He said it on Monday.  Yep, I heard it on the telly.  Donald Trump said he had a secret plan to destroy Isis.  “Fantastic!” I thought.  “Tell us how you’ll rid us of this menace to civilization.”  Crickets in the graveyard.  The Donald, as is his wont, never gives away his method for working miracles, lest they be revealed to lesser beings with less money.  But how would he do it?  I wondered.

A Voice from the Past Came Back Like a Hairy Hand in the Dark

And then it all came back to me in a rush   I had heard a similar promise before, from another aspiring candidate to the presidency of the United States.  That was back in 1968 and Richard M. Nixon was vying with Hubert H. Humphrey to succeed Lyndon Johnson as president; the Republican challenger promised to end the conflict in Vietnam.  War-weary Americans, disheartened by the Viet Cong’s recent Tet Offensive, were in a receptive mood.  So was I, a newly appointed editor of a monthly magazine, ready for peace.  But I was skeptical.  Nixon and I hailed from the same little quiet Quaker town of Whittier, California, though I did not share the town’s justified pride in the rapid political rise of our native son.  Perhaps I had been primed by my union-member democrat father’s words whenever Tricky Dick’s name—first as our congressman, then our senator—came up: “He’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg,” he would automatically declare.  More likely it was the mandatory high school assemblies I attended in which our congressman, then our senator spoke to us with a dour frown through those chipmunk cheeks, ever the stern-voiced scold berating us for wasting our time on high school foolishness when we should be out killing commies.

The Blackmail Paid Off

Nixon won the 1968 election narrowly without divulging his secret plan.  Indeed, the next year he and his foreign policy advisor Henry Kissinger launched a clandestine air war in Cambodia and sent U. S. Marines into Laos—an expansion of hostilities exposed by the New York Times that enraged Nixon and would set the stage for the Watergate Drama shortly to unfold.   Many Americans felt they had been duped.  I was one of them; to me it seemed a devious form of blackmail the president plied.  Nixon through Kissinger continued with the Byzantine back-channel peace talks in Paris begun in 1968, and Nixon himself went to China to make peace in 1972, in time to earn points that propelled him to an easy reelection victory over George McGovern that fall.  Meanwhile, after four-plus years of fruitless negotiations and frustrating stalemate, Kissinger and North Viet Nam’s Le Duc Tho formally signed the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, bringing open hostilities to a merciful end.   Four days earlier President Nixon had announced to our nation that we had achieved “peace with honor.”   “Peace” yes, which will allow President Barack Obama to visit our former foe in May this year.  “Honor” is more debatable, and has been since April 30, 1975, when the last Americans barely escaped the fall of Saigon, and North Viet Nam claimed victory in their decades-long war of independence and unification.

Guilty As Charged

You may be wondering if I’m trying to tie Nixon’s perfidy to Trump’s unshared plan and promise to eradicate Isis.  Well, uh,  uh...yes, I guess I am...guilty as charged.   You see, I’ve made a count of the number of American military lives lost between Nixon’s 1968 promise of peace and the actual end of hostilities.  It exceeds 20,800 dead.  (That does not include our wounded, or the ARVN’s, VC’s, or NVA’s dead and wounded.)  Will somebody please volunteer to count the Isis-caused deaths between now and Gauleiter Lumpen von Trump’s ascension to the most powerful office on planet earth?  Thanks.  I may not be around.  And even though Nixon had the edge in political experience, military service and commonsense, I still doubt as many senseless deaths will rest on Trump’s cushioned orange pate as the departed Dick’s.  For history’s nerds like me, it’s important to get a count..  Let me know somehow the final numbers in the after-life.  Which seems increasingly to me like a better place to be.