FRESNO, Calif. -- In the U.S. military, there is a wonderful little expression: "A good plan never survives the first contact with the enemy." The corollary to this rule is: "Expect the unexpected." Then, of course, there is the expanded version of the Boy Scouts motto: "Be prepared -- for anything." This week has served to remind me how apt these quaint little expressions really are.
My plan for this week was very simple: conduct a series of quiet interviews for print and broadcast media and a few low-key appearances in preparation for the release of my new book, "American Heroes -- In the Fight Against Radical Islam." B&H, my publisher, and Fox News, my employer, had put together a launch plan that ensured we would promote the book first on Fox News. Then I would go on a relatively brief tour, signing books near military bases. Because the book is about the soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines I have covered in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and the Philippines, it all seemed very uncomplicated. Then the Rev. Jeremiah Wright intervened.
For reasons known only to the Rev. Wright, he chose this week to drag me into the mess he has made of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. During a surreal appearance Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, the Rev. Wright said that his congregation, of which Sen. Obama is a member, had "stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in these two countries."
When Wright made this stunningly inaccurate comment, I was blissfully unaware that he even knew my name -- until my cell phone started buzzing. In short order, the interviews we so carefully had arranged to talk about "American Heroes" became interrogations about events that took place more than two decades ago. I wanted to talk about the young Americans currently serving in harm's way -- the subjects in my new book. Unfortunately, the people calling me wanted to talk about presidential politics and ancient history. So much for the plan.
The Rev. Wright's untimely and inexplicable use of my name has had two, perhaps unintended, consequences. First, it reminded me of that old axiom about "the best-laid plans of mice and men." But of greater import, it has illustrated once again how disconnected my colleagues in the so-called mainstream media are from the American people. In the days since Wright used my name for his own obscure purposes, dozens of reporters have asked me about his comment, Barack Obama and my tenure on Ronald Reagan's National Security Council staff. Notably, not one of the thousands of Americans who have asked me to sign copies of "American Heroes" inquired about anything except the troops whose photographs appear in the book. Talk about a disconnect.
And therein lies a problem that is far greater than the Rev. Wright's hate-filled racist rhetoric or his longstanding antipathy toward all that is good and decent about our country. The potentates of the press, so committed to the shallow celebrity journalism of the moment, are wildly out of touch with the American people they purport to serve.
During the course of the past several days, as I have signed their books, thousands of our fellow citizens have told me about their sons, daughters, grandsons, nephews, spouses or other loved ones who are serving or who have served in this long war against radical Islam. Just like those whose photos are in the book they have handed me, they have their own American heroes. Yet when I ask my fellow members of the Fourth Estate whether they even know the name of anyone serving in the uniform of our country, the answer is almost invariably, "No."
The young Americans serving today in our armed forces deserve better than that from the people who profess to deliver news to the rest of us. Rather than serving up more blather about Jeremiah Wright, editors, producers and program directors would serve all of us better by sending their commentators and correspondents out to cover those who have volunteered to serve in our military. The remarkable men and women I am privileged to cover for Fox News demonstrate courage, commitment, compassion and self-sacrifice on a daily basis. They know our country is far better than the place described by Jeremiah Wright. That's why I call them American heroes.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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