Is required to say something about O. J...

EVERY PUNDIT

June 27, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

EVERY PUNDIT is required to say something about O. J. Simpson, but by now what hasn't been said? Well:

1. If Nicole Brown Simpson had carried a gun, she'd be alive today.

2. Once convicted, Simpson should be executed, on the Phil Donahue show. That would get the world's immediate attention the way no execution ever has, and we could finally have a truly informed debate on capital punishment.

3. First, of course, he should appear on Oprah to talk about domestic spats.

4. Smart-aleck Question: Will the O. J. story affect the presidential campaign of O. J's former team-mate, Jack Kemp?

5. Serious Question: Why do people keep referring to Simpson as a "hero"? He graduated from college during the Vietnam War, but like all but one other player of the era good enough to play in the National Football League he didn't go into the service. Real heroes are those who risk life or limb or sacred fortune in a non-selfish cause. Ollie North. Jack Kennedy. The draftees who hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day. Charlie Beckwith.

Charlie who? He was the Army colonel who after Vietnam service, where he was severely wounded, led the ill-fated Delta Force raid to rescue American hostages in Tehran.

He died last week. I went to high school with him. I didn't like or respect him. I regarded him as a bully and a dope. I remember him as a mediocre football player.

But unlike O.J.'s generation, when he left the University of Georgia, despite an offer from a pro team (I recently learned), he went into the Army and was sent to Korea, and then lived a patriotic and heroic life of service.

I probably had him wrong from the start. On seeing his obituary in The Sun, I checked back with some who knew him better than I did in high school, including Professor Brown Murr of Hopkins, who played football with him, and was told that while rough, he was a decent fellow and a good friend and teammate.

Want to know more? Beckwith wrote an autobiography, "Delta Force," but a much better book about him is Stephen Hunter's novel, "The Day Before Midnight."

* * * *

My column here on D-Day, in which I praised those living and dead who fought at Normandy, and a follow-up a week later praising President Clinton's D-Day speech produced much more mail than I usually get. Everybody said they agreed with the first point but nobody said they did with the second.

An interesting response came from Steve Franke. He took issue with my statement that "William Tecumseh Sherman never saw anything like D-Day." "I don't think you need to diminish the accomplishments, sacrifice & suffering of the Civil War vets and what they did to preserve freedom and establish new freedom in this country," he wrote, and reminded me that Sherman saw far more casualties at Shiloh than there were on D-Day.

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