Friday, September 17, 2010

Thoughts While Shaving: Conventional Wisdom Goes Against O’Donnell but These Are Not Conventional Times…Pappas for Mayor.

     Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine*     
                                      Let This Octogenarian Speak. 
            Conventional political wisdom argues persuasively that Christine O’Donnell cannot be elected.  But as one who has seen conventional wisdom change at least three times in the eras ushering in cataclysmic change I think the stars are in alignment for the little lady. Moreover all the GOP establishment can do to diss her…and all the limp-eyed oh-so-sophisticated pundits can do…will help her.  The trouble with two of the best…Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer…is that they are too young, wedded to conventional political wisdom that ruled since their young adulthood.   Neither one was brought up in extraordinarily economically difficult times akin to the Depression or disturbing times of war.   
         Take that from one who saw earthquake style convulsions in public attitudes from the Great Depression, World War II, Eisenhower’s setback at the Battle of the Bulge,  MacArthur’s defeat at the Yalu and this current mega-recession.  The only big Trembler they experienced was 9/11,  But unfortunately the rush to the churches was quickly abandoned.    
       Politics has changed dramatically since this recession—not that it would make a dent on people who live in Washington and are paid handsome salaries—by which I include Rove and Krauthammer. 
          Change hasn’t hit them yet. But the recession has done two major things. It has sent people back to God and the spiritual life. And it has convinced them the old liberal nostrums don’t work—and must be discarded by means of a peaceful revolution.  That’s why we have seen with Rand Paul trouncing Troy Grayson (Mitch McConnell’s favorite) in Kentucky.  Conventional wisdom then adopted the position: yeah but Paul can’t win.  Not so. He’s ahead of Dem nominee Jack Conway at this moment. As a matter of fact, only a few weeks after she was an unknown, O’Donnell is only 12 points under the Democratic favorite. She raised over $1 million on the Internet in one night following her nomination.  
         The New York Times, the Sun-Times and The Tribune keep up this drab pedantry that you have to be at least “a moderate” on social issues—read pro-abort, pro-gay rights, pro-embryonic stem cell—to be elected. Candidates who believe and testify to the exact opposite are leading in state after state: Angle one point over the Senate Majority Leader Reid for God’s sake…Rubio plus 14 of Charlie Crist and the Dem…Toomey up 8 over Sestak…Ayotte the new nominee in New Hampshire up 7, Boozman topping Lincoln in Arkansas by plus 17.  
       What is happening?  It’s the determining factor that Harold MacMillan used to describe politics years ago “events, my dear boy, events.” 
        Events happen: they come by themselves and not as result of what sagacious strategists decide.  Jim Farley was probably the outstanding political manager of his time.   But do you believe FDR couldn’t have been elected in the heart of the Depression without him in 1932?  Of course he could. Farley whom I interviewed shortly before his death when we lunched in New York at “21”  used his skill to win Roosevelt the nomination—but even he acknowledged the winning events were in place—for Roosevelt or anyone else. Other sages I knew well who were grouped around Eisenhower in 1952 were Len Hall, a master of masters and Jim Haggerty the astute press manager.  But do you think a 5-star general of the army who was a national hero couldn’t  have won that year against anybody?  Of course.  Events, my dear boy, events. 
         Karl Rove, the supposed wizard el Supremo is credited with electing George W. Bush. Every historian knows the Republican party nationally believes in primogeniture. Do you think Bush, the son of the 41st president, with his father’s rolodex won his victory in 2000 because of Rove? Of course.  He won because he had the bucks, the dough, the pedigree.  At that point in time, he was what the Republicans wanted.  
        And his reelection in 2004.    9/11 tied the country emotionally to Bush.  Do you think Karl Rove won the election of 2004 all alone by his super-seer self?  Of course not. It’s time to get over this arrant nonsense about campaign strategic wisdom. Like the old magicians who were called upon by ancient Kings to forecast what would happen.  It was then and is now  all baloney.  Do you think Lawrence O’Brien, a deep student of politics, won for Kennedy in 1960?  Of course not.  Kennedy won on the tube with his debates with Nixon—and neither Larry O’Donnell or Pierre Salinger or Kenny O’Donnell or Ted Sorensen had anything to do with it. 
