Elections and Pat Quinn.

Opponents of Pat Quinn have painted him as an ineffective governor. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion.

Elections and money
The author.

From my perspective, this election ought to be easy for Pat Quinn, but the polls indicate otherwise. It appears that an awful lot of people are disillusioned with Illinois politics and have bought the argument that Springfield needs a fresh face–that somehow this new guy, Bruce Rauner, whom we don’t know much about, ought to be given an opportunity to reform state government.

Opponents of Pat Quinn have painted him as an ineffective governor.  Nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion.

I have known Pat since the 70s, when he worked in the governor’s office and I covered Springfield for the Tribune. When he decided to seek public office in 1982, running for the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, he came to me for advice because I had been involved in uncovering a bribery scandal there. He won the election, later served as state treasurer, and eventually became lieutenant governor.

He has managed to accomplish much in his six years as governor, despite working with a legislature that leaves a lot to be desired. He stood up to Madigan and was able to finally push through a comprehensive pension reform law. He got same-sex marriage enacted and he made Illinois the 16th state in the country to abolish the death penalty. He cut wasteful spending by a billion dollars, and he responded to the recession with the largest construction program in Illinois history, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Pat wants to leave the income tax rate alone because cutting it at this time would be catastrophic to education, human services and other essential programs. Mr. Rauner wants to cut taxes, but at the same time he proposes to increase education funding by half a billion dollars. How? Mr. Rauner refuses to support a ban on assault weapons.  On an issue close to my heart, Mr. Rauner opposes Quinn’s plan to shut down state institutions for thousands of people with disabilities and to give those people a chance to live in a real home in a real neighborhood.

Aside from the issues, where there can be honest differences of opinion, it bothers me that a candidate can try to buy an election. Mr. Rauner has donated $23 million to the campaign! I don’t have anything against rich guys who want to run for office, but a rich guy who bankrolls his own campaign is pretty darn offensive. I have watched wealthy Democrats try to do the same thing–Blair Hull and Al Hofeld come to mind.  Fortunately, they weren’t successful. Hopefully, Mr. Rauner won’t be either.

Nate Silver’s Truth Serum

Nate Silver, the New York Times’ statistical election forecast wizard, really saved my sanity these last six months. The election for me, and I’m sure for many others, was a vindication that right (fair, just thinking and action) makes might, and that “doing the math”, the alchemy of making gold from an expanding rainbow, really counts.

My friend Sherry Laten has captured the essence of Nate in this beautiful piece.–Ed McManus

Correct predictions
Science works.

Nate Silver, the New York Times’ statistical election forecast wizard, really saved my sanity these last six months. The election for me, and I’m sure for many others, was a vindication that right (fair, just thinking and action) makes might, and that “doing the math”, the alchemy of making gold from an expanding rainbow, really counts.

The election was my Passover Process, feeling the repression personally and politically, having taken many quicksand laden steps over several decades to finally reach another horizon toward the promised land. Nate Silver was my hefty staff, my divining and dividing rod, that pointed my heart and mind toward the mountaintop, giving me strength and calming my spirit during my daily journey.

Nate’s great statistical mind, sculpted by his parents’ commitments to political science and activism, became the guiding light for many anxious liberals like me. Every day, like others living underneath the cloud of financial and civil rights uncertainty, I sought his truth serum, my Valium, his carefully crafted dose of hair-splitting sunlight.

Relief and optimism after Obama reelection.
Hew hope

Then finally, several weeks before most pundits and politicians woke up from their long, loud, snoring snooze, I sighed. . . . Electricity tingled throughout my spine, raised the hairs on my head, and settled my mind. I knew from Nate’s analysis that President Obama had a very high probability of being re-elected. Nate’s rich, mellow, salty, barbecued, baked, refried, stir-fried, boiled, black, brown, green, red, white and navy statistical bean count told me so. These beans sprouted up from all over the swinging cities and states of Cleveland, Charlotte, Detroit, Des Moines, Denver, Miami, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashua, Norfolk, Nebraska, and Nevada.

I knew that some of the cloud would now be lifted. I knew that, again, Obama’s presidency would bend the arched rainbow just that much closer toward a more inclusive, just, economically stable and perfect union. And I knew that, again, I would feel safe and loved–and that politics is really personal.
–Sherry Laten, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., clinical social worker, special educator & advocate

Article on Nate: http://news.msn.com/pop-culture/he-called-it-and-now-silvers-a-pop-culture-star

More and More Preposterous

For the first time in 40 years, they are supporting a Republican for president. Their reasoning, in a nutshell, is that Republicans in Congress won’t work with President Obama, but Democrats, for the good of the country, would cooperate with a President Romney to get things done.

