Monday, October 4, 2010

Personal Aside: The Difference Between the Two Papers…“Emanuel—Before It’s Too Late”?...Look Here, an Exciting Political Novel Set Right Here in Illinois!

                             One Murder Story and Two Versions. 
          For the past several days this city has been engrossed in an unusual murder case.  But the way the two major newspapers (Tribune and The Sun Times)covered it shows (a) how inept Tribune is when it comes to a major story and how thorough-going The Sun-Times is.  It’s not just this story the difference can be spotted in many…be it politics or anything else. The paper they call Mother Tribune is often uninformative, slow to deduce the kernel of the news and laggard.  Take the murder of Anita (Jeannie) Kustok in south suburban Orland Park as a brilliant case history.  It was not just Page One but banner-line in both papers.  Anita was a beloved school teacher; her husband well liked; the family was seemingly stable, neighbors said.  
          Tribune (for some reason it calls itself that without the definite article “The” preceding—why no one knows) sent two reporters to cover the story and strung out a few recycled facts. There was some murky reference to the family’s financial troubles. Nothing more.  
         In contrast, The Sun-Times is replete with the newsier story which one reporter from its Southtown Star covered with the help of another contributor. “Sources close to the murder investigation say her husband was cheating on her and that police were talking to the woman involved in the alleged extra-marital affair.” The tabloid draws a definitive portrait of their financial troubles. “They started with a $538,000 mortgage in 2001. Then $650,000 in 2003. Then $664,000 in 2006 borrowing against the property’s rising value.”  Tribune reported that Kustok worked at the county jail as a custodian for a time. The Sun-Times has his salary ($46,000 per year).  You estimate what Anita could have earned as a teacher and you come up with a combined $90,000 max.     
         Reading both, you savor The Sun-Times for the crisper, more info-packed version. It’s editorials while extremely Left are at least definite.  That and other reasons…notably a flaccid, on-one-hand-then-another editorial stance…and often cowardly evasion of decision-making in place of its old conservative one… tell you why Tribune is bankrupt.   Inside the Tower they dismiss the namby-pamby editorials as causing it, but just look around. 
           More complete news and a firm editorial stance albeit liberal wins for The Sun-Times. Understand the tabloid too could do better with a more centrist editorial stand  How are the media doing that take conservative, definite stands in a nation that’s turning right-ward politically?  The Wall Street Journal…Fox News…Breitbart…the preponderance of talk radio?  Just a coincidence, huh?  
                            Emanuel Before It’s Too Late (?).  
            The last time there was a close election for mayor of Chicago was in April, 1983.  Harold Washington was the Democratic nominee, having defeated Jane Byrne  and Richie Daley.  At that time Chicago’s elections featured two parties (since then we have a “non-partisan” race where everybody files and then there’s a runoff).   
             The Republican candidate for mayor was a liberal GOP state Rep. Bernard Epton, from Hyde Park—one of the more liberal GOPers due to the fact that each district had three representatives each. Districts with solid one-party fealty could still allow a minority party to slip through. Hence Epton, a liberal Jew and brother of a prominent judge, Saul Epton, was the nominee. 
             The state GOP then in control of the Jim Thompson bloc hired Thompson’s personal ad agency to do the commercials for Epton: Bailey-Deardourff.  Chuck Bailey, a liberal Republican had run commercials for Chuck Percy, Thompson himself and moderate Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) for president.  But to be sure that the Epton commercials had a liberal Democratic flavor, the firm handed the Epton assignment to the Democratic partner—John Deardourff.  
            For some weird reason Deardourff, a liberal Democrat, picked a sensational campaign slogan coming as close to racism in a white-black election as was possible to do.   Epton who wanted to win approved it and before anybody knew anything about it, the city was blanketed with billboards reading: 
                          EPTON—BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
            Liberals and so-called moderates condemned the slogan but to many thousands of whites it struck home with a kind of unvarnished George Wallace intensity.  Would a black mayor turn Chicago into another Detroit?  The slogan said nothing about it but the words “too late!” gripped the hearts of countless bungalow belt whites.  However the slogan was damned by the politically correct, the slogan produced an outcome that elected Washington over Republican Epton in a hugely Democratic city by only 3.7%.  The totals were Washington 51.7% and Epton 48.0%.  
          The slogan seemed to empower the liberal Epton into a kind of racial frenzy. Scary.   His rhetoric became so strident on the stump and his antics so inflammatory within the campaign office, that even some of his strategists decided he was daft on the subject…that he himself could easily destroy the city’s racial comity were he to be elected—and so they reportedly did significant things to screw up the finals so Washington would win in the interest of racial peace.  They probably deserve the Peace Prize because of their courage.     
           Now Harold Washington was many things…a jail bird who didn’t file state income taxes and spent some time in jail…but he was also a brilliant guy with let us say a masterly inattention to detail in governance (though not in politics).  Intellectually he was probably one of the smartest.  Before the era of affirmative action, he graduated at the top of his class at Northwestern Law. A friend of mine who was a classmate and not noticeably liberal told me “Unquestionably Harold was the best student in the class and no one doubted that his rank was deserved.  I sat there marveling at how he responded to the questions in class.  He was absolutely, unqualifiedly brilliant.” 
           Frankly, that is not the case with most of the minority candidates (Rev. James Meeks excepted) this time.  Nobody—but nobody—thinks they…especially the chaotic Carol Moseley Braun…would be anything less than a disaster.   
            …the inability of the black and Hispanic  community to unify around a mayoral candidate has prompted the white-dominated Squid to attempt to   coalesce behind Rahm Emanuel for mayor with white Cook county Sheriff Tom Dart second.

          Emanuel, as unloved in parts of this city as the nation, has a dirty mouth full of 4-letter words but is seen as brash, combative and pushy who his supporters say will refuse to let his city become another Detroit. This is his greatest asset.  
        No black or  Hispanic candidate thus far is liked or trusted by all  minority groups. Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. was but now he’s toast.  
          For one thing, the feds are still probing his supposed offer to Blago to get pals to raise millions for the embattled governor if Jackson got the Senate appointment.   
       And then as we all know, two weeks ago  a Jackson donor has acknowledged that he has twice flown a white blonde “social  acquaintance” to Chicago to spend time with the Congressman. After that happened, if Jackson had any hopes of a city-wide or national post, forget it.  The Sun-Times’ columnist Mary Mitchell who occupies the “black woman” niche for the paper blasted Jackson because he chose a white girl-friend.  As soon as a black man gets dough or prominence, he ditches his black wife and picks up a white girl-friend trophy, she growled. That really hit home with the city’s black women.  
        Finally, to make matters worse for Jackson, his beauteous wife, mother of two, lawyer and a city alderman, was tearfully interviewed on the paper’s front page vowing to keep the family together despite her adulterous husband.  Bye-bye Jesse.  
            The only other white who has a chance of winning Squid approval is the Cook county sheriff, Tom Dart, an Irish Catholic who is obligatorily liberal on social issues (because one has to be if he desires a future in The Squid).  Dart is bright, telegenic, an articulate lawyer, father of five kids and an excellent public administrator—but he is on Speaker Mike Madigan’s black list and has been for years, ever since he was a state Rep and refused to fall into lock-step on all issues the Speaker deemed important. As Madigan is co-chief of The Squid, his thumbs down counts much.   Reportedly Madigan fears that once Dart has the mayoralty under his belt he will run for governor and collide with the apple of Madigan’s eye, his daughter Lisa whom he would dearly love to see governor.  
          One black who could unite everybody --even white bigots (of which there are more in The Squid than most big city Dem organizations)-- has the improbable name of Terry Peterson.  The day Daley announced his retirement, the mayor supposedly asked him to run Emanuel’s campaign and Peterson is thinking it over. Peterson ran Daley’s impressive 6th term victory in 2007 and is a top administrator, having headed up the city’s public housing authority and its mass-transit operation (the CTA).   
      If Peterson, senior veep of Rush Medical Center, does become Emanuel’s campaign manager it would indicate what everybody thinks they know anyhow—that The Squid, including Daley himself,  is all but officially behind Emanuel even though Daley’s acting like the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a screen. 
        None of the other names of black or Hispanic candidates are able to unite among themselves or, seemingly, can get Squid backing.  James Meeks, is a state senator and who heads the biggest congregation in the city, Salem Baptist with 20,000 congregants all of whom listen to him as if they are hearing the voice of God. Meeks is pro-life, which The Squid could handle if as mayor Meeks is as discreet about his religious views as was the Catholic Mayor Daley who has been resolutely pro-abort.    
