Friday, January 30, 2009

Personal Aside: Deservedly Kicked Out, Blago Has Still Performed Unintended Service.


He Spotlighted Illinois’ Fusion Politics.

Yesterday, to the exhilaration of Illinois, the nation, the Democratic and Republican parties, liberals and conservatives, men and women, and a massive majority of citizens (but evidently substantially more whites than blacks), this state’s 40th governor, Rod Blagojevich was kicked out of office, ending a road show of low comedy that tickled much of the nation and provided divergence from serious economic downturn.
Now we return to standard liberal governance—and a strong possibility that a fusion of Democrats and Republicans will use the episode to do what they always have done since the enactment of a state income tax under Richard Ogilvie: enact an income tax hike or a patchwork quilt of hikes rather than seriously prune government’s size. Gov. Pat Quinn has not ruled it off the table and few GOPers will help him with the hike, allowing the party’s 2010 Republican nominee to crusade against it. On the Democratic side, Speaker Mike Madigan obviously hopes a tax hike will pass and obviate his step-daughter’s having to pass one later.

But, while it has been bawdy comedy, of itself the Blago-drama has been no tragedy. Until the fed disclosures on tape, the real catastrophe has been the behind-the-scenes longstanding fusion politics that has deprived the state of governance resembling the Reagan Revolution.
The bright side is now this: it has shown clearly the linkage between the two parties that has preempted conservative politics in Illinois. The Republican party since Ogilvie—but particularly since James Thompson—has largely been run by the same venal group as controls Dems: soulless what’s-in-it-for-me?-types hooked on getting a bigger piece of the pie on jobs, contracts and power jobs.

That’s the GOOD aspect of this whole thing. Again: the tale of the tapes…and more to come out during the federal trial leading to a denouement at least two years down the road…will continue to focus on the now undeniable truth: But this burlesque has an up-side. Blago’s debacle spotlights Illinois decadent fusion politics, the amalgam of bipartisan dealings that deprived this state of any responsible two-party advocacy not to mention the foreclosure to the people of Illinois of anything like the Reagan Revolution that has benefited other states. Big Jim, Little Jim and Old George as well as one-tough-mama Judy Baar Topinka, never allowed this sunlight to show through.
The Future? Some Options.

What’s likely to happen in state Democratic politics now? Answer: The two Democratic patriarchs who run all government here…distrustful and envious of each other but nevertheless handcuffed together in a survival pact of convenience…have already determined the future. Mayor Richard M. Daley and House Speaker Mike Madigan believe they have cut a deal with the new governor, ersatz Ralph Nader populist, Quinn, to support a substantial tax hike. It will pass this heavily Democratic legislature.

This will be hugely unpopular with the voters (although not the largely supine liberal media) but Daley and Madigan are sure Quinn can ride it through. Fresh money will fill the state coffers for a future ascension of Madigan’s step-daughter Lisa, run for governor. Quinn’s price for compliance is this: he will support an unpopular tax hike as urgently necessary IF Lisa stays out of the 2010 primary so he can run with a unified party.

He seems to have secured that promise…but political promises like these have perilously short shelf lives. For now there seems to be agreement: Lisa Madigan, at age 43, the mother of two small kids, will have to wait. BUT Gov. Quinn can’t take any such promise made by Lisa or her cagey step-dad too seriously. The tax bill and any other rumbles that occur may damage Quinn’s popularity. He has always been regarded coolly by Democratic regulars. If his numbers start to tumble following the tax hike and the Democratic brand starts to look tattered (especially with the unexciting candidacy of Sen. Roland Burris on the ticket), Quinn shouldn’t be surprised to see Lisa and her enigmatic pop reconsider. especially if the party’s attractive state treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, gets itchy and decides to get in.
Is Blago Really Nuts?

Yes-yes-yes. As a Democratic governor with a Democratic House, Democratic Senate and a favorable Daley-Madigan cabal in his favor, all Blago had to do was show up and be guaranteed a placid term as head of one of the nation’s most powerful states. But here the defiant look-at-me publicity-driven Blago takes over. He sees a chance to make it to the Big Time (the presidency) by stabbing his father-in-law, Dick Mell, his party’s Speaker, his mayor and everyone else so as to generate national media attention as a Ken Doll media-type, challenging the system and riding the media to the White House. Crazy.
He fights in public with his father-in-law who wanted a token payback via an illegal landfill (a gentle “no” that could be done decorously, privately), going to the media, , using the old man as a piñata in his fight for “reform”—ruining family solidarity permanently.
Mell, disgraced for having no clout after all and having been made to look ridiculous in front of his machine friends, responds angrily by declaring to the media in pique that Blago’s no saint and has been rewarding campaign contributors with contracts and hires. Mell’s anger catches the attention of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the probe begins. Yes, crazy. How crazy can you be to make a public issue of slapping down the father-in-law, denying his dying mother-in-law the right to see her grandchildren…and to kick powerful Speaker Madigan in the slats, spurring retaliation which paralyzes the legislative process? Yes, very crazy.
Was the Media Road Show Nuts as Well?

No. Just risky. But not necessarily all that crazy. Not when you’re coming up against Patrick Fitzgerald who has the reputation of being able to convict a ham sandwich before any jury. Not at all when the odds are Blago might go up the river for more than 20 years. His goal with the media barrage and populist stunts to come is to influence the jury pool that he can swing one…ONE…juror from joining the rest for conviction. The system requires unanimous jury agreement on this. Chicago’s heavy liberal and minority community warrants Blago’s jury might have ONE jury member who for emotional and ideological reasons refuses to go along. A risk worthwhile, then.
Blago started his blitz concentrating heavily on black talk station WVON. Then, appearing on “Larry King Live!,” being interviewed by Diane Sawyer of CBS-TV, doing a one-on-one with ABC’s Barbara Walters and having his hair mussed on “The View” by Joy Behar, a flamboyant Italian ex-Catholic and radical feminist. Blago knew he was dead meat (a favorite term of John Kass) and would be kicked out of office but the only hope is that he can beat the fed criminal trial. See now how Blago plays the race angle. He says he considered Chicago’s Oprah Winfrey for the Senate—also WLS-TV’s Cheryl Burton. Not dumb from a cynical marketing standpoint. Remember soon after entering the governorship how George Ryan reversed all his old stands, taking several years of populist stands…to craft a new image of trendy liberalism to overshadow the sins of his secretary of state drivers’ license days? He had the jury pool in mind then several years down the road. He did these things: reversed his old militant stand on pro-life…reversed his old pro-death penalty stand and unilaterally commuted all inmates of death row from execution…went to Cuba to shake Fidel Castro’s stand and urge an end to sanctions against Cuba (the Hispanic vote)…got himself nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize to get the goo-goo vote.

It didn’t work but the chance was worth taking for Ryan. And of course if Blago’s emotion-charged issues work, he’d get off, get national attention and be ripe to write a book and do heavy honorarium speeches at $25,000 a pop…and craft a true Jimmy Stewart image—assailing politicians of both parties for wheeler-dealing. Might make all of us sick…but, no—not nuts at all.

How Valid is His “They All Do It!” Charge?
Terribly unfair to the many decent legislators of both parties who craft legislation on largely honorable terms. Terribly unfair when he seeks to capitalize on public ignorance of the process to imply what he has been caught saying on tape is part and parcel of every deal. Terribly so.

Yet, the fact is clear that since Richard Ogilvie, who gave us the income tax and an end to smaller government, smaller government, regulation reform and budget cutting has been deferred perpetually. Instead of grassroots politics for the GOP, it has been a 6th wheel in a largely liberal the alliance of big business, big unions and teachers’ unions. Result: fusion between Democrats and Republicans with back-scratching that preludes any real conservatism. This fusionism has linked some so-called Republicans with fund-raising for the Blago administration and resultant paybacks.
The question is: Is he brutally corrupt bargaining Blago outlines on tape what’s really going on? His campaign to prove it is can continue to gain him headlines for the two years he has to build up for his trial. My summation: fusion politics is as cynical as they come but not as bad as the tactics proposed by Blago himself.
Is “Talking Tough” on Tape Equivalent to Crime?
Could well be. Does merely “talking” deals that sound corrupt doesn’t correspond to corruption by him? He says no,. He’s wrong. Key provisions of criminal law deals with criminal conspiracy which consists of the following elements: an agreement between parties to achieve an unlawful objective…the defendant’s willingness to enter into the agreement and commit the offense…his knowledge of the illegal conspiracy and commission of an overt act—a mere one will do—to further the conspiracy.

Is Fitz Trying to Criminalize all Politics?

Political fusionists, lobbyists, flacks and officials of the two parties roll their eyes in mock dismay. Not because the ideas Blago tosses out are so preposterous—but much of what he alludes to is actively going on. I can tell you as a former lobbyist here and in Washington (until I retired in 1991) it wasn’t going on here such as he describes. But I was never a big-time player. I surmise those who are graduates of the Jim Thompson school of accommodation are aghast…not because they haven’t thought of or heard of these stratagems before…but because they recognize the devices that are played by themselves and their favorites through the years.
I can tell you that I was a key member of a governor’s staff in the so-called squeaky clean state of Minnesota and neither we nor the Democrats did what Blago chortles about on tape. I was an assistant commerce secretary and had to deal with the Congress to get my program for Republican Richard Nixon through a Democratic House and Senate. Some hard-nosed bargaining was done—but nothing…nothing…even remotely similar to what Blago describes. I was the chief lobbyist for the Peace Corps and number three in its hierarchy with the responsibility of getting my agency’s budget approved through a harshly anti-Nixon, heavily Democratic Congress. Again: nothing like that was even suggested or remotely occurred.

I was chief lobbyist for Quaker Oats dealing with Springfield, Chicago and Washington, D. C. and at least 15 other states. Nothing remotely like this occurred. BUT the toughest ethical struggle came in Chicago…and not with its government or pols but with Operation PUSH which was putting huge pressure on us to drop the Aunt Jemima brand because it had what Rev. Jesse Jackson considered an unattractive black face in favor of no face at all. Threats and actual tactics of extortion was tried which turned my hair to the grey it once was (before the whiteness it is now). What happened? I explain at the end of this article.

About the nature of politics in which I have participated and about which I have taught throughout the country. Naifs and so-called “reformers’ should know the difference between fair legislative bargaining and corruption. Remember this: The very nature of politics is SERVICE RENDERED IN ANTICIPATION OF FAVORS TO COME. The stated idea of hanging a “for sale” sign on a U. S. Senate seat, sending minions out to see contractors, telling them they can enrich themselves with state contracts if they pony up huge campaign donations…spells: THIS SENATE SEAT IS UP FOR SALE. PAY UP AND YOU MAY BE A SENATOR. See the difference?

