Feast of St. Germaine Cousin*
All Chicago Politics is Loco.
Tip O’Neill’s favorite observation that “all politics is local” deserves to be amended slightly. In Chicago, as brilliant Sun-Times cartoonist Jack Higginspoints out, all politics is loco. Most Chicagoans have known this for years. Born here in 1928 I’ve dined out in two states, D. C., Harvard, Princeton and a dozen other university seminars on stories of our crassly crooked pols. But now the whole country is getting a taste.
At least I hope it does because once my countrymen across the broad expanse of the other 49 states get a whiff, they will know what an egregious mistake a majority of them made by electing The Squid’s Obama president in November, 2008.
While the trial will not by itself bring down Obama, it will hasten the day when he will be defeated in 2012 by his own stupidities and left-wing eccentricities. This much I think I can say: What truly will happen, no doubt about it, will be the final dissolution of the bogus “charisma” aura that has afflicted our politics and elected so many inept individuals such a as FDR, JFK and Obama.
Charisma? Bah Humbug.
As one who sat often in the Senate gallery during the `50s I looked down upon a theatre of mostly old, fat, slouchy men (plus Margaret Chase Smith with her reading glasses resting on her slender bosom, looking for all the world like an elderly librarian). I must say Illinois’ senators were as seedy looking as the rest: Everett Dirksen with tousled hair looking like Burt Lahr in the Wizard of Oz. his coat shoulders covered with a light white residue of terminal dandruff. Paul Douglas who got his suits from You’ll look nifty for Seventy-Five Fifty at Benson-Rixon.
But other states were not to be forgotten in drab. Alcoholic Denny Chavez of New Mexico who you’d see across the street at the Carroll Arms hotel having…for breakfast…a straight scotch and a cold cigar. Rhode Island’s Theodore Francis Green at 91 dozing at his desk, having the propriety of unhooking his cumbersome hearing aid so he could not be disturbed by the oratorical banter. Not a drop of charisma in the place with the exception of an auburn-haired first-termer named Kennedy from Massachusetts who wasn’t interested in legislating but posing twirling his reading glasses: everybody knew he was going nowhere.
I never thought the vacuous “charisma” moniker applied to Reagan because by the time of his election he had been tested and tried with two terms as governor of this country’s largest state.
Now Blagojevich was elected largely on charisma and it is of him and his sensational trial that I write…for an audience that has…fortunately for this blog…grown substantially beyond the dimensions of Chicago. And it is largely to non-Chicagoans that I direct these words.
The Trial and the Charges.
Blago came to power with the sanction of The Squid which didn’t want an honest Democrat…the devout Greek orthodox Paul Vallas, who as Chicago school superintendent had begun to reform the schools but who stepped on teachers’ unions’ toes and was fired by Daley… to go to the state house after the conviction for corruption of George Ryan, the bulbous-nosed old GOP Orangeman deal-maker.
No sooner did Blago get in than the Squid perceived correctly he was a loony but it stuck with him…even supported his reelection…because it thought it could do better with him with graft, jobs and privileges than any Republican: the well-being of state and city be damned.
The Squid is run jointly by pro-abort Catholic Dem Richard M. Daley and…here’s a strange thing: Technically pro-life Catholic Dem House Speaker Michael Madigan whose only reason for staying pro-life is that he represents a conservative Dem southwest side district and is wary of conservative blue-collar Catholic wrath. But his future is all wrapped up in the dream that his Catholic pro-abort, pro gay rights stepdaughter, Lisa will some day become governor. So at 68 he wants to stay in power to see that happen which will make his home life with Lisa’s natural mother reasonably livable.
But since Madigan is also state Democratic chairman, the Blago trial can’t be all that good.
The chief charges among the total of 24 against Blago are these:
Solicitation of bribes for Obama’s Senate seat, mail fraud;
Attempted extortion from the Chicago Tribune by offering state funding help to help the paper unload the Chicago Cubs in purported exchange for a change in the paper’s editorial policies against him;
Attempted extortion: a threat to hold up state assistance for a children’s hospital in return for a $50,000 campaign contribution from one of its principal donors.
The Threat to Obama Infuriates Media.
