Ralph Benko: The True Story of the 'Candy Bomber' Reminds Us of American Goodness at Stake in the Election

Thomas Klingenstein, the chairman of the Claremont Institute, has recently precipitated a national discussion on an important topic: America the Good vs. Cancel America. Klingenstein confidently proclaims that Donald Trump, despite his real flaws, is the man of the hour because he unflinchingly stands for the proposition that America is good.

Klingenstein concedes that Joe Biden also believes that America is good. That said, he believes that Biden is undermined by being the leader of a Democratic Party contaminated, perhaps dominated, by a “Cancel America” faction.

The activist left wing of the Democratic Party believes that America is fatally flawed and morally bankrupt. This sentiment goes way back. It is now reaching a crescendo in a “cancel America” crusade. It must be countered.

The 1958 bestseller “The Ugly American” used the title epithet ironically. It was meant to convey that the protagonist, Homer Atkins, was physically, not morally, unattractive — motivated by compassion, not insensitivity.

Innuendo, however, trumps irony. “The Ugly American” became an anti-U.S. epithet. It was used by America’s own cultural elite to flagellate our nation. It became a progenitor of our current “cancel America” jihadis.

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Hostility to patriotism creates a notable headwind in the wind tunnel that is American media. Despite that, The Washington “Democracy Dies in Darkness” Post recently departed from spreading the darkness of cultural Marxism and “ugly American” slurs.

The Post published an article celebrating the hundredth birthday of a living, if obscure, humanitarian American airman, Hal Halvorsen, aka the “Candy Bomber.”

Postwar Berlin’s supply lines had been blockaded by the Soviet Union. America was doing an airlift of basic necessities to the German people. Halvorsen was an American pilot who encountered a group of emaciated German children inspiring Halvorsen to take his relief mission one step further.

He promised the children he would airdrop them chocolate bars, wiggling his wings so they would know which plane to look for. He took up a collection from fellow GI’s, tied handkerchiefs to hundreds of Hershey bars and rained them from the sky the next day and on many other occasions.

Do you think American goodness is at stake in the 2020 election?

The image of an American soldier giving his candy to liberated children used to be a regular thing. Then, Gen. William Westmoreland ruined it all by maniacally imposing the doctrine of overwhelming force on the people of Vietnam.

Laboring under the bankrupt Westmoreland doctrine, Capt. Ernest Medina, before the battle of My Lai, was asked by one of his men, “Are we supposed to kill women and children?” The answer? “Kill everything that moves.”

The result was a catastrophic setback to America’s reputation for goodness, to American morale and to America’s political will. Westmorelandism also replaced the image of the benevolent GI handing out candy bars to the local kids with that of American airmen napalming innocent children.

The American cultural narrative went from John Wayne’s heroic “Sands of Iwo Jima” to Marlon Brando’s “Apocalypse Now.”

The damage to America’s reputation as good lingers to this day. But it’s an atavism.

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Westmoreland was an anomaly. David Petraeus replaced Westmoreland’s doctrine of “overwhelming force” with an insight from a novel about the loss of French Indochina, “The Centurians” by Jean Lartéguy, uttered by the fictional Pierre Raspéguy: “You’ve got to have the people on your side … if you want to win.”

Petraeus restored both effectiveness and sheer goodness to the U.S. Army. We await someone to restore a deserved sense of goodness to American political culture. Perhaps that time now arrives.

I have elsewhere made the analytical and rhetorical case for America’s true red-white-and-blue goodness. That said, experience matters more than mere logic. One of the lessons learned from spending most of my adult life in Washington is that Congress governs more on anecdote than analysis.

Common sense trumps logic. As well it should.

So, thank you Washington Post, for retelling the story of the American “Candy Bomber.” Let’s savor the recollection of his sweetening the lives of those immiserated by the Red Army. More to the point, this is just one of thousands of anecdotes to bring to the fore in restoring America’s appreciation of its own goodness.

Crypto-fascist “antifa” and their “allies” relentlessly indict the sins of America’s founders, icons and heroes. That’s scorched-earth politics. Rejecting that toxic tactic let us sweeten, rather than poison, the American political well from which all drink.

Liberal — liberty-loving — Americans of the right, as well as the patriotic, labor and ethnic left, have innumerable stories to tell of American generosity, kindness and goodness.

Let’s recover and tell those stories of goodness to re-establish the civic narrative on which our future happiness depends: America is good. Not just a great story. It has the added benefit of being true.

Happy 100th birthday, Hal Halvorsen.

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Ralph Benko, of Washington, D.C., is a Kemp-era supply-sider, former Reagan White House official, founder of The Prosperity Caucus, chairman of The Capitalist League and the co-author of The Capitalist Manifesto (The Websters' Press, 2019).