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The [Thursday] Papers

I'll get to K-Fed and Streisand and the continuing implosion of the Sun-Times and the Tribune Company's mission to alienate every reader it still has and every journalist it still employs soon enough, but today it's still politics.

"This little-understood, unfamiliar war - the first war of the 21st century - it is not well known, it was not well understood; it is complex for people to comprehend," outgoing SecDef Don Rumsfeld said Wednesday; the AP report that ran in the Sun-Times called Rumsfeld "a victim of a war he contended the American public simply did not understand."

"It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
- Rumsfeld on Feb. 7, 2003, to US troops at Aviano Air Base, Italy, a month before the war started.

"In the days after Sept. 11, Rumsfeld was hailed by some as a visionary," the AP report said.

But not in the days before Sept. 11.

Journalists have short memories, but Rumsfeld was on his way to being forced out the door before 9/11. In fact, 9/11 saved his job. The pre-9/11 calls for Rumsfeld's resignation because he had already shown what a bumbling fool he was reached such a crescendo that the even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wondered on Aug. 27, 2001, "Is Rumsfeld Up To His Job?"

Pretty much every media outlet wondered as well, regardless of ideology. On Sept. 3, 2001, a National Review by Rich Lowry included a prediction that Bush would fire Rumsfeld. On Sept. 7, 2001, Al Kamen of the Washington Post wrote a column titled "Donny, We Hardly Knew Ye," and speculated on who his successor would be.

After 9/11, the press became infatuated the matinee movie idol; the loathable self-hating press corps loved the way he administered his daily beat-downs on their bottoms. Dreamy Don was so much smarter than they were; at least his abuse signalled he cared.

Of course, Rummy was still Rummy. He didn't change after 9/11; just his press coverage did. Suddenly the "war cabinet" was doing photo spreads for Vanity Fair. Rumsfeld's longevity owes itself in part to the war cheerleading of a press that abdicated its responsibilities went the going got rough - when a president wrongly took a country to war and demanded fealty from everyone lest they be called on their patriotism. In other words, when we most needed them.

Post-mortems on Rumsfeld are incomplete if they don't include the media's part of the story.

War President
Rumsfeld is gone, but no one should ever forget that George W. Bush is the commander-in-chief and the one wholly responsible for this war.

War Pundit
George Will, whose column appears in the Sun-Times, says this morning that "Republicans sank beneath the weight of Iraq, the lesson of which is patent: Wars of choice should be won swiftly rather than lost protractedly."

Um, maybe wars of choice should never be waged. Let's go back to war as a last resort.

Besides, Will acts as if there is a choice between winning swiftly and losing protractedly. Wars have a way of choosing for you.

Pundit Pap
Will also repeats a favorite Newt Gingrich canard that the $2.6 billion spent on U.S. House and Senate races this year was nothing - Americans spend that much on chocolate every two months.

True, but when Americans buy chocolate, Hershey's doesn't owe them political favors in return.

"But GOP Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois placed blame on the corruption and scandals that led to the resignations of Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio," the Tribune reports. "That's not policy, that's in essence a party that imploded because of personal problems," Shimkus said.

The paper failed to note that Shimkus of Illinois was and is in charge of the congressional page program.

King Richard
"Who else among ye will not run?" John Kass asks.

Hastert Headlock
In a written statement dutifully reproduced by the press, Denny Hastert says, "As a former wrestling coach, I know what it is like when your team takes second place in the state torunament. It hurts."

Way to keep the press lapping up the folksy image - especially for someone who went to Washington and became a multimillionaire on a congressman's salary.

Jus' Folks
It comes from a partisan source, but Denny's Secret Files paint a picture of a different kind of wrestling coach.

Moral Authority
The Sun-Times editorial page advises Todd Stroger to get started cleaning up county government. I'm not sure the editorial page has any moral authority to urge reform though until it admits to readers that publisher John Cruickshank overrode the editoral board's recommendation to back Peraica in order to instead pander to black readers who have steadily left the paper as the paper aggressively abandoned them and their interests in the last decade.

The paper is also apparently already breaking a promise made in its Stroger endorsement: It will not be assigning extra reporters to cover him and hold him accountable. That was just bluster.

Todd Squad
Eric Zorn's comparison of Lisa Madigan to Todd Stroger is wildly off the mark. Lisa Madigan was an exceptionally strong candidate for state attorney general in 2002; she was an above average state legislator who had an agenda and vision for the office that was pro-consumer, anti-corruption, and full of initiatives from crime-fighting to transparency in government. While she may not have been elected without the strong-arm tactics of her father, her father's role also most endangered her campaign.Though her opponent, John Schmidt, had an impressive resume, he was really just a guy looking for public office to keep his political ambitions alive after a failed attempt to run for governor. Schmidt had no agenda or vision; he promised only to be an efficient manager of his in-box.

Todd Stroger, by contrast, was a mediocre state legislator and alderman, and that's putting it charitably. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase "dumb as a post" in the last few months from people who have dealt with him. He not only lacked vision and an agenda for this campaign, he lacked the basic knowledge of the government he will now lead; he couldn't be bothered to even learn about the budget he now must tackle. Beyond that, he has shown himself to be a dishonest public servant, first in his disastrous role as family spokesman covering up the health status of his ailing father, and second (at least) in running fundraising out of his ward office. Between his incuriosity, mediocre intellect, poor public presentation, and failure to be anything other than someone's son, it is Todd Stroger who has truly brought George W. Bush politics to Cook County.

Meet the New Boss
"'If percentages are based on jobs, then I'm doing damn good,' Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) was overheard telling Ald. William Beavers (7th), referring to the vote he got out for Stroger and the county jobs he expects in return.

"'I expect him to reach out to a good guy like me for recommendations for qualified candidates in top jobs he has control over,' Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) said, complaining about the lack of West Siders among 25,000 county employees."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Transmitting county-wide.


Posted on November 9, 2006

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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