Gerald Follows Up on President Bush’s Military Record and the Montage Hotel Project.
In a recent column, I mentioned a website that contains documentary evidence that President Bush was absent without leave from the National Guard during the Vietnam War. This website can still be found at www.awolbush.com.
Now, such website raises the question of why President Clinton’s “draft dodging” merited 13,641 news stories, while President Bush’s “desertion” merited only 49.
I think I know the answer to this question – double standards.
It was OK to question Bill Clinton’s draft dodging, because the people asking the questions were, for the most part, conservatives, and the liberals were too timid to speak out, lest their own patriotism be questioned.
However, it was less OK to question George W. Bush’s military record, because he was conservative, openly religious, and aggressively patriotic. Also, Bush was fortunate that Senator John McCain and Vice-President Al Gore, both of whom were brave enough to go to Vietnam, chose not to raise this issue in their political campaigns against Bush.
Personally, I don’t care very much about Bush being AWOL from the National Guard during 1972. For me, the more serious concern is that, as reported in the February 16th issue of Time Magazine, “[a]fter graduating from Yale, Bush leaped to the top of a 500-man Texas Guard wait list, despite scoring poorly on a pilot aptitude test.”
In 1970, Bush Sr. was a GOP congressman who supported a draft that required hundreds of thousands of less privileged young men to go to Vietnam. Yet in the case of his own son, he allowed strings to be pulled so that his son could move to the top of the list, ahead of more qualified candidates.
Once George W. Bush was admitted to the Texas Air National Guard, he was assigned to the most prestigious possible job – learning to be a fighter pilot. Obviously, it was a waste of governmental funds to train someone who would never see combat. Thus, in a sense, going AWOL was actually patriotic. By going AWOL, Bush spared some of the expense (fuel and airplane wear and tear) of training someone who would never be asked to fight. Thus, I don’t care that much about whether Bush was AWOL. However, I do care that he chose to rely on family influence to receive special treatment, and to avoid serving in a war that both he and his father supported.
Surely, if Joseph Kennedy, Sr, had pulled a few strings during World War II, he could have kept his sons out of such war. Joe Jr. could have served in the Massachusetts National Guard and perhaps eventually become President, and Jack would have never become a war hero. However, the Kennedy boys volunteered to fight for what they believed in. I also suspect that both of the Kennedy boys would have told their father to go to hell if he had proposed that they chicken out.
Like the Kennedys, John Kerry’s family had the resources to keep him out of the Vietnam War, but Kerry chose to fight for his country. Like the Kennedys, John Kerry volunteered for some of the riskiest duty imaginable. Joe Kennedy was killed on a top-secret mission that he knew was very risky. John Kennedy was almost killed captaining a PT boat that was little more than a plywood box loaded with diesel fuel and munitions.
John Kerry volunteered to captain a patrol boat in Vietnam. On a personal note, if my draft number had been lower, I would have volunteered for the Air Force. I don’t like mosquitoes, humidity or leeches. I also hate the idea of being on a boat in a small river surrounded by jungle. It’s just too easy to get ambushed. For these reasons and others, I admire the courage of John Kerry for volunteering for river boat duty. As a Yale graduate and because his family was connected, Kerry could easily have found a position on a relatively safe aircraft carrier, and the fact that he chose to captain a river patrol boat is, from my perspective, irrefutable evidence that this man is patriotic and has a lot of character.
Kerry’s bravery and heroism are beyond question – three purple hearts, a bronze star, a silver star, and the testimony of fellow soldiers who saw him risk his life to save one of his men.
Do any Republicans care that Kerry was a brave patriot and Bush avoided risk due to corrupt pulling of strings? Of course not. Why? Again, I believe that the answer is “double standards.” For the same reason that they can downplay Rush Limbaugh breaking the drug laws, they are happy to downplay Bush’s war record.
When Bill Clinton ran for President, the Republicans made a huge stink over his draft dodging and use of marijuana. They argued that Clinton could never be respected as Commander-in-Chief and that Clinton’s use of marijuana proved his lack of character. In my mind, Clinton’s draft dodging was not such a bad response to an unjust war, and marijuana is no better or worse than alcohol, so these charges were not that important to me. However, the Republican party made a big deal about these issues when Clinton was a candidate, and they must now rely on double standards to downplay President Bush’s draft dodging, cocaine use, and other personal scandals.
Another example of double standards is our own City Council. Next week I will discuss two recent positions that the Council has taken that I believe are highly inconsistent.
As I will discuss in more detail next week, the Council has decided to impose new restrictions on people who want to remodel homes south of Santa Monica Boulevard, while allowing the developer of the Montage Hotel to build a seven story structure on land that is zoned for three stories.
Until I saw the most recent Planning Commission meeting, I had hoped that the Planning Commission would put a stop to this disaster. However, based on the comments of the Commissioners at the end of the meeting, it appears to me that once certain details are worked out, the Planning Commission is going to approve this, despite the opposition of the local homeowners associations.
