Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gov (President?) Kempthorne

Mcjoan at Daily Kos has a post about Dirk Kempthorne exploring the possibility of running for President in the next election. She's pretty critical of Kempthorne in the piece.

My big disappointment with Kempthorne, when he served as Senator, was that he was indistinguishable from Larry Craig, politically. As near as I could tell, they were exactly the same. I had thought that Kempthorne would be moderate, but he wasn't able to get out of Craig's shadow and orbit (Same problem with Mike Crapo). Voted very conservatively.

I will always admire something about Kempthorne, nevertheless. My Guard unit was mobilized in June 2004, and the Gov Kempthorne was very supportive of us. And not in just easy political ways. On Thanksgiving in 2004, the Brigade was lodged in what were essentially huge chicken coops in Alexandria. LA. Kempthorne, Paul Revere, and others came to visit us.

Beginning afternoon on Thanksgiving day, Kempthorne, Revere, and various officers, including me, began to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the soldiers, about 2,000 of them. The last soldier was served around 6:30 PM, and by then the turkey, steak and some other side dishes, had run out. We servers ate after everyone else was served, and I had a plate of mashed potatoes and green beans. As did Kempthorne.

What impressed me was that Gov Kempthorne stood on that hard concrete floor, serving mashed potatoes the entire time. He took not a single break. Everyone else rotated in and out of the serving line, but not Kempthorne. Kempthorne had had back surgery just before his visit on Thanksgiving, and was clearly uncomfortable standing there that long.

About midnight on Thanskgiving we all boarded buses to the airport, got on planes, and flew to Kuwait. The planes departed around 2:00 AM. Gov Kempthorne was there, standing at the bottom of the stairs, shaking the hand of every soldier as he or she boarded the plane.

Here's what I wrote in my milblog at the time, 25 Nov 04. (BCT = Brigade Combat Team).

It is Thanksgiving day today. Last night the entire BCT went to a free concert by Paul Revere and the Raiders. Some pretty good songs, oldies, and lots of laughs. It is a funny show, and we all enjoyed it, although the guys from Pennsylvania booed our governor when he got up to speak. Gov. Kempthorne personally arranged for the free concert, so it was pretty classless for them to boo him. I was disappointed in the leadership for not stopping it. I think I'll say something to them about it.

We are having a feast today. 1,000 pounds turkey breast, 1,000 lbs of sirloin, and all the usual trimmings. 1/2 lb of meat for each soldier. Lots of donations from Alexandria of pies and pastries. Paul Revere, Gov Kempthorne, and others are serving the dinner. First group through; Pennsylvania. So, the guy they booed last night is serving them today.

I had to say a final goodbye to my loved ones today. I will not be able to call them, except infrequently, once I leave. It has been my most emotional day yet. I am not worried about what I am getting into, just am going to miss my loved ones I have to leave behind. Sad, not excited.

Idaho's Governor Kirk Kempthorne is here seeing the BCT off as we leave. In addition to arranging the concert, and pledging to shake every soldier's hand, he has spent the day serving mashed potatoes to the soldiers. He started at 1300, and is still there, at 1700. He plans to stick it out until about 1830 or so when everyone has been served. Paul Revere has been right there next to him, serving turkey, the entire time. Five and a half hours.

I don't much agree with the Governor's politics, but I am tremendously impressed with his support of the soldiers. Serving meals is kind of fun, as least for a while, but you're standing and it's hard on your back, and after a while it's not as fun as it was. I lasted only 1 1/2 hours. For him to stand there and, literally, serve soldiers is a real gesture of support. It is not a hollow photo op, like holding a fake turkey to get a few pictures taken. It may not seem like such a big deal, serving mashed potatoes, but I know I really appreciate it. So, my kudos to both Governor Kempthorne and Paul Revere for such a selfless act.

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