the bill 228 to 205 and the Dow tanked 800 points…far outstripping the 684-point drop after 9/11.

Thus thanks to Ms. Pelosi there was a $1.1 trillion loss in the economy today. The compliant mainstream media tried to blunt Pelosi’s outrage and laughed happily as the man who speaks without moving his lips, whose head rests double-chinned on his open shirt collar…Barney Frank…lisped his latest quip…that he would graciously speak kindly to 12 Republicans who can be found to switch back (12 was the magic number).

Someone else said it before me but I’ll repeat it.
The. Worst. Speaker. Ever.

Tribune’s Extremely Bad Makeover.

A cheap, utterly valueless rehash of a once sober and studious-appearing newspaper into a low-rent reformat of USA TODAY. Whenever they radically change formats of newspapers it’s an indication that nothing else is working.

An indication of the doltish decision of the editorial board. Putting Charles Krauthammer on the Internet and bannering a so-called “conservative” columnist—Kathleen Parker—who hates Sarah Palen like poison.

Krauthammer, a Pulitzer prize-winning sage, relegated to the Internet while a lady who gives the candidate of conservative Republican women the finger is front and center. No room for two columnists because the garish “art” splats all over the page.

Too bad it’s not printed on softer paper. And on rolls.
Colonel McCormick what hath these wretches with no ideology…just money…wrought?

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Week Just Past. A New Monday Feature.

McCain Agonistes.

After three days of erratic-appearing fumbles on the bailout crisis, John McCain returned to the debate stage last week the underdog, lucking out in the economic portion but whiffing a real chance to trump his opponent-- rallying on the foreign policy segment, swinging a roundhouse right there—contrasting his grizzled experience with his opponent’s naivete—to win the first bout on points. That’s my opinion, but surprisingly most polls and focus groups say his opponent won decisively…which might signal the almost irresistible public mood against Republicans.
The cruel rumor spread by his enemies that McCain has a loosened cerebral wire from his 5-year POW encampment, gained followers unjustifiably at the beginning of last week as he gained eye-popping attention following the Wall Street meltdown. When he announced he was suspending his campaign and his participation in the first debate at the University of Mississippi, Republican operatives groaned. Liberal Democrat Chris Matthews on MSNBC said it was because McCain feared to debate “the formidable Barack Obama.” But even knowledgeable liberals including David Axelrod (Obama’s chief strategist) said privately, “please!” McCain had been taunting Obama to debate for nine months and he was running away now? The cowardice charge spawned only in Catholic pro-abort Matthews’ fevered brain—so leftish that even the Democratic shill MSNBC had dropped him from anchor duties next election night.

The real story: As he was preparing for the debate, McCain got word that a huge bloc of Republican House members were unalterably opposed to the Bush-Paulson plan to rescue Wall Street with taxpayers’ money…and for good reason. They saw Bush-Paulson as having too little oversight: McCain agreed. They wanted a voice in the deal and felt left out by Bush and Paulson. They insisted on pay curbs for Wall Streeters: McCain not only agreed but insisted, pointing out that no one should be paid more than the president of the U. S., $400,000 a year (although the CEO of Goldman Sachs makes more than that in two days). They pointed out a hidden joker that would convey a slush fund for ACORN: McCain was appalled. They cited favoritism for the trial bar: McCain readily agreed. Most of all they wanted an FDIC-style insurance program for the toxic assets the rescue would address without taxpayer risk. He quickly assented.

Now he saw himself in a dilemma. On one hand, as Republican nominee he could be blamed for leading a party that went along with risking $700 billion to shore up Wall Street multi-millionaires without the aforementioned reforms. On the other, his chestnuts would be in the fire if the package failed due to lack of GOP support and it triggered a Depression. So he did the right thing, decided to temporarily suspend his campaign, ditch the debate, go back to Washington to muscle himself into the negotiating fray to change the package and be seen with sleeves rolled-up working night-and-day while Obama would be seen merely talking. By intervening in behalf of the House Republicans, he saw that most of the issues they cared about got included in the final package. Much of the credit for the improved package should go to McCain—although due to the liberal media’s intransigence in blocking it, it won’t. But the p.r. he earned was awful.
But It Had to Be Done.

At the time, all McCain’s aides disagreed with him, saying this abrupt change in tactics…suspending his campaign, ditching the debate… would give Obama the full stage at Old Miss. But as with so many other things, it is impossible to dislodge the old fighter pilot once he opens the throttle. (No one since Andrew Jackson…ironically the last POW to become president…has operated so freely on instinct as this similarly battle-scarred warrior). So the nation was informed the McCain campaign would be on hold and if the show was to go on at Old Miss it would have to be held without McCain. For this he took a series of salvos, from Democrats and some Republicans.
In a very real sense, it would be, in football terms, a desperate long-range forward pass with a low percentage chance of completion (first named by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, a Catholic, for his game-winning heave on Dec. 28, 1975 in the NFC semifinal playoff game. Staubach, threw the ball toward the goalposts at the opposite end of the field and breathed this prayer: “Holy Mary/ Full of grace/ I hope someone’s down there, someplace.” Lo a Cowboy caught it and raced for a touchdown. Such desperate political passes rarely connect. But by signaling he would once again hurl a “Hail Mary”—he gained the onus as more than a maverick, a real wild card of unstable personal demons.

The 2 Prior “Hail Marys.”

The first came when, the only vocal supporter of winning the war in Iraq among Republican contenders who were parsing their views, McCain discovered his unpopularity was falling to 4th among the GOP contenders and his money dwindling away precipitously. McCain fired his senior staff, directed his campaign live off the land--and rather than trim his sails called for a surge…more troops to be sent right away to Iraq. Luckily his call coincided with a decision by Bush to shift direction of the fighting to Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus himself agreed on a surge, sold Bush on it. The surge worked in short range. McCain’s forward pass connected. His fortunes rose, money poured in by the zillions and he returned to top billing among the candidates.

The second: All but nominated, he saw his candidacy fading because Obama…fresh-faced, exciting… seemed to have a corner on the issue of “change.” While his staff was interfering nice but dull candidates for vice president—Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota—the old man slyly intimated he might pick liberal Democrat Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) or pro-abort Republican Tom Ridge (Pennsylvania) which threw the media off the scent. All the while he had sent a private emissary up to Anchorage to interview a young lady governor McCain had met only a few times but with whom he had been early impressed: an exciting gutsy 5-star social conservative, not only pro-life but who celebrated her 5th baby’s birth, an infant with Down syndrome. The pass sent his campaign soaring and baffled the Obama people into a gaffe-ridden three weeks as they hemorrhaged female votes including angry-Hillary supporters like Lynn Forrester de Rothschild the liberal feminist multi-millionaire announcing exuberantly for McCain.

Two long-range passes without a receiver in view in one campaign was scary enough but now McCain had hurled yet another—the decision to suspend his campaign and not show up at the first climactic debate in favor of getting House Republicans to conservatize a rescue package for which he could get the credit. So he said he was pulling his TV commercials and would forsake the debate because of national emergency. But to this Obama responded sagely, brilliantly, saying that the definition of a president for these times is someone who can walk and chew gum at the same time and the idea of suspension was crotchety: therefore he, Obama, would continue. McCain’s pass floated in the air seemingly interminably as critics—many of them Republicans—said this was an wildly improbable exercise which Obama was winning on points.

Bush Blocks Interception.

The critics were right. After McCain announced it, the forward pass wobbled, was in danger of falling flat on the field or worse--being intercepted by Obama. Then someone far downfield leapt up to try to save the day. It was, of all people, George W. Bush, a former hated McCain enemy but who, no matter the past, didn’t want a Democrat to win the game. Bush jumped for the ball, blocked Democrats from intercepting and invited McCain to attend a White House bipartisan tussle on the package…an attempt to give the grizzled GOPer credit for a high level agreement. Then, brilliantly, Bush also invited Obama to join them in the White House parley as well—mandating that Obama would have to come in off the campaign along with McCain. Obama would but, unlike McCain, never known to fret or work up a sweat even if he were sitting naked in a sauna,, insisted he would keep the Old Miss date. Then he went to a nearby gym to toss buckets.
But What 90 Minutes!

McCain spent only 90 minutes in the Capitol itself. Now he fervently sided with House Republicans who had derailed the deal earlier and kept the House Republican revolt alive. Worried, Democrats by now began to see Republican conspiracy at every turn and reasoned that McCain and Bush would work it to see that McCain would get the credit if the Republicans fell into line. So the Democrats in the personage of the disheveled, rumpled Barney Frank, chairman of the Financial Institutions committee (formerly Banking & Currency) decided to throw a monkey-wrench into the machinery.

The frog-like Frank, bulging eyes with chin perched on his open shirt collar, is the only man since the late Mayor Richard J. Daley who can speak seemingly without moving his lips. I’ve sat before his hugely cluttered desk and watched him closely: sound comes from his visage down to the last effeminate lisp but I’ll be damned if I can identify lip movement with the guttural sound that appears to come from his tightly compressed mouth. It’s like a bad film where lip synch is out of whack. That, of course, is the nicest thing to be said of him.

Only in today’s decadent culture could a Barney Frank avoid richly deserved public repudiation and humiliation. In all other eras he would have been forced to resign in disgrace and would be censured, even impeached, by a House determined to save its reputation by condemning him. He was found guilty in 1989 of hiring as personal aide a male prostitute and convicted drug possessor, fixing his parking tickets in D. C., letting him live in his apartment which the aide converted into a gay bordello during daylight hours when Frank was in the House. Frank admitted all except knowing his pad was being moonlighted as a gay bordello. The House “Ethics” committee, run by Democrats, exonerated him and Frank trumped the odds to become the leading gay rights advocate in Congress. That one can survive such scandal and indeed trade on it and pronounce on others’ ethics is a sickening testimonial to current debased political morality.

