Archive for the Hillary Clinton Category


All things considered, my mother spoke less than perfect English. Her rural background often seeped through in her manner of speaking. While she may have made grammatical mistakes and mispronunciations, the burden of her message was always clear. If she were alive today, there is some doubt that she would read my essays. But perhaps she might. My essays would interfere with her reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch, a great newspaper in the decades before 1960, and her reading of her Bible. She was fond of reading the Bible and when she had a passage that she liked, she would underline it, using a fountain pen. Upon her death, her Bible had very few passages that had escaped the underlining of Lillie’s fountain pen. But if she were to read my essays, Lillie would say, “Boy, you have already given them a large dose of them random thoughts of yours. Now, are you going to give them another dose?” Sort of sheepishly, I would be obliged to respond to her question by saying that “Yes, I am.”


My first random thought has to do with a report that our Secretary of Defense, a Mr. Gates, is having trouble with the United States Air Force in carrying out his orders. As Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates is the superior of the Army Chief of Staff, the Naval command structure, the Marine Corps Commandant, the Coast Guard hierarchy, and the Air Force’s command structures, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is supposed to have unified the services. He is the boss of all of these people.

Today is April 25, 2008. This morning the powerful Mr. Gates lamented that he could not get the United States Air Force to do what needed to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Gates said this morning that there are many targets of opportunity in those two countries that needed to be bombed. He called them “targets of opportunity.” Mr. Gates seems quite certain that our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are being hampered by the Air Force’s intransigence. Perhaps those targets of opportunity have a big “T” on their roofs so that our precision bombers may have a better opportunity to hit them.

History will record that at one point in the life of Sergeant Ezra Carr, he had a hand in dropping bombs on enemy targets. Whether they were legitimate “targets of opportunity” was rarely discussed. In those days, that term was unknown to me. The point was to fly over the target, to drop the bombs, and then to fly away as quickly as possible. Warfare has made many advances since I had a hand in the armed forces.

These days there are drones that are unmanned that can fly over targets of opportunity, take television pictures of those targets and drop bombs on them. This would seem like great stuff to me in that there are no pilots and crewmen to lose. If a drone is shot down, all we have lost is a drone, not a pilot or crewmembers. But Mr. Gates has a lament that won’t go away.

According to the Secretary of Defense, who is none other than this Mr. Gates, the Air Force requires that full-fledged pilots must operate the drones. It takes about 18 months to turn out a full-fledged pilot in the Air Force. According to the Secretary of Defense, other services such as the Marine Corps, the Army, and the Navy use less-qualified people to operate the drones. This arrangement means that flyers can go fly their missions while less-qualified people can operate the drones.

I am at a loss to understand why it takes a fully-qualified pilot to operate a drone, as the Air Force requires. If a drone, for example, flies over an outdoor meeting being addressed by Osama Bin Laden using a lectern together with a slide projector, with an audience of say perhaps 1,500 Al Qaeda members, this would seem to be a legitimate target of opportunity. Obviously the drones carry bombs under their wings or in their bellies. It seems to me that a Private First Class could push the button in the Headquarters drone machine operation that would release the bombs, just as well as a Rhodes Scholar who holds a fully-qualified pilot’s license in the United States Air Force. But the Air Force adamantly refuses to operate the drone machines unless a fully qualified pilot is sitting at the drone machine control center. This refusal means that targets of opportunity go unbombed and Osama can complete his lecture to the terrorists unharmed.

As an old flyer of airplanes with bombs on them, I must wonder what in the world this dispute is about. But the Air Force demands that only fully-qualified pilots sit behind the drone machine while the other services say that it can be done with lower level employees. My guess is that a janitor could release the bombs just as well as a fully-qualified pilot in the United States Air Force. But that is not the way the Air Force sees it.

Mr. Gates is the former president of Texas A&M University. That school must have converted Mr. Gates into a gentleman with a desire to offend no one. If I were the boss of Mr. Gates, I would tell him to quit lamenting this intransigence to the media and to go down to the Air Force headquarters and to kick ass until his leg throbs. Ah, but you see, I am not much of a gentleman, particularly a college-educated gentleman. If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps in Iran are to be decided by such petty jealousies as this, we will still be at war when my great great grandchildren are born.

Speaking of targets of opportunity, shortly after our invasion of Afghanistan when we were hot in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, the estimable former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said that there were more targets of opportunity in Iraq than in Afghanistan. And so we turned our attention to a diversionary target. Now more than five years later, it seems that we are still pursuing what the generals call “targets of opportunity.”