 

Ed
Ed

By Ed McManus

Have you heard about the Des Moines Register’s endorsement?

For the first time in 40 years, they are supporting a Republican for president. Their reasoning, in a nutshell, is that Republicans in Congress won’t work with President Obama, but Democrats, for the good of the country, would cooperate with a President Romney to get things done.

Sound familiar? It is the same twisted logic that Time columnist Joe Klein used a few weeks ago: Let’s reward the Republicans for their stubbornness and callousness, and punish the Democrats for caring about the country. I wrote a blog about it at the time, entitled “Preposterous!”

I am writing this one in the final days. Things are looking up for the President at the moment, but this election is much too close to take for granted. And this kind of argument is downright scary–if too many independents take it seriously.

Klein’s Sept. 15 column was preceded and followed by many columns by him that were very critical of Romney. Joe is no apologist for the GOP. But he fretted in September that the Bush tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year, along with big budget cuts agreed on by both parties, and a deal must be made to avert a recession. And Romney will be better able to make the deal, Klein wrote, so we won’t all fall off the fiscal cliff.

What a lousy reason for handing the White House over to Mitt Romney and his pals for the next four years!

The Des Moines Register says the economy, jobs and a balanced budget are the nation’s biggest challenges and they must be dealt with “in a bipartisan manner.” They say both candidates are superbly qualified, and they complement Obama for the 2009 stimulus. They give him credit for reaching out to Republicans, but they point out that he has been rebuffed. Romney, on the other hand, gets along with Democrats. “Romney had to tack to the right during the primary season,” the Register says. “Since then, he has recalibrated his campaign to focus on his concern for the middle class, and that is believable if the real Mitt Romney is the one on display as governor of Massachusetts who passed a health care reform plan that became the model for the one passed by Congress.”

Take a look at that sentence. One, they admit they don’t know who the real Romney is, even though they are endorsing him! And two, they point to health care reform as his greatest bipartisan achievement, although Romney is promising to repeal Obamacare!

They predict that he will be far more centrist as president than he has been as a candidate. Don’t worry about the fact that he has been lying about his views all along, they seem to say. And they, like Klein, put great importance on negotiating a deal on the budget, although many economists believe we aren’t facing any immediate fiscal crisis.

Fortunately, many newspapers have seen the light and shunned Romney. One notable one is the Salt Lake Tribune, the major paper in a very red and Mormon state. (Disclosure: I used to work there.) Their editorial for Obama said: “From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?’.”

We know who Obama is. He rescued us from the Bush fiscal mess and got universal health care passed. He’s a keeper. -0-

Advertisement: Please help me reach my goal of raising $2,500 for the President! The campaign has set up some of us little guys with our own fund-raising account through barackobama.com. Check out this link:

https://donate.barackobama.com/page/outreach/view/2012/EdMcManus

I have so far been able to get 29 of my friends and relatives to send in donations ranging from $10 to $500! If you have already given, please consider throwing in a few more bucks.  Thanks.

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 Ed McManus is a Wilmette, IL, attorney and former Chicago Tribune editor/reporter. Comments (and brickbats) welcome: mcmanus06@comcast.net. Please forward this blog to your friends.

The Unpolitician

But that’s what I like about Barack Obama. He’s so authentic. He is not your typical politician, glad-handing and kissing babies and promising everybody everything. To the extent that he does some of that, it’s because David Axelrod makes him do it, because that is how you get elected in America.

Ed about the first debate.
Ed

By Ed McManus

I watched the debate last night. No, not the third debate. The first one. And I think President Obama won it. And no, I haven’t lost my mind. Let me explain:  On the evening of Oct. 3, I had a speaking engagement. I got home in time to hear all the TV commentary about how bad Obama was and how good Gov. Romney was, and of course we all have heard that ever since. So last night I decided to finally sit down and watch the debate–on YouTube.

Too honest
Too smart for a politician.

It is true that Romney was much more dynamic. He was cheerful, and he acted like he was excited to be there and excited about maybe becoming President. Obama looked tired–who wouldn’t be, leading the Free World and all?–and he came across as the university professor that he is. But that’s what I like about Barack Obama. He’s so authentic. He is not your typical politician, glad-handing and kissing babies and promising everybody everything. To the extent that he does some of that, it’s because David Axelrod makes him do it, because that is how you get elected in America.

