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Experience, Judgment, and the Presidency

I make them as quickly as I can, quicker than the other fellow, if I can. Often my haste is a mistake, but I live with the consequences without complaint.

Words spoken by someone whose background is that of a fighter pilot—a special and essential quality where your life depends on an unconscious ability to react in the blink of an eye.

Words spoken by John McCain, in his 2002 book, Worth the Fighting For: The Education of an American Maverick, and the Heroes Who Inspired Him.

Words spoken by someone who, by temperament, training, and experience is uniquely unqualified to be president of the United States.

Much has been written and debated about the qualifications of Sarah Palin to be vice president, let alone step into the Oval Office should John McCain become president and then have to leave the stage. It’s an unwinnable argument; people’s assessment of her is filtered through their own biases, beliefs, and values. But the decision to select Palin as his VP demonstrates without question a quality in McCain that should give everyone pause. It’s best stated in his own words—the above quote.

It’s reflected in the process undertaken to choose Palin. “Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday in Arizona, the day before McCain asked her to be his running mate, and she did not disclose the fact that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant until that meeting, two knowledgeable McCain officials acknowledged Tuesday,” writes Dan Balz in a front-page article in today’s Washington Post.

Balz quotes McCain officials who argue that the decision wasn’t rushed, that a thorough investigation of Palin had taken place. “Aides had said earlier that Palin was invited to meet McCain in Arizona only after she appeared to be a likely choice, barring something unforeseen in her interview with the candidate. But what they had not said was that [former White House counsel Arthur] Culvahouse had not yet conducted his interview until that time as well.”

Friday, McCain announced her as his “soul mate.” It was a rushed judgment based on his assessment of his candidacy after witnessing the Democratic convention.

The Republican strategy to focus on experience, now foundering on the rocks of Palin’s very thin public resume, has always been a smoke screen. Lincoln, Truman, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush II, all had negligible experience. One could argue that the job of president is so incomprehensibly complex that literally no one except someone running for a second term has the vaguest idea what they’re getting into or has had the experience to prepare them for the job.

The CEO of a Fortune 500 company once told me that the hardest transition he’d ever faced in his career was moving from President and COO to President and CEO. One of the most brilliant, arrogant, and ruthless men I’d ever met, he said that he was completely unprepared for the feeling of suddenly having no one on whom to lean. There was no one above him to whom he could turn for guidance.

Such is the fate of anyone who takes the oath of office to become president of the United States.

The real issue is judgment—how well does one make decisions under pressure so intense that after eight years in office, virtually every president (save Reagan who slept through most of his term) looks 20 years older and, should they be fortunate enough to have hair, leaves with a full head of gray or white hair.

Palin is not the only reason to question McCain’s ability to make decisions under pressure. John McCain is proud of his maverick status, and it’s one of the reasons he’s been a great senator. That body needs mavericks, people who buck the system and stir the pot, who are unafraid to take unpopular stances, issue bold and provocative statements, the consequences be damned. But these are not qualities that one wants in a president, whose every word, gesture, and glance are scrutinized not only by the media, but by the people around him and people around the world.

About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • Joe ‘Transpalnts” Biden

    More scandals for VP pic…Biden’s Son Caught Up in Hedge Fund Troubles

    A son and a brother of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware are accused in two lawsuits of defrauding a former business partner and an investor of millions of dollars in a hedge fund deal that went sour, The Washington Post reported, citing court records.

    The Democratic vice presidential candidate’s son Hunter, 38, and brother James, 59, meanwhile say it was they who were defrauded by their former partner, whom they have accused of misrepresenting his experience in the hedge fund industry, The Post said.

    According to the legal skirmishes, which have been playing out in New York State Supreme Court since 2007, Anthony Lotito Jr. said that he agreed to help set up Paradigm Companies, a hedge fund group for the Bidens, because the V.P. nominee was concerned on how his son Hunter’s lobbying activities would reflect on his campaign.

    Hunter Biden was made president of the firm, earning with an annual salary of $1.2 million, according to the lawsuit. However, in an affidavit, Hunter Biden said his father had nothing to do with the deal and that it is Mr. Lotito who swindled the Bidens, The Post said.

