Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thoughts While Shaving: Obama to Send 1,200 Guardsmen to Arizona but When They Leave—Then What? More.

  Feast of St. Philip Neri* 
                                A Public Relations Move—That’s All.
        Where’s the president’s shrink—if he has one? Barack Obama meets with Republicans on the Arizona immigration mess…holds forth as he has in public that the law is possibly unconstitutional…gets huffy with the lawmakers—and after they go back to the Capitol they’re told via e-mail that he’s sending 1,200 troops along with $500 million to serve as a stopgap in Arizona, something he neglected to tell them a few hours earlier in their meeting. 
        Not that the sending troops there for a short time will do all that good. When they withdraw, the same problem will be there.  Of course there’s enough embarrassment to go around.  John McCain, the hot-tempered who had agreed with Obama on immigration a few years ago and got burned for it, is now all blood and guts.  Then he didn’t want to call the solution he worked out with Ted Kennedy amnesty—but it was.   
         The answer is: build the damn fence. Round up a few hundred thousand of the unemployed for whom Obama cries his heart out every day, send them to Arizona and build the damn fence. 
                                   The “Bribe” to Sestak.   
          As one who’s been around politics just about all my life…starting as a reporter in `53, a political operative in Minnesota in `55, a congressional aide to two congressmen in `58-59, a governor’s press secretary in `61-63, a corporate lobbyist `61-`69, an assistant commerce secretary `69-71, a foreign service officer getting the Peace Corps appropriations through the Congress `71, back to corporate lobbying `72-`91, head of the anti-vote fraud unit in Chicago `74-84…on and on.  And I can tell you this: the idea of someone importuning a guy running for office to give it up in return for something better that can come down the line in the future is standard operating procedure. 
        In short, what’s the big deal?  But stick around for the answer.
          I’m telling you: it’s been done since the early days of the Roman Senate B. C. So what is there different about Joe Sestak announcing that he was importuned by the Obama administration not to run against Arlen Specter on a promise that he would get a high federal job? Technically it’s “so what else is new?”  However, stay tuned: except for a few things. 
    1. The charge coming from one who is now a Democratic senator-elect which he is repeating against his own administration…and continuing to hold to that statement … is definitely serious.  The usual way an offer is made comes something like this.  Rahm Emanuel…and that is presumably the guy who made the offer…says Joe, the president has a very high opinion of you as do we all.  He has said many times that a 3-star admiral like you belongs front and center in an administrative office, making decisions that affect national security.  Now of course since you’re running for the Senate, that’s off the table but his admiration for your abilities is unbounded.

          That would clear it up.  Sestak would get the idea and reconsider.  And if it came out, there would not be the slightest chance that it would wound Emanuel or the administration.    
    1. But something tells me that, having known Emanuel as I have in his salad days when he was…as he used to say…raising “Jewish money” for Richie Daley…his short temper under stress might well have made him short-cut the niceties.   Talk about Obama having a thin skin. You’ve never seen Emanuel pressing a point as I did in the `80s when he was living here. If in fact it was Emanuel, as Washington circles seem to hint, and Sestak resisted, saying he had put enough of his prestige on the line already and had the feeling he could beat Specter, I can readily imagine Emanuel saying this:

      Listen, you dumb [expletive deleted but relates to Sestak’s parentage] you think I have the time to [sexual practice explicitly described]around with you?  You keep on with this and you’re going to [sexual practice explicitly described] this administration all for your[invocation of the Almighty’s powers of condemnation] glory and the Republicans are going to capitalize on this and win the seat.  Don’t you understand that you [another reference to the ancestry of Sestak’s mother]?  Now get this and get this straight…you either take this offer or [allusion to God punishing Sestak in hell] you, you will be on the [explective referring to defecation] list with us, get me?  Think that over you dumb [deleted explective relating to I illegitimate birth]. The offer is there and you better think about it good and long.   
       If that was the nature of the inducement, watch out if Sestak has it on tape or if he so testifies under oath. It wouldn’t lead to impeachment but if the identity of the one making the offer were ascertained, could well lead to his being fired.
        Again, proper and circuitous inducements have happened all the time in politics but something tells me this wasn’t the route taken.  Not if it was Emanuel.  
        Now with all this hideous man talk out of the way, we go to the Saint of the Day.  
       *: Saint Philip Neri [1515-1595]. Twice in my lifetime, I have knelt before the perfectly composed body of Philip Neri…looking for all the world as if he were just put on display for the first night of the wake  at Kenney Brothers on the South Side—skin unutterably rosy, beard full and black, his brown cassock though less than immaculate.  The first was in 1938 when I was 10 and visited the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella not far from Rome.  The second was 19 years later, same place.  Not a bit of change; his whiskers were still crisp and black.
         Philip Neri was born in Florence, the son of a notary. He was educated by the Dominicans, then took a job in a firm run by his rich uncle who planned to make Philip his heir and CEO of the company. But Philip had other plans. He experienced a deep longing for God, left the company, went to Rome without a penny to his name, lived in a garret, made enough to live on by teaching his landlord’s two sons.  He spent two years doing this, studying, living like a hermit, teaching the two kids.  He then became a priest, lived with a community of priests at San Girolamo della Carita and started what he called the Congregation of the Oratory.  The priests there lived a common life and were obedient to Philip but they did not renounce their property.   
         Philip was gifted with a charming and warm personality and as result was very successful in winning converts and congregations to his side. In 1575 Pope Gregory XIII gave him a broken down old church, the church of St. Maria, in Vallicella—but Philip had it pulled down and raised sufficient funds to build a better church, a building paid for by the rich but worked on by poor but able artisans. Philip’s talent at mediating was so great he was tapped to be a diplomat between France and the Holy See; he was very successful and averted a war.  He worked very hard at his church hearing confessions, speaking, consulting.  On May 25, 1595 after a full day, he surprised everybody by saying, “Last of all, we must die.”  He had been known as a practical joker but this was no joke. That night he suffered a hemorrhage and died. John Henry Newman much later sought to emulate him by starting an Oratorio in Birmingham and London built in the second half of the 19th century.

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