Out of Captivity - Full Transcript



Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle


by Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes, Keith Stansell with Gary Brozek


GLENN: You know, let me tell you about the dark side of the drug industry by introducing you to three guys. We have Marc, Tom and Keith ready to go? Hey, guys.

HOWES: Hey, good morning, this is Tom Howes, how are you, Glenn?

GLENN: Good morning. Is Keith here?

STANSELL: I'm here, Glenn. I'd like you to know one thing. In the six months I've only purchased two books and one of them was An Inconvenient Book. I love it, good job. I guess I'm a dissenter.

GLENN: Thank you. A guy who's been held over five years in the jungle and he comes out and he reads that. And Marc, are you there?

CALLER: Yes, sir, I'm here. It's nice to hear from you.

GLENN: First of all, welcome back, guys. You know, I can't believe in reading the story, in reading the new book Out of Captivity and seeing what happened how frightening what is happening down south really truly is. And FARC is operating in Mexico as well. They have incursions up into Mexico. This is the kind of stuff, America -- and I want you to listen to these three guys. This is the kind of stuff that we're dealing with at the border and South America, this is the kind of stuff that if Mexico spirals out of control, you're going to see this just south of our border, and it will affect the average person.

Tell me the story. I guess, who can just tell me the story real quick about, you know, the day you guys took off? It was February 13th, 2003.

HOWES: This is Tom Howes. We were basically heading out on a recon flight to check out some drug activity coordinates.

GLENN: In Colombia?

HOWES: Yeah, we took off out of Bogota, we were heading to a refuel site that we never made it to. There were five of us on board. We're in a single engine turboprop aircraft. On the final leg we had started the final dissent, we took off the oxygen mask and the engine gave up the ghost, wound down to a stop and we're in rugged, rugged terrain, mountainous terrain with no clearings at all that I could see. And I was trying to calculate, see if we could make it over the ridge and to our refuel point but that was hopeless. And then the pilot, he picked out a little postage stamp clearing on the side of a mountain with a cliff on the far end and we decided to head for that. Tried to do a restart; couldn't get the engine going again. We landed on that little strip and the pilot --

VOICE: Crashed.

HOWES: Yeah, Tommy Janus did an excellent job bringing us in there, superb job. I got knocked out on landing, bloody mess. Keith broke a few ribs, pretty well shaken up, but we all got out alive due to Tommy's flying skills. But we landed almost on top of a group of Colombian rebels, a leftist guerilla group, the FARC. And we were taken captive almost immediately. Tommy Janus, the pilot, the other pilot and the one Colombian that was on board, a Sergeant Cruz were separated. We believe that tremendous tied to make a run for it and were shot to death. That basically kicked off almost five and a half years of captivity with this group just in the most basic living conditions and running from the Colombian military whenever they got close. So we had multimonth starvation death marches mixed in.

GLENN: You guys, the three of you, when you were captured at the plane, Keith, you had internal injuries. And then Marc, you guys all went on for -- you marched for a month drinking muddy rainwater and having no food at all?

GONSALVES: We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We were strip searched. We were lucky enough to get our clothes back. Everything else was taken away. And for 24 days it was a hell march. I mean, we were just in shock, first of all, thinking we were being marched to our deaths. You know, I was sure that we were going to be interrogated, tortured and killed. And it was just nightmarish conditions. It's something that I would not wish on even my worst enemy. It was horrible to see how we were surrounded by just this group of youth but ignorant youth, young kids who were pointing the rifles of their automatic weapons at us and it was something that really is something you only see in a movie. It was just so surreal.

GLENN: And speaking of movies, they don't -- they are so ignorant. I mean, usually leftist guerillas are. But they were so ignorant about America and reality that when you got to one of the camps, they watch American movies and one of their favorite movies was the Matrix and they really thought that Americans could bend themselves and slow downtime and dodge bullets, right?

STANSELL: They actually asked how we did that. One of the guards came up and said, how do you do that? With a kind of training do your special forces go through to do that? So it's a level of ignorance that you have to live with to experience, Glenn. I mean, it's not really possible to understand it unless you're immersed in it and it's quite shocking.

GLENN: Keith, because I watched the -- by the way, if you don't know this story, you'll remember this story from, what was it, a year ago now when there was a bogus, you know, Red Cross kind of moment where they flew this military -- or this Red Cross kind of like chopper down and took these guys out. And before anybody on the ground figured it out, they figured out that it was a rescue and that's how you guys got out. And I want to get into the controversy surrounding that because it's been driving me crazy. But when you guys first made the videotapes -- now this is over five years ago. When you were first making the videotapes the, you know, proof that you were alive tapes, Keith, I don't think I've ever heard any dad ever -- I mean, it was amazing to watch. You told your kids to be brave and that if you don't come home, it's okay. What was that like?

