06 July 2005

Vice Admiral James Stockdale (1923-2005)

My fellow Americans,
A great American has gone to his reward. Vice Admiral James Stockdale, whose extraordinary exploits maintaining his integrity and demonstrating unusual valor before his captors as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese government, has
passed away.

These United States, plus Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerter Rico, American Samoa, and the Aleutians, will not soon forget, but will long remember, the example of military bearing, character, and fortitude this officer showed.

Which explains why he was unfit for public office.

VADM Stockdale was a failed presidential vice-presidential candidate alongside Ross Perot in 1992. He rhetorically asked the American public, "Who am I? Why am I here?"

Unlike myself, who is an unfailed public officer. Better yet, I am elected. Again and again, I might add. I am at least intelligent enough to know not to ask these types of questions, even rhetorically. Did I ask the questions before that Senate Committee, when I showed up with dirty unkempt hair, a fatigue blouse unblemished by iron or starch, with my ribbon rack tackily tacked to it, atop civvie pants and some way cool Florsheims?

No. Because I have the bearing of the Boston Brahmin. The class of the Congress Club. Basically, I'm in, and Stockdale was a temporary media figure famous for a medal. I believe that with all my heart.

Me, I'm the medal-thrower, the testifying wannabe hippie (did you check out my way cool locks when I testified on the Vietnam War?? OMG I wuz L33T!); I am the thug and slug ex-sailor, the snarky junior officer, the gross exaggerater that VADM Stockdale would have probably throttled on the spot had he had the pleasure of meeting me. But while I was manufacturing tales about my heroism on dark and distant rivers, and Christmases, and cavorting with Vietnam veterans who wanted to plot to overthrow the Constitution, VADM Stockdale was being abused in most heinous ways by his captors. While I was lying before the Congress I would later own about American abuses, VADM Stockdale was suffering real abuses--the kind of which would make a Geneva Convention employee commit seppuku -- that's hara-kiri in English -- in angst and frustration.

I was the medal-thrower. And I enjoyed every Christmas at home after my lonely Cambodian sojourn, in the comfort of friends and family, and colleagues and cliques, safe and secure knowing that VADM Stockdale was taking blows to his body for my benefit and the benefit of those I entertained with my nasal drawl at my well-equipped dinner table. (Ah, the goose we ate those years!)

VADM Stockdale was awarded the MoH -- that's Congressional Medal of Honor to us insiders.

The medal-wearer and the medal-thrower.

And there you have the mark of two men.

VADM Stockdale.

And me.

I thank you and wish you good night.


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