Monday, January 22, 2007

REACT: Clinton is “in” (trouble)

In the wake of Barak Obama’s (See! Even I cannot keep his name out of print), long awaited but not surprising announcement that he is “exploring” a presidential race, New York Senator Hillary Clinton has firmly announced that she is “IN”.

What she is “in,” however, is trouble. Not long ago, she was the golden girl of the Democrat party. I suspect many, including herself, felt her nomination was just a matter of time.

On the plus side was her successful run for the Senate, where she did not serve as the shrill strident voice her critics had hoped. She proved to be a popular carpetbagger, and shed that appellation with a strong win for a second term. She did not join the caucus of outrageous liberals, and basically did pretty well for herself.

Hillary has pretty much convinced the public that she is not simply the political benefactor of her husband. This is critical. She showed that she is not a tag-a-long, and more importantly, that she is the spouse but not the clone of Clinton the First.

She still has advantage over Obama with regard to debts and structure. Lots of the political decision makers owe the Clintons. They provided the spoils of government largess during Bill’s presidency, and a lot of political fundraising then and now. Early expectation enabled her to garner some important commitments.

However, all of that may mean nothing. Whether Obama is the man or not, he has shown Hillary to be vulnerable – a deadly perception in political warfare. This is not uniquely to Obama’s advantage. Governor John Edward could shoot past the two leaders as they mutually fizzle. After several months of Obama-Clinton battling over position, the public may welcome a “fresh” candidate. We should always keep in mind that early leads and fawning publicity are usually not good in presidential races. Early front-runners frequently fail.

The nation appears ready for a woman president, and has been so for about a decade. But the person still matter to the voters – with the possible exception of the now irrelevant feminist extremists. Hillary’s move to the center appears to be a wash. She gains some centrist support, and loses the ladies of the far left.

She can only do so much to change her image. A softer hairstyle, more business-like attire, and some shift in policy cannot overcome her stage presence, which is as soothing as fingernails on a blackboard. She suffers from inverse charisma.

Despite her efforts to move away from the ethical issues of her husband’s term, she will have to deal with them again. It is a hit like Ted Kennedy’s bridge over trouble waters. Though Chappaquiddick is not a matter of public attention every day (expect to the dead girl’s poor family), it reappeared in the more intense spotlight when Kennedy toyed with a presidential run. Each time, Chappaquiddick rose like a bad Brigadoon out of the swamp of Martha’s Vineyard.

As the campaign progress, the questions of HER culpabilities during the Clinton years will again resurface. I think one of the more damaging questions will surround the existence of those “enemy” IRS and FBI files in HER office – after she denied having them. There are also a number of issues to be explored regarding her work with the Rose law firm.

When this stuff hits the press at the most strategic times, it will not be the work of Republican Clinton bashers. It will come from the Obama team, specifically his top consultant David Axelrod, who has a well-deserved reputation as a very aggressive, tough, no-holds-barred political combatant. If Hilary ever went through a tollgate without paying, Axelrod will find it and use it to maximum effect. By the time he is done, the infraction will look like criminal road rage.

This is going to be one interesting political season.

OP ED: The presidential "race"

Okay, one more Obama item.

For those who are excited at the prospect of the first black man to reach the presidency … or vice presidency ... I have news for you. Obama is not black. He is half-white. In fact, culturally he has been most closely associated with his white mother -- until being black was a booster rocket for his remarkable political rise.

What is it about America that we insist a drop of Negro blood makes a person black? It is a widely held prejudice that has been around since the enlightened founders found it necessary to make a huge moral compromise on the issue of slavery and declared free blacks as fractional citizens. On the other hand, I have this silly notion that race identity has something to do with genetics, logic and common sense. If we want to recognize different “races,” which I abhor in the first place, we should at least get it right. Obama is as white as he is black, and in terms of his personal knowledge of the black experience in America, he is most certainly more white.

