Thursday, May 5, 2016

Leaving the GOP

To use the lingua politica, as of today, I am suspending my membership in the Republican Party, an organization I joined when I was 18 of which I have been abidingly proud lo these 32 years. I do not do this lightly. But I simply cannot associate myself anymore with a political movement atop which sits a man like Donald Trump, nor can I associate myself with a party that seems bent on policies that I believe will make us less safe, less prosperous, and less free.

When I informed some people of this decision on Facebook yesterday, a few who fiercely guard their independence piped up with huzzahs for my decision, congratulating me on what they perceived as a new sense of ideological freedom I would be afforded, and in some cases, their hopes that this would somehow translate into my application of whatever brains and savvy I have (presumably) to thoughts and policies they support, or perhaps to disputing policies the GOP supports that they find abhorrent. I must admit to finding this reaction somewhat troubling, and the logic behind it more troubling still. And that is, because I do not think as I do because I was a Republican. Rather, I was a Republican because I think as I do.

As a political animal with a multitude of policy positions, as I surveyed the landscape of the modern political system in our country, my views most closely aligned with the center of mass of the GOP. I had many, many disagreements with that center of mass, but the center of mass of the other party was even more disagreeable. For instance, I am as many of you have accused me here, squishy on the 2nd Amendment, having in these pages advocated for a Constitutional Amendment to amend it. Additionally, I have a rather libertarian view of gay marriage, which I consider to be just as ill-advised an intrusion on the sacred and the social by government as I do straight marriage.

Being part of the GOP did not impact my thinking on these and other subjects at all. But being a part of a system which since its inception favored a two-party arrangement, caused me to seek out and align myself with those with whom I am more politically comfortable. It was just that simple. Those who choose to remain outside the two-party system are essentially "unrepresented" more broadly than by their directly elected representatives. I think most of them are just fine with it being that way. Up until now, this was insufficient for me.

All of that said, the center of mass of the GOP has shifted, decidedly. It is far less amenable to free trade. It is far more isolationist. It is far more nativist. It is far more accepting of abrogations of the First Amendment. This doesn't mean that the GOP leadership buys into these policies--but it does mean a huge chunk of their voters do, and the Party's nominee surely does. I have a great deal of respect for most GOP leaders, and I hope that over time, they are able to wade through the flotsam and jetsam that is washed ashore by this tidal wave. The country will be better off if they are able to do so.

And so, I join the ranks of the "Independents", or as we in the People's State of Maryland put it, "unaffiliated". For the longest time, I claimed that I was more "Republican" than I was "Conservative". But when being a Republican means an expectation to support Donald Trump, I demur. Ideology DOES matter, and when I am presented with the opportunity to vote for a Republican who supports Planned Parenthood, single-payer healthcare, protectionist trade policies, an autocratic Russian regime, and retrenchment from our long-standing security arrangements, I realize that I am a Republican no more.

I will not vote for Hillary Clinton in November. I will write in a real Republican, as is my right. That said, if readers want an answer to the hypothetical--if a gun was held to my head, would I vote for Hillary or Donald, the answer is clear. Hillary. Both of them are left of center domestically, so that's a wash while Trump is dangerous to our national security and liberty at home. This one's a no-brainer.

Return of the Conservative Wahoo

Well, that didn't last too long, just a bit over two months. I missed blogging, but only a little. It wasn't all consuming or even nagging. Just once in a while, I'd have a thought and think "damn, I wish I had a blog". But then it would pass and I'd get back to whatever it was that I was up to when the thought occurred.

A lot has happened in the two months--my unbroken record of getting Donald Trump wrong continued however, as he just days ago dispatched the rest of his GOP competition on the way to the nomination in Cleveland in July. Some of you know that not only was I raising money for Marco Rubio, but that was also helping on the policy team. I imagine if he had kept going, that team would have been announced, but he lost his homestate a month after the deer in the headlights act on a New Hampshire debate stage. He came back from that as well as anyone could, but I think back to sitting in that ballroom in Manchester with my head in my hands thinking, "oh my God--this whole thing is over."

I then joined the Ted Cruz team of national security folks. Quite different than the Rubio bunch, but very welcoming and accomplished people nonetheless. My enthusiasm for Senator Cruz never approached that for Rubio, but there was a Trump to be stopped, so I grabbed my oar.

Now there is no one left and Cleveland will ready for the circus act that is the Trump convention. I am content.that I fought the good fight, I did a good bit to try and hold back the storm, but it didn't work. My fellow citizens seem to want to have him in the race, and so be it. If he is elected, I will join the loyal opposition. In the meantime, I will continue to think and write and raise awareness of my sense of the man's elemental danger to American security, liberty, and prosperity.

But alas, I will do it here at least, alone. I have removed the permissions from all other bloggers here, and so I will be the only one posting. One of the reasons I took the blog down two months ago was my revulsion at the degree to which it had become a forum for the airing of ideas and support for a man I considered so repellent. I would read those ideas, whether posted or in the comment section, and they would anger me. I thought less of my friends and those who read this blog. Let me make this clear--it is on ME. I was the one not capable of hanging tough in the face of these comments and this tidal wave. Hammer (yes, I'm talking here about Hammer) was only doing what Hammer has done for years here, which was generally something I enjoyed. But his views (and others) were impacting on raw nerves, and so I pulled the plug.

So from here on out for a little while, you'll only get me. Also, I'm going to censor the comments far more closely than in the past. I'm prepared to suffer the consequences of the free market, wherein no one will then read the blog. If that happens, I'm ok with it. It will then be a place for me to catalog my thoughts if only for my own enjoyment.

Speaking of enjoyment, Tigerhawk has set up a new blog that celebrates the wonders of his new hometown, Austin, Texas, among other things. It is called "Blueberry Town", and it is terrific. I urge you to add it to your favorites and your morning scan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cop-on or Cop-out?

cop-o(informal, idiomatic) Common sense.  

cop-out  (idiomatic) Avoidance or inadequate performance of a task or duty.

Q: Why is this happening? 
A: Trade and immigration, immigration and trade. 

Look at the polls, the internals, and you'll see why Trump is winning. These two issues cut across party, ethnic and socio-economic lines. Trump is pulling minority numbers that McCain and Romney only DREAMED about! He is winning with the well educated, the poorly educated, blue collar (what's left) and white collar... plus lots of Democrats. 

As it stands now (10:45 am 3/9/16) Trump is up in Florida 45% to Rubio's 22%. In Ohio Trump 41%, Katich 35%. No attack, no criticism of Trump has worked and if history be our guide nothing will. The powers that be on both sides of the aisle, regardless of what we may call them, have lost the confidence of the American people. Their attacks fall on deaf ears. They are seen as manipulators and liars and their negative ads only reinforce this perception. 

It's time to cop-on, Trump will win. He will win the nomination and he will win the general simply because he promises to do what Americans want done. He may be like Winston Churchill, just the best man for the job at the moment to be discarded in better times. But with eight years of a quasi-authoritarian President and a weak-kneed Congress, Americans believe it will take another quasi-authoritarian President to right the ship. He may or may not follow through and the American people could be making a very poor decision (wouldn't be the first time), but that's the thinking. This is the reality. Deal with it. Make your decisions based on these facts and then prepare to live with the results. But at this stage deluding yourself is just a cop-out. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Little Message to Those Leaning to Trump

No Hammer. This isn't for you to watch. You're not leaning. You're in a full embrace.

Getting Over it with Honor

I don't want to pick on CW, but I have to. We all know the poor man is in the horrors these days (with a very short fuse).  I myself have felt the wrath of that Irish temper (an ugly character flaw shared by most Hibernians). But I realize these are tough times for Beltway types, Trump drives them absolutely nuts! If it were just Cruz, being the unpopular prick that he is with many of the same people, I suspect CW would be going off on him the same way. The thinking is the Party is being stolen right out from under and they feel helpless and afraid. I get it. I've felt much the same way in recent years with McConnell, Boehner and Ryan. But God Almighty, how does anybody make a statement like the above? The only thing bad I can say about Newt is he made a success out of Bill Clinton (dick Morris did his bit as well) and perhaps the timing of his romantic choices hasn't always been the best. But the man has paid his dues, shown us his brilliance in and out of government and he deserves to be spoken of with a little more respect.

But such is the general attitude of the day and again, I get it. We are in the midst of a reformation (to put it kindly) and for those being reformed the pain and trauma is real. What I would say to guys like CW, you know if they would take a breath and actually listen, is this is opportunity. Out of chaos comes order and real soon it'll be a musical chairs with jobs being handed out. Being in a policy making position is how one mitigates a Trump win. The base cannot survive without the establishment and now the establishment knows they cannot survive without us (therein lies the pain). But we will get along and work together or we will both go down hard. So get it out of your system, talk your smack, vent all you want but at the end of the day you have to put it all behind you and come home. Otherwise you won't have a home to go to.

I personally am going to give it until March 15th. when I think all will be decided. Let it all hang out and say anything you want. But after that Mardi Gras is over and it's time to heal and get real. If you can't suck it up and support your party's candidate then hit the Goddamn bricks, we don't need you. We've got an election to win and a country to save. You're either part of the problem or part of the solution and if you choose to indulge your self-important fantasies about who is and who ain't a conservative all the while helping Hillary Clinton, then we won't forget. And when I say "we" I mean most of the establishment too because they WILL come home.

Don't be left out over some ridiculous derangement syndrome. This isn't about Trump,  or Cruz or Rubio, This is about doing what needs to be done to save the Republic. Your party needs you and more importantly so does your country. Political campaigns are by their nature emotional affairs. Candidates motivate with emotion, it's fundamental. Just keep a little perspective and whatever corner you may have painted yourself into, we're not going to hold you to it. We've had a family quarrel, that's all. Whoever wins let's decide to just get over it. This election is too important.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bernie logic

Two tweets, both from Bernie Sanders, today:


A Note on Comments


This is a political blog (primarily) and there is a good bit of back and forth. I moderate the comments and let 90% of them through.  But one thing is sure to get your comment deleted--and that is if I write something--or one of the other bloggers writes something--that is decidedly NOT political, and you use that comment space to advance your agenda--it's gone.

This happened twice in the last day.

A Couple of Random Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

I made a few changes this morning, changes that I hope will be positive steps. Small ones, but positive nonetheless.I deactivated Facebook Messenger and Notifications on my phone, so now, whenever someone writes to me, or about me, or near me, I won't get a buzzing notification that has been somewhat of a sugar addiction to me. I've done the same with Twitter notifications. This is a small step, but I assure you there is a great difference between a phone sitting silently waiting to ring with the voice of a friend or a loved one, and a phone sitting there buzzing alternate statements of support for your wisdom and animus for your insipidity. Both of which have elements of truth to them.

I'm simply angry quite a bit these days, and I think a good bit of the anger is fueled by the time I spend reading other people be angry. I don't want to transfer blame here--this is my problem, not theirs. I imagine there are a lot of people for whom that kind of carping is therapeutic and fun--but not me. It tears me down a bit at a time.

That's why the letter I helped put together this week was important. It wasn't anger that led to it--it was a sense of action, a sense that I could contribute, a sense that our collective voices might have some impact on some people who are genuinely confused by the carnival that appears so clear to me. But perhaps the clarity is the fiction, and the confusion is the real story. I don't know. But I thought I might add a little something to the debate.

My man is facing long odds this morning. I think he'll win Puerto Rico--with as many delegates as New Hampshire--but it won't tamp down the growing doubts. I think he'll make a serious run at Florida--and perhaps win (he's closed the gap considerably in the latest polls). But after that, I think we're in for a very unsatisfying election in which all four of these guys stay in, which would take us to a contested convention. You remember those, right? The thing that Ronald Reagan was banking on in 1976?

My determination to see Trump defeated has pulled even with my desire to see Rubio victorious--which I can tell by the degree to which Cruz victories last night were not bothersome.

A Rubio/Cruz, Cruz/Rubio unity ticket would "unify" two thirds of the party coming out of the convention, but I fear no matter how it ends, a third of the party is gone for ever.

All of that said--a few simple changes--getting rid of the incessant buzzing from my phone, reading the paper this morning rather than scouring the internet for my news, and watching last night's Louisville /UVA game without a computer in my hands so that I could read what others watching were saying--are giving me a better outlook today.

So too is a comment I got from Eric to a post from yesterday. I'm not sure who Eric is, but he writes long and thoughtful comments that -- I have to be honest -- have generally turned me off.  Don't get me wrong--he's very smart and he has a lot of wisdom (two different things)--but too much of what he was writing was hitting too close to home, and it made me uncomfortable.  I deleted this comment from my blog manager this morning, and so couldn't actually post it. But as I sat down today and re-read my emails (which include blog comments), I read his words carefully.  Here they are:

Mr. McGrath,

That's the dilemma. 

When starting from a position of inception and disadvantage, competitive activism that's sufficient to make a difference, i.e., win, for any sizeable cause usually requires a zealous, often all-consuming, often self-sacrificial personal investment. There's a reason that in the 7 Army Values, it's not just "service", the value is "selfless service".

With this task, you've taken on a sizeable cause to say the least. The American nation - the nation in whose defense you've invested the better part of your life and honor - is at a crossroads, with our foreign affairs as much as, and possibly more than, any other area.

Per my advice and your follow-up to your letter, declaring that "[Trump] is a danger, and I cannot support him" is only an opening step. The declaration is not by itself enough to make a difference. 

Making a difference, i.e., actually winning, will demand your leadership to compete sufficiently against the Trump phenomenon for the duration. If you accept the lead role that you've already invited for this task, and if you sincerely mean to win this contest for America's future, then you should recognize up front that you will pay a personal price that contradicts your post-Navy life goals and plan accordingly. 

