Monday, March 16, 2009

Personal Aside: Was “The Council of Trent” Exclusive? Anybody Who Read this Blog and Heard it On the Radio Could Go!...Obama Follows Axelrod’s Left-Wing Formulation Which Began in Chicago and Spread Nationally. But Won’t Last Long.


Council of Trent Exclusive?

Our neighbor over at the “Illinois Review,” Fran Eaton, is huffy because the Council of Trent…composed of conservative movement leaders who met Saturday to help Rosanna Pulido…didn’t send Eaton a personal, engraved invitation. No one got one: it was advertised on this blog and on my WLS radio program and people who wanted to come just simply came. Evidently that kind of average folks invitation isn’t to Eaton’s liking. Somebody who told her she’s a Superstar who deserves special treatment and fawning has made a big mistake. Eaton hints that she’ll probably sit this one out on Pulido because Eaton wasn’t carried into the crowd on a gilded chair like one of the early popes.

This is the second time I’ve been clipped by the huffy, unpredictable idiosyncratic Eaton whom I had as a guest lecturer a my college course and invited to be on my show (she was too busy)—and I’m fed up with it. I’ve praised in the past as an excellent journalist but now no more Mr. Nice Guy. With your cavalier attitude, m’dear you’ll wait a helluva long time to get another bon mot from me.

Axelrod’s Local, Now National Influence.

It’s no surprise to this observer that the Obama administration is beginning to run into trouble with Gallup showing the new president is less popular at this stage of his administration than was George W. Bush.

The reason is clear. He has taken a basically center-right country (which until the fall `08 meltdown was supporting John McCain over Barack Obama by 5 points)…and wrenched the steering wheel hard-left. Obama’s direction reflects the new Chicago Democratic way of doing things—as distinct from the old. And it all has to do with the great influence of David Axelrod, who is far more powerful than was Karl Rove under Bush.

First, let’s examine the old Democratic party of Chicago and Cook county and the new as shaped largely by Axelrod.

Old Man Daley.

The man we fondly refer to in this town as “the old Mayor Daley,” who served from 1955 to 1976, was indubitably the best mayor we ever had…possibly the best mayor the nation ever had… at a crucial time in U.S. urban history. He was instinctively a Burkean, reflecting the philosophy of the Irish-born parliamentarian Edmund Burke [1729-97] whom I am sure the old man never read but whom he would agree with warmly if he had. Like the great Whig conservative, Burke, Daley, Sr. believed instinctively that if it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.

Old Man Daley revered the Cook county Democratic machine, was its chairman longer than he was mayor and liked being Chairman better than being mayor. He closely followed the blueprint drawn by the party’s chief dialectician, Anton Cermak, an unlettered but street smart Bohemian…a free-thinker, not a Catholic… known as “Push Cart Tony.” Multi-ethnicity was Cermak’s credo as Cook county board president and mayor from 1922-33. All except blacks. Then they were Republican and would only be accepted as Democrats unless willing to play the machine game.

In his politics, Richard J. Daley religiously followed Cermak. But in addition, Daley’s traditional conservatism was an indispensable attribute. Here Daley stood firm as he weathered disputes over school segregation, inferior black schools, riots and counterdemonstrations, the coming of Martin Luther King to the city who led marches, rent strikes and even anti-Vietnam war protests aimed at him. And, of course, the big one which no other mayor ever faced: the insurrection of hippies, well-intended white do-gooders and hard-core lefties at Democratic national convention of 1968—dissenters who his police to beat up with billy clubs…often cruelly…in Grant Park.

Old man Daley determined that while he wouldn’t play the race card ala Democratic mayor Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia, he also would refuse to kow-tow to black extremists who threatened to burn his city. Nor would he try to reason with suburban-spoiled white, over-educated Harvard bums urinating on cops in behalf of “peace.” Essentially, he understood that too much compliance with blacks’ wishes or white radicals’ demands would lead to loss of his white, middle class base of support.

All through his 23 years as chairman of the Democratic party and 21 years as mayor, Daley remained true to the Cermak canon. The liberal establishment media raised un-shirted hell with him (Mike Royko won a Pulitzer as reward for his colorful newspaper columns) but the old man wouldn’t budge from his conservative largely working class-based stand, resembling a tough but loving father with his family. Toughness included his order to police during riots following King’s death: “Shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand because they are potential murderers. Shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city”…and his malapropism to Walter Cronkite during the Dem convention, “the police are there to preserve disorder”—which Cronkite snickered at but which the bungalow belt tacitly understood while hating Cronkite’s very guts for smirking at their mayor.

