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The Truth, Mainly - 08/02/2004

Re-electing Bush: a modest proposal

If you closely examine the photo that accompanies this column, you'll see that I'm looking even more haggard than usual. It's because I've spent too many sleepless nights trying to figure out how the President can nail down his re-election.

Then I had this epiphany.

For an epiphany, it was pretty slow coming. The light began to dawn a couple of weeks ago when I read about two geezers, one 67, the other 68, both psychiatrists, being recalled to military service.

One of them—the 67-year-old—is Charles Ham, and he had been in the Army for 41 years when he was discharged. He knows about the Army. Said he was "amazed the Army tracked me down." Said "You'd think if they can find me…they sure could find Osama bin Laden."

The other—the 68-year-old—is John Wicks, and after a week of training he was to be shipped out to Iraq to serve "90 days to one year."

To my surprise, I took the news calmly. Two years ago, calling up a 68-year-old would have seemed an outrage to me. But I hit 70 this year and the idea no longer seems that outrageous.

The NY Times said such recalls were because we have "a shrinking roll of full-time soldiers and no draft to replenish it" so more and more aging reservists and National Guardsmen are being recalled. And "about 5,570 of the 275,000 American troops in or about to leave for Iraq and Afghanistan are 50 and older."

Does that surprise you? It surprised me. But it also goosed me into thinking about the big problem the President has in this election.

You remember that he spent the Vietnam years stateside in the Texas Air National Guard, and that he may have been a little careless about attending to his military duties. At least no one's been able to find records of his presence in the Guard during the third quarter of 1972.

That takes on some electoral importance when voters remember that John Kerry served in Vietnam for four months and came home with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star.

Voters may notice that difference between the two candidates' pasts, which is bad news for the President.

But wait—here's my epiphany, my plan for insuring that the President gets re-elected:

He should recall himself for a three-month tour of duty in Iraq.

He could spend August, September, and October in Iraq and still get back to the White House in time for the election in November.

Remember, he's only 58, a full decade younger than at least one other recallee. If he can recall a 68-year-old, surely he can recall a 58-year-old.

The Truth, Mainly


And here's what else:

By serving three more months, the President can make up for the time of service he seems to have missed out on in 1972. That would re-establish his credibility just before election day.

And he could get medals in Iraq. He could get wounded often enough that he could get four Purple Hearts in three months, which would make Kerry's three Purple Hearts in four months look pretty paltry.

And surely he could win a Bronze Star and a Silver Star—or maybe something even better like a Medal of Honor or a Presidential Citation for Pious Patriotism.

Well, you're probably saying by now, wouldn't it look pretty self-serving to award yourself all those medals?

Of course it would, but my plan has that covered.

Here's how: the President would be gone from Washington for three months. Now what happens when the President is indisposed for that long?

That's right. The Vice-President takes over.

And we all remember what the Vice-President said when he was asked about getting five deferments during the Vietnam draft. He said this: "I had other priorities in the 60's than military service."

And his other priority now would be that as Vice-President, it is his duty to fill in for the absent President by awarding medals to a lieutenant who's heroically—if belatedly—finishing his 32-year-old commitment to the Texas Air National Guard.

Who would win the election then? A funny-looking guy from Massachusetts whose medals are more than 30 years old? Or a good-old-boy, born-again Texan with brand new medals?

Is that a good plan or what?

Look out, Karl Rove. I'm after your job.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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