Ben Stein's Diary

Have Gun, Will Travel

Our gun-owning Diarist loads up in our Summer issue.

By From the July 2010 - August 2010 issue

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TUESDAY

Wow. Something is definitely wrong. I awakened feeling desperately tired. Just wiped out. Like I was at the bottom of a well of exhaustion. Nevertheless, I threw myself out of bed and went swimming in my fabulous pool. Then I checked to see if I had any money left after the recent stock market downward volatility. I did, and so I had breakfast and got dressed.

A huge crew arrived to take photos of me for a magazine feature on "Ben Stein's Los Angeles." The main photographer, Michael Grecco, is a famously talented and pleasant, easy to work with guy. We took a lot of photos, then we (wifey and makeup girl Lisa and I) zoomed over to CNN to talk about the Gulf oil spill and about Rep. Sestak being offered a job to not run against that creep Arlen Specter. I said that Obama had so many foreign policy disasters that he really should not be bothered about the Sestak thing, which is just business as usual politics. As to the Gulf oil catastrophe, better to stop pointing fingers and concentrate on getting the leak plugged before it kills all life everywhere. That was what I said. I would have added that Obama was not Superman. He could not swim down through that oil and gas and water and plug the hole. He is a politician, not a superhero. And politicians are definitely not superheroes.

Politicians are just ordinary humans. They don't hang their trousers on a tree and jump through both legs at once. They are just men and women who put on their trousers one leg at a time. This is true of all of them. Obama just happens to be the worst one ever because (IMHO) he doesn't really know much and he is determined to disarm us in the face of a world that grows more dangerous every day.

Anyway, then over to my apartment at the Shoreham Towers to be photographed some more. That apartment is a total mess. I don't even know why I keep it. I guess I am too stupid and lazy to keep it clean enough to sell it. I have a lot of faults.

Then a visit over to see our beloved friend Sid, who has advanced Alzheimer's. Sid is one of my favorite people on the planet. He is a super talented artist, was a super rich businessman. He was the ultimate bon vivant, along with his beautiful wife, Martha, who lived in Chanel.

Martha died in 1982 and Sid has never been the same. He now lies in his bed and watches the cooking channel along with his very sweet Hispanic caretaker. He actually whispered a few words when I came by. "A true virtuoso in many fields," he said about me in slight breath, pointing at me.

I really would have to write an entire book to tell how much I love Sid. I held his hands and told him how much he was missed by the Young Communist League in Brooklyn. He was a shtarker in the YCL long ago before he became a multi-millionaire entrepreneur. Then he was a big supporter of Reagan and Bush 41.

He had many fond memories of being a street thug for the YCL and he smiled as I made a clenched fist salute.

Alex and I said goodbye and then a few more errands and then home.

By 8 p.m. I was reading the Wall Street Journal -- I cannot live without it -- and I got so tired I just beckoned wifey to get in bed with me and we went to sleep. At 8 p.m.

My usual sleep time is 1:30 a.m.

At about 3:30 I heard a loud pounding on my bedroom door. Usually this is my son come to talk to me when he can't sleep. But it was not my son. And wifey, who had moved back to her room down the hall, had heard the knocking, too.

I took out my gun (when I hear the word prowler, I reach for my revolver) and walked around our home. No sign of a criminal but alas, the back door was unlocked. I called the cops. They were there in a moment. A white man and a black man. Both with Glocks.

(I used to have a really nice Glock but someone stole it.)

The police made a cursory search of the house and then one of the policemen, eyes wide with discovery, suggested that maybe because this was such an old house, that was the cause of the knocking. He looked at me meaningfully.

"You mean it's haunted?" I asked.

"I didn't say that," he said. "You said that." But he made a sort of nod.

I told you this was some day. The police left. My wife went back to her bedroom. Neither dog had done anything but idle barking. I slept the rest of the night with my S & W right next to me. Loaded. Ready.

I love my gun. Don't like it. LOVE IT.

WEDNESDAY

I am so busy i cannot believe I am still alive. I feel as if this stress and fatigue should kill me if there were any sense in the world. Today, I had a recording of a commentary for CBS, then a mad rush out to Malibu for more photos for the "Ben Stein's Los Angeles" layout. It was so beautiful in Malibu it was hard to believe. Just perfect. Really, truly perfect. Crisp, warm, breezy, rich blue sky. Just glorious.

But I had to rush right back to be on Larry King to talk about the oil spill with a Democrat congressman named Alan Grayson.

A few thoughts on the oil spill:

1. No one, obviously, is sorrier about it than the oil producer, BP, and the rig operator, Transocean. If the heads of those companies could go back in time and have it never happen, they would do anything to do so.

2. It was ambitious to operate in such deep water, with no safety net, but the world and the nation were clamoring for oil. The government said, "Go for it," and BP and Transocean went for it. Did they ignore warning signs that a giant event was bubbling below the surface? Maybe. If so, they will grievously answer for their ambition.

3. If mistakes were made, they were made by a few dozen people at BP and Transocean and a few bureaucrats. The energy business employs several million men and women. They have done nothing wrong at all. No point in blaming them for anything at all. They are just doing what we want them to do: getting us oil and gas. The stockholders of BP and Transocean have done nothing wrong. They had no clue what was going on under that drilling platform. It seems wrong to punish people who merely wanted to provide for their retirement for a seismic hydrocarbon event that may have been so drastic that it constitutes an act of God.

4. Finger pointing does no good whatsoever. No one wants to get this thing capped and stopped more than BP and Transocean. Let's encourage them and not distract and torment them. There will be plenty of time for lawsuits. What we need now is action on the seabed, and that is not a job for lawyers.

5. This is not Mr. Obama's fault. I am not a fan of his, but he isn't Superman. He cannot be expected to swim down to the leak and seal it with his super powers. If he's smart, he will be part of the effort to fix it, not part of the effort to drag out the tumbrels and guillotines.

There.

Then, back home for a lovely home-cooked meal of French toast from my wifey's own lovely hands. Flavored with maple syrup. Yum.

Then a long swim. It is supposed to rain tomorrow and I am leaving for D.C. anyway, so I want to get in my swim.

I am too busy, but at night, I get to lie in bed with my Brigid, so all is well. If I could give a medal to my old girlfriend, Pat, the most beautiful girl at American University, who told me to get a big dog, I would do it. Pat lives in my memory shining for many reasons, beauty, humor, devotion -- but most of all because she "turned me on" to big dogs. I do not ever forget any old girlfriends. Wifey is always first, then Brigid, but old girlfriends, especially Pat and Mary, are always in my thoughts and prayers. I treated them both horribly, but that is sometimes how love is. I have not seen Pat in 35 years but I think about her every day and hope wherever she is, she is happy. I wish I could take back all the mean things I did to her. You cannot imagine how sick and mean I was to her. I can only pray for forgiveness.

FRIDAY

I am in d.c. Hot and humid. I was on Fox News twice today. The second time I was talking about our new best friend Joe Sestak. Now, this is a story. Rahm gets no less than the éminence grise of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, to call a totally unknown (but fine) congressman from Pennsylvania to tell him to please not run against Obama's turncoat pal Arlen Specter. Clinton not only calls Sestak, but offers Sestak "...a job..." to get him to not run against Specter, in return for Specter's voting for health care.

This all comes out and suddenly the wheels start turning at the White House. Yes, it's garden-variety politics but so is paying bribes. There is a specific section of the Criminal Code, 18 USC 600, that makes this kind of thing a crime. So the White House goes into defense mode. They get Sestak to come out on the Capitol steps with his sport jacket over his shoulder like the regular Joe he is. Then Sestak mumbles something about how Bill Clinton just offered him an "unpaid" job on a presidential advisory board, which would not be illegal at all.

I have to say as a veteran of Watergate, I had to laff. What a frigging pitiful lie. Bill Clinton does not call to offer a slot on one of a thousand panels. He calls to offer a really big bribe. How stupid does Rahm think we are? Clinton calling to offer a seat on an unpaid panel to a guy whose life dream is to be in the Senate to make him not run for the Senate? Is that a joke?

This is just the kind of dopey suicidal defense we used to do in Watergate. Rahm is too young to remember. Now, you may say, "So, what? Holder will never prosecute, so where is Mr. Obama's problem?"

Well, maybe there is a brother of Sestak. Maybe he's been bragging about how his bro was offered secretary of the Navy. Maybe so many people heard about it that it cannot be hushed up...even though the White House is already trying to hush up the brother. Maybe if enough stories come out, even Eric Holder has to look into it.

Yes, it's politics as usual. But a lot of politics is illegal.

Anyway, I think it's a big story.

I had a lovely dinner with Russ Ferguson and Aram Bakshian at Café Milano, and now I am working on a speech to the widows and orphans of brave heroes killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is not that complex:

1. The greatest creation of mankind under God is the United States of America. In terms of glorifying mankind and exalting freedom and dignity, America is in a class by itself.