STANSELL: It was tough. You know, we were essentially in a box, we could surprise kind of ambushed here, the news of Marc's mom, the deaths of our coworkers that came looking for us a month afterwards and, you know, at that point, Glenn, I think what you need to do is get out the most important thing and I don't want to speak for Marc and Tom. I think it's fairly easy to say that for the three of us, our kids, our families, that was the most important thing. So if I could do anything at that point, I wanted to reach out to my children and let them know how I felt and give them at least one last piece of guidance as if I was never going to speak to them again. That's all I thought about doing.

HOWES: The second proof of life we did, was it last year -- or just year before last, Keith and Marc didn't want to speak. They didn't want to build any propaganda for the FARC, but I did speak on that one and just because it was very important to get a message out to my family because the family looms up huge in situations like that. I kept this going basically.

VOICE: But that was -- we were literally in a situation where we never knew for sure if we were going to live to see them again and that's something that was constantly looming over our heads.

GLENN: You guys were kept in -- you were kept in cages for a while.

VOICE: Depends. We were kept in cages, we were kept in an open, you know, corral that's fenced off, we were chained to trees. I mean, I look at my neck every morning. I have scars from chains around my neck. Every day I get up and I look at that and I remember what happened to me in the jungle. But there were never good conditions.

GLENN: Have you guys, have you guys -- I mean, what is it like to be gone, to have gone through this for five years, come back, see the shape that your country is in today? I mean, when you guys left, we were still I think gearing up for the Iraqi war. You've missed all of this. Has the whirlwind stopped yet for you?

VOICE: This is like coming out of a time machine and for me it hasn't. The whirlwind, I haven't caught up yet. There's been so many advances technologically, so many changes politically. It's --

GLENN: What are the biggest changes?

STANSELL: The economy.

VOICE: That's true.

STANSELL: You know, Glenn, this is Keith.

VOICE: How about the price of gas.

STANSELL: Huge thing for us, we called what we lived in the Planet of the Apes. If you watched the movie, there's a lot of parody in that. The huge change that's happened for me since I've come back to the country is what are we doing as Americans today. It looks like everybody's looking for the government to save them instead of us saving ourselves and it's incredible. There's an unbelievable sense of entitlement that I never saw in our culture before. It's kind of scary to me.

GGLENN: Amazing. Okay, hang on just a second. We're going to continue our conversation. The name of the book is Out of Captivity. The story of surviving almost five years with leftist rebels in the jungle. And you are not going to believe. The escape, it almost was blown, the cover was almost blown, and they almost didn't get out because they were like, "Wait a minute, hang on just a second." But also the controversy afterwards will make blood shoot right directly out of your eyes. That's coming up in just a second.

(Goldline)

GLENN: The three of them survived almost five years in captivity. You've heard about the plane crash. You heard a little bit about what their life was like, you know, there on the ground. We've just begun to scratch the surface on what is it like to be alone and not knowing whether you're going to live or die, with a goes through your head. The reuniting with their family also coming up.

Plus, the rescue that almost fell apart at the last minute, and I have to tell you there is one person that was held hostage as well, but they, all three of them hated, said just a despicable person. I'm going to have them tell the story. You'll never guess where this person is from. You'll never guess. Guess what country, somebody who is held a hostage that's all snotty and wants to play by different rules. Yes, France. We'll give you that story coming up in just a second.

(OUT 10:30)

GLENN: The name of the book is Out of Captivity: The Story of Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle as FARC Hostages. Three Americans were on a drug surveillance mission in Colombia's cocaine-producing southern jungle when their plane, a single engine Cessna, crashed. It was February 13th, 2003. They crashed in territory controlled by FARC, this leftist organization. The American pilot and the Colombian military intelligence officer and the other pilot if I'm not mistaken were shot when they were on the ground. They were led out of the jungle by that's FARC gunmen. The remaining hostages believed that they were trying to make a break for it. They were shot and killed. The three surviving Americans who are with us now were forced to march with the guerillas deeper and deeper into the jungle. After this three Americans' exact location was lost by U.S. intelligence, we couldn't find them. When the Colombian journalists came out to contact the hostages, they recorded a tape that proved that they were alive and well and they were ready to be traded for imprisoned members of the FARC being held by Colombian, the Colombian government. They were there for almost five years when there was a miraculous moment that was almost blown by the guys because they didn't know they were being rescued, and one of them went, wait a minute, something's not right here. We're going to get to that here in a second.

I just, I want to come back to you guys and I guess, Keith, what is it like? I mean, you seem to be -- you're military trained, right?

STANSELL: Yes, sir, I'm a former Marine.

GLENN: And Tom and Marc, do you guys have military backgrounds?

