Friday, June 24, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust
At the Aerospace Museum in San Diego's Balboa park, you can see Mr. Cunningham's F-4, tilted on a stand behind a MIG fighter just like the ones he shot down. It's hard not to be moved by the display. The visual impact of that much hardware hurtling through the sky is as intimidating as hearing the rumbling sound track of "TOP GUN" was in the theater. Ace Cunningham claims to be a major inspiration for that story, and I have always seen his service to this country through that lens. My college roommate worked his way through ROTC and became an Air Force pilot and officer, in a time when I often kidded him about flying in planes "built by the lowest bidder". I even had the privelege, once, of taking him out to Miramar and seeing his own F-4 "Double Ugly" one day. I am proud to have known, through my parents, fighter and bomber pilots from WWII, these men have epitomized integrity to me.
I have been waiting for some time for this statement from Mr. Cunningham, and I will withhold final judgement until any investigation is complete, but calling this an "error in judgement" is tantamount to calling the captain of the Titanic "negligent". This transaction smells so bad even I can taste it. This should never have happened, period. And he knows it. And he knows that we all know it, too.
I still consider myself naive when it comes to politics, and I know that things do not always appear as they are. I saw an interview last year with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, these guys actually like and admire each other. In my opinion, posturing and saying outrageously partisan things is, like professional wrestling, an unnecessary but traditional part of the process. It rarely affects the outcome, but makes the job look so much harder.
Yesterdays' Reader is an example of a half-told story. I'm all for Congressmen doing due diligence, and I don't have any particular aversion to them staying at the Sheik's araby while doing so. But now, the odor of one transaction starts to permeate all of these situations. He becomes just another public servant putting his golden years before the reasons he became a public servant in the first place. He may think he's earned it, but he has done so at the expense of his reputation, and that of his office.
It has to be about more than not getting caught. It has to be about more than cashing in. Please.