This is a tall order. Not sure what I'll do with it just yet, except spend a little time thinking about it.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

On the Return of The Kittens

Last week, I informed you that the Kittens would be alighting to Florida and leaving me here to fend for myself. That all comes to an end tomorrow sometime, and I will be the better for it. This has been a ridiculous week, and it is a sad glimpse into what my life would be like without a Catherine, a Hope, and a Hannah. I was at my computer for 18 hours a day, either working to make money, working to elect a President, working to see that someone else is not elected, or screwing around on social media. I took time off to eat, to hang with the dogs for a bit, to sleep, and to go to appointments.

I left the Navy eight years ago aiming to "live a bigger life"--that's what I've found here. Also, that's what I DID not live this week.

Life here has civilized me quite a bit--though my women would tell you there is much work still to be done on this front. I put a lot of effort into making big changes in my life in 2015--but I'm beginning to think that I declared victory way too early.

Gonna have me a think on all of this between now and when my girls come home.

Pat Conroy RIP

I read this morning of the death of one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy. Conroy wrote the way that I would like to write if I wrote fiction--not Hemingwayesque, but smart, interesting, and believable.

His books are all a bit melodramatic, which is probably why I love them so much. His politics were not my cup of tea, but like Paul Theroux, I try and ignore the blatant liberalism and potshots at conservatives in order to get to the good stuff. And with Conroy, the really great stuff was about life in the American South.

Conroy lived a pretty screwed up childhood--as anyone who has read The Great Santini can tell you. You saw flashes of it in Prince of Tides and a number of his other books.

For me, the book I love best is Beach Music. I re-read it every couple of years, and it reminds me of the things I love about the way Conroy used the language. Each time I read it, there are places where I simply cannot keep reading because of the emotion that overcomes me. Last time I read it, The Kitten happened upon me in full on bawling and thought someone had died.  Someone had. A Pat Conroy character. And no one can write about a loved one's death like Pat Conroy.

Here now, is a reprise of something I've printed here before, Conroy's eulogy for his father--the Great Santini, Colonel Don Conroy. I've taken the liberty of underlining some of my favorite passages.

 The children of fighter pilots tell different stories than other kids do. None of our fathers can write a will or sell a life insurance policy or fill out a prescription or administer a flu shot or explain what a poet meant. We tell of fathers who land on aircraft carriers at pitch-black night with the wind howling out of the China Sea.

Our fathers wiped out aircraft batteries in the Philippines and set Japanese soldiers on fire when they made the mistake of trying to overwhelm our troops on the ground.

Your Dads ran the barber shops and worked at the post office and delivered the packages on time and sold the cars, while our Dads were blowing up fuel depots near Seoul, were providing extraordinarily courageous close air support to the beleaguered Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, and who once turned the Naktong River red with blood of a retreating North Korean battalion.
We tell of men who made widows of the wives of our nations' enemies and who made orphans out of all their children.

You don't like war or violence? Or napalm? Or rockets? Or cannons or death rained down from the sky?

Then let's talk about your fathers, not ours. When we talk about the aviators who raised us and the Marines who loved us, we can look you in the eye and say "you would not like to have been America's enemies when our fathers passed overhead".

We were raised by the men who made the United States of America the safest country on earth in the bloodiest century in all recorded history.

Our fathers made sacred those strange, singing names of battlefields across the Pacific: Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh and a thousand more. We grew up attending the funerals of Marines slain in these battles.

Your fathers made communities like Beaufort decent and prosperous and functional; our fathers made the world safe for democracy.

We have gathered here today to celebrate the amazing and storied life of Col. Donald Conroy who modestly called himself by his nomdeguerre, The Great Santini.

There should be no sorrow at this funeral because The Great Santini lived life at full throttle, moved always in the fast lanes, gunned every engine, teetered on every edge, seized every moment and shook it like a terrier shaking a rat.

He did not know what moderation was or where you'd go to look for it. Donald Conroy is the only person I have ever known whose self-esteem was absolutely unassailable. There was not one thing about himself that my father did not like, nor was there one thing about himself that he would change. He simply adored the man he was and walked with perfect confidence through every encounter in his life. Dad wished everyone could be just like him.

His stubbornness was an art form. The Great Santini did what he did, when he wanted to do it, and woe to the man who got in his way. Once I introduced my father before he gave a speech to an Atlanta audience. I said at the end of the introduction, "My father decided to go into the Marine Corps on the day he discovered his IQ was the temperature of this room".

My father rose to the podium, stared down at the audience, and said without skipping a beat, "My God, it's hot in here! It must be at least 180 degrees".

