The Chicago Way, Biden, SCOTUS and race; Truman the Mule and a Story of True Friendship in the Mountains of Greece

By John Kass

We open the latest edition of The Chicago Way podcast this week with a conversation with my friend, the brilliant Professor Charles Lipson about President Joe Biden’s promise to select a Supreme Court Justice strictly on the basis of race and gender.

“Supreme Court nominations have always had political dimensions,” said Lipson on The Chicago Way. “Jonathan Turley, a Chicago guy, pointed out that if anyone tried to do what Biden is doing on Supreme Court appointees on the level of college admissions corporate hiring or anything else, it would be found to be illegal.”

But Lipson says there is nothing illegal with a president making political appointments.  I agree. Biden won the election. He’s our president. And our president may nominate whomever he chooses, and his nominee will be subject to review as the Senate applies advice and consent..

Yes there will be politics around it.  And I wonder if Biden realizes that the coarse way he approached this appointment—declaring gender and race as paramount—also diminishes his appointee. Or even if he cares.

That’s politics too.

In the podcast, I also tell a Black History Month story of my own–what I witnessed in 1988 and the ravings of the hard left after the death of Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington.

The left, they call themselves progressives though is nothing “progressive” about their tactics of force and shame, sought to destroy Washington’s successor, the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer, who had been alderman of the 6th Ward. The left portrayed Sawyer as a race-traitor to elevate their mayoral candidate, 4th Ward Ald. Timothy C. Evans,  now the Chief Judge of the Cook County Courts.

Evans has just made a fool of himself by saying, quite publicly, that teen-age gangbangers who kill innocent children in the gang wars are too young themselves to distinguish between the right and wrong of things.

But years ago, on that night soon after Washington’s death, Evans was an alderman. The black community was grieving and ripe for manipulation. It was the night that black politics in Chicago, having reached its zenith with the election of Washington, was broken apart. The breaking ushered in the rise of Richard M. Daley who ruled for two decades afterward.

Back then I was fascinated, as I am today, with the use of symbolism in politics, arguments about skin color as evidence of virtue (whether the arguments are virtuous or not) and the pushing of race as ideology.

On a Sunday in 1988, “the paper” published a piece I’d written for the Perspective section. There was an excellent pen-and-ink illustration by the newspaper’s art department.  The headline was “Who Will Wear The Mantle?” The illustration depicted Sawyer and Evans, each man pointing to his own chest, each holding an identical Harold Washington mask in the other hand.

The idea involved masks used in ancient Greek theater. But this was Chicago political theater, not a comedy but a tragedy.

That piece jump started my career at “the paper.” The late Jack Fuller liked it. Jack was a giant in journalism, a writer, Yale Law grad, jazz aficionado, Pulitzer recipient, Vietnam Veteran and senior member on the staff of former U.S. Attorney General Edward Hirsch Levi.

Fuller was a conservative. He loved “the paper” with every fiber of his being, as did I, then. He became a close friend and mentor, and the man who introduced me to fly fishing at a river up north. Jack had me promise not to mention the name of that river in my column. I kept my promise.

Jack was editor then, later publisher. He joked with me that after he read that piece, he was shocked that I might be able “to think a little.”

Not a lot. Just a little.

In it, I quoted another man I admired, the late black political activist Lu Palmer, the man most responsible for Washington being elected mayor. With February being Black History Month, I wonder if there will be many stories and TV reminiscences about Lu and what he meant to black Chicago. If the past is any guide, there won’t be enough reminiscences of how Lu Palmer shaped politics.

“What we all wanted was a black mayor,”  Palmer said then.  ”And we ignored Harold`s warts so we could have one. Gene Sawyer is black, too. The difference is that Tim Evans` supporters are painting Gene as a stone Uncle Tom. The reality is that there is black power still, and while Washington is being canonized as a saint, we are ignoring reality and inventing new realities all the time. There`s not a nickel`s difference between Sawyer and Evans.

”They are saying that Washington passed the mantle to Tim Evans, which he did not, and are putting wings on Tim Evans shoulders, which do not fit.”

Lu Palmer was spot on. There was a black mayor after Washington, but the left cut the legs out from under him. Black politics was broken for 20 years in Chicago. The restoration of the Daleys had begun.

And Tim Evans, charming, well-spoken, a decent guy, he was weak back then and he’s weak now.  His speech last week at the Union League proved it.

On this latest episode of The Chicago Way podcast, our conversation was a freewheeling one, as happens when friends get to talking, Charles and co-host WGN radio executive producer Jeff Carlin, get me to talk about my father’s mule in our  Greek village of Rizes, the root of the mountain.

And they got me going about what happened before, when in the woods above the village one day with the Italians and Germans occupying the country, my father ran into a man with blue eyes and blond hair. The man spoke perfect Greek and English. He said he was a downed British pilot. He asked for help.

That story involves hate and attempted murder, a pot of delicious “Gigantes” (Giant Lima Beans) and great friendship between my dad and another villager named Kolya.

It was Kolya who demanded to go up into the mountains with my father when the carabinieri  took my dad up there. Both my dad and Kolya thought they were taking him up there to kill him.  It was difficult to get through the story, but I’ll let the podcast speak for itself.

Hope you listen. Hope you share it. Hope you tell everyone you know to subscribe to this website and join the great adventure in independent unwoke journalism.

And if you know anyone who’d like to sponsor The Chicago Way, email me at, so Jeff Carlin can finally get paid.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading. I know I’m not perfect. And I can only promise you this:

I’ll give you everything I’ve got.


(Copyright 2022 John Kass)

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