Now as to Operation PUSH…

Thank God, Quaker gave me the sole right as a field general to approve or veto any deal affecting it. Still I will say, no big business mogul, no union boss, noChicago pol came close to what a churchman, the…ahem…Rev. Jesse Jackson did to extort material favors in return for not picketing our Aunt Jemima brand. With one eye on our reaction he would lead his army to chant, “Aunt Jemima, symbol of a southern slave, must go hey-hey!” There was a way…the Budweiser way…to placate this extortion. Not Quaker.

I told him: “Jesse, you’ve done a disservice to the black race, removing identifiable black faces that stand for culinary excellence—Uncle Ben of Uncle Ben’s Rice, the smiling dining car porter for Cream of Wheat. Instead of banning the last identifiable black face standing for culinary excellence in America, Aunt Jemima Pancakes, you should go to General Mills and petition them to make Betty Crocker black!”

Did we cave on Aunt Jemina?

Well, look at your grocer’s shelves. Aunt Jemima is still there, isn’t she? Black, chubby, joyous.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Personal Aside: On the Need for Pro-Abort Catholic Pols to Split—or Stay to the End and Wind Up on the Spit.


The Value of Owning Up.

In the bad old days of Emperor Nero, a Catholic unlucky enough to be caught at Mass in a catacomb was hauled before a sub-tyrant and told he had to renounce his faith. Many capitulated, as that is the human condition. But at least you knew that the weakling had good intentions but just wilted because of the pressure: so give him a C+. When you came upon an occasional hard-liner who would refuse to capitulate and was beheaded with his skull lifted up on a spike, you would say to yourself: “A true believer of masterly courage who must—must—be in heaven now.”

In some bad old days of the Renaissance, Dominican friar Tetzel announced that salvation is gained not by faith alone nor by good works alone but by money (accompanied or unaccompanied by virtue). The clink of a gold coin in his leather purse springs a soul from undergoing painful sand-blasting in Purgatory…the coinage he tottered back to Rome with, going to build Saint Peter’s. Nobody who protested this lost his head but until reform came, some suffered painful rupture with Rome. And if you were there, you would marvel at their refusal to bow to the interim clerical surplice authoritarianism.
We call them the bad old days but they brought out the iron in the soul, so to speak.

Having it Both Ways.

Nowadays, most—not all--Catholic politicians see no problem in having it both ways…trading on the Church in precincts where Catholics are numerous, to say “I am one of you”…and when it is inconvenient to hold the truths in the arena, shrug and say smilingly, there is no absolute truth. I would prefer a Catholic pol who says “this is what I believe and why,” unafraid of angering the secular multitude and losing his office. I would even respect one who says “I disagree with my Church and thus I am leaving her!” Refusing to claim the Catholic vote, saying “I am not with you on this issue.”
Henry Hyde and a handful of lawmakers whom I most admire…and of whom I forgive many other failings…took the first option declaring in the public square they are America’s servants but God’s first, in the words of Thomas More. I have reported and participated in political affairs for 56 years and thus far am not aware of anyone losing office or failing to gain office by making that commitment. But even if I knew such cases, the public official should be willing to lose his office (as did More). More went on to lose his head, which is not mandated of us…although to witness the cowardice of most Catholic politicians you would imagine they are shrinking from the headsman.
The people I shrink from are those Catholics who themselves quake from enunciating such choices but talk around it—fearing to voluntarily step away from church strictures—but instead traipsing up to the altar to receive the Eucharist unworthily, using the sacrament to keep the fiction.

Still, this category I do not despise the most.

They are headed currently by the number one claimant to the presidency, Joe Biden. But since there appears on occasion to be something seriously wrong with the cerebral clockwork with Joe (since he saw FDR on TV console the nation after the 1929 crash) I’ll give him a pass since he acts like he’s wound too tight.

So I will concentrate on number two.

Nancy Pelosi, Ms. Duplicity.

Nancy Pelosi is a perfect example. An Italian Catholic educated in church schools through college largely pre-Vatican II, she watched her father trade on that connection as mayor of Baltimore. She knows her faith, is not dumb (well she IS but not catechetically) but she is the courtesan who embodies the perfect sell-out. Remember how she instructed us in a television interview that the Church itself had not formed its opinion on abortion, citing Augustine on when life begins? Fallacious and her response was boilerplate from 1964 when Bobby Kennedy and Teddy hired two heretics with roman collars, Charlie Curran and Robert Drinan to help steer the family into murky waters so as to allow them to slip away into pro-abort advocacy while continuing to glide by Church sanction.
The history is clear. Even as early as A.D. 177 Athenagoras said “all who use abortifacients ar homicies and will account to God for their abortions as for the killlng of men.” Wily old Drinan who later would go to the U.S. House and support partial birth abortion, saw that Augustine who along with his forebears and successors condemned the practice, relied quite understandably on the biology extant at the time and concluded life begins with “quickening” or movement of the unborn in the womb. That’s when he believed life started. So wily old Drinan, sitting in his hotel room paid for by the Kennedys, concocted that his view was that “quickening” began life and others denied it, so the Church cannot conclude when life begins.

That was in 1964. “Roe” which confers abortion as a right through all three trimesters was pronounced I973. So here’s what the Kennedys should do, said old Drinan: Augustine wrote one thing, Athenagoras another—who knows? The Church isn’t sure. And zip you’re out of there. Then he collected his fee from the Kennedys and went back to Boston.

That bit of sophist legerdemain bounced around with variations since then. Bobby died before the issue came aborning but when he needed to split from the regulars in the pews and still keep tentacles in the Irish precincts, Teddy gave it variations…citing Chuck Curran who by then was a full-fledged heretic, old Augustine, shrugged his shoulders and said Catholics were scot-free.

Then there’s “Money—Ah” Dickie Cushing.

The spineless, compliant and supplicant Boston church of the nearest link to Archbishop Thomas Cramner who with trembling hands re-wrote church law to cede all to Henry VIII…Cardinal ichard Cushing of Boston…gave the Kennedys a wink and there was no reproach. Cushing was the first prelate to actively tell Massachusetts Catholic legislators they could vote for birth control and don’t give their conscience a bother. He had a wreath of white hair, a lovely brogue and a stammer…the stammer—ah-ah-ah-ah—kept us at the Capitol front until our noses turned blue when JFK was sworn in. In the press box I watched while the stooped old fraud kept talking about the Kennedy beneficence to “th’ Church....the ah-ah-ah money-ah!” We all stomped our feet and implored old Joe to toss the trained seal some money-ah and let us get on with it.

Cushing and money-ah started the trend in Massachusetts and elsewhere of handsome, sturdy broths of Irish lads voting for abortion and trooping to the altar rail before lecturing the Holy Name Society on Sunday mornings.

Cushing should be turning on the rotisserie spit now for the 1,455th time. Unlike you, Eminence, we up here are trying to stay warm: how are you enjoying the heat?

But it’s Speaker Pelosi who is the perfect duplicitous hostess with the mostess.

You remember her on “Meet the Press” when asked how she squared her pro-abort votes with her Church’s views. She had talking points and up pops old Augustine who thought life begins at quickening.
The Church can’t decide, so who are we to draw a final judgment, she said, looking at the camera with those enlarged Botox peepers.
And here she is again-- discussing the…get this…stimulus package with George Stephanapoulos, who says, “Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that `stimulus’?” He meant how is giving out rubbers stimulating?

Pelosi: “Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education, and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those—one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and the federal government.”
In other words money will convince the poor not to have kids and not burden us taxpayers. Nancy Mathus Pelosi as the “Wall Street Journal” said. The Mathusian doctrine has long been a hoax—the last dinosaur believing that was old man Rockefeller who gave much of his dough to population control outfits so that he and his rich friends would not be bothered to support them on the private dole—or be taxed to support the public dole.

That comes later. But for now, let me count them un-inconclusively:
Dickie Durbin…Richard M. Daley…Congressmen Luis Gutierrez,and the state officials, from the top—Patrick Quinn, Lisa Madigan, Danny Hynes, Emil Jones (he is no longer senate president), Todd Stroger. I am confused about Mike Madigan. When last I checked he wriggles like a fish that has just been netted—voting pro-life consonant with his southwest side district yet standing there, laconic, red-haired Irish while his caucus and step-daughter get his warm support for all sorts of anti-social ways.

And Judy Baar Topinka, of course, who gives off ethnic-flavored palaver meant to amuse, then divert us as she kicks up dust to obscure she was once strongly pro-life but abandoned it to get ahead. “One tough lady!” Yeah, right. Continuing to Christine Radogno whose drive to get the Senate Republican job was funded by her good friend Terry Cosgrove of Personal PAC (I believe although could be wrong, himself a former Catholic or a currently fashionably latent one).
Whom did I forget?

But pro-abort, politician Catholics unwilling to tell the Church they’ll bow out (an honorable thing to do, sparing themselves sacrilege by continuing to receive the sacrament), instead using it to advance themselves—even these, my belly recoils from but doesn’t regurgitate. Where I come close to losing my lunch are the priests and bishops who enable them. I do not include Cardinal George in this category. It seems to me he is doing enough publicly now to draw the line. Yes, I am satisfied but don’t make me attend his disquisitions on anything as I have had enough of parsing and hair-splitting from 1555 N. State Parkway to last a lifetime of prelates.

The one whom I have in mind is surely the Cardinal Richelieu of our time (his being retired inconsequential as when he shows up there comes wafting from him a stench of—well skip it). He withheld Ratzinger’s letter to the U. S. bishops on withholding communion from pro-abort pols because he is one himself. He presided at the funeral of…who else…Tim Russert and assuredly I will gladly wage $20…at the forthcoming funeral of Ted Kennedy. Do you know whom I have in mind? See if you do. There he will be in his rich crimson, the red conferred by the popes to symbolize the willingness to be martyred for Christ. I will stop now as I am getting sick.

Enough. But more anon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Personal Aside: The “Inadvertent” Errors of the Liberal Media.

So…it just so happens the gay mayor of Portland, Oregon who became a West Coast media poster boy for tolerance by announcing his sexual orientation and his monogamous life with his partner, has now been forced to admit that he conducted an affair on the side with a young man and steadfastly denied it in his campaign so as not to turn voters…including gay ones…off. His name: Sam Adams. Try as you might to get Adams’ party ID from wire service stories, until very recently it was not when he was nominated and elected…up to the time the affair broke.

