Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The War Is Finally Over For James Stockdale


James Stockdale, RIP or “Who Was I? Where Did I Go?”

James Stockdale is probably best remembered as Ross Perot’s running mate during the 1992 election. Hired as a placeholder for a ‘real’ vice presidential candidate, Stockdale found himself the de facto VP candidate after Perot’s temporary campaign hiatus failed to produce a new running mate. Since Stockdales’ patriotism was beyond question, his selection was seen only as upside by campaign managers. They must have never factored that James Stockdale might speak and render an opinion on current events or policy.

Stockdale is best remembered for his quizzical VP debate against Dan Quayle and Al Gore. Since Stockdale never was expected to be the eventual VP candidate for Perot he wasn’t adequately prepped for a debate on the level and importance of the vice presidential slot, and gawd did it show. He came across as a deranged POW, filtering everything through his experience as a Vietnamese prisoner of war.

The opening line of “Who Am I? Why Am I Here?” could have worked. But after a few minutes of Stockdale rambling, it became all too apparent that those were probably very real, very earnestly asked questions. Stockdales performance is probably best remembered as the beginning of the end for Ross Perot’s presidential bid.

Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey did a priceless bit with Hartman as Stockdale and Carvey in his great Perot imitation. Perot takes Stockdale on a ride, “jus’ goin’ out in the country for a lil’ drive” and tries to abandon him out in the sticks like an unwanted Dalmatian. Stockdale alllllllllmost falls for it too.

The point being, military service and all is great, and I don’t mean to sully the reputation of a highly decorated military veteran. Stockdale was the lead man during Gulf of Tonkin incident, and he knew it was a fraud when it was happening. A truly great man would have let it be known far and wide that his country was being taken to war on lies, which Stockdale knew.

James Stockdale was a dutiful man. He held his tongue and went along with the lie, even spending 7 years as a POW. He was, however, not a great man. A great man would have stood up to a lie and put his country over orders. His rank of Vice Admiral was achieved virtually because of his POW status, feel good punting upstairs. No, if James Stockdale were a great man, he would have called bullshit when he saw bullshit.

"[I] had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets -- there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power." – James Stockdale

Instead, Stockdale chose to publish letters he wrote to his wife.

RIP Admiral Stockdale.


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