Leave it to reporter Harry Eagar and The Maui News to keep facts from getting in the way of a story about the rich and powerful. Case in point is Eagar’s Feb. 19 story “Superferry official discusses operation and business model” about a recent visit by Superferry money man John F. Lehman to Maui.
“As far as Superferry leaders are concerned, the environmental impact statement question was settled in 2005, and if the state wants to reopen it, the state can pay for any delays,” Eagar wrote. “Lehman, a former Navy pilot and secretary of the Navy with plenty of experience with the ocean, predicts that customers will be amazed at how comfortable and stable the ride is.”
Ahh, John Lehman—as subtle and gentle as ever. The scary thing is that Lehman’s probably right about the Superferry starting up in July on schedule, though you’d never know it from Eagar’s piece. Lehman is just used to getting his way. Here are three colorful examples taken from the 1995 book Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, written by veteran reporter Gregory L. Vistica. For some reason, Eagar never mentioned any of this in his Maui News story:
• When Lehman was in the U.S. Naval Reserve and a junior aide to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger in the early 1970’s, he started asking about getting certified to fly in A-6 Intruder bombers. Navy regulations forbid reservists like him from going to flight school, but Lehman worked his Washington connections until he got his way. “Lehman was allowed to become a naval flight officer at his own convenience,” Vistica wrote. “He never went straight through the official flight training program required of all aviation candidates that can take up to two years for pilots and twelve months for naval flight officers.” Though U.S. Navy officials insisted Lehman had done nothing wrong, controversy over his wings nearly derailed his 1981 nomination to be Secretary of the Navy.
• A few months after President Ronald Reagan appointed Lehman Secretary of the Navy, Raymond Hunthausen, the Catholic archbishop of Seattle, publicly denounced both Lehman’s plans to build a new submarine base in Bangor, Washington as well as his wish to name the navy’s newest nuclear powered attack submarine the U.S.S. Corpus Christi, which in addition to being a Texas city is the Latin translation of “Body of Christ.” Outraged at the bad publicity, Lehman first ordered the Naval Investigative Service to spy on Hunthausen, then attacked the archbishop in a speech saying, “There is, I believe, something deeply immoral in the use, or should I say misuse, of sacred religious office to promulgate extreme political views.” The Vatican, eager to please the Reagan Administration, later censured Hunthausen.
• Like most naval aviators, Lehman loved to party. At one point during the 1986 Tailhook Association convention at the Las Vegas Hilton, Navy Secretary Lehman found himself in one “hospitality” suite where a prostitute was stripping in front of dozens of drunken U.S. Navy and Air Force pilots. At first just an observer, Lehman soon became an active participant. “He lay down on the floor beneath the naked dancer and placed a rolled-up dollar bill in his mouth,” Vistica wrote. “The woman slowly gyrated her hips in a downward motion, with each thrust rewarded by a loud cheer from the men. Finally, her vagina resting on Lehman’s face, she snatched the bill with her labia. ‘That’s what I call leadership,’ said Bob Lawson, a Tailhook official who witnessed the act. ‘It’s just the wrong kind.’”
Clearly, a guy like Lehman, with such a rich and fascinating past, deserves far more from a newspaper than Eagar’s meager treatment. MTW