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.


  1. It was a great interview and I hope we see more of Kass now on the national level. The end where Kass spoke was classey. I hope Obama can rise above his Chicago political roots too.

  2. John Thomas Mc GeeanJanuary 19, 2009 at 7:00 AM

    Your article on John Kass was right on the mark. He probably will not get the Pulitzer Prize because he is a little too candid and right on. He is the ONLY reason I continue to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune. I continue to enjoy your Blog and your insights.