Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Personal Aside: Two Case Histories of “My Way or the Highway”--Richard Viguerie and Jack Roeser’s Hired Lawyer. Doug Ibendahl (WHO?)


Richard Viguerie.

The word “betrayal” is hardly ever used in politics these days except by a scarce genus of conspiratorial Republicans who think they taste fluoride in the drinking water…usually a few rich entrepreneurs who feel they’ve bought title to the brand after working in the vineyard during the parched years and chafe that they haven’t been sufficiently revered for their output of money.

Nationally, the leading protagonist of Republican “betrayal” is a cranky has-been: Richard Viguerie. He was a direct mail king who made a fortune from Republicans—starting with Barry Goldwater for president and then for countless conservatives running in state contests. I knew Viguerie when he and I were members of an outfit called the Council for National Policy. Whenever we met, Richard had identified yet another Republican who “betrayed” the him and/or the movement which he meant was the same thing. Actually the reason for his anger was that conservatives weren’t willing to do exactly what he thought they should do…to the iota no deviations.

Richard helped start Barry Goldwater on his way to the 1964 nomination. But when Barry Goldwater lost Richard said the loss came because he listened too much to Denison Kitchel, his campaign manager, and not enough to him or to Clif White. So, Kitchel was a betrayer. And then after Goldwater continued in the Senate, Goldwater himself was a betrayer (too much influenced by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan when they were senior leaders of the Senate Committee on Intelligence). Gerald Ford was a betrayer by being too soft on the Soviets and for making Nelson Rockefeller vice president. When Ronald Reagan ran against Ford in 1976 Viguerie decided Reagan became a betrayer by choosing Sen. Richard Schweiker as his potential vice president. Schweiker while pro-life didn’t toe the line with Viguerie. In 1980 Viguerie went with Phil Crane for president but Phil complained about the cost of Richard’s direct mail fee to me and others so to Viguerie Crane was a betrayer as well.

Viguerie said Reagan would never win the presidency because he had betrayed principle by naming George H. W. Bush as his running mate. Well, Reagan did, by 489 electoral votes to 40, carrying 40 states. Reagan hadn’t served in office two months when Viguerie said he was convinced Reagan had betrayed the cause and the country yet again saying “I am disillusioned with a president that [sic] walks away from the Soviet Union.” Meaning not going to war with it. Viguerie said: “Just like Jimmy Carter gave conservatives the back of the hand [sic] we see the same thing happening in the Reagan administration.” He told the Associated Press (1/27/81): “Almost every conservative I have talked to in the last two months has been disappointed in the initial appointments to the Reagan cabinet.” He said he wouldn’t vote for Reagan in 1984. Of course Reagan won handily over Walter Mondale in 1984, with 58.7% to 40.5%, carrying 49 states (Mondale won only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia).

In December, 1987 Viguerie was saying: “Many longtime conservative activists are not buying Reagan’s rhetoric. The emperor has no clothes on; just about every conservative I know is now acknowledging it.” To the “Los Angeles Times” he said “In other important matters he [Reagan] has changed sides and he is now allied with his former adversaries, the liberals, the Democrats and the Soviets.” “Eight years after Reagan’s nomination for president the conservative movement is directionless.”

The “changing sides” and going over to the USSR resulted in Reagan’s winning the Cold War, as Mrs. Margaret Thatcher declares. Not a word from Viguerie. He probably thinks Thatcher betrayed the conservative movement as well.

After Reagan left and the beauty of the conservative record was clear, Viguerie was still dissatisfied. He wrote a book entitled—you guessed it—“Conservatism Betrayed” which excoriated Bush I. “Sixty-five months into Bush’s presidency,” wrote Viguerie, “conservatives feel”—what? “Betrayed.” He said the party was betrayed by Bob Dole in 1996 and was outraged when it chose George W. Bush in 2000, saying it would be betrayed again. Four years later he said Bush deserved to lose because he had betrayed the party—well, he didn’t. In 2008 Viguerie hated John McCain and said the party would be betrayed by him. Despite a war and seeming depression, McCain lost by 4 points to Barack Obama. But to Viguerie, McCain has still betrayed the party.

Also Tom DeLay betrayed the party along with Denny Hastert and Newt Gingrich. It’s the same old story and has been since 1964, Now no one listens to Viguerie except Bill Moyers and the “Washington Post” who want to publicize their liberal aims by citing a so-called angry conservative token who says he is disillusioned. Viguerie has declared the following Republicans as betrayers: Mike Huckabee the former governor of Arkansas Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty. He likes only Sarah Palin but she had better watch her step or she too will be a betrayer.

And oh yes, Viguerie has another book out. Guess what it’s called?

“Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Repuiblicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.” In it he identifies the betrayers as Fox News, “The Weekly Standard” and other successful organs of the media.

Figuring out Richard Viguerie is easy. He’s an embittered old man who orders conservatives and the Republican party to follow his way—or the highway…and ends up standing in the middle of the street as traffic goes by heedlessly. He’s called the Little Tyrant, who is mad that his every whim hasn’t been followed. Those who don’t agree with his every suggestion have betrayed conservatives and the Republican party. He has forgotten nothing but learned nothing about politics since 1964…and doesn’t remember that while he’s been prognosticating betrayal and defeat, he himself hasn’t been elected and hasn’t led the party to victory—ever. He’s a lonely, embittered old man with no successes but a string of bad predictions to his credit.

Doug Ibendahl.

In Illinois we have a junior version of Richard Viguerie, Doug Ibendahl. Doug works for a self-made entrepreneur, a brilliant engineer, Jack Roeser of Carpentersville. I’ve interviewed Jack for the “Sun-Times,” had him as a guest on my radio show, had him guest lecture my political course at a downtown university. Jack’s a philanthropist with a social conscience—and like all of us, he’s not perfect…and in politics his inclination is to insist the party either follow him or take to the highway. That’s okay. All of us senior citizen types have that inclination. But few maim their party by declaring internecine war on its leaders. And very very few have supported candidates with money and once a candidate loses, demands his contribution back because the candidate didn’t follow his program exactly. That’s Jack.

Jack and Doug have elected nobody to a major post--ever. Doug writes fiery tirades against any Republican who dares to question his boss…and him. The other day Doug urged Republicans to get rid of Tom Cross in the 84th district. Tom Cross is the House Republican leader. Tom and I don’t agree on everything but Tom’s done things Doug Ibendahl and Jack Roeser haven’t: and that is get elected to something.

While the remainder of the Illinois GOP is just starting to imagine that with the terrible record the Democrats have produced, it may just be possible to elect a Republican governor…and maybe a U. S. senator…Jack and Doug have a better idea. They’re going to defeat Tom Cross if they can. Now Tom Cross and I don’t agree on a few things—but having been active in Republican politics in two states…and having elected two Republican congressmen and a governor in what was, like Illinois, a solidly Democratic state…I figure you might want to hear my side on Tom Cross—and why the Jack and Doug effort to defeat Cross is nothing more than anger at not been heeded—by anybody. How dare Republicans fail to salute!

Jack, like Richard Viguerie in his old age, believes that conservatives have only one choice: Jack’s way or the highway—with a string of defeats along the way…with the excuses that the party has been betrayed, betrayed, conspired-against, all by people who don’t agree with Doug and Jack. I’m a senior citizen like Jack but I’m lucky to be married to another senior citizen who says I’m not right about everything: thank God for her; she saved me a lot of goof-ups. I don’t know much about Doug: he’s not married so I’ll just leave that issue alone. But there is Jack just like Viguerie, standing in the middle of the highway flailing his arms, shouting “betrayal” while the traffic goes heedlessly along. Jack has only one major follower: Doug whom he pays.

Doug writes fulsomely about how Tom Cross betrays Republican principles. He calls him Tom “Double Cross.” He implies Tom Cross has sinned with a crimson “A” on his back because he doesn’t support each item in the Republican platform…almost as if the platform is engraved on tablets handed down by God on Mt. Sinai. (I’ll tell you later on who supported the Republican platform when it was wrong—and who didn’t, determining to be right rather than lip-synch views on a piece of paper).

Jack and Doug write that Tom Cross hasn’t done this and hasn’t done that—but this I know: As House Republican Leader Tom has withstood pressure from unions and special interest groups, the liberal media and the toughest opposition Mike Madigan could hurl at him to join them in raising taxes. And there has been no tax hike largely because of Tom Cross. Tom led his caucus in providing property tax relief. He has fought to pass a constitutional amendment requiring…get this…a three-fifths vote in each chamber to increase taxes.

Now Jack and Doug have laid down the dictum that if you don’t support the Republican platform on every single item you have betrayed principle. I happen to support the platform on every item but I would remind them that it’s not a capital sin to dissent from casting a blind loyalty oath on every item. Take ERA. They probably don’t know that support for the ERA or Equal Rights Amendment…bad news for social conservatives… had been in every GOP platform from 1940 until 1964—even though there were those of us who feared the oncoming of legalized abortion in the states would presage acceptance of the practice as a bogus “right” supported by the platform. The Taft forces tried to dump it in 1944, 1948 and 1952 and failed. In 1964 almost all the Republican presidential candidates—Goldwater, Rockefeller and Scranton—supported keeping the ERA in the platform…but one candidate didn’t: Walter Judd of Minnesota whose aide I was at the San Francisco convention. I supported Republicans anyhow. In 1972 ERA went back into the platform. In 1976 Ronald Reagan, then contesting Ford, supported continuing ERA even though at that time Roe v. Wade had been enacted by the Supreme Court three years earlier.

Jack and Doug pronounce that anyone who does not support the platform is a betrayer, a traitor to principles. I didn’t support ERA then which means I wasn’t loyal to the platform—but I worked my heart out for Republican candidates all the same. Phyllis Schlafly lost the fight to remove ERA in 1964, the year she wrote “A Choice Not an Echo.” Am I to infer that she was a disloyal Republican when she worked for Goldwater and Nixon who supported ERA? And for Ford in 1976 who supported ERA? I don’t think so. So Jack and Doug should drop this balderdash about who’s loyal to a piece of paper and who’s betraying whom. What they will never understand is what Henry Hyde said so long ago—politics is making choices…and if you have to settle for a sandwich rather than a full meal and there’s no alternative, you take it. Jack and Doug have never understood that. This is why they don’t understand politics…and which is why their influence is zilch. Z-i-l-c-h.

