Contributing Columnist

President Obama gave another good speech last Tuesday night. Some noted that he did not spell out all the alternative endings to the Libyan adventure. He couldn’t, of course; no one knows how this thing will turn out.

There are three really bad potential outcomes. A split Libya with a low-level conflict going on for the next 20 years. How long does the West protect the insurgents? How long will they need protection?

What if Qaddafi and his sons simply wait out the West? What happens when he starts slaughtering people again? He first came to power 42 years ago when Obama was in the third grade. This guy has staying power. Anyone willing to bet the French, Italians and Brits are in for the long haul? Thought not.

Finally, one of the rebel leaders admitted that his sizable contingent included many who had fought the Americans in Iraq. Why had they fought us? They’re jihadists, you see. Even so we’re helping put them in power. They are grateful but no doubt a bit confused by this. Can’t blame them for that, so am I.

Newt Gingrich, family values hero
Newt Gingrich has a problem. He seems to want to run for president on the Republican ticket but he seems a bit weak on family values issues. Actually he is strong talking about family values, but a bit weak in living them.

A television preacher wanted him to try and explain the breakup of his second marriage, during which he had an affair with the woman who became wife number three. One justification he offered is something to the effect that the stress created by his working so hard on behalf of the country made him do it.

Newt, you have to do better than that, or in the words of a Delbert McClinton song, “If you can’t lie no better than that, you might as well tell the truth.”

Gingrich is going to have an even harder time when folks get to looking at the breakup of his first marriage. He cornered his wife in her hospital room, where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery, and insisted on discussing terms of their divorce.

I don’t know why he was worried about the terms of the divorce because, according to an article in Salon.com by Stephen Talbot, “Shortly after that famous encounter, Gingrich refused to pay his alimony and child support payments. The First Baptist Church in his hometown had to take up a collection to support the family Gingrich had deserted.”

Oh, just for the record, shortly after the divorce, Gingrich married Marianne, with whom he had been having an affair. Marianne was his second wife, the one he ditched later.

I can’t imagine what a bright, if not too reliable, guy like Gingrich is thinking when talking of running for president. Compared to Newt, Bill Clinton is eligible for husband of the year.

The American people will likely deliver a verdict on his candidacy like the old country western song, “God may forgive you but I won’t, Jesus may love you but I don’t.”

Jim Jungroth an appreciation
My longtime friend Jim Jungroth died last week. He was known in North Dakota and the upper Midwest as a strong personality, if not an iconoclast. He acquired this reputation early. In 1946 he was attending college after release from the Army Air Corp. When the college authorities refused to cancel classes on Veteran’s Day, he helped organize the numerous vets who, once assembled, marched in formation to the local saloons where they spent the day commemorating their service.

Jim was a brilliant activist and liberal lawyer. Actually, he was more than just liberal. He was that rare political type that surfaces occasionally in the upper Midwest whose politics can best be described as populist liberal with libertarian overtones.

He grew up in the Depression and never had occasion to recant his faith in the Democratic Party. Jim had the usual credits. At one time or another, he served as chairman of the party and the Young Democrats, and he was the last chairman of the Nonpartisan League, which served as the socialist wing of the Republican Party before merging with the Democrats in 1960. His rather personal brand of liberalism had him a member of the ACLU, the Americans for Democratic Action and a life member of the National Rifle Association.

Jim was a bit of a spellbinder on the stump as well as the courtroom. A television speech he delivered in 1970 is credited with turning back a vicious attack mounted by Nixon’s dirty-tricks brigade on Democratic Sen. Quentin Burdick, who was running for reelection. While serving in the legislature he delivered a stirring defense of the one man, one vote rule. The legislature adopted the rule. One political reporter allowed it was the only time in his experience a speech had actually changed the outcome of a vote.

Jim was also a conservationist and again he accrued the right credentials, serving on several state water and pollution agencies and as president of the North Dakota Wild Life Federation. Always cognizant of the legal rights of others, he supported the activities of organizations that protected wetlands and other sensitive areas through agreements that compensated landowners for the rights they surrendered.

There is one incident that gives more clues to the man than any recitation of honors and awards. Late one fall, Jim had taken Louie, his black lab, hunting on Garrison reservoir. Louie had left the boat to retrieve a duck and had been gone for some time. A storm came up, and the weather and water conditions were beyond unsafe. Despite this, Jim remained sitting in the pitching boat for more than two hours, unwilling to abandon his dog. Finally, it just didn’t seem possible for Louie to have survived that long in the cold water. Just as he reached to start the motor, a black snout appeared over the side of the boat. Louie and duck had made it. Somehow he managed to get the dog and duck into the boat, and Louie lived to roam the prairie, continuing his life-long search for the winged-invaders from Canada.

Jim Jungroth will be missed because he was as faithful to his principles, the practice of law, his family and his friends as he was to the noble Louie. Jim Jungroth, dead at 85. R.I.P.

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