Here is how my father appeared to me as a boy. He came from a race of giants and demi-gods from a mythical land known as Chicago. He married the most beautiful girl ever to come crawling out of the poor and lowborn south, and there were times when I thought we were being raised by Zeus and Athena.

After Happy Hour my father would drive his car home at a hundred miles an hour to see his wife and seven children. He would get out of his car, a strapping flight jacketed matinee idol, and walk toward his house, his knuckles dragging along the ground, his shoes stepping on and killing small animals in his slouching amble toward the home place.

My sister, Carol, stationed at the door, would call out, "Godzilla's home!" and we seven children would scamper toward the door to watch his entry.

The door would be flung open and the strongest Marine aviator on earth would shout, "Stand by for a fighter pilot!"
He would then line his seven kids up against the wall and say,
"Who's the greatest of them all?"
"You are, O Great Santini, you are."
"Who knows all, sees all, and hears all?"
"You do, O Great Santini, you do."
We were not in the middle of a normal childhood, yet none of us were sure since it was the only childhood we would ever have.

For all we knew other men were coming home and shouting to their families, "Stand by for a pharmacist," or "Stand by for a chiropractor".

In the old, bewildered world of children we knew we were in the presence of a fabulous, overwhelming personality; but had no idea we were being raised by a genius of his own myth-making.

My mother always told me that my father had reminded her of Rhett Butler on the day they met and everyone who ever knew our mother conjured up the lovely, coquettish image of Scarlet O'Hara.

Let me give you my father the warrior in full battle array. The Great Santini is catapulted off the deck of the aircraft carrier, Sicily. His Black Sheep squadron is the first to reach the Korean Theater and American ground troops had been getting torn up by North Korean regulars.

Let me do it in his voice: "We didn't even have a map of Korea. Not zip. We just headed toward the sound of artillery firing along the Naktong River. They told us to keep the North Koreans on their side of the Naktong. Air power hadn't been a factor until we got there that day. I radioed to Bill Lundin I was his wingman. 'There they are. Let's go get'em.' So we did."

I was interviewing Dad so I asked, "how do you know you got them?"

"Easy," The Great Santini said. "They were running - it's a good sign when you see the enemy running."

There was another good sign.

"What was that, Dad?"

"They were on fire."

This is the world in which my father lived deeply. I had no knowledge of it as a child.

When I was writing the book The Great Santini, they told me at Headquarters Marines that Don Conroy was at one time one of the most decorated aviators in the Marine Corps. I did not know he had won a single medal. When his children gathered together to write his obituary, not one of us knew of any medal he had won, but he had won a slew of them.

When he flew back toward the carrier that day, he received a call from an Army Colonel on the ground who had witnessed the route of the North Koreans across the river. "Could you go pass over the troops fifty miles south of here? They've been catching hell for a week or more. It'd do them good to know you flyboys are around."

He flew those fifty miles and came over a mountain and saw a thousand troops lumbered down in foxholes. He and Bill Lundin went in low so these troops could read the insignias and know the American aviators had entered the fray.

My father said, "Thousands of guys came screaming out of their foxholes, son. It sounded like a world series game. I got goose pimples in the cockpit. Get goose pimples telling it forty-eight years later. I dipped my wings, waved to the guys. The roar they let out. I hear it now. I hear it now."

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mother took me out to the air station where we watched Dad's squadron scramble on the runway on their bases at Roosevelt Road and Guantanamo.
In the car as we watched the A-4's take off, my mother began to say the rosary.
"You praying for Dad and his men, Mom?" I asked her.

"No, son. I'm praying for the repose of the souls of the Cuban pilots they're going to kill."
Later I would ask my father what his squadron's mission was during the Missile Crisis.
"To clear the air of MIGS over Cuba," he said.

"You think you could've done it?"

The Great Santini answered, "There wouldn't have been a bluebird flying over that island, son."
Now let us turn to the literary of The Great Santini.

Some of you may have heard that I had some serious reservations about my father's child-rearing practices. When The Great Santini came out, the book roared through my family like a nuclear device. My father hated it; my grandparents hated it; my aunts and uncles hated it; my cousins who adore my father thought I was a psychopath for writing it; and rumor has it that my mother gave it to the judge in her divorce case and said, "It's all there. Everything you need to know."

What changed my father's mind was when Hollywood entered the picture and wanted to make a movie of it. This is when my father said, "What a shame John Wayne is dead. Now there was a man. Only he could've gotten my incredible virility across to the American people."

Orion Pictures did me a favor and sent my father a telegram; "Dear Col. Conroy: We have selected the actor to play you in the coming film. He wants to come to Atlanta to interview you. His name is Truman Capote."

