Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

James Stockdale, RIP

I was on the road out in California and out of keyboard range for the last two days, and so wasn’t able to respond promptly to the sad news of the passing of Admiral James Stockdale. I recall reading some of his first writings on his prison camp experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s and thinking to myself, "This man should be be in public office."

Of course, eventually he did seek public office of sorts, as Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, where he was thought not to have done well.

I had the privilege of sharing a couple rounds of drinks in a bar with Stockdale in the fall of 2001 (a few weeks after 9/11) at a conference where we were both speakers, and I got up the courage to ask him for his account of the infamous vice presidential debate. It seems he was mostly ignored by Perot and his campaign staff (such as it was) throughout the whole thing, to the point that about two weeks before the vice presidential debate, Stockdale called Perot and said, "Well, Ross, I haven’t heard anything about doing the debate, so I guess I’ve dodged this thing."

Perot says to him, "Oh, sorry Jim, we accepted the invitation for you. Guess we forgot to tell you." So Stockdale had no "debate prep" or rehearsals or help from Perot’s people, and little time to prepare.

I can’t help but think that Stockdale is the man Jahn McCain ought to be, but isn’t.

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Whatever respect I had left for Perot, lingering from the silly wedding conspiracy Perot had concocted on 60 Minutes, was completely destroyed after that debate. No military man, save maybe Schwartzopf and Powell commander the utter respect of any decent American than Stockdale did at that post-Vietnam time. Whether Stockdale was up to the job or not (I heard he suffered from some some medical issues at that time), I considered it a slap at Perot’s mental capacity 100%

Now I know why. How in the hell Perot ever got to where he is, is beyond my limited mental facilities to figure out.

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