Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eddie and Jack Gillespie


Eddie and Jack Gillespie
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Eddie Gillespie, former head of the Republican National Committee and special counsel to the President, and his father, Jack Gillespie. Jack was born in Donegal, Ireland, and came to the USA as a child. After living and working in Philadelphia, Jack moved to Browns Mills where he owned J.C.'s Market and J.C.'s Pub.

J.C. stood for Jack and Connie, his wife, who was a member of the board of education. Both were outstanding members of the community and members of St. Ann's in the Pines church.

In his book Winning Right (Threshold, NY 2006, p 257, 210), Ed writes:

...Wanting to strengthen our borders and enforce existing laws does not make one "anti-immigrant."

People who come legally to this country with nothing but the clothes on their back and work in the most menial ways to get a new start should feel at home in our party. As a rule, they are hard-working, freedom-loving, and patriotic Americans.

This is not something I learned from a book. It's something I learned from my father, who came on a boat to this country from Donegal, Ireland, in 1933 as a nine-year old with nothing but the clothes on his back.

He was processed through Ellis Island. He worked as a janitor. Nazi bullets ripped through both his legs in the course of his earning the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and a Silver Star for his adopted country. He started his own business, and made his children the first generation of Gillespies ever to attend college.

I am proud to be the son of an immigrant. Like many first-generation Americans, I think it has made me treasure the benefits of U.S. citizenship even more.

I began by quoting Justice Thomas and President Reagan on the topic, but another distinguished scholar may capture my sentiments even better.

I'm referring, of course, to Bill Murray as Private John Winger in Stripes, when he movingly noted:

"We're all very different people. We're not Watusi, we're not Spartans. We're Americans.

"And you know what that means? That means our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world!

"We are the wretched refuse.

"We're the underdog.

"We're mutts!"

[Hey! Did Obama get that from Eddie?]

In Ireland, there's a Gaelic word for people who are great storytellers and have an ability to sense what's coming in the future - Seanchai (pronounced "Shan-a-key"). My father is a Seanchai. Before the Iraq War, he shared with me his reservations. "I hope to God (Bush)doesn't do it, son. If we go in there, we'll be in there a long, long time." Before the nineties stock bubble burst, he told me that stocks were selling for more than they were worth, despite what Wall Street was saying at the time.

Family lore has it that he correctly predicted the sex of all twelve of his grandchildren by dangling a pencil from a needle and thread over his expectant daughters' and daughters-in-law's midsections. If the pencil swung back and forth like a pendulum, it would be a boy. If it went around in a circle, it would be a girl.

Jack Gillespie has an uncanny ability to size people up in an instant. His reservations about one of my girlfriends was enough to cause me to look in a different direction for a wife, and his hearty endorsement of Cathy was all it took for me to ask her to marry me (a piece of sage advice he would gloat over forever).

When I was a cocky young, political operative, I often dismissed his insights. After all, he didn't have the benefit of a college education as I did (thanks to him, of course).

Then one day, some time after Carrie was born, it dawned on me that far more often than not he was dead on the money.

So I was disconcerted when after the Roberts nomination had concluded in a successful confirmation, Dad said to me, "I hope you're done with that stuff now, Eddie."

"Well, Dad, the president has asked me to stay on to help with the next one."

"Well I hope like hell you told him no."

"Dad, I don't know how to tell the president of the United States no!"

"Easy. You just say, 'Sorry, Mr. President, I can't do it."

"I can't do that, Dad."

"I'm worried, Son." When my father calls one of us "Son," it always carries a sense of gravity. "This next one's going to be bad."

"Why do you say that?" I asked, incredulously.

"I don't know, but it's gonna be bad."

Given his track record, this gave me a very unsettled feeling.

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