Tag Archives: WWII

Mr. POTUS, apologize to Sen. McCain

Gregory Wallance is a lawyer and author who has written a wonderful essay for The Hill in which he declares it’s time for Donald J. Trump to say he’s sorry for defaming John McCain.

What’s more, according to Wallance, Trump defamed an entire corps of warriors who served their country with honor and valor in precisely the manner that McCain did.

Here is Wallance’s essay.

Sen. McCain, an Arizona Republican, has been diagnosed with brain cancer. His prognosis is not yet known to the world, although my sense is that doctors have given the McCain family a full briefing.

The point is that Sen. McCain served more than five years as a Vietnam War prisoner. He was shot down in 1967 over a Hanoi lake. He suffered broken limbs after he ejected from his stricken jet. The North Vietnamese who captured him stuck a bayonet in his abdomen. He was tortured, beaten and berated by his captors.

He was offered an early release. The communists thought they would win points by releasing the son of a senior Navy officer. The young aviator refused, and was subjected to more torture.

What did then-candidate Trump say about McCain’s service during a war that Trump managed to avoid? He said McCain was a “hero only because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

No one on Earth thinks Trump has it in what passes for a heart to say he’s sorry for defaming a valiant and gallant war hero. Gregory Wallance, though, has offered a stirring account of why such an apology should be made to honor all the individuals who endured the kind of wartime misery inflicted on John McCain.

Wallance writes: “In the decades after World War II, when more than 120,000 Americans had been POWs, insulting a former POW the way Trump did would have ended any politician‚Äôs career.”

Wallance writes about the raid conducted on Japan immediately after Pearl Harbor, about how Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his fellow Army aviators took off from the USS Hornet aboard land-based B-25 bombers. Their mission was fraught with peril from the get-go. They struck targets in Japan. Many of the men were captured by the enemy.

“American servicemen and women become POWs because they are serving their country in harm‚Äôs way,” Wallance writes.

He doesn’t expect Trump to apologize. He wants the country to salute those who served their nation and paid a heavy price because they fell into enemy hands.

I join in that salute. Fruitless as it is, though, I also demand that Donald Trump apologize for the hideous insult he leveled at a true American hero.

Happy Trails, Part 23

Please excuse this latest retirement blog so soon after the previous one, but I want to offer tribute to one of the greatest Americans … ever!

Dwight David Eisenhower served his country in two profound capacities: as a senior military officer and strategist who commanded all Allied forces in Europe during World War II; and as 34th president of the United States.

My wife and I are embarking on one of what we expect to be several lengthy trips along the interstate highway system, which happened to be Ike’s crowning achievement — in my view — as president.

We intend over time to haul our fifth wheel RV along back-country roads as well. There’s plenty to see in this great country of ours — as well as the rest of North America — that doesn’t straddle the interstate highway system.

We’ve relied almost exclusively on interstate highways to get us from point to point in our post-retirement adventures.

Ike’s vision for speeding up ground travel across the United States makes it easier for folks such as my wife and me to enjoy this newfound pursuit of ours: RV travel.

The president relied on an experience he had as a young Army officer. In 1919, he took part in a convoy that crossed the country along what was known as the Lincoln Highway. It took him weeks to make the trip.

Thirty-four years later, he took the oath as president and embarked on another journey of a political kind to persuade Congress enact the Interstate Highway Act. Construction began in 1956, with states competing for attention over which of them had the first “interstate highway.”

Whatever the case, what we have now is a remarkable network of highways. Some of the are turnpikes that require motorists to pay tolls to pass along them; we plunked down $5 at two toll booths in West Virginia, but didn’t begrudge the state one bit, as the highway is magnificent.

President Eisenhower was a visionary man, although he might not have been called one at the time he led the nation.

His legacy is laid out in every single state of this great nation.

Yep, make no mistake: I like Ike.

In Trump World: Buck stops … somewhere else

Commanders in chief are supposed to know a fundamental truth about sitting atop a large and complex military chain of command.

They are allowed to take some of the credit for success, but they also must take responsibility¬†when missions don’t go according to plan.

Donald J. Trump signed off on a mission to kill or capture some top al-Qaeda leaders, to collect some intelligence on the terror network and, presumably, to return all the men assigned to carry out the mission back home.

The mission that occurred in Yemen in late January. A Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens died in the fire fight.¬†A state-of-the-art Osprey¬†V-22 tiltrotor¬†aircraft was lost. Some al-Qaeda leaders died in the battle. So did some civilians, including at least one child.