Instead they ought to recognize that even though they disagree with him on some things—as do I--Tom Cross has done an outstanding job of organizing and leading his caucus. I know because I have seen Republican legislative leadership in two states, recognize who’s a leader and who’s not.

Basically, Jack is basically a nice old man who’s been so spoiled by saluters like Doug that he just can’t abide people not saying “yessir” “yessir” on everything—not unlike Dick Viguerie. Jack Roeser and I aren’t related; we have the same surname; we both lived at one time in the same suburb; we’re both Catholic. We’ve even been friendly at times. Coincidentally enough, we both have sons named Tom and daughters named Jeanne Marie. And we’re both octogenarians so we aren’t going to be around forever…maybe, who knows, not to see the next election. It’s time for Jack to call off the dogs…realize that like the rest of us he’s not always 100% right…that he doesn’t need to be saluted constantly to salve his ego…and turn his octogenarian energy to defeating Democrats, not Republican leaders—in the hope that before we check out we can turn this thing around.

I entertain some meager hope that Jack will call me and at least we can talk about it. I have no hope…none…that Doug will—but I don’t really care since he’s a hired gun.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts While Shaving: Michael Jackson…Finding it Tough to Comment on this Blog?…House Republican Leader a Man of Color…Kirk Votes for Cap & Trade…Fr. Ernie’s Old Fashioned Sex Ed: 101.


Michael Jackson.

If we had been nuclear-bombed Thursday and Friday by maddened North Korean president Kim Jong (as he has threatened to do) we would never known it until we were melted by the radiation…so deluged have we been with TV, radio and newspaper coverage of Michael Jackson’s death. The “Tribune” said simply that he was “the best known person in the world”—bar-none. That’s pandering to the kids. Jesus Christ is better known to the world, but then how do His numbers between ages 24 and 52, the key spending demographic, pull?

I never saw Jackson perform aside from some TV clips but what I saw was an electric dancer with a voice that sounded like a high-pitched whinny, weird girlish-appearing man-child transformed by too many facial surgeries into a garish cartoon of a human being: lipstick-covered mouth, nose badly remodeled like putty, stringy hair…as well as a provocative thrust of his hips and disconcerting stroking of his crotch—which could confirm the general view that with two serious allegations of child abuse, parents of young boys were wise to steer clear of him. A valid question is this: given what Jackson was, was it not for pecuniary reasons that some parents wanted to make a big financial haul in settlements for molestation charges? Nauseating.

My point is this: The furor over the “talent” and stardom of this poor little creep really with the masturbatory actions on stage tells the world what we are, doesn’t it? Is the debasement of our culture so complete that no one has guts to say that the strutting little emperor wore no clothes? Well, let it be me.

Having Posting Difficulty?

A great number of readers have complained that they have experienced extreme difficulty registering their opinions on this blog. I took them up with my webmaster who tells me this: “The comment system works fine. The comments don’t show up right away. People think they don’t work but they DO. It’s user error.” As I know absolutely nothing about the technical side of this business…lucky to simply write my stuff and email it to my webmaster…I’ll take his word for it. But your observations are important to me. Try to see if this works…wait a little while. He’s always right: really is.

The George Hamilton Look-Alike.

With the Republican party woefully short on racial minorities, why doesn’t the House GOP claim credit for Leader John Boehner and declare him a light-skinned African American, a mixed race aka mulatto (politically incorrect usage) or an exotic half-caste? Announce he’s anything but what he is, a whitey who has been sitting under a sun lamp? Check his complexion tone and you’ll be hard to allege that he’s akin to Barack Obama. As a House staffer I used to office next door to Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) who was lighter than Boehner.

As the GOP stresses anew it is the party of hardworking Americans living on fixed incomes, how does it look to have as spokesman a Dean Martin Bahamas-refugee look-alike? One of these days when he’s doing his sound-bytes we’re likely to see Boehner…a 2-pack-a-day smoker… gasp into a paroxysm of coughs, emitting a disgusting lunger into his kerchief. What ever happened to the apparently healthy other Republican leaders: the old ex-athlete Jerry Ford, chalky white, fleshy arthritic old men who used to lead the caucus, like John Rhoades and Joe Martin? I think Boehner looks decadent, one of those country-club creatures hanging around the training room too long. Two items will cut his service short: 2-packs-a-day and malignant melanoma which will indubitably come from his exposure to the ultra-violet high intensity lamps.

Why does he go with sun-lamps? Why not use the tanning spray that college girls use? Maybe he’s afflicted with SAD (Sunlight Affective Disorder) that causes depression to some people when sunlight is sparse. If he’s a victim of SAD I can understand—with eight Republicans skipping out, amounting to the difference with which Ms.Pelosi passed the Cap and Trade bill 219-212.

Kirk the Republican Defector.

Rep. Mark Kirk (D-IL) was one of eight Republican defectors who enabled Mme. Pelosi to pass the 1,200-page (300 pages added at the last minute) Cap and Trade energy bill in the House 219-212. One more reason why I can’t vote for him if he runs for the U. S. Senate.

Fr. Ernie’s Old Fashioned Sex Ed 101.

Note: Having taken four straight years of philosophy and theology from Fr. Ernie [Fr. Ernest Kilzer OSB] at the old Saint John’s pre-Vatican II from 1946 to 1950 I think I can contrive from his past lectures his own special traditional Catholic Sex Ed 101. I’m taking a try at it. Ernie’s lesson can be applied to all past and recent political sex sins: Gov. Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina), Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada), John Edwards former Democratic vice presidential candidate and North Carolina senator, former Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer (New York), Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana), former Democratic Gov. James McGreevey (N. J.) and former Democratic President Bill Clinton. Here goes:

Fr. Ernest. Gentlemen, the liberal mainstream media have, as I predicted, taken to mocking the value of all who exhort the return of traditional family values because some lawmakers…most recently Gov. Sanford and Sen. Ensign…have departed from rectitude. To these commentators the hypocrisy of these political individuals negates the values—meaning if one were to apply this to other virtues, telling the truth should be discarded since many men lie. But consider the folly: truth is the basis of all law in the court chamber, business contracts, bank loans—in short every agreement we make in society. Should truth be invalidated because of this? Of course not. Should marital fidelity be dismissed because hypocrites have preached it and have fallen away? Of course not.

However it has come to my attention that since I have gone beyond, a whole generation may have grown up without the proper understanding of humanity and its sexual roles that have under-girded morality for the past 5,000 years. Hence I shall endeavor to re-train. So much liberal nonsense has been generated via the `60s sexual revolution and Gloria Steinem feminism that it is essential to review the fundamentals of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, sex education.

First, humanity. Man (I use the traditional form for both genders) has been sinful, duplicitous and self-serving since Adam and Eve. The first couple’s falling from grace was caused by disobedience through sly lying by Satan. No other man is perfect or has been perfect; one woman has been sinless…I do not say perfect, mind you but sinless: Mary the mother of Christ. The only perfect human was Jesus Christ who also had a divine as well as human nature. No other human has been perfect—no saint, hero or heroine --and never will be. Therefore, human failing in the area of sexual morality is never to be taken as a repudiation of the moral law—when the lessons of derelict immorality in this 21st century are present for all to see.

Second, sexual differences. Men and women have different sexual natures. These natures have existed for long millennia and will not be changed by whim or liberal wishing it were so. Men were destined as the warriors, the hunters, engaged in hunting and defense—venturing forth from the cave to conquer enemies, kill animals and drag their carcasses back for their women to be fed along with their children. Women were destined since time immemorial as the nurturers—supporting the health of the family, even countermanding the order of the male if the family’s well-being depends on it. From the dawn of prehistoric times, these roles have survived, triumphing over attempts to re-think them, do away with them, trans-gender them and foment same-sex “marriage” beginning in the latter 20th century.

Third, sexual roles. Important: gentlemen, as you understand all men come equipped with penises. The penis is used for an excretory function also for generation of seed for preservation of the race. Women come equipped with uteruses, the major sex organ which is often referred to by the original German “womb.” This is for encapsulation of an unborn baby. Women also come equipped with breasts into which are concealed mammary glands with which to secrete milk to nourish infants.

Fourth: Penis excitation. Excitation of the penis is required to make possible the eventual ejection of semen –known as sperm or spermatozoa—into the vagina and thereafter to the womb to make possible conception of the unborn baby.

Fifth: Men by their nature are prone to excitation over some females, their breasts, legs, bodies. Undue concentration of this fact involves the sin of lust, the fascination of the possibility however remote of future concupiscence with a female outside the marriage bond. Lust is one of the seven capital sins. Since from the dawn of time, men—particularly adolescents--have brimmed with aggression and sexual desire, tempered by fear of ridicule from both male fellows and women. In their early stages, unless by religion they are enabled to master their drives—and not infrequently despite such training—men are zoos of countervailing desires and emotions: masturbatory sieges, pornographic curiosities—all entwined in the predicament of male sexual character. The prudent man who has mastered the impulses of his body has by formation of strong habit of virtue forbids lust since Christ condemns the practice in Matthew 5:27-28, declaring “whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” We in the Religious Order have learned to dismiss improper visitations of incipient carnality by prayer. Be assured the visitations themselves are not sinful unless they are entertained. They come from the Devil who in the epistle of Peter “stalks through the world as a hungry lion seeking whom he may devour.”

Sixth: Learning to dominate his thoughts and drives is the most important thing a young man must learn. Note: here is where Catholic doctrine enters, to-wit: (a) sexual organs are good and beautiful since they have been given to humans by God for the sole, most noble purpose: continuation of the human race…(b) sex in marriage is also good and beautiful because God has provided it for generation of children and expression of mutual love between the married spouses…(c) when sex is not used for mutual spousal purposes, between spouses but for non-spousal pleasure, to prevent conception, it is sinful…(d) homosexuality and masturbation are contrary to the will of God. These moral strictures are needed for man to attain everlasting happiness in heaven with God.