His affiliation? You guessed it. Democratic.
Remember when Idaho senator Larry Craig was caught playing footsie with a guy in the next stall in a Minneapolis airport Men’s? When caught he was identified as a Senate Republican. When he protested his innocence, still labeled a Senate Republican. When he finally confessed, still prominently labeled a Senate Republican. See the difference?
The mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, Gary Becker, that state’s third largest city was arrested after showing up for an assignation with one whom he assumed was a 14 year old girl. It was a sting. Then the mayor was found to be the possessor of tons of child pornography involving underage girls. He has resigned after being indicted for six felonies. He denies guilt but you will still have a devil of a time trying to nail down his party affiliation. I’ll help. Democrat. Just an inadvertent lapse by wire services, state media.
If this were a Republican, you’d have no trouble finding out which party he belonged to.

National media like to draw conclusions from various ups and downs. The Mark Foley episode in which a Republican Floridian sent spicy emails to some House pages was underscored the nation over as emblematic of decadence and hypocrisy of the so-called House Republican leadership. The Foley scandal was one…of several…causes for loss of the House by Republicans although no one accused Foley of misbehaving with a page. Foley’s Republican was subject of widespread tsk-tsking by Maureen Dowd, the national networks, “Time” and “Newsweek.”

Foley’s successor, a Democrat, became involved in an extramarital affair, agreed he abused his office in the conduct of the affair and dropped out of reelection. No big media issue there. No symbol of decadence or hypocrisy written about. Nor his party affiliation. Hey, just an oversight, hey?

National media like to illustrate either a party’s strong future bench by writing of its governors or it’s woes caused by governors. One party has had three…three…disasters as governors in major states: New York…New Jersey…and Illinois. In New York a liberal up-and-comer, Eliot Spitzer caught in a prostitution net…in New Jersey, liberal James McGreevy who came out of the closet as a gay left office because he was conducting an affair with an Israeli he hired as director of homeland security…and in Illinois liberal Rod Blagojevich, impeached, is due to be tossed out of office any day now and will later stand trial for corruption. If Spitzer-McGreevey-Blagojevich were Republicans, there would be a tsunami of reproach from the aghast and righteously angered media—from Ms. Dowd making fun to 91-year-old Andy Rooney shaking his patriarchal head in horror.

But all three are Democrats and liberals. So, sorry, no deep analysis pieces in print or video about any party connection with those three. Now wonder if the three had been Governors Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Butch Otter of Idaho. All energetic Republicans. Ooooomigawd! Scandal devastates the GOP!
See what I mean? Bias doesn’t only mean hyping the media’s favorite party, it means not listing IDs of the media’s favorite party’s miscreants.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Personal Aside: Memento Mori—Rather, Morry.


Not long ago I bumped into a old classmate from Saint Juliana on the northwest side. She always kept up correspondence with the graduates.

She pulled me aside and said: “It’s just you and me, babe.”


“All the others in our class are dead.”

That sort of thrilled me, perversely. The class bully, the Mr. Smarty-Pants who knew all the answers. But sadly—my first girl friend. That kind of gets you down to the phrase Memento Mori—scriptural shorthand for…don’t get too cocky, pal—because the man in the black nightgown will come looking for you soon. Indeed he has.

Episodes like that are why life as an octogenarian has been far more exciting than I was led to believe. With me it’s been one intriguing thing after another. On the cusp of the magic age, you may recall, I came down with an asthma attack which I neglected, piled on top of this a cold and while having luncheon with a friend, pretended to be listening to him but wondering all the while: “Now do I interrupt him or shall I stick it out?” I stuck it out. My doctor…always a decisive man…ordered me to the ER at Northwest Community, a really fine hospital (where he practices). The ER patient waiting room was filled to overflowing. Time to an asthmatic is always of immediacy. People have fallen over even when medical help is within range. So I tromped up to the registration desk and announced brightly, “I am eighty years old and feel like there’s an elephant standing on my chest.”

Well…that was the case (no exaggeration)…but having said it I was whisked in a wheel chair to an attending room while someone else (guess who? An un-canonized saint) took on the dull, perfunctory task of attesting to my Medicare and health card B. All the while my temp was gauged at 103 and infusions of very kind were injected. In short time I was wheeled to a room where I spent about three days. The physicians, attendants, nurses, PCTs (Patient Care Technicians) were invariably superb, well informed. I cannot praise them enough—and I have had recourse to return to the same hospital three times more to see if I was right the first time. I was.

However it occurred, after the first stay I picked up a bug and a few months later repeated the process—only driven there by paramedics in their bumpy truck, deposited in a room. I have written about this before. What worried my superb general internist was two things: (1) on arriving at his office for a checkup, I very nearly fainted and would have fallen to the ground at the entrance of his office but for the kind indulgence of another patient coming for a checkup. (2) My temp was 102.4 but my blood pressure was down in the basement, running something like 76 as the top number when the average is…what?...130? My internist looked at me, dialed the paramedics and in short order I was being rolled through the waiting room of senior citizens, doubtless some of whom were thinking, “My God is this in store for me?” Well, of course it is, as we are not immortal but seeing a galoot wheeled out is enough to cause one to reconsider the fullest meaning of “Memento Mori.”

As for me, I have another take on the phrase since my doctor’s first name is Morry. And he has been at my bedside through all of this. I am pleased to report that hours at my bedside we are a perfect fit on all political issues. I could not bear to die in the company of a liberal.

Well without drawing this all out, on visit number two they discovered…as I wrote in this place at the time…that I had picked up an aggressive bacteria in my blood. Blood should have many things but not bacteria. It had to be eradicated because the bacteria race unerringly to attack anything in the body that is foreign to it—and four years ago I had a heart bypass where the surgeon also inserted a new valve, made of sturdy pig gut. The bacteria sail to that point to make war on the intruder. The job was to ward off the attack. Fighting the advancing hordes of bacteria could best be done by weeks of infusions of antibiotics. If the infusions fail, there would have to be a hasty replacement of the value. Surgery is risky for a senior gent like me. I was in geezer territory—76-- when they put the valve in, in 2004. The infusions—applied at home by my selfless, gallant wife whose sainthood is even now has reserved claim on unheralded but nonetheless self-same canonization as the great figures of the Church…the Little Flower--who learned on the spot how to hook me up to the IV—worked.

But since I’ve been bothered. There has been some unaccountable fatigue, and on occasion I get a mystery fever…say at 3 in the afternoon when I would have to sit at this console with two heavy sweaters on…then say at 7 there would be a breakage of the fever as with some great dam and I would be wringing wet with perspiration. One episode sent to the ER. They took a blood culture and found it was negative. Then what caused the fever? We dismissed it as a bug.

Now I doubt it is a bug. On Tuesday I came down with the chills, hit 102.7, took to my bed and quite rapidly was consumed with sweat. Wednesday, the same procedure. I didn’t want to call Morry because I would be directed to the hospital and I had work to do. But I did. Thereupon we had a tug of war on the phone. He said go right in there—it could be a regeneration of the fearsome hordes besieging the heart value. I said there was one thing I sorely wanted to do. Last Thursday night I was to introduce Ramesh Ponnuru the brilliant young number two in the Washington office of “National Review.” He had written the best-seller “The Party of Death” and I had arranged to have him be with us on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the infamous “Roe v. Wade” decision.

I had not met Ponnuru before; but as program chair, I was responsible for his coming here; he would be looking for me; I was to introduce him—and by God no heathen hordes of bacteria storming the battlements of my pig gut artificial heart valve would get in the way. Morry said: “I tell you, you are taking a great danger and I cannot support your decision. But do this emcee job and get over to the hospital right after the dinner.”

I won one from him, finally. Before we left for the dinner, I sank heavily in my chair and my wife said: “Are you sure you can do this?”

To which I said: “No but let’s not think of that right now.”

I did carry it off and was very happy I was there. Ponnuru was brilliant; I think I may have appeared a little thoughtful and withdrawn during the banquet…I know I stunned some by turning down my obligatory scotch and soda… but we got out of there Thursday night at 9. We headed for Northwest Central in Arlington Heights, checking in at 10 p.m., just in time for a reprise of the chills and sweats.

All day Friday, all day Saturday the tests went on. The blood cultures showed no…none whatever…assault on my artificial heart valve by bacteria. But the chills and sweats continued. What was it? By Saturday, an x-ray of my lungs were free, an ultra-sound of my stomach’s vitals showed nary a problem. But there were more tests to go. Whereupon I took matters in my own hands and said I can jolly well endure the chills and sweats at home: I don’t have to be in the hospital and endure their cardboard food (sanitized of any taste required for heart patients). I can shiver in my chair and wipe perspiration from my brow at home…and frankly you’re not finding the case. Besides I have a WLS radio show.

I said: tell you what? Suppose I take a pass, go to the station and do the radio show and come back? Whereupon Morry said: “What is the matter with you? You’re going to miss the radio show.

I looked to my wife. She moved her lips soundlessly: You’re-not-going-to-do-the-radio-show.

Morry won that one. So I got a friend Deborah Rowe to do it for me. Monday morning another test--a C-scan of my chest came back blemish free. Now everybody agreed. There are literally hundreds of tests to do but there is no good purpose to our keeping this guy here…but we can work with him as an outpatient.

Morry put on a half-hearted campaign for me to stay on for other tests. But I would not have it. For one thing, it’s the food. When they put you on a salt, sugar-free diet of skim this and that everything you order…everything they list on the menu as Scalloped French duck a-la Possom tastes like cardboard. But that’s where I won.

And that’s the way it is. I returned home yesterday following a night which began with 102.9 then broke with the sweats. —Monday—edified by freedom from institutional care (even as good as Northwest Community’s is). And as I was wheeled down to the front door said a Pater and Ave after seeing so many of my age struggling with serious maladies.

The reason I am back today is Morry…so I gratefully Memento Morry! May he pull me through more minor catastrophes that are to come in the 80s.

But I will also Memento Mori. As I write this Monday night, I’m in my shirtsleeves whereas last night in institutional care I was calling for more blankets, more blankets. There could not be too many to pile on me and still I shivered.

Will keep you informed. But in the meantime, it’s a good axiom for all ages: Memento Mori.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Personal Aside: The Ideological Tennis Game that Has Built Our Politics.


The Tension Between Liberty and Order.

Our country’s politics began as an ideological tennis match—the founding of this country. And it’s still going on after 220 years. But the game is getting so one-sided that until it returns to a middling balance between the players, it’s going to be ruinous for us all.