Frank charged that McCain’s entry into the tag-team wrestle in the White House Roosevelt Room endangered passage of the package. The Capitol Hill media heavily pro-Obama took up the message: McCain was blocking progress. Result: the impression has been made that McCain goofed up the negotiations but actually by intervening he strengthened the conservative hand. McCain, footsore and blamed by Dems and the media, decided he could return to the campaign trail and the debate.
Prepping Cut Short.

On the plane to Mississippi, McCain dawdled with his homework and got to the stage exhausted. In the first half of the debate—on the economy—he dangerously courted disaster. He didn’t hit Obama’s high tax plan effectively, allowing Obama to get away with the 90% tax cut mythology and didn’t call his opponent on the fact that 40 million don’t pay taxes at all and what Obama was doing was trying to enact George McGovern’s old demigrant idea of $1,000 for every man, woman and child. I clapped a hand to my forehead as that opportunity vanished. Obama blamed Bush for lessened regulation that produced the crisis; McCain didn’t bring up a crusher—that he, Bush and Alan Greenspan had supported a plan to cut back on the excesses of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and most of the Democrats including Obama voted the wrong way.

Elementary Debate 101 and he blew it. . But Obama didn’t go for the kill and the old man, unaccountably, talked about ending earmarks which has only a peripheral…very peripheral…application to the economy. The economics portion ended with a slight edge for McCain which I don’t think he deserved. Round two on foreign-defense policy saw McCain almost perceptibly sigh with relief. Iran was his best overall. Obama tried to say that Henry Kissinger agreed with him—Obama—that a president can go to the table with the president of Iran without preparation. Although being Obama, he shaded his own prior contention and quoted Kissinger correctly that staff should be involved. Kissinger told Christiane Amanpour of CNN “I am in favor of negotiating with Iran...[but] I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level.” McCain didn’t have that quote handy (incredibly) but he got through it with his own grizzled eminence nevertheless.
The Baffler: Focus Group Support of Obama.

My view…and I gritted my teeth so as to try to screen out partisan bias…is that McCain was lucky on the economic question and did thunderingly well on foreign and national security. I must say I was dismayed by the reports of the polls…Frank Luntz’s focus group for Fox which ruled Obama had won…CBS’s poll that Obama won and some others. I accept their view but feel that the American public is so tuggingly in favor of a change in the presidency that even a light-pusher like Obama can get the nod.

In summary: McCain had no business lucking out on the economics side of the debate…forgetting to trump Obama’s putting blame on Republicans by neglecting to bring up his own support of trimming back Freddie and Fannie… but he did. He HAD the right to win on national security. But the polls show me that this may very well be another election where the man destiny meant to serve in the presidency doesn’t get it. The debate was held on the anniversary of the first televised presidential debate in Chicago. Don Hewitt…who by now must be at least 90 years old…ran the TV techniques of the debate. He was interviewed as saying that his breath came in short gasps as he viewed how incomparably handsome JFK was compared to the grey and sallow Nixon.
Hewitt is still marveling at Kennedy’s handsomeness. He hasn’t learned anything in his 90 years, has he? Handsome Kennedy botching the Bay of Pigs by losing his nerve and canceling air cover…leading Khrushchev to decide Kennedy was not up to the presidency…leading to the Berlin Wall being built…and the Summit after which Kennedy confessed to James Reston that the Soviet leader believed he didn’t have requisite toughness…Kennedy saying that to prove it, we would have to reintensify our troop buildup in Vietnam.

But godammit, Kennedy was a handsome lad, wasn’t he? Obama is the Prince of Cool, isn’t he? Can you see history begin to repeat?
That’s what I fear.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Personal Asides: It Looks Like No Debate but a Deal on the Rescue by Monday…Carol Marin is Outraged at Proft’s Salary—What About Hers (Including the One Partially Paid by the Feds?)…Axis Sally.


No Debate but a Deal.

John McCain’s hope to justify his Hail Mary pass…stopping his campaign, ditching the Friday debate and returning to work full time in Washington…is to get recalcitrant Republicans to vote for the rescue. He made an effort to get credit with voters for the White House summit (getting Obama in the door) but so far things ended in a tie. If he can get Republicans to go along and can get sufficient media credit for it (problematic) the pass attempt will have been worth it. But in any event it looks like Obama will have the stage all to himself tonight (Friday) unless things fall together like a magician’s trick bag. Democrats have every incentive to stall so that their candidate for president will have the total limelight tonight. Right now the odds look like McCain can’t crack it. Not all Hail Mary’s…not even SOME…work and McCain may have used up his favors.
Marin Outraged.

Carol Marin, the Old Mother Hubbard of Chicago journalism (who had so many children she doesn’t know what to do) has three political analysts jobs which would indicate that this city is in dire poverty for talent if it has to rely on this lady (who after three decades has absorbed a decent TV presence). She has Steve Neal’s old job at the “Sun-Times” where she writes sophomoric and unenlightened predictables. She has Dick Kay’s old job at Channel 5 where she blocks a more expert reporter from matriculating upward. And she has Bruce DuMont’s old political analyst job at WTTW-TV which is easy pickins’ because all you have to do there is smile beatifically and produce the old pre-digested pablum. WTTW lives off federal and state grants as well as donations from “viewers like you” so it is sure that a part of Carol’s salary…about $70,000 or so from 11…is paid by involuntary taxpayers.
Since Carol has an approach to politics from the 1960s and she likes to find some corruption, in her Channel 5 gig she cast an arched eyebrow at Dan Proft’s earnings in Cicero—despite the fact that the earnings are with the approval of elected officials there, have been listed and accounted for and aboveboard. But of course Dan Proft is a REPUBLICAN. Horrid thought. In scrounging to get material, isn’t it strange that Obama-fancier Marin hasn’t done a story about her key source David Axelrod who runs a fancy consulting organization as result of the fabulous connections Axelrod has. Of course Axelrod is not listed as a lobbyist any more than Bill Daley was—but why won’t Mother Superior of All Righteousness Carol take a look Axelrod’s way? Because she is a consummate liberal Democrat, that’s why. How much taxpayer money goes into Carol’s pocket from her Channel 11 gig? No one will know because the funds are all co-mingled which leaves a lovely curtain of darkness beclouding accountability for Viewers Like You.

Legatee of Axis Sally.

Axis Sally was the beguiling high-piped siren who broadcast to our troops the futility of opposing her employers, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and imperial Japan.

Axis Sally’s style has been avoided by most of the Left. The Daily Kos doesn’t say our country and the West is decadent, that we are led by a ring in our nose by Israel and that the heroes of the West in the past such as Winston Churchill were in reality wrongheaded vipers. Only one of any prominence has done that…and his represents himself as being from the right although on major issues like foreign policy and defense he is at one with the Obama people although he doesn’t say it. His name is Patrick Buchanan. Good old Pat. Who traveled the world as an aide to Richard Nixon. Who did the same as an aide to Ronald Reagan. Nothing they did rubbed off on him. He was mum while they lived but isn’t now. Some say he prattles to the shade of his long dead father, an Irishman who hated England. Hated Churchill. A conspiratorialist. Whether true or not, consider:

Earlier this week the president of Iran came to the United Nations and in his speech said (a) the United States is a fast-fading power, its glory is behind it; (b) it is led as if hypnotized by Israel, (c) Israel is an evil nation and will be expunged. Drain off the venomous rhetoric and parse it closely and what do you find? It squares on all major points with what Buchanan has been telling his countrymen…in a syndicated newspaper column and on widespread TV outlets, his own magazine, his own website—only he cloaks it in less inflammatory language with many a soft chuckle interspersed along the way.
Even so, he has said things that the Iranian president has not said.
Like the Iranian president, Buchanan has long trumpeted that the future of the United States is fast fleeting. Like that evil Iranian president, Buchanan with his high whinnying voice slams Israel every chance he gets although he is discreet enough to deny his anti-Semitism: an anti-Semitism that is ever-more apparent as Buchanan grows longer in the tooth. And Buchanan has done the Iranian president one better: he has written a revisionist history, concocted by his fevered brain and with the help of some blindsided eccentrics with academic degrees: a history which turns facts on their heads. Hitler, he calls an evil man (cosmetics else the book trade wouldn’t touch it) but one who had no designs on world conquest or America. Only Europe. And Britain could have benefited from it were it not for the real evil one was Winston Churchill (while very bright, another dab of cosmetics to assuage the book trade) who led Britain to lose its empire and his country to lose dramatically in the world poker game. Buchanan is so twisted he cannot even allow we…the West…won the Cold War. He would say: win, hell! The Cold War is still on. Who does he back in the tilt between Putin and Georgia? You guessed it: Putin.

Buchanan’s presence is not everywhere but it is significant enough to warrant some concern. For he is not a ranting nut on a soapbox in Bughouse Square. He’s soft-spoken, widely published, widely heard. But, we are at war. Our soldiers are overseas and only one so-called responsible commentator tells them their game is lost. His voice bears the melody of Axis Sally; in fact it’s as pipingly high as was hers. . Sure, there are lesser Axis Sallys in varying degrees on the left who secretly do not wish our country well and hope we lose—but the major one in this country occupies prominent position on the McLaughlin Group, in “revisionist” history books and on MSNBC…slurring Churchill, trying to re-write history. He has abandoned the Republican party, has become so radicalized, so discordant to the interests of America that his former president bosses…would certainly disown him were they alive.