Seventh: Thus man by his excitable sexual nature must control his sexual urges. Women by their nature are not equipped as are men with hair-trigger sexual responses. Remember women are by nature the nurturers. They exist to attract the right man—the hunter, the protector. Thus their nature is to attract which means devote attention to their appearance…also by ways that have become indentured to species femalia…shy, come-hither, all the clichés with which we assume the roles of the courted and the courtier.

Eighth: Make no mistake, the male is the one who conquers the wild beast, skins it and drags it to the cave to feed his wife and children—but he is the weaker gender in many ways psychologically. For one, his relations with a woman is the chief way he asserts his sexual identity. To her he offers his success in the world to attract her from others. All civilization is based on this age-old formula: His sex drive (the most powerful compulsion in his life) is harnessed by the woman who forces him to make a long-term commitment. His struggle with his own drives must be sublimated, not just by his allegiance to wife and family but for maximum effect to their spiritual goals.

Ninth: Just as men are not naturally monogamous but must use their will and moral determination to be so for the good of their marriages and progeny, prayer, penance and heroic chastity (at such time when women are not able nor willing to perform intercourse) are sacrifices which strengthen the soul. The absolute rot, nonsense that sex is necessity for completion of life is spread by world secularists in the company of the Evil One. But where the Catholic clergy is concerned, whenever a young man comes to me to inquire about joining the Benedictine Order I ask him if he is struggling to attain chastity. A popular answer is, “no Father. My mind is not on this struggle at all. I do not have temptations concerning women.” At that point I will rule that he be denied of participation in religious and monastic life. If a man has no feeling so that he is impervious to the struggle that should engage all normal men, there is something wrong with him: maybe he is not drawn to women but preternaturally drawn to men, in which case by all means he should be disqualified for the religious life.

Tenth: For millennia the major concern of society has been this: how to respond to the un-harnessed power of male sexual energy. That is the source of 90% of the troubles of the world, wars, insurrections, the rise and fall of kingdoms. Hunting and defensive combat takes only a relative short amount of time in the cycle of intense rhythms of compulsions of male sexuality. Understand, then, that man is often helpless prey to aggressive, attractive women on the prowl. Women, most often those un-anchored with husband and family …on the prowl as I say… for males…can be as duplicitous and dangerous beings as human nature can devise. When let us say a married male encounters a female of this type he may well be influenced by flirtatious but which I call seductive ways. The only way to fight this is not just with prayer but by your hat: grab it and run. Excessive female-encouraged familiarity extended to a man not qualified for marriage, either by being married or in the religious life can trigger the aeon-old process of male excitation. I note Gov. Sanford engaged this woman from Argentina in prolonged visitation about purported ways to save her floundering marriage. She was most probably dangling her problem to him as an excitement and inducement. This is not to exonerate him in the slightest for he yielded to what we theologians call the “occasions of sin” —but the wiles of women directed to men they wish to conquer…and I use that word advisably…are evil and directed by the Prince of this World.

Beyond his weakness, you must know that Gov. Sanford is quite emotionally unbalanced. One who falls into the spell of a woman not his wife is vulnerable. An elected governor who forsakes his duty to his wife and children, then forsakes his duty to constituents and neglects to inform his lieutenant governor that he will be gone…who then leaves the country to see the lady, comes back and says in public that he spent five days in Argentina weeping…he is in need of serious psychiatric help. It is immaterial to say he has fallen into the spell of lust: he has lapsed from rationality. He is an ill, potentially very sick man emotionally. He should resign and failing that should be removed—for his own good and the good of his polity, else suicide may well be his last desperate move.

Reviewing these fundamentals you can see how…barring consideration of Gov. Sanford’s obvious mental illness… disruption came to the life of the Republicans and Democratic leaders…and truly can come to all who let up their guard or dally with occasions of sin. It’s no time for nyaaa, nyaa, nyaa or to say as liberals do that it’s hypocritical to support morality since in its practice some, perhaps many, fail. That’s cynical nonsense. Just as truth is the ideal in a time of lying, morality is the ideal in this time of moral relativism. For that reason, hypocrisy is, in a sense, sin’s tribute to virtue. So gentlemen, let us not titter at the Victorians whose patriarchs trumpeted virtue but may well have fallen off the boat themselves. Hypocrisy is not the worst thing to practice at that time because it protects the young from scandal. The worst practice is to drop pretense and advocate libertinism for that advocacy…supposedly without hypocritical pretense…is the one that loses souls.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Personal Aside: The U. S. Needs a Good Dose of Calvin Coolidge “Do Nothing” Passive Domestic and Foreign Policy.


NOTE: It may seem to you that I’ve changed direction on domestic and foreign policy issues—but I haven’t. Winning the Cold War demanded the utmost in activism…and I still stand with scholar Bernard Lewis of Princeton who says that George W. Bush was right to take the battle to Iraq, Lewis saying that this is the first time in many centuries that someone had the guts to stand up to the Muslims. But at the same time, I think we must remember that this activism is atypical…and that normal reaction to foreign and domestic problems—as per the post-election revolution in Teheran and our own economic meltdown—requires a bit of a return to Calvin Coolidge’s quiet calm. Tell me if you agree. Anyhow, here goes.

Have you ever thought what would have happened in
recent U. S. history if presidents and Congresses had followed Calvin Coolidge’s suggestion? It was this: When certain crises appear, consider this course: “Shut up and do nothing.” He didn’t mean always do nothing but when danger looms, take a breather and see what doing nothing can do for you—and the nation.

Initially when the recent Iranian revolution popped after obvious vote fraud (something a Chicagoan like me has been raised with) Barack Obama seemed to be applying the Coolidge formula brilliantly. Confronted with the deadly choice of (a) supporting the revolution in Iran aligned against a rigged presidential election or (b) keep inviolate his option to try to negotiate with the Ahmadinejad people for a nuclear arms deal, Obama did the right thing—something Coolidge would have done.

The election was held June 12. On the 13th, an estimated 100,000 Iranians stormed the streets to protest vote thievery, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had a perfect Coolidge response: “We are monitoring the situation.”

Wonderful. That’s exactly what Cal—of whom I’m exceedingly fond since I was born the year he declined to run for president again--would have said. That’s the kind of detachment a mature republic deserves. The next day after the rioting began, Sunday, Joe Biden had another wonderfully Coolidge-like statement: “While there are doubts about the outcome, I don’t think we’re in a position to say” anything further about the vote-counting. And Obama played golf which is not what Coolidge would have done: he’d have taken a nap—but you get the drift.

The following day—Monday—Obama had his first comment. He started to get a little action-oriented…moving away from the originally brilliant White House Coolidge stance. “I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on television over the last few days,” he said. But then he reversed course to the original Coolidge-ism:
“We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.” Smart guy: maybe he’s learning something.

Tuesday Obama allowed that there was “amazing ferment” inside Iran. A little descriptive—but still pretty much Coolidge. Then he made a brilliant comment—remarking on the differences between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his presidential rival, Mir-Husseini Mousavi: “The difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised.” Brilliant, nicely said. Dead wrong but nicely said, exactly as circumspect as Coolidge would have done. Originally there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two Iranians but the riots in the streets had turned Mousavi into a Yeltsin—definitely preferable to us…but just like Coolidge, Obama wouldn’t express a preference even if he had to tell a fib to the press. I thought: this new president from my Chicago is lying diplomatically and is finally getting the hang of this thing. But no. Somebody had to come along and spoil it.

Guess who? The Republicans in the Senate were beating the rhetorical war-drums (you’d think they’d have learned). Remember John McCain, who way back in February, 2008 said he thought “war with Iran is inevitable”? Yes, that John McCain. He said he thought Obama should express disapproval of Ahmadinejad trying to steal an election. And there was cracker-sounding Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (the guy who when George W. Bush had named Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court advised the GOP to “sheddup!”) saying Obama was “timid” for not strongly supporting Iran’s protesters. “The President of the United States is supposed to lead the Free World, not follow it,” he said. That lead the Free World stuff comes from Theodore Roosevelt and his third cousin Franklin.

So goaded by pressure from the Republicans, Obama left the camp of Calvin Coolidge and began echoing the preemptory interventionists. Now along with most everyone else, I rejoice at the revolution against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. What I disagree with is the continual drumbeat from those who say Obama should have at the outset issued a statement brimming with stentorian rhetoric saying that we overwhelmingly take sides over there. Let this ex-foreign service officer point out that far too often this country has taken sides, trumpeting our morality on free elections and incursions. When will we learn? We didn’t have to shoot our mouth off: the people on the streets know what the U. S. attitude toward Ahmadinejad is. But because Obama heeded the activists in the Congress who have nothing more than crude domestic politics in mind, as I write this, the Ahmadinejad forces are saying that the U. S. is behind the coup.

I well remember the 1956 Hungarian revolution where students began demonstrating against the Communist government on Oct. 23, 1956. The mood was ripe for change; Stalin had died three years before; Nikita Khrushchev had spoken out against Stalin at the 20th Party Congress. The course for us to have followed is do nothing and shut up! But the State Department under John Foster Dulles gave great encouragement to the students and workers who initiated the spontaneous Hungarian revolution. Unfortunately the insurgents felt that the United States would enter the fray on their side against the USSR. This was not to be but all of us understood their rising expectations.

Letting rhetoric control our better sense, we recklessly encouraged them to take even greater risks by unwittingly leaving the implication that we would almost join them in the streets. Inflamed by our official rhetoric, the Soviets sent their troops and tanks in to crush the Freedom Fighters who were disappointed that we didn’t join them—but of course we could not. The Revolution died on Nov. 4th and there were many hard feelings of abandonment by the U. S., caused by our preemptory and militant statements of support. It wasn’t until 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall that the Soviet Union finally collapsed. I’m still not sure what we gained by sounding off and strutting our stuff militaristically.