It’s always been known that the good society must have both liberty and order. If you have too much liberty, the absence of enduring law, you get anarchy. If you have too much order, there is a snuffing out of freedom and you get despotism. The knack of the game is to equate a balance between liberty and order.

After the Revolution, two major league players moved to center court. Superbly equipped intellectually, they were probably the most fascinating opponents a political system ever had. As they took their places on opposite sides of the net, let’s examine them. One: Thomas Jefferson. A Virginia patrician landowner, horticulturalist, architect, inventor, statesman and sublime writer, in his 40s when the game began, he stood for one of the two key aspirations that make a country great: liberty. He began as the designated server in this makeshift tennis match by serving up our canonical testament for freedom, the Declaration of Independence—no greater argument for liberty in the West. With the penning of the Declaration, proclaiming liberty, the joust begin with: Advantage: Jefferson.

On the opposite side of the net, was Alexander Hamilton, illegitimate, motherless at an early age from the West Indies with a Scot noble as father, moved to New York in his teens, worked in a counting house, becoming lawyer, economist, soldier, constitutional expert, in his late 30s at start of the game. He stood ready to receive. When the ball came over the net, he countered with order and crusaded for a Constitution…something Jefferson vaguely distrusted—a set of laws with teeth, not semi-recommendations as in the Articles of Confederation. When the Constitution was approved, there was a tie between the two: liberty with Jefferson, order with Hamilton. The difference was crystal clear: Jefferson sided with rural areas, individual liberty, as little government regulation as possible. Hamilton sided with a strong national government which he insisted was needed to protect commerce.

But for now with adoption of the Constitution, Advantage: Hamilton.

In response Jefferson smashed an attack across the net in behalf of liberty: the Bill of Rights. Hamilton wasn’t happy with the Bill of Rights but accepted it in order to get the Constitution ratified. Advantage: Jefferson.

In the administration of George Washington, both protagonists…who didn’t like each other at all…were cabinet members: Jefferson, secretary of state and Hamilton, secretary of the treasury. Now the tennis game started to get furious but the country immeasurably benefited from such creative energy and competition. Hamilton realized the U.S. was born in debt and he had the job of paying the bills. The U.S. had just come through the Revolution while it also endured a recession. Hamilton set up a revenue stream (excise taxes, import duties) and a heavy tax on whiskey but Jefferson said this was impinging on liberty. Farmers in Pennsylvania started a revolt against taxes on their grain that went into distilling whiskey. Advantage: Jefferson.

But Hamilton sent out an army to force them to obey—and they did. Advantage: Hamilton.

Now Hamilton insisted on much more monetary control. He wanted to set up a mechanism by which the U.S. could borrow massive funds for growth. Hamilton who was brought up in a counting house, worried that the economy had a lack of liquid capital and believed government bonds could serve as collateral for bank loans, leading to more available capital which would lure more capital from Europe. Jefferson detested the power of the money oligarchs (even though he personally was far wealthier than Hamilton), arguing the country’s freedoms could be best preserved in agrarian societies, not urban areas. Washington agreed with Hamilton. Advantage: Hamilton.

Hamilton became the de facto prime minister. He insisted the federal government assume the debts of the individual states during the war. Jefferson was adamantly opposed since his state, Virginia, had redeemed most of its bonds as had other southern states. He saw it as a grab by Hamilton’s New York speculators who bought the bonds at cut rate prices and wanted to make a killing on them when the price rose. Jefferson and his ally Madison defeated Hamilton’s plan four straight times in the House. Advantage: Jefferson.

Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison…representing New York and Virginia…got together over dinner and agreed that if Jefferson’s loyalists in the House would agree to the feds taking over the debt, Hamilton would agree that Virginia would host the capital on the fetid swamp of the Potomac river. The deal worked out for the Capital city and the economy. The U. S. bonds were snapped up in the marketplace with the whole issue sold out in a matter of weeks. Europe got interested and was a resounding point in the tennis game for Hamilton. Advantage: Hamilton. .

Now Hamilton, heady with victory over Jefferson, pressed his advantage. He called for creation of a national bank , the Bank of the United States, patterned after the Bank of England. He saw the bank as a depository for government funds, a means of transferring monies from one part of the country to another, a source of loans to the government and other banks and a device to regulate the money supply i.e. a 18th century version of the Federal Reserve. He didn’t like the idea of government issuing paper money because governments, he said wisely, are not noted for self-discipline. Jefferson saw this as a violation of the Constitution which doesn’t mention a bank, as a giveaway to the rich, He despised banks and stimulated a fear of powerful financial institutions in his followers.

To the argument that the Constitution didn’t provide for a bank, Hamilton invented the concept of “implied powers.” Oh-oh: danger signal.

That concept has been with us for two centuries. Implied powers was an invention, Jefferson said, and potentially a deadly threat to liberty. It could be stretched to embrace anything the politicians want. You know what? He was right. Hamilton argued that without “implied powers,” the government would be imprisoned in a kind of strait-jacket. He was right, too. For proof in the 1780s, the colonies were a financial disaster. The record was clear: By 1794 it had the highest credit rating in Europe. By 1801 Europe was helping to build the U. S. economy. Hamilton seemed to have the better of the argument—besides he had Washington on his side. You can’t just go on passing amendments to the Constitution every time you want to do something, said Hamilton, adding: don’t worry—I’m incorruptible. .

And there was still more—and Hamilton bested Jefferson in all of them. Hamilton’s Report on Manufacturers was a document that called for tariffs and subsidies to protect domestic industries. Jefferson was a free trader. Using the General Welfare clause of the Constitution, Hamilton opened the door to wholesale subsidies for big business, to projects for roads, dams. Who was ultimately right in that contest? Most Americans then, seeing the economic growth of the U.S. and rooted in pragmatism, would say Hamilton. But under the ambitious Hamilton, Congress’ spending rocketed and the national debt soared to more than $80 million…then a spectacular amount. Payment of interest alone amounted to 40% of the nation’s revenue. However, it’s hard to see how the new government could have survived without Hamilton. But still Washington backed Hamilton. Advantage: Hamilton.

At this point, Hamilton and Jefferson left the administration and formed two different parties—the Federalists (Hamilton) and the Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson). The Federalists turned despotic after Washington’s term as their passion for order stifled legitimate dissent. Federalist president John Adams signed laws that punished anyone who dared to talk against the government. Jefferson won the presidency in 1800 and that was the end of the Federalists. He ended the Bank of the United States. Advantage: Jefferson.

But Hamilton influenced Adams to name a string of Federalist judges to life terms including as chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall. Marshall served 35 years changing everything in his wake for supposed order. With crusty old Marshall, a devotee of Hamilton presiding, the forces of supposed order drastically out-pointed the forces of liberty. Marshall changed the tennis game permanently, continuing to do so long after Hamilton and Jefferson were dead. How?

In Marbury v. Madison he wrote the most important decision in U. S. history, declaring the Court, his Court…meaning him—had the authority to declare laws elected by the people’s representatives in Congress unconstitutional. It was judicial dictatorship. Jefferson responded: “ My construction of the Constitution is…that each department [i.e. branch of government, executive, congressional, judiciary] and has an equal right to decide what is the meaning of the Constitution in the cases submitted to its action.” Longtime Advantage: Hamilton--which continues to this day. The corkscrew concoctions of law based on implied words and inventions have given us Roe v. Wade and many others to come down the road—possibly same-sex marriage (already realized in Massachusetts).

Jefferson Faces a Dilemma.

Though as president Jefferson announced he would do things by-the-book (the Constitution)—and indeed he paid off all the national debt--, in 1803 he found he had a difficult choice to make. He worried that Napoleon, by possessing the port city of New Orleans, could close the Mississippi to U.S. commerce at any time. His job was to protect and defend the United States. But here he was caught in a vise. Nowhere does the Constitution provide that we can purchase land from a foreign country. He signaled an offer to buy for up to $2 million the city of New Orleans. Lo and behold, Napoleon’s emissary wanted to know how much the U.S. would pay for the entire Louisiana territory—82,000 square miles!

Time was running out. No Constitutional sanction aside, it was too good to pass up a deal like that. And so, for a seeming pittance. $15 million, less than 5 cents an acre Louisiana doubled the size of containing present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, that part of Minnesota south of the Mississippi, most of North Dakota, most of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, northern Texas, portions of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Orleans. The Federalists raised their eyes to heaven: here was Jefferson violating the Constitution—of all people! The territory was valueless—just a huge desert.

But shame, not being in the repertoire of politicians, Hamilton’s Federalists attacked Jefferson for “violating the Constitution.”. Jefferson got the deal through anyhow, one of his greatest contributions to his country—opening the way for the eventual expansion of the U.S. across the continent to the Pacific—the biggest land acquisition in history without a shot being fired or a single life lost. Titanic advantage: Jefferson, though on Hamilton’s side of the tennis court in behalf of Order.

Well, in 1804, Hamilton was shot to death in a duel and the Federalist party died with him to be succeeded by the Whigs which became the repository of the impulse for order, the party of business interests and public highway and dam construction. Then a frontier general came on the scene, a slave-owner who hated banks and big business almost as much as Jefferson did. He was Andrew Jackson who abolished the 2nd Bank of the United States (which had been restarted by James Madison). But Jackson also had a strong streak of Hamilton in him. When South Carolina tried to secede over a tariff issue, Jackson sent the army in to quell it saying “To say that any state may at pleasure secede from the union is to say the United States is not a nation.”

From that time on, the forces of liberty didn’t make out too well A so-called Jefferson Democrat, James K. Polk became president. He was an expansionist big-time. We acquired Texas and with what some say was a trumped up charge, we rigged a vote to go to war with Mexico over California. The peace treaty increased our size by a third…California, Nevada and parts of New Mexico. He wanted to acquire Cuba from Spain when his term ran out. The Whigs opposed it for a while but switched stands.

Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, is credited with “saving the Union” but to do it during the Civil War he extinguished personal liberties for a time—including the suspension of habeas corpus, shutting down more than 300 opposition newspapers and confiscating private property. Of course when he was doing these things, Lincoln could see out his 2nd floor bedroom window the Confederate campfires burning in Virginia. That should grant him some leeway don’t you think?

But the biggest usurpation of power by the Hamiltonians came in the late 19th century with Teddy Roosevelt, followed in the 20th by Woodrow Wilson who maneuvered us into war with Germany and Franklin Roosevelt who announced the Constitution was a product of the horse-and-buggy days. The greatest president of the early 20th was Calvin Coolidge for a masterly passive rule of law. By his annunciation of the phrase “Government is the problem,” Ronald Reagan was a beacon of liberty.

How can we rectify the imbalance and return our polity to the old tennis game format where there is a force for liberty balanced against a force for order? First, I would suggest we have to specify the concept of order. I give Hamilton a pass on his early innovations as treasury secretary including the bank. I would definitely not give his colleague John Marshall a nod of recognition for Marbury v. Madison which installed the makings of judicial tyranny for life. Realism must overcome rigid ideology when the nation’s welfare is at stake, and of course Jefferson was right in sanctioning the Louisiana Purchase. Polk’s expansionism made sense until he invented a spurious pretext for war. Lincoln was faced with an insuperable problem. To sanction the breakup of the union would be to allow the country to be chopped up successively over any other issue.

Our greatest enemies were Theodore Roosevelt who allowed expansionism to shape his bogus dream of glory…Woodrow Wilson who got us into a needless war culminating in the Versailles Treaty that spurred another one…Franklin Roosevelt a grimacing old fraud who never solved the Depression and yearned for war. I give a pass to George W. Bush for Iraq. It’s not just happenstance that we have been spared terrorist attack in the last seven years…and, incidentally, news to the media, we’ve won the Iraq War. The great model for both liberty and order was Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio in his 1952 campaign I enlisted—and after studying his record for the past 60 years, I still admire his wondrous balance in domestic and foreign policy. The closest to Taft today is Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

Let us pray that there will be a party realignment on both sides and a tennis game will start once again between the forces of liberty and order.

To start with, it’d help if we could get the DNA of Hamilton and Jefferson.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Personal Asides: McCain as the Latter Day Wendell Willkie…Biden’s Wife, a Shameless Enabler for Her Husband…Krauthammer’s Prophecy.


McCain as Willkie.

Retrospectively, John McCain was the best opponent for Barack Obama possible to find. The answer is in the numbers: McCain between 4 and 5 points ahead of Obama all the way through until the economic meltdown. I don’t think the real Messiah of Galilee could stem the tide of an avalanche of an unpopular war and a fearsome serious recession happening on the Republican watch in 2008. You can review all the bidding…and I’ve done it…McCain’s inability to discuss economics beyond elimination of earmarks…his two-day gap in Washington when the financial crisis erupted…his staff’s mishandling of a very good vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin…and it still comes out the same way. McCain would likely be inaugurated this noon instead of Obama if the financial tsunami hadn’t hit.

That having been said, there lingers in McCain as with almost all political candidates a desire to be admired—and what better than to join hands with his victor and have some of Obama’s popularity rub off? This is what Wendell L. Willkie did after his run against Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. Willkie was a wunderkind, a successful lawyer businessman who had never run for public office before, with the refreshing aura of independence. He followed two terrible runs (in 1932) by Herbert Hoover and 1936 by Alf Landon: both heavy and imponderable politicians and chalked up a marvelous popular vote. He was young, vigorous, and 47.

Willkie was probably the first presidential candidate to campaign on alternative media: appearances on highly rated quiz shows that were all the rage, scoring extraordinarily favorable coverage in “Life” magazine and “Time” But after he lost the election, Willkie went Hollywood. He eschewed many of his campaign speeches, attributing them as “campaign oratory.” He loved the limelight and embraced Roosevelt, traveling the world, changing his tune on interventionism. When he tried again for the nomination in 1944, he lost the Wisconsin primary. He was an outcast to his party because he had gone to the left on so many issues in contrast to his campaign his credibility was gone. History was merciful to him in that he died very early in 1944.

John McCain knows what it is to cross the aisle…sometimes pander across the aisle…to get liberal attention: notably on the environment and the McCain-Feingold bill. He got the nomination despite those grievous errors. But now at 72 the old warrior savors a return to the liberal limelight.

Watch McCain to try to take a major role in enacting the Obama program through the Congress. Some of it is okay but John has been down that track before, lasciviously courting the liberal media. Wendell Willkie became the Judas Goat of the Republican party. John McCain just may want to do the same thing so that he is savored in his old age. It’s time to remember he is not the party nominee, is not the party spokesman…but a single senator. This is not to say no dealings with the Obama administration can be made—but a media glory-hound using his last run to ingratiate himself once more with the media gets tiring.

Biden’s Wife.

Many years ago Illinois Republicans used to say that John B. Anderson’s wife was corrupt. Let me elucidate. Wives are supposed to keep husband’s egos in check—especially political wives. Keke Anderson constantly told her congressman husband he was presidential caliber. To have a wife say that is corruptive. Her fawning praise had a terrible effect. Gov. Richard Ogilvie had a chance to make a senatorial appointment to replace the late Everett Dirksen. Keke Anderson lobbied for it so strenuously, assailing any competitors that whatever chance Anderson had was overruled when Ogilvie appointed House Speaker Ralph Tyler Smith. Following which Keke libeled Ogilvie, the entire Republican party and by dint of steady effusive praise let John Anderson leftward to the point that when he did run for president in 1980 he had no political base left.

Then after he lost, she cajoled him out of the Republican party. He ran as an independent and got 7%.

Jill Biden is the same kind of woman—slavishly promotive of her husband. Jill and Joe Biden appeared on the “Oprah” show the other day and Jill announced that the president-elect offered Joe a choice—either secretary of state or vice president. To show himself off as a regular guy, Biden put his finger to his lips and said “shhh.”

Joe Biden has committed a number of faux pas on his own and is a walking basket case of malapropisms. If the media were honest in its coverage of the 2008 campaign, it would have targeted his obvious ineptitudes: his announcement that FDR went on television to steady the nation’s nerves during the Crash of `29. His falsification of his resume, his invention of facts that can be easily checked shows character imbalance, a vain, insecure man who wants to strut as if he were the smartest guy in the room. All have been humiliatingly repudiated although the media covered up for him so as not to endanger the Obama campaign.

Anyone who knows history about how vice presidential nominees are chosen, understands that a presidential candidate would NOT say, “Joe you have a choice of secretary of state or vice president.” Things are not offered that way. The single most important offer is the vice presidential nomination: that is what Biden was offered and that’s what he snapped up. One can imagine that in the conversation, Obama could say: Joe, you’re expertise is such that you can serve well as secretary of state but it’s vice president that I want you to fill.”

The rationale of this weird blurt by Jill Biden is easily fathomed. First of all, it was not a blurt but probably planned. Joe Biden…the consummate egotist…feels a bit of out of since his supposed expertise on foreign policy is overshadowed by Hillary Clinton. Thus this pathetic little segue…hauntingly embarrassing in that it underscores the deepest insecurity…was allowed to go forth on Oprah while Joe smilingly tried to shush her up.

All the more reason for us to pray for the continued health of President Obama. With two serious brain aneurisms that brought him close to death, Biden’s terrible gaffes…including this one…give all Americans something to fear.

Krauthammer’s Prophecy.

A couple of evenings ago, when asked whether Obama will wear the collar for the recession if things aren’t turned around speedily in his administration, Charles Krauthammer…whom I regard as without peer…said that yes indeed the sour times if allowed to continue will devalue his presidency.

Which I don’t believe for a moment. Amity Shlaes shows how the FDR wild experimentation convinced the voters that at least he was trying. The compliant, suplne media will be in Obama’s corner throughout and even if nothing is accomplished, his sunny visage of hope-hope-hope will be portrayed in Rooseveltian style.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Personal Aside: John Kass is the Outstanding Columnist-News Analyst of Our Time in Chicago. And Here’s Why.


John Kass is Chicago’s matchless columnist-political analyst-fearless truth-seeker and –teller. He has been so in my book for many years but his columns and his television interview with John Callaway on WTTW-TV shows the treasure we have: and the aching void that others who seek to opine must shrink from in contrast.

There are seven reasons why.

1. Mike Royko was a comedian, a deft puncturer of pompous reputations—but after a few belly-laughs he never gave us much of an insight into his philosophical views, if indeed he had any. My view is that in his hey-day, Royko was an intriguing liberal satirist—but he never moved beyond that. Kass is an infinitely better satirist than Royko…better because he has a point of view that goes beyond hilarity. To do satire well, you have to believe in the opposite of what you’re satirizing…at least believe in something. Royko was a nihilist satirist. Kass is far deeper than swinging mallets at people.

2. Kass, far more than Royko, knows history and knows the human condition. The best training for a journalist is what he has had—working as a butcher and as a merchant seaman. That background has given him a deep faith, he is a devout Greek Orthodox…and his faith comes through in countless ways. Royko only slammed the right and was cozy with the left…Studs Turkle et al…Turkle being one of the true phony celebrities of all time…an actor basically who hewed to the left and attention-getting as a self-publicitor. Ask what he did: he tape recorded people. Oh.

3. Kass pioneered the true vision of Chicago politics—which can well become the dying vision of national politics. Rather than concentrating on right or left, he has invented the “Combine” which is an amalgam of the two parties which believe in nothing except the acquisition of power and riches.

4. The danger Kass has presciently noted is that just as the two parties in Illinois have been nothing more than acquisitive funnels for aggrandizement…with no philosophical ballast whatever…the two parties in the United States are becoming similar.

5. In writing this, Kass is very courageous. He goes after the dinosaurs of both parties and shows that basically the two parties are the same—with very few exceptions…Peter Fitzgerald being one of them.

6. And in his writing, Kass is alone among the newspaper columnists. What political columnist shares his view of the identicality of the two parties and the corruption that undergirds them?

7. I would guess that Kass is due for a Pulitzer prize. It is very much overdue. The reason he hasn’t gotten one yet is that the Pulitzer people are very much wedded to the stream of liberal vapidity that Kass satirizes so well. But whether he gets it this year or not, he is…and will be until he dies…the best single newspaperman of his generation—ranking with Mencken and Finley Peter Dunne.

If you haven’t seen the brilliant WTTW Callaway interview with Kass, you should get the DVD. It proves to me something I hadn’t realized before—that John Kass is a master of many media. His generosity, depth and brilliance comes through on TV the way it doesn’t always in cold hard print. Do get the DVD.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Personal Aside: Bob Woodward’s Curious List of Bush’s Iraq “Mistakes” which Forgets to List One Major Result: Victory.


It’s as if a reporter listed all the grievous mistakes made in World War II…ranging from the goof-ups in North Africa that almost got Eisenhower recalled…the bog-down in Italy…the misconceptions that led to the Bulge—and forgot to record the most important thing: the war was won. And neglected to detail how was it won.

In the last several months I’ve read books, articles and memoirs from anti-Bush people and Bush partisans in an effort to get to the nub of the Iraq decision-making. The latest came yesterday from Bob Woodward of Watergate fame.

