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Krone in the Kasbah: Tuesday from Damascus

Phil Krone 22 June 2010 No Comment

A movie many years ago was titled, “If Its Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium.” Not necessarily.

Its Tuesday and its Damascus, and Saturday to Monday was Beirut. If Barack Obama were running for President here he’d be a shoo in. Its not that the Muslim or Christian populations think he’s not strongly in support of Israel, but they do believe he wants to be evenhanded, just and fair.

I base my evaluation on the traditional experts: several bartenders, one barber and half a dozen taxi drivers.

Last night my wife and I visited the great souks of Damascus, first introduced to me by Richard Redmond, the young American Arabist and today we went to the Street called Straight, where Paul preached. Unfortunately we got separated, but each of us had the common sense to take separate taxis back to the Sheraton (a really great Spa).

Our principal reason for coming to this part of the world is to attend the wedding of Mimi Ismail, completing her PhD in contemporary Arabic literature at the University of Michigan and Roland McKay, the brilliant young American diplomat posted in Yemen until December. Both Mimi and Roland were born in the US, but Mimi’s parents and grandparents are from Lebanon and they are being married in one of the beautiful hill towns outside of Beirut. Although Roland is a foreign service officer with professional credentials, he has a very adept understanding of politics and he and his wife will make a very formidable couple on behalf of US interests in the Mid East in the coming decades, as will I hope the brothers Redmond (Richard and Michael), grandsons of the late Attorney General and Illinois Chief Justice William Clark and his widow, the incomparable Rosalie Clark, who served as Protocol Chief of Chicago under five mayors (hired by Jane Byrne, retained by Harold Washington, David Orr, Gene Sawyer and eventually retired under Mayor Richard M. Daley. Rosalie and Kathy Osterman as Director of Special Events laid the foundation for Chicago becoming a truly International City under the leadership of Mayor Daley.

Tomorrow we’re going to Aleppo, allegedly the greatest market town in the history of the western world, and the following day to Palmyra, established by the Romans more than 2000 years ago, and then back to Lebanon for the wedding.

Its amazing to see how the Internet has literally connected the entire world and its people within seconds of each other regardless of physical or political boundaries.

My New York Senate Race

I shall be returning to New York in July but it looks like I shall honor one of Burke’s laws: “You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them.” Also, I must confess that the incumbent senior Senator has demonstrated nothing but kindness and courteousness towards me, and frankly, he is a very effective hands on legislator, bringing home the bacon, which includes firetrucks and other items of importance to upstate localities.

Interestingly, if Chuck Schumer were not to run he would draw a full pension plus make a virtual mint as a very effective lobbyist. In a sense he is deliberately making a sacrifice by continuing to serve, of which he is aware.

Chicago and Illinois Update

It appears that Joe Berrios is trying to turn Forrest Claypool into a running mate of another independent, Scott Lee Cohen. I don’t think this ploy will work. And in challenging Claypool’s petitions he better make sure ahead of time that there are not enough defective signatures to knock him off the ballot. There is nothing worse than a wounded (‘man eating’) Tiger, and if Berrios fails to knock Claypool off the ballot, it would b a strategic blunder of the first proportion.

Several weeks ago I suggested Berrios should ignore Claypool. And interestingly, while attempting to link Claypool to Cohen he is not aligning himself with Giannoulias and Quinn. I don’t know what the results will be in November but I do predict we will have the greatest number of cross over votes in the modern history of Cook County and Illinois politics.

What will stand out is the candidacy of Toni Preckwinkle, made even stronger by being opposed by a competent Republican, and looming above it all, regardless of his opposition, the apparent candidacy of Mayor for Life Richard M. Daley.

A morsel I would like to throw out for future consideration is the name Rafael Vargas, who I have labelled the ‘Hispanic’ Obama. Watch out for that name in the coming months.

For a Happy and Safe Fourth of July

Everyone, please travel safely this summer, especially on the 4th of July weekend. Next week I’ll be writing from Amman, Jordan winging back to the U.S.A.


Phil Krone is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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