Then a small white liberal, anti-machine wing of the Democratic party here…forerunner to the new Chicago Democratic party…the misnamed “Independent Voters of Illinois,” called him publicly “a flagrantly racist mayor.” Still he refused to back down—even to deal with Jesse Jackson and Operation Breadbasket. Daley’s housing programs were attacked as insufficient to solve integration (critics were right but Daley knew integration could not be attained by fiat). He was assailed for police corruption (on this critics were absolutely right: a wholesale scandal involved policemen from the Summerdale precinct who burglarized homes at night) but at no time was he probed for venality or theft of funds since everybody knew he sought power nor money.

As result, despite all these challenges, in his last run for reelection, in 1975, at age 73, having suffered two strokes a year earlier (with all the stress placed on him, no wonder!) he defeated one black civil rights leader and one white reformer in the Democratic primary, the white, Billy Singer, having played a key role in unseating Daley delegates at the McGovern convention of `72 (and who may well have been rented for the election to divide the liberal vote, Singer having bargained away what’s left of his soul to become a consort of the convicted and disgraced Eddie Vrdolyak…the conservatives’ own crook… in property deals).

Beating Off Attacks from the Right.

Daley’s conservatism reflected his traditional Irish Catholicism. As the media and everyone else knew he attended daily Mass at his working class Nativity of Our Lord parish which aided his politics immeasurably. That bungalow conservatism served him well including winning the warmhearted allegiance of cops and firemen who provided superb protection for private property, the cops knowing that if they banged a few heads in getting the job done, their department would loyally look the other way.

This conservatism gained heavy support from the then conservative business community which aided him in fostering an environment for economic growth and which supported his successful bid after huge controversy for two major freeways (the Kennedy and the Eisenhower) coursing through the city…the Kennedy where Daley engineered, at minion Danny Rostenkowski’s pleading a neatly-arranged a curve to avoid St. Stanislaus Kostka’s church in Rosty’s district. He succeeded…despite huge protests…in engineering a massive relocation of homes and small businesses to build a University of Illinois center on the west side. Despite the furor, contractors, banks and Loop businesses were pleased that the city seemed clean, its books balanced, credit rating good and its leaders populated city commissions and boards.

In like manner, Daley took risks with his popularity socially to keep his socially conservative identity intact. Two notable political challenges came from the right—from his ex-friend, ex-Springfield roommate (when both were state legislators) and ex-Democrat, fellow Catholic Benjamin Adamowski who ran against him.

In 1963, among other allegations …high taxes, corrupt police, wastrel spending… Benjamin Adamowski, then GOP states attorney and Daley’s challenger for mayor…who had a gigantic Polish American following… charged that Daley had secretly approved distribution of condoms to the poor via the city welfare department. This stratagem sought to dislodge the Catholic conservative middle class from Daley. The archdiocese then was a lot more aggressive on the Church’s anti-birth control issue than its weakling later prelates have been so it was a tough issue for the Old Man.

Daley hotly denied he had authorized it and their distribution was immediately stopped (for the duration of the campaign, at least). After the condom charge failed, Adamowski played the race card. He came out against the city’s ad hoc open housing which Daley supported but kept quiet about, Adamowski catering to white fear of black incursions. He challenged Daley to do the same…saying that since the national Democratic party favored open occupancy, Daley must affirm or deny.

Responding to the charge with nearly incomprehensible slangy Bridgeport idiom delivered with a number of grunts and coughs, Daley’s syntax became so blurred that no one figured out exactly where he stood (semanticists still dispute what Daley’s position was on the issue). Adamowski later ruefully told me: “This guy appeared to be against birth control for welfare recipients and for racial brotherly love among the races! Listen, as his roommate in Springfield when we were both in the legislature, I know better on both counts.”

Maybe so but Daley never allowed himself to be characterized as either too liberal to support his Church’s moral strictures and so much an Archie Bunker race baiter (no matter what the liberals charged) that he contradicted its social teachings.

That strategy got Old Man Daley through the period of Roe v. Wade where, with liberals of his party in firm support and his Church against, he never, ever expressed support for abortion (he just didn’t talk about it). The next two white Catholic Democratic mayors, Mike Bilandic and Jane Byrne followed his lead.

Washington: “You’re a Sack-Full of A-------!”

Then came liberal Democrat Harold Washington: a lefty to the core. Axelrod was his media guy. It’s unpopular to say it now because as the first black mayor he’s venerated by the media but Washington was a bitter black racist, albeit likeable. He tangled with angry whites on his city council and added a bitterness to race relations by shouting about old man Daley, “I give no hosannas to a racist nor do I appreciate or respect his son!”

