As a visiting fellow at Oxfords Saint Johns 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 ABCs 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 insistedso 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 doeven 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 Brownbut 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
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 liberalciting his anti-civil rights viewsso as to dissuade his liberal supporters in his ranks.
Lynn in Saturdays paper circulated the notion that she dearly hopes will weaken Sarah Palin with her passionate followersrecognizing 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 agenciesnot readily perceived from the transcript since it was obvious Palin the Gibson quarry was just trying to change the subject but: ah, but thats 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 Sweets 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
on the phone to Texas Congressman Albert Thomas that heJohnsonwas 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 wellHubert 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 ownperiod.
Its 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 husbandwhich 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.
Straight, uncompromising talk from Justice Anne Burke is one of the most refreshing things about her. Last week a book was published containing the Justices 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 dont 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 soulsan 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 dont 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.