His presence has become as vile as the most strident commentators on the Daily Kos except that he masquerades under false colors left over from his once honorable conservative reputation.
No, I don’t say silence him anymore than the northern copperheads who opposed the Civil War were shut up. But consider. If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck, it may be a duck. Here is a man who has opposed efforts to bring ex-Nazis to justice…who once wrote Hitler was “courageous”…who stands with the Confederacy, hates Lincoln, despises Churchill and is unalterably opposed to the stand our nation has taken in time of war. Eugene McCarthy once said he felt it would be good for this nation to lose in Vietnam. I don’t think Buchanan has said that yet. But he’s not that far behind.
I just say: identify him for what he is. A copperhead.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Personal Aside: If Agreement Comes by Friday, McCain’s Hail Mary Pass May Work Out with a Tie for Both Candidates.


A Thrill a Minute.

John McCain has had extraordinary good luck with Hail Mary passes. His support of the surge when there was little public belief that Iraq could be saved…and his reaching out to Sarah Palin which caught the Obama people off-balance for at least 10 days. This latest effort, suspending his campaign, ditching the Friday debate and asking Obama to do the same, in favor of going to Washington to be seen on TV with his sleeves rolled up while his opponent glad hands, was another attempt. By declining to do so and with a cool remark—that a president should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time—Obama scored a point on McCain.

Then Bush intervened on the side of McCain and personally invited both of them…McCain and Obama…to a meeting with congressional leaders in the White House at 10 a.m. EST today. There is an indication that Bush gave McCain a hunch that things will all work out and resolution will be made Friday. Thus if that is so, the debate will go on and both candidates will be seen as being justified—McCain for putting solution of the country’s most severe economic problem since the Depression over campaigning…and Obama for his cogent remark that presidential candidates should be able to both campaign and do government work.
If things are worked out in Washington and both of them score a tie, McCain will be a very lucky guy. If it doesn’t work out, my original five reservations about McCain’s latest Hail Mary may hit him with a vengeance. These reservations are based on an uncertainty that things will work out initially. Here goes:
To make this work. McCain will have make certain that he takes on a major role in the congressional negotiations which will involve muscling himself into key negotiations and get a favorable approval to play a major role from the White House. The White House may let him move into the negotiations but he will have to worry that the resulting compromise will still incur severe public disfavor as the immigration compromise did which nearly destroyed him. Or he may find himself irrelevant after having injected himself into the negotiations and thus become a laughingstock.

2. Barack Obama’s response struck me as singularly astute and well-reasoned—that as a president has to deal with many crises at a time their debate should go on.

By backing off from the debate and given Obama’s masterly suggestion that a president should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, McCain may unwittingly aid Obama’s image-makers who picture him as too elderly to hold a job where there can be a crisis a minute.

McCain’s gesture comes when he is slumping in the polls due to the economic crisis. It carries the suspicion that he is avoiding a debate because he is worried that it would further harm him—although that is hardly the case. Actually the antidote for a slump in the polls is to proceed to a debater’s mode quickly—particularly if the issue is foreign policy as the debate is supposed to consider (although assuredly the economic crisis can intrude and dominate the debate under the rubric of national security).

Finally I worry that the sleepy eye of the electorate which opens for a few seconds, takes cognizance and then flutters shut, will draw an unfortunate conclusion as Obama holds center stage at the debates without McCain. That conclusion could be the decisive one thus far of the campaign—a no-show that might be as disastrous for McCain in absentia as the sweating, grey, haggard face of Richard Nixon looming throughout the first 1960 debate.

However, it is not entirely clear at this writing that this was a Hail Mary without a receiver. McCain has pulled through on risky things before. I just wonder how many Hail Marys one can throw in a single game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Personal Asides: Wha? Bill Daley, Sr. Was Hired Because of His Technical Expertise in Business…Biden Proves What We Have Suspected—a Likeable Blow Hard e.g. Jerque…Mark Brown to Whom Homosexuality is a Human Right.


Bill Daley.

In a TV ad, John McCain listed Bill Daley as a lobbyist which has drawn a shout of anger and resentment from Daley since he has never been registered as a lobbyist. The shout he gave off was that of a wounded animal, unjustly shot at, in a forest.
Dear me, as one who went to Washington weekly as a lobbyist for Quaker Oats for 27 years and would frequently see Bill Daley on the early morning UAL or American Airlines 7:30 a.m. Red Eye, I am utterly aghast that all the while, big firms were sending Bill Daley to D. C. because of his expertise on the technical end of Big Business…and not because his name was Daley, that he was the mayor’s son and mayor’s brother but because he was so expert in business economics. All the time I thought it was because he was an expert at plying his trade with Democratic power brokers who would recall his surname with fondness.
That is amazing to me and I apologize fully to Mr. Daley since I…with my cynical Chicago upbringing…figured that a top son of the old Mayor might be hired by SBC and the others for his savvy with Democratic pols.
All the times I saw him chomping steaks with Democratic power lords at Morton’s of Chicago on the edge of Georgetown and tippling drinks at Hill fund-raisers he was sharing his great knowledge of the economy and his scientific expertise with the telecommunications industry without any political connection…and was not seeking favor with the power people which is what a lobbyist is supposed to do. How I misjudged Daley all these years! Indeed, John McCain should be ashamed of himself for saying that Daley was lobbyist.
Ergo: Daley was NOT a lobbyist or applied pressure or gratification to lawmakers in return for favors because Daley never registered as a lobbyist! It means that all the times I saw him when we were both in Washington he was there as either as an economic expert or because he wished to suck in the grandeur of the beautiful marble buildings…see each time the original parchment of the Declaration in Archives…thrill at the grandeur of the paintings on the walls of the National Gallery bestowed on the nation by Mr. Mellon. I had thought otherwise: so sorry. It is indeed gratifying to see his anger at being singled out as having been hired as a lobbyist when he didn’t fill out the lobbying forms and hence could not be a lobbyist. That proves McCain is a liar, right? Well that’s what the Chicago press thinks…and you know the Chicago press fully trusts that a Daley assigned to Washington is not a lobbyist and isn’t muscling for his clients because, after all, he didn’t file a lobbyist’s registration fee. That is straight out of Joel Weisman.
Not to do that would be to misrepresent his calling…to be something he is not… and a Daley wouldn’t do that would he? I know Lynn Sweet believes that because she has written that Daley was not a lobbyist. But I wonder after she wrote the piece, how long it took until her paroxyms of hilarity subsided.

Biden the Likeable Blowhard.

First impressions are often wrong but my first taste of Joe Biden, at a business conference in 1980, was that he is so enamored of an audience that he cannot wait to make an impression. Then he was just getting used to hair-plugs. Now after an extensive teeth-whitening process and longish, statesmanlike hair, he is oracular but still the guy Ed Wynn used to play in the films when he was billed as “The Perfect Fool.”

How do you explain a man of 65, supposedly sophisticated, former chairman of Senate Judiciary, current chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, an accused plagiarist who appropriated another’s biography as well as words, who midway in an oration compares George Bush to the majesty of Franklin Roosevelt…saying that when he first heard of the Crash of `29, Roosevelt took to the television and steadied the jittery nerves of the nation? Why on earth do people worry about Sarah Palen being a heartbeat away from the presidency when on the Democratic side, her opposite number is one has overruled the increased use of coal in energy, notwithstanding that all of us know there is a greater role for it coming someday? But this FDR thing is incredible. You mean that this senior senator didn’t know that Roosevelt was not president when the `29 crash occurred and that television was only in a highly experimental stage? I am waiting to see what the man who drags his under-slung jaw onto the theatre stage at NBC will say of this…but on second thought, he will mock it. It may be the first time since he has eschewed making fun of rich peoples’ patriotic obligation to pay higher taxes, Biden’s theft of pedigree on his resumes, his lying about his grades in school et al.

Biden is fair game because with a few weeks to go in the campaign he is someone the Obama people will have to watch carefully. For he is a “Jerque” s the French say.

But Under-slung Jaw will still be reverent to Barack Obama who is spared ridicule because the black guitarist, slumped in front of the orchestra, would be offended if Leno became an equal opportunity satirist.
Mark Brown.

No writer in the badly decomposing “Sun-Times” is more pagan in the literal sense of the word than is Mark Brown. No, I am not insulting him by saying he has no god. He does. His gods are scattered throughout secular liberalism which when carried too far is akin to a mental disorder. Take an article he wrote recently “A school where gay students could feel safe.” Most of those in the rapidly declining post-Judeo-Christian age retain a glimmer of belief traceable to two thousand years ago that homosexuality is vaguely outside the will of God. But to the hyper-innocent Mark Brown, it is akin to social justice. Oh there is a lingering sense of guilt in Brown when he opens his “Windy City Times”…a glimmer from some far-off teaching he may have heard in his youth…that homosexuality is wrong. But manfully he makes up for this vestige of past guilt.
With typical secular liberal justification he concludes his piece by feeling sad—“the one thing I know for sure is that it’s sad to realize there could be a need for a school like this.”
Mark Brown is hopeless…a central columnist of a newspaper that used to be great and is becoming hopeless.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Personal Aside: WTTW Should Call It “Chicago Democratic Week in Review”…Lake County’s Sheriff Casts Light on Daley and His Dems

The Land of Nod.