You would expect the strongly liberal reformist Chicago media would be down on Blago—and they are. But they hate him much worse than they ever did George Ryan or any of the other miscreants. Why?
Because Blago has vowed to take Obama and the Squid Obama-ites down with him. Not that he easily can but that he wants to. . Now that really offends the liberal media because while they recognize the president’s star is flaming out, Obama has been their superstar, standing for everything so many of them learned in their leftwing university seminars about the evils of capitalism, the glories of labor unions, the need for a classless society (Big Foot media types exempted of course), harsh exploitation of minorities and gays by conservatives, and the evils of imperialistic America. Don’t imagine the Catholic chancery isn’t interested as well because it is populated to the gills by Squid clerics and lay people who depend on the approbation of city hall, the state capitol and the White House.
Regarding the media, the only major player to disagree with them is one John Kass of The Tribune, a devout Greek Orthodox, who is its best columnist, who has ideal qualifications as a journalist…more than a college degree but having worked as a butcher and commercial seaman—reflecting the average guy, unlike them.
The Strategist in Blago’s Corner.
Earlier I described Blago as a kind of weird-loony Rocky Balboa as played by Sylvester Stallone in the 1976 sleeper film Rocky. That’s still true but I think Blago made what could be a genius move in hiring as his top lawyer one Sam Adam, Jr. a South Side protégé of his lawyer father Sam Adam. Adam, who’s black, never tried a case in federal court before but he’s clearly the loony loony Blago needs: a hustler with a golden tongue and mischievous daring who used forensic magic tricks to get all-but-convicted defendants off with oracular pyrotechnics at 26th & California, the roundup holding pen for off-the-street criminals.
Adam was the lawyer who told Blago to go out and get on every TV interview show he could in an effort to taint the jury pool with at least one person who would turn thumbs down on conviction. Unsettling and unconventional as that advice was, it may prove to be Blago’s salvation.
All the while, Adam has been warned time and again by the Federal Judge …a graduate of Big Jim Thompson’s pro-Dem GOP administration…that the pristine Dirksen federal building is not the carnival grounds that is 26th & California and that the Judge will rule out of order any oratorical black fireworks. The young lawyer has nodded contritely. The next thing that happened was that the feds bill of indictment against Blago which had acres of print pertaining to Obama and his tie-in redacted as “irrelevant” was surreptitiously leaked to the entire media. The judge called Adam and others in for a tongue-lashing. Again Adam looked contrite. But I’m told there was a twinkle in his eyes.
As the trial began, Adam was quoted as disparaging his client, calling him among other things a celebrity apprentice buffoon. The media were mystified. But Adam’s game plan was clear. He wants to inculcate people with the idea that Blago’s wild talk about all things involves exaggeration for effect, scintillating phrase and irreverent boasts…so as to get him past the trouble that the offensive, boasting and threatening tapes…vows to get even…to even physically emasculate enemies…could bring.
And as the media re-thought the strategy, they realized Adam was pretty smart to put that up front.
In selecting a jury, Adam was looking for these types (according to the Sun-Times) : (a) fans of the underdog, people who may have had brushes with the law, laid-back and loose folks who are anti-authoritarian…(b) old-fashioned cynical Chicagoans who think corruption in this town is “so what?”—that’s what it’s all about…(c) jurors of color to match the shameless patronizing Blago has done with minorities…(d) couch potatoes, the kind who watch all the reality shows and may be likely to absorb Blago’s arguments that he’s innocent; (e) little old ladies (or men) grateful for Blago’s giving free transit rides to seniors and (f) those angry at the self-righteous media.
The prosecutors were looking for these types: (a) overachievers who unlike Blago may have been valedictorians or straight A types in their classes…(b)financial basket-cases, dead broke themselves and ready to take out their angry by throwing the book at Blago…(c) aghast liberals who believes Civics 101 and hates those who try to bend the law for their own political purposes…(d) smart people with a flare for detail who will be engrossed in following complex series of evidence…(e) quickly opinionated people who if they are imbued with righteousness can be leaders in switching votes in the jury room after the trial and (f)those angry at the self-righteous media.
After the jury selection, the press was given their general descriptions and I must say I think Sam Adam came out quite well: 13 whites, 4 blacks, 1 Asian. Eleven are women, 7 men. Their personality descriptions seem to at least favor Blago initially.