        And let’s face it, he would not have won and Nixon would have, if Boss Daley didn’t pull out all the stops to defeat Ben Adamowski in the Cook county states’ attorney race which tipped the Illinois Dem vote oh so slightly.     
        Events, my dear boy, events. 
        Now here are some events that precondition this coming midterm election.  (1) The people finally realize that if we spend like there’s no tomorrow…there will be no tomorrow.  That’s what propelled the Tea Party idea: no Republican party pol ever thought of it.  They were too busy weaseling and hedging, qualifying and parsing. 
       Then a guy named Rick Santelli, a trader, was interviewed on CNBC and expressed how outraged he was that he had to dig into his resources to pay for mortgages conferred on those whom the government knew couldn’t pay and wouldn’t pay and who benefited from the “compassion” of George W. Bush who outspent LBJ (hear that Karl Rove? I guess you’re not too eager to take credit for that one—you and Denny Hastert)  and others like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.  It triggered the explosion.  Events, my dear boy. 
        With few exceptions, Tea Party’ers are more interested in cutting spending that getting over-involved in social issues…but The New York Timesyesterday had a bit of Upper Crust, East Side of Manhattan fun with O’Donnell.   First of all it agrees with Rove that since she has been late in paying her bills she is not representative of the citizens of Delaware and the United States.  Gee, if anything makes a bond with our hard-pressed citizenry it’s that.   You think that’s going to hurt her, NYT?  This shows how long you’ve been wrapped up in the Manhattan womb.  Second, she fudged on her resume. Lord, she’s in line to succeed the world’s greatest fudger of resumes…one who stole verbatim Neil Kinnock’s speech which showed conspicuous poor-mouth, saying he was the first of his family to go to college and that his grades in law school were unutterably high…a guy who got into a public spat on the stump with a heckler: Biden challenged him to compare his IQ with Biden’s.  And so far as his law degree is concerned, he was disqualified for cheating on the exam and had to take it over whereupon he passed.
        Second, a great change has come over the American people from this mega recession and it takes one who has lived through other earthquakes to identify it. During the Great Depression, the churches…including my own Catholic one…was filled to overflowing not just on Sunday but for special services during the week: novenas to Our Lady of Perpetual Help…to Saint Jude, Patron of Lost Causes.  Frankly they were a more serious people, a frightened people, a greatly worried people.  The daily newspapers conveyed that seriousness.  There were no blazing sex stories as happened in the `20s as with the debaucheries of Fatty Arbuckle in Hollywood. 
        In the `40s the churches which had been filled for Masses and novenas filled again.  There was a new novena: Our Sorrowful Mother. So jam packed was the mother church of that novena that battalions of cops had to be detailed to the church every Friday night. The novena was broadcast weekly on radio. Also at that time, every Sunday afternoon we turned the radio dial to a measured, calm voice…an educated voice…delivering Christian philosophy with such power that it seemed like a university lecture.  But people couldn’t get enough of it or the orator—Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen.  You know what was featured on prime time on WGN as people got ready for work?  A guy called “The Gospel Singer” singing the old evangelical favorites.  
          Then came the `50s, the Korean War, the worries about our being engulfed with China.  On DuMont television again started a series “Life is Worth Living” with the same guy—then Bishop Fulton Sheen. His ratings topped those of Milton Berle—do you remember?  No?  Hear me, they did. 
         For a very short time…after 9/11…people returned to God again—but for a very short time. Now a religious reawakening is starting again in this country and it has to do with the fear that this country will go down. 
       That’s why all the sneering that The New York Times does, that Karl Rove does,, that the great Charles Krauthammer does, doesn’t affect Christine O’Donnell—but is a boost for her in reverse. .  And The New Yorker.  And NPR. It’s Comedy Time to laugh at her because she campaigned for sexual abstinence as a volunteer chairman.  Oh so funny. Why get a load of Jon Stewart smirking down his nose.  These snide reproves won’t do a thing.  They won’t because the American people are sick to death not just of wanton spending and liberal benefactions with our money. They’re sick to death with nihilistic, anti-religious laughter at serious things: in essence, cultural decadence spelled Lady Gaga.   Abortion is a serious thing; marriage is a serious thing. To Christine artificial contraception is a serious thing.  The biggest joke of all would be if she wins and gets the last laugh on east Manhattan, Katie Couric, Karl Rove and Krauthammer.     