The other day Joel Weisman, who runs “Chicago Week in Review” aka the “Chicago Democratic Party Week in Review,” as a kind of hobby from his full-time job as entertainment lawyer, said off-handedly on his WTTW show Sunday that “the only economic difference between Barack Obama’s tax program and John McCain’s is that Obama wants to lower taxes on the middle class.” As the so-called “panel” of media are trained seals. So all nodded obediently… allowing his sloppy frequently grimacing Democratic lefty to get away with blatant misrepresentation …including David Greising of the “Tribune.”
Since he covers business and economics, Greising should be expected to correct this most officious moderator since John McLaughlin, but he didn’t. Or wouldn’t. But then Greising, also a lefty, probably enjoyed the sensation of hearing McCain zinged no matter how unjustly. Too, perhaps Greising has learned as have most of Weisman’s regular participants that it is not smart to contradict the Moderator if you want to be invited back on the show. Face-time on the show is a good prestige-builder and convinces one’s managerial boss that you’re really in the big leagues if you’re asked. Weisman has the same old hacks on his show and doesn’t even pretend to add balance on the right because this would upset his sensitive leftwing tummy.

The Internet is superseding the old style news agencies but there hasn’t been a glimmer of recognition of this fact by the prematurely orange-haired Joel. Because he doesn’t tolerate disagreements on the show he is free to ignore stories that do not fit his ideology. Example: Media favorite and Democratic party hack Anita Alvarez, the party’s nominee for Cook county states’ attorney has refused to give back a contribution from Bill Singer who has been fingered as a person of interest by the U. S. Attorney in a corruption probe.
Because the story’s airing would help Republican Tony Peraica, unsurprisingly, Impresario Joel did not include it on his agenda. Weisman will continue to run the show because WTTW’s mindless management under Dan Schmidt, an adroit, smooth p.r. man who acts like a masseur of a prominent men’s club, who doesn’t follow the news sufficiently to know…or care…how ideologically left the content is. And they wonder why more people don’t give to WTTW. Why should anyone who cherishes fair and balanced when Democratic party schlocks like Weisman who prettify their status by calling themselves “journalists” are running things.

Lake County Sheriff With Guts.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was far from a perfect man…or mayor for that matter…but his reputation in New York is imperishable. Why? Because he decided early to stand by his police department and disregarded the ACLU as well as the editorial board of “The New York Times” which were blistering him on prisoners’ rights. Giuliani felt that the blistering he got from the left would be more than compensated by the view of ordinary citizens who appreciated the cleanup on Broadway and 42nd and the crack down on murders. Do you think the average guy cares whether a child rapist has been roughed up in a holding room? Not if you’re a father. Ergo, Giuliani could still be mayor if there weren’t term limits. And he may very well be elected in the future as governor of New York.
All the while, Richie Daley understands Giuliani’s feat but simply doesn’t have the gonads to face up to the test of challenging the so-called “human rights” hustlers…as his father was…let it be added. He has caved to the pro-aborts, to the gays with their museum and even has blown a kiss to those who want to start a segregated gay high school. Fearful of losing even a miniscule vote to the left, he has gone the route of replacing Phil Kline as superintendent with a bull-necked body-builder $400,000 mastiff who never walked a beat, Jody Weis. Weis may never have walked a beat for a day but he is walking a lot in processions organized by community activists to protest the rising tide of murders while TV cameras whirr. That’s what’s Weis is good at—just as was Orlando Wilson—playing to the media. No tough action for Richie Daley. The cops don’t respect Weis for they know he’s a prop to the ACLU and they don’t respect Daley either. Why should they when this mayor cowers in all respects to the left?

A man I interviewed on the radio last Sunday…the sheriff of Lake county, Mark Curran…who has applied for permission to deport illegal aliens who are crowding his jail and who are purportedly responsible for a lion’s share of violent crimes…is a case in point. Curran is the only sheriff in the state to apply for such power; Chicago and Cook county are “sanctuary areas” which certify that for all practical purpose illegals can come and go. “Sanctuary” is just one more emblem of Daley’s political cowardice to electoral realities. He would rather not alienate Hispanics and allow the murder rate to continue unchallenged. When the book is written on Daley as mayor it will be that he amassed a great deal of power, mobilized his office in behalf of his own aggrandizement and caved from the task of being a great mayor by shirking a power that is within his grasp to cut the murder rate. Overall with all the bluster and reddened jowled shouting, he has been a pillar of Jello.

A city run by a mayor this weak should not get the Olympics.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Personal Aside: “Events, my dear boy, events!”

I keep repeating it over and over—and that’s because it’s true but so widely unrecognized in the mass media: this campaign seems to be an unending roller-coaster of twists and turns…each one “an event” in the description of Harold Macmillan who described politics’ uncertainty that way.

We left the campaign scenario last week with both candidates flailing over Iraq and terrorism which Barack Obama getting the worst of it basis his left-wing George McGovern orientation, leading many people to think that he would handle world crises as he would a Harvard or University of Chicago seminar…taking the temperature of all concerned and arriving at no conclusion demanding action. (This is my view of Obama having interviewed him early in his career; I never met anyone who can pretend to agree with all sides of an argument but nevertheless leaving a radio studio with a solid left-wing orientation).

. Then came a seismographic event—the eruption of the year-old credit problem into a full-blown crisis as the federal government took a major stake in the giant insurance firm AIG ($85 billion in exchange for running the joint), passed up with a “no thanks” the chance to save Lehman Brothers and by week’s end the prospect of national economic collapse as one market after another began to panic, investors fled money-market mutual funds and a freeze was clamped on short-term loans banks must have to fund their day-to-day businesses.

So Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (an Illinois boy worth an easy billion himself as former CEO of Goldman Sachs, with a huge estate in suburban Barrington Hills) pulled what all hope is a solution out of his hip pocket—a concept known as a “Balanced Sheet Relief Act”…like the old Resolution Trust Corporation used during the `80s for the S&L crisis, in the hope that the federal government buying distressed assets such as residential and commercial mortgages and mortgage-backed securities from ill financial companies would provide relief. Paulson described off-the-record that the symptom of the failing economy was like a human being losing blood pressure rapidly.

All the while Washington and Wall Street could merely hope it could work and that the prospective cost—something around $700 billion—could be trimmed down as the markets stabilized. How did the presidential candidates behave?

McCain Awful, Obama Better.

Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama were nominated for their expertise on the economy but concerning their divergent positions on the Iraq War which was touted as the hottest issue going. Now the war has subsided due to the surge success, an effort McCain supported and Obama doubted would succeed. Then the general review of the electoral map showed McCain picking up on his young rival. But this latest Macmillan-like event—the Wall Street meltdown--changed the demographics entirely. Obama has picked up, albeit slightly, in the melee with Obama hitting 273 and McCain 265 (needed to elect: 270).

While the Bush administration due to Hank Paulson seemingly kept its cool (although Wall Street and bankers were ready to throw up), McCain, the 72-year-old candidate didn’t. He lost his cool for a stunning 4 days until he calmed down. First he rushed to the stage to announce that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were strong—which made him sound like Herbert Hoover who told businessmen in 1932 “prosperity is just around the corner!” Obama rightly jeered at that statement. Then McCain returned to pronounce that it was a really bad crisis. Next he called for the firing of SEC chairman Christopher Cox, a Catholic, born in St. Paul, MN and a graduate of St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights before proceeding on to collect a flurry of academic honors at UCLA and Harvard, serving Ronald Reagan in the White House as an assistant counsel and moving to California and running successfully through 10 terms before being named to the post by Bush.

McCain pounded the rostrum Teddy Roosevelt-style in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and shouted “the chairman of the SEC…has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today I would fire him!” He cited three examples of so-called laxity “naked short selling,” “short selling” and “the up-tick rule.” So- called “naked short selling,” meaning you can sell a stock without owning it, has long been banned and is not in effect. “Short selling” is not fraud, the Wall Street Journal pointed out, but adds valuable information to the market about what the investors believe to be the price direction of the stock. The “up-tick rule” is an old New Deal rule that by now is meaningless, “that an investor can only short a stock after a rise in the stock’s price” has been studied by three generations of economists and found harmless, said the newspaper—but all the same it should be gotten rid of, yet there is no basis to use this as a pretext to fire Cox. It was clear McCain was flailing around for reasons to sound Teddy Roosevelt-like on the podium. And Sarah Palin wasn’t much better.

The next day McCain said we shouldn’t bail out AIG, the giant insurance conglomerate. Then he changed his mind and said we should. Finally he called for bipartisanship which he co-mingled with a savage attack on Obama. All the while Obama (who has been slashing at McCain for being too old to understand sudden changes in the issues) said very little of substance, called all Democratic treasury secretaries and economic pooh-bahs (Robert Rubin, Warren Buffett and of all people Paul Volcker) together and placidly endorsed Bush’s and Paulson’s efforts. The week clearly went to Obama.

By the end of the week, McCain was sounding more coherent but certainly evidenced to the minds of some supporters of the market like he still doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But the interesting thing about all this is that with all the ruckus in the markets, rumbles of war and Bush’s subterranean poll numbers, McCain is still now lower than 3 points…some put it at 5… under Obama. With an unpopular war, unpopular president and a financial meltdown that can be blamed on the Republicans, one can ask: what does it take to really “sell” this guy Obama to the voters?

Political Econ-101.

Both McCain and Obama are playing the game known as Political Econ-101, invented by agrarian Thomas Jefferson, polished to a veneer by Democrat William Jennings Bryan, implemented to a political fair-thee-well by Republican Teddy Roosevelt and perfected to an ingenious degree by Teddy’s cousin Democrat FDR. Like Bryan, TR, and FDR, McCain demonizes Wall Street, shouting that the malefactors of great wealth who lost tons of money should go to jail. But it is clear that this ferocious talk not only doesn’t solve the problem but makes it worse, as none other than Amity Shlaes, originally of Chicago (and the daughter of a wild-eyed quasi socialist, Jared, whom I used to debate over lunch often at the Cliff Dwellers Club on Michigan avenue). Amity did not follow her passionately liberal father and after an excellent education at the University of Chicago’s tony lab school for the liberal elite, became a journalist and…voila!...one of the great young expositors of free market economics in the country, having been on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and now an author who has dissected what she has found were the spectacular failures of FDR’s New Deal to solve the Depression…which must make her father blanche and feel ill.