But the real Obama came through in that debate–an honest man, not a phony.

I consistently defended the President when all my liberal friends were trashing him for not standing tough against the Republicans in Congress. Obama stubbornly clung to the notion of bipartisanship when it obviously was a lost cause, but I firmly believe he did it because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the political consequences. (Also, frankly, as the first black President, he knew he would be held to a higher than usual standard.)

Many people believe it is foolish for politicians to not be political, and I guess they are right in that the only realistic way to win an election is to compromise some of your principles. But isn’t that a sad commentary on America?

At least two other people in the nation think Obama won the first debate. My friend Sherry said, “If it were judged on honesty, knowledge of the debate subjects, and nuanced ways of dealing with the topics, he really won, but as many have said, it’s form over substance.” My friend Penny said Obama was trying to be polite. “He didn’t feel he could keep telling Romney, ‘You’re lying.’ Obama was trying to follow the rules of a debate.”

Obama’s associates say he hates doing things that he considers transparently political. Fortunately for us, he listened to his advisers and performed much, much better in the second and third debates. But the fact is that it is still a very close contest, primarily because of the public’s reaction to the first debate.

The Obama campaign needs money for this final push, and I’m proud to say I am playing a part in raising it. I’m no longer ringing doorbells; now I have become a small-time “bundler.” If you will go to the following link . . .

https://donate.barackobama.com/page/outreach/view/2012/EdMcManus

. . . you will find my own personal “Donate” page with a picture of my smiling face! This is my answer to the big spenders who are trying to dominate American politics. The Obama campaign has recruited little guys like me to solicit small donations.

Please consider donating something today. All you have to do is enter your name and credit card and hit “Donate Now.” As you can see, the website is “donate.barackobama.com” so the money goes directly to them (not to me!). As of this writing I have raised $1,795, including three donations of $10 each and one for $500. I set a goal of $1,000 and eventually increased it to $2,000, and hopefully I can continue increasing it. If you have already given, consider giving again.

Many of us may wish that our candidate was a bit more aggressive and political. Me, I like the real Barack Obama. But I guess I have to admit that I enjoyed the second and third debates more than the first!

(Ed McManus is a Wilmette, Il, attorney and a former Chicago Tribune editor/reporter. Comments welcome: mcmanus06@comcast.net.)

Me and Michelle

It feels really good to be part of a campaign that doesn’t just rely on fat cats.

Me and Michelle.
Ed

By Ed McManus

“Ed, you’re amazing,” she said, and I thought, “Wow!  She thinks I’m amazing!”

One morning last month, I checked my email and there was a message from Michelle Obama, and she said she thought I was amazing.

She said she and Barack  felt my energy when they were up there on the convention stage.  Who knew?

She said they needed some money, and I was persuaded.   I pulled out my wallet.

So you can imagine how deflated I was to read in the Chicago Sun-Times a couple weeks later that Michelle thinks columnist Mark Brown is amazing, too.  And she’s on a first-name basis with Mark, too.

Some of you may have gotten these emails.  Apparently anyone who donates to the campaign online gets on the list.  Maybe that’s a reason not to do it online.  But then, every time we do anything online, the companies that sell us stuff start bugging us.  That’s what the junk mail folder is for.

I found Michelle’s friendly email in my junk mail Sept. 7.  (Sorry, Michelle.)  Actually, I had missed one from Barack himself the day before–the day after he spoke to the convention.  It was entitled “So . . .”  The message, in its entirety, was:

Ed–

I hope I did you proud.

(link to donate)

Let’s go win.

Barack

Like I said, the day Michelle called me amazing, I sent in a small donation.  Next day my old friend Joe Biden got in touch to suggest that I become a “grassroots fundraiser,” an idea I really liked.  They set me up with my own electronic account and instructed me to set a fundraising goal.  I set a goal of $1,000, and 20 donations later, I reached it.  As of this writing, I have raised the goal to $1,500.  One of my donors gave $250.  A couple of them gave $10.

On Sept. 14 I got a message from David Axelrod.  Actually, Dave and I are old friends, having worked together at the Chicago Tribune years ago, so I thought maybe it was really personal.  But alas, Dave just wanted to thank me for my donation–and ask for more.

