Friday, March 12, 2004

Buzzzzz (revised on Sat., March 13, 1:30 pm):

Slouching toward Gomorrah with the Local News, and with an assist from Senate Candidates Hynes and Borling. Boy, does politics make strange bedfellows. The March of Dimes:

Diane Burns: And, Mike [Flannery], what is so interesting is that in the end, it looks like voters might know more about people’s personal lives than they do about their campaign platform, here.

Mike Flannery: Well, that’s for sure. Both on the Democratic side and on the Republican side, but that’s a by-product, I think, Diane, of so many of these rookie candidates, like [Jack] Ryan (R) and Blair Hull (D), multi-millionaires who have never run for office before and wanted to start out right at the top, running for the U. S. Senate.

Diane Burns: Thanks, Mike Flannery, reporting from the Control Room.

CBS- 2 News, 10:00 pm, March 11, 2004

Well, not so fast, Mike. Yes, lack of vetting in lower offices is a part of the truth, but not the whole truth, as to why so much of the media coverage of the Senate races is focusing on sex, drugs and social work. As we all know, CBS News’ ratings have been almost as low, for as long as I can remember, as those of Two Star (and Never has run for office) General John Borling—the Senate Candidate’s campaign whence came the allegations that Flannery focused on in his three minute sort of political ditty last night. For Mike, although his spot was placed almost half-way into the newscast--packed behind the lead murder, rape, fire, crazy mom, terrorism stuff-- three minutes for a political correspondent is a very good night. Too bad it wasn’t real politics.

Indeed, the Ch. 2 news ratings continue to be mired at the bottom, notwithstanding some management genius’ decision to couple, so to speak, Mora and Burns, for millions of bucks, and so far, with no result. Here is a novel idea, maybe someone who talked real politics and real public policy in an interesting manner might attract a bigger audience. And don't tell me they have tried that, because they haven't.

Anyway, of late, it seems Mike gets to appear when he can gin up some political news. Well, not quite just any old political news—but some sex, drugs, and videotape. Yes, on some nights, he does vary it—perhaps, sex, lies and videotape.

Last night, Mike told us that Rod McCullough resigned as Borling’s campaign manager yesterday after Borling said he should do so, or he would be fired. Borling’s edict came after McCullough had gone public with unproven claims about a section of Jack Ryan’s divorce/child custody legal matter, which was venued in California. Flannery did not tell us what the claims were, when they had been made, the context in which they had been made, or what, if anything, Ryan’s ex-wife, Jeri Lynn Ryan was saying about them. [You can find McCullough’s allegations about allegations on] Also, see www. entry of yesterday.

Flannery did tell us about Republican Senate Candidate Oberweis’ [known affectionately by the immigrant community as Mr. Stop illegal immigration] direct mail piece that referred to Ryan’s financing several years ago of a “weird soft core porn movie,” with a cast that included his then wife Jeri Lynn Ryan [Did you know that 10,000 soft core porn movies are coming into Illinois every day? But, not to worry, the same illegal immigrants who Oberweis now tells us are leaving the same day they enter are taking their soft pore porn movies with them. Perhaps McKenna/Oberweis’ new merged campaign slogan is don’t import immigrants, export soft porn movies].

The Tribune yesterday referred to the financing as a Ryan tax shelter. When I asked Jason Miller, Jack Ryan’s campaign manager, about the film yesterday, Miller indicated that actors typically set up such entities to pay for their personal health care, etc., that it was not a “tax shelter,” and that Jack Ryan was unaware of the content of the movie until after it was too late to reverse what had been done. Miller also indicated that Jeri Ryan did not participate in any of the nudity, graphic violence, etc., that Oberweis apparently complained about.

Flannery did not tell the viewers that this family values Oberweis was the same family values Oberweis who two years, or so, ago, had analogized Pro-Lifers to the Taliban. When I read the Taliban and related statements to Oberweis on “Public Affairs,” during his appearance on my show in this campaign season, Oberweis denied changing his position, but said he is now “more articulate.”

Nor did Flannery tell viewers that the Illinois Right to Life Federation had endorsed Senate Candidates Rauschenberger, Ryan and Andy McKenna, Jr. but not Oberweis. Nor did Flannery tell viewers that the Illinois Right to Life Federation has been lobbied by some [who reliable sources say have ties or affection for the McKenna campaign] to remove its endorsement of Ryan because he is on the Board of and owns stock in a Company that processes, as a very small part of its business, Medicaid claims for abortions, in several states that permit such claims [Which concern some have likened to that age-hold concern and question--How many angels can dance on the head of a pin].

Nor did Flannery tell the viewers that reliable sources have Rod McCullough calling, a few days ago, Paul Caprio, Executive Director of Family-Pac and arch rival of Dan Proft (adviser to the Jack Ryan campaign). Caprio, according to reliable sources, advised McCullough on issues relating to how and whether he could make the disclosure of information relating to the sealed records [Caprio denies giving such advice]. Caprio is officially neutral in the senate race, but reliable sources say he is informally supporting Andy McKenna, Jr., in part because of his annoyance (some would say jealousy) that Jack Ryan has made Dan Proft a senior [at 31] policy adiviser. [As a slight digression, see my show last year with Caprio and Proft-- although both call themselves conservatives, hard to imagine any two people displaying more contempt for each other than Proft and Caprio. I never felt so unnecessary as a TV host, as I was on that show. Kind of like a cock fight- you don't really need a referee]. Rounding it out, Jack Ryan has been a financial contributor to Caprio's Family-Pac over the years. As, perhaps, has been Andy McKenna, Jr. Both Andy and Jack were invited to and attended the famous, annual Family-Pac Cruise last summer.

Back to Flannery, two nights ago-- Mike was aiming at drugs and substance abuse, and that age hold question of serious public policy wonks, what illegal drugs have you used and when did you use them.

Why is "this night" different from all other nights, as some observers would ask, with passion, if not the Passion of the Christ, on Passover. Well, the Democratic Senate candidates were invited to a so-called Ch. 7, League of Women Voters Debate. Knowing as we all did that the format was designed to cure anyone suffering from insomnia, Mike had been working for a month on what? A story on the consistency, or lack thereof, of how each candidate assessed the Bush administration’s actions taken and policies in Iraq, Haiti and the Middle East? The consistency, or lack thereof, between each candidate’s criticisms of the Bush Administration’s jobs policy and the candidate’s recommendations to improve the environment for job creation in Illinois and the remainder of the Country? Well, not quite.

Mike had been working, for a month, on the lead he got from “someone not affiliated with a senate candidate’s campaign,” that Hull had a substance abuse problem in the past. Another Dime dropped [in the long March of Dimes during this political season] by the Hynes Campaign? Now that Flannery was into drugs, so to speak, one thing led to another and Flannery discovered that the current leading Democratic Senate, Barack Obama, stated in a ’96 autobiography that he had used Mary Jane [as we cool guys used to say] and cocaine [Dave van Ronk, cocaine run around my brain--- Go ahead, Mike, arrest me for knowing that. Anyway, I, like Mr. Bill, never inhaled, Mary Jane, that is.]

Channel 2’s ace political editor readied himself for the big night by inviting Barack into the CBS studio for a quick latte [the modern day Mary Jane] and buttoning down the information that Barack had indeed used Mary Jane and Cocaine in his teens in college.

Then came press conference time after the debate. From my right, ABC- ch. 7’s Andy Shaw, is taking his cue from Dan Hynes--"What can I say, like the 19th ward rules, I mean, like totally." Dan, as the media love to say, came out swinging in the debate, accusing Obama of being part of the irresponsible George Ryan tax and spend regime. Dan said Barack did not use his enormous power to stop George Ryan. Dan said that Barack, unlike Dan, was not a fighter. That Barack, unlike Dan, did not stand up to King George. Dan, of course, is known around town as Mr. Independent, the dragon slayer, who just happens to have the same last name as Tom Hynes, but of course, Dan, would never be a part of the Daley- Ryan [George, that is, not Jack] Combine. Yeah, right. For sure, just ask Kass. It is truly amazing that Hynes would put forth this argument. Hard to know if it suggests arrogance, stupidity or desperation on the part of the Hynes Campaign, but none of those explanations are good for Dan.

Just in case the dim witted media did not get it, fighter Dan’s staffer [a nice young lady-- perhaps working her way through college, or a Dan relative, or both] , dropped by to help the media , distributing, as Andy Shaw put it, a 3 page “dossier,” on “how Obama helped spend Illinois into crisis.”

Boy, I am sure glad those Hynes people helped me with that one. I thought that the big spending was due, in large part, to King George and his valiant Knights—Pistol Packing [Illinois Senate President] Pate and Speaker [of the Illinois House] Mike, aka the Two Tops. Of course, Mike Madigan, also chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party is generally viewed as the most powerful person in the State of Illinois. Nobody ever talks about him running for Governor or President because everybody knows that would be a step down in Power.

Well, not quite everybody. You see, Dan Hynes never mentioned Speaker Mike as perhaps having some control over spending, taxes, and yes, Pork. How impolite that would be. You see, boys and girls, Family Values in the Democratic Party means families run Illinois. Currently, the Mell Blagojevich family has its turn. Speaker Mike thinks the next turn should be the Madigans, as in AG Lisa Madigan. So, understanding that competition is wasteful and duplicative, Speaker Mike would like to clear a path for his loving daughter, as would any loving father. So, says Speaker Mike, to his good friend Tom Hynes, how about I help you with a little muscle to send your boy, Dan, to DC, and then we can anoint Lisa as Governess when Hot Rod is ready to roll out of Illinois.

Indeed, reliable sources tell me that Tom has been very good to Mike over the years, so, as they say in politics, one good turn deserves another. So, Speaker Mike has contributed much of his machine to Dan-- albeit, Mr. Mike may be holding back a bit-- more on that later.

The Daleys? They prefer Chicago, which pretty much is Illinois, right? Right. Done. Okay, so you can see how Dan might forget Speaker Mike and put all the spending and taxes on Barack. For example, Dan’s White Paper went negative on Obama for supporting tax increases on wine, liquor and beer. But, wait a second, I thought liberals and many conservatives want to tax liquor so that people would consume less of it and live long enough to make social security a problem. Perhaps, but not liberal Dan, or at least not on March 10, 2004.

So, Andy Shaw dutifully hammered Barack on why he didn’t do a better job of smashing King George. I was hoping Barack would break out in laughter when he heard Andy’s question and say, Andy, that’s a good one—sort of April Fool’s day in March, now please give me your real question.

But, alas, I didn’t have the "Right stuff" to say that, so why should Barack.
Anyway, since this was Ch. 7, Andy was sort of the MC, and he would tell me when I was going on too long with apparently irrelevant questions like, Barack, Yes or No, do you support the fence in Israel as an appropriate means to defend against homicide attacks and other terrorists. You see, it was clear that Andy seemed to think that the main purpose of the press conference was for him [and others on a 10:00 pm deadline] to gather info and film footage for their 10:00 voiceovers. So, Andy would tell us not to ask any questions after we collectively had used 7 minutes, even though we were supposed to have 10 minutes for each candidate. And, Andy only cared about Barack, Dan and Blair. But, oddly, that night, Andy didn’t use any questions from the press conference for his little segment. Instead he selected boring summaries from the boring debate. So, all his limitations were for naught. Just think, we could have had a real press conference on real U. S Senate public policy issues.

BTW, Barack declined to answer the Israeli fence question, Yes or No—instead, he gave us a vague non-answer. When I pursued a Yes or No, he ignored the request and went to another question. When I asked him for a yes or no after he had stepped away from the podium, Obama declined, saying he had to go. In light of the Flannery-- Drug questions and Shaw– Hynes fed questions, I might get annoyed, too, if I were Barack. But, still, very out of character for Barack Obama not to answer a question directly and clearly. Perhaps he is getting ready to be a U. S. Senator. Further, to be fair and in sharp contrast to Barack on this issue, Dan Hynes did answer the Israeli fence question, with a forceful, unequivocal Yes, stating that he did support Israel putting up its fence to protect itself from homicide bombers and other terrorists.

Back to the post-debate press conference, on my left, it was Mike Flannery on drugs, and Mike got it done. Rumors have it that people close to, if not in, the Hynes campaign have been talking up Barack Obama’s more recent use of illegal drugs. Another Dime dropped from the Hynes campaign in the long March of Dimes? Bam, Obama says nope, and Mike is pretty much done with Obama. And so, the press conference went. Shaw on the stupid Hynes stuff. Mike asking each candidate if they had ever used illegal drugs, etc. and Carlos Hernandez-Gomez of WBEZ, Jim Andersen of IRN and me on public policy issues. To be fair, Shaw did castigate Hynes for pushing us to ask that stuff—but then why did Shaw play into the trap? To humiliate or belittle Dan Hynes? Yes, I agree, that is always fun, but presumably the media are better than that, or at least should be.

With Blair Hull, the questioning would become something special for Flannery. Now, Mike could try to find out how recently Blair had used drugs. Apparently, Blair had been dodging Flannery for some time in the period leading up to the debate. Blair, taking a page from W, tried the young and foolish response [When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish--W had used the word irresponsible, instead of foolish]. Mike asked again, Blair answered again. Finally, I realized I had to join Mike to get this over so I could ask a policy question. So, I shamed Blair, saying, "Blair, can’t you answer a simple question, how long has it been since you used illegal drugs" Bam, shaming always works. Blair said it had been a “substantial” period of time since he used illegal drugs. I was temped to ask what was substantial, just for the Hell of it. But, I really didn’t give a rat’s ass—so I went on to policy. Mike apparently was satisfied with substantial, at least until he could corner Blair by walking out with Blair after the Forum. What an eye for a good camera shot Mike has! Must have been a theater major along the way. Here is tall Mike walking out with Blair, getting to the heart of this important U. S. Senate policy issue. [And, even Shaw would justify it as a "character issue." That twist was put on similar questions to Obama by Shaw in a somewhat different context-- Obama's response however was to give that now familiar knowing smile, answer and take Shaw elsewhere with the confidence that has characterized Barack since I met him years ago and very well epitomizes the demeanor, substance and style that is likely to help make Barack Obama the nominee of the Democratic Party to be the next junior U. S. Senator from the State of Illinois.

Talking about Barack, Eric Krol asked Obama, when Obama came to the mike, what he thought about an indictment that was likely the next day. Krol said the indictment would involve some key Obama contributors or supporters, or something like that. Obama said, “I don’t know what you are talking about,” and went to the next question.” Yesterday, the U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois indicted Bob Creamer, spouse of Cong. Jan Schakowsky (D- 9th CD), who is a big time supporter of Barack Obama and helped him enormously in his Hat Trick win of the New Trier, Evanston and Northfield Democratic Organization endorsements (See, below entries from February). Creamer was investigated about 7 years ago and they apparently had nothing, or at least not enough to proceed. Another Dime dropped by the Hynes campaign on the USA to sully up Obama? I mean, after all, if the USA has the evidence, it has to prosecute, no matter where it got it. Another Dime dropped by the Hynes campaign on Krol to try to ignite the issue? Now, I really know why they call this month the March of Dimes Month.

At the conclusion of the press conference, I was muttering to someone that I thought it was sort of illegal that Hynes' staff’ had distributed what appeared to be campaign material to the press without indicating that it came for or was paid for by Hynes. I guess the ABC walls have ears because a few minutes later, Chris Mather, Hynes communications director, materialized before me and said why was I saying the Hynes campaign had done something illegal. When I explained, Chris invoked what John Bulushi used to recommend as a great defense for failure to file your income tax: two words, just say two words, “I forgot.”

Anyway, it was so odd that Chris came up to talk to me. She had returned about 1 call of 50 calls and 1 email of my 50 emails over the last nine months in my futile effortsto get her boy on my show. And, Dan never has time to do an on site interview when I ask. Last time I tried, almost two weeks ago outside the AIPAC [America Israel Political Action Committee] conference, Hynes said he had no time to answer questions and then went over to chat with Cong. Henry Hyde. Dan must have been telling Cong. Hyde, as Hynes is wont to say, "Make no mistake about it, Roe v. Wade, is on the ballot on March 16." Ha, I would certainly have liked to hear Cong. Hyde's response to Hynes on that one.

And, at today’s Press Conference held by Dan Hynes after the taping of this Sunday’s “City Desk,” I got to ask Dan one question and then Dan interrupted my next question by asking one of his own - "No more questions?" asked Dan, as if he didn't really have to answer questions by people like me who are not pre-programmed by the 19th Ward-- and then the tough fighter, Dan Hynes, turned to the protective wings of Chris Mather. A very cautious campaign by Chris, Dan and the 19th Ward. Except for (1) that fantasy stuff about State Sen. Barack.Obama being too weak to fight George Ryan on his profligate spending and Dan being Mr. fiscal conservative-- who stood up in that well known [legislative and important public policy] position of Comptroller to the big spenders and taxers by being a fighter of big government spenders everywhere and (2) the March of Dimes, this has been a pretty, typically cautious, 19th Ward campaign. Almost makes you think one of two things: (1) the 19th Ward knows something we don't know, like every poll is wrong-- and the Obama lead is insufficient to withstand the Machine push on March 16 or (2) the 19th Ward is a dinosaur that can't adapt to some new political conditions or to the weaknesses of its candidate.

Back to the Flannery- Hull duet, or is it duel? When Blair Hull stepped off the podium at the March 10, post debate Press conference, Mike Flannery walked out with him [in that well ochrestrated, theatrical TV shot and got Blair to admit that he had sought help for a substance abuse problem in the past, over the pathos and apparent protests of Hull's daughter, Courtney. Any person who has a daughter and reads that has to feel for Blair. See You have to give it to Mike, he has _ _ _ _ when it comes to his War on Drugs. Okay, I can't resist. Another Hulluva story, or said the conventional press. Stunning admission, said the print media. Not really, more of a sad comment on the lack of integrity in the media that printed that.

Mike’s reward for the drugs, lies and videotape interrogation and his Hulluva story was to get to sit with the adults, Diane and Antonio, at the big table and to give his drug stuff as the lead story on Wednesday night’s, 10:00 pm news. And, he got the first four minutes of the news.

A good night for public policy? Hardly.

A criticism of Mike Flannery and Andy Shaw. Hardly.

Sorry if it sounded that way. They are both hard working and intelligent-- and know more politics than I could ever hope to get my arms around. And, Flannery has appeared on my show, so he has to be a man of good taste and good judgment. Very seriously, both Shaw and Flannery are that.

But, as to the geniuses who manage the local news and push Mike, Andy and other talented people to do the above-- Well, for those folks, this is intended as a harsh criticism. And, don’t try to tell me this is what the audience wants, so they must give the "2 News watchers-- all two of them," that crap. They are all losing market share to cable, not to mention Ch. 2, which continues to lose to everybody. So, maybe it is time to try a new approach. Kind of like school vouchers. Oops, I meant to say school choice. Yes, folks, it always comes down to vouchers and school choice--more than anyone knows. And, of course, all those "news watchers," are always Free to Choose-- another station, that is-- one that actually offers some substantive political news-- once the viewers are actually given such a choice. Ah, but, senior management at 2 - News asks, who will pay for Burns and Mora, then? Who, indeed.

You can contact Jeff Berkwoitz at 312-214-6122 or at