Since this trial could well be a game-changer for the Obama people, here are things the media tell us to watch for.
(1) Tony Rezko testifying. . The incarcerated felon who was Blago’s chief fund-raiser, he could be of deciding influence in the trial. But there’s a great danger to the prosecution in having him testify as he has an extensive history of lying in his own right and he has a nefarious connection with Obama which if he talked volubly could bring down a house of cards on the president. Right now the prosecution has shelved plans for him to testify. But if they call him, it’s a sign the prosecution’s case is in trouble and they’ve thrown caution to the winds.
(2) Rahm Emanuel’s words. His ingenious use of obscenity and profanity will obscure what he wants. Any verbal replay in court of a telephone conversation sounds snarky…even if the progenitor is reading the Sears catalog. Emanuel has a backroom kind of true Chicago cynicism that can be dynamite in the hands of the Defense.
(3) Referrals to Obama that might trigger a demand from the Defense that the president himself appear or make a deposition…which might not be so easy for the pro-Obama Republican federal judge to deny. Any hints of backstage deals with Obama involved would be disastrous for him and the Dem party.
(3). Blago’s threats, proffers and seductive inducements will be described by Sam Adam not as what they seem but as political horse-trading which has always been accepted in trials of politicians—up to a point.
(4). The precarious state of Blago’s personal finances. The Feds will be outlining them as the motivation for Blago to go crooked but Sam Adam says Blago’s poverty is testimony to his basic honesty.
It will be interesting to see what the fallout will be on the Democratic party both nationally and in Illinois from the trial. The generally terse and laconic Mike Madigan was asked this question by the press.
“You can just say this: it’s not good. Not good,” he replied in typical understatement.
Mark Kirk the Ken Doll Establishment Boy.
In all the surveys of likely Republican U. S. Senate wins, the press has…up to now anyhow…usually started off by citing victory for Mark Kirk, running as the GOP nominee for the seat once held by Barack Obama. There were many reasons for this.
The most notable one is that The Squid backed Obama’s old basketball buddy, Dem State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a young 36-year-old who got into politics with a sizable lift from his then wealthy banking family. But things turned sour for Giannoulias promptly. His chief claim of being a well-qualified private sector executive fell apart when it was discovered that he made a lot of loans to mob figures including one who used the money to finance a bordello.
Then the bank failed and was shut down by the feds. The press thought Kirk was a natural to win because he apparently had a matchless record.
A graduate of Cornell University, the London School of Economics where he got his master’s and the Georgetown Law Center for his JD, he had been a top aide to the Republican who represented the North Shore. He was properly…or so the social register types had it… “balanced” as a liberal on social issues with a modicum of conservative ballast—most due to his military service record.
A dapper “Ken Doll” figure who looks a decade younger than 50 and has cut a dashing figure in Washington and the trendy North Shore which he has represented for 10 years, Kirk pleased the GOP establishment hugely. He was exactly what they wanted: liberal on social issues (pro-abort, pro-partial birth abortion, pro-federal embryonic stem cell research…but “balanced” by being hawkish on defense policy. The latter he reinforced by citing his military record as a reserve Navy Commander.
In winning the Senate nomination last February, he traded heavily on his naval reserve record, which would send him off to interesting staff duties in the Pentagon and overseas where he would report back eagerly to his constituents. He told them stories of his actually “managing” the War Room at the Pentagon and his trips to Iraq, of his being awarded “Naval Intelligence Officer of the Year.”
Last week The Squid, tired of taking it on the chin with Giannoulis, got reinforcements aplenty from Cong. Jan Schakowsky, wife of Bob Creamer, Obama’s strategic guru. Schakowsky is slightly to the left of the late Mother Bloor [1862-1951] who led street demonstrations here for the Socialist-Workers in the `20s in the packinghouse strikes. The team found some interesting things that has turned the campaign around…at least for now. They found that…
Kirk has systemically and gratuitously lied about his military exploits. He had claimed on his bio that he’d been named U.S. Intelligence Officer of the Year for his service during NATO’s war with Serbia in the 1980s. Wrong. His unit was cited not him personally. He said recently, “the last time I was in Iraq I was in uniform, flying at 20,000 feet and the Iraqi Air Defense Network was shooting at us.” Never happened.
