I’m 80 years old and it finally occurred to me to ask myself what I want out of life. At this moment, of course, it’s an easy question. As you may know, my beloved wife, Lolly, is very ill. All I would ask out of life today, if I were somehow granted a wish, would be to see her well again. I’d like to be here long enough to see that, of course, but I could live without it.
I don’t think I put that right, but you know what I mean.
But what about back when I was a kid? Didn’t I want anything?
Maybe. But if I ever thought about it I don’t remember it.
How about you, Johnny? Ever thought about what you wanted out of life? Ah, nuts! Why ask? Everybody did, except me.
What amazes me is the number of people I’ve read about who claim they knew what they wanted out of life right from Day One. Yesterday I picked up a copy of Walter Cronkite’s autobiography, “A Reporter’s Life” and casually read the book jacket. It made it sound like Cronkite came straight out of the chute in the delivery room with a microphone in one hand and a typewriter in the other. Ignoring the fact that such an arrival would have been a mite hard on Mom Cronkite, I opened the book and took a glance.
Sure enough, I had to scan no farther than the very first flashback (page 8), before I saw, “It should not be inferred that, with these little manifestations of highly quixotic coincidence, that history, so early in life was brushing my cheek. But on the other hand, who is to say that they didn’t leave some kind of postpartum impression that inspired a future passion for current events, history in the making, the stuff of journalism?”
Translation into non-journalistic English: “Things that happened to Mom and Pop Cronkite made me do it (be a journalist).”
He points out that the instant he heard of the death of President Harding he had to run off and tell someone about it.
“In the days before radio,” he says, “I could not wait to help spread the news. Clutching the paper, I went dashing down the hill to Albert Darling’s house.”
“Look carefully at that picture,” he says he told his friend. “It is the last picture you will ever see of President Harding.”
He was six years old at the time. A born reporter? I’m not too sure. What if his friend had looked at a history book and seen another picture of Harding, Walter? Tsk! Tsk!
You never know about people, do you? I flipped pages and ran across Cronkite’s description of his father’s arrival at the door of the hospital where he was born. “As he entered, a bell over the door sedately tinkled notice of his arrival. Dad announced his intention to the nurse who answered the door. ‘I’d like to see Mrs. Cronkite.’”
“Of course, Doctor. And your little boy is adorable.”
And then, Johnny, what does “The most trusted man in America” admit to in the very next line?
“In reconstructing this scene, I made up that last quote.”
And then he says to plan on more of the same in the book.
Wow! If you can’t trust Walter Cronkite, who can you trust?
Of course, he admitted that he made up the quote, but it makes you wonder about some of his news reports, doesn’t it?
I have a book written by U.S. Navy pilot Shane Osborn, who on April Fools day of 2001 collided with a nosy Chinese Communist fighter pilot who got too close, accidentally chopped the fighter in half with one of the props on his spy aircraft, and barely managed to make an emergency landing on the communist held island of Tainan. After his release in May of that same year, amid a whole lot of carping on the part of the Chinese, he sat down to write a book about his experience. He called it, “Born To Fly.”
“Born To Fly?” I thought. “Nice title, but I wonder how he proves that claim?” So I opened the book and began digging around.
I couldn’t quite verify the “born to” thing, but three or four years old is close enough. He says, “...becoming a pilot had been my ambition as long I can remember. In fact, flying formed my first vivid memory.” Then he describes the first time his father took him flying. Dad was just a passenger, and it’s a good thing too because he had to keep Osborn from falling out an open window. Osborn says from that day he wanted to fly.
I believe him. He almost made it without the plane.
Next suspect: William Jefferson Clinton, aka Bill Clinton, ex-President of the United States.
My inclination concerning Slick Willie is to believe nothing he says, but I will admit that the evidence seems fairly clear that he had his eye on the Oval Office from a very young age. And after all, it was a quiet, secluded place. Know what I mean?
Bernie Nussbaum, the White House counsel during the Clinton administration tells an interesting story. Back in the mid-1970s, Nussbaum was selected to serve as a congressional counsel for the impeachment of Richard Nixon (which is why I trust Nussbaum). He needed a few bright law students to help him. One person he hired was a young graduate from Yale Law School: Hillary Rodham.
One day, Ms. Rodham introduced Bernie to her boyfriend, a young lawyer. During the introduction, she nonchalantly introduced him as “the future President of the United States.” Well, you know who that was. And that was 22 years before he made it. Forgetting about a minor draft-dodging detour, it sounds possible that he had his path to the White House laid out from an early age.
I still wouldn’t quite believe it, but the next piece of evidence comes from Louis Freeh, former Director of the FBI, and probably the most honest man who ever held a post in Washington. Freeh was serving as a federal judge when word came to him that he was on the short list for selection as the FBI Director. He sent word back that he wasn’t interested, but got talked into a face-to-face with Bill Clinton, where he was convinced to take the job.
Afterward, Clinton gave him a White House tour, pouring out historical tidbits. After 90 minutes, Freeh asked Clinton whether he knew all that stuff before he became president, or had learned it after he moved in. Here’s the answer: “Completely matter-of-factly, without the slightest trace of embarrassment, he answered that he had been studying these things since he was very young. I realized at that moment that Hillary wasn’t the only Clinton who had been expecting to be living here someday.”
Man! That’s what I call planning ahead! Maybe it’s not too late for me. I wonder? What else would I like out of life?
Hm-m-m-m...? What would it be like to be elected dog catcher...?