Dark & Stormy
by Geraldo Rivera | Jun 21, 2013
The phrase, 'It was a dark and stormy night' was originally an example of a badly written cliche. Now Dark and Stormy is an expression mostly used to describe a drink made with Gosling's rum and ginger beer.
While I confess drinking several during the just completed Marion to Bermuda Race for Cruising Sailboats, actual dark and stormy nights at sea were in short supply during the 660 mile race. Which was too bad because my old sailboat Voyager, at 52 tons and made of half inch thick aluminum, thrives in bad weather; the darker and stormier the better.
A post race analysis of GPS tracking shows Voyager closing to 2nd place during the blustery weather Sunday and Monday, only to fade and wallow near the end during Tuesday's calm to cross the finish line 12th in the fleet of 34 boats.
For me, the real storm started on shore Wednesday night long after Voyager was safely docked at the lovely Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (RHADC).
Alone on board with the crew ashore seeing the sights, I checked emails and Twitter for the first time in four days and discovered that reporter Michael Hastings just 33 years old had died in an L.A. car wreck.
For the next several hours, tributes on Twitter and elsewhere appeared praising his reporting and obviously lamenting the tragic passing of an accomplished journalist so early in life. Nothing written was anything but positive, and none mentioned any controversy concerning his best-known story, a June 2010 Rolling Stone article called 'The Runaway General' which eviscerated Stanley McChrystal, the swaggering warrior at the time just appointed to command all our forces in Afghanistan.
Essentially cleared to be 'a fly on the wall' of McChrystal's HQ staff, reporter Hastings spent unguarded hours with the swashbuckling fighters, including a long airport layover when a volcanic eruption grounded all flights as the team was en route to Afghanistan from Europe.
During that bar side sojourn and other similar casual and intimate encounters the reporter listened and recorded as the general and especially his newly empowered, testosterone and alcohol fueled staff spoke with reckless contempt of the military's civilian overlords, including Special Envoy to Afghanistan
Richard Holbrooke, Vice President Joe Biden, and even the Commander-in-Chief himself Barack Obama.
When Hasting's story of the soldiers' disrespect for civilian leadership broke, the president really had no choice but to fire the general. Although the most damaging comments had been made by his subordinates, the fact he did little to stem the trash talk or discipline officers disrespectful of their Constitutionally mandated civilian bosses doomed the career of one of our best fighters at a crucial moment in the long and bitter Afghan war.
Most media praised Hastings. I saw it differently. Having spent countless hours with our GI's in peace and peril, I soon realized that when they get to know and trust a reporter they gossip and grouse as much as any other working men and women of similar age and status. But just as with any group of say business associates or golf buddies an umbrella of privacy covers this careless chatter. By long-established custom it is presumed to be off-the-record. And that is what galled me about Hastings' piece, which during wartime took out one of our best combat leaders as surely as a Taliban IED.
I said so at the time, and after sending his family condolences, I said it again in a tweet Wednesday night.
The reaction was dark and stormy, vile and viral. Basically, the tweets wished me (and sometimes my children) dead instead of Hastings. The reaction reminded me of something SNL's Tina Fey said in November 2001 as I was leaving on the first of 11 combat assignments to Afghanistan. Something like, "I hope nothing bad happens to Geraldo because I don't want to pretend to be sad."
No one was outraged then. Still, I'm sorry I didn't wait a decent interval to tweet the truth about Hastings' story. May he rest in peace. But when my life's race is run, I doubt most Twitter users will show me the deference they demand for him.