Monday, August 23, 2004
The janitor, Harry Truman and John Kerry
I don't usually spend a lot of time writing about John Kerry. There are bloggers out there far more devoted and far better informed than I on the subject.
After reading a few blogs yesterday and today-- and not necessarily on the travails of John Kerry, I have come to a realization of why it would be foolhardy to support Kerry.
When I was a younger, I remember my father always saying how important it was to do a job well, regardless of the job. That regularly scheduled (and hated) lecture came after I didn't quite do all that was asked of me or didn't quite finish the job 'neatly' or put away the tools as I should have.
I've learned a lot since those lectures.
I have memories of the school custodian, pushing his bucket around with the mop inside. He wasn't a very bright guy and he certainly wasn't the most genial of fellows. I can recall times when we purposefully made a mess because we didn't care and we got a kick out of making him work for us and laughing about it.
Of course, now I am very ashamed for having done that.
He was a nameless, almost faceless man. He came to work everyday and did his job.
He never got any respect. No doubt he carried with him the same hopes and dreams we all do, but let's be honest. He was at the bottom of the barrel and he and everyone else knew it.
Still, that custodian, took his job, such as it was, seriously.
George W. Bush, to be charitable, is not the most riveting of individuals. His speeches tend to be at best, adequate, with few exceptions, most notably immediately after 9/11. In any case, he does remain ever the plodder, getting things done.
As Governor of Texas, he ran one of the fastest growing states in the union. He achieved outstanding results in improving the level of education in that State, despite bitter opposition from the educational establishment. His efforts were rewarded with unprecedented support from minority communities. He took on a job and what he felt was a responsibility, rolled up his shirtsleeves and despite opposition from many quarters-- including much of the Texas media-- got the job done.
Rather than bemoan 'two America's' and sing inspirational songs, George W. Bush actually did something. He spoke with great conviction of the 'velvet glove discrimination of lowered expectations,' a candid observation of what we all know to be true. He brought together normally political adversaries and took on an entrenched bureaucracy and made changes to what is usually only talked about and never acted upon. He got the job done.
Much has been made of the President's military record in the National Guard. I don't know if he joined the guard to get out of serving in Vietnam. He may have. The war was wildly unpopular and many distinguished individuals did the exact same thing.
President Clinton got educational deferments and Vice President Gore served as typewriter jockey, using his father to make sure he was out of harms way. I suppose
George Bush could have done the same, taking advantage of connections to secure himself a safe place in Vietnam and claim himself a veteran.
Instead, he learned to fly jets, no small feat. Inasmuch as there are few jobs that require military jet fighter training in the civilian world, one can assume he took his training seriously. His Air Guard unit pilots were indeed on a Vietnam rotation. That being said, George Bush did not train for himself for a 'cushy' job in the military. Can you imagine the uproar if his father would have used his influence to keep him out of harms way, if he had indeed been on a Vietnam rotation?
John Kerry spent four months of combat duty in Vietnam. He has taken those four months and turned himself into the most important veteran of that conflict.
That is John Kerry. Four months, no matter how well served, is not a military career. Four months, used to qualify a man as a military leader, is an insult to military veterans and current members of our Armed Forces. Careers are defined by years of service and years of experience, no matter the military venue.
John Kerry has had less than a distinguished career in the Senate. His record speaks of missed votes and legislation that has gone nowhere. He has stood for nothing, a chameleon, looking to take advantage of a cause, any cause that he would benefit from. No record of taking a stand, no record of going against the tide if it wasn't self serving. John Kerry has worked at been popular with Massachusetts voters and no more than that. John Kerry has been good at keeping himself at the center of attention and featured attraction at cocktail parties from Boston to Washington.
Harry Truman was a failed haberdasher. Despite years of trying and failing at that and other ventures, he gave it his best shot-- he worked hard and never looked for glory.
Mr. Kerry could learn a lot from my school custodian and Harry Truman, two men who got the job done.
One was a business failure and one was a janitor. One became President of the United States and one did not.
It was not a coincidence that Harry Truman always felt close to and was beloved, by the 'little guy.' Harry Truman understood what it was to do the job well, regardless of the job.
Harry Truman left office and went to the train station, alone, him and his his beloved Bess. They went back to Missouri and despite a few attempts, Harry Truman failed at a few other business ventures.
Harry Truman was not a failure.
My old school janitor retired and lived off a small pension in the same obscurity he did when he worked at our school. He probably never realized all his hopes and dreams, either. What he did secure was dignity, whether he knew it or not.
He was not a failure.
John Kerry never got any job done, not in Vietnam or the Senate. John Kerry has always been more concerned about himself than the job at hand.
It isn't hard to understand why, like Harry Truman, my old school janitor had more dignity than John Kerry has now. It isn't hard to understand that the janitor had more in common with harry Truman and the rest of us than John Kerry ever will.
Like I said, John Kerry could learn a lot from that school janitor. And so could the Democrat Party.