We used to call mixed race people, mulatto, but that term fell into disfavor – leaving us without an acceptable word. Multi ethnic is too bureaucratic – and why not, it was coined by government bureaucrats. Hybrid? Uh uh. The auto industry grabbed that one. Maybe he is the black-lite candidate, but somehow that does not work. Makes him sound mostly black. Some of my black friends (the real ones) refer to Obama as pepper over salt with the same implication found in the expression “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Several years ago, the late Senator John Moynihan advised President Nixon how to win public support (before Watergate, that is). The Senator said, “If you are going to act like a Tory, you should speak like a Whig. If you are going to act like a Whig, you should speak like a Tory.” This makes me think that Obama’s success may be due to the fact that he looks like a black and speaks like a white. His challenge is to get the blacks to see him, and the whites to hear him. If that were to switch polarity, he would be lucky to be re-elected to the Illinois State Senate.

OP ED: Obama’s destiny

Following the precedent set by the national media, I will do several items in a row on Barak Obama. Well, if I really followed their lead, I would have to write something about my own junior senator every day – and I could not ever be critical. However, there is only so far I am willing to follow the sycophants in the press.

I have written previously that I do not think Obama will make it to the presidency – at least not this cycle. Apparently, in response to my opinion, the entire national press has quadrupled its promotional efforts. Obama is getting around more than Paris Hilton (Until recently, I thought that was lodging in France.)

If Obama can hold one of the “place” or “show” positions in the primaries, he is likely to be an obvious pick for vice president. His lack of experience would not be a factor because there is no real job description. Vice presidents usually go around giving nice speeches while the President runs the country. (Someone should have clued Bush in on that time-honored tradition.)

Obama is a gifted orator who can make platitudes sound like substance. He is the perfect political orator. He has, in spades (no pun intended), the most important qualities of a vice president – good looks, charm and great platform presence.

Hard-nosed political pundits would tell us, if they had the courage to say it out loud, that bringing a black (even a half black) into the White House as president is a more challenging task than as a vice president. I mean really, the seat of power has been known as the WHITE House for a couple hundred years. It takes the public time to adjust.

My belief that Obama’s political skyrocket will fizzle short of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue does not mean that I think the guy has no future. I just think he is not the man of the moment. I don’t think there is a woman of the moment either, but that is another story.

OBERSERVATION: Obama’s exploration

Barak Obama has announced the formation of his presidential “exploratory committee.” Under the so-called election reforms, we have another example of stupid outcomes. You see, in the good old days a candidate would “explore” unofficially, and then announce his intention to run and set up a campaign committee. Sweet and simple.

Now, because of these convoluted and counterproductive election laws, it is not wise to set up a campaign committee. Too much reporting, restriction and regulations. So, you set up an exploration committee.

There is a saying that if it looks, acts and sounds like a duck, it is a duck. Government regulators do not understand that concept. It may look, act and sound like a campaign committee, but it is not.

This bit of legislated euphemism serves no good purpose. It makes campaigns more expensive and detracts from discourse over issues. If you don’t believe that latter point, just keep in mind that I am now forced to waste time and space to bring this lunacy to your attention. We should be engaged over Iraq or Senator Barbara Boxer’s beliefs that only parents have opinions.

The problem we have in America, is that the so-called reformers are still at it – fixing things that are not broken.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

REACT: Slavery apology

Having just issued a personal apology, I am familiar with the subject. This brings to mind the question of slavery and the call for apologies and even reparations – a euphemism for cold cash. Certainly there are situations where apologies are due, and even some compensation for the wrong – like “I’m sorry I backed into you car, here is my insurance agent.”

The problem with the slavery demand is that it does not meet any test of legitimacy. They are nothing more than a pandering to political correctness to shake down the taxpayers for some money.

Here are my rules for apologies. They should come from the person, or persons, who committed the wrong. Whoa! Now that is a revolutionary concept, don’t you think? Since when do people who committed no wrong have a requirement to apologize for anything?

Personally, I do not own any slaves … never have. The fact that my then 5-year-old daughter told neighbors that her adopted black older sister was our slave does not count – even though she did baby sit, wash dishes and take out the garbage on occasion. You can see from the accompanying photograph (including her adopted son, who now serves in Iraq), Yvette appears very happy despite the years of household chores.

As I mentally searched my family history to uncover some connection to slavery that might suggest some complicity in the past sins of indentured servitude, I realized that my ancestors were not in American when the hideous institution was in effect. They were growing grapes and making wine in a country that never had slavery.