Woodward of “The Washington Post” has just published a column pointing out Bush’s mistakes vis-à-vis Iraq…but as with his latest book, he neglects one thing: for all the mistakes, the goal to bring Iraq to the court of civilized nations…to remove Saddam and strike down all possible collaboration with terrorists against us…was a success. Woodward doesn’t comment about the surge and the sharp, positive turning of the war. Almost as if he would write about the Civil War…the failings at Bull Run…the ineptitude of the generals: Hooker, McClellan, Mead…and not adjudge that the end result was victory for the north. It’s a strange thing about Woodward. There were all kinds of Bush mistakes…mistakes by Rumsfeld, the CIA…but at the end there should be recognition of success—for Iraq has become a success: which is why it’s not in the news any longer.

Yesterday I postulated why Bush went into Iraq even though the highly-touted WMD as such weren’t found…and pointed out that the ultimate reasons lie in what Saddam could easily do as the triumphant victor over the UN and the US. That reason and the subsequent victory in Iraq should begin to ameliorate Bush’s reputation no matter what the cross-eyed media say. If Bush had not taken the action he deemed right and other attacks came to our soil, he’d be the goat of all goats. And Woodward would be leading the pack of critics.

Defects shaded for a time…perhaps during our lifetimes…the atmosphere surrounding the very good decision to go to Iraq and the successful culmination of the effort:

1. Bush should not have continued George Tenet as CIA director and should have replaced him after the first year…for the principle reason that Tenet presided over an uneasy…at times utterly disloyal…agency. The CIA pretended to know more about Iraq than it knew…scorned information from exiles and scholars, assuming that the only worthwhile foreign intelligence would come from foreign officials easy to be in on the take by ratting on their governments for money.

2. Tenet allowed the politicization of intelligence which involved active leaking to the media in an effort to destroy Bush.

While the war was going on…which officially lasted on 22 days…CIA and State actively opposed the inclusion of exiles into the government format. That opposition contributed enormously to the initial failures of what became known as “occupation.”

Rumsfeld initially had a good idea: keeping the U.S. footprint in Iraq small and allowing exiles and reclaimed anti-Saddam insurgents to run the place. It was always a good idea—but once State and CIA were successful in nixing the idea, he should have switched to Plan B, the buildup of a surge.

3. Condi Rice as national security adviser and secretary of state saw her job as one who was to coalesce opinions of divergent kinds before submission to Bush. This often is the correct approach to national security adviser but there are times when the president should not be spared the job of making decisions. In my reading of events I was constantly struck with how often she submerged debate in an effort to bring to Bush a unified approach. It’s usually good but not always. If Bush was brought in earlier to the internecine battle over the governing of Iraq…the Rumsfeld side which urged use of exiles in a coalition force…and the State-CIA one which negated exiles…he would have come down firmer on side or the other and thus ended the internecine battle.

4. The mistakes by CIA were legend. The agency predicted that the Iraq military would be so thrilled by our invasion that whole units would defect to us. WRONG.

5. It predicted the Iraqi police would become an ally to us after Saddam’s overthrow. WRONG.

6. It entirely overlooked information showing that Saddam’s regime was practicing guerrilla fighting to respond to a U.S. invasion. WRONG.

7. It shrugged off information showing that the Baathists would promote an insurgency. WRONG.

8. It knew little or nothing about those Iraqis who had the potential to be leaders following Saddam. WRONG.

9. Through all these mistakes, it was not humble…but pretended to know far more than it actually did. WRONG.

Tenet was a CIA professional. It looks very much that Barack Obama won’t make the same mistake. He has put into the directorship a loyalist…Leon Panetta…which is what Bush should have done—and which Reagan did with Bill Casey.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Personal Aside: Good Old Dickie Durbin—Throwing a Party for Roland Now…The Difficulty of Separating the Iraq War from the Myth.


Good Old Dickie.

Not long ago I hosted a nationally known political analyst for a series of talks here—a man whose name were I to mention it you would know instantly. That is why I’m not going to mention it. At an off-the-record luncheon he excoriated Illinois political so-called leadership…Blago particularly. Then he asked why a state with such a prominent standing had a senator like Dick Durbin who is nothing more than a common hustler…one who is a caricature of everything political: who believed in nothing but transitory things, no absolutes. No one at the luncheon could answer him. It’s easy to ridicule Blago (and everybody does) but he will be gone soon. The real clown is Dickie Durbin who stands for nothing except his own self-aggrandizement. An empty drum that when you rap it, makes a hollow sound.

Now he is joined by another hollow drum as junior senator who is much the same: a chronic campaigner with not the faintest glimmer of principle—just one who wants to get the engraver to fill-out the vacant space on his tombstone.

These two filling the seats of two great senators—Everett Dirksen and Paul Douglas.

Remember just a week or so ago, Dickie insisted Burris will not be seated? Well things changed because the Senate decided it did not like to see a black man standing out in the cold under an umbrella: simple as that. Now Dickie is hosting a party welcoming Burris to the Senate fold. And Burris is happy to be in from the rain.

Two worthless scraps of debris cast up on the shores.

Defusing the Myth.

I must come back to this again: Whenever I see the TV ads for the film “Frost/Nixon,” I am dismayed at how history has been distorted by Nixon-haters to once again stab that old carcass. As I discussed before, I am not the best person to defend Nixon since I had an internecine fight with the administration when I was assistant commerce secretary…but the calumny perpetrated by Opie, aka Ron Howard, the now balding producer who as a kid played opposite Andy Griffith…is awful and does a total disservice to history.

The “Frost/Nixon” TV program was definitely not a rout of Nixon by Frost. I saw it live. The show was not touted as a stupendous triumph by Frost or a Nixon concession. That’s myth my dear people. Nixon was asked about the role of the president in times of great emergency…i.e. Lincoln in the Civil War…and he alluded to the fact that in crises presidents must protect the republic. He was talking about the Huston Report, a contingency strategy paper designed as all contingency papers are to consider the unthinkable.

Did the mythology start with the Nixon haters? No, of course not. There is a venerated, bitter old faker at NPR, Daniel Schorr, lionized because he has survived to 93, who when he worked as a CBS correspondent imagined and broadcast that Barry Goldwater had reached out to Nazi Germany to try to take lessons from the derelicts who were still alive there. CBS was aghast. That started a gradual…but not complete…decline of Schorr in network news. He is still gasping his feeble breath on “public” broadcasting, paid largely by tax dollars, feeding his insidious nonsense and gaining laurels because he is still with us. And for no other reason. Daniel Schorr has propagated more mythology than most other liberal journalists because he is given such leeway. Mythology. Where does it start and end?

The same question could be asked now in an age of terrorism where extremists can gain control of an airplane and drive it into a skyscraper. Suppose even worse happened where the country was in danger? Chemical and bacterial warfare? More. At that point, the president has every obligation to do all he can to enable government to protect the people. Nixon was asked by Frost about a strategy paper written concerning such a possibility…and Nixon answered, correctly, that in times of great danger the president must act. To which the screen-writers aver that Nixon said whatever the president does illegally is right. Fiction intervenes and the American people are mis-led.

All this is a preface to try to set into some perspective the fictionalization of the reason to engage in the Iraq War.

While no weapons of mass destruction turned up, the decision to invade Iraq was preeminently a sound one and one day shall be used to vindicate George Bush. Why? When Bush started his first term, it was clear that the UN Security Council’s plan to thwart the Iraq threat was fading. 9/11 with which Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do, brought the terrorist problem into focus. As economic sanctions melting away since the 1991 crisis with Iraq, the problem was that Saddam Hussein would become the hero by overcoming the resistance of both the UN and the U.S. We never thought he would attack the United States but that he would be emboldened to move once again on the Persian Gulf and the overall Middle East so that he could further develop his conventional and mass destruction weapons and, through terrorist alliances, deliver them.

The worry was that with some future imbroglio…may a revisit of Kuwait…and inflamed by 9/11…he might well be influenced to deal with terrorists, see they got anthrax, smallpox or nerve gas with which to attack us. If this happened, who could not blame the Bush administration for failing to resolve its first duty—to provide for the protection and defense of the American people? Bush decided this: by not doing anything, it was dereliction to hang back and wait for something like this to take place.

But you’ll never get the mainstream media which is tied to the entertainment industry…Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart et al…whose earnings depend on massaging the liberal, largely anti-patriotic crowd…to change. That is why the only way to win this thing is not…I aver…with candidates running for public office in the first instance. Politicians are endemic bottom-feeders: they react, gobble up and are nurtured by, what comes down from the wells of opinion. Of course running good candidates is vital—but in importance, I feel politics comes second or third. The first job is to suffuse the media with challenges to the leftish conventional wisdom. We are making some progress on that front, I am pleased to say—with talk radio, Fox and the Internet—although much more remains to be done

It is easy to fault Bush and his administration for is not getting this message out. But with the mainstream media as poisoned against the administration as it is, the job may well have been insuperable.

More about the lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom anon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Personal Aside: Fr. Ernie’s Back with More On How We Discern Truth.


Just before Christmas vacation, in early December, 1948, Fr. Ernest Kilzer OSB…the terror of the Philosophy Department: intolerant of error, mercurial when answers were faulty… entered our classroom at Saint John’s University in an apparent rare sunny disposition—but whose visage glowered over to apparent anger: darkness with storm, lightning and thunder, after…to our astonishment…one of our number raised his hand and asked what was never, ever volunteered before: an initial question…before the lecture began…which seemed to disparage Aquinas! We hunkered in our student chairs (with the armrest attached, used for note-taking). How in the world did anyone ever…ever…decide HE—not Ernie—would start the class with a question? More than that: an insolent-sounding one!

“Father, Greg Senta’s my name: Would you tell us what Saint Thomas contributed on his own after he inherited the concept of natural law and intellectual certainty from Aristotle, Cicero and Augustine? What did he contribute—or…” we were terrified…”or did he merely refine the answers of all those up to Augustine?”

That was the first time I paid any attention to Senta. He had a baby face but drastically prematurely graying hair. He leaned his chin on his open hand and awaited the answer.

Long-long silence. Ernie’s preference of Aquinas over Augustine was what we learned when we first entered as freshmen! Lord God Almighty! The silence was unendurable. Ernie went to the board and slowly erased all the mathematical numerals from the preceding calculus class. We judged his temper was building to the point of explosion. Silence. Senta sank in his seat—as did all of us, pretending to concentrate on our notes.

