Excellent health

Let’s start out this morning with the good news. I have discovered that I am in excellent health. In fact, I believe that my “overall health is excellent. Hands down, there’s no question that [I] am in the excellent range . . . . I put out the statement that [my] health is excellent, because [my] overall health is excellent . . . Overall, {I have] very, very good health. Excellent health.”

No mind you, I’m not basing that on what my doctor would say. I’m not basing it on what my most recent examination. I’m not basing it on the results of any medical tests or other empirical information.

I’m just comparing myself to another overweight, slightly sedentary man in the 65 - 75 age range who takes medicine to keep his cholesterol in control and has a job with a fairly high degree of stress.

I don’t mean to make light of the health of our President. And I certainly do not wish the President any ill health. I pray for his health on a regular basis, as I also do for other leaders of our state and nation.

I raise the point for another, somewhat unrelated concern.

I am concerned about the health of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson. He is the doctor who was so effusive in extolling the health of our president on Tuesday that he sounded what I might call “Trumpian.” He said exactly what I believe the President wanted him to say.

Ok. Ok. I know that I am in no way qualified to make any judgment about the President’s physician. I believe that he is eminently qualified to practice medicine and I trust that our system is sufficiently robust to guarantee that the President is attended only by the best qualified physicians.

Here is what worries me. Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is a Naval officer. And I fear that somehow the United States Navy has encouraged people, regardless of rank, to say and do exactly what their superiors ask. I have no doubt that the President of the United States expects sycophancy from all his subordinates. You only have to watch the publicly televised portions of cabinet meetings to understand this. All who work with him are expected to tell him how great and extraordinary he is.

That is a dangerous way to run a military operation. When people are promoted because they learn to say what their superiors expect, incompetent people who are willing to say anything for a promotion rise to the top.

There is more than a small amount of evidence that this has occurred in the US Navy. Just look at the past year:
  • A C2-A Greyhound transport aircraft headed to the USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the Philippine Sea.
  • A Japanese tugboat lost propulsion and drifted into the USS Benfold causing minor damage to the guided missile destroyer.
  • The USS John S. McCain, a Navy guided missile destroyer collided with the oil tanker Alnic MC, leaving 10 US sailors dead.
  • The USS Fitzgerald collided with the container ship MC Crystal off the coast of Japan resulting in the death of 7 US sailors.
  • A South Korean fishing boat struck the USS Lake Champlain, while the warship was conducting operations near the Korean Peninsula.
  • The USS Antietam ran aground while trying to anchor in Tokyo Bay.

When the commanders of ships seem not to know the basic commands of sailing, when they do not understand the effects of differential thrust on rudder positions, when they issue commands that appear to have confused starboard with port, there is reason to suspect that people have been promoted not because of their knowledge of ship operation, but because of other factors.

I pray that sucking up, brown nosing and sycophancy aren’t the reasons these eminent and highly ranked naval officers have been put in charge of ships.

Five officers involved in the two fatal collisions have had a variety of charges filed against them including dereliction of duty, endangering a ship and negligent homicide. Now, to be fair, everyone charged in our system is innocent until proven guilty and the trials have not yet taken place, so it is unfair to jump to conclusions. And it is worth noting that the commander of the Fitzgerald, Bryce Benson, suffered a head injury in the collision and had to be airlifted from the ship for treatment. He was not on the bridge at the time of the collision. But investigators have concluded that both of the fatal accidents were avoidable. Several top leaders, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph Auction, and several other senior commanders, have been fired.

The US Navy’s top officers have been found to have failed to quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergency situations. The responsibility of a Commanding Officer for his or her ship is absolute. Whatever decisions are made by those on the ship relate directly to the judgment and decision making of the commanding officer, who alone has the authority to control who has the ships controls at hand at all times. The commander is responsible for training and preparing sailors for their duties and when those duties are not performed properly it reflects on the commander.

None of this has to do with whether or not the subordinates say what the commander wants to hear. It has to do with how competent they are at their job.

Yet it appears that the commanders have been named more for their ability to say good things about their superiors than for their ability to sail ships. And sailing ships is what the US Navy is supposed to do.

So I don’t really know how excellent my health is. I don’t even know how good the President’s health is. I wish that when I listened to the television and heard Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson be so effusive in extolling the totally amazing, surpassingly marvelous, superbly stupendous and extremely awesome health of the President that it really means that the President is genuinely in the best of health. But my suspicions remain. Anyone who uses the word “excellent” eight times in a half dozen sentences, might be prone to just a touch of exaggeration.

And at this moment in the history of our nation, the US Navy doesn’t need officers who are prone to exaggeration. It needs officers who are brutally honest.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!