Since this is the experience of most Americans, the notion of a national apology seems to be a stretch at best.

If there is any meaning to ensnaring long past institutions and groups into the slavery apology business, I think we have to be specific. As a mostly Republican type, my political ancestors in America were the abolitionist. They fought and died to end slavery. Democrats, on the other hand, were fighting to preserve human ownership. If the past matters so much, then why aren't the apology proponents call for a mass exedous of blacks from the Dem party? Shouldn't there be reparations for the the more recent segregation, Jim Crow laws and the lynchings that were a coomon part of the Democrat party agenda in the Republicanless "old south." This makes me think that if anyone is obligated to apologize, it is only the donkey butts who bear an apparent burden of guilt. Some of them (i.e. ex- KKKer Senator Robert Byrd) are still alive and can reasonably apologize for thier personal sins.

Now some activists think that commercial enterprises that had “ties to slavery” in the past … the waaaaaaaaaay long ago past … should apologize, pay reparations and even be denied government contracts. This suggests that it was not people who were responsible, but the corporate entity. In a funny sort of way, by transferring culpability to contemporary company officers, you are absolving the guys who really were culpable. This would be like holding some 22nd Century Enron executives responsible for today’s debacle and scandal. I mean, what if the company passed hands because of a hostile take-over? The new guys now have to make amends for the old guard who fought against them. If we apply this reasoning to criminal justice, maybe we should hang Mussolini’s grandkids.

One argument raised by the slavery apologists is the ongoing negative impact of slavery. Any modern day suffering under racial prejudice should be compensated. Somehow, we are supposed to know what damage accrued to an individual because their great, great, great, great grandpa was horribly snatched from his village in Angola. In reality, there is no way to know the value of the outcome. Martin Luther King may have been a starving kid in the dry plans of Ethiopia had it not been for slavery. Even my Africa-to-Jamaica-to-America daughter might never have been part of my family. I think that would have been a loss for all of us. Just because many outcomes stem from an awful act does not make the outcome bad.

Any current prejudice can be addressed appropriately. If someone denies a black person their basic civil right, like renting an apartment, THEN there is a need to apologize and perhaps provide some monetary compensation. In this case, you have a real live perpetrator and a real live victim. You also have laws and courts and real evidence.

I bear no prejudice, and have proudly raised a bunch of kids without prejudice in their hearts. Consequently, I feel no compunction to atone. I am not guilty … not sorry for my conduct … not sorry for my ancestor’s behavior. I do not believe that there is a black person alive today who is due a nickel in reparation for the most surely wrongful suffering of ancestors he or she cannot even trace. In a true apology, don’t you have to recognize your wrongdoing? Feel guilty?

Okay, there are exceptions … like when my mother made me apologize to the kid down the block for hitting him. I gave a barely audible “I’m sorry” without sincere conviction. He deserved it. However, it was not as if I was being forced to apologize for my great grandfather whacking some neighbor kid. How ridiculous is that?

The idea of offering an apologia for slavery at this date is so absurd, so twisted and so disingenuous that it can only be explained as yet another example of politically correct liberal thinking.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I hate apologies, especially when I have to make them. In my haste to scribe a response to Dan between phone calls and pit stops, I blew it. Now, I could have just pulled down my errant item and reworked it more correctly, but that does not seem fair. So, I must bleed in public. Well, at least “in public” as far as anyone, besides Dan, reads my blog.

So Dan, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I am beating my breast (gently) with my fist as I was taught to do in Catholic elementary school.

I should not have cast Dan into the legions of the left. He may be a person like me, unwelcome at any end of the political table for the sin of apostasy. He refers to leaning Republican nationally and Democrat locally. I do not lean by geography, but simply find the Republicans, on balance, more likely to promote my causes. But I do not embrace all Republicans out of a sense of partisan loyalty. Philosophy trumps partisanship.

Where Dan and I do seem to have strong agreement is our evaluation of the Illinois/Chicago GOP. After the 1995 election, when I was personally ill-served by but local elephant herders, I was quoted (accurately, by the way) in the Chicago Tribune as saying something to the effect that one cannot begin to imagine just how dysfunctional the Chicago/Cook County GOP is until you see it from the inside. It is pathetic.