So much for targets. Let us now turn to a term in warfare that only recently became settled in my mind. For the past year or two, the people at the Pentagon, particularly Rumsfeld and now Mr. Gates, have referred to the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war as “asymmetric engagements.” I had never really understood this new term, but I thought I was simply out of date because I had left the military services more than 65 years ago.

I know what symmetry is but “asymmetric” is a new term in that it means that there is no symmetry to the proposition at hand. Recently I learned from some chance encounters with people who report from the Pentagon that “asymmetric warfare” involves insurgencies. There are no soldiers with uniforms on firing bullets at each other, but rather people in the streets wearing t-shirts who lob grenades at our troops. That, my friends, is asymmetric warfare. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but even as an old soldier, it took me a year or more to determine that asymmetric warfare meant an operation against an insurgent force in the streets. I will have to get a lot smarter than that or my application to become a Fulbright Scholar will go down the drain.


To turn to another completely random thought, it baffles me beyond belief that our presidential candidates require spiritual advisors. In the beginning, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago made some remarks that are being used to abuse Barack Obama. I have heard Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s remarks in full context, and it seems to me that they are very much in keeping with the traditions of Afro-American preaching. The point is that if you attend an Episcopal church in a fashionable neighborhood in New York City, you will be addressed by a person with a string of degrees who will read his sermon and then sit down. The same may be said for other churches, such as the Presbyterians’ or the Congregationalists’. In those churches, there is no give and take between the preacher and the congregation.

On the other hand, there is a black Baptist preacher who is quite typical who preaches here in Summit, New Jersey. Upon beginning to speak, this preacher says that he wishes to have a dialogue with his congregation as opposed to a monologue. And so it is that this congregation shouts encouragement to the preacher. They say “amen” or “halleluiah” and when the preacher really gets after Satan, they might say, “Go get him!” But that is a different style of preaching than what staid church goers may be accustomed to. What Jeremiah Wright in Chicago was preaching was the traditional black style of spreading the gospel. But be that as it may, Reverend Wright was Barak Obama’s preacher, not his spiritual advisor. In this case, however, Obama has not been spared from being flayed fore and aft for the remarks of his preacher.


Now we turn to one of the candidates, named John McCain, who has at least two spiritual advisors. One of them is named Reverend Hagee, who calls the Catholic Church “a great whore.” I am not sure why Hagee uses this terminology, but he seems to have repeated it on more than one occasion. Hagee is the same figure who said that New Orleans was destroyed by Jesus because they were permitting homosexual parades in the Mardi Gras procession and perhaps they might even approve of homosexual marriages. I suspect that John McCain is kind of slow on the uptake in that he has not only not repudiated what Hagee has had to say, but he has accepted an endorsement from the Reverend Hagee.

And then there is the Reverend Rod Parsley. Reverend Parsley runs a mega-church in Ohio where, among other things, he has waged a battle against the “false religion of Islam.” Reverend Parsley says that this false religion must be destroyed, which I assume would take several millions of American soldiers to do. He also has expressed his violent opposition to gay rights as well as his opposition to the idea that this government should have a separation between church and state. I would say that Reverend Parsley is simply a man who is afflicted by “bonkerdom”. Put simply, he is nuts. But he has not only become a spiritual advisor to Mr. McCain but has also endorsed him as well.

To the best of my knowledge, Senator Clinton has not publicly named her spiritual advisor, if she has one. If she has no spiritual advisor, that may be a reason to vote for her.


Well, there you have my random thoughts on a Thursday afternoon in April, 2008. I suspect that before life is done, some more random thoughts may intrude upon my brain and, in accordance with the military code of justice, they will be reported in some of these essays. I hope that the dosage that my mother would have alluded to is within your limits to choke down. But in the final analysis, perhaps it is meritorious that at an advanced age such as mine any thoughts at all will invade my mind. For that, I am grateful. Thank you.

Shortly after the story appeared on the wires about the refusal of the Air Force to fly the missions involving the drones, there was a story from Albuquerque, New Mexico, about Amanda Montoya. One morning, Miss Montoya was watching a pornographic movie in the apartment that was rented by a good friend, who happened to be male. One way or another, Miss Montoya concluded that the actor in the pornographic film was, in fact, the boyfriend who was watching the movie with her. She did what any red-blooded American girl would do. She went to the kitchen and got a long-handled steel knife and stabbed her boyfriend in the face. The boyfriend, who was clad only in his underwear shorts, began to run and left the apartment and was running down the street with Miss Montoya in full pursuit. The cops came and not only charged her with attempted assault but she had also left her eight-month-old child in the apartment while she chased her boyfriend down the street. So she was charged with child abuse.

