Inside Washington's Headlines

by Ken Feltman

Radnor Inc.

December 2008


Legislative insight

Political intelligence










Ken Feltman is Chairman of Radnor Inc., a political consulting and legislative relations firm in Washington, D.C. He is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists.




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Return to Grant Park

Society mends its wounds. And that's invariably true in all the tragedies, in the comedies as well. And certainly in the histories.

- Charlton Heston

In Grant Park in late August of 1968, frightened police and National Guardsmen could take no more of the incitement. Some radical leaders of the protests wanted the violence. They believed it would generate sympathy and help their cause. They used the background of the Democratic Convention to take their message to the world.

The authorities were helpless to deny the demonstrators their wish. Outside Chicago in the weeks leading up to the convention, people may not have been aware that the protest leaders were promising to poison the city's drinking water, which news accounts suggested would be surprisingly easy to do. Some protesters told tales of thin knives that they would use to kill policemen and ordinary citizens.

Stores along Michigan Avenue and State Street were labeled publicly as targets for firebombs and looting. Office buildings were listed, address by address, as arson possibilities. Schools, hospitals and churches were singled out for armed attacks and bombing. Chicagoans were on edge, frightened. That night in Grant Park, their peacekeepers reflected that fright.

Bad memories

The chaos that followed defined Grant Park for me after that night. When I went for a sail out of Grant Park Harbor, I always looked back at the park and thought about what I had witnessed there on that August evening. When I drove down Michigan Avenue or Lake Shore Drive, I glanced at the park and remembered. Chicago, Mayor Daley, the Democrats and the police and Guardsmen took the blame. The pot-provoked rabble won the public relations battle.

Hubert Humphrey was nominated by the Democrats but the images of the night sticks striking young protesters doomed his candidacy and Richard Nixon was elected president. This was eight years after Nixon lost to John Kennedy, and six years after Nixon lost the election for governor of California and told the media that they would "no longer have Nixon to kick around." This was four years after Lyndon Johnson buried the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. Vietnam and the violence of young protesters changed things quickly and Nixon was elected.

Four decades later, another crowd gathered in Grant Park. They gathered peacefully, happily. Many in the crowd had worked as volunteers in the campaign, devoting countless hours to the little things - making phone calls, knocking on doors - that win elections. They sensed that this was a special night. I was not there but a friend was and the elation and melancholy came through in his voice as he told me about his feelings in Grant Park: His pride, his sense of having overcome a seemingly impossible barrier. Shedding tears of joy and hope, this strong man was filled with the awareness that his children can experience all of the American dream.

I hope that he is right and that we can say with assurance: Yes, they can.

These are stressful times. The holidays will not be as happy for many this year. The less fortunate need support more than ever. Please remember them, wherever they are.

Too big to fail?

I have been criticized for my last newsletter in which I said that the European Union is "too big to fail" but no individual European country is too big to fail. The critics claim that Germany, with the world's largest export economy, is too big to fail.

Right now, in fact, being the world's leading exporter is Germany's problem, not strength. Among the larger nations, several - China, Russia and Japan, for example - also depend on exports. They are in more serious trouble than are importing countries, such as the net-trade-deficit U.S.

So Germany will suffer as customers for German exports dry up. The consuming countries have an almost perverse advantage in economic downturns. When they stop buying, they get healthier - at the expense of the exporting countries.

Thank you for continuing to ask about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs lost three straight games to the Los Angeles Dodgers and were eliminated from the playoffs. The Philadelphia Phillies then defeated the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series. But we had a great time singing "Go Cubs Go" and reminiscing about long-ago and recent failures.

We were reminded that our fellow Cubs fan George Will once remarked that being a Cubs fan is like having a terminal illness that never gets around to killing you off.

The Cubs have not won the World Series in 100 seasons. But they have a great ball park. Do we have our priorities wrong? Are we Cubs fans crazy or what?

For years, economics has been called the dismal science. I have some thoughts on that definition: (1) Economics only seems dismal when things are going smoothly; (2) When things are in turmoil, the laws of economics can seem to be cruel and arbitrary; and (3) Economics is less a science and more an art.

Regardless, exporters are going to suffer when importers preserve capital by not buying imported goods. Importers have one important choice and when they make it, exporting nations do not get to make as many choices. If the customers do not buy, exporters cannot sell. It seems almost too simple. And it is not that simple, of course.

But look at the imported cars piling up in major ports - Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example. The cars sit because no dealer wants them. The Asian auto manufacturers are competing to secure adequate storage space near the docks to store their vehicles, hoping that U.S. consumers will start buying cars soon.

The consumers, of course, may want to buy a new car but lack the money. Or they may be afraid. There is nothing dismal about fear.


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