Michael Horne
The Roundup

The Last of Kerry as a Free Man?

By - Feb 23rd, 2004 12:00 pm

Last Monday February 16th – Presidents Day – John Kerry, in Milwaukee, made what might have been one of his final appearances as a “free” man. By Friday, home in Boston, Kerry had asked for and received Secret Service protection. The protection, which will last through the election should he become the nominee, and for his lifetime should he become president, will contrast greatly with the free-and-easy access enjoyed by the crowd of perhaps 400 who gathered to see the Massachusetts senator at the Italian Community Center.

The event was billed as a rally and was held the day before the Wisconsin primary. As mentioned here last week, the Kerry campaign printed up thousands of leaflets for the event, hastily writing in “and Ted Kennedy,” by hand when it appeared the other Massachusetts senator would be joining him there.

The closest Kennedy came to the ICC, though, was in this lame joke by candidate Kerry: “Massachusetts is a Wampanoag Indian term meaning ‘Land of Many Kennedys,’” Kerry said at the beginning of his remarks.

He spoke from a raised platform in the center of the ICC east ballroom. Arrayed on three walls of the room were risers filled with local politicians, and a lot of union workers. The crowd had been placed there about an hour before Kerry’s 7:30 speech, and was kept entertained by a band playing rousing, funky music. Among those on the risers: Senator Jeff Plale, Patti Keating Kahn (Mrs. Hon. Chuck Kahn), Marlene Johnson-Odom, Vel Phillips and Supervisor Willie Johnson. Ald. Ryan Schroeder was also there representing his constituents, back in whatever city he’s from. Tom Barrett worked the room, wearing a neat tie with pink triangles. “You either get it, or you don’t,” he said about his gay cravat. Vince Bobot, then still an opponent, went up and shaked Barrett’s hand, the way politicians do with their rivals. Matt Flynn worked the room, as did County Executive candidate David Riemer. Other notables included Angelo Cataldo, who is still operating his pizza bus, along with Jim and Joanne Klisch, having a look around.

No Nuts, Crackpots – Or Secret Service

Access to the room was simple: you just showed up and waited for the doors to open, and then waited some more for the candidate. No metal detectors, no guys with sunglasses, no hassle. This will change considerably with the candidate’s secret service protection. The good news: there were no nuts or crackpots in the audience, just democrats.

Not everybody in the room was a Kerry supporter.

Michael Retzer, the controller of W. G. Strohwig Tool & Die, Inc. came down from Industrial Road, in Richfield, to hand out cards from “Save American Manufacturing,” a “national organization concerned about the loss of all areas of manufacturing and services to non-domestic sources that is causing a rapid decline in the economic condition of the United States.” Business owners are having second thoughts about NAFTA, it seems.

He handed out a list of John Kerry’s top contributors, including Citigroup, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, the International Profit Association, FleetBoston Financial, Morgan Stanlety, UBS Americas and the scary News Corp. The list was entitled “Kerry’s special interest money – the money he claimed he never got.”

He wanted to ask Kerry a couple of questions, but this was not an interview.

It was a monologue, delivered for the thousandth time, with nothing new.

“We are here in Milwaukee tonight to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency,” he said. This was an ad-lib, since the prepared remarks doubtless read “We are here in ________ tonight to mark the beginning of the end…” He should have said “How honored I am to spend President’s Day in Milwaukee.” If there was a national holiday named after the job you wanted, you’d honor it.

Kerry missed the chance and ignored the opportunity

Kerry complained about the Bush “creed of greed,” politicians who “talk about family values” but not the value of families, and the Bush tax code, which Kerry, as president, would “hold to the light of scrutiny.” The crowd could just envision him, Moses-like, lifting the 20,000 page document up to the sky.

Not surprisingly, he called this the “most important election of our generation,” (you’d say the same if you were running for president.) Somewhat surprisingly Kerry said he would forbid “people in government from going into lobbying for five years” after their service, which would sure mess up the career plans of Tommy Thompson. President Kerry would require that all meetings between politicians and lobbyists be a matter of public record.

Kerry called the Bush foreign policy, “arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological.”

He continued in this vein for some time, with only one apparently unscripted moment. Midway through the speech, Kerry noted a heavyset woman “signing” for a number of deaf people in the room. He acted surprised. “Thank you for signing,” he said, “What’s your name?” The woman responded, and Kerry went on with his peroration. Curious, though, the woman appeared to be a member of the Kerry campaign, and had used her bulk to good effect earlier in the evening guarding the backstage access prior to Kerry’s arrival. From now on, at whatever campaign stop she might find herself she can concentrate on signing. The Secret Service agents can guard the ropes instead.

