Monday, June 14, 2010

Personal Asides: Mitch Daniels and the Value-Neutral Presidency...Attention—It’s June Pledge Month for Public TV! Hop To!

 Feast of St. Basil the Great* 
                                      Bye-Bye Mitch.
     Up to now, I’ve been lavish in my praise for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for four reasons: (a) excellent experience as a federal budget director where he became known as Mitch the Blade for cutting fat—and taking maximum heat from the Congress for his courage in cutting…(b) as Indiana governor for transforming the state from deficit to surplus and implementing other reforms that were considered untouchable…dropping out-of-date rulings that are nevertheless cherished, such as the checkerboard pattern of time zones (Standard, Daylight Savings) throughout the state…and (c) superb experience as a business executive at Eli Lilly where I first met him.  Oh and (d)the fact that he is not burdened with phony “charisma” but is unassuming, a balding, rather smallish (5 foot 7) intellectual with loads of private sector as public sector experience.   All that plus having been to-date certifiably good on social issues and a believing Christian, longtime membership as an evangelical parishioner.   
      I said he strikes me as being the best in a long line of excellent candidates for the Republican nomination and suggested he run with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as vice president.  I went to hear him at the Union League Club here not long ago and was highly impressed with his understated, well-informed comments on public affairs.  I came away saying Daniels could well be the class of the lot.  
       That was THEN. Last week he made a considered statement that shows either his cynicism or overwhelming naivete.  But it was not a gaffe: it was well-considered.  
        In an interview with The Weekly Standard which definitely did not harpoon him…and in fact seems to strongly favor him for president…Daniels said it is time for a moratorium on debate concerning social issues…urging a “time out”…while the country concentrates on repairing the economy.  That’s like saying it’s time to put Judeo-Christian values on hold for a bit until we figure out a course to balance the budget, what to do about Iran, what to do about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  
        My question is: how do you put  values “on hold” in the presidency?  In fact, how do you put any issues on hold—cultural, social, economic, defense? I’m sure Obama would just as soon put the Gulf oil spill on hold…but he cannot.  What exactly does Daniels mean? Does he think the Left would put social issues on “hold”?  Does he think the Left would relax pushing abortion or gay-rights because it didn’t want to take attention away from fixing the economy?  You bet it wouldn’t.  
        Does it mean that if he became president and there was a drive to repeal and reform ObamaCare he’d skip its circuitous federal funding for abortion because it would be too divisive for the country?  Does it mean that if legislation is introduced to okay legalized suicide (with proper counseling of course) he as president would take no stand?   
        When an opening for the Supreme Court comes up, would he skip consideration of life issues? Would Mitch even ask him/her about life issues?  Would he as president continue Obama’s defiantly pro-abortion support of our assistance for the practice vis-à-vis international organizations? Meaning, keeping this country defiantly pro-abortion has it has become under Obama?   
           In the interest of national unity, would he interfere with Obama’s ruling regarding these international commitments and risk distracting the country from its major concerns which are economic? The economic excesses stem in major part from an illness that is at once philosophical-theological-psychological.  
         If, let us say, he were to become president would he take no stand on abortions being performed at military hospitals as is proposed under the Burris amendment…saying: the country’s economy is paramount right now; we can’t risk a debate about that?  If he had the chance to either oppose or repeal a ban on don’t ask, don’t tell for the military would he say “the country has too many more important things on its plate, such as the economy and an appointment to the Fed”?   
            In other words, this presumed candidate for the presidency, is advocating a VALUE-NEUTRAL stance on social issues.  
       Sorry, Mitch. In the presidency, you can’t shift values into neutral.  Gee whiz, I had  thought with all your experience you’re smart enough to know that.  Your statement delivered via The Weekly Standard comes right from the country-club.  That’s the attitude that lost for Republicans time and time again. 
          I’m willing enough to give you a chance to re-state it but even if or when you do, I’m very dubious.  Anyhow, listen: I’m glad you let me in on your thinking now before I contributed any dough…as I was likely to do…and expended some hours working in your behalf. Anyhow, the best of luck in Indiana and all—and very glad you let us in on your thinking. Your wife has been quoted as saying she’s unalterably opposed to your running for president.  Maybe she’ll win this tussle.  I sure hope so. Frankly, if you believe issues can be segregated…any issues…and held in abeyance in the presidency you’re not as smart as I had thought.  
        In a sense I’m glad, Mitch, you’ve got the character to declare where you stand on the lack of importance of social issues which saves me and some others the trouble of learning about this down the road. 
         Understand I’ll support anybody against Obama including you, Mitch if it comes down to it…but I plainly don’t want a value-neutral president even if he belongs to my party.      
          So for now…until there’s another shock-wave…I’ve decided to support someone who has the clarity of expression and expertise with governing so as not to be misunderstood.  When I caught Mike Huckabee at the Illinois Family Institute almost a year ago, I was powerfully impressed with his great communications skills. That stuff about him pardoning too many people can be answered—as he had.  Going with him is better than sticking with somebody who says there ought to be a moratorium on issues that are of major significance.  
         That means for me, I’m for the country boy.  We have a long time to decide yet but I want to go with somebody who calls it straight.  Huckabee has been a governor and has improved mightily since he ran last time with his show on Fox.   And no I’m not scandalized that he pardoned probably too many people as governor…nor that he could be a dispensationalist.  Ronald Reagan was called a dispensationalist in 1976 when he ran for president and in 1980.  After that, the issue was dead on arrival. 
        As far as everybody else is concerned, I have an open mind. Palin has gotten much better. Pawlenty looks good.  Romney shaky in the consistency department but let’s say okay. Bobby Jindal?  He looks like an advance man for a famine but he’s okay. I’ve already talked about Mitch Daniels. 
          But let it be said I’ve irrevocably written Ron Paul off the list—forever.  He may be pro-life but his foreign-defense policies…i.e. abolishing all intelligence agencies…is definitely applying the cult  of the Amish…horse-and-buggy, men with Junior Gilliam overalls and Alexander Graham Bell beards, women with head-shawls and long dresses covered by gingham aprons…to modern society—which goes for his longed-for abolition of the Fed and its replacement by the Congress  (a necessary audit, yes; cutback of power, yes). 