Repeating this for emphasis: In this Iranian rebellion, I think that until recently Obama has pursued the correct course by endeavoring to do nothing and striving to keep his mouth shut. But pressed by the militant Republicans in the Senate he has taken a more aggressive stand—which I am sorry to see. Doing nothing and keeping our mouth shut is not always the best course in foreign affairs but when a revolution is decimating one’s enemies, it is. In essence, we should plain and simple shut up and do nothing, allowing the Iranians to fight it out for themselves.

Where we got into trouble that last time we fooled around with Iran, in 1979, was due to that weak reed Jimmy Carter. He had campaigned in behalf of international human rights which he had insisted he would insist on the world to follow like the Baptist Sunday school teacher he was. But having spoken out for idealism, when push came to shove, under Carter we did something and didn’t shut up. He delivered a toast to the Shah and called Iran under his leadership “an island of stability in the Middle East” which enraged the dissidents. That was the last straw for the fundamentalists.

Enraged, they toppled the Shah in February, 1979. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, applied for permission to enter the U. S. to be treated for cancer at the Mayo Clinic. To grant him entrance sounded like the decent, humanitarian thing to do. Tell you what Calvin Coolidge would have done: he’d have said, “not here, baby! Go to some other renowned clinic like in Switzerland. You’ve got the money! Keep out!”

Carter was torn. On one hand, he wanted to be an action president. He wanted to do something, to show he was a humanitarian. But on the other he faced a divided government. His national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski argued we should be humanitarians and accept the Shah in the U.S. On the other hand, the State Department and Secretary Cyrus Vance wanted us to deny admittance to the Shah. Carter wobbled and in the end his Sunday school nature triumphed. He came down on the side of admitting the Shah to Mayo’s, being supported in that stand by the public adherence of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Council on Foreign Relations Chairman David Rockefeller, the Standard Oil billionaire heir no less. Standing with Kissinger and Rockefeller really charmed the mullahs.

That action—doing something and not shutting up…giving the okay for the Shah to go to Mayo… prompted Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had been exiled by the Shah for 15 years to excoriate us as “the Great Satan,” adding that agreeing that the ex-Shah come here was evidence of American “plotting.” And that, in turn, led to the takeover of the U. S. embassy on Nov. 4, 1979 by 500 Iranian students with the Ayatollah Khomeini supporting it.

The occupiers bound and blindfolded 52 Americans in the embassy consisting of tourists, embassy guards and staff and paraded them before photographers, also demanding the Shah be returned to Iran for trial and execution, the unfreezing of Iranian assets in the U. S. and apologies for alleged interference in the internal affairs of Iran. Carter applied economic and diplomatic sanctions on Iran and ended oil imports from that country in November, 1979—all the while negotiating with them behind the scenes, latching on to a deal proffered by one top Iranian official and granted minor but humiliating public concessions only to have it vetoed at the last minute by Khomeini. The U. S. was being made a fool of.

Then Carter decided to really do something. He approved a “rescue plan” for the hostages. On April 24, 1980 eight helicopters, called Operation Eagle Claw, flew from an aircraft carrier to an airstrip in eastern Iran to rescue the hostages by force. None of them reached their destination: two helicopters didn’t make it to the desert rendezvous through mechanical failures, another had one of its main rotor blades fractured and was abandoned in the desert. The remainder were engulfed in a sandstorm, one crashing and killing eight servicemen.

The mission was called off and afterward Khomeini’s prestige skyrocketed in Iran as he praised Allah for interceding. The Shah died at Mayo’s; Carter’s prestige descended to the basement; his secretary of state resigned because all the while he disagreed with the helicopter mission. Ronald Reagan took advantage of the massive blows to U. S. prestige, defeated Carter handily and, surprisingly, 20 minutes after he was sworn in as president, all the hostages were released by Iran to U. S. custody.

Now lest you think I endorse doing nothing at all times rather than act, that’s about right. I will make an exception for Iran in 1953 when a pro-Communist premier moved to seal off the oil fields and confer its assets on the USSR: a decision started under Truman and ratified by Ike. Without it, a crucial balance in the Cold War could have swung to favor the Soviet Union. But in politics the pressure to do something, do anything, say something, say anything no matter what, is irresistible. It takes a Cal Coolidge to stand up to that pressure, to point out that doing something is not always warranted. As in this current Iranian crisis. And that’s why I say Obama’s initial decision to shut up and do nothing and let the Iranian revolution take its course without our fingerprints being on it, would have been the right decision.

The “Stimulus” Oversold.

Now let’s look at something else…a fateful domestic policy where pressure was placed on two presidents—Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama—to do something, anything! . That’s the ill-fated “stimulus package” initiated by Bush and enlarged by Obama. Last week a poll released by The Washington Post showed that “barely half of Americans are now confident that President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus measure will boost the economy.” It says, “What was once a clearly positive assessment of the program among independents (56 to 39 percent) is now an almost even split (50 to 47 percent).” Why are they concerned? “Almost nine in ten Americans say they are `very’ or `somewhat’ concerned about the size of the federal deficit and independents now say they favor smaller government with fewer services to a larger government with more services by a 61 to 35 percent margin.”

Republicans shouldn’t unduly blame Obama. The initial impetus for “stimulus” came from George W. Bush. As good as he was on social issues, his treasury secretary Henry Paulson (of Barrington Hills, a suburb near Chicago) pushed the panic button, joining with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that if Congress didn’t authorize massive gobs of “stimulus money,” an economic meltdown would occur. Twitchy Paulson who looked like he could wear out a suit from the inside seemed to be hooked up to an electric current, saying excitedly that large banks had to accept the bailout funds to strengthen the banking system. The most ridiculous statement came last week from Scott Talbott, a lobbyist with the Financial Services Roundtable:

“Even if it [TARP] didn’t do anything, it helped restore investor confidence,” he said. Huh? But Coolidge would say: “TARP was never necessary for well-run banks. From the outset it was contrived by banks that were incompetently managed and underwater. Fly-by-nights were stampeding Congress to bail out their friends on Wall Street.”

Would Calvin Coolidge have bought the federal bailout program? Absolutely not. He’d certainly have waited, and waited and waited so that the public clamor would die down rather than the country experiencing what it does now—buyer’s remorse. And he’d be right. “I think there’s little evidence that the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) money so far has had any measurable effect in the economy, especially when you talk about what the Fed has been doing,” said Josh Bivens, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute—and, friends, that’s a leftwing group.

But always with these things there’s a panic button pushed. It started when both parties prodded government to encourage banks to make home loans to consumers who could not afford to pay them back: Coolidge wouldn’t have allowed it. These mortgages were bundled together, sometimes with solid loans and sometimes just with additional sub-prime mortgages and sold to Wall Street investors. And in turn these investors often resold these “mortgage backed securities” to other investors…and eventually, as homeowners began to default on mortgages, investors discovered they were holding assets that were losing money. As large numbers of investors joined in unloading these assets the mortgage-backed security market impacted most corners of the country’s banking and financial services. As banks were severely impaired, they started hoarding capital, stopped lending to businesses—and as result many business have had to lay off employees.

Coolidge wouldn’t have supported government encouraging consumers who can’t afford to own homes to take loans. It’s as simple as that. If he were to rise out of the grave at Plymouth, Vt. and take over the presidency today, he’d say TARP should be ended, that the federal government should not intervene to save firms which make bad business decisions. Interesting that the common-sense New England latch-key thrifty wisdom is coming to be popular once again.

In Summary…

As 2010 approaches, it’s time to get back to the fundamentals of old foreign policy and economic religion—with very, very few exceptions even in case of dire emergencies. The Republicans have made many mistakes but those among them who decide to return to the foreign and domestic policies of Calvin Coolidge will get my vote…and likely be greeted as long-lost saviors of the American people.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Personal Aside: Thoughts While Shaving—1. John Callaway, R. I.P… Mark Sanford’s Future…Nixon’s Views on Abortion…Nyaa! Nyaa Nyaa!


1. John Callaway, R.I.P.

John Callaway who died unexpectedly Tuesday at 72 was by all odds one of the greatest radio-TV broadcaster in Chicago history…and in fact one of the greatest journalists in this city. It’s vital to list him with the towering talents of Chicago (and I place them in no alphabetical or chronological order on purpose to have you discern from their stature how great Callaway was). You should read this list to say where I place him:

He deserves to be equated with (this is my personal list):

Finley Peter Dunne, creator of “Mr. Dooley,” Bob Casey, the great war correspondent and colorful columnist for the “Daily News,” Mike Royko of all three papers (“Daily News,” “Sun-Times” and “Tribune”), Ring Lardner who went from sports-writing to brilliant fiction-writing, Howard Vincent O’Brien the superb editorial page columnist for the “Daily News,” Sydney J. Harris also of the “Daily News,” Arch Ward, the “Tribune” sports editor who invented the All Star games; Charles MacArthur who co-wrote “The Front Page,” David Broder the “Washington Post” political columnist; Dennis Byrne, “Tribune” and former “Sun-Times” columnist; Col. Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the “Tribune,” Dan Miller, former business editor of the “Sun-Times” and first editor of “Crain’s Chicago Business.”

Eugene Field (the first newspaper columnist in the nation of the “Daily News)” Carl Sandburg the two-time Pulitzer winner for poetry and biography who began as a feature writer for the “Daily News”; Edwin A. Lahey the “Daily News’” great labor writer and Washington correspondent, the great wit and prose stylist Peter Lisagor of the “Daily News”, Keyes Beech who covered the Korean war for the “Daily News,” Lois Wille of both the “Sun-Times” and “Tribune,” George Weller, great war correspondent of the “Daily News,” Bruce DuMont, former WTTW correspondent, national radio talk show host of “Beyond the Beltway” and founder of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, Jack Mabley columnist for the “Daily News” and “Chicago’s American.”

George Ade the famed columnist (“Daily News”) and playwright; Norma Lee Browning “Tribune” feature writing specialist; Clifton Utley the NBC-TV anchor and foreign policy scholar; Virginia Kay columnist and epigram stylist for the “Daily News,” George Tagge political editor of the “Tribune”; the indefatigable Lynn Sweet Washington editor of the “Sun-Times,” Herman Kogan of the “Sun-Times,” Georgie Ann Guyer columnist for the “Daily News,” Steve Neal, “Sun-Times” political columnist and historian, author of “Happy Days are Here Again!” and “Harry and Ike” John T. McCutcheon, cartoonist and former war correspondent for the “Tribune.”