HOWES: This is Tom. I've worked with the military, but I've never been in the military. I just want to make one correction. I was the other pilot on the aircraft.

GLENN: Oh, I'm sorry, Tom.

HOWES: No, no. No problem.

GLENN: And Marc, were you military trained?

GONSALVES: Yes, I was in the Air Force.

GLENN: Okay. So you all are -- you know, have some idea going in that things could get nasty. At what point, what kept you going on? What kept you not just going crazy in the jungle? Or did you guys have moments where each of you broke down and went crazy?

HOWES: I think it varied between us. I was the older guy. This is Tom Howes again. And boy, there are moments when I was ready to just take a bullet in the head. You know, I was getting a little older there. I crashed when I was a week -- I was 49 when we crashed and 54 coming out and it was just a hard slog. It was very difficult times. You know, start out a march with, you know, your knee damage, Achilles tendon, knots in the tendons. And you have a multimonth march where you are just beat into the ground every day. It's tough. But I think for the three of us, the overriding factors that kept us going was a thought of our family, getting back to our families and being there for our families again one day.

GLENN: Did God play a role for any of you guys? Are any of you guys religious?

GONSALVES: I am. This is Marc. And for me God was everything. I'm a Christian. And throughout that whole experience I learned a lot about Colombian culture, learned a lot about the FARC, about President Uribe of Colombia. And everything I knew and everything I heard on the radio was information that told me that logically the odds of us getting out of there and surviving living to see freedom again was very small. It seemed as if we would never come out. But faith told me otherwise, you know. On the surface there was doubt but within the, deep inside there was a faith that put me at ease sometimes because I knew that for some how, some way we would get out of there. I just didn't know when. I had no idea it would go on for five and a half years.

And there's something else I want to correct because you mentioned a certain hostage that we were with from France.

GLENN: The French lady.

STANSELL: Right. And you stated that all three of us hated her, but I want to correct you on that right now. I don't hate her at all. I'm the one that befriended her, as it says in the book. And I have a great deal of respect for her. You know, Keith in these past interviews has come out attacking her, and I totally disagree with that. I don't care if she's from France, Canada or Somalia. I think she is a strong woman. I think that she did a good job surviving. Did we have issues with her? Yes.

GLENN: Okay, what were the issues? What were the issues? Let me go to the -- let me go to the freedom fry man, Keith. You probably missed the whole freedom fry thing.

STANSELL: I would set it up like this, you know. When we first got into a group, it was called Camp Uribe where we were mixed with the politicians. We were just three Americans coming in there. We don't participate in the class system that exists with this group. We were not going to be kicked around and we were not going to be any more or any less than anybody else. We viewed ourselves as equal to anybody else just as Americans do. So there was a ranking within the prisoners immediately of who was going to be who amongst the politicians and we didn't participate in that. And, you know, I would say one of the things like Marc said, you know, we all have our own opinions on things. And the things I've said about Betancourt are particularly one thing: I've not lied about any one thing. And when you're painted as a martyr, okay, but three days before I'm rescued you are standing over me as the FARC search me and you are cooperating with the FARC to help them search another prisoner because you want something that may cause you damage on the outside, you want to know what? That's enough, Glenn. That's a point to me where, hey, you've crossed the line; I don't want anything to do with you. So I see something painted when you come out of captivity but I'd also like to tell the other side the truth and as you can see if you read the book about those things, those are things that pained me a great deal as Americans, as an American. It really hurts to see that happen. It's something that Marc has been much bigger than me and he's able to forgive it. You know, I respect him for that. We all have our opinions.

GLENN: It's the Jesus bracelet. You should put one on, Keith.

STANSELL: I'll tell you this right now, you know. It's -- at that point what the bracelet said is what would Keith do and what Keith would do is he will not accept that behavior from anybody.

GLENN: Okay.

STANSELL: That's just it, whether it was her or anybody else. The helicopter arrives and you guys think you are going to meet one of the big drug lord guys, right?

STANSELL: We didn't know.

GLENN: But a big helicopter guy lands, people come out and they're wearing Che shirts but they are wearing the big Red Cross. Of course, you hate France. You won't play nicely with others. You actually come out and say, "Wait a minute, this guy isn't from Australia; his accent is fake; is that right?

STANSELL: There's been a lot said. There were no crosses on the helicopters. They were painted with the red and white colors but there were no crosses. You know, Tom has got thousands of hours as a pilot. I myself have thousands and the first thing I yelled at Tom, Tom, there's no crosses on those birds. So when they sat down, one of the Colombian soldiers came up to Marc and I because we were over far to the left. And I looked at his credentials, I said to Marc, hey, man, there's something wrong here. And I grabbed the credentials and I said, these are not legitimate; who are you. And he got nervous and they wanted to put handcuffs on us and Marc was not going to be cuffed under any -- you know, he was just not going to be cuffed and put on the airplane. So he started to calm us down and we were basically asking why should we submit to this. And he finally broke down to the two of us to the side. He said, "Hey, I'm going to get you out of here. Do you want to go home. Do you want to see your families again." It was the longest lines. I don't remember the exact words but that's what it was, Glenn. And we said, hey, put the cuffs on. We're out of here.