But my father took well to Hollywood and its Byzantine, unspeakable ways. When his movie came out, he began reading Variety on a daily basis. He called the movie a classic the first month of its existence. He claimed that he had a place in the history of film. In February of the following year, he burst into my apartment in Atlanta, as excited as I have ever seen him, and screamed, "Son, you and I were nominated for Academy Awards last night. Your mother didn't get squat".

Ladies and gentlemen-You are attending the funeral of the most famous Marine that ever lived. Dad's life had grandeur, majesty and sweep. We were all caught in the middle of living lives much paler and less daring than The Great Santini's. His was a high stepping, damn-the torpedoes kind of life, and the stick was always set at high throttle. There is not another Marine alive who has not heard of The Great Santini. There's not a fighter pilot alive who does not lift his glass whenever Don Conroy's name is mentioned and give the fighter pilot toast: "Hurrah for the next man to die".

One day last summer, my father asked me to drive him over to Beaufort National Cemetery. He wanted to make sure there were no administrative foul-ups about his plot. I could think of more pleasurable ways to spend the afternoon, but Dad brought new eloquence to the word stubborn. We went into the office and a pretty black woman said that everything was squared away.
My father said, "It'll be the second time I've been buried in this cemetery." The woman and I both looked strangely at Dad. Then he explained, "You ever catch the flick "The Great Santini? That was me they planted at the end of the movie."

All of you will be part of a very special event today. You will be witnessing the actual burial that has already been filmed in fictional setting. This has never happened in world history. You will be present in a scene that was acted out in film in 1979. You will be in the same town and the same cemetery. Only The Great Santini himself will be different.

In his last weeks my father told me, "I was always your best subject, son. Your career took a nose dive after The Great Santini came out". He had become so media savvy that during his last illness he told me not to schedule his funeral on the same day as the Seinfeld Farewell. The Colonel thought it would hold down the crowd. The Colonel's death was front-page news across the country. CNN announced his passing on the evening news all around the world.

Don Conroy was a simple man and an American hero. His wit was remarkable; his intelligence frightening; and his sophistication next to none. He was a man's man and I would bet he hadn't spend a thousand dollars in his whole life on his wardrobe. He lived out his whole retirement in a two-room efficiency in the Darlington Apartment in Atlanta. He claimed he never spent over a dollar on any piece of furniture he owned. You would believe him if you saw the furniture. Dad bought a season ticket for himself to Six Flags Over Georgia and would often go there alone to enjoy the rides and hear the children squeal with pleasure. He was a beer drinker who thought wine was for Frenchmen or effete social climbers like his children.

Ah! His children. Here is how God gets a Marine Corps fighter pilot. He sends him seven squirrelly, mealy-mouth children who march in peace demonstrations, wear Birkenstocks, flirt with vegetarianism, invite cross-dressers to dinner and vote for candidates that Dad would line up and shoot. If my father knew how many tears his children had shed since his death, he would be mortally ashamed of us all and begin yelling that he should've been tougher on us all, knocked us into better shape - that he certainly didn't mean to raise a passel of kids so weak and tacky they would cry at his death. Don Conroy was the best uncle I ever saw, the best brother, the best grandfather, the best friend-and my God, what a father. After my mother divorced him and The Great Santini was published, Don Conroy had the best second act I ever saw. He never was simply a father. This was The Great Santini.

It is time to leave you, Dad. From Carol and Mike and Kathy and Jim and Tim and especially from Tom. Your kids wanted to especially thank Katy and Bobby and Willie Harvey who cared for you heroically. Let us leave you and say goodbye, Dad, with the passwords that bind all Marines and their wives and their children forever. The Corps was always the most important thing.
Semper Fi, Dad
Semper Fi, O Great Santini.

My dear friends and fellow lovers of Santini,

You have written so many letters of condolence since my father died that I've been overwhelmed at the task of answering them. But know this, all of them meant something, all of them moved me deeply, all were appreciated, and all were read. Don Conroy was larger than life and there was never a room he entered that he left without making his mark. At some point in his life, he passed from being merely memorably to being legendary.

In the thirty-three years he was in the Marine Corps, Col. Conroy concentrated on the task of defending his country and he did so, exceedingly well. In the next twenty-four years left to him, he put all his efforts into the art of being a terrific father, a loving uncle, a brother of great substance, a beloved grandfather, and a friend to thousands. Out of uniform, the Colonel let his genius for humor flourish. Always in motion he made his rounds in Atlanta each day and no one besides himself knew how many stops he put in during a given day. He was like a bee going from flower to flower, pollinating his world with his generous gift for friendships.