Mark Brown dissed the Obama campaign’s emailing efforts.  He said he has his doubts about all those polls that say Obama will win.  “When the president of the United States is reduced to hustling small-time campaign donations like a televangelist, I have to assume he’s not putting much stock in them either,” he wrote.

I disagree.  I think it’s smart politics.  It sure attracted my attention.  And it feels really good to be part of a campaign that doesn’t just rely on fat cats.

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Ed McManus is a Wilmette, IL, attorney and a former Chicago Tribune editor/reporter.

Preposterous!

“Let’s establish a reputation for ourselves as the party that repeatedly refuses to work with the guy from Kenya,” it reads. “Then, when a serious budget crisis is about to develop, we can convince the press that it will be disastrous for the country if the Muslim gets re-elected, because without our cooperation he won’t be able to make a deal–reach a compromise–and the result will be a disastrous recession with global impact. But we all know that the Democrats are friendly types–the suckers–so you can be confident that they will put together a deal with the newly elected Republican President to save the country.”

Ed

By Ed McManus

Republican party stays in the way of progress.
GOP strategy

I have managed to get my hands on a top-secret memo written by high-level Republican congressional strategists as they licked their wounds after the party’s defeat in the 2008 Presidential election.   (Those of you who know my reputation as someone who has a number of close associates who are high-level Republican congressional strategists will understand.)

“Let’s establish a reputation for ourselves as the party that repeatedly refuses to work with the guy from Kenya,” the memo reads. “Then, when a serious budget crisis is about to develop, we can convince the press that it will be disastrous for the country if the Muslim gets re-elected, because without our cooperation he won’t be able to make a deal–reach a compromise–and the result will be a disastrous recession with global impact. But we all know that the Democrats are friendly types–the suckers–so you can be confident that they will put together a deal with the newly elected Republican President to save the country.”

Yes, I made that up.

Continue reading “Preposterous!”

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

As a progressive Democrat who strongly supports a two-state solution in the Middle East and generally leans toward the Palestinian point of view, I would be fine with leaving the issue of the capital out of the platform. And as a Humanist, I don’t go out of my way to push for references to God.

By Ed McManus

Ed Mcmanus
Ed

 

He has done some amazing things in three and a half years:  Rescued the country from economic catastrophe, won passage of the historic health care act, got us out of Iraq, stood up for women and for gays.  Most importantly, Barack Obama is a man of integrity–a person we can be very proud of as our President.

But, alas, we continue to get caught up in petty issues.  We allow the media–the 24-hour news cycle–to suck us into picking him apart.  They salivate when they find something controversial to dwell on, and we stare at the Tube and let them distract us from what needs to be our goal:  Defeating a candidate and a party that are all wrong, and re-electing the President.

The latest kerfuffle came this week.  Somehow, the Democratic Party platform, as drafted by the platform committee, neglected to deal with the issue of what city should be the capital of Israel, and the word “God” did not appear anywhere in the document.  Reportedly, the President himself, when he found out about it, directed that Jerusalem and God both get back in.

The 2008 platform included a line stating that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.”  Of course, the Palestinians believe Jerusalem should be their capital if and when Palestine ever becomes a separate state.  But American politicians of both parties do their utmost to woo the Jewish vote, so they are usually eager to take a pro-Israeli stand.  Given the heavy Jewish population in swing state Florida, the issue has even more significance.  So that language has been restored.

The platform has an extensive section on faith:  “People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, etc. etc.”  But somehow the portion about the government’s role in helping people reach their “God-given potential” got dropped.  So now it’s back.

As a progressive Democrat who strongly supports a two-state solution in the Middle East and generally leans toward the Palestinian point of view, I would be fine with leaving the issue of the capital out of the platform.  And as a Humanist, I don’t go out of my way to push for references to God.

But this is politics, folks.  If Obama and his people, who are a lot more skilled than I am at political strategy, think including Jerusalem and God in the platform will help them, who am I to question it?

Some progressives were disappointed that the President did not take stronger stands during his first term on issues that he had campaigned on–did not stand up to the House Republicans.  I, myself, wondered at times about positions he took, or didn’t take.  But then I reminded myself that people like Axelrod and Emanuel are a lot smarter than I am–at least, that’s my opinion.

Politics involves compromise.  When I look back two decades ago to when I was a member of a local school board, I wish I had been more open to compromising with my fellow board members–I think I could have accomplished a lot more.