Last week the young woman who was known around Hyde Park as Amy Shlaes pointed out in several articles (one major piece in the Wall Street Journal) that it is all very understandable for the two parties to inveigh against Wall Street as a “temple of greed.” For Democrats this is old time liberal religion. For McCain and Sarah Palin trying to shake off any hint of closeness to Big Business and Big Banking, it’s necessary to show there is no favoritism toward the big business and banking sector. So on they go, saying that pure and simple greed percolating in the strange world of money and investments did in the poor simple folks like you and me. Rapacious Wall Street is excoriated. Lehman Brothers has a 158-year-old name but is really a 14-year-old company gobbled up by American Express in 1994. AmEx didn’t digest it and spat it out leaving poor Lehman with a lofty reputation but not in good shape. Lehman then took spectacular risks to grow, borrowing huge sums disproportionate to its size, tottering under debt 35 times its capital which it tried to ease by plunging into real estate ventures that went pfffft.

Ever since Bryan targeted Wall Street in his Chicago speech in 1893 that my 23-year-old Irish Democratic grandfather…a marble layer…thrilled to, other people asked: well, if you don’t like the feds taking over the banks, what’s your solution? Let everybody drown in debt and lose their homes? And if so, what would happen to the jobs that accrued from such bare-chested speculation that enabled Tom Cleary (my grandfather) to make a living and own a two-flat in this city (which he promptly lost in the Depression of `29 but that’s another story). Amy Shlaes says that for government to so stringently regulate the market as to take away the punchbowl would send us to the dull grey economic environment that once characterized the old USSR. She would face the crisis by avoiding New Deal economics—New Deal economics that ironically had its beginnings in the administration of Herbert Hoover.

Hoover turned on short-tellers in the summer of 1929. And Roosevelt blasted Wall Street with hugely inflammatory rhetoric which got him kudos for being “a traitor to his class.” . Result: Chicago’s Samuel Insull who “created the format for the modern electrical grid, taught housewives about refrigerators, employed thousands and proved it was possible for the private sector to raise the prodigious amounts of cash necessary for utilities, the most capital-hungry of industries” came under fire. Then a credit crunch squeezed Insull’s companies, rendering portfolios worthless. Eastern bankers turned against him—he believing to the end that it was because of his British Jewish heritage whereas Wall Street was all WASP. He was extradited from Greece, hauled back to Chicago, was exonerated by a grand jury which had the smarts to understand something about the economy but federal prosecutors wanting revenge harassed him until he toppled dead on a London subway platform in 1938. The only relic of his tenure is the magnificent Civic Opera Building built in his heyday, built in a shape of a throne…its back to the East, facing West, serving as a rebuff to New York (when it was built Insull had just begun to face the scorn of Wall Street bankers).

John McCain feels he must blast Wall Street to get elected. But what should happen after election and the rhetoric cools? The astute prescription for the next president…if he were to be McCain (who when his short-fused temper abates can be remarkably reasonable)…is to eschew slapping even more heavy regulations on the Street, cut taxes, in fact slash corporation taxes and…face it…reduce taxes on capital gains to zero. Among the true “reforms” would be to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, the act that resulted from the last wave of anti-Wall Street witch burning after Enron. Is it not enough for 15 executives of Enron to go to jail, the former CEO (Jeff Skilling, the brother of Chicago’s most famous TV weatherman Tom) to be jailed for 20 years?

Overkill consumed Sarbanes-Oxley even as it gained Bush’s signature—overkill that punishes innovation. Example: Texas Instruments developed the silicon transistor, beginning at a modest $27 million in 1950 could never have amounted to the $9 billion company it is today. How did it do it? By taking the route Sarbanes-Oxley has made illegal today. Texas Instruments didn’t launch an IPO. It didn’t have the resources to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It instituted what it called a “reverse merger.” It found a rubber company which wasn’t doing well, had survived tough times but still was listed on the NYSE. It bought it and muscled its way on the NYSE and the rest is history. It couldn’t do this now due to “Sarbanes Oxley.” Now most of the mergers have to go over the counter and the law frowns even on that transaction. Sarbanes-Oxley has raised overall costs of operating as a public company by 130%, has added 30,700 man hours for each firm, adding $5 million to the costs of all Fortune 100 firms.

Another reform which will not garner huge headlines from the liberal mainstream would be to repeal the so-called “mark-to-market” rules for long-term assets. Killing “mark-to-market” is a mania of trendy liberal regulators akin to fighting a fire by dousing it with gasoline. It works like this. Suppose you buy a house for $350,000 and take out a $250,000 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Your income is more than required to easily handle the payments. But under the mark-to-market rules, your bank could call you up and say that if yuour house had to be sold immediately, it would fetch…let us say…$200,000 in a distressed sale. It could then inform you that you owe $250,000 on your house worth only $200,000 and please pay the $50,000 immediately or else lose the house. That’s what’s happening today with the result that the crisis can feed on itself. The next president should insist the SEC to change these rules.

But commonsense proposals like these are verboten in today’s political climate due to Political Econ: 101. And if McCain wants to be trounced as heavily as was Barry Goldwater in 1964 he will shut up about true reform. He can top Obama who is antithetical to the market overall by understanding that Alan Greenspan (whom McCain once thought so highly of he said if Greenspan were dead he’d prop him up on the Fed Reserve chairman’s chair anyhow) and Ben Bernanke created massive amounts of excess liquidity. He might…just might…announce that his major goal is to strengthen the dollar, declare that the Fed’s goal for gold is about $500 an ounce which would stabilize the buck. He should suggest the rewriting of our tax laws so there are no disadvantages to a U. S. company acquiring an overseas competitor and instead advocate creating an incentive for our firms to make acquisitions so this country can once again become the repository of executive talent around the world. He should espouse the flat tax—the most pro-growth simplification possible that would tax capital at a single flat rate.

Will he do this in the first presidential debate next week (from this writing?). I think not. Both will still be playing Political Econ: 101. And if you think this is the debasement of our once great political dialogue, remember that in 1800 Jefferson’s team called John Adams a jackass and in 1860 Lincoln’s opponents termed him an “outside gorilla.”

And Finally…

Add this to the political equation. A poll conducted with Stanford University and reported by the Associated Press shows the percentage of voters who turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between candidates Bush and Kerry in 2004—2.5%. “More than a third of all white Democrats and independents—voters Obama can’t win the White House without—agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks,” according to the survey.

And all this time liberal Democrats have been excoriating Republicans for being backward on race.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Personal Aside: What We Have Here May Lead to a Repudiation of the Establishment…Leading to a More Conservative U. S. in the Long-Run.

Let this octogenarian tell you:

Ever since prosperity hit the U. S., following the up-cycle in the Kennedy years, the so-called Establishment of the United States has drifted…first slowly, then more fiercely…culturally liberal. This would have had a greater effect on the nation’s politics than exists today but for the foolish tax and regulative policies of the Democrats. The Reagan years came and went without much change in the culture. No better exemplar of the dichotomy was Nancy Reagan who has always been pro-abort but kept her mouth shut during her husband’s tenure. With Barbara Bush the same and indeed Laura Bush the same. The result has been that the establishment consensus…and indeed political conservatism… of today is far-far less conservative than that of the past.

At one time it could be said…roughly from the end of World War I to 1960…that the leading cultural indicators—big business, Main street business, mainstream churches, the arts, foundations, the universities…were generally resistant to change for frivolity’s sake, believing when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary NOT to change. In the 1950s when I was working in Minnesota as a journalist, staffer for the Republican party, staffer for two congressmen and a governor, it could be said that the establishment of that state…big business, Main street, mainstream churches, the arts, the universities…may have been more Democratic party oriented than I would like but which was still supportive of convention, sexual and otherwise. The same when I moved to Illinois, served as an officer of a giant corporation and involved myself in Republican politics as a volunteer. Charles Percy was the first to break the code to trendy liberalism.

The Unmooring of Convention.

With prosperity of the Sixties, liberalism…including attempts to unmoor convention…became the ideology of the privileged largely through the affluent knowledge sector—emphasis on research rather than mechanical production with expansion of university fellowships, foundation grants to supposedly cure poverty and think tanks, all resulting in sale of knowledge rather than manufactured products… with banks, insurance companies and stock brokerage houses becoming more “knowledge-oriented” through computers and rudimentary information systems. Dollars flowed and as with the age-old stories in the Bible and elsewhere, laxity and comfort followed…often accompanied by a sickening effeminacy of males.

This I call the “Post-Industrial Revolution,” every bit as formidable as the Industrial Revolution. Old style conservative bastions turned culturally liberal, then politically so: Back Bay, Boston; the East Side of Manhattan; Scarsdale, New York; Shaker Heights, Ohio; suburban San Francisco; Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka and Lake Forest in Cook and Lake with “enlightened” attitudes about abortion, gay rights, entertainment. Marijuana, capital punishment and pornography.

Churches including my own Catholic one followed suit toward “toleration.” One perfumed-fingered Italianate cardinal devised a rationale to winnow down the issue of abortion to one-in-three for which he was praised by Democrats grateful for his service…his funeral serenaded by the Gay Men’s chorus whose voices conducted him to what could be imagined a sacrilegious oblivion. Another perfumed-fingered cardinal has hidden from his fellows a document written by Ratzinger that counseled clerics to deny the Eucharist to pro-abort Catholic pols…and has gotten away with it sans rebuke from Rome. Annulments for bad marriage choices were granted wholesale in my church, making it strange to reflect that had Thomas More lived today, he who opposed Henry VIII’s divorces so he lost his head on the scaffold, might have easily avoided the confrontation with the axe if an annulment for Henry were provided via the local bishop to Rome—as, certainly has been done for Ted Kennedy and John Kerry et al where contributions to archdioceses from generous families did the trick.