Robert Novak, syndicated political columnist for the “Sun-Times,” Ben Hecht, Vincent Sheean, Westbrook Pegler (a sportswriter for the “Tribune” before winning the Pulitzer for exposing labor rackets), Walter Trohan (“Tribune” crime reporter who first came upon the bodies at the St. Valentine’s Day massacre and chief Washington correspondent); Nick Von Hoffman “Daily News,” Pam Zechman now of the Channel 2; Arthur Snider, legendary “Daily News” science reporter; M. W. Newman, “Daily News,” Robert G. Schultz, gifted writer and later city editor of the “Daily News,” Leland Stowe, “Daily News,” Raymond Gram Swing, (radio correspondent and “Daily News” foreign affairs expert), Edgar Ansell Mower and his brother Paul Scott Mower (“Daily News”), John Justin Smith (“Daily News”), George Bliss (“Tribune” labor reporter), Len O’Connor, NBC-TV commentator and author of the book “Clout,” the best history of the machine.

William L. Shirer, “Tribune” Berlin correspondent in the 1930s and author of “Berlin Diary” and “The Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich”; John McDermott who as founder of “The Chicago Reporter,” gave the city new dimension in urban affairs reporting. Edmund Rooney “Daily News,” Fran Spielman, city hall reporter for the “Sun-Times,” John Kass, columnist par excellence for the “Tribune”; Rob Warden formerly of the “Daily News”; Emmett Dedmon, editorial page editor of the “Sun-Times”; Jack Higgins, the superb cartoonist for the “Sun-Times,” Henry Justin Smith, managing editor of the “Daily News.”

Now that you get the idea where he belongs in the litany of journalistic greats, what were Callaway’s uniquely fascinating gifts? First, you’ll notice only a few TV-radio journalists in the list which means he is almost unexcelled. Second he was a thorough-going intellectual who never touted it. He never finished college but his breadth and span of interest was enormous—ranging from the streets which he covered for City News to economics, foreign affairs, art, literature, architecture, sports, urban affairs, education, city and national politics. I have never met one…in academia or elsewhere… who could match him in the diversity of his interests. I would say the one issue John was somewhat in doubt about was religion. Born an Orangeman, an Irish Protestant in West Virginia, he doubted certitude which ironically made him a superb journalist. But I think he would have earnestly wanted to grasp certitude. He was a pragmatist wholly and revered the line I gave him from Everett Dirksen, the garish old fraud whom he enjoyed: “Gentlemen and ladies, let us rise above principle.”

Strange for a man who undeniably used his elbows sharply to get ahead…as all must in his business… he was very courtly. I mean, very-very courtly. I was always “Mr. Roeser” both when we were on TV and in private…seldom “Tom.” He had an inbred dignity. Put a roman collar on him and a black suit over his portly figure and he could pass for a reverent archbishop or incipient cardinal. But his inward dignity was not stuffy. In his day…when he was covering either politics or city politics…he was a legendary drinker—even at times a rascal. Women loved him and he they in a courtly, old-world fashion. They took to him—and I mean it. Were he an old roué exploiter he could have made a lot of hay. I’m sure he sensed this in his quiet, chuckling way.

He didn’t like writing; surprisingly enough, he found it very difficult. But speaking, verbally choosing just the right words, grabbing an idea by its lapels and shaking it so the viewers understood it was John’s forte. There were many who wanted to get close to Callaway, to be his best-buddy…for many reasons: proximity to him for coverage purposes, to share his wit, to have some rub-off from the big leagues. Few ever did. I will amend this to say: none ever did.

He could be hale, hearty but was never a schmoozer. He never fully let you in on what his innermost thoughts were. He had the kind of graceful dignity that allowed him on occasion to read a book while the rest of the melee passed by…and there were those of us who wouldn’t dare disturb him in his reading. An intellectual he was (as I have pointed out), he believed—more strongly than I would like to admit, since I was rather cowed by him—in moral equivalency, the hallmark of liberalism. He could have passed for an elder philosopher, but he was unsure of what certainty is all about. He believed largely that good works will do the trick for the hereafter—that theological niceties are rather absurd.

No one knew how he voted but I would not topple over dead if I discovered it was for Obama.

As he grew older, he developed a way of squinting and pulling his nose up when he read—a self-portrait he despised. He really was…in his inner-self…more vain than he nor now that he is dead, we, like to admit. I remember the one time I ticked him off (I am sure of it). He was to address the Better Government Association’s annual meeting and I was called upon to introduce him. It was just at that moment that I ran into a very uproarious joke. At least I thought it was. So I worked it in to the introduction and, quite pleasantly, noted the audience howling with laughter (which does not often happen when I tell a joke). I then extended my hand to Callway and the coldness in his blue Celtic eyes told me…oh oh…I had stomped on the Master’s territory: a bad, bad thing. Sure enough, he told one himself that topped mine and as I roared with laughter, I saw his eyes on me, checking me out to see that I had laughed sufficiently.

At bottom, he was more than a journalist: he was an actor. And an actor he really…inside…wanted to be. He was a performer. Theatrical ability without sawing the air and being ham-like about it enabled him to harness those talents with deft skill and command the viewing public as no one else…national or city…ever did. His death rocked me when I heard it yesterday morning…but I cannot mourn unduly because John had accomplished almost entirely what he had set out to do. When he retired from “Chicago Tonight,” I asked him why. He said, “Mr. Roeser, you may not know it but I have spent 40 years in journalism—and I want…just want…to do something else. You can understand that, can’t you?” Rather curt but still that was Callaway. Yes, I could understand it and can. Now John is doing something else and in my prayers I urge a merciful God to grant him a seat on the aisle in the unfolding panoply of eternity. God bless you and give you rest, John.

2. Nixon.

Richard Nixon, you’ll be interested to know, has just been discovered saying on a long hidden audio tape that abortion should be allowed if the unborn child were a product of mixed race—which should outrage Barack Obama. Now if we can only get Obama to believe that all unborns regardless of race should receive the chance at life that he had, it’d be wonderful.

3. Nyaa, Nyaa!

The tearful confession of Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that he was unfaithful to his wife should be added to the same type of admission from Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign and to New York Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer (note that I am adding their political affiliations which invariably escapes mainstream reporting when the offender is a Democrat). The only thing remaining is for the liberal, agnostic media to go nyaa, nyaa, nyaa, making note of the fact that Ensign and Sanford are social conservatives, that they have preached one thing and done another. I am writing this at 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon but I would not be surprised if this would be grist for the chortling to come from Neil Steinberg… Richard Roeper…who else? Mark Brown perhaps. I cannot think of others who would say “see, Sanford’s fall makes verbal allegiance to virtue hypocrisy.” Well, it doesn’t. Any more than lie-telling makes allegiance to truth irrelevant.

What will happen to Sanford? I think there are several things wrong with him which the media which great delicacy does not explore. First, this case goes beyond the human male proclivity to carnality. His actions…walking out from the state capitol without telling anyone where he’s going—then going to Argentina…shows a man seriously disturbed emotionally, in need of professional counseling. This was not the case with Billy Clinton the womanizer who never believed in the moral law anyhow: it’s far more emotionally damaged than that. Anyone who spends a week in Argentina weeping, ignoring his responsibilities to family and to state—without telling his lieutenant governor where he is—is seriously near-derangement. His demeanor at the news conference showed as much.

Having said this, I would expect that just as he has resigned as chairman of the GOP Governors’ Conference, he will…possibly within a week…resign as governor of South Carolina. At least I hope he does for his mental composure and the peace of his wife and children.

The upshot is that we are all fortunate that this did not happen oh, let us say, midway in the 2012 presidential or vice presidential campaign.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Personal Aside: Thoughts While Shaving--The Smirking Wife, the Decadent Society…Buyers’ Remorse on the Stimulus.


The Smirking Wife.

Here’s a funny observation. If any TV commercials show the decadence of our society, it’s flabby sexual mores, it is the Viagra commercials where middle-aged husband and wife…their wedding rings in conspicuous view… are sitting side by side in an automobile. They have just passed a billboard where sunny climes and ocean sprays are featured. Suddenly the graying husband gets a glint in his eye, looks sidewise over at his wife and nods to himself as if he had just been rocked by a stunning thought. The next scene shows the two of them flying in an airliner, again sitting side by side but this time his grey-haired wife has a smirk on her lips. Of course: they have decided to make love…and they are flying to a remote island to do it—which wouldn’t have been possible, presumably, without the assistance of Viagra.

The next scene has them walking on the beach and both are smirking now. They approach a beach house, skip up the steps, rush through the door. The finale is the shades being drawn: ah, they are going to indulge in…what? The rite allowed them by something that has been a legal contract, indeed a veritable sacrament for 2000 years. But why…why…do I feel watching this commercial that they will be indulging in a forbidden act—when they are obviously married? Aha, I have the reason: the smirking wife! If they were two middle-aged people who were not married and just contemplating an affair, there would be reason for her smirking—but the female partner in a marriage shouldn’t be smirking. It just doesn’t fit! Someone designed the commercial to represent a down-and-dirty spur-of-the-moment conjunction. That isn’t marriage; that isn’t the marriage act.

This commercial is heinously offensive to me. Is it you? Or am I as octogenarian so not with it…so hideously out of date…that I am irrelevant? Your comments please.

Buyers’ Remorse.

President Obama’s news conference last night was a revelation. For the first time, a twinge of professionalism occurred to the news media. They were still in love but not head-over-heels. They pressed…not pinned…the president on whether or not he changed his tune on the Iranian revolution in response to the Republican protestations that he wasn’t more aggressively exuberant in behalf of the people demonstrating in the streets.

He tried to justify his change, even denied he had changed—but of course he had. And that by itself makes the conference historic.

Actually…and this may surprise you…I supported the initial stand Obama took on the demonstrations—which is to be cool, reserved and allow the free market of Iranian public opinion to make a statement rather than we jumping up and down like cheer-leaders.