Washington’s dynamism involved embracing verbal pyrotechnics unrivaled since the days of the last Republican mayor, Big Bill Thompson who displayed a cage with a rat in it before an audience, publicly addressing the rodent as his Democratic opponent to the delight of Chicagoans. Washington got away with it because of the fawning, guilt-ridden favoritism of the media.

Once on a public radio program when he was a Congressman, I asked Washington why he was aligned with a few black House members who voted against confirming Gerald Ford as vice president…when even Andrew Young, the civil rights leader who represented Georgia’s 5th district supported him. To me Washington’s stand was a kind of toxic partisanship. I also asked why he was the only member of the Black Caucus to decline to meet with Ford right after he became president. Washington sputtered an elegant sentence using his favorite word “burgeoning” and waited for a break in the program when the director went to a staid public radio announcement in behalf of a museum.

When we were off the air during the break, Washington wheeled around to me to me and growled in his resonant baritone, “you know, Roeser, you’re a whole sack-full of a-------!” We then both doubled up with laughter. When the show returned to the air, none of us could restrain our mirth. For his candor, I have always had high regard for him…as a politician, not as a mayor.

A man of gargantuan excess, he would wolf down cheeseburgers as he rode in his limo to his Hyde Park residence. Those cheeseburgers killed him. In 1987 he toppled dead at the height of his power, having won reelection and final mastery over the council. The undertaker discovered he weighed an astounding 300 lbs. which he hid well with a tight-fitting girdle to pull in his enormous gut.

All the while during Washington’s era, the Heir Apparent, Richard II was serving an uncontroversial two terms as States Attorney of Cook, the top prosecutor. He never tried a case personally (he made three attempts to pass his bar exam) but when space opened up in the mayoralty…where he could capitalize on being the white against a weak black mayor people, a very nice but ineffective Gene Sawyer whom people called “mumbles”… Daley was ready.

With trumpets blaring, it was the ascension of Richard II—but in no way like his father with the exception of imperfect English idiom. His new consultant, David Axelrod, a veteran of Harold Washington runs, convinced him times had changed and social liberalism was the course to pursue. It was not Axelrod’s call alone but that of a cadre of Daley advisers including his brother Bill. But Axelrod was the chief exponent of accommodating the left. To an extent they were right—but there is no doubt in my mind that Daley could get elected…and reelected…without caving to the left. He does because his insecurity is such he fears losing votes. He doesn’t have the firmness the Old Man had.

So…in line with the Axelrod formula… rather than maintain the old stolid Bridgeport stance of his father… Daley moved left unostentatiously (his artsy wife supported it) and also relocated downtown. Convinced the city had changed, was now modishly liberal and his church, under Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, was soft-pedaling its old social conservatism, Daley got away with it. There were no challenges to his new stance from the modishly liberal media nor from his church. He was cited as the model “new wave” of mayors with an old familiar name.

With Daley II the Game Changed.

The ringmaster of change in the media, Axelrod…an ex- New Yorker whose mama had been a reporter in the `40s for the modishly radical PM newspaper (then known as the uptown edition of the Communist Daily Worker)… has had Daley II hugging all the liberals…including radicals like Billy Ayres…to his bosom so as to avoid a fracture in the party…taking a markedly different path to accommodate them: a path divergent from his church and its moral strictures (supporting abortion rights and same-sex marriage). He rode in gay rights parades and dedicating a new state-financed museum to “gay culture”.

Thanks to Axelrod, this won Daley new allegiance from the liberal media. Upshot: the left has no place to go so it supports Daley every time he runs. Why not? But there is such a thing as renting out one’s soul. There’s no doubt Daley’s done it. And when he blusters most at news conferences…his face reddening…is always the occasion that he’s in denial. Thus far Axelrod has seemed right…right, that is, if you want to be regarded favorably by WTTW-TV’s audiences—the ever-smiling p.r.-type Phil Ponce who never offends and whose eyes dart uncertainly from guest to guest like he’s watching a tennis match…Blondie his sidekick questioner who comes from the tony 43rd ward originally and who ran many years ago as a lefty “reformer” against the old machine…and who else? Oh, how could I forget: Carol Marin of the prematurely orange hair…the unoriginal media monopolist (Sun-Times columnist, NBC political reporter, WTTW political reporter)…whose stale, unvarying views fit these lazy thoughtlessly lefty times having been pre-cooked in the `60s.

Two Big Mistakes with the “New” Politics.

Axelrod believes all his clients should be endowed with the Cult of Personality. Rather than have his client Richard M. Daley be chairman of the Cook county Democratic party as was the Old Man, Axelrod argued the mayor should be the focus. Thereupon a faceless pol was made chairman and instead of job applicants going through the local committeemen and up through the party machinery to City Hall, they went directly to City Hall where they they were placed.

