Jack Simpson - 05/22/09

Hanging on my bedroom wall is a memorial plaque of John Wayne. This American legend died in 1979. Sometimes when I look at the plaque, I wish we could call on the Duke to help us out of this mess we are in.

John Wayne was one of my cowboy heroes when I was a kid going to the Saturday afternoon matinees. He was among those sentimental heroes of western movies who rode to protect us from oppressors. He fought the bad guys, loved his horse and was quick on the draw.

Oh, I know President Obama is no John Wayne. He is trying to strengthen the economy, cut unemployment, save the banks and big auto companies, win the wars abroad and change America. His current approval rating is high, but let's face it ... he is not John Wayne, at least not yet!

John Wayne faced evil alone. He had no cabinet advisors. He was rugged, clean, moral and already experienced at saving the ranch and defending the family. In his movies, there was no on-the-job training. He confronted trouble with his six gun, his fists and common sense. He knew right from wrong. He was a strong, virile father figure. He had faith in his ability and believed in justice.

I haven't yet seen our new president ride a horse, tote a pistol, or wear a white hat when confronting an economy in shambles. He has tried to avoid listening only to an inner circle of advisors and has invited critics to meet with him to discuss problems. He does display his shirt sleeves and toss a few basketballs or footballs, so maybe these are the new symbols of an aggressive, hard-charging leader.

Perhaps the president is a John Wayne admirer and has watched one or more of the 200 movies made by Duke. Maybe President Obama will adopt Wayne's style of helping the downtrodden. Perhaps he will bring order out of chaos.

One thing I recall about John Wayne is that I never saw him shoot anyone in the back. It would be really appreciated if our president imitates this trait.

John Wayne helped a whole lot of youngsters make fond memories they can look back upon. He wasn't a perfect hero, was a controversial conservative, and had his share of upheavals in life. But, he was legendary and respected.

President Obama is bound to change America. He wants to close Guantanamo, but hasn't said where all the dangerous prisoners are going. Will they end up in your neighborhood? The detention center is a stain on the American character, but national security is the major issue, isn't it?

John Wayne might feel that a rapid dismantling of past policies without safeguards makes the nation vulnerable to attack from terrorists. Nevertheless, the Duke confronted adversity wherever he found it. Maybe our president is shopping for a horse, a six gun and a white hat.

Once in favor of releasing photos of America's treatment of prisoners, Mr. Obama now has reversed course and feels our security would be compromised with the release of this material.

Sounds a little like something John Wayne might say, doesn't it? He was one who quickly righted a wrong.

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Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.