Politics requires compromise.  I would never advocate that a politician toss away his ideals and values in a major way to win votes, as Mr. Romney has repeatedly done.  But a politician in a close election needs to worry about the Independent vote and not become too carried away with pleasing his base.  That is just the hard reality of politics.

As we approach November, we progressives need to put all our efforts into defeating Romney and re-electing President Obama.  He is not perfect–no politician is–but I think he’s fantastic, and the country sorely needs four more years of him in the White House.

Ed McManus is a Wilmette, IL, attorney and a former Chicago Tribune editor/reporter.

Sixty-Six Years in Prison . . .

Shortly after being sentenced in 1946 to life in prison for three murders, he recanted his confessions, stating that he pleaded guilty only because his lawyer told him if he didn’t, he’d be tried, convicted and sent to the electric chair.

Ed McManus

A friend of mine died the other day.  You might know the name:  William Heirens.

If you were a child in Chicago in the 1940s, as I was, you knew about him; he was the bogeyman.   His arrest in June 1946 concluded a much-publicized five-month manhunt after six-year-old Suzanne Degnan was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night, killed and dismembered–her body parts were found in sewers.  Heirens, a 17-year-old University of Chicago student caught in the act of a burglary, confessed–after several weeks of intense questioning–to murdering her as well as two women, Frances Brown and Josephine Ross.  Scrawled on Brown’s wall with lipstick was the plea, “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more.  I cannot control myself.”

If you have lived in Chicago in the meantime, you probably have heard of Heirens.  Year after year, the news media reported that he had applied for parole or clemency.  Shortly after being sentenced in 1946 to three life terms, he had recanted his confessions, stating that he pleaded guilty only because his lawyer told him if he didn’t, he’d be tried, convicted and sent to the electric chair.  (It’s hard to believe, but the state’s attorney actually conceded in open court after the sentencing that there had been “small likelihood of a successful murder prosecution” without “the cooperative help of defense counsel.”)

Wrongly convicted?
William Heirens

I became acquainted with Bill Heirens’ case in 1987 after a law school professor told me about it.  Aside from the issue of innocence, the professor believed Heirens’ constitutional rights had been seriously abridged.  Among other things, he was forcibly injected with sodium pentothal, the so-called “truth serum,” and interviewed by a psychiatrist; that would never be admissible in court today.  The Illinois Supreme Court in 1954 said there were “flagrant violations” of his rights, deserving “the severest condemnation,” but the court nevertheless upheld the conviction.   And Judge Luther Swygert of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in a dissenting opinion in a 1968 Heirens appeal, said the case “presents the picture of a public prosecutor and defense counsel, if not indeed the trial judge, buckling under the pressure of a hysterical and sensation-seeking press bent upon obtaining retribution for a horrendous act.”

Dolores Kennedy, a Chicago legal secretary, got interested in Heirens’ case in the 1980s through her father, who was a lawyer and had met him in prison.  She wrote an excellent book in 1991, “William Heirens:  His Day in Court” (Bonus Books), focusing on the rights issues.  Subsequently, she assembled a team whose research uncovered a large amount of evidence suggesting that he simply was not the killer.  There is strong reason to believe that his fingerprint, found in the Brown apartment, was planted by the police; a police officer with special expertise who examined it said it clearly was a “rolled” print, the type that one would find on a police fingerprint index card.  Five handwriting experts said neither the lipstick message nor a ransom note left at the Degnan home were written by Heirens.  One of them said the ransom note appears to have been written by a man who confessed to the Degnan murder but was released because the police didn’t believe him.  In addition, the confessions had multiple inconsistencies.  But all of this fell on deaf ears.  The authorities were unwilling to mess with such a sensational case.

Dolores Kennedy, who now works for the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, introduced me to Heirens in 1990, and I wrote several articles about him over a period of years.   My wife Ellen and I visited him many times at the minimum-security prison in Vienna and later at Dixon.  He was a remarkable man who tried to make the best of his horrible situation.  He was a model prisoner; in 1972, he became the first Illinois prison inmate to earn a college degree.   He never gave up hope of release, and we talked with him often about what it would be like when he got out.

Ironically, he finally made it back to Chicago.  He collapsed in the prison Feb. 26 and was transported to the University of Illinois Medical Center, where he died March 5.  He was 83.  He had been in prison 66 years.

The last time we saw Bill, in 2008, his health was failing but his mind was alert, and of course he continued emphatically to maintain his innocence.  And we believed him.

—Ed McManus is an attorney and a former editor/reporter at the Chicago Tribune.