It seems to me that if the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, had a bit more of the spirit that moved Miss Montoya, the Air Force would be a lot more willing to carry out his orders. But in the final analysis, Mr. Gates is a gentleman who watches few pornographic movies. Perhaps if he were to watch porno movies, it might give him the courage to make certain that the Air Force followed his instructions. But in the end, friends and foes alike are entitled to believe that military discipline in our armed services is not what it used to be.

April 24, 2008
Essay 311
Kevin’s commentary: Well, this completes the Random Thoughts trilogy of early 2008. It must have felt pretty good to empty his brain of all these thoughts bouncing around there. Unfortunately publishing this essay will probably serve to bring them back, though they are admittedly less pressing now.

Speaking of Asymmetric Engagements, I think drone strikes probably qualify there too. Sure, it’s not symmetric for a marine corps to be fighting a band of dudes who know the town and use guerrilla tactics. But it’s also not symmetric when one side is gambling with lives and the other is gambling with equipment. I’m all for controlled drone strikes but we have to be very very careful when and where we use them because they’re rapidly becoming one of the most hated symbols of the US abroad. Part of this problem, I thought, stemmed from inexperienced people controlling the drones and hitting the wrong targets. Turns out they’re all pilots — makes me glad that the janitor isn’t behind that joystick after all.


A good many years ago, Will Rogers, the noted American humorist, said of himself, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” Judging by the time it has taken to nominate the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, it appears that Will Rogers probably had it right.

At this point, we are down to only two contenders for the nomination. Recently, one of the contenders said that her opponent’s speeches were “just words.” To people whose only currency is words, that statement cuts like a knife. Newspaper writers and readers are involved in the debate as to whether the stories they write and read are “just words.” The same may be said for authors of books. And of course, ancient essayists are not pleased by Mrs. Clinton’s dismissal of those who are wordsmiths. Wordsmiths such as myself are not angry with the New York Senator; they simply wish for this marathonic debate to come to a close. Before this issue is put to rest, those of us who write words and read them might offer a rejoinder to Mrs. Clinton’s remarks.

There are words of love and words of hate. There are words of hope and words of despair. There are words of happiness and words of tragedy. And there are some words that can inspire a nation. So at this point, this old essayist would like to offer a rejoinder to the remark that our expressions are meaningless and they amount to nothing more than “just words.”

In 1939, war was declared in Europe and by 1941, Adolf Hitler and the forces of his army had conquered much of Europe and had neutralized many of the other countries as well. Only the English Channel separated England from France and the rest of the continent that was controlled by Hitler. It was up to Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England, to inspire and to rally his nation. In one of his first addresses, Winston Churchill said, “I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, sweat, and tears.” That phrase defined the seriousness of the problem and I would submit that they are not “just words.”

Remember that Great Britain stood alone from 1939 until December 7, 1941 when the United States entered the conflict. It was in this period of loneliness that Churchill said, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills and we will fight on the sea. We shall never surrender.” Those words from Winston Churchill inspired his country and its allies to continue the struggle. They were more than “just words.”

After the United States entered the war, Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation. I heard that broadcast. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” May I suggest that his statement was more than “just words”?

Some 25 years after the Roosevelt broadcast, one of his successors said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” That of course was John Fitzgerald Kennedy and many found his words to be inspirational, not “just words.”

Then there are words of yearning and devotion. During the English occupation of Ireland, which lasted more than 900 years, finding employment by young Irishmen was often difficult. Many of them enlisted in the British army to find some kind of employment. A good many of them found themselves in the hottest battles of the British Army and many were maimed. One such soldier was named Johnny. When he returned from Ceylon and the battles there, his mother said to him, “Johnny, we hardly knew ye.” “Ye haven’t an arm, ye haven’t a leg, ye’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg.” But after that regrettable assessment of Johnny, I suspect that the Irish mother would say, “Johnny, ye’ve been too long away.” So you see even a mother uses words. And Irish women construct those sentiments in the English language that may seem quaint to some, but charming and graceful to the rest of us. Johnny’s mother missed him and the words she used were words of yearning. So when a political candidate dismisses words in general, there are others who believe that words have meaning and often they are in communion with our deepest thoughts.

And then there are words that tend to cloak violent acts in more acceptable terms. Again for this example we turn to the Irish. There is a poem and song about a town near Lake Killarney called Aghadoe. The hero in that story is an outlaw pursued by the Redcoats of the British Army. In the end, the Irish outlaw was tracked to his hiding place and was shot to death. To those who believe that words are just words, the headlines would read, “Irish patriot shot to death.” But that is not the style of Irish poetry. Irish poets would phrase it much more gently by saying that “The bullets found his heart.” So you see that even in acts of violence, words can be found to soften the blow and to make it more poetic.