Military and national security officials are still trying to assess the value of the intelligence collected. We keep hearing conflicting assessments. The president, of course, says it is of high value.

But the current commander in chief has done something that is quite extraordinary — and inexcusable. He is laying the¬†blame for Petty Officer Owens’ death on the military planners. “They” lost the SEAL, Trump has said.

Wait a flippin’ minute, Mr. President! The buck is supposed to stop¬†at your desk. One of your predecessors, President Truman, famously posted the sign on his Oval Office desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.”¬†President Kennedy once¬†declared that “victory has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan” after the failed Bay of Pigs operation shortly after he became president.

Trump’s response? He has declared that the planning for the Yemen raid was¬†done¬†by President¬†Obama’s national security¬†team. They crafted the plan that failed, Trump has implied. It’s their fault, too!

This is not what commanders in chief do. Under any other circumstance,¬†presidents stand up and take the heat when things go badly. They do not blame others — namely the military brass or their predecessors. JFK’s failed mission in Cuba was actually conceived by his predecessor, President Eisenhower, but the new guy took the hickey, accepted full responsibility for the mission’s failure.

A military man who just a few years later would become commander in chief himself, devised a strategy to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower — supreme commander of Allied Forces — launched the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France in June 1944. The mission succeeded, Europe would be liberated.

But Ike had written an alternative announcement he would have read over the radio had the mission failed. In the message that was never broadcast, he took full responsibility for its failure.

That is what leaders do.

I am not going to wander into the muck over whether the Yemen raid was a success or failure. The president’s assertion that the generals were to blame for the death of a brave young SEAL suggests to me that he has doubts about the mission’s overall success.

Whatever the case, the event occurred on the commander in chief’s watch and it is that person — no one else — who should be held fully accountable.

U.S. remains strong and resilient, despite the chaos

A friend of mine and I were chatting briefly Monday about the state of affairs in Washington after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

“What do you think about how things are going?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know. I’m worried,” I answered.

We chatted about the media relations that the Trump administration seems intent on destroying. “Hey, CNN gave the press guy good marks for his press briefing,” my friend said, “and if CNN says it’s OK, then it must be OK, right?” He clearly was tossing a dig at CNN’s purported “liberal bias.”

He added, “I think we’re going to be just fine.” Oh, yes. I am quite sure my friend voted for Trump.

Then it dawned on me. We’ve been through muc worse than what we’re experiencing now. Nothing, though, quite matches the unique quality of the weirdness taking place as Trump settles into the presidency after two terms of Barack Obama.

Watergate? That was worse and we got through it. World War II? Hey, how does one compare any conflict with that event? We got through that one, too. The Great Depression? We survived and then prospered. The Civil War? Other countries endure such bloodshed and never are the same. We did and went on to continue our march toward international greatness.

I, thus, take a form of perverse comfort in knowing that our system of government is crafted to see us through crises. Do I rank the current transition from one president to another as one of those? Not really.

However, it’s damn weird. I hope our system can make provisions for the strangeness of it all. I’m guessing it will.

Hoping for the next true American hero


Dale Butland has written a truly depressing essay about the death of John Glenn.

Writing for the New York Times, Butland — who once worked for the one-time Ohio U.S. senator — seems to think Glenn is the “last American hero” … ever!

I wince at the thought. I shudder to think that there won’t be someone who can¬†capture Americans’ hearts the way Glenn did in 1962.

The essay itself isn’t depressing. Its premise, though, surely is.


Do I have any clue, any idea where the next hero will appear?

Of course not!

However, I am going to remain the eternal optimist that we haven’t yet traipsed through the portal that takes us all into some parallel universe where no heroes can ever exist.

Sure, Glenn was an exceptional American. A Marine Corps fighter pilot who saw combat in World War II and Korea. The astronaut who became the first American to orbit the planet. A successful business executive. A close friend of John and Robert Kennedy and their families. A four-term U.S. senator. A man who got the call once again, at age 77, to fly into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

He became “an American legend.”

That, dear reader, is a full life.

Is he the final legendary figure ever to walk among us?

Oh, man … I pray that someone will emerge.

Trump is ‘botching’ transition? Oh, brother!


Donald J. Trump boasted about his immense success in business, suggesting his business acumen was all he needed to take the reins of the federal government.

The president-elect might be learning that transitioning from private to public life is, um, quite a bit more complicated than he ever imagined.

Politico and other news outlets are reporting that Trump’s transition has turned into a “knife fight” among those closest to the president-elect.