        There’s one real reason why the big metropolitan papers like The Tribune and Sun-Times are fading out. They are relics of yesteryear. Deeply secular; not anti- but non-Christian…pro-abort, pro-gay marriage or civil unions. You’re out of step with the times, guys. Figure out why the Wall Street Journal is doing so well.  Why Fox is. Why CNN isn’t. Why CBS with Katie Couric isn’t. Why NBC with Brian Williams isn’t. Can’t you figure it out?  
        The Sun-Times has a key focus on only one sector of Chicagoans: blacks. They can’t get it through their university-educated heads that whites read too—studies show more than blacks, actually. The Tribune is a crazy-quilt of jumbled opinions on its editorial page—mostly Left due to its lovely Op Ed editor, Marcia Lythcott who has great experience with conservative issues having compiled the newspaper’s cook book. 
          All of us know why Charles Krauthammer isn’t warm on O’Donnell. He’s not interested whatsoever in what is developing as a religious revival in this country which she or Palin or Bachmann embody. But then Jews have never been hot to trot on religious revivals—at least not since the Romans destroyed the second Temple. It’s bred in their bones that religious revival means a pogram.   But as the times have changed, Christine…the very good pro-life, anti-gay rights, anti-embryonic stem cell Catholic…who is unashamed to betray her Catholic faith that others including Joe Biden have discarded, will get in because of the tremendous upsurge in this new religious fervor.  And after she gets elected and turns out to be a firm supporter of Israel, then Charlie Krauthammer will come around. Guaranteed. 
                                       It’s Time for Pappas.
          The wide-open primary for Chicago mayor presents a great chance for Maria Pappas.  No one I’ve met in Chicago politics has the brilliance and toughness combined to give this hidebound, Squid-encrusted city the scrubbing it needs—and believe me scrubbing with Grandma’s Lye Soap. She and I don’t agree on social issues but on the issue of a tough mayor who is needed today, we’re soul-mates.  If it helps her I’ll attack her but it wouldn’t do any good now that I’ve praised her so highly.  I think Tom Dart would likely be a fashion-plate mayor, young, slim-jawed like John Lindsay but not nearly tough enough.   In short, he’d be a softie.  
    *: St. Robert Bellarmine [1542-1621]. He was Jesuit, archbishop of Capus and cardinal; born in Tuscany he became skilled at languages, speaking Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  He played the violin and was superior in debates. He was ordained priest at Ghent, lectured on Aquinas at Louvain and wrote a Hebrew grammar. He wrote a defense of Catholic teachings that was banned in England but exulted in France. He became rector of the Roman College in 1592, then provincial of Naples, finally Cardinal in 1598. His moderate view on the temporal power of the papacy got him in dutch with Pope Sixtus V and may have delayed his canonization. But no matter, he was made a Doctor of the Church in 1930 and canonized in 1931.


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  2. Great column, Tom...

    My Dad told me of the novena that was held at Our Lady of Sorrows on West Jackson as people prayed for relief during the Depression, and I believe during WWII as well. He spoke of the crowds that would wait for the church to empty out, and then a new crowd would fill that immense space. This went on every half hour for hours.

    A corollary of this was that following this example an additional 2200 parishes throughout the United States erected their own stations to Our Sorrowful Mother and had the weekly novena as well. This happened in our old parish of St. Joan of Arc in Lisle, where the weekly novena persisted into the seventies. The stations were only removed at the height of the real estate bubble when we were fat and prosperous...or thought we were.

  3. There's a difference between the average family's finanacial pressures and being seriously broke all the time.

    Look at the debacle in the Illinois 8th CD with Joe Walsh - another broker.

    I don't say great financial success should be a prerequisite for office, any more than a college degree.

    But earning a good living isn't that high a bar. We want people of above-average ability in office, don't we? Someone who can't hold down a steady job, who can't manage his finances...

    That's a huge red flag.

    A candidate should have some accomplishments, and being a responsible, self-supporting adult is the mininum.