R.I.P. Pat Tillman, a Son of Liberty
Pat Tillman represents the best of America, and that's why he has our respect and our tears. No honest person can question his motives, not when he gave up fame and fortune to risk his life defending both his freedom and ours. He gives us confidence that our society has not become too self-absorbed or too decadent or too fearful to survive -- not while we can still produce heroes like Pat Tillman.
Pat's story also illustrates one of the most important yet least mentioned reasons why this country must never again institute conscription: because it cheapens and undermines the nature of our military forces. With an all-volunteer military, we know that the young men and women who put their lives on the line do so of their own free will.
Consider Pat Tillman's story if in some alternate universe he had been drafted into the Army Rangers. Sure, he might have insisted that he was perfectly willing to go and would have signed up anyway, but who would have believed him? Who would have really believed that he didn't mind sacrificing $3.6 million and the adulation of football fans to fight and maybe die in a far-away country? It would have been dismissed as PR bullshit. And when he did die, many people would have mouthed pious words of regret while secretly wondering whether he was just some rich and pampered athlete who couldn't cut it on a real battlefield.
Dead conscripted soldiers are victims. Dead volunteer soldiers are heroes.
As to what his memorial should be, I think "Pat Tillman Stadium" is a slam dunk. And don't give me any nonsense about stadium naming rights being too valuable. If it's a matter of money, the public relations value of "Pat Tillman" far exceeds anything the Arizona Cardinals might gain by auctioning off the name. The Cardinals suck as a football team, and right now they can't fill their own stadium (unless they host a team like Green Bay, which will stuff it with Packers fans). But the Cardinals would sell thousands of additional season tickets in a Pat Tillman Stadium, while building team loyalty and support among Arizona fans.
Within a matter of days (or hours?), public pressure will force the team management to embrace the name change. And Pat will be remembered anew every time another football game is played there.
And Kerry's choice for Vice-President is…
I know, I know, it sounds totally absurd. But think about it for a moment. Ruminate on the implications.
Kerry is in deep shit. Bush is busy defining him as a dull and cautious fence-straddler who never takes a bold stance. Kerry's negatives are rising and his prospects are sinking. He just lost the jobs issue, and not even the Bush-hating Democrats are enthusiastic about him.
Kerry needs to connect on a long bomb. His Vice-Presidential selection is his best chance for a touchdown.
Unfortunately for Kerry, the possibilities are rather limited. A conventional choice such as Edwards or Richardson or Gephardt might help him in one or two states, but everyone will see it as business as usual. Hillary doesn't really want the VP slot. She wants to be President, and her best hope is to claim the 2008 nomination when no incumbent is running, after Kerry loses in 2004. McCain would be a brilliant choice, except he keeps saying he won't accept it, and his selection would certainly piss off a lot of Democratic special interest groups (e.g., pro-choicers, blacks who'd feel taken for granted again, union protectionists, the hard-core anti-war leftists, etc.).
So who's left that could really shake things up?
The surprise announcement that Kerry was tapping Gore would stun the nation. The media would go ape-shit. The airwaves and newspapers and magazines and Internet would provide saturation coverage for weeks and months. Bush's television advertising campaign would be totally drowned out.
Kerry would be lauded for an out-of-the-box decision that no one previously thought him capable of. His positives would soar and his negatives would sink. Democrats would be energized by the move, as well as by the prospect of revenging themselves for the Florida debacle. Many Democrats would actually begin to like Kerry and become enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Republicans would be disgusted at the thought of Gore back in office, but it would still be a lot less motivating for them. After all, Kerry would be the Presidential candidate, and he'd necessarily remain the focus of their attention. Attacking Gore would be a wasteful diversion of resources, and probably wouldn't be too effective.
Swing voters would see it as a heroic sacrifice by Gore: Having already served in the thankless job for eight years, he'd be willing to again assume a subordinate role for the good of the country. And who could possibly be better qualified than Al Gore?
I know what you're all thinking: Gore would never do it. He'd never play second-fiddle to Kerry. He eschewed the race for the 2004 nomination, so why accept the VP slot?
That seems like simple common sense. But keep in mind we're dealing with ambitious politicians here.
Gore screwed up by taking himself out of the 2004 race. At the time he did so, Bush's poll numbers were still very high and Bush looked extremely tough to beat. Having lost the election in 2000, despite all the advantages of his pseudo-incumbency, why should he expect to win in 2004 against a real incumbent who was a war President? Now, however, Bush's poll numbers are down, and he's looking at least somewhat vulnerable. But it's too late for Gore to re-enter the race; Kerry has it locked up.
If Kerry wins, Gore is frozen out of the nomination until at least 2012. If Kerry loses, Gore would face a huge challenge in overcoming Hillary for the 2008 nomination. Al Gore is slowly fading into obscurity, and his dream of becoming President grows ever dimmer. It certainly didn't help when Gore demonstrated his impotence and poor political vision by endorsing Dean just before Dean imploded.
So this is a chance for Al Gore to redeem himself. He can once more mount the stage and bask in the glare of the media. He can play the heroic rescuer of the Democratic Party, willing to do whatever it takes to defeat George W. Bush.
If the Kerry/Gore ticket wins, Gore is once again a heartbeat away from his goal. If the ticket loses, most of the blame will rest with Kerry. Gore will be in a much better position to gain the 2008 nomination.
And under all scenarios, Gore will create in the public's mind a sense of entitlement. After all he's done and all he's been willing to endure, a lot of people will feel he's owed his turn at the Presidency.
Folks, this has the trappings of high drama. Kerry can busily run background checks on all the other potential Vice Presidential candidates, while the press speculates endlessly on who's in the lead. But Gore needs no such vetting or background checks; he's already been through that.
At the last minute, Kerry places a secret phone call to Gore and seals the deal. Then Kerry makes the surprise announcement, which leaves everyone gasping for breath.
If Kerry really wants to become President -- and he really, really, really does want to become President -- this is his ticket to the White House.