  • Joanne Huspek

    McCain might lack judgment and experience, but so does the other side. So what are we left with?

    This would be an excellent time for a viable third party. Too bad there’s not enough time left before November.

  • Condor

    Somebody find Perot and dig up Stockdale…. Is Nader looking good yet?

    Nader is an eccentric brain… and can probably recite from memory the First 10 amendments to the constitution (which are the Bill of Rights, in case you didn’t know) and perhaps all 26 amendments to the constitution. I wonder if the rest of the gaggle out there can do that? Doubt it. Oh, does anyone think Nader will make a difference? Apparently the Dems were pretty quite accusatory towards him the last go round. The general consensus is that — he made a difference.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Beautifully written, well argued. Nice job.

  • Mark Schannon

    Thanks Lisa, appreciate it.

    Condor–sorry, don’t get your point.

    Joanne–as I was writing this, I also was thinking about Obama, and, while I support him, I wonder about his judgment as well. But listening to the Republican convention speakers and leadership trying to portray Palin as a maverick, I more than ever think they’re on the wrong path. The presidency is too important, difficult, and complex to put a maverick in the oval office.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    Why is the president needing to answer phone calls at 3 a.m.? Isn’t that what secretaries and 24-hour support lines are for?

  • El Bicho

    Nice to see you back, Mark.

    Transplants, maybe you didn’t get the memo. Kids are off-limits, or does your Republican hypocrisy know no bounds?

  • Dave Nalle

    Mark, your quote from McCain almost exactly mirrors the observations of Andrew Jackson on his method of decision making. He, of course, was probably the greatest populist and liberal we’ve ever put in office and the founder of the Democratic party. He was also an extraordinarily effective president despite the fact that he made and stuck by some incredibly boneheaded decisions.

    As was demonstrated by Jackson and other decisive but impulsive presidents, in many situations being able to make a decision and maintain consistent policies and provide firm leadership is more important than making the perfect decision. Who would you rather have, someone who thought too much and produced nuanced but ultimately futile results (say Jimmy Carter or John Quincy Adams) or someone who kicked ass and was bullheaded but acted decisively (Jackson or perhaps Teddy Roosevelt)?


  • Mark Schannon

    Hey Suss, I didn’t create the stupid 3 a.m. call thing–ask Hillary…she’s not doing much these days. As for me, I wouldn’t trust a 3 a.m. call–I’d figure it was you hiding again in my ceiling.

    El Bicho–thanks, it’s good to be back. I was more surprised than anyone when the article popped into my head this morning. I just hope there are more.

    Dave, my friend, you very successfully set up a straw man and knocked him down. No, I don’t want another Carter presidency, and the world is a mite more complex than in Jackson’s day. To quote myself, “we need a president who can make tough decisions quickly. But that’s a rare event compared to the countless decisions that must be made every day, decisions that demonstrate the right kind of judgment–a quality that John McCain, in his own words, lacks.”

    I’ve been struggling with this experience vs. judgment issue for some time now, and while experience is important, it’s attitude or judgment or whatever that most necessary. The world is simply too dangerous a place for a maverick to be in charge.

    Obama? If I can keep my brain working, I’d like to figure out how all this applies to him, but I’m not there yet.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Ruvy


    I’ll make this short cause I gotta catch a bus to J-lem in a few.

    You’re not going to get a statesman for president in your country, and that is what you are really asking for.

    Obama is just an empty suit who’ll pay off his friends if he gets chosen as president. And when you realize just who his friends are, Mark, you’ll retch.

    I know who his friends are, and when the reservists here see the shit really backing the SOB, they’ll kick out Olmert, Livni, Barak, Peres and all the other scum here. So in a very negative and back-handed way, Obama works for me.

    I have no particular opinions of McCain – except that if he was going to be chosen president, it should have been 12 to 16 years ago.

    That leaves the real person you should all be seeking to vote for – Sarah Palin. Screw her politics. She believes in G-d. Someone who believes in G-d is the only real hope your country has.


    But she is not at the top of the ticket, is she?

  • Mark Schannon

    Oy, Ruvy, I don’t know where to begin. You’re right, I do want a statesman for my country. I also want someone who understands the difference between 21st century and 20th century politics and government.