With our heads down, we pondered: What in the name of God possessed Senta to ask a question of Ernie…a hostile question at that… when the routine for many years was always the other way around—Ernie asking us while we trembled? We could not believe our ears! It implied Aquinas was a user, one who had rolled to immortality on the cerebral achievements of others—particularly Augustine! Heresy! Why did Senta ask it? We’ll be in for it now, all of us. Senta will be graded with an “F” no matter what he does in the future: that was Ernie’s grading system! Why did Senta do it?

Then I surmised I knew what it was. Senta was a reckless plunger. He had taken a daring and utterly self-serving gamble to fasten his identity in Ernie’s mind, so when grading time came, Ernie would know him. Ernie knew none of those in his classes, beginning in 1930…certainly knew none of us whatsoever, he often passing us in the hall with his eyes focused straight ahead, ignoring us, as he sorted the doctrines of Heraclitis, Paramenides and Melissus. In fact a student of Ernie’s for four straight years went just before graduation to thank him for his teaching—and Ernie was mystified. No one had done this before. There was no appreciation for the compliment, either. Just brusque non-recognition.

Yes, that’s what it was: Senta was embellishing his name purposely with this gamble. It was a wildly foolish, reckless experiment. And a desperate chance. Ernie could wheel around and say “Mr. Senta where have you been in these three months in this course when I meticulously stated that with the legacy Saint Thomas converted into an intellectual treasure-house for the West? I would think you have disqualified yourself, I say DISQUALIFIED YOURSELF, from participation by asking such a vapid question, Mr., Mr., Mr. Gregory Senta!” Which would mean a string of “Fs” as far as the eye could see, requiring Senta to transfer to Godfrey Diekmann’s courses (where he would indubitably receive Bs for cerebral skepticism.

But the desperate nature of Senta’s gamble! The kid would get an “F” and deservedly at the end of the semester, Ernie forming an indelible conclusion that Gregory Senta was a braying ass and so poison the well even with Godfrey…the kid leaving school and becoming a dissolute existentialist in the company of Jean-Paul Sartre, smoking funny cigarettes, consorting with Simone de Beauvoir, dating her homely adopted daughter Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir and dabbling in concepts of Being and Nothingness on the Left Bank of Paris.

Now the erasing stopped and Ernie turned slowly toward us, walked over to Senta, stalked more like it, in his long black Benedictine monk habit, immaculate white roman collar.

“Mr. S-s-s-.” The student said bravely “Senta.”

“Mr. Senta—that is a prescient question.”

Now all of us who earlier trembled for Senta…even admired him for his guts…instantly hated him. Before asking the question, he had been one of us—now he was peremptorily elevated to first among equals: more than that--our superior. After the lecture Ernie did what reportedly he had never done before in 29 years of teaching. He walked Gregory Senta down to the Benedictine faculty room where Ernie poured…poured by himself…two cups of coffee for them both in the abbey’s Styrofoam cups for them both. The next week the student newspaper was informed that Gregory Senta had been nominated by Ernie to membership in The Philosophical Society which was peopled mainly by pre-Divs and beginning novices.

“Mr. Senta has indeed asked a prescient question and without disparaging this class I wondered why someone hasn’t asked it before.”

We scribbled and thoroughly hated Gregory Senta, the memory continuing well into our middle age when at an alumni reunion I was introduced to a porky little man who occupied a middle-level position with the Minneapolis transit authority, Gregory Senta.

“The question is an extraordinarily prescient one from which to base this lecture. Augustine [354-430] integrated legal philosophy and theology insisting that theological-Catholic considerations not only permeate all of law and legal theory but constitute the foundation of true law and jurisprudence. Following Augustine, Thomas…far more creative than Augustine, far more gifted… understood and affirmed order in the universe—something which I am sure Mr. Senta appreciates and which all of you SHOULD appreciate. Gentlemen, the world is not a product of chance. No, it was created by a loving God whose existence and attributes we can demonstrate and who ordered His creation in accord with His design. God, the Creator, has a plan for this world. Thomas calls it a universal rational orderliness that he said is characteristic of the whole universe. This law, the divine reason’s conception of things is called…is called…what, Mr. Gregory Senta! Your hand is raised again: It is what?”

We prayed Senta this time would overreach and get it wrong. Sadly, no.

“The Divine Law, Father.”

“Yes-yes! The Divine Law or `lex aeterna.’ Thank you Mr. Senta! Now just as the maker of an automobile has built into it a certain nature—it drives, does not grind meat, does not float in the water—God has built a certain nature into man to follow if he is to achieve his final end, happiness with God in heaven. Just as the automobile maker gives directions for the car’s use so that it will achieve its end, God has built a certain nature into man to follow so he achieves his end…the end which is—class?”

We all parroted meekly: “Eternal happiness with God in heaven!”

“And where are the directions found—directions in the automobile manual so to speak—where are the directions found for man to follow so he achieves his end, Mr. Gregory Senta?”

God, will we never hear the end of this?

“Revelation and natural law,” chirruped Senta. Pleased, Ernie swung on his heel to go to the board, giving Senta time to stick out his tongue and waggle his ears with both hands at us, the 1940s equivalent of The Finger. We were thunder-stuck at this gesture, a wild, reckless gamble that Ernie wouldn’t see. We hated him yet grateful he had put Ernie in a good mood.

“Correct! Mr. Gregory Senta!” enthused Ernie with his back to us as he scribbled these words on the board, “come to this desk after class, will you? Thomas called it the divine law. The divine law is needed because of the uncertainty of human judgment, particularly, Thomas said, on `contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts’ so that different and contrary laws result. So that man can know without any doubt what he ought to do and what he ought to avoid, it is necessary for man to be directed to such proper ends by a law given by God—it being certain that such a law cannot err.”

There followed 38 minutes of exultation for a beneficent God who gave us Aquinas. Then--.

“Now I shall give Mr. Senta a rest. In addition to the eternal law and divine law of revelation there is, Mr. Roeser, what law? Correct! But of course it is an easy answer…as we have often discussed and by rote repetition has made an impact on Mr. Roeser: NATURAL LAW. This exists because man is a rational creature and has a share of the external reason which constitutes a natural inclination to do a proper act and end…with the result that this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law. This, then, in response to your very prescient question, Mr. Senta, is the beginning formulation of Saint Thomas…and I thank you, sir, for you have stirred my passions so that I developed this lecture quite apart from the one I was prepared to give…so thank you, Mr. Senta! Aha, Mr. Senta’s hand is up again. What further prescient question do you ask now, Mr. Senta?”

God, will it never end? Surely this time Senta, giddy with triumph, will put his foot in it. But no. He asked a devastating question—once again taking the chance that he…like all of us…should have known the answer without asking: “Father, how can we know natural law?”

“Aha, you have read my mind, Mr. Senta! How is this natural law known? What are its commands? Here again from the Angelic Doctor. We first distinguish the speculative reason from the practical reason. The object of the speculative reason is KNOWLEDGE—the object of the practical reason is CONDUCT. The first principle of the speculative reason is…class? Anyone? No one. The first principle is that of CONTRADICTION. One cannot BE and NOT BE at the same time under the same aspect.

“Gentlemen, the hour is late. Let me say that next time we SHALL HAVE an examination and we SHALL NOT have an examination. Aha, you say: that is not feasible. And of course it isn’t. So now I shall not contradict myself. Next time we SHALL INDEED have an examination on all this so that the principle of contradiction shall be observed. But before we go: what is the first self-evident principle of the practical reason? What? None of you know it? Cannot even hazard a guess? It is that `good is to be done and evil is to be avoided.’ See you next week and my admonition to all of you is:

“Do good and avoid evil. Now you may come to this desk, Mr. Senta.”

As we walked down the corridor, I caught up to Senta’s roommate. Did he know Senta would do this?

“Yep. Don’t worry. He told me he was going to do it. He’s an ex-GI, after all…saw a lot of action during the war: the battle of the Bulge. But he told me he won’t do it again. You see, he doesn’t have to. His reputation is made with Ernie. But I would advise you not to try it any more than I would.”

Don’t worry.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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Personal Asides: Burris Survives: But No Thanks to You Guys, Harry and Dick!...Illinois Doesn’t Make the Cut


Burris Survives.

News that Roland Burris will be accepted as a member of the Senate club is heartening…not because Burris is so great (he isn’t: he’s very mediocre)—but because Harry Reid and Dick Durbin will receive and richly deserve the fickle finger of reproach for trying to twist the constitutions of Illinois and the United States to their own ends, the promotion of the Democratic party.

Fearful that Burris cannot win election on his own, they tried to muscle Rod Blagojevich. Regardless of what you think of Rod, he is still the governor of Illinois with sovereign powers of appointment. Eccentric and as self-destructive as he is, he mustered up an inner reserve to turn the tables on the little sneak from Searchlight, Nevada (population: 250). The Illinois constitution says that in the case of senatorial vacancy the governor will appoint (unless he determines to call a special election). And the constitution of the United States maintains that the Congress shall be the judge of its own membership—but nowhere does it aver nor does historic precedent cite that a duly appointed senator should be turned aside for any reason other than his own citizenship: unless proof be given that he is tainted by corruption.

Nowhere does the federal constitution say or imply that the character of a legally elected governor should be taken as a disqualifying factor in the appointment. It doesn’t say much for Jesse White that he allowed himself to be used by Reid and Durbin by refusing to perform a routine clerical act, affixing his signature on a document certifying that Burris was appointed. In refusing to do so, White showed himself to be an unprincipled hack, neglecting to perform the work he was elected to do in order to invent a crass partisan gesture to curry favor with the jingos of his party.

Reid and Durbin tried to bluff Burris but their case had no merit…no merit that is to anyone except the “Sun-Times’” Lynn Sweet who regards the paramount interest of the Democratic party as an absolute. Using his street smarts honed when 40 years ago he and his father integrated the town swimming pool in Centralia, Burris played the race card by standing outside in the rain under an umbrella…and it wasn’t long before the august body yielded to the pressure and got Reid and Durbin to yield. Their last futile attempt to block Burris in behalf of a more powerful nominee Democratic nominee to be appointed by Pat Quinn came when Reid and Durbin tried to push the blame for their delaying on White. The Illinois Supreme Court scotched that ploy by pointing out that the appointment was legal without White’s say-so..

The Burris incident has brought no great credit on anyone—except those who urged a special election in the first place. Certainly none on Blagojevich who had the fun of savoring embarrassment to Reid and Durbin who had sought to muscle him. None on Burris who would never be on anyone’s short list for the Senate and whose mediocrity will be an issue in the 2010 campaign.