               June Pledge Month…So Here’s Lawrence Welk! 
          It used to be that only when it was full-blast on fund-raising schedule does WTTW-TV …Chicago’s public TV station…play old Lawrence Welkprograms and…for a tear or two… Peter, Paul and (the late) Mary singing songs that made boomers feel they were once more all brothers-and-sisters together in “the struggle”…whatever the hell that was…as they were in the `60s. 
        Now Welk and Peter-Paul-Mary have been dropped—for one good reason: almost everybody on those old tapes including Myron Floren who played the accordion almost as well as Welk are long dead. What is used now are self-help talks from gurus: how to make a fortune in real estate even if the market is bum; how to rejigger your mind so you can ward off Alzheimer’s.   But the theory is the same: appeal to those who have the good.   
       The station’s marketers know that those who got the gold and who don’t give it unless they are sensuously swayed by a weak moment, think Fleetwood Mac could well be the latest model Cadillac and who don’t care for led zeppelin, the Killers, Wolfmother, Velvet Revolver or Wet Coma. 
      That’s where the whole marketing department of the station turns unbelievably phony and plays either old favorites or self-help gurus for those with pacemakers,  knowing cynically well that the old geezers and their wives have the gold. There was a time when I really believed they were getting ready to run the 1923 original black and white Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments starring the immortal Richard DixThe hustlers or salespeople on the set are oldsters too including a phenomenal Asian woman whose been there since I owned a Motorola with rabbit ears, whose face looks like the highway roadmap of central Indiana and must be by Guinness reckoning 102 years old.  Politics is not mentioned in any way, shape or form.  It’s as if time stands still when the Pledgers come on.  We are back in the `50s once again.  
         Every other day the diet of features and news is strictly Left with a strong emphasis on gay rights and gay-marriage.  A few months ago that lefty monopolist of all political commentary (Sun-Times, Channel 5, WTTW) Carol Marin served as figurative wanna-be ring-bearer to Dick Mell’s state Rep. daughter who wants to marry her lesbo live-in.  Gay rights, gay marriage is the first order of agenda business for this supposedly value neutral station. Never, ever, has there been any serious mention of the Judeo Christian side, the strong implication being that to utter such profane thoughts as heterosexual marriage equates with homo-phobia.  Religion or religious thought is strictly verboten unless it’s a fascinating exploration of Buddhism in Tibet.  
         If pro-gay marriage and gay-rights is first on its agenda, the second is the black experience in Chicago.  Just in time for the coming campaign.Which is coincidental that `TTW is pushing its documentary of the black experience in this city. 
         It starts with Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable [circa 1745-1818], Chicago’s first settler who traded furs at what is now Wacker & Michigan and built a drafty cabin at what is now the Equitable Building, 401 N. Michigan.  It goes on and on and doesn’t pay too much attention to Oscar DePriest the first black Congressman from Illinois.  Well that’s understandable: he was a…gasp…Republican. Not much attention is paid to S. B. Fuller Chicago’s first merchandising giant: he was…you guessed it…a Republican. You know: that party that never ever gave blacks a chance beyond freeing them that is.   Harold Washington is treated lovingly as is Jesse (the Pout) Jackson with no mention whatsoever of his personal and political fetishes…such as calling New York “Hymie-town” and threatening to use a sharp knife to un-man Obama.    
         Speaking of whom… 
         …who occupies the center-piece for this documentary?  Barack Obama, of course, who modestly told us that with his election the seas will recede and the planets will heal.  
        Now WTTW has identified the two salient markets it needs to support it.   The first is the gay community which ought to and probably does…by and large…pony up since the station does not admit expression of any view differing from gay marriage.  The second are, frankly, secular Jews who’ve been bar-mitzvah’ed, have never returned to worship since  and live in Highland Park. 
         The third?   
         The third SHOULD be the black upper class and middle class. This town abounds with them.  Not that it’s been called to your attention particularly. Not all blacks are poor by a damn sight.  They’re assembled in their finery at Urban League benefits,  United Negro College Fund nights and were totally involved in Obama campaigns, Carol Moseley Braun campaigns and Harold Washington campaigns. 
        Trouble is, a marketer whispered to me, they don’t give to `TTW.  
        Does that mean that Marketing will be forced to turn to offering centrist and even…gulp…conservative programming?  Trying to snag people who voted for McCain and George W.?  
         I can hear Danny Schmidt and the marketing staff say: Not on your life. Forbid it Almighty God!  The last intellectual offering was a generation ago, Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose.  There was for a time William F. Buckley’s Firing Line.  But I hear that there is some stirring from the station that teams Illinois state funding, federal funding and…er-er-er alms from “viewers like you”…if, that is, you’re living in Evanston or Hyde Park. 
         It’s a documentary to be called Wedding Bells are Breaking Up that Old Gang of Mine.  
          It salutes marriage! Present plans call for it to be narrated by the self-same burningly passionate cause-directed Carol Marin and will feature the sadness of gays and lesbians whose best friends are trundling off to the states that have approved gay marriage….Massachusetts, Iowa and thereabouts.  So you see `TTW is making strides toward the center after all. 
          Coming next year—a stunning documentary smashing through the unmentioned ceiling against religious programming.  It will show a community of black, lesbian bisexual nuns and self-ordained trans-gendered women priests working in vineyards in Michigan to help raise funds to blow up portions of the border fence in Arizona. Co-narrators will be Marin and Fr. Michael Pfleger.  After all, didn’t she pen a nice tribute to him in the Sun-Times Sunday?  Chicago’s reincarnation of Mother Bloor will never, ever, change. She’s a passionate Lefty, bless her. Murder is sky-high.  Guns go off by themselves and kill people—hence we must ban them and turn our backs on the shattered family structure that has been ignored by everyone since the late Pat Moynihan: Ms. Marin included.
  *: St. Basil the Great [330-379].  Those who were to become future Saints ran in this fellow’s family at Caesarea, in present-day Israel on the Mediterranean coast halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv. . They include his grandmother Macrina the Elder, his mother and father, his sister Macrina the Younger, his brothers Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste. With that kind of spiritual ballast, Basil enjoyed the best education available in Caesarea, Constantinople and Athens.  And since he could hardly turn around without bumping into a presumptive saint, he chummed with Gregory of Nazianzus.