    As for Obama being an empty suit, that’s too easy a rejection him. I’m not sure what you mean about who’s behind him, but I gave up conspiracy theories a long time ago.

    In Goodwin’s book about Lincoln, she writes that great rhetorical skills were an essential skill for anyone seeking to be president. The Republicans want to pretend it’s all talk…but isn’t great talk one of the things we want in a leader?

    As for Palin, I’m going to try to write about her at some point, because the reaction to her has been fascinating. But you know my feelings about Him so her religion is not a big plus for me.

    Whatever, it’s great to be crossing swords with you again. Hope all is well. And did you ever get your Irish whiskey?

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Cannonshop

    Um, Mark? The “empty Suit” might be too easy a rejection, but it’s easy because it’s close to accurate. Obama’s not empty suit, though-he’s a magic mirror that reflects into the eyes of the observer whatever it is they want to see.

    This makes him rather harder to attack than most without going into hyperbole-because he has no record to trot out and attack, and no consistencies that can be used to pidgeonhole.

    But there’s that lack of record to consider-in all the time he’s been in the Legislation business, he hasn’t done anything but run for office.

    I’ll trot it out again:

    What Bills has Obama sponsored and passed in his time in the Senate?

    What Laws did he get changed, what bills did he sponsor or co-sponsor, what votes did he cast in the Illinois State Legislature before that?

    How did his community Organizing help the people of the South Ward in Chicago? (Tangible results only, please. Feeling better about being poor is not a tangible result.)

    How did his involvement with the Anneneberg project in Chicago measurably increase or improve the performance of chicago school children? (hey, it’s an example of an Executive position with a sixty million dollar budget that Obama held!)

    See, this is the problem-lots of talking about “hope and change”, but how much Hope has he actually validated, and how much Change did he actually provide? without accomplishments at the smaller scale, how can a voter view him on substance? Anyone can talk off a teleprompter-as criticism of McCain’s handlers’ statements about Palin has shown, and anyone can, with a good grasp of psychology, write a compelling autobiography (or,with a good ghost writer, have it written in their name), all that takes is money, being a compelling speaker in person is a talent, but doesn’t necessarily translate into Presidential chops. Hundereds of people graduate from Harvard-this does not translate as being senate material, much less President material.

    The only Tangible thing we have to judge ANY candidate on, if we’re not looking to play stereotype games, is what they’ve done, whether it’s as mayor, or governor, or community activist, or Legislator. Judged on Performance the less time you have been in an office, the more you’d better have done.

    I’d bet there are “Obama Skeptics” who’d be voting Democrat this year if it were “Biden/Obama” instead of “Obama/Biden”. Because Biden, whether you like him or not, has Done Something We Can Confirm. He’s not a magic mirror, there’s something there we can examine.

    If Palin were a man, the Left would be all over her record as a Governor, not her kids, her record in politics, not her religion. If she were a man, in other words, she’d be treated with seriousness, the objections would NOT have started with criticising her parenting skills, then moved on to her pregnant teen daughter, before looking at her record for something to go after. By my count, it took the Dems more than a week to start looking at her record as mayor of Wasilla, and to start talking about her trooper scandal. WE already knew both. the difference there being that most folks on the Right think she didn’t go after the offending trooper aggressively enough. The man pointed a gun and made threats, tasered a ten-year-old, and got five day suspension-most joe citizens would be in somewhat worse condition doing that to a powerful democrat’s family. He didn’t even lose his job when she took office, instead his boss (appointed by her predecessor) got removed and offered a spot on the Alcohol board-a position that may pay well, but removes from his hands the levers of power marked “Brute force”.

    Notably, the most common targets of her wrath in Alaska were Republicans beholden to the political machine in that state. she forced a lot of resignations in two years through investigations, and drove out a bribe-takin’ attorney general (also a republican). A couple people at work have speculated that the RNC convinced her to sign on as Veep to get her out of Alaska before she can finish destroying the political machine up there. This is probably a romantic notion, since it echoes what the Republican Party did to get a gentleman from New York to stop attacking the Tweed machine. That gentleman was Teddy Roosevelt. it resonates, but it’s probably not true.