Some questions have arisen about potential conflicts of interests involving his son-in-law Jaret Kushner, as well as his daughter Ivanka. He has hired a man believed to be a white supremacist as his chief political adviser.

Trump only today received his first full-scale national security briefing from the National Security Council.

The fellow he picked as his transition chief, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has been pushed aside.

Rudy Giuliani, reported to be Trump’s top choice to become secretary of state, is now under investigation over work he did as a paid consultant for foreign governments, posing a tremendous potential conflict of interest. John Bolton — the neo-con who wanted to bomb Iran five years ago — is another possible secretary of state candidate who has drawn a threat from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to filibuster his nomination if it comes to pass.

Oh, boy.

Some government experience ought to be considered an essential qualification for the president. Trump brought none of it into his winning campaign. He cited his business experience as Reason No. 1 to elect him.

I thought earlier today about another president who took office after having never been elected to another public position. I came up with Dwight Eisenhower. All he did, of course, was command Allied forces in the fight against the Nazis during World War II, which I surmise suffices as enough government experience to prepare him for the role of commander in chief.

The next president is now embarking on the steepest, most arduous learning curve imaginable as he prepares for this enormous challenge.

He’d better start figuring this out. In a major hurry.

Another hero passes from the scene


Raymond Haerry has died at the age of 94.

I want to take a few moments to concentrate on someone other than Donald J. Trump and those vulgar remarks about women.

Raymond Haerry served on a battleship during World War II. It was the USS Arizona. Haerry was on board the old ship when Japanese fighter pilots roared in over Honolulu harbor and started bombing the U.S. Navy ships anchored at Pearl Harbor.

Haerry was one of the last survivors of that attack. With his passing, only five men remain. The hero’s son, Raymond Jr., plans take his father’s ashes to the Battleship Arizona Memorial in Honolulu to inter them next to his shipmates.

Haerry’s death is worth noting for a lot of reasons. I’ll cite just a couple of them.

Raymond Jr. said his dad was aboard the ship when the attack commenced. He tried to man a deck gun to fire at the enemy, but the ammo was locked up. As he tried to secure some ammunition, a bomb exploded on the ship. He jumped into the water and swam through flames to the shore, where he was able to return fire at the marauding aircraft.

He represents what’s come to be known as The Greatest Generation, a term made famous by a book of that name written by the legendary broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw.


All told during the nearly four years the United States fought in World War II, we sent 16 million men and women into the fight. They are dying rapidly these days. Only a fraction of those Americans remain among us.

My wife and I — God willing — are likely to outlive the last American veteran of that great conflict.

We’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Arizona memorial. We went there in September 2010 and could see the outline of the ship just below the surface of the water. One’s heart breaks at the sight of the ship — and of knowing that many¬†of the more than 1,100 crew members’¬†remains are entombed there.

I want to honor Raymond Haerry’s service to our great country. His heroism cannot be denied, just as so many Americans’ served heroically during a dark time in our nation’s history.

They, indeed, comprised our Greatest Generation.

So wrong, so often on this election campaign


Please pardon this bad rip-off of a famous poem, but … How many time have I been wrong about this election cycle? Let me count the ways.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wouldn’t approve, but what the heck. I feel the need to atone for some terrible misfires on this presidential election campaign.

I take small solace — and it is small, indeed — in the knowledge that I am not alone in failing to shoot straight.

Donald J. Trump has confounded damn near everyone, first by grabbing the Republican presidential nomination this summer and then by making a race of it against Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I once vowed to never again make a political prediction. I should have kept to my pledge. I should have buttoned up my pie hole/typing fingers and called it good. Let others stick their necks out.

But no-o-o-o! I had to weigh in. I had to make an ass of myself.

I never thought Trump would be nominated. I never thought this novice politician with the very big mouth and even larger ego could wrestle the nomination away from the Republican pros.

Then again, I never thought Hillary would run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and I thought that Colin Powell would run for the presidency in 1996. Neither of those things happened.

With that track record, I still managed to stick my neck out on this campaign.

Once Trump got the nomination, I was dead certain Clinton would win in a landslide. She was destined to be president, kind of like the way Ike was destined in 1952 for the top job … after leading Allied troops to victory in World War II.

I didn’t anticipate Clinton’s flaws being such a drag on her candidacy. Nor did I envision Trump ever being able to get away with some of the hideous things he has said over the past year: John McCain is a war hero only because he “was captured?; the U.S.-born federal judge being a “Mexican”; his mocking of a reporter’s physical ailments; his suggestion that Mexico is sending “rapists, drug dealers, murderers” and other assorted criminals to the United States.

