Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Personal Aside: Junior Skipping Debates in Favor of TV Ads Paid by Big Daddy… WTTW Debate Shows GOPers At Their Feisty Best.

           Feast of St. John Chrysostom* 
            Junior Doesn’t Have to Debate if He Doesn’t Want To: Nyaa!
            “Junior,” the Republican candidate for governor, Andy McKenna, Jr. didn’t show up to debate with the other contenders on WTTW last night week because…well…he didn’thave to. Invitations had gone out on the debate last November 3 but Junior couldn’t fit it in to his schedule although the others did.  Junior skipped a downstate TV debate too.  

            The reason he doesn’t do debates is he doesn’t do well in them. This is because of a birth defect. He was born terminally bland.  So bland, in fact, that if he had been at WTTW he would have been overshadowed in aggressiveness by the host, Phil Ponce.  Besides when you’ve got a mega-multimillionaire daddy who funds your campaign and pays for the commercials, who needs a debate where things can go wrong? 
             The highly paid media strategists paid by Daddy tell Junior--correctly—that he does far better on silent film TV commercials looking thoughtful than talking on them.  A deep-voiced announcer says Junior is a bear-cat, tough-guy, ferocious on cutting the budget and fighting taxes, declaring he won’t accept a tax increase.  They’ve since Junior McKenna is in the top-three candidates for governor without having said a word, staying away from most controversies, having his media people say his schedule won’t allow for debates and dodging ramifications of issues that go beyond bumper-sticker slogans.
                  Andy Says Nothing, Looks Great in Commercials.
          But we do have him looking tough in his commercials. Sure, he looks over at his running mate, Matt Murphy for reassurance .  That’s because Murphy is a state senator and has been in the fray for a few years, unlike Junior.  Matter of fact every other Republican running for governor has got to this point by themselves—except Junior who’s got there through Senior, his old man. But anyhow the commercials Senior has paid for his kid are triumphs…one showing a baby wearing a Blago wig.  But it’s revelatory that Junior looks up at Murphy for reassurance.  Murphy is an adult. Andy’s one too but he doesn’t really fit the part.
          His opponents say Andy put his own name in a poll paid for by state money.  He won’t ever do that again. It happened when he didn’t ask Senior about it—and Senior would have gladly paid for a poll himself…but Junior never thought about that.  After the poll was taken, Junior kept the findings to himself, not telling anybody he was thinking of running.  What’s the big deal?  
        Now as state chairman, the guy whose job was trying to find the best candidate for governor he asked all the candidates what their ideas were for governor. Asked them how they planned to raise money. That’s all true. But it didn’t amount to much information since nobody but he had so rich a Daddy.  Nevertheless, peeking at their plans was helpful: no doubt.
        Once he was asked by Joe Birkett how he—Birkett—fared in the survey. It happened that Birkett was rated much higher than Andy. Somehow Andy kept the numbers to himself. So Birkett thinking his numbers were negligible, made other plans and dropped running for governor.
         When he was caught, it was embarrassing for a while for Junior. Then a Republican lawyer, chairman of the state GOP finance committee, allowed that he—the lawyer—thought of adding Junior’s name…thus sparing Junior from blame. Sort of careless of Junior to allow the lawyer to do it…but then, remember what the narrator Nick says in The Great Gatsby?Says: “They [the rich, those who have been born to a high position in life] were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness. They can use their wealth to escape whatever they choose.”  
        Finally it was determined that the lawyer didn’t do it—Junior added his own name.  No big deal, is it? Junior can reimburse the state party…and life goes on.   But back to the campaign for governor.
                     Picture Junior Shouting “NO!” to Madigan?   
        I sometimes think that since Junior’s not assertive but very bland, it’d have been better if Junior’s old man was running, even at the age of 81 (my age).  The old man has fire. Junior?   
         Behind the multi-million-dollar TV buys, you see maybe a floor-walker at Macy’s, the old Marshall Field; or a timid parson in the back office of a Presbyterian church, or a shy freshman on his first day at Phillips Exeter.  You don’t see Junior saying no to Mike Madigan can you?  Or fighting back when Mike Madigan says NO,  can you?  He looks as though hearing “no” from anybody would cause him to hide behind a sofa in terror.
       Daddy’s commercials could get Junior elected governor and if so it proves that money can buy anything.  Still, though a supporter of the free enterprise system, somehow when you look at Junior, you can’t see him saying NO to anybody.  
       Despite Andy, Sr. having either personally funded Junior and/or scooped up as much largesse as his two hands can carry from his decades of blue-chip connections:  his former board membership on the Tribune which did wonders in winning the paper’s editorial endorsement…
       …Senior’s string of current and past board memberships: executive chairmanship of McDonald’s, of AON, Dean Foods, Notre Dame, Skyline Corp and, former chairmanships of the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox…as well as a covey of cushy civic memberships allowing the old man to network in behalf of Junior with his pals also of the Big Money: the Museum of Science and Industry; the Economic Club. 
          Initially, Senior advised Junior to go straight up from the executive suite to U.S. senator and challenge the incumbent Peter Fitzgerald in the 2006 primary.  He was told to be angry that Fitzgerald’s no-team-player independence, refusal to sign on to Illinois pork projects was not good: and so Ray LaHood schooled him on challenging Fitz…yeah, the same Ray LaHood who now is Obama’s transportation secretary—of course you might say to me: why bring that up?
        Fitz bowed out because Chairman Topinka, Speaker Hastert and Bill Cellini signified it would be a very expensive primary…not withstanding that Fitz had cited George Ryan for trying to turn the Lincoln Museum into a patronage dump, refused to support Boss Daley’s O’Hare expansion—and horrors! Named a tough U.S. attorney to prosecute the Combine. Then Junior was convinced by his Dad to run for the Senate anyhow but he lost well down the list to State Rep. Jim Durkin who was starved for money so Dick Durbin won. 
        After losing the Senate nod to Jack Ryan…Ryan later quitting, his berth taken by Alan Keyes…Junior turned to Daddy and asked: what to do?  Daddy said he’d do well to get political management experience. So Daddy’s money made Junior State Republican Chairman in 2005.  Junior’s critics say: Nothing happened.
                      Lots Happened During McKenna Chairmanship.
          No, wait—that’s not right.  Lots happened! From the time Junior took over as State Republican Chairman to the day he stepped down and ran for governor, here’s what happened: Republican Judy Baar Topinka got nominated for governor and lost even though the incumbent, Rod Blagojevich, was knee-deep in ethics trouble…Republicans lost the state treasurer’s job so that the Dems controlled all state constitutional offices including both houses of the legislature….Republicans lost the 11th district seat held by the retiring Jerry Weller to Democrat Debbie Halvorson…Republicans lost the 14th district—a solid Republican one held by the party for many decades and until lately Speaker Dennis Hastert—to Democrat Bill Foster…the Dems elected a freshman, Phil Hare in the old Tom Railsback district, the 17th.  
         And oh yes, I forgot.  In 2008,   Republicans ran a candidate for the U.S. Senate a physician named Steve Sauerberg to oppose incumbent Dick Durbin.  Durbin won 68% to 29% because Sauerberg was under-financed.     
           So it isn’t like nothing happened when Andy McKenna, Jr. served as state Republican chairman.   Lots happened: just none of it good. 
          After that experience as state chairman, Junior took Senior’s advice and resigned that GOP job.  He had gained enough experience to run for governor.                                        
                             The Republican WTTW Debate.
          I’d say they all did well.  Kirk Dillard, my favorite, did well…his experience and thoughtfulness came through even though he didn’t try to interrupt.  I thought Dan Proft did very well: showing himself to be a phrasemaker and excellent advocate.  Adam Andrzejewski the first timer, showed extraordinary insight and forensic skill—he’s got a future.  Jim Ryan was frankly surprisingly remarkable. He seemed like the patriarchal father of the group—extending the great maturity that comes from his long service to the state. He handled his political disadvantages in such a way that he was really compelling.
          Andy McKenna, Jr. did better than he would have had he shown up for reasons explained earlier. Bill Brady interrupted everybody, hurling barbs at them…heckling them, really, but as often with a heckler he unintentionally created sympathy for those he interrupted and sought to throw off subject.   Dillard brushed him away like a pesky fly.  I rooted for Ryan when he fought back against Brady’s machine-gun chatter. This was probably the first time being heckled for Andrzejewski and he did very well.  I don’t remember Brady heckling Proft because, wisely, he knew he would be verbally decapitated if he did.   
       *:  St. John Chrysostom [AD 347-407] is one of the greatest Fathers of the Church. Born at Antioch, Syria the son of a pagan Roman soldier and a Christian mother, developed an early love of the Church from her, baptized (as was then the custom) as an adult, studying theology under Diodorus of Tarsus, volunteering to live the life of a hermit under St. Basil of Mopsuestia. But life in a cave almost ruined his health and he returned home to become a Deacon, then a priest.  He was k known as plain “ John of Antioch” until he started to preach—then he was given by his hearers the name “Chrysostom,” or “the golden tongued.” A natural scholar he preached extensively on the New Testament—88 homilies on John alone, 90 on Matthew, 32 on Romans. 
          Against his will he was named Patriarch of Constantinople, reforming the Church, abolishing pomp and luxury, sending missionaries to the East. No diplomat, he assailed the luxurious dress of Empress Eudoxia where craven politicians in the Church demanded he be exiled. He was just about to leave when an earthquake literally scared the devil out of Eudoxia and fearing the wrath of God, she rescinded her order. But John being John, he immediately enraged her again so the exile was put back in place. He was sent to Pityus at the far end of the Black Sea.  He died on the way from exhaustion brought on by long forced marches by foot, through stifling heat and inclement weather. His writings have survived until this day and he was declared a Doctor of the Church and patron of teachers by Pius X. .

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