As an old ex-foreign service officer I feel strongly that this country ought to have the sophistication to be able to hide its true feelings of exultation. Why? Obvious. So as not to provide an opening to the Ahmadinejad forces to use as a propaganda weapon against us—declaring that we were behind the uprising (which we obviously were not). The insistent bleating of John McCain and Lindsey Graham that we must show the denizens of the street that we are on their side is ridiculous. Certainly they know it. They weren’t born yesterday. They know we are thoroughly at enmity with Ahmadinejad-ites (if there’s such a word). In essence, I supported Obama’s initial reaction of taking the revolution and street demonstrations coolly.

Which means that for the first time in five plus months I agree with Obama over my own party. But unfortunately the protestations from my party seemed to convince Obama that he must yield and denounce the Iranian government. About Lindsey Graham I have only this memory: when George W. Bush made the mistake of naming Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court…a move he rightly withdrew from…Graham kept saying to the Republicans “aw sheddup!” in that cracker barrel South Carolina accent of his. Somebody now ought to tell him when he beats the rhetorical drums in support of the dissidents…aw sheddup! Aw sheddup! A 54-year-old bachelor with a moon-shaped little boy face complete with rosy cheeks…aw sheddup!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Personal Aside: Thoughts While Shaving…1. Spielman and Higgins…2. No TV Personalities to Match Yesteryear’s: Why Not?


1. Spielman & Higgins.

The Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman and cartoonist Jack Higgins are worth the whole paper. I know I’ve criticized the tabloid…justifiably, I feel…for trashiness but its indomitable city hall reporter and the brilliant artist with the acid pen make it all worthwhile. Her story last Tuesday is a good case in point. “Daley’s tale hard to take,” is the headline with the subhead “Mayor says he was uninformed, ignored on the Vanecko deal—that seems unlikely.” Higgins’ drawing of Daley as a giant sow being suckled by piglets labeled Sewer Cleaner Contract…Pension Investment Deals…City Jobs…Hired Trucks…is priceless. I’ve been around journalism since the hey-day of the great writers and cartoonists and while I can lament the cultural decline of the tabloid, I must say that Spielman and Higgins reach the topmost of their professions.

I put Spielman as among the very best of city hall reporters. Higgins rates with the greatest cartoonists who ever drew in this city… John T. McCutcheon, Cary Orr and Joe Parrish of the “Tribune”—Vaughn Shoemaker, creator of John Q. Public and Cecil Jensen, both of the “Daily News” (Jensen mocking the paper’s adversary Robert R. McCormick by creating a figure with a tin World War I helmet called “Col. McCosmic.” If you gathered Spielman, Higgins and John Kass in one room you would have the crème de la crème of all-time journalism—a fitting reminder that while so often we oldsters complain about the new times, these new times have bought up these outstandingly courageous defenders of the public good—which is really what journalism is all about.

2. Yesteryear’s TV Commentators.

What is there about today’s TV in contrast to yesteryear’s that makes it impossible to project any commentary at all on the local news? In the 1950s Channel 5 NBC projected 15 minutes of news with Clifton Utley that squeezed in an amazing amount of information plus commentary. Utley was a real phenomenon. My father who was a dynamic salesman for the old North German Lloyd, a German steamship company which featured what were the fastest vessels afloat, the sister ships “Bremen” and “Europa,” booked Utley and his wife Frayn in the `30s when they made their honeymoon voyage to Europe. Utley was truly a marvel as was his wife. Toward the end of his life when he suffered a stroke, she filled in for him with news and crisp, authoritative comment. She died just a few years ago…in 2001…at age 98.

In one 15 minute segment on Channel 5, Utley did the local news and national-international, finishing up with a concise, brilliant one- or two-minute segment of commentary that rated with anything you could read from the typewriters of Walter Lippmann or Dorothy Thompson, two of the sagest foreign policy experts in the country.

Not only that, after his show, NBC had sports with Tom Duggan. If you never heard of Tom Duggan you have really missed something. He was a rogue, a scamp, a boulevardier, a youthful playboy who would get into scrapes in the late-late nights and still be bright and feisty for evening sports. I never followed sports all that thoroughly but I did with Duggan who ridiculed what was then big-time Outfit connections with boxing. Finally there was five minutes or so with Dorsey Connors, then a willowy sophisticate who would instruct you on household projects, devising 110 ways to use coat-hangars. She was a limp-eyed woman-of-the-world whom you thought was reared in the poshest suburb…probably Lake Forest…but who in reality was the daughter of State Sen. Tom (Botchy) Connors who in addition to his legislative interests was deigned the rackets master of the north side. In the early morning NBC fitted in Len O’Connor commentary on the first “Today” shows as well as using him for different topics in the evening. He would always conclude his 2-minute pieces of sublime irony with “,…and I am Len O’Connor.”

I don’t know how many people remember this now but I was watching one night at 10 p.m. after I returned from evening grad school at DePaul and Len O’Connor came on to present a scathing review of something that happened in City Hall…when he interrupted it with the most vivid cursing I have ever seen that went on and on “@#$%%^&*(#!” and the program faded into black. The announcer came on red-faced (or I imagine he was red-faced since video was black-and-white). He apologized and said that what we saw was something new—video tape. O’Connor had started the commentary on video tape and goofed up the pronunciation of a word…so rather than stop talking he spat out the most colorful litany of semi-porno obscenities anyone ever heard. Then he did an alternate tape. Of course…and you know what happened…the studio didn’t destroy the first tape and obligingly put it on at 10:22 p.m. Well, I’ll tell you it really woke everyone up.

The weather was projected on Channel 5 by a guy named Clint Yule whose wife was often on hand to talk from her simulated kitchen about Bisquick. When Yule finished with his weather wrap-up he would stroll over to the kitchen set and ask his wife (I can’t remember her name now) what she was doing. One night when he finished his weather…painting the oncoming of snow with white sludge which he applied to a glass map of the U. S., he sauntered over to the kitchen set where his wife was busily stirring up a batch of biscuits. On cue he asked her what she was doing. She said airily, “Oh, I’m making a batch of bitches…bitches, er biscuits!” This was on live and both of them doubled up with laughter so the announcer had to say that Clint and his wife will be back tomorrow night but can’t continue now (and while he was saying this you could hear both of them screaming hysterically in the background).

Clint and his wife divorced (not because of this episode, I hope) and in 1964 when the state House had to run candidates at large across the state, both parties picked well known names: the Dems choosing a young Adlai Stevenson III, the Republicans Earl Eisenhower the ne’er do well brother of Dwight, the Republicans also picking Mrs. Hope McCormick the society maven who had married the heir of the McCormick Reaper fortune, the Democrats young Rich Daley and a red-haired kid named Mike Madigan.

Leading the pack on the Republican side on that huge orange ballot with 140 or so names forty-five years ago was Republican Clint Youle who stayed in the legislature quite some time until he took a top-rated broker’s job on LaSalle street.

Does it take an octogenarian to suggest that returning colorful, vivid, irreverent protagonists to the evening news might just work out at this time when broadcast news is in the doldrums? If so, regard this as a major suggestion.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Personal Aside: Thoughts While Shaving…(1) Fr. Ted Hesburgh…(2) Salary of Notre Dame’s President? Ever Wonder?


1. Fr. Ted Hesburgh, CHC. STD.

The man who…it can be said without exaggeration…single-handedly led the move to transform Catholic higher education from a God-centered enterprise to identicality with secular institutions where pro-abortion is supported with moral equivalence…is Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CHC, STD, president emeritus of Notre Dame and who is in his 92nd year in residence at the institution. He was a public relations dream (not now, though as he’s almost blind and very-very deaf) because he had the Irish priest kind of look but inside was…and is…a consummate radical-liberal who for many decades has substituted relativist notions for orthodoxy concerning mortal sin.

I abruptly initiated a discussion with him in an impromptu and unplanned meeting in the Spring of 1976. I was dining in the Montpelier room of the Madison hotel in Washington when I saw the eminent Fr. Hesburgh in the corner dining with a layman. At that time he was, in addition to many other honorifics, chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, a leading philanthropic advocate of abortion and artificial contraception. I was then chairman of “Friends for Life,” a pro-life organization. Fr. Hesburgh was, of course, one of the key organizers of the Land O’ Lakes statement of Catholic educators which promulgated “true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical.” That document led to the rejection of Catholic doctrine that we have witnessed in such universities as DePaul, Loyola and Georgetown. DePaul has gone further and has instituted courses that advocate homosexuality (Queer Studies: 101) and Loyola has instituted similar courses as well.

As I walked over to him from across the dining room I was well aware that this handsome, iron-grey haired Irish priest not only willingly led a clever ruse to up-end the teaching of Catholic doctrine but had willingly aided the Rockefeller Foundation (then under David Rockefeller) to influence Paul VI to change the church’s moral teaching against contraception. In addition to lobbying Rome, Fr. Hesburgh used Notre Dame as a forum to disseminate propaganda against “Humanae Vitae.” In return, David Rockefeller named the smiling Irish priest to the board of Chase Manhattan Bank…following which he insisted that Fr. Hesburgh serve as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. Hesburgh’s support of liberal programs was so well known that in 1972 Democratic Presidential Nominee George McGovern gave serious thought to an unprecedented act—naming Fr. Hesburgh as his vice president.

I asked Fr. Hesburgh politely if I could interrupt his dinner to ask a question…to which he willingly, charmingly, assented. But his Irish smile disappeared when I asked: “How do you justify your role as a Catholic priest with your chairmanship of a foundation that has long advocated abortion and has promoted artificial contraception? Am I as a Catholic to understand that you espouse those issues?”

I didn’t take down his answer but I can paraphrase it. It was not good, just a roundabout defense of the Rockefeller foundation’s support of anti-poverty and so-called humanitarian efforts. After which I asked: “Do you actually vote for birth control issues as chairman? Do you abstain? Recuse yourself?”

He responded by smilingly inviting me to write to the Rockefeller Foundation for ample documentation. At this point his lawyer dining companion also issued me an invitation—to cease and desist and get the hell back to my table since their dinner was getting cold.

Of course there was no mention of a vote or annotation of how the directors voted on issues in the annual report of the Foundation.