Dan has taught me a lesson. In the future, I will be more careful with my name-calling, reserving it for dyed-in-the-wool leftist lunatics.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

REACT: The minimum wage fraud

Nothing sounds better than to increase a person’s wages, especially those who subsist at the lower rungs of the economic scale. If you are among those who think the Democrats unrelenting mantra of minimum wage is such a great idea, consider this. Why not legislate to raise all wages. That’s it! We will just rule that everyone in the nation will get a 100 percent pay raise. Think of all the good that will come of doubling the salary of every American.

Now, if you know anything about economics, you know that such a regulatory move by the government is a really bad idea. It would wreck the economy. It is toxic. So, what is so good about a little bit of monetary poison in the form of a minimum wage?

For sure, many employees will enjoy the benefits of the minimum wage, but not nearly as many as one might think. First of all, the vast majority of workers already exceed the minimum wage. Many other workers are part timers or contract workers, and not subject to minimum wage considerations. It does not apply to the legions of self-employed. Of course, it does not apply to the unemployed.

Oh! Speaking of the unemployed. Every increase in the minimum wage has created more unemployed as employers offset the payroll increase with job cuts in order to keep a fairly constant overhead. In labor circles, this is known as “benefiting the survivors.”

The other untoward outcome of a minimum wage increase is the accompanying increase in the cost of goods and services. We are already crying in our fried rice over the low wage advantage of Asia, and our new Democrat national policy is to exacerbate that situation by making domestic goods and services more expensive.

If you wonder why the Democrats would embrace a policy that would throw low-income people out of jobs, think cynically. I often point out that a party that relies on the poor and the unemployed as their power base are going to make more people poor and unemployed. The minimum wage issue, bad as it is for the economy, is great politically for the party that derives its power from pandering to the poor.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

REACT: Response from the left

I take Umbrage at a recent comment by “Dan” about me in Actually, I am too congenial to really take umbrage, but I do love the word. Take umbrage. Nice.

Before I respond to Dan in substance, I have to say that any organization that starts dialogue under the banner “move on and shut up” may not be the best form for intelligent discussion. Happily, to use the expression, their bark is worse than their bite. Despite the doff of the cap to sensationalism, they operate well within the bounds of civil discord. The fact that their views are almost always wrong does not take away from the reasonable way they display their angst. These are the type of folks you could have over for dinner and enjoy what the late Sun-Times columnist and TV talk show host, Irv Kucinet, used to call “the lively art of conversation.” They may be on the inner edge of the fringe (we must be precise in our placement of people, eh?), but they are not a bunch of morons.

Which brings me to my point.

Writing on MoveOn …etc., Dan said, “I think it's fair to call the wingnut elements of the right wing a bunch of morons. Larry doesn't.” Actually, I thought that was exactly the point of my written comments. I am a critic of what I call the strident right – which I personally prefer over the word “moron.” I suggest that it is the left that is recultanct to call out the extremists on the radical left.

How so?

The right tends to boot out corrupt officials. The left re-elects them. The Right tends to repudiate those with extremist so-called right wing views. Skin heads and David Duke. The left gives homage to their extremeists. Cindy Sheehan et al.

Libeals believe that right field extends only five feet from the foul line and left field consumes the remainder of the outfield. For them, the moderation of center field is well into left field territory.

Therefore, I want to both correct and challenge Dan. I do very much disdain the politics of stridency and extremism, but reject the notion that solid philosophic belief or aggressive debate is equivalent to extremism. My challenge is to hear Dan cite the examples of left wingnut policies and personalities he would call moronic. And if Cindy Sheehan is not on his list, he is being duplicitous.

I do agree with Dan on the practical side of the gay rights issue. It is a loser for the GOP. One only has to see what happened to the donkey party in the 1970s, when they became the party of narrow special interests of the past. They spent the next 30 years sliding into second party status. Whether this last election is a turn around or an anomaly is yet to be seen. However, with the GOP starting to congeal into a party of special interests and the defenders of the old culture, the lesson offered by the Dems should not be overlooked.

REACT: Response from the strident right

As predicted, some of my most strident conservative “friends” have taken abusive exception to my opinion on gay rights and flag burning.

