Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Run, Gov. Weld, run!

Wouldn’t it be just a kick in the backside if William Weld re-creates a Eugene McCarthy moment in the 2020 race for the presidency of the United States?

Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, has formed an exploratory committee to determine whether to mount a primary challenge against Donald Trump. Weld said many other Republicans “exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome, identifying with their captor.”

Weld ran for vice president in 2016 on the Libertarian ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. The ticket didn’t do too well, gathering just 4.5 million votes, or about 3 percent of the total.

He wants back into the fight, this time as a Republican.

The McCarthy moment? In 1968, the Vietnam War was raging and Sen. McCarthy, a Minnesota Democrat, mounted a Democratic Party primary challenge against President Lyndon Johnson. McCarthy — a vehement anti-war candidate — took his campaign to the nation’s first primary state, New Hampshire.

He then finished a very strong second to President Johnson, sending shockwaves through the Democratic Party establishment. McCarthy’s strong showing brought Sen. Robert F. Kennedy into the race. Then on March 31, 1968, LBJ spoke to the nation to announce an end to the bombing campaign against North Vietnam — and then said he would not seek or accept the Democratic nomination “for another term as your president.”

History does have a way of repeating itself. If only Gov. Weld can mount any sort of serious challenge to the wack job serving as president of the United States.

One’s hope must spring eternal. Mine does.

Still waiting for that ‘presidential’ moment

A critic or two of my blog has noted that I continue to resist referring to Donald Trump by placing the term “President” in front of his name. They don’t like it, calling me disrespectful of the man who was duly elected to the nation’s highest office.

So help me, as the Good Lord is my witness, I am waiting for that moment — or perhaps a sequence of moments — when I can feel as if the president of the United States has earned that honor from yours truly.

It hasn’t arrived. I don’t know if it will. I want it to arrive. I feel like the guy waiting for the bus or the train that’s overdue. I keep craning my neck, standing on my tiptoes, looking for all I can for some sign that the vehicle is on its way.

The same is true with Donald Trump.

As a presidential candidate, the man disgraced himself and the office he sought with behavior that is utterly beyond repugnant. The denigration of the late Sen. John McCain’s heroic service to the nation as a prisoner during the Vietnam War; the mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s serious neuro-muscular disability; the insults he hurled at his Republican primary foes; the hideous implication, for example, that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was complicit in President Kennedy’s murder.

Also, we had that years-long lie that Trump fomented about President Obama’s eligibility to run for and to serve as president of the United States; Trump was one of the founders of the so-called “Birther Movement.”

He brought all that, and more, into the White House when he won the 2016 election.

Since taking office, he has acted like the carnival barker he became as a candidate. His incessant Twitter messaging, the manner in which he has fired Cabinet officials and assorted high-level federal officers have contributed to the idiocy that he promotes.

There have been moments of lucidity from this president. He pitched a much-needed effort on federal sentencing reform; he struck at Syria when it gassed its citizens.

The rest of it has been not worthy of the office this individual occupies.

I want to be able to string the words “President” and “Trump” together consecutively.  I cannot do it.

Maybe one day. Something tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath.

World War I, Vietnam: chilling symmetry

I have just watched a chilling, remarkable and utterly jaw-dropping film. New Zealand director/producer Peter Jackson’s documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old” hit me like a punch in the gut.

It is a film pulled together with many hours of archived film taken from World War I. Jackson colorized the raw film, restored its quality to a stunning level and then added narration taken from audio recordings made at the time.

The documentary takes us through British soldiers’ combat along The Western Front, how they confronted the Germans, fought them hand-to-hand. How they endured the most deplorable living conditions imaginable.

Then at the end of the film, we learn about the Armistice, which was proclaimed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The narrative tells how the guns just stopped firing. The battlefield fell strangely silent after years of constant bombardment.

There was no celebration among the British ranks. They packed up their gear and boarded boats for the ride home across the Channel.

And then they were greeted by — you guessed it — raging indifference. Indeed, many of the men who returned home from the War to End All Wars wondered: Why were we fighting? What was the point? What was the mission?

To those of us who had some exposure to another war, the one in Vietnam, the baffling reasons for fighting World War I among the British warriors seems to ring so very true.