          But Meeks’ signal disadvantage so far as The Squid is concerned  is that he has been resolutely anti-gay rights and eloquently pro-traditional marriage and very possibly won’t shut up about it. Which means that the “gay” constituency would sit on its hands.  Non-church-going liberals would be upset and the editorial boards which pander to liberals as well as Democrats could be hotly opposed to him. The other day the self-appointed broker for gay rights, Rick Garcia, sat down with Rev. Meeks as Garcia has with all the other mayoral candidates except Emanuel (and to be sure he will confer with Emanuel as soon as Emanuel unwinds from the aircraft at O’Hare to begin campaigning.  Nor is there any doubt that Emanuel will be as acceptable if not more so than any other candidate excepting Meeks to Garcia’s agenda.  
     Meeks’ fervor for traditional marriage is inspiring. Two weeks ago he did what other inner-city churches, including the Chicago archdiocese, should do: He gathered a flock of young couples who were living together, ponied up the expenses for their marriage licenses, performed their weddings his church and threw them all a big reception for them , signifying the importance of marriage in a community rife with fatherless children herded into gangs.  But secular liberals particularly on the city’s editorial boards chide him for his faith—and of course the Catholic archdiocese meekly clams up.    
       As stated earlier in this piece, the most incompetent and catastrophic candidate of all is candidate Catholic pro-abort, pro-gay rights’er Carol Moseley Braun, the first black female U. S. Senator, who served one disastrous term, and who had a boy friend campaign manager named Kgosie (pronounced intriguingly “cozy”) Matthews who hit indiscriminately on and tried to become cozy with attractive female volunteers.  
         After Moseley Braun got elected, “Cozy” Matthews signed up as a lobbyist for Nigeria.  At his behest, Mosley-Braun made a trip with him to meet with the country’s dictator, Sani Abacha without notifying the State Department (a federal no-no).  Upon returning she attested  to Abacha’s “good” human rights record when in fact the UN and the State Department had cited him for horrific crimes.  Moseley Braun ditched “Cozy” Matthews after that—but for this and other reasons she was regarded in the Senate as a cipher.  
       Finally when her aged mother was in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid, she received an inheritance of $25,000 which under federal law should have been sent to the Illinois government to help reimburse her medical costs.   Instead Moseley Braun divvied the dough up between herself and her siblings. Once it was found out, she had to send it to the government and narrowly evaded being indicted by the state because the AG Roland Burris was a personal friend—and also African-American.   When columnist George Will broke the story, Moseley Braun called him a racist: par for the course.          
         The inability of the black and Hispanic communities to unite around a candidate is a definite aid to Emanuel appears to senior Squid managers as the only reasonable choice.  Even now the contentious Emanuel is fighting with the guy who leased his house on the north side.  Emanuel wants to pay the guy off to break the lease so Emanuel can move back in to run for mayor: the guy says no, a deal’s a deal and he runs a business out of there.  
                                       Why Emanuel?  
       Why does Daley favor Emanuel when the obnoxiously pushy little White House Chief of Staff made noises like he wanted to succeed Daley before Daley had made up his mind to retire?  With the minority selection chaotic, stakes now are too big for either man or The Squid to hold grudges.  
        Anent Dart, the rap on him…maybe right maybe not…is that he may not have the toughness to run Chicago.  He has kidded that he is a lover not a fighter.  Daley is both.  As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet King Claudius “may smile and smile and be a villain.”  Like Claudius who smiled, killed the king and married his widow and turned to his retinue and said “who, me?”  Daley smiles and can lop off heads easily.  Emanuel’s people allege Dart seems to have trouble doing this.  It’s the curse of coming from a good home and being afflicted with ingrown and unattended virtue.    
                       Squid: O Come, O Come Emanuel!  
       While Daley and Madigan are covertly supporting the hot-tempered and scatalogically profane Emanuel, key political constituencies are cool if not hostile.  They are (a) business, (b) the public sector unions and a surprise, (c) many observant Jews.                                
      Big Business community is likely to fight Emanuel strenuously at least at first. It is thoroughly disgusted with the Obama administration and blames Emanuel for absolutely everything that has come from Washington: anti-business hostility, the insufferable health care costs, the push for cap and trade, the failed stimulus, the push to remove the Bush tax cuts on those earning over $250,000.  