In all these things involving the unmooring of convention, prosperity leading to laxity changed the establishment greatly. I would not be truthful if I did not say that I played a minor role withal in furtherance of liberalism as a mental disorder. I was the one who certified active government-led discrimination in winning congressional approval for 8(a) involving affirmative action in behalf of minority firms when white firms bargaining in good faith were turned aside…done to enable my own Republican party to benefit from a bargaining for black votes. Of this I freely confess—(and have confessed more formally, believe me). At the same time the standards for candidates for the presidency disintegrated.

Where once the defender of conservatism was Robert Taft, a distinguished son of a president and outstanding legalist, we gravitated to others of lesser stature. His successor as conservative leader was Barry Goldwater whose fame rested on a best-selling book ghosted by another—a book to which he scarcely devoted sufficient time to riffle its pages. Ronald Reagan was a political natural…and I spent a number of hours with him prior to his election one-on-one…but in no sense was he a thinker or legislative craftsman as was Taft nor did he pretend to be.

Compared to the days when the Senate thrilled to hardy heroes—Taft, the sage Eugene Milliken of Colorado, Harry Byrd of Virginia, Richard Russell, the young Hubert Humphrey, William Proxmire of Wisconsin, Tom Connally of Texas—the denizens of that body seem pallid indeed, not much more than plaster people cosmeticized by handlers. Indeed even when I sat in the gallery during lunch break from the House, I saw LBJ running the Senate out of his back pocket with feats of miraculous parliamentary, Everett Dirksen his sometime ally and sometime rival trying to confound him with purple prose, Humphrey, the studious Paul Douglas…all are replaced by plastic men and women with p.r. talking points emblematic of Chuck Schumer. Indeed, the only one in recent times who was worthy to sit in those chambers has voluntarily left because his own party’s state chairman declined to back him since she was busily engaged in selling him out—Peter Fitzgerald. The state chairman became the Republican nominee for governor and enlightened us all with low rent remarks about her own proclivity to flatulence on the road.

Barack Obama is, to all who know him (and I was first to interview him on my radio program) a testament to this political decadence. He may be smart but no one can determine this since he matriculated from the Harvard I knew earlier as a Kennedy Fellow in 1977—an institution geared to affirmative action stemming from white guilt. That he was president of the “Harvard Law Review” has little meaning because Harvard has been so embroiled in the affirmative action device. It is common knowledge among employers when they seek to fulfill their employment quota with so-called Harvard lawyers, often they have to direct paralegals to translate briefs into English. Obama is better than that, has manufactured an attitude of cool…but how good is he?

What IS known is that he has not come forth during his law school days or since with any intellectual premise of the law. The course he taught at the University of Chicago was a sham as none other than Antonin Scalia has implied—Poverty and the Law, or some variant. His career in the law has been slight, pushed upward by those who recognized his wish to be elected and to say or do anything to achieve that end. His community organizer status was inconsequential; his community didn’t show any change from his work. His state senate career was un-auspicious. One can be forgiven if he concludes that Obama is an affirmative action candidate whose intellect is as paper-thin as his resume.

Prosperity and the seduction of the establishment to a vapid liberalism has seen the decline of our polity as reflected by Obama. It was caused by an avalanche of money garnered to those who shape market ideas and information to which the news media itself have become pivotal…those who largely have neglected the Judeo-Christian verities and have turned to other gods including mere celebrity. Prosperity made the knowledge elite of the Sixties produce for our country an era of ferment. One can easily demonstrate the debasement of public taste by art—but we don’t have to go to the art galleries to demonstrate.

Let’s just look at late night TV. In the 1950s Jack Parr matched wits not just with actor guests but with thinkers and leading purveyors of thought like Marshall McLuhan. His successor on “Tonight” was Johnny Carson an original and brilliant comic whose invention of the “Mighty Carson Art Players” ranked with the finest comedic examples of the American stage. HIS successor, the under-slung flap-jawed Massachusetts motorcyclist fancier Jay Leno by no means a witty commentator, just a flack for his writers who seems to try to titillate with scatalogy the loose-limbed African American guitar player purportedly representing Everyman, slouching in the band. And HIS successor will be Conan O’Brien who is a throwback to frat house sophomorics.

Post-Industrialism caused by such prosperity has seen this country decline in many ways. Johnson’s War on Poverty (sic) was one; his lack of nerve on Vietnam another. Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon when terrorists struck another. George H. W. Bush’s failure to pursue the Iraq War to the legitimate end another. Clinton’s mishandling of Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae leading to the cynical drive to encourage people who do not know how to save to buy houses another. The despicable Republican-prompted ala good ol’ Denny Hastert avalanche of spending in its congresses another. Now the markets are righting themselves from decades of excess. The pain will be much more painful to this country than an enema but may have the same effect—driving out the drivel…along with some good…to set this country right again. A chastened, sharply shriveled Establishment may react in time to understand that the far wiser choice for the presidency is John McCain…or it may not.

But anything that rebukes the present system of the Establishment will be beneficial—a system where sociologists have replaced carpenters, p. r. gurus truck drivers, analysts those who work with their hands, computer programs wheelwrights. Let the purgatorial fires burn but in the end it will be better for the United States of America which is too young to die because of decadence and depravity brought on by licentious and often unearned wealth.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Personal Aside: It’s Not the End of Our Economic World. And If It Were, Obama Wouldn’t be Elected.

Watching Barack Obama orate on the disintegration of the U. S. economy gives me an unique shiver of pleasure that (pace Chris Matthews) runs down my leg. The only way this Harvard and University of Chicago faculty lounge denizen cum community organizer can capture the presidency is NOT through a crisis. Give us a small scale dash of unemployment and the right concoction of events, well, possibly in a stretch yes. But not what some say is an economic meltdown. Any more than he can triumph from a terrific foreign policy crisis.

The American voter was entranced with his coolness (although that is fast fading with his hot anti-McCain rhetoric), wonders how it would be to have him as president in the same way it fantasizes over how it would be to have him as a son-in-law…but definitely does not want to take a chance when the economy is supposedly going down the chute or we are eyeball to eyeball with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And no, it’s not because Obama is black. Gen. Colin Powell running on either party label could easily win against McCain or anyone else hands down. It is the callowness of this young half-first termer that denies him a huge bump—the public realizing …as the mainstream media do not…that his resume is thin because he hasn’t done much in his 47 years to show he can run anything except to gin up the motor on his unbridled ambition for elective office.

What is being brayed by Obama as an economic crisis isn’t. Sure Wall Street is scared witless. Sadly, both Obama AND McCain are touting awful populist bromides. Obama the opportunist can’t be expected to use restraint but, frankly friends, I thought McCain was above this stuff.

The crisis goes essentially like this. Suppose a family wants a $100,000 mortgage. It goes to the bank and gets the $100,000, naturally. But in the financial world, the same family would borrow its $100,000 from Western Global Insecurities. Global Western Insecurities sells $100,000 bonds to Horrid, Gamble and Squeeze Brothers which would by it with $100,000 loaned from Jitters & Tremble, the prime broker which would raise the dough through Venal & Gobble Interbank…and so on. In that way a $100,000 mortgage has created $500,000 of new debt.

Assuredly a collapse would mean the system would contract like an accordion but not so and all those dependent jobs are vanishing like a snow-cone in July. We can see already…past Monday…that nothing remotely like what Obama is touting happened. The Dow rose, did it not. Hank Paulson, having saved Bear-Stearns and bailing out Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, hunkered down and said no to Lehman Brothers. But he and Ben Bernanke have agreed to keep the Fed window open so anemic banks can get a transfusion. He muscled a group of 10 unwilling banks to cough up $70 billion to keep clients afloat and the SEC is handling transfer of customers’ assets to other banks from Lehman. The lesson is not populism of lectures from McCain or Obama on Wall Street “greed.” Treasury has already served notice that banks piling up $30 of debt per $1 of equity can’t count on Uncle to bail them out anymore.

So it is time for the newly heated up man (once cool), Obama to return to his original temperature. Growth in the second quarter was 3.6; there are signs the housing market is finding its level (Greenspan talking of its bottoming out by year’s end); prices are falling less drastically, some are even rising in certain cities; sales of new homes are—lookit here—exceeding rate of new construction.

In short: Time for Obama to lighten up and McCain…whose initial reassurance that the fundamentals of the economy are sound (a correct and courageous call) to stop trying to counter Obama by putting on a bad impression of William Jennings Bryan.

Monday, September 15, 2008


However GOP Could Win the Campaign but Lose the Election
With No “Ground Game.”

By Thomas F. Roeser

CHICAGO—Why, oh why, asks Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer, who supports John McCain, did McCain pick Sarah Palin and shatter his argument that Barack Obama is the inexperienced one…especially when, during the GOP convention, McCain was within only a few points of Obama in the polls and Mitt Romney would have solidified the seasoning argument plus add the likelihood of carrying Michigan? By picking Palin, Krauthammer wrote, McCain sacrifices the experience issue he has heretofore commanded and taken a chance on losing the key battleground state of Michigan which is essential to any Republican electoral college victory.

The Need for a Good Ground Game.

A good point, one which I shared at the time of the Palin picking…but when I held that view, my 40 years of strategizing as a Republican operative in two states failed me. Romney’s sagacity as a brilliant expositor of the economy and his almost sure-fire knack of carrying Michigan (a key battleground state) would have been indispensable in a normal year…but this one militated for something vastly different. The Republicans are almost bereft of expertise in what we political types call “the ground game” which the Democrats have over us superlatively. And what is the ground game?

