It was the year 2000. The new millennium. It featured a rising new star from a prominent American family. His name was George. George P. Remember George P.? The incessantly publicized and promoted son of Florida's Governor Bush? The most dominant face of George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign?
George P. was everywhere. Enticing the wealthy. Hugging the poor. Kissing elderly ladies, winning the hearts of adoring young girls. George P. was the bait. The lure. And America was his catch of the day. In our multi-cultural nation, this blended prince encompassed the best of America's two prominent landscapes: the ever-growing Latino population and the doggedly dominant Anglo. The half that was Anglo spanned generations of wealth and power. The half that was Latin softened his ego, making his combination just "right."
The media couldn't get enough of George P. He was the "fourth-coming." The likely successor to the mantle of the multi-generational dynasty whose fortune had amassed in unorthodox ways. Of course the unorthodox ways were of no interest to the press, whose sole focus was on the contentious election for the first President of the new millennium. The 2000 Presidential election was the nation's most divisive in history. It tore at the fabric of its democracy, tarnished the Supreme Court, and damaged the electoral system for decades, if not centuries to come.
Still it made a hit out of George P. Bush. For a couple years he was on his way to becoming the family's biggest star. But when Uncle W. took the nation to war, except for a carefully toned down appearance in the election of 2004, and some attention when he got married, George P. was neatly hidden from sight. He had to be. If he remained visible the questions would arise. Why isn't George P. serving in Iraq? George P.'s young enough. If he's a patriot, why doesn't he volunteer for the war?
Legitimate questions. So legitimate that the entire brood of military-age Bush grandchildren and cousins are no where to be found. They are hidden. Kept under wraps lest the question of their patriotism be decried. Except of course, First Twins Jenna and Barbara, whose sometime errant behavior throws them back in the public eye.
Certainly the military absences of Bushes, Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Wolfowitzes, Perles, Coulters, Limbaughs, O'Reillys, Hannitys, Crystals, Feiths, Ashcrofts, etc., are no news to those who pay attention. But it was particularly telling today as I watched Donald Rumsfeld's long goodbye. As I listened to his words and to the words of those who paid tribute at his farewell 'celebration' as Secretary of Defense.
I watched as Mr. Rumsfeld read from his speech, and I lamented the fact that he couldn't ad-lib a few simple lines about the families of the fallen. He was typically staccato and emotionless as he read the few short sentences about the sacrifices they had made. I couldn't imagine for a second, with the sad exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, any leaders who would have NEEDED to read these words. I couldn't imagine for a second why these words, if they were true, weren't burnt into the consciousness of Mr. Rumsfeld. I couldn't understand how it could be that these sentiments weren't crystal clear to him, and so deeply a part of his psyche, that no paper should be needed. But that wasn't the case...
These were the words Donald Rumsfeld NEEDED to read:
"As I end my time here some ask what will I remember. Well, I will remember all those courageous folks that I've met deployed in the field. Those in the military hospitals that we visited. And I will remember the fallen. And I will particularly remember their families (TURNING PAGE) from whom I have drawn inspiration."
These are the words Mr. Rumsfeld NEEDED to read. They came at the very end of his speech where it would have been the most simple, if the words were truly heartfelt, to put aside his papers and speak from his heart. His heart????
A further observation at today's ceremony was the absence, or so it appeared, of Mr. Rumsfeld's own military-age grandchild.
To be honest, I'm not proposing that Mr. Rumsfeld's grandchild or anyone else's child should serve in this war because I passionately oppose it. However, Mr. Rumsfeld does not. Mr. Rumsfeld has advocated that other people's children and grandchildren fight in this war, and he has ordered their deployment to do so. Therefore I am compelled to remind Mr. Rumsfeld of the words he spoke on March 23, 2002 in an interview for "Time For Kids" with twelve-year-old "TFK" reporter, Alexandra Tatarsky.
Rumsfeld said, "Will young people end up in the armed services? I hope so! We have wonderful young men and women serving their country with great dedication and courage and pride. I sure hope one of my grandchildren will want to serve!" (http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/news/story/0,6260,220114,00.html)
Well, Mr. Rumsfeld, your grandchild was too young to serve in 2002 when you gave that interview, but that grandchild is old enough to serve today. So I ask you, Mr. Rumsfeld: Do you really hope your grandchild will serve in this war? Have you actually suggested to your own child that her child should enlist in the military and serve?
Honestly, Mr. Rumsfeld, I doubt that you have!
One final note:. Recently, Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb, a man I deeply respect, had a short conversation with George W. Bush. I would like to offer MY VERSION of how that conversation might have gone:
G.W. Bush: How's your boy?
Sen. Webb: He's in harms way, Mr. Bush. How are your girls?
G.W. Bush: (Silence)