I never anticipated that his GOP base of support would hold as strong as it has done.

Moreover, I was so certain that Trump’s flaws were so egregious that I actually blogged that Hillary could win a 50-state sweep this fall.

Time to handicap the fall election

OK, with all of that out of the way, I am going to make another stab at fulfilling an earlier pledge.

I am — once again — declaring myself to be out of the political predicting game.

I lack the intuitive powers, perhaps even the intellect to try to guess what voters are going to do.

If you catch me falling off the wagon again, you are welcome to call the guys in the white coats. I won’t be silent. There will be more commentary to come. Just no predicting.

I’m just going to wait this¬†spectacle¬†out … and hope for the best.

Nation faces its own past


“A great nation does not hide its history.¬†It faces its flaws, and corrects them.”

Former President George W. Bush, in remarks dedicating the Museum of African-American History

Indeed, they dedicated a museum this weekend that pays tribute to the contributions¬†African-Americans gave to this country’s rich history and culture.

It also revisits the grim aspects of that experience. Slavery, life under Jim Crow laws, the street battles that ensued as the civil rights movement gained traction.

It was a bipartisan affair this weekend, with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on hand to welcome the opening of this exhibit.

I wanted to share the quote from President Bush and put it in another context.

My wife and I returned recently from two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands. It was in Germany where I saw how another great nation treats a grim portion of its otherwise glorious past.

Nuremberg became the site where Nazi Germany’s high command was put on trial for committing the most hideous crimes against humanity one ever could imagine. The Germans have erected a museum there to¬†remember that dark chapter. They do not honor it. They don’t celebrate it. They put it out there for all the world to see.

That’s how they remind the world — and themselves — that they cannot allow the persecution, intimidation and murder of their fellow citizens simply because of their religious faith. That, of course, is what happened in Europe prior to and during the Second World War.

The African-American museum that’s now open in Washington, of course, also honors the extraordinary contributions that African-Americans have given to this nation. It also remembers the terrible times brought on by the enslavement of human beings and the struggles they endured as they fought for the equality the nation’s founders had declared had been granted to them by their “Creator.”

President Bush is right. Great nations do not sweep their darker chapters away. They don’t ignore them. They don’t wish them away.

They stare those chapters down and declare never again will we allow ourselves to repeat these tragic mistakes.

‘Democratic socialist’ sounding more, um, socialist


The¬† more I hear from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the more convinced I become that it’s time to end the qualifier when describing his economic philosophy.

The presidential candidate calls himself a “democratic socialist.”

I believe I understand the message he’s trying to convey, which is that his brand of socialism isn’t dependent entirely on the government taking care of every American’s needs.

Sanders has been using the democratic socialist label — again, in my view — to take some of the sting out of the s-word that conservatives are fond of using to describe policies such as, oh, the Affordable Care Act.

Then on Thursday night, near the end of the Democratic presidential candidate debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sanders launched into a lengthy riff about the two political leaders he most admired.

He ended with Winston Churchill, but only after he described Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s tenure as president.

He told us how FDR took office in 1933 while 25 percent of Americans were out of work. We were in the throes of the Great Depression.

How did FDR get us moving again? By energizing government to create jobs. The WPA and CCC were government-financed employment programs. The money to pay for them didn’t just materialize. Americans paid for them with taxes.

Social Security became law in 1935.

Gradually, the nation began to work its way out of the Great Depression.

Then came Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Everything changed after that.

But as I listened Thursday night to Sen. Sanders go on and on about FDR’s leadership, I was struck by the belief that he was talking about socialism. Not just a form of it, but the unvarnished version of it.

I happen to share Sanders’ view that 80-plus years ago, President Roosevelt faced a terrible, miserable set of circumstances when he took his seat behind the big desk in the Oval Office. He felt he had to do something dramatic to get the country going.

Sanders also said something else at the end of the debate that I found a bit curious. He seems to believe the nation is ready for another “revolution,” that the income inequality gap of today sets up a need to create some kind of massive government infusion of money to bolster working families who are suffering while the “top 1 percent of Americans” are doing fabulously.

He wants free college education. Sanders vows to bring universal health care to every American. He intends to push for a dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage.

How does he intend to pay for it? He wants to raise taxes on all Americans.

How, then, is he going to do that with Republicans retaining control of the House of Representatives, where all tax legislation must originate?

He sounds like a socialist.

Not a democratic socialist.

He sounds like the real thing.

I believe I heard someone who is overreaching as he pulls the lever on the economic alarm bell.

FDR faced a grave economic crisis the likes of which will not confront the next president.