In short, political organization—the volunteers essential for tasks that need to be performed by many thousands…even millions across the country…to see that those who want to elect the Republican ticket are (a) registered to vote, (b) continually motivated with literature, bumper stickers, yard signs etc., (c) reminded to get out to vote on election day with (d) those who are physically indisposed to vote absentee—is almost nonexistent in a GOP that cannot rely on armies of union workers hitting the streets. Republicans—even partisans—are famous for disdaining get-out-the-vote activities. That kind of work is only done in the Republican party by ideologically-committed followers aka evangelicals. John McCain has never been the choice of evangelicals. In 2004 a massive get-out-the-vote drive was run by Karl Rove. The White House can’t be involved so such an extent now with George W. Bush not running and the GOP brand tainted by heavy congressional-White House spending. So while McCain and Obama were knife-edge close in polling during the conventions, poll numbers do not by themselves supply the motivation for Republicans to show up at the polls.

Ergo, McCain saw he had to rev up the conservative base and tossed a long down-the-field pass to a youthful woman governor, baptized a Catholic but led by her parents to the Assembly of God church, she then abandoning it for generic evangelical churches. Because Sarah Palin is a perfect 10 on pro-life, maintained by her insistence on going ahead with the birth of her Down Syndrome child number 5, her support of home schooling, her fierce endorsement of the 2nd amendment, moreover a hunter who knows how to dress an antelope for her dinner table, a fisherman, Bible-reading near literalist, supporter of Intelligent Design being taught side-by-side with evolution in public schools, a fierce proponent of voluntary prayer being returned in public schools McCain, a kind of wishy-washy Episcopalian cum Baptist, decided that as good as Romney is on the economy he cannot stimulate the grassroots to such paroxysms of enthusiasm as does Palin. I think he’s right and the Palin pick was a stroke of genius…an insight that didn’t come to McCain from his staff but from his instinct as a poker player—a hunch which occurred to him alone.

Thrown for a loop by the Palin nod, Obama headquarters issued a statement that was folly—charging that their candidate has more managerial experience since his presidential campaign has more employees than Palin had as mayor of Wasilla: an odd comparison since Palin has moved on to become governor of Alaska with a stunning 82% favorability. Obama immediately disowned his staff’s statement. Then Obama followed up by disowning his earlier Saddleback interview with evangelical pastor Rick Warren where, when asked when life begins he responded that the answer was above his pay grade, saying rightly that his answer was flip. Meanwhile, his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) went on “Meet the Press” to aver that life indeed begins at conception and that as a Catholic he is morally bound to accept that fact (putting himself at sharp odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) but that he is loath to “impose my view on others,” a weak, shilly-shallying.

Dems’ Inability to Sell Themes.

Never before have I seen the Democratic party…which I alternately covered as a journalist or faced as a GOP strategist in two states since 1955…with greater natural advantages. Eighty percent of Americans feel the U.S. is on the wrong track. Yet it can’t satisfactorily close the argument—and it is not because it has a black candidate. Why this is I will answer shortly…but for now consider the Democratic campaign narrative and you will see why it is failing to evoke response in significant quarters of the public. Democratic Theme No. 1 is that McCain equals Bush. That is unconvincing when one considers the spectacular infighting both have waged with each other on many issues since 2000. Ergo: the theme doesn’t fly.

Democratic Theme No. 2 is that Sarah Palin has a thin resume which should shock people if she were put within a heartbeat away from the presidency. Thin resume for the presidency certainly next to Dwight Eisenhower a 5-star general of the army and Ronald Reagan, a 2-term governor of California but not when contrasted to most other presidential candidates. It’s instructive to note that possessor of one of the best resumes for president in the 20th century was Herbert Hoover, self-made multi-millionaire, food czar in World War I who saved millions from famine, innovative commerce secretary at time of great 1920s prosperity but who became, arguably, the worst president of our time by worsening the Depression’s effects.

Also, here the Democratic narrative contradicts the longstanding Democratic argument for women’s rights. There have been replete instances in modern history of stay-at-home moms joining the fray and exceeding their resumes—notably Nancy Pelosi, Madeleine Albright and Geraldine Ferraro…even Hillary Clinton… whom the Democrats have repeatedly celebrated. Compared to them, Palin has exceeded at her age spectacularly—having negotiated a natural gas pipeline with not just the oil companies but Canadian, federal, provincial and Inuit governments. This in fact is far more experience than Barack Obama has compiled. Ergo here again the theme doesn’t fly.

Democratic Theme No. 3 deals with the economy which truly seems fragile today…even though it grew by 3.3% during the last quarter (which mainstream media largely ignored). A legitimate issue but while Obama proscribes tax cuts for the middle class, he wants tax hikes for the wealthy, a throwback to his party’s William Jennings Bryan demagoguery of punishing the successful. Indeed tax hikes on the wealthy was Herbert Hoover’s solution which he made at the onset of the Great Depression—and the idea is slowing dawning on the blue-collar lunch-bucket crowd that raising taxes in a near-recession is no way to meet the economic emergency. He is pushing redistribution, telling Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that the very rich should find it “neighborly” to take a tax hit so that a low-paid waitress can benefit from a tax cut…to which opponents of redistribution say the low-paid waitress cannot hire anyone but the wealthy restaurant owner can.

Not surprisingly in this economic climate, Obama and the Democrats haven’t been able to sell the idea of refundable tax credits (payments to those who pay no income taxes) and a massive national health care program because of public—even Democratic in some quarters—skepticism. Ergo: incredibly the Democrats’ supposed biggest issue is sputtering despite the fact that the economy that is in Republican hands is sputtering as well.

GOP’s Themes Selling Surprisingly.

In contrast, Republican themes under McCain-Palin seem to be thriving incredibly by Republicans running against the Republican-led government and its excesses. Republican Theme No. 1 which should be the Dems’ major one, the Iraq War has been seemingly converted into a net plus because the surge is successful and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly got Obama to acknowledge that contrary to Obama’s original view the surge “is working beyond our wildest dreams”…although Obama still insists he was right to oppose the Iraq War. Yet when he opposed it, Obama was in the Illinois state legislature—and since he joined the Congress has supported its funding. Obama now argues it is safe to leave, which he has long supported but the issue of the war seems to have lost its original zip and has been converted by Republicans to a bare plus for McCain’s so-called prescience. McCain also has been seemingly spared from anti-Bush, anti-war assaults because he severely criticized both Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for their early mismanagement of the war.

Republican Theme No.2 is McCain’s harnessing of consumer anger at having to pay $4 a gallon for gasoline blaming Democrats for resisting more offshore drilling…with Palin likely to convince McCain to change his historic opposition to ANWR drilling. Nancy Pelosi is falling back from her party’s old quasi-religious opposition to drilling.

Republican Theme No. 3 is McCain’s success at capitalizing on conservatism’s old time religion, abandoned under George W. Bush, lower spending, no earmarks, tax cuts for all to stimulate investment and lessened regulations on business…these tied closely to opposition to inside the beltway mores which gravitate to the failure of the last Republican congress with its winking at episodes like Cong. Mark Foley’s attempted propositioning of young male House pages.

Worries about the Oldest President in Office.

A senior citizen myself, I am stunned to see the 72-year-old McCain so hale and hearty rocketing around the country…a man who has been badly abused physically in his 5-year POW confinement and who has had at least two cancer scares. He suffers from degenerative arthritis and limited arm movement, has had cancerous skin spots removed including an invasive melanoma from his left temple in 2000. He has suffered kidney stones and benign colon polyps and received treatment for an enlarged prostate in 2001. But the pace he is under is savage leading him to tell the Washington Post “if I put in three or four 18 hour days in a row, then I’m not sharp. It’s just a fact. I can be sharp if I can get a little more rest.” He has not had a mental acuity test in eight years.

That’s why what worries me about McCain is not physical. At his age..and for all of us in his bracket…dimming mental acuity carries risk. Twenty-two percent of Americans 72 years old are affected by mild cognitive impairment, a decline in brain function that causes memory loss and can lead to dementia. Ronald Reagan’s last years in office (he was just shy of his 78th birthday when he stepped down) did not match his early years, especially when it was shown that he was apparently (but maybe not) unaware of clandestine efforts within the White House that encouraged middlemen to arrange for sale of grossly overcharged arms to Iran, a fourth of the profits going to aid the Nicaraguan contras in violation of a congressional act that banned all U.S. help.

All presidential candidates young and old make verbal gaffes (Obama said he visited all 57 states in the Union, called Israel a great friend of Israel and confused which concentration camp his uncle helped liberate in World War II). But more attention is focused on McCain because of his age…on gaffes like ignoring the former Czechoslovakia’s current status as the Czech Republic, his statement that Iraq borders Pakistan (it’s Afghanistan) and that Gen. David Petraeus regularly drives in an unarmored Humvee around Baghdad (he most certainly does not). The latter was probably pure rhetorical invention but all the same neuroscientists have identified a phenomenon in the elderly that they call confabulation, or the pleasure of false beliefs.

Ronald Reagan exercised this when he told a traveling press corps that two-thirds of pollution comes from trees giving off natural gases which led press secretary Jim Brady, a Reagan friend but comic, to warn the press about “killer trees.” Confabulation takes untrue “facts” and wrapping them around like a shroud, giving to himself what is called “the pleasantness of false beliefs.” The McCain report of Gen. Petraeus driving in an open car may have been one of these. In any event, it’s a worry for Republicans and all Americans but nothing can be done about it.

A Rorty Worry for the Democrats.