And then there are words of lament. Again we turn to an anonymous Irish poet, who wrote of the death of one of Ireland’s great leaders, Owen Roe O’Neill. The poem says:

“Sheep without a shepherd
When the snow blots out the sky,
Why did you have to leave us, Owen?
Why did you have to die?”

The Celts place their own construction on the English language as do we Americans. But in the end our language consists of words that no politician should dismiss.

The last two examples that I have to offer in defense of words and wordsmiths involve two disparate individuals who made their living by using words. One was a nun and the other was an atheist.

The nun was an elderly woman of the Catholic faith who appeared regularly on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Her name is Mother Angelica and she was entertaining to watch. Among other things, part of her attraction was that Mother Angelica tended to laugh at herself when she made a mistake. She preached the gospel as well as selling all kinds of religious jewelry and trinkets that are offered by that network. My recollection is that it was difficult to turn on EWTN without encountering Mother Angelica.

However, six or eight years ago Mother Angelica was struck down by a stroke, and she is now incapable of uttering a single intelligible word. She is spending the rest of her life in a home and is basically mute. She watches television and is interested in events of the day, but those who visit her cannot really report that they have had a conversation with her, but they say that she still has a great sense of humor. It is a matter of a monologue versus a dialogue when speaking to Mother Angelica. A stroke has robbed her of her ability to speak words. I suspect that Mother Angelica would be happy if she could speak some words, even if they were directed at a political candidate. When people are denied the use of words, it is a cruel arrangement.

Then there was Henry L. Mencken, the prolific author and editor. Over his lifetime, Mencken authored more than a hundred books that appeared in hardcover, was the editor of The Baltimore Sunpapers, and founded and directed the magazine American Mercury as well as another magazine, The Smart Set. Mencken’s life was built on words which some found hilarious and others found spiteful. But in the end, Mencken had an active brain that produced millions of words that meant something. Not long before his 70th birthday, Mencken suffered a stroke which denied him the right to put words on paper. In effect Mencken, like Mother Angelica, was robbed of his ability to use words. Apparently he could converse with people who visited him but he was unable to put those words on paper. There is no doubt that if Mencken were alive today, he would take great delight in following the American election primaries. I suspect that Mencken would take great umbrage at the thought that a political rivals’ expressions were “just words.” He would have understood that words convey meaning and promises. But Mencken is gone now and we are left with a candidate who dismisses her opponent’s speeches as “just words.”

I suspect that when you put the magnifying glass on what politicians have to say, it may be true that their statements are “just words.” Those of us who are ancient wordsmiths would hope that their words have meaning. Perhaps when the election is over, if it is ever over, we will find out about the relationship between words and their meaning.

Mother Angelica is of course a practicing Catholic while Henry Mencken was, at heart, an atheist, but words were their business and we are poorer because of the strokes that sentenced them to silence. But they were broadminded people who would find their inclusion in this essay to be a matter of great amusement.

Aside from his statement about the Democratic Party, Will Rogers also said, “I never met a man I did not like.” If Churchill, Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the others mentioned earlier in this essay do not inspire you, I hope you draw inspiration from the remarks of one of America’s favorite humorists, Will Rogers. I believe that Will Rogers might have said that if you pay attention you might learn something, which is a lot better than just dismissing another person’s thoughts as “just words.”

April 21, 2008
Essay 308
Kevin’s commentary: Wow, Pop really took this one to heart. I haven’t seen him present this impassioned of a defense of any particular thing in quite a while. That said, without looking back at the exact context of Clinton’s remarks (for I am a lazy, lazy man), it’s possible that her assault was not on the words themselves but was rather an attack on his ability to deliver his promises.

I think Hillary was faced with an opponent who was an excellent wordsmith but who had limited real world experience. Again without research, I recall that at the time, Obama had pretty much just been a community organizer and junior senator. Though he was effective in both of these roles, his 2008 campaign promised a whole bunch of things. So yes, she was indicting the quality of the speech or the power of his words, but she was not doing so because anything is inherently wrong or weak about the words themselves, rather that she lacked confidence in their author and his ability to realize the world that the words painted.

Which of course has so far turned out to be largely, but not totally, a fair accusation.

You can read more on Mother Angelica on two essays devoted largely to her: PURGATORY and A PAIR OF SABBATH THOUGHTS. Since I am not familiar with Ms. Angelica’s programming she is primarily useful to me as an example of what could have, but did not, happen to Pop. I’m more familiar with H. L. Mencken — the loss of his writing talents was a shame. Thankfully Pop’s remained and he was able to produce several hundred essays in spite of his stroke.