Saturday, April 12, 2008


Greetings and goodbyes - they're part of every human interaction. The things we do and say without much thought, words driven largely on automatic pilot rather than by conscious decision. There are our opening lines and our closing lines, our hellos and our so-longs. We say them, see them every waking hour of every day. Most have the lifespan of a puff of smoke, drifting off into the cosmos, forgotten almost as quickly as they are uttered.

However, there are those great opening lines, those memorable hellos, that are crafted and calculated to grab you. In a flash, they tell you everything you need to know about a character or a situation

How does Rafael Sabatini introduce us to SCARAMOUCHE?

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad".

How does Charles Dickens introduce an era in A TALE OF TWO CITIES?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,"

How does John Kerry introduce himself at the DEMOCRATIC 2004 CONVENTION?

"Reporting for duty".

John Forbes Kerry (the Mandarin Candidate) had a lock on the White House, was a sure bet to be our 43rd President. In "reporting for duty", Kerry, a legend in his own mind, was attempting to convince the country that only a combat veteran was qualified to be Commander-in-Chief. Specifically, that his 4 months on a 15 meter long Swift Boat fulfilled that combat requirement. By the same measure, George Bush's 45 months of on-the-job performance as an aviator flying a multi-million dollar fighting machine meant nothing. (I guess that Bush's terms as Governor of Texas and wartime President of the United States also meant nothing.) Now, don't get me wrong, I don't demean anybody's service in the military, and I certainly do not demean anyone's combat experience. I would assume that both served admirably, though I have no first hand knowledge.

There are detracters on either side - the Swift Boat veterans who questioned (if not denied) the accuracy of the accounts of Kerry's exploits for which he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and 3 Purple Hearts, not a bad 4 month's work at 1.25 medals per month. (Audie Murphy, America's most decorated war hero, earned 33 medals in 27 months, an average of only 1.22 medals per month.) Bush's detractors call him a draft-dodger who used the National Guard and his family connections to avoid active duty service. There's probably at least a bit of truth on either side.
"I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry said in a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that's what I thought I was going to be doing."

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Mr.Kerry and have always wondered at the encounter during which Kerry received a slight shrapnel wound in the buttocks from blowing up a rice bunker.

This is not a photograph of John Kerry's Swift Boat. Actually, it's his powerboat, a yacht formerly named SCARAMOUCHE. According to U. S. Coast Guard records, he changed her name to LET IT BE in November 2006.

Given Mr. Kerry's public persona, the new name would seem to be much more appropriate .

I remember thinking of all of this as I listened to Kerry's speech to the Democratic convention in July 2004. I was convinced that, by his measure, I myself might qualify to seek the position of Commander-in-Chief by virtue of the Combat I
nfantryman's Badge I earned for a short stint of combat in Korea. The only problem was that, unlike Kerry, I had not plotted to use my service as a springboard to a political career and did not bring my cameraman to Korea with me. Nor was there anywhere in our combat zone for me to go shopping for the campaign ribbons I had earned, let alone the actual underlying medals, to be worn for the photographs I might later use in my political campaigns. Obviously, Kerry was differently inclined and better prepared than I and did not have those problems, as his photos testify.

Also, by the same measure, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Audie Murphy and, possibly, Shane would most certainly qualify as Commander-in-Chief. Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Ronald Reagan need not apply. The proposition that actual combat experience is the primary qualification for political leadership might have had some validity in the days of Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, or even (dare I say) Genghis Khan, but certainly not here and now.

The Democratic Party, who agreed with him in 2004 that combat experience was a prerequisite for the Presidency, in 2008 has jumped to the other side of the fence. A real war-time hero, John McCain, is unqualified. His more than 20 years experience as naval aviator (over 5 years of which spent as a POW undergoing torture in Viet Nam), in combination with 4 years in Congress and 26 years in the U.S. Senate, mean nothing compared to the impressive (?) resumes of Hillary and Obama. The prosecution rests.

That brings us to the closing lines, the goodbyes, the final farewells. These are those statements which expose the essence of a personality distilled during a lifetime of experience, for better or for worse. For example:

Gaius Julius Caesar - "Et tu, Brute?"

Gen. Douglas MacArthur - "Old soldiers never die. They just fade away."

Jack Deeney - "I never said I was perfect. I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong."

John Forbes Kerry - "I can't believe I lost to that f***ing idiot!"

(It may be worthwhile to note that the f***ing idiot to whom Kerry referred earned his undergraduate degree at Yale, has an MBA from Harvard and, reportedly, had a higher GPA than John Kerry.)

Note: Some of the body of this piece was previously published in September 2004. The original piece is posted on THE TOWN CRIER - UNOFFICIALLY SPEAKING - at