I had a brief exposure to the Vietnam War. I didn’t suffer the hideous conditions experienced by the men I just witnessed on film. I did come home to what I have referred to as “raging indifference.” Make no mistake, either: I, too, wondered about what in the world I had just experienced and to what end was this war going to conclude.

I haven’t given away too much of the film. Just take my word for it: Peter Jackson has worked a technological miracle with this documentary.

It’s a classic!

Trump to meet ‘Little Rocket Man’ one more time

If the North Korean dictator/killer Kim Jong Un is the “smart cookie” that Donald Trump has called him, then he must be scratching his noggin about this “bromance” that is developing between him and the president of the United States.

The two men are meeting Feb. 27-28 in Hanoi, Vietnam for their second summit. The irony of the summit location surely isn’t lost on Trump critics who are fond of bringing up the alleged “bone spurs” that purportedly kept the future president out of the military during the Vietnam War. But . . . I digress.

The point here is that Trump keeps tossing love at a dictator who has allowed mass starvation of his people, had members of his family killed because of policy disputes, has threatened to invade South Korea, has detonated nuclear bombs, has threatened to launch missiles at the United States.

Trump used to refer to Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and once threatened him with “fire and fury” if he keeps threatening the United States.

Good grief! Talk about running hot and cold!

Trump disparages intelligence chiefs

The summit is going to take place just as the president is disputing the assessment of his high-level intelligence chiefs who say that North Korea is still pursuing development of nuclear weapons, despite Kim’s reported pledge to dismantle his nuclear program. CIA operatives report that the North Koreans continue to work toward adding to their small, but relatively potent nuclear arsenal.

What in the world is the president going to tell Kim when the two men get together in Vietnam? Is he going to scold him? Will he challenge him to demonstrate his stated commitment to end the nuclear development effort? Or will the two men come out of their meeting and pledge their “love” for each other?

The most troubling aspect of this meeting the continual deference Trump displays toward strongmen around the world. The iron-fisted rulers of Russia, The Philippines, Turkey and, oh yes, North Korea keep getting weird compliments from a U.S. president who praises them for their, um, “strong leadership.”

If only we Americans could make that same boast.

The daughter’s voice keeps Dad in the game

John McCain is no longer among us, but his voice lives on.

You see, he produced a daughter who has become quite vigilant in protecting the late senator’s legacy. Moreover, she has become a vehement critic of the man who once had the indecency to denigrate Sen. McCain’s valiant and heroic service during the Vietnam War.

Meghan McCain clearly is her father’s daughter. She most recently said she wished that Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, had not attended the memorial service where Meghan McCain eulogized her father.

Meghan McCain speaks to Stephen Colbert

It was candidate Donald Trump who once said infamously that Sen. McCain was a “war hero only because he was captured. I like people that aren’t captured. OK?” That profoundly callous utterance drew much-deserved condemnation from many millions of Americans; I was one of them.

McCain was a Navy aviator who was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for more than five years. He rejected an offer for an early release and for that he suffered more torture from his captors.

Meghan McCain has taken that particular criticism personally, as she should. Moreover, she has taken personally the continual slights and digs that the president slung at her father while he was battling the cancer that took his life this past summer.

As one American who took Donald Trump’s hideous statement about someone who fought bravely for his country I continue to embrace the passionate views expressed by the valiant warrior’s daughter. She speaks not only for herself, but for many others who believe as she does about the (lack of) character the president continues to exhibit.

In support of a ‘nation of immigrants’

I am feeling the urge to stand once again in support of an ideal that occasionally gets lost in the hot-topic debating point of the moment.

We’re talking a lot these days about illegal immigrants. The discussion once in a while gravitates toward a discussion of all immigrants. Yes, even the foreigners who venture to our country legally get caught up in this discussion.

I am the grandson of immigrants. All four of them became great Americans. They came here of their choosing. They sought a better life than what they had in Greece and Turkey. They married — in this country — and brought 10 children into this world among them. Five of those children served in the U.S. military and of those five, three saw combat in World War II and Korea; my father was one of the WWII combat vets produced by the immigrants from Greece.

My story is not unique. It is one of tens of millions of stories that the immigrants and their direct descendants can and have told over the years.

That is precisely why I am mentioning it here.

It is that this nation of immigrants must not ever lose sight of its creation and the strength it has acquired from the work of those who came here and who built the nation we all love.