That he said repeatedly he was the only member of Congress to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was never in Iraqi Freedom but served during it. And his running the Pentagon War Room? He was way down the list as an assistant but running it? Not even close. By the close of last week, Kirk was going to the editorial boards apologizing that “I had misremembered.”
Then another issue resurfaced.
During his campaign for the Senate nomination, one of Kirk’s opponents charged he is gay. He had been married and divorced but has no children. The establishment media took umbrage at the charge, threw up their hands, and said it has no place in a campaign. But after having voted for gay rights, Kirk pivoted and a week ago in the House voted against the ban on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” That’s when a leftwing blogger reactivated the charge. The establishment media took a different position on this issue affecting Kirk than when the gay charge originated first—from the Right. Then it was outrageous homophobia. Now that Kirk has voted against repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” the media feel it could be regarded as hideous hypocrisy…someone who might well be gay voting to keep gays in the closet. See how quickly the liberal media turn? Earlier it was an outrage to purportedly unveil Kirk’s gay-ness. Later it was an outrage for a purportedly gay Kirk to hide behind a vote that keeps gays in the closet..
A few weeks ago, Connecticut’s Democratic attorney general, Richard Blumenthal who is running to succeed Chris Dodd, had to `fess up and say that he has been trading on having been in the Vietnam War…talking about how he felt “when I came back from Vietnam.” He never went. Instead he had been stateside during the Vietnam War. At last check, Blumenthal was up 30 points over his Republican challenger, so the lies evidently hadn’t hurt.
But does it mean that voters have greater tolerance for Democrats who lie than Republicans? Whether Mark Kirk will be as lucky as Blumenthal is uncertain. My own guess is that the times and tide in Illinois are going right. Take a look at Bill Brady: Having done most things wrong to-date since his nomination (for which he ought to thank Jim Ryan who was not sent up there to nominate Brady I’ll tell you but to muck up the waters for the probable purpose of nominating the rich old man’s evasive, taciturn son, Andy McKenna, Jr.) he is still flying sky-high over Quinn.
Brady’s success makes me feel good that there is a powerful public opinion current that can’t be swayed by the usual manipulations of money and p. r.
*: St. Germaine Cousin is a saint who should be extolled at this time because she was designated long ago as the patron of victims of child abuse. I take it that some of our venerable brothers in the episcopate would just as soon pass that matter up…but they shouldn’t. Germaine [1579-1601] was born of humble parents in Pibrac, a village 10 miles north of Toulouse. From her birth she seemed to be a hard-luck kid…coming into the world with a deformed hand and the disease of scrofula, a variant of tuberculosis…losing her mother while Germaine was an infant…suffering from a cruel stepmother who cried out that since Germaine had TB she should be isolated from the family and sent out from early childhood on as a shepherdess…to which Germaine’s weak father agreed.
When Germaine returned at night she found her bed to be on a litter of vines in either a stable or the attic. This was the hard route that Germaine used to practice spirituality, humility and patience. She was gifted with a marvelous sense of the presence of God so that her lonely life became a beautiful instrument that she used for her sanctity. After many years, finally the weak-willed father came to his senses and reprimanded his wife and insisted that Germaine be restored to living with the family…but Germaine by that time a teen-ager wished to continue her life of unutterable poverty and suffering. One morning at the age of 22 she was found dead on her bed of pine twigs.
She was buried at the parish church of Pibrac. When in 1644 her grave was reopened for a distant relative to gaze on her body, they found it was preserved entirely immaculate. Then the town discovered that some…not all…of those with illness could find cure at her bier. During the French Revolution her casket was desecrated by revolutionaries who threw quick lime and water on her body and then took it out and buried it anew. But after the Revolution ended and she was dug up she was found immaculate. Pius IX proclaimed her beatification in 1854 and canonized her in 1867. Her feast is kept on June 15. She is represented in art as a young girl with a shepherd’s staff along with a watchdog at her side and flowers gathered in her apron.
Let me urge you to join me in this prayer for a Church whose earthen vessels have too often abused children and youth: For the love of God, Saint Germaine Cousin, help us repair and reform the Church you love so much.