       Inevitably, Basil became a monk and after a short stay in Syria and Egypt, settled down to a life as a hermit near Caesarea.   Then Julian the Apostate…the emperor who was determined to wrench Rome from its relatively new Catholic sympathies…a former classmate…invited him to Court to debate.  A heady prospect but Basil worried how he would do living in luxury.  Only when his bishop called him to defend the Church against the Arian philosopher Valens did he budge.

      He did so well in defending the Church that he was importuned to become bishop of Caesarea.  As bishop Basil defended the Church against secular and governmental encroachments. He distributed his inheritance to the poor, organized a soup kitchen where he personally distributed food and alms to the hungry/  As bishop he built a new town later called Basiliad which featured a church, a hospital and guest house with doctors, nurses and artisans.

       He preached every morning and evening to vast congregations, organized services of psalms before daybreak, supervised the selection of candidates for Holy Orders, worked for the reform of thieves and prostitutes, correction of ecclesiastics too cozy with politicians.  Thus he is the principal monastic legislator of the Eastern Ritet to this very day.  Even now almost all monks and nuns of the Greek church follow his rule. He died when he was only 49 but worn out with a life of service…and among all his relatives became truly The Great One, one of the great doctors of the Church.

1 comment:

  1. By the way, Welk learned to play the accordion through lessons given by the son of a prominent Milwaukee church musician.