        The Squid tells Big Business Emanuel favored ditching ObamaCare after Massachusetts elected Scott Brown, that he privately opposed cap and trade, that he wanted to keep the Bush tax cuts in place all the time.   The most powerful public employee union in the city the Service Employees International fears he’d like to cut their power (they’re right) and religious Jews turned off by Obama’s favoritism of the Palestinians think Rahm was behind it (wrong: he was overruled by Obama).    
         Just to reassure the observants he little weasel teared up in the Blue Room the other day and fondly remembered his Bar Mitzva.  (That was before he said Obama has had to face more serious problems than any other president in U. S. history.  What?  More serious than Lincoln when he looked out his White House window and saw the Confederate camp fires burning across the Potomac while federal troops determined to defend the Capitol were marching down Pennsylvania Avenue?  More serious than James Madison when he had to flee the White House hours ahead of the advancing British and had to spend his first night on the road in a chicken coop?  Give me a break.).
        Last day for filing for mayor is Nov. 22. 12,500 signatures required but at least  50,000 should be collected to ward off challenges. Emanuel’s army will have to be in the field well before that day and likely he will not be around the White House to console Obama after the national Nov. 2 mid-term elections which are expected to be a disaster for the Dems. 
               The law here says that if any one candidate doesn’t collect more than 50% there must be a runoff between the top two—which would be April 5 (mayoral term starts May 16).  
        No one knows for sure how the prickly Emanuel will run here.  The hope is that he can be packaged like Ed Rendell, a Jew who was a great mayor of Philadelphia (he’s now governor of Pennsylvania).  But Rendell while outspoken is warm, cuddly and outrageously witty: not so Rahm.   
          There’s another drawback to Rahm. It is conceivable that he will have to testify in Round 2 of the Blago trial and the news attendant upon what he will say and how he will say it is bound to influence the election. 
         So it is hardly likely that Emanuel will get more than 50%...and in fact not necessarily a given that he will make the runoff.  In order to make the runoff some people are saying that he must stand out as the guy who can save Chicago from some scary minorities (Meeks excepted).  To do that he will have to advertise boldly and candidly., 
         Does this mean a variant of Epton…i.e. EMANUEL, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE?  
          Not that bold, of course, but don’t be surprised if Emanuel tries to capitalize on his toughness with a lower-key version.  One thing is sure: Emanuel has no charm so he must cite another quality.  As one observer told me, “He’s a mean little bastard with no compunction about getting even so he’d be smart to capitalize on that somewhat.”  
                            E PARTY: A Gripping Home State Novel. 
           There are all too few good political novels extant and as a lover of the good ones I have been looking for a long time  for one with an Illinois locale. The first good political novel I read was Henry Adams’ Democracy the story of how eye-gouging and grappling for power was conducted in the 19th century—written by a noble descendent of the famous Adams family of Massachusetts:  John the 2nd president…John Quincy (his son) the 6th…the diplomat Charles Francis (father of Henry)…and Henry, a distinguished professor at Harvard College.   
            In 1960 there appeared another good one, Advise and Consent, by Alan Drury a former New York Times Senate correspondent.  It was a superb read.  Then Drury stuck with the characters and wrote a number of follow-ups which while not the equal of the first were thoroughly satisfying for a junky like me to read.  
          Now an Illinoisan, Steven Nemerovski, has written one with an Illinois political flavor which I heartily recommend. Remember I’m a junky and will go anywhere for a political novel but nevertheless I believe you will like this one.   It is called E Party and it became so much a part of my life that I would get up earlier than usual each morning to read an excerpt. The central figure is a billionaire bachelor who wants to leave a legacy—and that is to found a viable 3rd party in Illinois to improve the quality of government.  Nemerovski…or Nemo as he is called…is a CPA, lawyer and former state official so he draws a definite picture of how the party would be constituted and the players who decide to win an electoral revolution here against the Dem machine and the old country club Republicans.  It is chock full of characters including one who runs a Springfield newsletter and blog whom all of us recognize—as well as an Irish Speaker of the state House (now who would that be?).  
             The author is a former lobbyist who knows his way around Springfield.  Do yourself a favor and look him up on Google which will lead you to get the book.   Remember now, it’s not Charles Dickens or Ernest Hemingway but if you like political novels and have been wishing for one that is based on Illinois and its politics, you’ll be happy.

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