Just yesterday at Mass a senior priest at my church, Saint John Cantius, told me that as he was writing protest letters to officials at Notre Dame for having invited President Obama to address the graduation and receive an honorary degree, he also wrote one to Fr. Hesburgh. To his surprise, he received a response from Hesburgh which not only endorsed the action but went further—to praise Notre Dame’s professor of theology, Fr. Richard McBrien as America’s greatest Catholic theologian and probably one of the greatest theologians who ever lived. McBrien, of course, has written books that are not only brim-ful of dissent from orthodoxy but served as a priest advisor to Ron Howard in the filming of “The Da Vinci Code.”

It’s clear that Fr. Hesburgh is an articulate instrument of anti-orthodoxy in America or a quisling, named after Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Quisling [1887-1945] who dealt with the Nazis on their invasion of Norway and got them to convene a rump government and make him Prime Minister of Norway. His life was cut short on Oct. 24, 1945 when, after Norway was liberated, he was tried, found guilty of treason and summarily shot to death by a firing squad. His surname then was adopted in lower case as a synonym for “traitor.” Fr. Hesburgh is a quisling but he need not face a firing squad. He will face something far more draconian than that in the next world.

Salary of Notre Dame President.

Did you ever suspect that a priest of a religious order who is supposed to accept the triple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, receives a salary—not just payment to cover expenses but a lavish salary equivalent (there’s that old word “equivalence” again) to the CEO of a medium-sized corporation? Looking at the income tax form of the non-profit Notre Dame University for 2006 one sees that Fr. John Jenkins received that year a salary of $422,000 plus an expense account of $170,000.

It has been suggested that, yes, Fr. Jenkins receives that as a salary but everyone knows it is turned back to the University. Does everyone know that? Why pay him a salary at all if he is turning it back to the University? When I went to Saint John’s in Minnesota, the president was the Abbot of the Benedictine Order there and received no salary beyond his mere pittance as a Benedictine monk. I would be grateful if someone would explain why a salary is paid if it is immediately returned. I doubt it. I see some justification for the expense account which is considerable but probably necessary for the president’s travel to fund-raising events and his hosting of dinners etc. But even so—that’s a hell of an expense account.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Personal Aside: Why the Networks Court Obama—There’s Money in it!


One issue that is consistently bypassed in discussions over liberal bias in the media is this: Forget whether news reporters, producers and network moguls agree with Barack Obama. We know they do. The salient issue is that they are courting Obama because doing so PAYS. Obama is attractive to the 24 to 46 year old audience that demographic studies show spend more…the same group that figures strongly in radio and TV entertainment ratings.

Oh, 24 to 46 don’t always react the way the demographers estimate, of course. Right now Conan O’Brien is dipping under Dave Letterman: that’s not supposed to happen. That’s the reason why, reportedly, an internal memo at NBC in Chicago has ordered the news staff to go soft on Obama.

I think that demographical appeal and marketing plays a great role in network coverage of political news. If that is so, …and the charge has been aired recently…the scandal is worsened. Bad as it is for reporters to show their bias by favoring a certain president while dissing his predecessor in handling of the news, it is still in the nature of cognitive judgment. But applying the same marketing standards to coverage of politics that are used in entertainment is utterly morally debased. It is the same…only on a much higher level…than a politician or candidate passing some quiet dough to a political correspondent for good placement and favorable treatment.

The ABC hosting of a two hour special on health care—from the White House itself—is a serious indictment. Its medical director, Dr. Tim Johnson is going to be front-and-center on the issue. Johnson has already personally come out for universal federalized health care. This is a bold step by the network but it—and others such as CBS and NBC—drop all pretense of objectivity with a shrug, for the major reason that they believe it pays in bringing youth demographics. That is the same as being “bought.” More than that, it is the same as the state-run networks in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. So it is more than just network or reportorial bias. It is something more sinister than that: it is the prostitution of journalism, of being bought for a president with money on the barrelhead.

Liberal bias with mainstream media has been going on for a long time—at least as long as I have been covering politics…since 1953 in Minnesota. But with the advent of Obama the bias has moved beyond personal, liberal political shading in favor of a candidate into active cooperation, co-optation of the media by the liberal Democrats. Example: everyone who covered the 2008 campaign knew…but it wasn’t reported…that the airlines going to the Denver Democratic convention were jam-packed, hotels were jammed with elite media. Unless you started very early you couldn’t get a reservation. The air terminal was packed. Lots of media came who weren’t even on assignment. But those elite media types were in scant appearance at the Republican convention.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs has determined that the three major broadcast networks gave Obama almost four times the coverage that George W. Bush received at the start of his administration. One need not be a conspiratorial fanatic to understand that this coverage comes more from simple, straightforward bias than recognition of hard marketing numbers. The TV networks and major (declining) urban newspapers have in an effort to salvage their numbers put their integrity on the auction block—and it’s disgusting…but hardly ever reported in a profession that sanctimoniously thinks of itself as pristine and “the people’s guardian.”

Many of us who were small city journalists (I was city editor of a daily in a city of 25,000 in St. Cloud, Minnesota) know the temptation that would come to a publisher when the son of the owner of the town’s department store (a store that advertised heavily in the paper, the ads often being the difference between the paper being in the black or going belly-up) would be, let us say, picked up by the cops in a nearby big city picking up an underage prostitute. Should the paper run the story or mask it or underplay it or let the AP handle it? There comes a time in every journalist’s life when a crucial question that this has to be handled. Well…only on a much higher level, with much more prestige, the same question is confronting the mainstream media on Obama.

Very frankly, Fox News excepted, Obama is not getting scrutiny in the media the nation deserves to see. The administration fires inspectors general (there are now three who have been canned), is quite frankly at a loss to handle Gitmo; it’s violated its so-called sacrosanct canons about not hiring lobbyists. It executes U turns. And when it does the mainstream media obediently follows and executes U turns. In the old days you could say it’s a matter of ideology…and there’s no doubt that ideological simpatico is there. But even more ugly—once again, Fox excepted, it’s a matter of cash on the MSM barrelhead in the business offices which know that favorable Obama treatment and lavish treatment might well bring in the dough.

Very well, mainstream media are a business that demand profit. Then let it be done to make a profit. Just skip the sanctimoniousness with which the MSM cover other things. When Blago gets on talk radio, media screams at him. He’s doing this for two reasons: trying to swing one juror and get his name across so that he can sell his books. Media should just simply drop its denunciation of him for these things—since media are doing the same thing, basically: hustling Obama for the pure and simple buck. And when Roland Burris is quoted on FBI tape having said that maybe he could raise a few bucks for Blago if he would favorably remember Burris when it comes time to name a Senator…media should drop the sanctimony. Media are doing exactly what Burris is—hustling for a buck. It matters not that Burris was hustling Blago or media were hustling readers by perfuming up Obama. It’s prostitution of journalism pure and simple.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Personal Aside: Demonizing Conservatives to Help the Obama Program Pass.


Now this is really strange: liberal Democrats control the presidency and the Congress; a good case can be made that they dominate the Supreme Court. Since they own all the levers of power, why are they so pathologically driven to attack conservative Republicans?

Their conservative targets are …even though the election is long passed: Former President George W. Bush, ex-veep Dick Cheney (about whom no one less than the director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said last week that Cheney “seems to be hoping” for another terrorist attack to justify his views of imminent danger), Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity (Fox News commentator), Glenn Beck (Fox commentator), Newt Gingrich, Bill O’Reilly (Fox commentator)-- and, most of all, Gov. Sarah Palin. Again, now that things appear to be going so swimmingly for Obama, why the pathological personal attacks on conservatives?

Letterman vs. Palin.

Last week there erupted this major item: Once again, Palin. Palin is frequently target for tonight by the Obama administration’s allies--left-wing entertainers: “funnymen” NBC’s Jay Leno, CBS’s David Letterman, NBC’s Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien and Comedy Central team Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The point men are always Letterman, Stewart and Colbert.

Last week, as the TV viewing public knows, Letterman broadened his scope by launching a personal vendetta with fictional attacks—attacking Palin for trying on clothes at Bloomingdale’s in hopes of looking like a trampy airline stewardess (she hadn’t). Then he zeroed in on her daughter. No, not Bristol, 18, but the Palin’s number three child, 14-year-old Willow. The story: Last week Gov. Palin was in New York and attended a Yankees game—with Willow. Letterman assumed it was Bristol—a mistake…but which led him to jest falsely in his monologue that she was “knocked up” (the vulgar term for “impregnated”) in the 7th inning by divorced Yankee 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez (who has been identified as a frequent escort of pop singer Madonna and a bevy of Las Vegas hookers).

Further, said Letterman, the Palin’s daughter might be an object of interest for Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic New York governor who had to resign after consorting with a prostitute for whom he paid $4,300 in cash. The remarks justifiably enraged the Palins since Letterman implied Gov. Palin is, in the vernacular, cheap (he used the word “sluttish”) and her underage child is a prostitute and a prospect for rape.

Letterman apologized—kind of. He said he didn’t know the daughter at the game was Willow. That didn’t get him out of the mess. Palin called him a 62-year-old sex pervert for verbally attacking her child. Letterman tried to make light of his half-apology: Palin didn’t accept it. Eventually, Letterman caved and made a full, humiliating retraction.

Only in today’s decadent society could Letterman’s allegations be rewarded by higher ratings and treated as humor by his callow, ill-mannered jeering, raffish, studio audience.

Don’t imagine these insults are happenstance. I know enough about the liaison between the Obama-ites and the Broadway-Hollywood-lefties like Letterman to understand that these made-up misrepresentations didn’t just occur to Letterman’s writers out of the blue. The pro-Obama culprits of the entertainment industry smear campaign against conservative Republicans are two Emanuels plus Axelrod.

Two Emanuels Plus Axelrod.