Don Conroy was a man's man, a soldier's soldier, a Marine's Marine. There was nothing soft or teddy-bearish about him. His simplicity was extraordinary. He died without ever owning a credit card, never took out a loan in his life, and almost all the furniture in his apartment was rented. 

I think he loved his family with his body and soul, yet no one ever lived who was less articulate in expressing that love. On the day the doctor told him that there was nothing more to be done for him, my father told me, "Don't worry about it. I've had a great life. No one's had a life like me. Everyone should be so lucky."

Don Conroy died with exemplary courage, as one would expect.

He never complained about pain or whimpered or cried out. His death was stoical and quiet. He never quit fighting, never surrendered, and never gave up. He died like a king. He died like The Great Santini.

I thank you with all my heart.

Re: Hammer

I am prepared to be a Kasich man, a Cruz, man, a Rubio man alike. And if no one enters our convention with a majority, that will mean to me that a majority of the party is free to coalesce around someone else.


Respect is More Than a Thang

Ok we've all given CW our views and I think he understands our position, as we do his. It's time to put this behind us. CW is a Rubio man, as am I should he get the nomination. He hates Trump like I hate the North Carolina Tar Heels and ain't nothing changing his mind. If there's one thing I've learned in my decades upon decades upon decades upon decades (gee, sorry, was on autopilot there for a second) it's you cannot change a political guy's mind. You can debate all you want, in fact we love the debate. It's like fatback and collards to a Redneck/Soul Brother. But we are a stubborn bunch and and if our minds are to be changed then by God we've fully capable of doing it, no help necessary.

So CW, I accept your position as your position. I will continue to present mine if you please. But I resolve to respect you and your views, no matter how fuqued up I think they are.

Your friend, The Hammer.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trump, Leadership, and Lawful Orders

During the course of the debate last night, Donald Trump, in one of his characteristic poseur stances, expressed his view that his version of leadership--the kind he practices and would practice as Commander in Chief--would be so persuasive, so authoritative, and so final as to cause the military to follow his orders, be they lawful or not. The question arose out of a discussion of his previous statements indicating his will to target the families of terrorists, something that is universally judged to be a violation of international law.

Members of the military take an oath which binds them to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution recognizes and enshrines the treaty making and treaty considering/passing functions, vesting the former in the President and the latter in the Senate. Those treaties--including ones that cover the conduct of war--are binding law. A President who issues an order that is counter to international law is violating that law. A soldier who carries it out is also transgressing. "I was just following orders" is not a valid defense. We train the lowest buck private and seaman deuce about lawful and unlawful orders.

Now if the President does this--he has the trappings and power of his office to fall back upon, and ultimately paying any penalty for it would be a strict, political process. But the soldier who carries it out? Not protected by the Constitutional process of impeachment. He or she simply goes before the war crimes tribunal and faces the music

Yesterday, I and a number of my friends posted a letter (mentioned in last night's debate) in which we judged Mr. Trump to be a danger and to be unfitted to the office of the President. I spent much of the day dealing with the Press and answering inquiries from around the world, and I repeated what we said there--he is a danger, and I cannot support him. His performance in the debate last night should give ANYONE who has served in the armed services reason to think, and consider how YOU would feel if put in the position to carry out orders you knew to be unlawful This man is a menace.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

RINO, Establishment, DC Elite, Policy Geek Losers Band Together Against Trump

A few dozen friends and I -- you know-- the Washington business as usual crowd, the K-Streeters who only have their own interests at heart and who prosper while America suffers--have publicly expressed our objections to a Trump Presidency.  

Have a look. You may recognize a few of the names.

By the way---one of the reactions I've gotten to this effort is that it is too late, and that is a spot on criticism. I recognized early on the danger of Mr. Trump and then publicly--here on this blog--stated that I wasn't going to talk about him any more. until the Primaries began.  Friends--good friends-- urged me to speak out more--they saw the danger even more clearly than I. Below is the text of a piece I did for War on the Rocks--the folks who printed the letter above--and submitted on November 27. I did not submit for publication, but for review by the Editor who happens also to be a very wise friend.  I shopped it around to a few more friends in the National Security community and there was a "wait and see" kind of attitude--and I weakly went along with that advice. I wish now that I hadn't.

Here below is what I wrote then:

Compared to Donald Trump, I am a nobody. I do not have billions of dollars. I do not have a private jet. I have never starred in a popular reality television show. I have not written best-selling books. I have not turned my name into a widely known international brand. I am not now running, nor have I ever run for President. All I own could fit in the back of a modest U-haul, and my personal financial situation is merely comfortable.