Taking up the latter first, some right-wingers call me a “traitor” to America for not protecting the flag. (Incidentally, I have one conservative adversary who calls me … and everyone … a traitor for merely deviating from HIS personal interpretation of conservatism. He is the part of the fringe that would scare me if he were in power – sort of the Hitler-lite type.) Anyway, for those of you who disagree with me on the flag issue … amen … that’s what’s great about America. Those of you who raise the disagreement to the level of hateful accusations, I say … ah … hmmmm … okay … time for polite rhetoric. You’re … ah … WRONG! You see, while you only protect the fabric, I protect a noble history of freedom for which it stands --- or at least is supposed to stand. The very reason the flag guardians need a Constitutional Amendment to “protect” the flag is that the very notion is UNconstitutional. It violates that all-important First Amendment – our freedom of speech. So… dear conservatives … which is it? A new controversial authoritarian amendment for the evolving police state OR our right of free speech. How can any true conservative be suckered into this flag protection garbage?

Now on the matter of gay rights. What is the problem here? We live in a society that has accepted gay life as a legitimate part of it. My son attends a Catholic school where one kid has two mothers and another has two fathers --- and no one, including the Church administrators seems to have a problem with it. Whatever you think of gayness … sin or sickness … you cannot deny basic human and cultural rights, and civic equality. Also, I think there is a good chance that, as God’s children, gayness may well have been part of His intended plan of creation. Wow! Now there’s a thought. There is a third option besides sin or sickness. My stand is based on my desire to maintain a consistent conservative philosophy as best I can see it. As a spiritual person, I am not about to judge my fellow man --- even those wearing dresses. (Okay, I may judge their fashion sense, but that’s it.) This is what the bible admonishes me to do. Judge not.

So, in matters of flags, I am a strict constitutionalist and First Amendment defender. In matters of fags, I am an adherent of the bible, and least the judge not portion. How much more conservative can I be?

REACT: Cindy Sheehan in Cuba

I see where the shameless and irrelevant Cindy Sheehan has popped up in Cuba as her latest anti-American booking. The only thing that I can see she has proven is the the concept of treason is no longer valid. How ironic it is that she opposes a country that grants her total freedom to be an unprincipled traiter, and favors those who would have summarily exeucuted her for even nominal opposition. Oh well! I like her new name, which has not been widely reported -- the war whore. It really not very nice, but it resonates.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

OP ED: Being a conservative ain't easy

Being a conservative is not easy … never has been. I am not referring to the drubbing of the GOP and the ascent of the strident left-wing leadership in the Congress in last year’s election. I am not referring to the unabated conservative bashing by the national press cabal.

I AM referring the idiocy in the ranks of the right. Cases in point:

1. Congressman Virgil Goode (R-VA) goes bonkers because Congressman-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, prefers to be sworn in with his hand on a Koran rather than a Christian bible. This is a no brainier. As a conservative who believes in individual rights, I could care less if a congressman-elect want to be sworn in on his college term paper. We have too many examples of official malfeasance to believe that the bible or the oath produces moral legislators. I also believe that by laying his hand on his own religious text, it has more meaning. To make him swear on a book outside his belief nullifies the implication of the oath. It is a fraud. So, how can we be a conservative if we do not respect the individual right of a Muslim congressman? Though I am not likely to agree with the new Muslim legislator, I think it says a lot about America that we can elect a Muslim to high office in an atmosphere that would just as easily promote prejudice and intolerance. Please delete the very bad Virgil Goode from the register of bonafide conservatives.

FOOTNOTE: It was decided that Congressman-elect Ellison will be allowed to swear in on a Koran owned by Thomas Jefferson. It will be walked over from the vault of the Library of Congress for the ceremony. Oddly, I AM bothered by taking a national treasure from safekeeping for the indulgence of a freshman legislator. He should certain be allowed to swear on the Koran, but let him bring his own dang copy. This has all the earmarks of a public relations stunt drummed up by the new House leadership.