None on White who sought to ingratiate himself with his party’s bosses by refusing to perform a job he was elected to do. None on the twin columning pander-bears of the “Sun-Times” who zinged Burris for the sole purpose of getting him to back away from acceptance of a legal appointment so the Democrats to triumph with a more attractive candidate named by Quinn. The only credit goes to the editorial pages of the two Chicago newspapers which supported the calling of a special election.

Illinois Doesn’t Make the Cut.

Until now, I thought we had the biggest corruption case to break in the nation in 2008—with a sitting Democratic governor of a major state taken from his home by federal agents and to the federal courthouse and placed under arrest. But we didn’t even make the 10 ten major scandals of the year with Time magazine. Not being included in Time’s top scandals of 2008 was a stunner--despite the fact that the difficult name Rod Blagojevich aka Blago has become a national byword for goofy, the concept of a governor either willfully crooked or nuts.

Now get this: in Time’s so-called “top ten” scandals of the past year, no Dem was identified but Republican miscreants were listed as such. Here are the Dems who got off scot-free: Eliot Spitzer, Democratic governor of New York, who resigned post-hooker…John Edwards, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, (the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee and Democratic North Carolina senator) married to a wife fighting cancer who was found to be conducting an affair with a former female aide with a big bucks personal injury lawyer buddy paying her to shut up, then Edwards found visiting his ex-mistress and her new baby (widely regarded as Edwards’)…and Kwame Kirkpatrick, Democratic mayor of Detroit who along with his mistress, his chief of staff, was sentenced to jail term for perjury for lying under oath about their relationship in a whistleblower case.

In contrast, Sen. Ted Stevens prominently identified by the mag as Republican and senior Republican in the Senate, convicted for taking tens of thousands of dollars from an Anchorage builder and not reporting it on his ethics disclosure form. And lo and behold, ranking high in the “scandal” listing was Sarah Palin, the Republican governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential nominee for—what?

For…and I’ll pardon you for laughing out loud…for receiving a $150,000 wardrobe for use in her campaign from the Republican National Committee! Not only was it no scandal but the wardrobe was donated to charity after the campaign: so what’s the hubbub about? Answer: no scandal at all, just the cross-eyed media…unable to discern facts as facts…vetting its animosity at Palin because she doesn’t conform to their idea of feminine political leadership. And even more important than that: because she went ahead with her pregnancy and delivered a Down syndrome baby which, one prominent psychiatrist said, caused feminists to endure grief pangs…since they believe if a woman can’t abort a “defective” baby, the so-called right to abortion means nothing.

What Now for Blago?

After impeachment, what’s likely to happen now? The new House (constituted of those who elected last November) convenes on Jan. 14 and will approve yet another impeachment resolution which will also pass almost unanimously. Then the state Senate takes on the job of jury. The trial is set to begin Jan. 26 and is expected to run nine days or so. Removal of Blagojevich by the Senate will require at least 40 votes which means Blago will have to hustle up 20 votes to stay in…which is viewed as impossible.

After conviction, the focus moves to the feds. District Attorney Pat Fitzgerald has been granted a 90-day extension (leading up to April 7) before formal indictment. Fitz said the probe involves far more than the two initially charged, Blago and his top aide—but Blago’s brother, Robert who ran his campaign fund. The file involves “thousands of phone calls” between late-October, 2008 and early December when he was arrested, said the prosecutor. But in filing for extension, Fitzgerald has handed Blago’s attorney Edward Genson, cunning as a wolf, a lot of valuable information to use prior to April 7. Last week Genson, asked the court to remove Fitzgerald and his team because of a supposed violation of pretrial publicity—notably the statement Fitz made saying that “Abraham Lincoln is turning over in his grave” at the violations by Blago. (Nice turn of phrase, Fitz, but anyone familiar with the mid-19th century style of politics would say “maybe not.” Of which more later).

Genson argues: Yes, the governor was taped saying he’d sell Obama’s seat to the highest bidder, that he wanted to get the Tribune’s editorial board fired as a pretext to getting the state to buy into Wrigley field (owned by the newspaper)…and that he was putting the squeeze on a sick children’s hospital for donations—but that was only talk. No proof exists anything like this took place. It’s a 1st amendment issue.

But Fitzgerald will counter: Blago’s talk itself is a crime because the offer to take a bribe is the completed crime since it’s depriving the people of honest service. Statutes have become broader allowing juries greater flexibility in judging such talk. Genson will say politics is politics and you can’t hold somebody liable for playing by this old, accepted rules (rules in effect long before Lincoln’s time).

…and What About Burris?

Always playing the race card, Blagojevich rejected the Democratic party’s edict…communicated by a thoroughly stupid Harry Reid, the Senate Dem majority leader in Washington…not to name to fill Obama’s seat Democratic Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Danny Davis, nor retired Dem State Senate President Emil Jones—all black. He signified as okay two white women, the pro-choicers Dems Lisa Madigan (step-daughter of the powerful Dem House Speaker: surprise!) and Tammy Duckworth, a multiple amputee from the Iraq War.

The aforementioned blacks can’t get elected in 2010 according to Reid (who himself will have a tough time getting returned by voters in his state of Nevada because of his sharply liberal views). To this, Blago thumbed his nose and named a black: Democrat Roland Burris, the first of his race to be elected statewide as comptroller and attorney general. For months, Reid and his jelly-fish sidekick, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) vowed not to allow any “tainted” choice of Blago to go to their pristine Senate. And Burris didn’t help himself when he admitted reluctantly that he discussed the appointment ahead of time with an ex-Blago staffer now widely criticized lobbyist, Lon Monk.

Nevertheless, skilled at playing the race card, Burris, 71, went to Washington on the first day of the new congressional session and out-foxed Reid by standing outside in the rain under an umbrella with the door locked, barring his entrance…resembling how two black students were locked out of the University of Alabama by Dem Gov. George Wallace on June 11, 1963.

Liberal Dems vowed not to take the bad publicity. President-elect Obama told Reid to make the Burris embarrassment go away-- and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) broke ranks and publicly urged Reid to accept Burris. Many chafed when Reid and Durbin pretended Burris’ papers of appointment weren’t in order because the Illinois secretary of state, a black Democrat, had withheld his certification to please his Dem bosses. But the Dem-controlled Illinois Supreme Court ruled the state official’s signature is not required. Notwithstanding, Reid and Durbin made the secretary of state the fall guy for not certifying Burris, no matter what the court says.

Desperately, Reid and Durbin sought to buy themselves some time by saying they will wait to see if the Illinois senate kicks Blago out of office. They invented long delays: Burris’ name should go to the Rules committee for approval. If he’s ok’d there, the whole Senate would have to vote on him.

But at last week’s end, it’s almost a sure thing that Burris ill be seated. No matter what happens…a Burris win, another appointment by Blago’s successor or a special election…if the battered state Republican party can get up from the canvass, it stands a good chance to electing a senator. But it needs a good candidate. Republican country clubbers are talking up Cong. Mark Kirk, the pro-abort, pro-gay rights representative from the North Shore. But running statewide, Kirk would lose much of the party’s base. A better choice would be pro-lifer (an Anglican, he rejecting the liberal Episcopalian church) Cong. Peter Roskam who represents Henry Hyde’s old seat. But Roskam has just been named to Ways and Means, an important assignment. If there were a special election and Roskam didn’t have to give up his seat, he’d run for the senate. Probably not in 2010.

Wait—Still More.

But the fun’s not over yet. In April when Blago is kicked out and the ball is in Patrick Quinn’s court, will he leave Burris in place or make an appointment himself…or, if he’s man enough to cross Daley and Durbin… will he set a special election and let the people decide? The party boss, Richard M. Daley, has a private list of favorites for appointment—headed by his kid brother, Bill, a wealthy lobbyist and former commerce secretary under Bill Clinton. Then: Lisa Madigan, the attorney general. Third: Chris Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy’s son and manager of the Merchandise Mart. To those who say three Kennedys would be a crowd in the U.S. Senate (Teddy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who seems a likely successor to Hillary Clnton, and Chris Kennedy), Daley privately says: there can never be too many Kennedys.

So what will Quinn do? He will run for governor himself in 2010 and is no slouch at pleasing voters who by a big margin want a special election. Whether Lisa Madigan will challenge him is problematic—but my guess is she will…and will defeat Quinn since the brunt of the party machinery will be behind her. The divisive primary should be an open sesame for the Republicans…if. If they can get their act together which is an open question.

Conclusion: that’s what happens when a state is managed totally…governorship, all constitutional offices, both legislative houses, majority of state judges, majority of the congressional delegation…by one party and two powerful families (the Daleys and Madigans)…aided by a cross-eyed liberal media which fan liberal flames.

Lincoln: Turning Over or Not?

Pat Fitzgerald’s statement that the Blago mess is causing Abraham Lincoln to turn over in his grave, may or may not be true (nobody’s looked inside the crypt at Springfield’s Oak Ridge cemetery recently). But Lincoln lived at a time when ethics laws were not almost non-existent. It was no crime, for instance, to serve in a legislative body and literally lobby for clients, using your dual status.

In fact, it’s likely Lincoln would be right at home in contemporary Illinois. He was the most prominent railroad attorney and lobbyist in Illinois…working for all the major roads at one time or another…and was at the same time at one point the Whig majority leader in the House. In his legislative capacity he unfurled a map of the state on his desk and helped chart the route of key railroads he was representing as a lawyer, across the state…being sure his client roads ran by the most thriving cities, some of whom he was also representing. No law prevented it. But the best was yet to come when in private life he moved to the brink of running for president.

In his time, U.S. Senators were elected by the legislature. He ran for the Senate in 1858. To get the U.S. Senate job, he not only debated his opponent, incumbent Stephen A. Douglas, but traveled the state stirring up the grassroots to get enough Republicans were elected to change the balance. A third of the state senate was up for election…which meant Lincoln had to also butter up some of the wavering members in both parties. Deals with state legislators for their votes was the name of the game for both Lincoln and Douglas. Lincoln lost a close contest in the General Assembly but he should so much skill as a pol that he became a front-runner for the Republican nomination in Chicago in 1860. The galleries shouted “Lincoln! Lincoln!” Reason: phony tickets to the galleries were distributed and Lincoln adherents showed up early and filled the seats before the regular accredited visitors got there.

A literary and political genius, did Illinois’ premier ex-railroad lobbyist turned legislative schmoozer for the Senate and convention gallery stacker roll over in his grave because Blago talked dirty on the phone about cutting a deal for a Senate seat…which didn’t work out and for which he got no payoff?

Oh, I don’t think so.