With his recent passing, we recall John Glenn as a true American hero, especially reviewing the summary of his lifetime achievements: war hero, astronaut, U.S. senator, and by all accounts, a wonderful man.
His final trip into space at age 77 on Oct. 29, 1998, aboard the space shuttle was the apex of his long career. But it is of this event that few remember the surrounding circumstances.
Do the names John Huang, James Riady or Yan-Lin (Charlie Trie) ring a bell? They were the central figures in the 1996 U.S. Campaign Finance investigation of President Bill Clinton’s legal defense fund. With mountains of evidence justifying a special investigator, the hearings were stymied by non-other than the ranking minority member John Glenn.
When the decision to send Glenn aboard the shuttle was criticized by some in the space community as a “political favor by President Clinton,” few dared raise objections. Not against an American hero, even if it was a payback present from the president.
Previously, Glenn was one of the five U.S. senators caught up in the Lincoln Savings and Keating Five scandal after accepting a $200,000 contribution from Charles Keating. Glenn and Republican Sen. John McCain were the only senators exonerated. The Senate Commission found that Glenn had exercised “poor judgment.” Indeed.
If someone with a stellar background like Glenn can be corrupted, should we be surprised with the miscreants we find occupying the halls of Congress today? Yet we survive. The grand experiment appears to be working, in spite of it all.
Donald Moeser, Freeburg