2. Then there is Pat Robertson. I have a great regard for religion and the religious. However, I am not compelled to believe that everyone who has “reverend” in front of his or her name is automatically a pious theologian. If you have read my blog, you know that I think the REVEREND Jesse Jackson is a Machiavellian, power-hungry, racist grandstander. My feeling towards the REVEREND Pat Robertson is not so precise. I just think he is an egomaniacal nut case. In his latest idiocy, he claims that God has told him (apparently God talks to him a lot) that there will be a major terrorist attack on the United States late in 2007. Duh! If I wanted to play fortuneteller, that is one prediction I would make. Of course, Robertson admits that he has been wrong in the past. However, he does not explain how the infallible God gives him the wrong info. In one instance, he claims God told him that a devastating tsunami would hit the United States in 2006. First, we do not get tsunamis. That is an eastern hemisphere phenomenon. We get tidal waves. I would think God would know the correct term for his vehicles of wrath. Tsunami? Tidal wave? No matter. The prediction was a wash out. Robertson notes a bit of flooding in New England as a “partial” fulfillment of his prophecy. So… if some time in 2007 a small grenade goes off in front of a Wal-Mart in the middle of the night, THAT would be a “partial” fulfillment of Robertson’s God-given warning. His prediction skills are on the level of newspaper horoscopes … interpretation is everything. So, here is my dilemma. Either God is not infallible, or Robertson is delusional. Please excommunicate Robertson from the role of the righteous right.

3. As a conservative in a multi-theological nation, I think we have to separate religious beliefs from conservative principles when the two come into conflict. Gay rights. It is certainly permissible for any religious group to define sin for their voluntary membership. However, no self-respecting conservative is going to deny basic civil rights of individual freedom to any group. I think gays should be allowed civil unions (leaving “marriage” to the religions to perform or deny). All marriages in America are civil unions, protected by a body of law. It is just that some of those civil unions are sanctified as marriages by the religious community. I say, let adult human couples decide who they want to partner with in a civil union, and let the churches decide who they will bless with a religious rite. If we were as tolerant as good conservatives should be, we would not find it so remarkable that Dick Cheney has a gay daughter, and we would not find it incomprehensible that she loves and supports her father. So … please kick the pain-in-the-ass homophobic gay bashers out of the conservative closet.

4. I think burning a flag or two is one of those “inalienable” rights the conservative founders had in mind. It is a form of protest that is currently protected under the all-important First Amendment. That is why the fascist conservatives need to amend the Constitution to make it illegal. It is a bad, un-conservative concept dragged into the public spotlight by the nationalist element of the body politic. I am a flag waver, but the flag I wave in pride can be flown upside down to indicate distress, warn as a bikini as a means of avoiding indecent exposure, and burned to ashes in peaceful revolt – the kind Thomas Jefferson so well understood. Our constitutional government has survived quite will with an occasional burning of Betsy Ross’s needlecraft. So … let the flame of freedom drive the nationalists from the conservative campground.

Some may say that my desire to cast the philosophic heretics out of the conservative movement will destroy the coalition that provides the core power base. I prefer to think of all the people who would join our ranks if it were not for the lunatics who too often characterize … nay … mischaracterize our cause.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

EULOGY: The Jerry Ford I knew.

President Gerald Ford is laid to rest. The nation remembers his reputation for fairness and decency. His sense of being a common man was reflected in his favorite self-effacing retort, “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.” In reality, he was more like America’s justifiably most revered President than Ford would admit, or even believe.

Both were men whose road to the Presidency was most improbable. Though Lincoln was elected, his victory required such a convergence of unlikely events that no Victorian odds-maker would have bet on his early potential. Ford’s ascent was astonishing. He was the first, and perhaps the last, President to come to office without ever having been elected President or Vice President. Thanks to the newly minted 25th Amendment, President Nixon had the opportunity to nominate a person to fill the vacancy in the office of Vice President occasioned by the resignation in disgrace of Spiro Agnew. Soon afterward, Nixon, himself, was felled by the political maelstrom know simply as “Watergate.” While it is unfair to call Ford an accidental President, as he has been dubbed, it was an outcome beyond reasonable anticipation.

Both Lincoln and Ford came to the office in a time of Constitutional crisis and deep political divisions. Neither brought with them an elitist pomposity that is too often found in those who rise to great heights of fame and power. Both were considered simple men, more likely to depend on common sense than academic acumen. If they were good communicators, it was because they both understood plain-speak. In fact, Lincoln transformed public oratory from the prolonged flamboyance and dramatics of such people as Edward Everett to the simpler style and form we find to this day. Lincoln ended the era of orators-as-entertainers, and nowhere more convincingly than at Gettysburg.

Ford and Lincoln were genuinely respectful of those with whom they disagreed. More importantly, they were magnificently forgiving. Had he lived, Lincoln would have issued general pardons to the military and political leaders his armies defeated. He saw no benefit to expose the nation to an era of trials and hangings. Ford sacrificed his political future to spare the nation the agony of placing a former President on trial. Both Lincoln and Ford believed that reconciliation could best be achieved through forgiveness.

It is said that Lincoln was an easy man to know. People felt comfortable in his presence. He was an engaging conversationalist, eager to listen and quick to quip. His conversational style did not change, whether he was in the presence of a common citizen or a prominent person.

I cannot know from experience whether the characterization of Lincoln is fact or fable. I can say from experience that those qualities at least attributed to the 16th President are very much the traits of Ford. Among the number of Presidents I have been privileged to meet in person, Jerry Ford (as I knew him) stands out as among the kindest and most descent men in politics.

My first contact with Ford came in my days as a consultant to the White House during the Nixon administration. As Minority Leader of the House of Representative, there were a number of occasions where I was invited (sometimes ordered) to meet with Ford at public forums or private meetings in his office. I was impressed by two qualities of the former President. After our first meeting, he never failed to recognize me by name in any setting, and had no problem referring to past conversations – whether the subject of critical policy or some anecdote of my personal life.

I also was impressed by the fact that when speaking to a person, he was fixed on the conversation. His eyes did not dart around the room looking for the next encounter or more important personality, as is a very common trait of politicians.

And then there was that Lincoln-esque casual friendliness. In the presence of Ford, one never felt awe – and lest not after a moment or two of conversation. It was more like meeting a nice guy at a local tavern. I sometimes wondered if this was not to his detriment. Maybe all those inaccurate parodies and mockeries of his intellect and physical facility would not have been so easily rendered if it had not been for his commonness. Some have even contended that the Chevy Chase comedic rendition of a stumblebum President Ford cost him the election.

During my years in Washington, and for a time following, I remained in modest friendship with Ford. On the occasion of the birth of my first child, Ford visited and brought flowers for my wife. He attended a number events to which I invited him. Two occasions stand out in my mind. The first was a Smithsonian Institution reception in recognition of a collection of cast iron toys donated by Sears, Roebuck & Co. He was then Minority Leader. The other was after he took over the Oval Office. He accepted my invitation to be guest of honor at a charitable event in Chicago (see photograph).

As a lobbyist for Sears, and before gifts to legislators were the subjects of scandal, I recall giving the President an Olympic tie. Sears was the outfitter of the Olympic team that year. After the Olympics were over, Ford returned the tie back to me as a personal memento. It was a tie he wore frequently.

I was also a participant in an incident involving Ford at the 1976 GOP National Convention – an incident in which he most likely never knew of my role. I was there as communications director for the Illinois delegation led by former Governor Dick Ogilvie. To add to the festivities, I convinced a friend at Whamoo to give me 500 Frisbees to add to the convention floor festivities. They were inscribed, “I flipped my Frisbee over Ford.” It was a site, as hundreds of Frisbees took to the air before and after his acceptance speech. As the President was coming to the podium, or receding from the podium (I was never told which), one of my flying saucers bounced off the President’s forehead – much to the chagrin of the Secret Service. I was later told that my most lasting contribution to the American national political conventions was the banning of Frisbees and other airborne objects.

Apart from the tie and a Frisbee or two, my most cherished Ford possession is a series of three letters in which Ford responded to my congratulations on his ascent to the presidency. The content of the letters, and the fact that they are written on the respective letterheads of the United States Congress, The Vice President and the President, make them cherished documents, personally and historically.

It has not been many years since I have enjoyed his company, but the memories will never dim. I feel grateful as an American to have lived through those difficult times with my friend Jerry Ford at the helm. More personally, I have been most fortunate to have had the pleasure to know such a good and decent human being. Jerry Ford was a giant of a man, but never looked down on anyone. God bless him, and may he rest in the peace of eternity he so well deserves.