Memo From The Midwest, By Dave Gorak
GOP Immigration Idiocy In Illinois
When I search for words to best
describe the political circus that brought Maryland
resident and conservative radio talk show host
Alan Keyes to Illinois to carry what`s left of the
Republican Party`s banner in the Senate race against the
Democrats` charismatic newcomer
Barack Obama, the names of two old TV shows came to
"Lost in Space" and
"The Gong Show."
The GOP, once a powerhouse in the
Land of Lincoln, now makes the Three Stooges look
like a precision drill team.
Funny—except in the process the
GOP hierarchy suppressed a strong, popular
self-financing immigration reform candidate, thus
ensuring that the issue will continue unmentioned in one
of the six top immigrant-impacted states.
And much of the blame has to be
laid at the feet of House Speaker
Dennis Hastert, who represents a district just
Here is how the most recent
Republican calamity unfolded:
After defeating seven other primary
candidates with nearly 40 percent of the vote, the GOP`s
immaculately groomed and photogenic
began what everybody conceded would be an uphill battle
Normally, the choice would be the
candidate who finished second, with 23 percent of the
Oberweis, whose family
owns a dairy in Aurora, Ill., and a number of
ice cream shops around the state. But Oberweis was
doomed because, unlike the other candidates, he publicly
criticized President Bush`s proposed amnesty for
millions of illegal aliens. [See
Outcry on Right Over Bush Plan on Immigration,
By Rachel L. Swarns, NYT, February 21, 2004]
"He`s trying to demagogue the
immigration thing," Hastert told a
local newspaper prior to the election.
Ironically, during his
Congressional career but before becoming House Speaker,
Hastert had consistently supported immigration reduction
legislation. But apparently loyalty to
the White House came first.
Chicago`s media, including the
Chicago Tribune`s veteran political writer Rick
him) rarely missed an opportunity to zero in on the
"anti-immigrant" bulls eye that Hastert had hung
By far the meanest attack on
Oberweis came from Chicago Sun-Times columnist
Mark Brown in a March 11 column that ran under the
"Oberweis serves up 10,000 scoops of bigotry."
Brown attacked Oberweis` faulty TV
ads, which claimed that 10,000 illegals entered this
country each day. The accepted figure is about 1 million
annually, i.e. maybe 3,000 a day, although
nobody really knows. Oberweis apologized—but Brown
failed to acknowledge that Oberweis still deserved to be
heard about immigration.
Oberweis` appalling public
mistreatment began almost immediately after Ryan`s exit.
The 19-member Republican State Central Committee,
State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, brushed him aside
and turned to third-place finisher (20 percent) Stephen
Rauschenberger, a state senator from Elgin.
But Rauschenberger suddenly backed
off, citing pressing legislation in Springfield that
apparently required his attention. This took many by
surprise, since only a few hours earlier in the day
Hastert said in Washington that Rauschenberger was his
More names of potential candidates
emerged and, just as quickly, disappeared. Among them:
former Illinois Govs. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar; former
Chicago Bears coach
Mike Ditka; former State Board of Education chairman
Ron Gidwitz; and state Sen. Kirk
"I can beat Obama," Dillard, (R-Hinsdale.)
The icing on the cake: Dr. Andrea
Grubb Barthwell, who quit her job in July as a White
deputy drug czar to become eligible to replace Ryan,
was officially reprimanded for engaging in
"lewd and abusive behavior" during an office
party in late 2002. Her offense, which required her to
"sensitivity training," (apparently they have
sensitivity training in the Bush White House) boiled
down to an off-color remark about a colleague`s
perceived sexual orientation.
On Sunday, August 8, the search
ended. GOP party leaders and honored guests gathered in
a hot hotel meeting room in Arlington Heights, IL, to
pay homage to Keyes.
Being an outsider in
Illinois is never easy (unless you are Mexican President
Vicente Fox). But Keyes, a skilled wordsmith,
quickly moved to allay the fears of us local yokels by
insisting that where he comes from is not nearly as
important as his belief in truth, justice and the
As he stood at the podium, sweating
told those huddled around him:
must continue to assert and stand tall to defend the
great principles of God`s authority and unalienable
rights on which this nation is founded. If, indeed, that
land is still Illinois, then I have lived in the
Land of Lincoln all my life . . . and I will be
proud to call Illinois my home."
(Speaking of sweat, here is
something even goofier than the rest of this story: A
napkin soaked with Keyes` perspiration was
offered at auction on e-Bay.)
Needless to say, Keyes never
Hastert didn`t attend Keyes`
announcement because he was busy lying during his
appearance on NBC`s
"Meet the Press." Hastert said that he personally
worked for five weeks to find homegrown replacement for
Ryan but "couldn`t find any takers."
Hastert knew, of course, that
Oberweis was available.
Naturally, nobody with the Illinois
GOP brain trust is eager to talk about the party`s
shabby treatment of Oberweis.
Jason Gerwig (e-mail
him), the Central Committee`s communications director,
"Ms. Topinka isn`t giving
interviews at this time. The party has put this behind
them and is moving forward."
Forward to oblivion?
The views expressed here are his, and they do not
necessarily reflect those held by members of his
organization or its board of advisors. Or, for that