    But it makes for good myth, and unlike the prefabricated pseudo-kennedy of Obama, there’s a basis in fact for it.

  • Mark Schannon

    Cannonshop, your questions about Ol’ Jug Ears accomplishments can be better answered by going to his website rather than by me…mostly because I’m too lazy/tired to go there & report them here. You raise good questions–are you really interested in the answers or are you just part of the Fat Elephant attack machine? (Not a rhetorical question…I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt until you prove otherwise.)

    Although your Gun Girl defense gives me pause. If she were a man, she’d never have been considered. And it wasn’t Jug Ears (who very early on called her family off limits) or the Jackass party bosses who raised the family issues but mindless bloggers and the dragged along MSM.

    If you’re really interested in the Gun Girl’s history, see the article about said State Trooper in today’s Washington Post…true or not, it does provide a little more substance to the story…which I think is a non-starter to begin with. It ain’t the sort of substance around which an analysis of a candidate’s qualifications should begin.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • troll

    hi Mark – great to read your common sense again

  • Mark Schannon

    Heya troll, appreciate it. I’m still trying to fuddle through the fog & when I do, I race towards the keyboard & BC.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Ruvy


    Since you are still awake, I’ll rush this comment your way. There is this lady in Northern Ireland planning to visit Israel next year (if there is a next year) and she hopes to bring some Bushmill’s – I think that’s what it’s called. A couple of days ago she wrote about Danny Boy’s Irish Whiskey also. So, if she makes it here, we’ll see what’s in her luggage.

  • Bennett

    Great job Mark, it’s always a pleasure to read your articles.

    In slogging through the various Palin articles on BC, and the attached comments (but I can only take so much), your work is definitely a stand out.

    I’m struck by the circle jerk of comments in all of the 20 or so articles (thanks Doc!). The Nalle-Arch gang with their misdirection and scuzzy lowbrow opinions, the Palin-obots with their “rah-rah-rhee we’re so excited by Sarah”, and the Jewish Voice of God who says you and your country deserve to go to HELL!

    It makes it tough to get any feel for what the average American voter might be thinking behind their closed doors (and minds).

    I don’t think there’s an undecided voter left in North America, and we might as well have the election tomorrow. Unless of course, there’s more exciting but biased news on the way from the MSM, a bit of juicy dirt that my poor tired brain will probably go into a seizure over.

    Ya think?

    I take my vitamins and regularly self-medicate for exactly this situation.

    …and I wonder what will tomorrow bring?

    BTW, please tell Ruvy to ask for Black Bush. It’s Bushmills aged in sherry casks. Or so it says on the label, but this may be just another clever application of flavoroids.


  • Mark Schannon

    Ruvy, don’t listen to Bennett, despite his kind words towards my writing. How can you let her bring any Bushmills when I have, so many times, proclaimed In Jameson Veritas? If you want her to bring the top Jameson brand, it’s Middleton, which is as fine as whiskey gets without turning into a brilliant armagnac or cognac.

    And of course you’ll be here next year. I have faith in the utter stupidity of human beings to continually fail in their attempts to wipe us from the planet.

    Bennett, alas, while I, as a confirmed journalist in good standing, attempt always to remain completely above the fray, neutral, and without bias, the truth is that Elephants are congential liars, truth twisters, and bereft of all dignity and humanity–except for the ones I know and like. As I said to my bride, Jackasses don’t do good lies because they/we suck at it.

    Actually there are quite a lot of undecideds left here, and I have to confess I’m surprised at the number of folks who watched both conventions. Usually there’s little interest until after them, even tho the polls start their erections a year or more earlier.

    Perhaps Americans are awakening to the importance of this election. If only we knew the reality of who was actually nominated…

    Keep those meds handy, my friend.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Cannonshop

    Cannonshop, your questions about Ol’ Jug Ears accomplishments can be better answered by going to his website rather than by me…mostly because I’m too lazy/tired to go there & report them here. You raise good questions–are you really interested in the answers or are you just part of the Fat Elephant attack machine? (Not a rhetorical question…I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt until you prove otherwise.)

