Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Personal Aside: Vrdolyak, Our Crook…Why Rahm Blasted Limbaugh…and Why Michael Steele Shouldn’t Have.


Vrdolyak Our Crook.

Chicago Republicans…at least conservative ones…have been so out of power in Chicago (since Big Bill Thompson in 1931)…that they forgot what it’s like to have a big shot power player in trouble with the Feds—forgot, that is, until the other day. That was when Fast Eddie Vrdolyak…the conservatives’ own who left the Democratic party for the GOP and who epitomized the true neighborhood guy ran into trouble with U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald because of a crooked deal Vrdolyak was ginning up and which was captured by the FBI listening in on his cell phone.

Up to then Vrdolyak had been a white neighborhood hero despite the fact that he is a multi-millionaire and didn’t have to engage in smarmy deals to turn a buck. He did it because he is the eternal moth who likes to fly as close as he can to the flame and not get burned. I know Vrdolyak well. People forget that on his radio show he embodied the worldly wise neighborhood tough guy with no pretense—typically Chicago. They also forget that he topped the ratings when he held forth on that show. And finally they forget that flaws aside…he is indubitably…authentically…and everlastingly white, cynical Chicago—sounding for all the world (and I parsed his cadences) like Frank Sinatra: memorable, not heroic with a touch of sadness but an irreverence that is endearing. On the radio Eddie was the tough guy he always was but with a charming, old-school traditionally conservative approach on family, the wiles of the machine, etc. In that time he became a kind of icon. Had he allowed himself to stay on the air he’d be a true radio institution by now. But no—always he had to move on.

He sort of…I say sort of…started me at WLS after I retired from Quaker Oats by inviting me as a guest and then…when he went on “strike” to protest his show being taken off FM…asking me to sub for him for a week until he came back. The week lasted for months. I was on with his sidekick Ty Wonsley for so long I was in danger of losing some public affairs clients who thought (when they had trouble reaching me between 2 p.m. and 6 every afternoon) I had either a serious drinking problem or was insincere about representing them. After my stint was up I got hired as a part-timer by WLS which has continued to this very day.

When I say Vrdolyak is “our crook,” I don’t excuse him or anything he did including the things I know and will never know. The moth and flame is the only answer I can find for someone that resourceful risking his career. I happened to have been in his office the day before he was indicted—trying to interest him in writing a column for “the Observer.” He seemed moderately interested. The next day when the news came out I called him and wished him well. “Oh, it’ll come out all right,” he said. Actually it did: I don’t know if Eddie knew it would all along or if he was just lucky. I think the latter given his remark, “God is great!” after the sentence was read.

By walking…and infuriating the media… Eddie cheered up a lot of us who have no illusions about his lack of sanctity but have always figured the media and liberaldom inevitably win. He added to his reputation as a survivor…getting a $50,000 fine which for him is chump change…weekly meetings with a probation officer…and 500 hours of “community service.” Also permanently losing his lawyer’s license. The lawyer’s license thing isn’t all that important since Eddie’s propensity at deal-making can’t be found in Blackstone’s “Commentaries.”

To tell the truth, I think Eddie was guilty enough to draw a year’s jail time but certainly not the 41 months Patrick Fitzgerald demanded. But he has foiled the almost perfect record Fitzgerald has. I thought for a time Scooter Libby would give Fitz the finger by getting off—but no (and I still think his conviction was unwarranted) it so happens our own Chicago crook did! Huzza! Fitzgerald is the greatest thing that happened to law enforcement since Melvin Purvis.. but like everyone else he needs a little humbling and who better than by our own version of Nathan Detroit? Eddie humbled him and Fitz is still grousing. That’s fine…but Eddie should have gotten some time. But by not getting any he has embellished his reputation as Fast Eddie, Our…the white neighborhood guys’ variety… crook.

Why Rahm Blasted Limbaugh…and--.

As one who knew Rahm Emanuel from the old days when…after Bruce DuMont’s WBEZ radio stint on Thursday nights…he was very happy to grab dinner on my Quaker expense accout…I think I know why he—as Obama’s chief of staff—has been sailing into Rush Limbaugh.

I’ve criticized Limbaugh myself on occasion…but only because I think he’s too rhetorically perfectionist as a conservative thinker…as someone who has never had to make compromises to get legislation passed. Beyond that, I think Limbaugh is the world’s greatest asset to the conservative movement. And now when I listened to him I think that somehow he has picked up a good deal of practical gamesmanship that only comes to a legislator or lobbyist—so my original critique is outdated. Secondly I’ve never thought his put-on as being endowed by talent from God was all that smart: kind of inventing a hubris his enemies could glom onto. But these are minor points. The fact that 20 million people listen to Limbaugh is an enormously indisputably invaluable resource for conservatism…something I have always felt.


The Rahm I know understands this very well. He knows more than he would ever admit the imperishability of Limbaugh’s value in political debate. He has been zinging him for one reason only: hoping his criticism would cause Rush to fly into a rage and blurt out something ala Don Imus that would cause him disaster. Those old enough to remember can recall another vast personality…although not a radio commentator…a national figure who molded opinions on radio and television. His name: Arthur Godfrey. When he fired singer Julius LaRosa on the air without LaRosa knowing it was going to happen, Godfrey instantly ruined himself, portraying himself as unutterably cruel, a tyrant. The national audience turned against him and his time was over.

Emanuel took Limbaugh’s statement that he hopes Obama will fail…used it out of context (Rush always said he hoped for failure because of Obama’s leftwing programs)…on a gamble that Rush’s thin skin would lead him into making an excessive statement ala Imus, ala Godfrey…which would paralyze him and be an entrée to imposition of the misnamed Fairness Doctrine.

Knowing Emanuel well, I can appreciate that as a stratagem it was at least worth a gamble. Rush avoided the pitfall. But all the same, I think Rush should avoid answering twits like Emanuel, thus saving himself from the possibility of human error which can afflict us all. For losing Rush Limbaugh through a wily stratagem such as Emanuel’s would truly be a disaster for conservatism.

…Why Michael Steele, of All People, Should Not Have.

If anyone should know the value of a nuclear arsenal that Rush Limbaugh is in the fight against liberaldom, it should be Michael Steele, the newly elected Republican National Chairman. Steele’s foray into calling Limbaugh an “entertainer” and “sometimes pure ugly” as a commentator is almost…almost…unforgivable. It betrays elitist country-club thinking and contradicts all that Steele purportedly should stand for.

If Steele thought that by saying this he can squeeze next to the Katie Courics of this world…a kind of limp-eyed faux liberalism…he is in the wrong business. I’m all in favor of Steele getting ripped from stem to stern over those remarks. In fact Steele’s remarks betray a phenomenal ignorance of what he should be about.

I’m far more tolerant of Rahm going after Limbaugh than Steele. As a matter of fact, Steele has given Emanuel a weapon to use against Rush.

For the magnitude of his botch, I think Steele should leave his job as soon as practicable.

He is stuck on stupid.


  1. Kudos on the reference to Arthur Godfrey. Let me recommend the classic 1957 movie, "A Face in the Crowd," about the rise and fall of a Godfrey-type character (who also has elements of Joe McCarthy and a 1950s Bill O'Reilly). Andy Griffith was never better.

  2. orr for senate? check this out: