Saturday, March 20, 2004

Coloring the News with Dick Kay on Chicago Week in Review

Joel Weisman: If you are Mr. [Jack] Ryan, what is your game plan?

Dick Kay: Well, my game plan is to try to sew up every conservative vote that I can
-- and to try to broaden that base and to become more moderate for the general election. You know, he is conservative enough to win the Republican nomination in the Primary, but Illinois has been going Democratic in recent years and even Republicans who do win or who have won were moderate and I think he has to come closer to the center.

Weisman: And, how does he do that?

Kay: Well, I mean, given his stands, I don’t know how he does it because he is talking about making the tax cuts permanent; he is talking about eliminating the capital gains tax, he is talking about school vouchers or school choice, he is pro-life, I don’t know how he comes to the center, I just don’t.
Chicago Week in Review, WTTW, March 19, 2004
Well, what was Dick Kay saying- that a true conservative cannot win statewide and that only moderate Republicans have won in recent years?

Let’s see, wasn’t Senator Peter Fitzgerald a true conservative? At least, he ran that way in ’98 against then incumbent Senator Carol Moseley Braun, a true liberal, and Peter Fitzgerald won.

George Ryan ran as a true conservative in ’98 for governor and won. George said he was pro-life, against increasing taxes and spending, for capital punishment, against casino expansion, for the Second Amendment, etc.

Yes, George was thought to be less pro-life and less pro-Second Amendment than Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Glenn Poshard, but nobody viewed him as the moderate-to-liberal he turned out to be until he “flipped” on virtually every public policy issue that came before him after he was elected governor in 1998.

Yes, Jim Ryan, who was sort of a conservative, ran for governor and did not win in 2002. But, nobody in his right mind would blame Jim’s loss on his being too conservative for the general electorate.

For starters, any Republican running for office in 2002 could not possibly put enough distance between George Ryan and himself, and that certainly was a problem for a guy like Jim with the same last name as George and who looked a little like George’s son.

Indeed, anytime Presidential Candidate Bush came to town, W’s staff sent George R packing- out of state, if not out of the country, in an effort to achieve that separation of George W. from George R.

Also, Jim Ryan was thought to be lukewarm on pro-life issues, although, when asked, he said he would make no apologies for being pro-life [which, by the way, infuriated the pro-lifers].

For conservatives, Jim Ryan was not good on vouchers, not good on spending or taxes, not good on gay rights, not so good on guns, and not a good campaigner. And, he had all sorts of problems that related to his days in law enforcement [both as State’s Attorney and Attorney General], which had little to do with whether he was a conservative.

Bruce Dold, Tribune Editorial Board honcho, was on the Chicago Week panel, and Bruce surely knows about those problems. But he was neither asked nor said anything about them.

Perhaps that was because it is the Tribune party line that a Republican has to be pro-abortion rights [or pro-choice, as the Tribune prefers to say], pro-gun control, and pro-gay rights to be a thoroughly modern Republican candidate with a chance to win statewide.

Nor would anyone seriously argue that DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett didn’t win because he was too conservative. Instead, his loss for attorney general had more to do with his demeanor, his baggage, and the fact that his father wasn’t Speaker Mike.

And, Treasurer Topinka won in 2002 because she was a moderate? Please. She won because she apparently cut some deals with Democrats, has great name recognition, had not had major scandals in her office come out, at least not by the time of the election, and nobody cares a great deal about whether the treasurer is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control, etc.

Further, Treasurer Topinka told us just a few days after this election, “…We are a more conservative party. I mean I am not that moderate. I mean I am not liberal by a long shot. I am moderate on social issues; but you try me on money and I am off the map…” [WBBM 780 AM Radio’s At Issue, March 21, 2004]

We could waste time and talk about Al Salvi’s and Kris Cohn’s Secretary of State runs, Chris Lauzen’s and Tom Ramsdell’s Comptroller runs, but their losses had little to do with political philosophy, and I imagine Dick Kay would agree with that proposition.

Finally, Senator Fitzgerald chose not to seek re-election for the reasons he gave, as well as perhaps his lack of interest in spending another $15 to 20 million of his somewhat depreciated personal asset portfolio.

Further, it would be hard to blame Senator Fitzgerald’s low polling last year on his conservatism, as his voting record in the Senate was more that of a centrist than a conservative.

Based on the above, there is virtually no support for Dick Kay’s statement that conservatives can’t win statewide [or haven’t won statewide recently] in Illinois.

As to Kay’s statement that he has no idea how Jack Ryan can come closer to the center, I am sure Dick doesn’t.

But, if Dick Kay had listened to Jack Ryan a little more carefully during his campaign, Dick might have realized that Jack is not as far from the center as Dick thinks.

Jack Ryan spoke frequently about competing across all ethnic groups, all socio-economic groups, and for Democrats and Independents during the Primary election.

Jack Ryan spoke about going after the traditional Democrat base [often low income and often minority] who have kids in failing public schools, and Jack suggested those parents should have more choice than they have now - as a means to escape those failing public schools. Sounds pretty centrist to me, Dick.

Indeed, Judy Baar Topinka, whom Dick Kay would no doubt label as a “moderate,” has said, “Oh, I think folks are liking that [school vouchers and school choice] fairly much… and Obama, you know, has been… against school choice, and you know… I think that kind of is a problem for him.” [WBBM 780 AM Radio’s “At Issue,” March 21, 2004]

Jack Ryan spoke about how taxing capital gains hurts the poorest of the poor because that tax chokes the growth of jobs, and, in particular, entry-level jobs. Sounds pretty centrist to me, Dick.

Jack Ryan spoke about how not making the tax cuts permanent is equivalent to a tax increase - something that liberals [as good Keynesians] used to be against during either a recession or during the “coming out of a recession,” time period. So, Ryan argues that raising taxes now would retard job growth, not accelerate it. Sounds pretty centrist to me, Dick.

In summary, Jack Ryan is well positioned to move even further toward the center, to the extent that a good chunk of him is not already there. Now, if we can just persuade the Chicago mainstream media to move toward the center from its current left of center location, we will call that progress.

Jeff Berkowitz is Host and Producer of “Public Affairs,” and President of JB Consulting Group, Inc. [A legal search firm].

You may reach Jeff Berkowitz by email: