Mike Kueber's Blog

May 30, 2012

You could have heard a pin drop – a clarification

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

A conservative friend sent me the following well-circulated, patriotic internet article titled “You could hear a pin drop”:

At a time when our politicians tend to apologize for our country’s actions….  Here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our country

  • JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when DeGaule decided to pull out of NATO.  DeGaule said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.  Rusk responded “does that include those who are buried here?  DeGuale did not respond.  You could have heard a pin drop.
  • When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.  He answered by saying, ‘Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders.  The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.’  You could have heard a pin drop.
  • There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.  During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying ‘Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims.  What does he intended to do, bomb them?’  A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: ‘Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency  electrical power to shore facilities; they have three  cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they 20 carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck.  We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?’  You could have heard a pin drop.
  • A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, ‘Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?’  Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, ‘Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.’  You could have heard a pin drop.

AND THIS STORY FITS RIGHT IN WITH THE ABOVE…

  • Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.  “You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.  Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.  “Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”  The American said, ‘The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”  “Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France!”  The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look.  Then he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.”  You could have heard a pin drop.   

I am proud to be of this land, AMERICA

Some left-wingers have criticized the article as biased because it overlooks (a) French contributions to America during the Revolutionary War, (b) 1800’s land-grabbing under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, and post-WWII imperialism.  Despite this carping, I think the article reminds us that America has generally been an outstanding force for good in the world.

The first dot point about Dean Rusk is especially poignant.  There are two, however, two mistakes that afflict nearly all versions of the article floating around the internet:

  1. De Gaule should be spelled De Gaulle. 
  2. Although Dean Rusk was President Kennedy’s Secretary of State, he was President Johnson’s Secretary of State when he asked the profound question to De Gaulle.  Furthermore, he asked the question at the specific direction of President Johnson, who extemporaneously raised the issue in a meeting.

President Johnson had his bad moments; this was not one of them.

June 28, 2011

Great presidents and continuing legal education

During the annual meeting of the State Bar of Texas, I had the good fortune of hearing presidential historian Douglas Brinkley give a talk on great presidents in America’s history.  I’m not sure how his talk qualified as continuing legal education for lawyers, but the state bar has almost unlimited power on that issue and it is very unlikely that anyone will complain.

Brinkley is a famous historian who is often interviewed on national news programs because he has the ability to present information in an interesting way, and his talk to at the annual meeting didn’t disappoint.  The talk was informal, and I suspect Brinkley could give it in his sleep.  His principal insights were:

  1. Although the talk was about presidents, Brinkley started with a non-president – Charles Thompson – who was a relatively unknown politician who did yeomen’s work in forming our union, but then was shut-out of a role in the newly-formed United States because he was too progressive for his time – i.e., he favored the emancipation of slaves and the liberation of women.
  2. George Washington’s signal achievement was to give up power after two terms.
  3. Thomas Jefferson saw that the Mississippi River was the spine of America and that religion has no place in a democracy.
  4. James Polk was successful because he established clear objectives (resolving the border issues with Mexico and Canada) and knew that wars of choice must be ended quickly.
  5. Lincoln’s challenges make the challenges faced by any other president seem highly manageable.
  6. Teddy Roosevelt created and led the conservation movement even though the public wasn’t demanding it.
  7. Franklin Roosevelt created the feeling that the federal government could solve all our problems.
  8. Harry Truman was horribly unpopular because he was too direct in trying to achieve his objectives, but his stock in history has skyrocketed.
  9. Dwight Eisenhower was an under-rated president who showed that America could be fiscally conservative and still do great things – e.g., NASA, interstate highways, and St. Lawrence Seaway.
  10. John Kennedy implemented things that worked (Peace Corp and SEALS/Green Beret), whereas his successor Lyndon Johnson spent too much money on things that didn’t work.
  11. Gerald Ford did a great job of extricating America from two problems – Nixon and Vietnam.
  12. Jimmy Carter brought morality to Washington.
  13. Ronald Reagan went with his gut and told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
  14. Bill Clinton was relatively successful, but never did anything big and will always be remembered for the sex scandal.
  15. George H.W. Bush will be upgraded by historians because of his brilliant handling of foreign policy.
  16. Barack Obama is disposed to placate, not lead.  He acts like the only adult in the room, but doesn’t lead.  His greatest accomplishment will be getting elected.

Brinkley skipped over Bush-43, but someone during the Q&A asked if it was likely that Bush-43 would be upgraded by historians.  Brinkley did not think so because Bush-43 would be forever stained by the economic collapse at the end of his second term.  It’s ironic that Bush’s economic collapse not only resulted in the historic election of Barack Obama, but also may have fated Obama to the ignominy of a one-term presidency.

In my opinion, Brinkley skipping Bush-43 was bad enough, but skipping Richard Nixon, too, is unforgivable, especially when he found time to mention Jimmy Carter.  I will keep that in mind when reading Brinkley in the future.