Political Tidbits: Birthday Party Wednesday and other events

As I have been telling you for a couple of weeks now, my birthday is Ash Wednesday, or one day too late to be partying, according to a medieval interpretation of the Christian calendar. We are supposed to do all of our crazy stuff the day before – Mardi Gras – but we will ignore that rule, I hope, as you join me at the Y-Not Y-Not Y-Not, (a.k.a. “The Three”) The address is 1854 E. Kenilworth, and the phone number is 1 414 224-9668. IT is west of Farwell, in the site of the old Frenchy’s, right next door to Beans and Barley. We will serve Riverwest Stein Beer.

Please don’t think my party is the only thing to do on that solemn evening. You could show up at the home of Bonnie and Leon Joseph to join that couple and Danni & Shel Gendelman, Sally Peltz and Susan Stein from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. while they host a Beach Drive shindig for David Riemer, or you could hang out at New World Wine Company, 632 E. Ogden Avenue from 5-7 p.m. for a fundraising wine tasting for Fred N. Tabak, a candidate for City Attorney who lives nearby in a Cass Street duplex – that’s right – an attorney in a duplex! (They’ll be living under bridges before you know it.) Or, you could show up at the East Side Library early in the evening for a Town Hall meeting with Rep. Jon Richards. This would be a very nice thing to do, since it won’t cost you anything, and it is just a block away from my party.

Or, you could forget the Town Hall meeting and just come to my party and meet Jon Richards there, accompanied by Andrea Rowe, if we are lucky. According to Ms. Rowe, “Jon and I got engaged at 12:01 a.m. February 14th. Jon waited until midnight to propose, because he didn’t think it was good luck to get engaged on Friday the 13th. He proposed to me near Pieces of Eight, overlooking the view of the Milwaukee Art Museum, city skyline and Lake Michigan. … The next night at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Founders Day Gala, in front of 1,000 people, the national press corps and live on CSPAN, Dem. Party chair Linda Honold had us stand up and announced our news.”

Engaged live on CSPAN! Now that’s romantic!

If this isn’t enough fun for the week, you can also enjoy cocktails at the War Memorial Center with County Executive Scott Walker, from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb 26th or hold off on partying until Sunday, Feb. 29th when Senator Russ Feingold will celebrate his 51st birthday at Club Aqua in the Park East Hotel, 916 E. State Street, from 3 – 5 p.m. … During the Kerry speech in Milwaukee, David Broder of the estimable Washington Post spent his time reading Tom Barrett’s most recent campaign brochure. Now if that isn’t the sign of a bored man, then what is? By the way, Broder is left-handed and does not wear a wedding ring – at least not while he’s on the road! (I asked if he were married. He answered, “yes, for many years.” End of discussion.)

Sensenbrenner Wants Your Money

The guy’s a millionaire and he won the lottery to boot, but Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., has sent a letter to constituents asking for money. “I must raise more funds than I ever have in past campaigns,” Sensenbrenner wrote (emphasis, as always, his). “Plain and simply, the amount of financial support I have on hand will directly determine how much money National Democrats will pour into the Fifth Congressional District in an effort to defeat me. … If the Democrats succeed in turning out a record number of their own on Election Day, many Republican incumbents could be at a risk for defeat … including me.”

Among the candidates opposing Sensenbrenner is Glendale resident Bryan Kennedy, a professor of Portugese at UW-M. According to his biography, when he was a teenager both he and his mother converted from Catholicism to Mormonism. His full-time campaign manager Bill Elliott has opened the campaign’s office downtown, at 823 N. 2nd St., just upstairs from David Riemer’s.

A Boring Week on the Fundraiser Trail

Tom Barrett gave the same old speech Thursday, this time to a bunch of suits gathered in the cramped library of the Cudahy Tower as guests of Dennis Conta. Michael Cudahy poked his head in the room and said, “this is a lousy place to hold an event,” and walked right out. (The things you can do when you own the joint.) … Cudahy and Chris Abele met Tuesday morning at Bella’s coffee shop to hammer out final details of the planned Pier Wisconsin project. The plans were unveiled Saturday at City Hall, with Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt in attendance.

Cudahy, back on Tuesday, had something interesting to say about Pratt. “I got a phone call from Gary Grunau,” he told me, “and Gary asked me if I was sponsoring a fundraiser for Marvin Pratt at the University Club. I said I was not. Gary said, ‘well neither am I, but both our names are on the invitation.’”

Follow-Up on the News

The “Milwaukee Commerce Hotline,” a monthly publication for members of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, complained in its February issue about a number of the taxes we must pay, “none of which existed in 1904.” The list included liquor, property and telephone taxes, all of which most certainly did exist in 1904. Don Dooley, editor of the publication, returned my call for comment and said, “I seem to recall something known as the Whiskey rebellion. I guess I messed up on that one.” … Last week I was troubled by the lack of cash registers at the temporary bars set up at the Midwest Airline Center. Bruce McKenzie, general manager for Levy Restaurants, the concessionaire for the convention center, says my fears were unfounded. “We have full front-and-back-of-house control of liquor. We monitor the alcohol, and the bartenders turn in the money we expect based on the product consumed.” … A parking garage planned for the lot at St. Hedwig’s Church is a dead deal, according to Annette French, owner of the lovely Brady Street shop “Dragonfly.” French is relieved, since the plan would have called for the demolition of her home adjacent to the property. The best move would be to demolish the Suminski Funeral Home garage on Franklin St. and build something larger on that good-sized property, with access from Arlington and Franklin streets.

Internet Drugs Bad Medicine for Pharmacists

The State of Minnesota recently took some steps to create an internet web site so residents can take advantage of cheap Canadian prescriptions. When the Federal government did not intervene, the State of Wisconsin last week decided to join suit and create its own website.

The internet sites are supposed to offer residents – many of them elderly voters – a means to curb their health care costs. Investigators from the two states have made field trips to the Great White North to create an “approved list” of Canadian mail-order pharmacies. Although the populist appeal of the websites should be undeniable, one group will feel a negative impact from the plan.

That group is the pharmacists of Wisconsin, an already-endangered species operating on thin margins in a highly-regulated environment. Pharmacists complain that the regulatory environment in which they operate will apply to them, and not to the Canadians. Oh, and they also say the plan is illegal on several counts.

James Searles, the long-time operator of the Brady Street Pharmacy, 1696 N. Astor St., says he’s talked to others in his profession. The internet plan, he says, troubles both independent pharmacists and those who work for chains.

“In Canada, you will find that many of the prescriptions will be filled by technicians, and not pharmacists. That’s already happening some here, but not nearly to that scale.” A lack of pharmacist involvement in prescription filling is just one problem, he says. “According to Wisconsin law, the pharmacist must consult with each customer. We can’t simply hand over a prescription. Pharmacists are also professionally obliged to check customers’ prescriptions for possible drug interactions. This information is not always available to doctors, one of whom might not know what the other is prescribing for a given patient.

How will the internet pharmacies possibly be able to give that information to customers?” he asks.

Searles says pharmacists are also concerned that the law gives Canadian pharmacies business opportunities not available to Wisconsin firms. “I can’t set up an internet pharmacy to sell you Canadian drugs from my store. A guy tried that here, and he didn’t last.”

Searles notes that according to federal law, shipment of pharmaceuticals across the international border is illegal. The internet plan would not change that, making the plan of Governor James E. Doyle, the former attorney general, legally disingenuous, at best.

“Doyle knows it is illegal but goes ahead because the feds aren’t prosecuting.”

Searles says the plan could shatter the thin margins that he and his fellow pharmacists operate on, leading to a considerable reduction of pharmacies in the state. “We’re not talking just about the independent pharmacists,” he says. “How would you like it if your neighborhood Jewel Osco or Walgreens shut down? They provide much more than prescriptions.”

Searles adds that, in his opinion, the health care agenda is dictated by the large drug companies, the same firms that pharmacists must rely on for their businesses to succeed, and among the largest contributors to political campaigns. “We have a good drug distribution system here in the United States. Why jeopardize it to get drugs from Canada. One choice is to have the drug companies charge Americans what they charge Canadians. Have an internet solution that includes pharmaceutical professionals. The internet ‘solution’ proposed of having foreign companies mail American-made drugs back to Americans they’ve never met is too complicated, and can needlessly endanger the health of Americans and our profession, along with a big chunk of the economy.”

