The Grand Old Partisan of Illinois

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rest in Peace, President Gerald R. Ford

Gerald Ford is often remembered for his distinction as the nation's only "unelected" President. I will always remember him for another: he is the only President to have been an Eagle Scout. As a fellow Eagle myself, as well as a former executive with the Boy Scouts of America, I have tremendous respect for the young men who attain this award. As an adult Ford was honored by the BSA with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for bringing the Scout's "servant leader" attitude to the halls of government, always putting the needs and interests of country over those of self. His integrity and decency are an inspiration to anyone who believes that politics can and should be about doing the right thing, even when it's not the popular thing.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Durbin’s Schiavo/Johnson Strawman

From today's Daily Herald:

It was ironic that some of the same people that were arguing for Terri Schiavo after 15 years in a somewhat vegetative state should live on, were pronouncing Tim Johnson a goner after 15 hours and brain surgery.”

Yes, that would be ironic, if only it were true.

I challenge Mr. Durbin (or his apologists) to cite one prominent advocate for continuing Ms. Schiavo’s life-support who 'pronounced' that Mr. Johnson would likely either die or be unable to return to the Senate. (Of course, I acknowledge that some did join in the rather widespread speculation of what might happen if that were to occur.)

Mr. Durbin is right to say that the Schiavo episode “had more to do with politics than it did with medicine.” But Mr. Durbin’s transparent attempt to drum up indignation over some imaginary hypocrites on the other side of the aisle doesn't make him much better. To whatever extent Congressional Republican leaders are guilty of having exploited Ms. Schiavo’s situation for their partisan gain, Mr. Durbin is equally guilty of exploiting Mr. Johnson’s for his.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tank Johnson's "Second Chance"

Shortly after noon, police responded to Roosevelt Center for Adult Education, 978 Haskel Ave., in reference to an anonymous tip regarding a student with a gun. Rodrick F. Lyke, 17, was found in a classroom.

After speaking with Lyke, police determined that he was armed with a 38-caliber handgun. Police said Lyke never displayed the weapon or threatened anyone. Lyke was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and failure to carry a firearm owner’s identification card. He was lodged in the Winnebago County Jail, where he is being held on a $50,000 bond...Lyke is suspended pending a recommendation from the Roosevelt principal for expulsion.”

- The Rockford Register-Star, December 12, 2006

Chronic misfit defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who has been arrested three times in the past 18 months (most recently for six misdemeanor weapons violations), received a slap on the wrist Tuesday from the Bears.

Amid speculation that he could be released or at least be inactivate for the remainder of the 2006 season, Johnson instead was given a one-game suspension by the team and will be back on the field for the regular-season finale Dec. 31 at Soldier Field against the Green Bay Packers. He will not be paid this week, unlike last week when he was placed on the inactive list."

- The Daily Herald, December 20, 2006

Something is deeply, deeply wrong here.

Before I say anything else, I must point out that the headline for the Daily Herald story is “Bears Give Tank a Second Chance.” Excuse me, but if he’s been arrested three times in the past year and a half, then this would be his fourth chance, by my count.

Now, I’ll admit that I don’t know if Rodrick Lyke is a Bears fan or not. And I can’t say that there is any direct link between his behavior and that of any specific celebrity or potential role model. But the juxtaposition of these articles says a lot about our society’s priorities and values.

There are plenty of ridiculous examples of zero-tolerance gone wrong in our country, but I pointedly chose Lyke’s story because it does involve a serious situation that certainly should be dealt with severely and judiciously. In my opinion it’s not only unfair, but also counterproductive, to let a school board ruin the prospects of higher education and a good career for a 17 year old but accept the Bear’s decision to simply give a slap on the wrist to a repeat-offending adult for what is ostensibly the same crime.

After all, zero tolerance, as a disciplinary policy, has a lot more to do with deterring behavior than actually correcting it. Offending students are “made an example” for others, in an effort to discourage them from pushing the envelope of acceptability. But talk about mixed (and downright unfair) messages! Imagine the impact it might have on students if they got a “second chance” from their school, but learned that the their ability to make a living with the talents God gave you could be ruined if they didn't shape up and live within the law as an adult? We might never know for certain if that would or would not discourage any kid from bringing a gun to school; but I’ve got to think that it would be more effective than the reverse, which is what we are doing now.

