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Confessions of a latte liberal

Gary Caruso | Thursday, February 21, 2008

By my count, this is my 200th column for the Viewpoint section. Throughout the years, my themes contained more than simply the seasonal political analysis. They featured a wide variety of topics including athletic department foibles, the meaning of Lent, earthly angels who inspire us on campus and even a retrospective of why I lost the Notre Dame student body presidency race to a king and his running mate – a cat. Yet, despite a magnitude of issues, many readers still focus on a single word while turning a blind eye to the entire page.

For me, readers seem to fall into two categories. The “Gottcha” reader is like comedian Lewis Black whose gesticulations flail about in an effort to refute me. How dare I recently suggest in what an Iowan called another of my “Clinton-Return-To-Glory-Friday columns” that primaries attract more voters than a caucus. Surely I dissed Iowa and must not have ever attended their caucus. Actually, in January I attended the Columbus Junction precinct where 98 Iowans stood up: Obama 38, Clinton 31, Edwards 26 and Biden 5 – out of 968 registered voters of which 371 voted in the 2006 election. Gottcha back!

I will admit, however, that I purposely egg on the gottcha types by describing my experience in the last administration at the end of each column. Some of these readers suffer from the same germ that plagues our political process … they cannot let go of the past. Mention the word “Clinton” anywhere in my column, and instantaneously I become a vampire. In one e-mail, a reader proudly tied a newly discovered terrorist group to a bevy of Puerto Ricans whom President “You-Know-Who” pardoned ten years ago. Just shows that even presidents can have a cloudy crystal ball. Chalk a gottcha up for that reader.

I describe my alternate category the “Schoolmarm” group because those readers scold and strictly correct my content. Last year, a Notre Dame Sports Information marm quickly e-mailed me to correct my bowl appearance comparisons between Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham. I noted that both had equally appeared in bowl games, but was painfully corrected by the fact that Willingham never appeared in a “BCS” bowl regardless of how much money his bowls paid to the university. In a uniquely marmly way, a postscript added that Weis was graduating students at a higher rate than Willingham. Unfortunately, I received no reply when I asked if those students were, in fact, Willingham’s recruits. I’ll call this one a draw.

Apparently, I again showed my Clinton bias by describing elite, educated far-left Democrats who tend to support Obama as the Starbucks wing of the party. According to the reader, not only did I insult the entire liberal community of Notre Dame, I insulted everyone on campus because they are educated. Furthermore, I even displayed a disrespect for those who support Obama.

Suprisingly, I do confess to my transgressions. I am a Latte Liberal from that same educated elite wing of the Democratic party. I may not be of the pure skim version, but I belong behind the barista’s counter. I’m more of a caramel macchiato … one who out of a sense for history stood overnight in line to pass by Ronald Reagan’s casket in the Capitol Rotunda. I strayed from the glorious liberal path because I worked in Bill Clinton’s White House while watching Hillary up close. I support her bid for the presidency based upon my firsthand knowledge and the belief that she is better qualified. You caught me. I confess.

Over all, though, I have learned much from readers as I celebrate my bicentennial milestone. Comments through e-mail or Viewpoint’s letters section frequently amuse me. Oftentimes what they read into this column is not what I wrote. Still, I find it enlightening when others comment, regardless of whether or not I lump them into my gottcha or schoolmarm characterizations. Most importantly, I find my writing experience exciting yet humbling.

This column does not politically hack an issue, does not arrogantly dismiss an opposing opinion, nor does it retreat from an augument. Read every word for its challenge and humor. Read every word again for its nuanced balance.

In his day, John Pierpont Morgan, financial magnate of the J.P. Morgan empire was pejoratively labeled a Robber Baron. He countered by saying that a man always has two reasons for what he does – a good one, and the real one. Conversely, let me play upon Morgan’s quote by coining my own, namely, that a reader always has two reasons to reply – a good one, and an imaginary one.

Gary Caruso, Notre Dame ’73, campaigned (Clinton) in Iowa for

Hillary Clinton. He is a (Clinton) communications strategist who served as a (Clinton) legislative and public affairs director in President Clinton’s (Clinton) administration. His (Clinton) column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at hottline@aol.com

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.