If we have to pray hard that a President McCain will stay healthy, physically and mentally at 72, there are many things that can and should be done by the Democrats to shore up their party. For if Republicans win this election (at this writing McCain is 10 points ahead of Obama) despite all the advantages Democrats have going for them, that party should take serious cognizance of how far their candidates have deviated philosophically from the essence of contemporary America.

Democrats appear not just to be too liberal but too imbued with the intellectual legacy of a prime University of Chicago philosopher who seems to have had subliminal influence on Barack Obama and many of his generation. Richard Rorty who died in 2007 was a major postmodernist philosopher who taught that objective truth is unknowable…and so all wise men must pursue purely pragmatic goals. His teaching may be dense to read but its flavor predominates the faculty lounges of Chicago, Harvard, Wellesley, Princeton and the University of Virginia. I encountered it at Harvard where I taught 31 years ago. It is brim-full in the liberal Democratic party and in the elite sectors of the media.

The Democrats should worry because it is cresting with Obama, manifesting itself in his conversations with Rick Warren at Saddleback. It is not acceptable to American voters at this point in time. Lest you think that Rorty was a passive thinker, focus now on a statement he made shortly before his death which is the epitome of liberal arrogance. “The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire ‘American liberal establishment is engaged in a conspiracy.’ The parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots [sic] than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students. We are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.” [Italics mine].

Intentionally or not, the dominant liberal wing of the Democratic party has substituted the “we know better than you” for what was the so-called party of the workingman of my youth.

If McCain-Palin win, overcoming all that is against them, it is this Rorty thinking in the Democratic party stemming from its left wing intelligentsia that will be responsible. Thus the Democrats have a bigger worry than Republicans with McCain…if they will only recognize it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Personal Aside: Déjà vu Throwback ala Palen-Charlie …Huh? A President Obama Couldn’t Handle the Clintons?...All Hail to Justice Burke.

Sorry, Charlie.

As a visiting fellow at Oxford’s Saint John’s College in 1978, I was given the opportunity to observe from behind a screen a student in final examination at tutorial. Stunningly for me, I had never before seen such a throwback to old medieval student-tutor relationship as the student sat deferentially on a chair before his don while the professor, glasses perched on the tip of his nose cracked not a smile and at least once where I was aware sought to trap his quarry in a nonsensical roundelay concerning John Milton. By this comparison the tutorial of Gov. Sarah Palin run by ABC’s Charles Gibson was benign. But we have the word of Charles Krauthammer who himself defined the so-called “Bush Doctrine” that there are four of them not one as tutor Gibson insisted—so by that Oxford measure the student who asked for clarification should be given full credit. Not so from the “New York Times” editorial board Saturday morning. Not so also from Lynn Sweet of the “Sun-Times” who is smart enough to avoid the Bush Doctrine pitfall the “Times” editorial plunged into and politically sagacious enough to spin a story wherein she can cause Palin and the Republicans some trouble.

I have pointed out as one who has seen some brilliant journalists perform since the 1930s…Westbrook Pegler, George Sokolsky et al… that I think Sweet is a great journalist in their tradition but particularly of the late George Tagge of the “Tribune” and George Rothwell Brown of the Hearst papers, whose astuteness in politics were unmatched by pols of their day. Tagge was first a reporter who would not allow his ideology to prevent him from a story. In essence that means that if he came upon a story showing that Robert A. Taft was a charlatan or thief, Tagge would report it straight without fear or favor no matter what his conservative overlords…including Col. Robert R. McCormick, the then autocratic editor and publisher…might say or do—even including the possibility he might be fired. That is what endeared George to me. But his Machiavellian astuteness won my admiration. As with Brown who was a very powerful advocate of his boss’ interests in Democratic conventions as in 1932 when Hearst, a presidential wanna-be, feinted with the idea of supporting John Garner against FDR.

It has taken me a long time to figure out that Lynn Sweet is a superlative journalist in the Pegler, Sokolsky and Brown—but most of all George Tagge mode. As was George she is an ideologue and tailors her dispatches with the end in mind of partisan victory. As with George she knows a great deal more of the political process than many of the Democratic campaign staffers she covers. He knew the temper of the times…the attitudes of the then prevalent interest groups, the prejudices of the then big donors. She knows all this plus image-building and the efficacy of YouTube spots to a sharp appreciation of the “ground game,” the process by which voters are importuned with propaganda, registered, further motivated and excited…even transported…to get to the polls so that the total liberal Democratic victory she idealizes is attained. And like George she knows full well how to use her dispatches to sow confusion to her enemies. George once circulated the notion that Adlai Stevenson was insufficiently liberal—citing his anti-civil rights views—so as to dissuade his liberal supporters in his ranks.

Lynn in Saturday’s paper circulated the notion that she dearly hopes will weaken Sarah Palin with her passionate followers—recognizing a Saturday paper is largely unread but a chance worth taking anyhow. First, the idea…soon to be cultivated by late night talk show hosts Leno and Letterman to whom conservatives are congenitally stupid anyhow…that Palin is dumb by which Sweet insinuates the governor mixed up entitlements with federal agencies—not readily perceived from the transcript since it was obvious Palin the Gibson quarry was just trying to change the subject but: ah, but that’s just a throw-away ploy. T

The BIG almost ingeniously dialogic insinuation generated by Sweet is that Palin is only a so-so social conservative, one whose support of key issues is weak-kneed. Coiled comfortably, Sweet emits the coyly divisive suggestion with a purr that says the interview could be interpreted to mean “that a Vice President Palin was not going to crusade for the hot-button social issues of abortion, embryonic stem cell research and homosexuality.” This could weaken Palin with the right. In Sweet’s dreams. Absurd but worth trying. Where did she get this idea? Because Palin like all vice presidential candidates has to qualify her views “I personally” which began with John Adams since he ran into early trouble being seen to speak for George Washington, cognizant that a second in command cannot speak definitively for the president. And on the issue of homosexuality, Palin wisely eschewed delineation of the theologic issue, aware that in this culture it could be emblazoned as gay bashing. Thus Sweet smartly lofts this upward as a signal to the right that their candidate may betray them.

Not much chance that it will work, but then Lynn Sweet, advocacy journalist, is powered by a restless engine that knows no rest.

A Weak Presidency?

It is now perceived by many…including Democratic friends of mine…that Barack Obama may have made the fateful mistake of the campaign by failing to choose Hillary Clinton for vice president despite her winning 18 million votes…almost tying Obama. The reason given by Obama spokesmen off the record is that a President Obama would be distracted by a Vice President Hillary Clinton and an ex-President Bill Clinton padding around the White House. If so, this tells more about the president Obama would be than his advocates wish.

A president who is in charge should not have to worry about a vice president who is not in synch if the president is determined to run a tight ship. Lyndon Johnson was the most officious and power-mad official in modern times when Senate majority leader. As vice president who was not warmly received by the Kennedys, he was emasculated to the point that he was reduced to crying…literally…on the phone to Texas Congressman Albert Thomas that he—Johnson—was treated as an outcast, a person of no influence and who feared he would be dropped in 1964, The second most officious person in modern politics was someone I knew very well—Hubert Humphrey. Once LBJ got wind of the fact that Hubert was not on his wavelength on Vietnam, Johnson cut off his water and did not include him in the Tuesday luncheons where the key foreign policy decisions were made. So far as Bill Clinton is concerned, all a president has to do about an ex- is to issue an order that he is not to have an office in the White House and is not to use vice presidential offices as his own—period.

It’s my guess that the failure to add Hillary to the ticket even risking a loss in November, stemmed less from jealousy than worry that a very-very soft Obama would feel threatened by her and her husband—which tells us much about the wispy poetical presidential candidate who may turn out to be the worst choice a racially guilt-ridden, 1960s radic-lib addle pated, lovesick-puppy party could have made.

Justice Ann.

Straight, uncompromising talk from Justice Anne Burke is one of the most refreshing things about her. Last week a book was published containing the Justice’s views of the current situation at the Chicago archdiocese. Although the book is written by a very liberal Catholic…far more so than I…and perhaps Justice Burke herself is more dedicated to more far-reaching changes in Catholicism than I personally would like (although I don’t know this to be true)...I revere her this side idolatry because of the courageous leadership she exhibited as interim head of the National Review Board. Note my use of the word INTERIM. Because she determined not to be rolled by some august, fragranced pols in miters who sought to cover up ptheir disgraceful roles of commission and, drawing from our daily prayer at Mass, “what I have failed to do” she was never made chairman of that body.

But nevertheless she was a great leader and took the case right to the door of the Vatican where the mealy-mouthed “leaders” of the USCCB feared for repercussions.

I will not yield to any my love for this Church but like my friend Bobby Novak who joined it a few years ago, I feel that one major claim to its divinity is that no human institution can survive the carnage of venality, carnality, lies and duplicity for 2000 years unless it was supernaturally sanctioned. At the same time that bishops and faithless priests sold indulgences and traduced its traditions, saints like Francis of Assisi and John of the Cross appeared and saved souls—an artery of spirituality extending to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. At separate times in the history of the Church we had (1) large scale disbelief within the clergy, running amok in many cases principally caused by bishops either too irresolute to act or actively disinclined to; (2) corruption of the papacy (with the exception that no holder of the office ever misled the laity on matters of faith and morals, an exemplification of its divinity) and (3) heresy. Today we have (1) and (3) which is better than (1), (2) AND (3). Those who don’t want to consider this are usually those bishop-curators who adore the chances to say “yes, Eminence,” “no Your Excellency.” Self-blinded courtiers of the episcopacy do this Church no favors.

Anne Marie Burke has been a strong force for bishopric accountability. She can tell a liar--especially an ecclesial one. Those who think they defend the Church by seeking to hush up its reformers are gulling themselves and others and are hugely wrong.