Alas this turned out to be a big mistake which could be fatal for Daley. Old Man Daley had wisely put party functionaries between him and the hiring process… buffers…to protect him from the dirty business of sending city workers out to the precincts to work the polls. With Richard II, all top level political hires were run by machine bosses who worked right under Daley’s nose…including his director of personnel (now serving jail time)…who fixed their civil service exams, got them placed and saw they were assigned to get-out-the-vote tasks where they were needed (as for example, for Axelrod’s buddy Rahm Emanuel’s 5th district campaign when he ran for Congress).

But as the Old Man could have told his son, this put City Hall right in the line of fire of a federal prosecutor such as Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitz sent a string of Daley operatives to jail and today one, Al Sanchez head of Streets and Sanitation, who is on trial could be getting ready to sing like a canary about Daley. This would never have happened under the Old Man.

A second Axelrod-engendered mistake involves the Chicago police. Following the dictum, Daley usually has supported the ACLU whenever a cop is accused of “brutality.” So, the men and women in blue now think Daley will never back them up (they’re right!) …which is the reason they don’t over-exert themselves chasing criminals. Result: For the first time in 10 years, last year, Chicago topped New York city and L.A. in murders with 426 compared to 417 (New York) and 302 (L.A.). Rudy Giuliani became known as “the nation’s mayor” because of one thing: he cleaned up Times Square. And he did it by backing the cops against the ACLU almost every time.

Last year when Giuliani was here campaigning, I talked with him for a short time and asked what his opinion of Daley is. He said not for attribution, he’s making one big mistake. He’s not siding with the cops. I made a lot of mistakes, he said, but I never let the ACLU ruin the department. He’s got a point.

When the police came under fire last year, Daley booted an old-line superintendent and hired a $350,000 FBI man who never walked a beat. He cracks down on the cops whenever they rough up an offender. Fr. Michael Pfleger, the radical pastor of St. Sabina’s, is on the police board and he always sides with the “victim” and never the cops. Result: there’s a strong case of “blue flu” where police just do the minimum. If Daley loses the Olympics for 2016 (which to me wouldn’t be fatal: it’d be desirable) it’s because the city is unsafe. Still he doesn’t get it. That’s because Axelrod doesn’t. As Bill Daley doesn’t and Tim Degnan doesn’t. And Maggie doesn’t.

He’s not Axelrod’s clone but Daley runs his politics as Axelrod advises —to the left. Daley’s at all pro-abort and gay rights functions, rides in gay parades and has dedicated a state-financed museum to gay “leaders.”

And Axelrod’s other big client, Barack Obama…who doesn’t need influencing from Axelrod since he was born left (but whose image is overseen by Axelrod)… operates to the left as well. Now that Axelrod is installed in the White House as Ideologue-in-Chief, he’s the architect of the tone the presidency takes.

Leftward Goes the Presidency.

Axelrod, whom I’ve known for 30 years, is not a fiercely pro-Israel Jew. He’s not overly observant, nor does he go to bed every night worrying about Israel, shall we say. Like Obama, he believes we’ve abused detained terrorists at Gitmo…and is “concerned” (isn’t that the word they all use?) about “human rights” for people who are out to detonate us.

Similarly, both look at our recession as a pretext for launching a Fabian socialist revolution which Axelrod favors entirely although he’s too good a spinner to level on that score.

Thus with this country already deep in recession, Obama is proposing hundreds of billions in additional spending on (a) universal health care, (b) universal postsecondary education), (c) a massive overhaul of the energy economy. As Obama and Axelrod are re-distributionists, they feel all the necessary tax hikes can be squeezed out of the richest 2%.

How powerful is Axelrod? Much more so than Rove was although he plays it down. Rove was the guy Bush sent for when he had a specific political problem (example: how to sell partially privatizing Social Security—which, incidentally, Rove didn’t handle very well. But Rove did extraordinarily well on managing communications for 2004). Rove was a project manager. Unlike Axelrod.

Axelrod is Obama’s radical dialectician… specializing in how to sell redistribution to the media and public in soft, cuddly tones. He says he’s interested in selling the person rather than a policy wonk—but when he sells the person, he sells the ideas…basically undiluted ideas his Mom had when she worked for PM.

There—does that scare you? But let me leave you with a consolation. They’ll do heavy damage…but they’ll fail. They’ll destroy themselves and I’ll be around to see it.

And when the conservative backlash comes, it’ll be much stronger than the so-called Reagan Revolution.

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