As I have detailed before in these pages, one member of the smear bund is Rahm Emanuel, 49, Obama’s chief of staff. a Chicago-born ex-congressman and political operator whom I have known well for 20 years. He has a scathing sense of take-no-prisoners politics. His Chicago-born kid brother, Ariel aka Ari, 47, is a Hollywood agent based in Beverly Hills who represents among others Martin Scorcese, Michael Moore, Larry David and Sacha Baron Cohen and operates a clear channel pipeline of communications to show biz—and lined up super-rich leftwing Hollywood-Broadway entertainment moguls to kick in big bucks for Obama as early as 2007. Chicagoan David Axelrod, 54, of course, is the biggest image-building guru in Democratic politics with a decided left-wing bent whom I have known for 30 years and debated on Chicago TV.

Once again, the key question remains: with high personal popularity ratings for the president, why do the Emanuels plus Axelrod and their show biz allies have the bitter-end obsession with conservatives to the extent that they have to demean a woman and her under-age child?

The reason: The Obama-ites believe—rightly—that their candidate’s high numbers are illusory—based only on his personal charisma but that the public doesn’t buy his programs. This means that unless he gets his programs passed, the Democrats will lose double-digit seats in the Congress in 2010--and may see a very close race for the presidency in 2012. So they are moved by extreme fear—fear that even Obama’s personal numbers could crater if he doesn’t improve the economy, the condition of the jobless and pass his tripartite program, universal health care, federalized education from k-1 through college and energy. The Emanuels plus Axelrod have decided they need villains from the Republican right to make the contretemps very personal…to get the voters excited. Thus they have settled on a litany of conservatives: Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Cheney and, oh yes, Sarah Palin.

Their strategy, though, in scape-goating the Right could be a big mistake. They’ve given Palin greater visibility than she can ever get being stuck up in Alaska—visibility which has enhanced her strength to overflowing with the GOP base: they’ve built up bigger numbers than ever before for Limbaugh, Gingrich and Fox’s new commentator Glenn Beck.

Now, what big issues are the Emanuels plus Axelrod afraid of? They’re five. 1. Gitmo, 2.the economy, 3. joblessness and 4.universal health care—and toughest of all, 5. spending.

First. on Gitmo, the issue of closing down Guantanamo, Obama hasn’t made the sale—and the Democratic Congress refused to appropriate the money to close-down Gitmo until and unless Obama came up with a substitute: he couldn’t. Because the U. S. won’t take the detainee-terrorists, no other country will. The administration shopped around to ten countries which all said “no.” Thus a deal was made to send four Uighurs , Chinese Muslim detainees (rather like the Basques and IRAs, violent but not anti-American) , to Bermuda and the remaining 13 to the lovely south Pacific island called the Republic of Palau (population: 20,842), a full 177 square miles of gorgeous ocean frontage, which coincidentally has just received gave $200 million in bribes, er, sorry, I meant to write “foreign aid” from Washington. Even so the Republic of Palau is uncertain about receiving the 13.

But the Uighers aren’t the worst of the problem—the 100 Yemenis held at Gitmo are; they can’t be sent back to Yemen because the country is unstable and they’ll go back to the battlefield. Thus it is clear that Obama is going to have to arrange a humiliating retreat, like Napoleon from Moscow, on the issue…meaning that none other than Dick Cheney, who is not in the least charismatic, has won the engagement over a personally popular president.

Second, on the economy, although Obama comes across with professional smoothness on TV, the economics he’s selling is horrific: Running up almost $2 trillion in annual deficits and pushing programs that will add another $9 trillion which would reach a total of $20 trillion is tough selling for anybody. Charisma runs out of gas when you envision that Obama calls for the greatest growth in government since Lyndon Johnson with the Congressional Budget Office estimating federal spending in 2019 at nearly 25% of the economy—well up from the 21% in 2008 and much higher than the post-World War II average, the spending due to crest before many baby boomers retire. Public confidence that Obama can pull this one out is lagging seriously.

Third, joblessness is a crucially important political problem because to the administration’s keen disappointment, jobless rates are rising despite four months of the “stimulus” package with the administration admitting that the economic forecasts used to sell the stimulus were over-optimistic, and is reeling from charges the effects haven’t been worth the price tag.

Fourth, , universal health care is at present a very-very tough sell for Obama. He just simply can’t seem to hurdle over the difficulties. He says a government-run health program is required to provide choice and competition to private health insurance. But 1,300 private carriers exist and the public is getting wise to the argument that by setting up a government “option,” Obama is leading the country to national health care. Besides, the Congressional Budget Office (controlled by Democrats) says this plan will cost $74 billion by 2014 while private providers—nearly 100 in number—will deliver the same goods for $44 billion, about 41% lower than Obama wants.

Even an option for federalized health care would torpedo private health insurance because business will decide it will save them money to go government—and this means something like Canada’s single payer program.. And once private health insurance has been ended, it’ll be gone forever.

In addition, Medicare and Medicaid costs have far exceeded their original cost estimates because there are no competitors for these federalized programs—a commonsense reason to doubt the costs Obama sets out for his federal “option” program…the public option will interrupt the close relationship many people have with their own doctors… Think dealing with insurance companies is frustrating? Imagine what it’ll be when the only carrier will be the government with no competition and thus little concern that you can change to another company. Looking at the Congress last week, even Democratic boosters I talked to think there’s no chance for passage of Obama’s program and that the best that can happen would be a cosmetic bill short on content.

Fifth and finally the toughest issue of all, federal spending. On the way to a Green Bay, Wis. town meeting to advocate his universal health care program, Obama was greeted by a forest of placards held by angry citizens, reading “No Socialism!” and “Taxed Enough Yet?” A Gallup survey released last week showed that while six in 10 Americans approve of Obama, fewer than half say they endorse how he’s handling the deficit and holding back federal spending. Moreover, there’s a decline from the previous month in the percentage of voters who approve Obama’s handling of spending.

The prospect looks bleak for the Obama future—and for that reason the two Emanuels plus Axelrod have opted to invent a series of villains. Ironically, since all three are Jewish, the stratagem is not far removed from the one employed beginning in 1920 by Adolf Hitler to crystallize blame for rampant inflation, the humiliating Versailles treaty and the other ills of the Weimar republic. Hitler blamed the Jews. The two Emanuels plus Axelrod are blaming a collection of conservative Republicans, most of whom (Palin excepted) don’t hold public office.

The Obama Media Axis.

More than any other president, Obama has a skilled, super-large contingent working on the media besides the Emanuels plus Axelrod who assiduously leak stories on their own.

The administration has 14 professionals working in the office of the press secretary alone and no fewer than 47 others scattered throughout the government devoting full-time to image-creation. This is more than the p. r. staffs of most Fortune 500 companies. Too, there is more warmth and agreeableness among the old regular press hounds stationed at the White House than ever existed under Bush. But there’s also a downside.

The downside is that the warmth and affection for Obama largely comes from a dying branch which is described as the Old Media: The Chicago Tribune (bankrupt), The Boston Globe (bankrupt) , The Baltimore Sun (bankrupt), The New York Times (bankrupt), The Los Angeles Times (bankrupt), The Washington Post. The Washington Post lost $53. million last quarter and is supported largely by Kaplan Educational Testing.

In addition, broadcast TV networks (and the two major newsmagazines, Time and Newsweek which are unremittingly liberal) are rapidly losing audiences. CBS’s Katie Couric who skewers conservatives regularly is dead last in ratings for her Evening News among the networks. As a matter of fact, the Old Media needs Obama to stabilize their weak numbers, needs him far more than he needs them. That’s why the supplicant Brian Williams, the toadying NBC-TV evening anchor, was seen to bow humbly when he left the president after the network presented its “Day in the Life of President Obama”—and why NBC has circulated a private memo to its news-writers forbidding negative reportage on Obama.

In contrast to the Old Media is what is known as the New Media: blogs, AM talk radio where conservative hosts have spectacular numbers, Fox cable news which is fearless in its analysis of Obama’s economy and national security issues, is bursting its seams in good numbers—far ahead of its pro-Obama rivals, MSNBC, CNBC and CNN.

Needed: The Party of “No.”

Selection of conservative Republicans as the villains by the two Emanuels plus Axelrod has caused the GOP to ponder what to do. Initially the party…called “the stupid party” by even some of its adherents…fell for the ploy. A number of GOPers denounced Limbaugh—notably the new national chairman, Michael Steele. Others have said the party should develop new issues and new faces. Still others have said, incredibly, that the GOP should veer away from anything to do with Ronald Reagan “because the times are different now.” One so-called leader to say this is Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana. But why the GOP should disown its most attractive president of the 20th century is imponderable. Now some liberal Republicans have since repented saying these things but they rally around the prospect that the Republican party “should not be the party of No!” Let me at this point file a modest objection.

Every time Republicans lose a national election, there arises the same old whinnying from “moderates” and “liberals”—mainly in the liberal press--that the GOP has to (1) be more positive, (2) appeal to the illusory mirage of blacks and liberals who might…just might…come flocking to the party’s door if it brayed a soft, liberal line. You hear that uncertain trumpet call from a variety of sources—most popularly, Gen. Colin Powell. Powell voted for Obama but he says he’s a Republican. He wants “his” party to be pro-abortion, pro-affirmative action. He decries the fact that as he says, “the Republican party has become the Party of No.”

To which I say: terrific! From the day George W. Bush was elected, Democrats were the party of “no”—attacking the Supreme Court for stopping a total recount in Florida because differing election procedures in the state’s counties would cause violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause…and attacking Bush for the next eight straight years. And recent American political history proves, being “the party of No” is what has made the two-party system vital and enduring.

Examples: In 1938 the GOP was the party of “no” and won a total of 71 congressional seats in oppostion to the New Deal…The mid-term elections of 1946 saw the Republicans make no “positive” suggestions at all other than removing the Dems from leadership of House and Senate…substantial gains were chalked up by Republicans in 1966, two years following the LBJ landslide—the issues being crime-in-the-streets and the chaos caused by demonstrations for more civil rights progress and anti-Vietnam war strife where Republicans made no alternative suggestions except getting rid of the old Dem gang.

In essence, to paraphrase the old song: “There’s no business like No Business if you tell me it’s so/ When you run against a turkey you know will fold/ Let him face his troubles out in the cold/ Don’t swap ideas for a pack of gold/ Just keep on saying “No!”