Yes, I know that many of those who came here from afar did not venture to our shores of their own volition. They were rounded up by slave traders and shipped across the ocean to become “property” of slaveowners. They obtained their freedom eventually while the United States was fighting a bloody and gruesome civil war over their enslavement.

Those Americans have become an important part of the national fabric. They achieved greatness.

This ongoing debate over whether to erect The Wall along our southern border is intended ostensibly to curb illegal immigration. In actuality whatever is occurring on our border is a longstanding event.

But as we keep yapping and yammering at each other over whether The Wall is worth the expense, we must take care to avoid that slippery-slope debating point that swallows up those who have ventured here lawfully.

I have heard it said over many years that we need to slam the door shut, that we have enough immigrants here already. Indeed, the president of the United States has talked openly about establishing a merit-based system that screens those seeking entry, allowing only those who possess the requisite skills to succeed in this Land of Opportunity.

That is as un-American a proposal as I can imagine, given the contributions that those four immigrants from southern Europe I mentioned earlier brought to this country. They weren’t well-educated. They didn’t come with special training or skill.

Instead, they all came to our land intent on falling in love with this great nation. They did. The nation was enriched by their presence.

Let us not forget that they are far from the only immigrants who can — and who have built — the greatest nation on Earth.

So long, Chief . . . and well done

I used to call him Chief. Jack Barnes was a retired Navy chief petty officer. I made his acquaintance while I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

Barnes hailed originally from Perryton, then spent a couple of decades defending the nation.

I was saddened recently to learn of Barnes’ death in December at the age of 68. I heard he suffered from an aggressive form of cancer. I am not going to comment on the end of this patriot’s life, but rather on what he did to enrich the lives of other patriots.

Barnes was the driving force behind a project called “Honor Flights.” He declared it his mission to shepherd World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to tour the memorial erected in these veterans’ honor. And to show them as many other sights as they could squeeze into a brief visit to the nation’s capital.

He worked tirelessly with Southwest Airlines to arrange to transport these veterans from Amarillo to Washington. Over time, he expanded his mission to include Korean War and then Vietnam War veterans. Given that the Korean War began only five years after the end of World War II, it became imperative, as Barnes saw it, to bring veterans of that war to D.C. to show them the Korean War memorial that honors the sacrifice of those who fought on the Korean Peninsula.

And, of course, the Vietnam War veterans also were invited aboard these Honor Flights. We, too, are getting a bit long in the tooth these days and Barnes wanted to treat the men and women who served in Vietnam to the same honor he delivered to the World War II and Korean War veterans.

Jack occasionally would ask me if I wanted to take part in an Honor Flight, given my own meager experience in the Vietnam War. I never found the time to take him up on his generous offer.

I lost contact — more or less — with Barnes after I resigned from the Globe-News in August 2012; we would see each other on occasion, at the grocery store or at a public event. But I surely knew of the work he continued to do to honor our World War II veterans.

Of the 16 million Americans who served during WWII, only a diminishing fraction of them are still with us. They’re all in their 90s now. Time is not their friend.

Barnes, though, was dedicated to these men and women and sought to honor them the best way he knew how. He honored them greatly with his diligence in escorting them to Washington, to see the memorial that is dedicated to their service in the fight against tyranny.

Jack Barnes was a proud man who spread his pride generously. His work should live on forever.

Rest in peace and well done, Chief.

Mueller is a pro and he is doing his job well

Robert S. Mueller III doesn’t need a chump blogger such as me out here in the middle of Donald Trump Country to defend him.

I will do so anyway.

The president of the United States and his allies have squawked themselves hoarse — in a manner of speaking — while denigrating the work that Mueller has done in pursuing the truth related to “The Russia Thing.”

Trump calls Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt,” he calls it “rigged,” and asserts that Mueller has found zero evidence of “collusion” between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system.

I am forced to wonder aloud: How does someone pile up 37 indictments and guilty pleas while conducting a “witch hunt”?

Back when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, deputy AG Rod Rosenstein selected Mueller — a former FBI director and a crack prosecutor — to lead the investigation. Mueller’s appointment was greeted in the moment by partisans on both sides of the aisle with universal acclaim. Politicians called it an inspired choice and were delighted that Mueller accepted the challenge of getting to the root of the Russia matter.