    Problem, Mark- I mistrust what a Candidate says about himself about as thoroughly as I mistrust the claims of television-delivered infomercials promising perfect skin, perfect hair, or joyful housecleaning.

    I usually try to stick with non-candidate-sponsored sources. Public records, federal disclosures, news stories, that sort of thing. i.e. I’ll go to the Congressional Record to see if an incumbent has authored legislation, or sponsored legislation, occasionally how a congresscritter or Senator votes, you know, that sort of thing.

    With Palin, for instance, I started with a name overheard at a gathering of people speculating on who would be their “dream candidate” in 2007, and went looking for negative coverage of her-from there, it proceeds to positive coverage, followed by whatever on-line public records I could dig up, then I started looking at who thought she was good BEFORE she was announced into being as a national political figure. I still have yet to visit her campaign site (Which is to say, McCain’s campaign site).

    This is what one does when one works second shift, and has insomnia until around six in the morning.

    Obama Research: I read his book on the recommendation of a guy at work who’s about the least shrill Liberal I’ve met in person, and the only one I’ve met in person who actually lives the lifestyle he advocates for others-not because he has no choice, but because he believes strongly in it.

    After that, things get murky-because finding anything on the web that isn’t either an out-of-context attack, or content-free puff-piece is very, very, difficult. I found his association with Ayers to be disturbing, but not poisonous-after all, we all have friends who can embarass us. I found his association with Rev. Wright to be typical of what I would expect of a Chicago Politician representing his district, in other words, no more destructive than Reagan’s relationship with Falwell.

    My real problem with Obama isn’t necessarily Obama-it’s his followers and supporters, and their apparent inability to name a single one of his accomplishments when challenged to do so.

    Put simply, Mark, if you’re supporting a candidate that I have decided to oppose, shouldn’t YOU know more about what he’s done to merit the job than I do?

    For voters who look at what a Candidate (or potential Candidate) is likely to do (because we vote for the lesser of two evils, the least destructive of two damnations, etc) a record of what that candidate HAS done is far, far, better measure of the man than what he says he would LIKE to do. Everyone is the hero of their own story, after all, Everyone pretty much agrees that the air should be clean, we should have clean water, that the roads should be well-kept, the cops honest, the crooks stopped, the People healthy, and children safe and well educated. EVERYONE agrees on those, Democrat, Republican, Fascist, Communist,Theocrat, Anarchist(well, the INTELLECTUAL ones anyway) Libertarian or Tyrant.

    It’s in what order, and How that we end up disagreeing.

    So when a Candidate places “Change” on the table for discourse, I consider it important to check up on them and see whether, when they have the opportunity, they make the attempt to deliver. I also examine what Kind of change they deliver, and, if possible, there were unintended or unexpected consequences from that attempt.

    If there’s no record, I have to treat it a bit like I’ve learned to treat the statements of Boeing’s executive management-Vaporware. I know Obama’s senatorial voting record, because it’s ON record. I know which bills he merely co-sponsored (or I can check them if I lose the list) because it’s On the record, and I can find out how many bills he’s sponsored that have become law-because those, too, are on the record.

    I can cross-check the meanings of words too-I spent a lot to get a certain Legal Dictionary. Transcription is a pain in the ass, but it’s worth it, and there are plenty of government sites containing court rulings on similar issues (plus the public library is down the street from my apartment-I can go there.)

    When I question the man’s substance, ask for his supporters to elaborate his record, I am, therefore, pretty confident of what I should get in response.

