(b. 1923) Admiral James Bond Stockdale (yes, that is his
real middle name) was Ross Perot's vice-presidential
candidate in 1992.
Like Perot, Stockdale was no politician; both sought to
present a straight-talking, no-BS image to the public. Unlike Perot,
however, Stockdale had little or no public-speaking ability. His opening
words in the 1992 debate--"Who am I? Why am I here?"--unfortunately set the tone for the
rest of his remarks. At best, he sounded like a junior high student
reading a hastily written speech; at worst, he sounded like a lost,
confused old man. The poor man got out-debated by Dan Quayle and
Al Gore, of all people. Unfortunately, people judge debaters on style rather than content, and Stockdale has been widely and unfairly ridiculed as a buffoon.
One of my professors knew Admiral Stockdale personally and
vigorously defended him at every opportunity. He told me that Stockdale survived capture
and eight years of imprisonment in Vietnam; after his release, he went
on to teach well-respected courses in ethics and moral philosophy at
Columbia. He is (according to my professor) an intelligent, thoughtful,
and honest man with great strength of character.
Stockdale later gave up on politics and returned to a quiet life of teaching and writing. He's the author of several books, including A Vietnam Experience: Ten Years of Reflection and Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot.