Norman Schwarzkopf wins us a war, and what thanks does he get?
People want to make a politician or a corporate executive out of him.And a whole gaggle of opportunistic would-be hangers-on have expressed their readiness to drop whatever they're not doing and help get Schwarzkopf elected president in 1996, if not before.
These people actually believe that they're paying Schwarzkopf a compliment.
It says something unpleasant about a country when sitting in Congress and working for Lee Iacocca are the highest callings that we can imagine for our national heroes.
It might turn out that the general won't be able to make as smooth a transition as the experts seem to think. People have been impressed with Schwarzkopf because he comes across as honest, courageous, competent and articulate. These are not qualities commonly associated with politicians and corporate executives.
Schwarzkopf would dwarf a public world overflowing with shallow, narrowly ambitious, double-talking charlatans.
Maybe Schwarzkopf could make it in the business world - as long as he got to start at the top - but he certainly is no politician.
Politicians talk tough - tough on crime, tough on communism, tough on their opponents.
But Schwarzkopf shies away from macho bluster.
For example, he told Barbara Walters that he's "been scared in every war I've ever been in." He also cheerfully admitted he cries easily. "I don't think I would like a man who is incapable of enough emotion to get tears in his eyes every now and then," he told Walters. "That type of person scares me. That's not a human being."
Plenty of prominent politicians have had their careers ruined because they made the mistake of shedding a tear .
And politicians never admit mistakes. Schwarzkopf hasn't learned that lesson, either.
For example, in the afterglow of victory in Iraq, Bush, still kicking, boasted that "we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all." Bush is one of those people who finds it convenient to pretend that peace protesters and nervous politicians lost the Vietnam War.
Schwarzkopf knows better and doesn't mind saying so.
"There was a terrible erosion in integrity in the armed forces during Vietnam," he told Walters. "I don't think many of us came out of Vietnam and could hold our heads up and say, `My sense of integrity is still lily-white and pure,' because we all know that we had lied about body count. We all knew that there had been a lot of other lies, and it did bad things to the officer corps . . . I came to understand that carelessness and negligence and lousy leadership and self-serving officers and generals cost human lives. And you just can't forgive that. "
Bush and other real politicians wouldn't talk that way. It might cost them votes.
Besides, Schwarzkopf already has said what he plans to do, and it doesn't involve running for president or hawking minivans.
"I want to come home and be with my family, then go out with all my buddies and shoot sporting clays and then probably go fishing," he says.
And if you had a choice between going fishing or being turned into a commodity, what would you do?