Monday, November 17, 2008
On this day:

Honoring Sen. Jeremiah Denton

A richly deserved honor for a true American hero.

Here's why:
Denton's name first came to the attention of the American public in 1966, during a television interview arranged by the North Vietnamese in Hanoi. Prior to the interview, torture and threats of more torture were applied to intimidate him to "respond properly and politely. " During the interview, after the journalist's recitation of alleged U.S. "war atrocities," Denton was asked about his support of U.S. policy concerning the war. He replied: "I don't know what is happening now in Vietnam, because the only news sources I have are North Vietnamese, but whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live."

Throughout the interview, while responding to questions and feigning sensitivity to harsh lighting, Denton blinked his eyes in Morse Code, repeatedly spelling out a covert message: "T-O-R-T-U-R-E". The interview, which was broadcast on American television on May 17, 1966, was the first confirmation that American POWs in Vietnam were being tortured. Denton was released on February 12, 1973, when he again received international attention as the spokesman for the first group of POWs returning from Hanoi to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Denton was advised that as the senior POW onboard, he might be expected to say something on behalf of the group upon arrival. As he stepped from the plane, Denton turned to the microphones and said: "We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America."
I still hold a grudge against Richard Shelby - who was still a Democrat at the time - for narrowly defeating Denton in the 1986 Senatorial race. In that campaign, Shelby ran an ad mischaracterizing Senator Denton's position on Social Security and another accusing him of spending too much time in Washington. As I recall, it showed a video clip of Denton saying something like, "I can't be down there in Alabama patting babies on the butt when there are things to do here in Washington." That's one thing about Jeremiah Denton. From his days as a POW in North Vietnam to his days as a U.S. Senator, he has never been shy about speaking his mind, even when liberals like those in the California Assembly haven't cared to listen.