Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Personal Aside: Two Case Histories of My Way or the Highway--Richard Viguerie and Jack Roesers Hired Lawyer. Doug Ibendahl (WHO?)
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 theyve bought title to the brand after working in the vineyard during the parched years and chafe that they havent 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 Republicansstarting 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 werent 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 didnt toe the line with Viguerie. In 1980 Viguerie went with Phil Crane for president but Phil complained about the cost of Richards 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 hadnt 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 wouldnt 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 Reagans 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 Reagans nomination for president the conservative movement is directionless.
The changing sides and going over to the USSR resulted in Reagans 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 entitledyou guessed itConservatism Betrayed which excoriated Bush I. Sixty-five months into Bushs presidency, wrote Viguerie, conservatives feelwhat? 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 partywell, he didnt. 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. Its 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 its 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. Hes an embittered old man who orders conservatives and the Republican party to follow his wayor the highway and ends up standing in the middle of the street as traffic goes by heedlessly. Hes called the Little Tyrant, who is mad that his every whim hasnt been followed. Those who dont agree with his every suggestion have betrayed conservatives and the Republican party. He has forgotten nothing but learned nothing about politics since 1964 and doesnt remember that while hes been prognosticating betrayal and defeat, he himself hasnt been elected and hasnt led the party to victoryever. Hes a lonely, embittered old man with no successes but a string of bad predictions to his credit.
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. Ive 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. Jacks a philanthropist with a social conscienceand like all of us, hes not perfect and in politics his inclination is to insist the party either follow him or take to the highway. Thats 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 didnt follow his program exactly. Thats 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 dont agree on everything but Toms done things Doug Ibendahl and Jack Roeser havent: 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. Theyre going to defeat Tom Cross if they can. Now Tom Cross and I dont agree on a few thingsbut 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 Crossand why the Jack and Doug effort to defeat Cross is nothing more than anger at not been heededby anybody. How dare Republicans fail to salute!
Jack, like Richard Viguerie in his old age, believes that conservatives have only one choice: Jacks way or the highwaywith a string of defeats along the way with the excuses that the party has been betrayed, betrayed, conspired-against, all by people who dont agree with Doug and Jack. Im a senior citizen like Jack but Im lucky to be married to another senior citizen who says Im not right about everything: thank God for her; she saved me a lot of goof-ups. I dont know much about Doug: hes not married so Ill 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 doesnt support each item in the Republican platform almost as if the platform is engraved on tablets handed down by God on Mt. Sinai. (Ill tell you later on who supported the Republican platform when it was wrongand who didnt, determining to be right rather than lip-synch views on a piece of paper).
Jack and Doug write that Tom Cross hasnt done this and hasnt done thatbut 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 dont 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 its not a capital sin to dissent from casting a blind loyalty oath on every item. Take ERA. They probably dont know that support for the ERA or Equal Rights Amendment bad news for social conservatives had been in every GOP platform from 1940 until 1964even 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 candidatesGoldwater, Rockefeller and Scrantonsupported keeping the ERA in the platform but one candidate didnt: 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 didnt support ERA then which means I wasnt loyal to the platformbut 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 dont think so. So Jack and Doug should drop this balderdash about whos loyal to a piece of paper and whos betraying whom. What they will never understand is what Henry Hyde said so long agopolitics is making choices and if you have to settle for a sandwich rather than a full meal and theres no alternative, you take it. Jack and Doug have never understood that. This is why they dont 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 thingsas 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 whos a leader and whos not.
Basically, Jack is basically a nice old man whos been so spoiled by saluters like Doug that he just cant abide people not saying yessir yessir on everythingnot unlike Dick Viguerie. Jack Roeser and I arent related; we have the same surname; we both lived at one time in the same suburb; were both Catholic. Weve even been friendly at times. Coincidentally enough, we both have sons named Tom and daughters named Jeanne Marie. And were both octogenarians so we arent going to be around forever maybe, who knows, not to see the next election. Its time for Jack to call off the dogs realize that like the rest of us hes not always 100% right that he doesnt need to be saluted constantly to salve his ego and turn his octogenarian energy to defeating Democrats, not Republican leadersin 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 willbut I dont really care since hes a hired gun.