What I do have is a certain level of expertise. My field is national security, with a concentration in how American Seapower contributes to our nation’s security and prosperity. I am also a partisan Republican. In 2012, I helped run the Mitt Romney campaign’s Navy Policy Team, and I have been helpful to a few of the Republican campaigns this time around. It is a personal goal of mine to serve in some capacity in a Republican administration, when that day comes. I feel that I could contribute to the making and execution of sound policy, and that my competence would be helpful in doing so. In fact, such service is among my primary professional goals in life.

But I will not work in a Trump Administration, in any capacity.

I understand that in the unlikely event that Mr. Trump should ever become aware of my declaration, it would mean little to him. He has much bigger fish to fry right now than responding to some schlub whose opinion of himself is too high. Be that as it may, the degree to which I have been unable to find even a single reputable national security expert who has publicly declared support for Mr. Trump’s candidacy—coupled with his continuing inability to specify BY NAME who is providing his national security and foreign policy advice—leads me to believe that my view that he is unsuited for the presidency is widely shared by those from whom he would likely wish to populate his team.

I have several reasons for my opposition to Mr. Trump. The first is political. Simply put, I do not believe that he is now, nor has he ever been, a Republican. He is running in the Republican primary as an opportunist and a populist, and his presence there is more a function of his perception of Hillary Clinton’s strength in the Democratic primary than his embrace of anything that could be considered a Republican governing agenda. It would not be a stretch to say that with his past and consistent support for single payer healthcare, abortion rights, and a role for a dominant and intrusive federal government, he would be more at home in the Democratic race. He is however, smart enough to assess the race in the Republican field as being more open than the Hillary Clinton dominated Democratic race, and that the continuing relevance of the two-party system in our country argues against a third party run. So for the time being, Republicans are stuck with him.

One need not go any further than his stance on immigration to discern his decidedly (and horrifyingly) big-government tendencies.  I take a back-seat to no one in believing that controlling who comes and stays in one’s country is the table stakes of sovereignty. It appears to me reasonable to think that an effective barrier is required on our Southern border. Furthermore, it appears reasonable to me as a political matter not to proceed one step further on immigration reform until that barrier is planned, funded, and built. But the suggestion that 11 or 12 million illegal aliens now living in this country would be 1) identified 2) surveilled 3) apprehended 4) detained 5) processed and 6) repatriated to their countries of origin bespeaks a government acting with such power that I find myself fearful about what else such an empowered government might then accomplish. References to the “good old days” when Eisenhower rounded up a bunch of illegals and shipped them home to Mexico may appeal to nativist Trump supporters, but the reality of carrying out the same operation across a population of illegals five times larger—while probably possible--strikes me as at best wasteful and in humane, and at worst, authoritarian and Orwellian.

The second reason I have for sitting out a future Trump Administration is that to the extent that he has put forward national security/foreign policy proposals, they have been mind-numbingly simplistic, jingoistic, short-sighted, strategically unwise, blustering, and insipid.  This I suspect, is the main reason for the paucity of support for him within the national security field, and his inability to point to even a single expert of note who is backing him. They simply do not exist. His support for Putin in Syria demonstrates not only a superficial understanding of who it is Putin is targeting, but a more dangerous lack of understanding of Putin’s strategy there, which is increasingly to create an Eastern Mediterranean “keep out zone” (buttressed by naval, land based air, and anti-aircraft forces operating from Syria) that will weaken the effectiveness of the United States in carrying out its commitments in NATO and to Israel. His “take the oil” plan for ISIS, and his thorough-going lack of knowledge of what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is—and who is part of it—signals a man who is unprepared for and seemingly unwilling to prepare for the complexity of world leadership. His prescription for increasing the size and effectiveness of the military—something I agree with on its face—is backed with little detail and even less rationale, just empty rhetoric.

The third reason I have for lacking any confidence in Mr. Trump is the cavalier manner in which he dismisses the four bankruptcies for which businesses under his control have filed. Attributing them to taking big risks and using the system to his full advantage is appropriate language for the entrepreneur. It is thoroughly and completely inappropriate for a world leader, especially the leader of the United States. There is no bankruptcy to shield a country from the misadventures of its leaders, no do-overs for foolhardy decisions. Calculated risk-taking and prudence must live in harmony in a President, and we have seen precious little of the latter from Mr. Trump in his public life.

I am aware that Mr. Trump’s supporters might look at my exercise in “burning one’s ships on the beach” as an attention getting mechanism from exactly one of the “so-called experts” that have gotten us into the mess from which only Mr. Trump can save us. So be it. If in the end, he is elected President, I will wish him well and sincerely hope that he can indeed right this country. But he will do so only with my well-wishes, and not with my labor and energy.

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