Monday, January 03, 2005

Updated on January 3, 2005, 12:30 am, revised on January 6 at 5:30 pm.
WTTW’s Chicago Week in Review: It is as if the right of center portion of the political spectrum doesn’t exist in Chicago Week in Review's world. The show's motto, like so much of Public TV and Public Radio, seems to be, “We cover the whole political spectrum, from the center to the far left.”

Chicago Week in Review is in deep need of a "Makeover, Please" not to be confused with the WTTW hit show, "Check, Please." Now, the reason that Newt Minow wanted Public TV was so we could have more restaurant review shows? Well, that is another story.
Joel Weisman [WTTW]: …If the good [Republican] people are coming up, where are they?

Dan Miller [Sun-Times Business Editor]: They are-- They are out there.

Weisman: Did any of them surface in the last senate election?

Dick Kay [NBC News]: Didn’t have to.

Weisman: Did any of, have any of them surfaced--

Miller: One of them did. And, that’s [State Senator] Steve Rauschenberger. Now, he can’t raise money, but he has got the—

Weisman: Yeah, he can’t raise money and he is basically unknown. But, other than that, what about him?

Miller: He is a first rate intellect, he knows government, and he is a leader. That’s one, another one, Dan Rutherford [Republican State Senator, Pontiac, pegged by most, but necessarily by Rutherford, as focusing on the Secretary of State nomination].

Kay: The biggest challenger in the Republican Party [to Blagojevich] is Schillerstrom from DuPage County [Bob Schillerstrom, DuPage County Board Chairman]. I mean I think he is going to run for Governor.

John McCarron [Chicago Tribune Contributor]: He is a quality person, so is Judy Baar To-

Kay: Judy Baar Topinka, But, she has problems in her own party.

McCarron: Trouble is you have got to be a millionaire to get into the game, here.

Weisman: So, in other words, there is no Republican Party. It is just people who call themselves Republicans who have to finance their own campaigns.
Weisman: Explain to me how it [the Republican Party] gets rebuilt. I mean everybody just assumes; I mean I don’t see any steps.

Kay: Because people like Schillerstrom and Dan Rutherford, as you mentioned and a lot of other people start stepping up to the plate. They have got to find a [state] chairman first of all. Gary Skoien doesn’t want it. He is a Chicago, a Cook County Democratic [sic] Chairman. They have got to find a Chairman of the Party first, first and foremost. But, come on, you have got two years.

Dan Miller: The party had to be destroyed to save it, frankly, and that’s why, that’s why certain elements were amenable to letting Keyes come in.
WTTW’s Chicago Week in Review, usually airing on Friday, at 7:00 pm on Ch. 11, but due to the holidays, this episode aired on Thursday, December 30, 2004.

Chicago Week in Review [“CWIR”], which has been on the air for over 25 years, is in a need of a major makeover. Like much of public TV and public radio, it has always leaned way left, starting with its host, Joel Weisman. The four guests usually consist of a mixture of lefties and centrists, and sometimes it is all lefties. It is as if the right of center portion of the political spectrum doesn’t exist in CWIR’s world. Their motto seems to be, “We cover the whole political spectrum, from the center to the far left.”

Sometimes, as was true with Thursday’s show, the show has a panelist, like Dan Miller, with conservative credentials, but never more than one such panelist, and often none. Even the sports panelists tend to lean left and they do participate in the non-sports discussions. Yes, some of the panelists are centrists, try to play it fair and have knowledge of left and right, but that is not the norm. Typically, counting the host, CWIR consists of panelists who simply don’t know much about Republican politics, and especially the conservative segment of that Party. And when they do know that stuff, they tone it down.

Look at Dick Kay’s comment, above, that Gary Skoien, currently Cook County GOP Chairman, does not want to be State GOP Chairman. What is that statement based on? Skoien has been telling me and others [including former Governor Jim Edgar] for about the last month that he wants to be State GOP Chairman. Skoien told me on Sunday that he filed his papers for the State GOP Chairman position last Thursday and that he doesn’t know why Kay would say that-- as Skoien has not spoken to Kay since before the November election, Skoien wants to be State GOP Chairman and Skoien thinks he can win. Skoien has spent a great deal of time telling me why he thinks he is a better fit for the State GOP Chairmanship than his two primary competitors: Andy McKenna, Jr. and downstater State Central Party Committeeman Steve McGlynn. McGlynn has done likewise. McKenna has yet to weigh in, but he is said to be the Front-runner because current Chairman Judy Baar Topinka and the Illinois Republican Party Finance Committee [aka the "downtown money interests"] support McKenna.

Skoien, on Sunday, emphasized to me that front-runner McKenna is as much an outsider as Alan Keyes. Skoien argues that, like Alan Keyes, McKenna has had no involvement in Republican politics, other than his run for the U.S. Senate [McKenna finished fourth out of four serious candidates in the primary; There were a total of seven Republican Primary candidates, but none of the bottom three candidates got more than 2% of the vote].

If Dan Miller was the journalist on the CWIR panel with either conservative credentials or knowledge of Republican politics, shouldn’t he have challenged Kay to support his views on Skoien? But, then again, panelists seldom challenge each other on CWIR, which, of course, makes the show boring, often inaccurate and not all that informative or entertaining.

Miller did suggest that State Senator Rauschenberger might be a good candidate for governor, but Miller didn’t bother to note that Rauschenberger might have an easier time raising money for a state race, as opposed to a federal election—a point that Rauschenberger argues vigorously. Nor did Dan Miller point out that most pundits with knowledge of Republican politics view the main issue within the Party as to whether Rauschenberger, former state senator O’Malley and former U. S. Senate primary candidate Oberweis will butt heads, or work something out-- so as not to split the conservative vote in the Republican Primary for Governor.

Nor did anyone on the panel challenge Kay on his assertion that Schillerstrom would run for governor, let alone be the “biggest challenger” to Blagojevich. Nor did anyone on the panel raise any of the problems that Schillerstrom is currently having in DuPage. Nor did anyone argue with McCarron’s assertion that Topinka and Schillerstrom are “Quality people,” with John apparently arguing that those two are quality people, as opposed to conservatives like Rauschenberger and those conservatives who are unmentionable on CWIR-- like Jim Oberweis and Pat O’Malley.

And, of course, there was Dan Miller’s assertion, “The party had to be destroyed to save it, frankly, and that’s why, that’s why certain elements were amenable to letting Keyes come in.” A very cute statement—based on, no doubt, the Vietnam War saying, “We had to destroy the village to save it.” But, what did Dan mean by that? Are there facts to support that? We’ll never know. Because, on CWIR, no one gets challenged. Kind of like at a tea party.

And, even when they invite a righty on the show- he can pretty much be ignored- because this is Joel Weisman, for Dan Miller, Jim Litke, John McCarron, and Dick Kay, reminding all what everyone at WTTW knows, left is always right [er, I mean correct].

As Weisman appeared to say, at least implicitly: What do you folks want? We had a token righty, Dan Miller, on the show. Isn’t that enough? You want us to take the guy seriously. We, at WTTW, don’t know anyone who takes anyone who is right of center, seriously. As John said, there are quality people, i.e., those who are center left and then there are- well, you know- please don’t make me say it.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at