This appears to be a “done deal.” The only thing that can stop it now is mass public opposition. If you have not done so already, I would suggest that everyone who cares about traffic in our city contact their local homeowners association, and offer to volunteer, or at least send a check. The numbers to call are as follows:
South Side Homeowners Association: 310-276-4842 (Artie Stone)
North Side Homeowners Association: 310-274-8147 (Victor Bardach).
The leaders of these homeowners associations are volunteers who work to protect the interests of homeowners against the type of monkey business that developers sometimes try to perpetrate in our city. Right now, they are fighting a brave and desperate battle against a developer who possesses almost unlimited resources and a city government that has already decided that it wants this project.
It’s not too late to stop this project, but it will soon be too late unless more people get involved. Next week, I will begin a discussion of some of the reasons why this project, as currently planned, is both a bad idea and a bad deal for our City.
More Double Standards.
The City Council Is Piling Insult on Top of Injury for South Side Homeowners.
Recently, the City Council passed an emergency resolution requiring special approval for any remodeling of single-family residences south of Santa Monica Boulevard that involves changes that can be seen from the street. The Council’s rationale was that too many people have been ruining the look of our southern neighborhoods by making their houses look too massive from the street (see “Monster Homes,” Issue # ____. Based on the supposed horror of allowing homeowners to do what the general plan allowed and what many of their neighbors had already done, the Council voted to restrict the rights of such homeowners to improve their properties.
At the same time, the Council appears to have no problem with the Montage Hotel Project, which will allow an influential developer to build a massive seven story hotel and condominium complex on land that is limited to three stories under the general plan.
Why is a private developer getting an exemption to build a massive structure that will guarantee traffic gridlock in the southern part of our city while the average Joe homeowner south of Santa Monica Boulevard is suddenly subject to new limitations that may destroy remodeling plans that he/she relied on in buying his/her house?
The answer – double standards.
It’s nice to have power and influence. After extensive discussions with the city, it appears that the developer of the Montage Hotel will be allowed to build a seven story structure on property that is zoned for three stories.
What are the chances of an ordinary homeowner being allowed to build even an extra one story? About zero minus infinity!
I am still reading the environmental impact report that the city prepared on an “in-house” basis regarding the Montage project. This document was clearly designed to support a foregone conclusion, and is a masterpiece of obfuscation.
Just about every aspect of this plan is flawed.
I am particularly concerned by the traffic analysis, which concludes that there will be no significant impact on traffic congestion. Let’s do the math for ourselves. The city is asking us to believe that 228 new hotel rooms, banquet facilities for at least 571 people, 37 new luxury condos, a separate retail building and 1,000 parking spaces won’t lead to worse traffic problems. If you believe this, then you should send every dollar in your bank account to the Republican Party.
Traffic in the south side of town is already unbearable in the mornings and the afternoons. What is going to happen when the hotel hosts an event with over 500 guests funneling across Olympic and Wilshire, then piling up on Beverly and Canon? Some days, it takes me fifteen minutes or more to drive from my office in Century City to my home on South Camden Drive. With no traffic, this is a two to five minute drive. Thanks to our City Council, I now fear that some days I might as well just wait until the hotel traffic has cleared.
Adding economic insult to injury, the City is planning to contribute $36,750,000 of taxpayer funds to the Montage project, plus City land worth millions of dollars. This is like the Thanksgiving turkey paying for the dressing and the cranberry sauce. Too bad the City does not seem to have the money to fix the streetlights south of Wilshire. Perhaps the Council has decided the extra cars that will be driving through to get to the hotel will provide ample light, or perhaps we can just continue with intermittent darkness and wish that we had remodeled our homes while this was still allowed.
When I bought my home, I knew that I could never add a third story and that there were limits on total square footage. Now, because I live south of Santa Monica Boulevard, the City Council has decided to make it even harder for me to improve my property, as many others have done, while at the same time deciding that the Montage can build a behemoth of a structure that will be more than double the permitted height.
When the developer bought the land, it was well known that it was zoned for three stories maximum. If the City had even the slightest amount of business sense, there would be a computation as to the value of adding four extra stories, and the developer would be required to pay for this.
Think about it. If you could buy land at a price based on a maximum potential development of three stories then wave a magic wand and get zoned for seven stories, it would not take long to make millions of dollars purely from the rezoning. Based on my rough computations, this rezoning is worth at least $10 million, but the City has asked for nothing in return.
The City is justifying all of this with the hope that its 3%-5% of the gross revenues plus associated tax revenues will result in a profit over the long run. Effectively, the city wants to become a junior partner to the developer. However, based on my review of the material posted on the city’s website at www.beverlyhills.org, this is a sweetheart deal for the developer, and if the project tanks, the city will lose money.
At least when the native Americans sold Manhattan, they got some beads and were not asked to pay $36,750,000 for their own degradation. Like the native Americans, the City Council is dealing with people who are far more sophisticated in negotiating real estate deals. Hopefully, the residents south of Santa Monica will never be shipped off to “reservations” in Culver City, but by the time the City Council is done, they might actually yearn for this.