2. Jealous people all around the world are always trying to kill this glorious City on a Hill. The jealous, envious human is capable of anything, as we have often seen. Now, those people are Islamic terrorists. They are determined to destroy multicultural, free America, which stands as a rebuke to their fears and their need to control and demean the human spirit we trust. Our belief in life conflicts sharply with their worship of death and our belief in joy contrasts painfully with their trust in pain.

3. There is nothing in the life of an American man more important than his duty to his country and his love of family. But in a superhuman act of sacrifice, some few incredibly courageous men are willing to leave their families behind and enter heaven early to save this great nation and all decent people in the world.

4. We call these people soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and women, National Guard and Reserves and Without Them No Life on this earth is possible.

5. Our gratitude to these men and to the families they have left behind is so great that there are literally no words to express it.

It is impossible to say in words how grateful we are to you and to your loved ones for giving the ultimate sacrifice so we can go on living our lives.

You might look at it this way. Those of us who have not lost a loved one have worries about money or health or surly children or gaining or losing weight. Those of you who have lost your husband or your brother or sister or your son worry about how life can go on, period.

A bad day for us is if our car won't start. A bad day for you is when you feel as if your heart won't start.

A bad day for us civilians is when we cannot figure out how to pay the bills. A bad day for your loved ones is when you left everything you love in life behind -- for total strangers.

I think about this a lot. People have no idea of how much you guys suffer. Long ago, my father-in-law, a brave hero in World War II and Vietnam, West Point grad, told me the basic truth: "We in the Army hate war the most of anyone. We're the ones who get killed."

This is just such an immense and powerful fact, and yet people cannot get it straight.

Look, we owe you everything. I can put it another way. I live part of the time in Malibu. People say I live near the stars because I live near Nick Nolte and Babs Streisand and Pierce Brosnan. But they aren't stars. Performers, yes. Highly paid. Yes. But, the real stars? Not in a million years.

The real stars are putting on body armor in Fallujah and Kirkuk and Marjah and Kandahar and Kabul and all over Afghanistan. And they do it for minimum wage. Just for the honor of serving their country. They are the real stars. The ones who are no longer here on earth with us, those are the real stars. YOU ARE THE REAL STARS.

The way I look at it, there is one group that is always in the news. They're the ones on Wall Street, lying and cheating and stealing and making money off the rest of the country as fast as they can. We call them parasites. Rich parasites, but parasites.

Then, there are the men and women who lay down their lives and sacrifice all for the rest of us. Those are the people that this event is about. Those are the people who make this country possible. They are the ones who make daily life possible in freedom.

That's the trade we have made: some of us get to live in freedom and prosperity, which is great for us.Others get to sacrifice everything. That is cruel. But it is the choice your loved ones made and we who are left can only thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Long ago, John F. Kennedy said that we should all try to do the best we could for this great country. We could never be sure of success, he said, but we would go forward with the best will we could muster, and we would ask for God's blessings on this great country and we would ask God to go to work for this great country and our great people and our great Constitution. But here on earth, said John F. Kennedy, God's work must truly be our own. Your loved ones have done it and you have done it and do it every day. We humbly thank you. There would be nothing without you.

Those were my notes.

I went off to the event at the Crystal City Marriott and met about 1,200 widows, fiancées, parents, brothers, sisters, of men and women killed in the wars and in training. Brave. Alert. Kind spirited. Generous with their spirits. The finest people on the planet. Beautiful, handsome, weary. Led to take on each new day by sharing their experience, strength, and hope and by sharing the leadership of Bonnie Carroll, a truly great woman who founded TAPS.

I sat at dinner next to country singer great Larry Gatlin, who is a great wit as well as a super vocalist, and we had a fine dinner.

Afterwards, I posed for pictures with many, many widows and fiancées and parents and siblings. All I could think of was that powerful saying: "All gave some. Some gave all."

Later, a late-night snack with Russ and his beautiful girlfriend, Claire, at Clyde's in Georgetown. Happy, drinking, flirting people. And far away, the New Centurions, guarding the capital, in the desert, with stars overhead and murderers nearby. And a thousand families at the Crystal City Marriott weeping secretly or openly. "I cannot imagine how you have suffered," I said to one father.

"He was my only child," said the father. "No, you really cannot imagine how I have suffered."

Black widows and white widows. American Indians and Hispanic. Asian. Jewish. All in that room. All weeping inwardly or outwardly or both. What did we ever do to deserve them? Oh, and by the way, Mr. Craphead Bin Laden, these wars have made Americans stronger, not weaker. The men and women who have departed and those who are left have made America stronger.

We shall overcome. 

God bless our heroes and those they left behind for all eternity.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.