Then he began sniffing out Donald Trump’s closest aides and campaign advisers. Suddenly Mueller’s name became mud in the eyes of Republicans. Donald Trump has been relentless in his haranguing of Mueller via Twitter.

I continue to believe that this decorated Vietnam War combat veteran, a former U.S. Marine, is the man who partisans hailed when the Justice Department named him special prosecutor.

Having said that, do I want this probe to end soon? Yes! I do! I want Mueller to wrap it up. However, I want him to finish his task without interference from the DOJ, or from William Barr, who’s been nominated by Trump to be the next AG to succeed Jeff Sessions. I have faith that Barr will honor his pledge to let Mueller finish his task under his own power and on his own terms.

I’ll just make one request — yet again — of the special counsel: Release as much as he possibly can of what he finds to the public. We are spending a lot of public money on this probe and the public deserves the chance to see if this money is worth the investment we have made in the pursuit of the truth.

Still miss the wisdom that RFK brought

I cannot help but feel wistful — and sad to this day — when I watch videos of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Indeed, it is the coarseness of today’s debate that makes wish we had another RFK on the horizon, waiting to grab our attention, speak to our better angels, prod us to think beyond our own self-interest.

This video comes from a 1967 interview that Bobby Kennedy had with “Face the Nation” questioners. His answers were full, complete and yes, a bit wordy at times. He spoke about the Vietnam War, which was Topic No. 1 on all the TV news talk shows in that era.

RFK waffled during this interview about whether he would be a candidate for president in 1968. He straddled the fence until the moment in the New Hampshire Democratic primary when Sen. Eugene McCarthy came shockingly close to upsetting President Johnson.

In came Bobby Kennedy. His campaign launched and in March 1968, LBJ shocked the nation by declaring he would “not seek” nor would he “accept my party’s nomination for another term as your president.”

I want to hear RFK’s wisdom again. Today’s political debate has devolved into insults, innuendo and an utter lack of compassion, particularly when it comes from the White House. I always have thought we are better than that. We deserve better than what we’re hearing in this era.

Then I look back at 1968, a terrible year for this country. The Vietnam War was killing hundreds of Americans each week. RFK sought an end to a conflict in which he — as attorney general during his brother’s administration — was a key architect.

RFK spoke to us at a level we haven’t heard since his death in June 1968 at the hands of an assassin. He told us stark, brutal truth about the bitterness and division that tore at our nation.

RFK had the “it” factor that is difficult to define. It is missing throughout the ranks of those who might seek to become the next president. It most certainly is nowhere to be found anywhere near the individual who currently holds that office.

It’s been more than 50 years since Robert Kennedy left this good Earth. I miss him every day. I miss him especially when I have to swallow today’s toxic mess that comprises political debate.

The clown show is getting even more bizarre

That astonishing sideshow that commenced today in the Cabinet Room of the White House left me fairly speechless.

Why? Because there is too much on which to comment. Donald Trump’s non-stop riff covering the government shutdown, The Wall, the military, James Mattis’ resignation/firing, and God knows what else has left many of us out here grasping for something on which to analyze.

I’ll go with two items that jumped out at me.

Trump said, “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” Well, Mr. President, you had your chance back in the 1960s. While many of us were answering the call to duty during the Vietnam War, young Donald Trump received (cough, cough!) medical deferments associated with, um, bone spurs.

I had flat feet in 1968, which I always thought was a disqualifier. The U.S. Army induction center in Portland, Ore., didn’t accept that idea. So . . .  off I went.

The future president got five deferments. The New York Times recently revealed that the circumstances of those deferments were at best questionable, that the doctor who “diagnosed” the bone spurs allegedly did so as a favor to young Donald’s father, Fred. Thus, I won’t buy into his goofy notion about how good a general he would have been.

Then he said this about James Mattis, the now-former secretary of defense. “What did I get out of” his service? “Not much,” Trump said.

OK. Let’s see. The oath that Mattis took was to protect the country, to serve the country, to defend the Constitution. He did not swear an oath to serve the president. He did not declare his adherence to the individual who nominated him to run the Pentagon.

Then the president said he “essentially” fired the defense secretary.

Right there is yet another demonstration from Donald Trump that this individual does not understand the true meaning of public service. He has shown one more time how patently unfit he is to serve as commander in chief of the finest military apparatus the world has ever seen.