George W. Bush, Art Critic

What can you get for a thousand bucks nowadays? Well, for one thing, a grand will allow you to be part of the George W. Bush “grassroots team in Wisconsin,” according to a fundraising letter the president sent out earlier this year. (Grassroots memberships are available for as little as $25. Who does this guy think he is? Russ Feingold?) According to the letter, Bush is practically a helpless prisoner of the White House, unable to advance his candidacy.

“I need the help of friends now,” he writes, sounding as desperate as Courtney Love.

“My responsibilities as President will require me to focus primarily on our nation’s business for the coming months. I’ll be depending on friends and supporters like you to get my campaign organized and operating in Milwaukee County.”

So, while we’re out there winning the county vote for the president and he is in his Oval Office exile, it is nice to know he can find comfort in – Art.

“One of the paintings I selected for the Oval Office,” he writes, apropos of nothing, “shows a man on horseback, leading a charge up a steep hill. His face is full of purpose and determination, and it is clear he expects to get the job done. The painting is called ‘A Charge to Keep,’ based on a Methodist hymn that’s a favorite of mine.

“I love the painting because it speaks to serving a cause that is greater than yourself. The picture reminds me every day that my most important job is to unite our country and provide leadership to overcome America’s toughest challenges.”

With a description like that, you’d think this cowboy painting is imbued with the mysticism of a Renaissance altarpiece, on a par with Memling’s “Crucifixion,” so, in fairness, milwaukeeworld.com invites you to see for yourself.

The “purpose and determination” of the President is clear in one photo, courtesy of the White House, that shows George W. Bush showing off the painting to visitors. The painting itself is also reproduced here.

Now, For the Rest of the Story

“A Charge to Keep,” Bush does not tell us, is also quite conveniently the title of his “auto”biography, co-written (I’ll bet “all-written”) with Karen Hughes. Amazon.com currently has 93 new and used copies available from $.60 (paperback.)

The literary tie-in notwithstanding, “A Charge to Keep I Have,” the song, is not just any Methodist Hymn, it was written in 1762 by Charles Wesley. (Now that’s Methodist! It is no coincidence that any college called “Wesleyan” is Methodist, and this song is Methodist in spades.)

It begins: “A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify; A never dying soul to save, And fit it for the sky …”

It goes on: “To serve the present age, My calling to fulfill, O may it all my pow’rs engage, To do my Master’s will.”

It ends (somewhat contradictorily):”Help me to watch and pray, And on thyself rely, Assured if I my trust betray, I shall forever die.”

So much for the song, which perhaps better than the painting gives us a glimpse into the seriousness with which the President holds his holy office.

The painting seems a bit more equivocal, and I think Bush likes it because the “Charge” has to do with “charging” up a mountain on horseback.

That’s the impression you get reading “goodnewsdaily.org no.801 24 July 2003,” where the President notes, “the painting … pictures a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. The painting and hymn have been an inspiration for me and for members of the staff.”

Indeed, the hymn was sung at Bush’s gubernatorial inauguration, and he has had his staff members come into the oval office to look at the painting. (It hangs behind the President’s desk and to his left, beside the bay window.)

Leave it to Bush to endow a cowboy painting with religious significance that it may have lacked in its original context.

The painting was by W.H.D. Koerner (1878-1938), a Texas born painter who began his career at 15 doing illustrations for the Chicago Tribune.

The painting’s origin was about as secular and commercial as you can imagine. It was commissioned by the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 to illustrate a fiction piece entitled “The Slipper Tongue.” The same magazine reused it the next year for a story called “Ways that are Dark.”

It appeared one final time as a magazine illustration in 1918, appearing under the title “A Charge to Keep.” That time it accompanied a story by the same name by Ben Ames Williams, but not in the Saturday Evening Post.

Nope, pardner. The story that time appeared in Country Gentleman.

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Power to the Vote

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Race to the White House

Panelists: Barbara Boxer, JD, Co-Chair Government Relations, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren; Enrique Figueroa, PhD, Director, Roberto Hernandez Center for Latino Affairs, UW-Milwaukee; Thomas M. Holbrook, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Political Science, UW-Milwaukee; and Gerard A. Randall, Jr., President & CEO, Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County.

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Dissecting the Primaries

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Has County Government Abdicated Its Role?

Panelists: Sheila Aldrich, Milwaukee County Supervisor; Rachel Forman, Executive Director, Grand Ave Club; Marc Marotta, Secretary, WI Dept. of Administration; and Stephanie Stein, Director, Milwaukee County Dept. on Aging.

Moderator: Jack Murtaugh, Co-Chair, 4th Street Forum Executive Committee

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