C.J. Marshall: Significa: The loyal opposition
Back in January 1977, John Wayne flew in to Washington D.C. to attend the inauguration of then newly-elected President Jimmy Carter.
Although Wayne, a stanch Republican, had campaigned vigorously for President Gerald Ford during the 1976 election, he said when he showed up to attend the ceremonies that he was there not only as a member of the opposition, but also as a member of the "loyal opposition."
Not too many months later, fate stepped in to help the Duke prove that his contentions were more than just empty words. There were problems in Panama, with the government and people of that country contending it was time for the United States to turn over operation and ownership of the Panama Canal.
By the time Carter took office, the U.S. had operated the canal and maintained a presence in Panama for over 70 years. As the years passed, resentment from the Panamanians about the U.S. presence in their country continued to build, to the point where it was threatening to become a very serious situation.
President Carter responded by opening negotiations with the Panamanian government, as well as members of Congress, to see if an equitable solution could be found. Carter determined that Panama would settle for nothing less than the U.S. turning the canal over them, and leaving the country.
The trouble was, the decision was not Carter's to make. Under the rules, only Congress could enter into such an agreement, and the president was finding his proposal - that the U.S. turn control of the canal over to Panama within 25 years - was not being met with much enthusiasm by many of the more conservative members of the legislative branch.
During the proceedings, the president turned to John Wayne for help, explaining the seriousness of the situation. Wayne listened, and then agreed to throw his support to Carter. In giving his reasons for his support, the Duke said it boiled down to one very simple fact "It's their country." (Referring to Panama).
Congress eventually agreed to support the president and entered into a treaty agreement with Panama. During last 25 years of U.S. ownership of the canal there were no major problems in the area, and it was peacefully turned over to the Panamanian government at the end of the time. Today, the canal still operates as it has throughout its more than 100 years of existence, providing a valuable shortcut to major shipping firms throughout the world.
After Congress approved the treaty, Carter contacted Wayne and thanked him for his support. The president informed the Duke that he been instrumental in convincing key conservative Senators of the importance of peacefully turning the canal over to Panama, and without his support, the treaty would probably not have been approved and the situation would have probably grown very ugly very quickly.
John Wayne's support of President Carter during such an important diplomatic situation is a perfect demonstration of cooperation between two political spectrums that I find sadly lacking across the country today. It seems that many members of BOTH sides are more interested these days on grabbing and holding on to power, than working toward the common good of the country. I remember reading a disturbing article recently, in which a Republican U.S. Senator was asked during a political rally by some of his constituents why he was working with some of his Democratic counterparts in Washington on certain matters. When the senator explained it is sometimes necessary to compromise in order to get legislation passed, he was roundly booed many attending the event.
With today's political climate, I'm certain that there many U.S. senators who are Democrats who would receive similar treatment at the hands of many of their constituents if they made a similar statement. Which is not only sad, but frightening if you take time to think about it. I'm firmly convinced that one of the reasons why we've been experiencing so many problems in this country over the past several years is due to the "All or nothing" mentality which seems to have infected our leaders along with many members of the public. But those that subscribe to such a philosophy never seem to learn that more often than not, everyone usually ends up with the second part - nothing. And as a result, nothing ever gets done.