    In Obama’s case, I haven’t gotten what I should get-because there’s damned little content for all the hype. On the other hand, there’s LOTS of content about Sarah Palin, both good and bad, and all of it can be checked for accuracy, nobody’s witholding accounting documents or administrative documents, no library has shut its doors on the archive containing the information. ANYONE, even her opponents, can research her entire career and draw their own conclusions-and then argue those conclusions honestly. This is not true for Obama. Not only because his own supporters don’t know what he’s done, but because even knowing what he’s done is questionable-we have sketchy information at best on his Annenberg days, the edition of hte Harvard Law Review he was in charge of is the least quoted issue in the last twenty years. We have no idea how, or if, his tour as a community organizer actually helped the people of Chicago to improve their lives in substantial, or merely temporary, ways, or even if he was a temporary help-we have only his word to go on, and that’s not enough. It is confirmable that during his time in the State Legislature, he voted “Present” quite a bit more often than he voted up or down on legislation. We know that, so far, in the Senate, he has voted in lock-step with the Party 97% of the time…that he actually attended the Senate. A republican doing that is (quite rightly) a Partisan Hack. He got help from Tony Rezko to finance his million-dollar house. This is a big deal, because Tony Rezko’s a criminal and a slumlord and not the kind of guy you want for a landlord-that’s part of why he’s going to prison. We know Joe Biden’s son benefitted into the seven-digits from an earmark that Obama voted for. Again, this is actually interesting, it’s a big deal, it speaks to his claims of “Change We Can Believe In”.

    Examination of how he got the Legislator and Senate job in the first place is also interesting-but only from an entertainment point of view, since he’s from Chicago, and that’s how they do things, but it does raise the question of how he intends to bring ‘change’, and of what sort.

    These are things that are of interest. Bill Ayers, Pfleiger, and Rev. Wright are just entertaining distractions, fun stuff to get the radical right all foamy and self-righteous because, in the end, there’s nothing more entertaining than watching two extremes go at it like an appliance-ghost cockfight. The real decision, for me, tends to be based on “What did he do, how much power has someone got, and do I trust them to weild it?”

    I’ve made mistakes-I voted in 2000 for the lesser candidate in the confidence that he would be utterly unable to get his personal agenda through a hostile congress and senate, with a hostile media dogging him every step. Said candidate won the Election, thus preventing someone with enormous power in D.C. from pushing through laws that would have, in my opinion then (and now) destroyed what was left of the Industrial Economy in the U.S. Being an industrial worker, I’m rather keen to have manufacturing industries here, rather than outsourced completely to China in exchange for carbon-credits.

    (and I still resent the Grand Staircase Escalante thing- handing a monopoly to a foreign interest is simply WRONG.)

  • Ruvy


    And of course you’ll be here next year. I have faith in the utter stupidity of human beings to continually fail in their attempts to wipe us from the planet.

    I see you didn’t read the link I sent you – it’s not an issue of us being so stupid as to wipe ourselves out, boychick. If it were, I wouldn’t bother with a link. There is no underestimating human stupidity.

    As for the choice of Irish whiskey, 1)beggars can’t be choosers and; 2)who am I, a dumb illiterate Jew, to argue with a fine cultured Irishwoman over brands of Irish whiskey? If you’re talking about vodka or Slivovitz, there are arguments to be made – but Irish whiskey? Even in my arrogance, I do not pretend to know better than an Irishwoman.

  • Mark Schannon

    Ruvy, I didn’t even see the link, which gives you an idea of where my head is at most of the time. I did read it, and, as usual, I’m somewhat at a loss to say when it comes to our religion’s prophecies. For your sake, I hope you’re right, although I’m not ready to abandon these tinsel isles. Also, if the world end and all the good people get schlepped to heaven (we don’t believe in heaven, do we?), there’ll be such a crush, I won’t get my 15 minutes with the Lord to ask him a few questions. Oh well, it’s not that far off, and I hope to be discussing all this with you in 2010…

    Ah, Cannonshop, how I wish my brain well attached to my fingers. I’d love to engage in a detailed discussion with you because you raise great points without relying on hyperbole or exaggeration. You can’t know, but I used to be a regular on BC…asst. ed. of politics even, such a big deal…but about 2 1/2 years ago, I came down with a still undiagnosed illness that leaves me in a fog most of the time.

    The above article was written in a rare moment of clarity…if you check, you’ll see how little I’ve written lately.

    Unfortuntely, the cloud has returned and even typing this out takes an effort.

    I will say, I’m not completely happy with Jug Ears, but, more & more I’m convinced that Droopy Face is not the one. As for Palin, forget her absurd claims to experience, it’s her politics that scares the hell out of me. Someone in the 21st century who believes in Creationism and is a heart beat away from the presidency??? Oy, I need a drink.

    Hope to see you around when I can “take you on” more successfully.

    In Jameson Veritas

    …and goodbye for now…