Cross posted at Illinoize

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vietnam or Korea? Durbin Ignores What Really Matters

Last week, the Tribune’s Washington Bureau reported that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Meet the Press) took issue with President Bush’s likening of his handling of the situation in Iraq to that of Harry Truman’s in Korea. According to the story, Durbin “suggested that a more apt comparison might be to President Johnson….and the Vietnam War…” because:

Harry Truman had allies. NATO was behind him."

Let’s ignore the fact that it was actually the UN, which only consented because the Soviets were in the bathroom (or something like that) and thus couldn’t exercise their veto, and that it was principally Britain and Australia (two members of Bush’s “coalition of the willing”) who supported the U.S. led task force, and assume Durbin’s broader point actually matters: that the US had more international support in Korea. Is that the only salient difference between Korea and Vietnam? No. There is one more. One that makes Korea a significantly better analogy for Iraq: the outcome of the Korean War did have serious, long-term implications on U.S. national security.

Durbin apparently thinks that the lack of participation by our “traditional allies” (except, of course, the Brits, Aussies) is more relevant than what leaving Iraq too early might mean for our long-term security.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Wild Week of Obama-mania "News"

As I’ve said before, what bothers me about Obama-mania is the degree to which the media is not simply reporting it, but rather creating it. What evidence is there to support this? Well, consider the past week. Locally, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board and Illinois political guru Rich Miller published editorials essentially encouraging an Obama run. Nationally, there have been stories in the Washington Post and on NPR’s All Things Considered program. None of these stories mentioned any of the numerous polls taken regarding a potential Obama candidacy. Since they won’t, I will. A quick glance at shows that Obama (despite popular myth) trails potential GOP candidates Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. He also constantly ranks behind Giuliani, McCain, Clinton, Rice, Edwards and even Al Gore when people are asked whether or not they would like to see the above mentioned run for president.

The NPR story really got my goat, because I pride myself on being a Republican who enjoys their programming (particularly Saturday mornings) and is honest enough to admit that their ‘liberal bias’ is often overstated. But Mara Liasson’s report entitled "Barack Obama, Still on the Rise" was anything but serious, objective journalism. She claims that "some people who have met him say Obama has a powerful, even mesmerizing effect," then backs that up with a sound bite from Donna Brazile. To support the claim that there is a broad grassroots movement supporting an Obama run, she interviews a computer programmer who started a "draft Obama" website, but who has admittedly volunteered for other Democratic presidential candidates in the past. Most infuriating is Liasson’s attributing the "dismissive" assessment of Obama as a "blank canvas where people project their desires" to "a Republican" when almost the exact same sentiment and wording was used by The Nation’s David Sirota!

Perhaps there is something "special" and "unique" about Barack Obama. One thing is for certain, he definitely gets a special and unique sort of treatment from the press. If there is something "centrist" and "unifying" about Obama, don’t rely on the anecdotal evidence of adoring supporters who will be voting for the Democratic nominee whomever he or she is. Give us the facts, and let us decide if Obama really is the "real thing."

Also posted, with comments, at Illinoize

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tribune exaggerating the "enthusiasm" Obama generates

The Chicago Tribune editorial board says Barack Obama should run for president in 2008, (hat tip to Rich Miller) because "after the divisive events of the last decade, the nation may be ready for a voice that celebrates our common values instead of exaggerating our differences." They may be right, but I take issue with their singling out Obama as singularly being able to bring "an approach that transcends party, ideology and geography" to the campaign.

A recent Gallop Poll shows that more "adults nationwide" would "like to see" John McCain (56%), Rudy Giuliani (55%), John Edwards (45%) and Hillary Clinton (44%) run for President than Obama (38%). So why is Obama being championed by the Trib as an "enthusiasm" generating "centrist" while Giuiliani is dismissed as "polarizing?"

I'm not saying that the Trib is wrong to promote Obama as a possible candidate. But their promotion of him as uniquely qualified to end the bitter partisanship of the last 10 years just don't hold up to scrutiny. In many ways, the Tribune (like other media outlets) is not promoting Obama's "transcending" appeal - they are helping to create and preserve it.

Would I be complaining if it was McCain or Giuliani benefiting from this sort of editorial fawning? Probably not. But at least I'd be able to help defend it up with some facts and figures, not just the journalistic puffery of the same outlets that are doing the editorializing.

Also posted, with comments, at Illinoize

Poster's note: I didn’t want to do back-to-back Obama posts. Had I know that the Trib was going to release this editorial today, I would have held off on what I wrote yesterday for another time and finished one of the other essays I'm working on. (I don’t want to get a reputation for being “obsessed” with bringing down Obama here).