GLENN: Marc, you didn't want the handcuffs to be put on for what reason? You just, you were done?

GONSALVES: Yeah, I was through with it. I mean, five and a half years at that point and now here we are, we see civilians, you know, for the first time and these are the people that are handcuffing us. They are putting tie wraps on us. And I said, there's no way I'm going to get in that machine with my hands and feet tied. I didn't want any part of it. I wasn't the only one. There was a couple of the hostages that resisted that. But like Keith is saying, this guy that came over to us, I just want -- he just had a movie star look to him. I mean, he had bleach blonde hair, 5:00 shadows wearing these Ray-Ban glasses, had like a bandana wristband around his wrist, earrings. He comes up to us and the thing is he's speaking English to us. He lifts up those sunglasses and he goes, "Do you want to go home? Trust me." And I think he was trying to send us a little message there. And at that point I cooperated. I let him tie me up and I got in that helicopter.

GLENN: When did they tell you when you were off the ground, how far up were you when they told you?

VOICE: I tell you as soon as that helicopter lifted off, I don't even think the door was shut, it was just chaos that broke out on that helicopter. I could see across from me just a fight broke out and the commander of the FARC who was on the helicopter had his pistol in his hand and it was almost like there was a thick fog. I couldn't see clearly because there was so much activity and chaos. I saw Keith involved in it and I just was worried about Keith. I was afraid Keith was going to get shot in this. And I thought it was a fight over the tie wraps. I thought one of the hostages tried to break out. And all of a sudden I start hearing these people shout, "We're army, we're army." And for me when I heard that, I thought they were -- I thought they were crazy. I thought that it was impossible for the Colombian army to be on that.

GLENN: Pull this off.

VOICE: That helicopter. But then I tell you what, when I looked over at that helicopter that had that pistol in his hand and I saw all these guys that were posing as Che Guevara fans, they were just beating on him and zapping him with a stun gun and taking him out, then I realized I guess they really are army.

GLENN: I guess that's the only time I've ever been rooting for somebody with a Che shirt. All right, we're going to take a break because I want to come back and just touch base on the controversy surrounding the rescue and get their thoughts on that. More in just a second.

(OUT 10:45)

GLENN: 888-727-BECK, 888-727-BECK. We have the authors of the book Out of Captivity: The Story of Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle As Farc Hostages. The three hostages themselves are with us. And guys, I want to ask you a couple of things. When you guys first got out, you had the helicopter land, and it's amazing because I saw you on 20/20 over the weekend and I looked at that helicopter and just it being red and white, I just, I thought I had seen a cross on it, which is amazing. They were wearing red crosses on their, you know, on their bodies, were they not?

VOICE: Right. I think that there was maybe one or two, two of those people that had like a faded Red Cross vest.

GLENN: Okay.

VOICE: The majority of them were not wearing that.

GLENN: Now, you -- but they were wearing Che shirts as well. I don't know if you guys know this, but right after you were rescued, there were people that were saying, well, that's against the Geneva Convention, et cetera, et cetera, and they were slamming those people who risked their lives to save yours.

VOICE: Well, Glenn, did those people have Che T-shirts on?

VOICE: Glenn, in some cases I think it's better to apologize afterwards I think.

GLENN: Yeah, I'm with you on that.

VOICE: And I'd like to shift the subject just for a quick second. Those two guys that were taken down, there was the front commander, Sesad (ph), and there was Enrique Goves (ph) is that I like to call the concentration camp commander that I had a special relationship with, a hateful one. And the Supreme Court in Colombia just came out with a ruling that those two wouldn't be extradited to the United States for charges in relation to kidnapping the three of us. We're kind of disappointed with that and we thought we would like to mention it to you because it doesn't send out a good signal for people that look to kidnap Americans around the world.

GLENN: Why are they not going to be extradited?

VOICE: The Supreme Court Colombian, Colombian Supreme Court decision.

VOICE: Their reasoning is because the crimes that are committed were committed on Colombian soil and, of course, that's just a ridiculous reason. There's another guerilla who was extradited from Colombia to the U.S. and he's been convicted and he was extradited and convicted for charges related to our abduction. So --

GLENN: Can I ask you guys a question then? I don't know if you can answer this but, you know, a lot has been happening on the border. Jeez, 30 seconds. You know what, we'll have to spend this on TV. A lot has been happening on the border that doesn't make sense. Do you believe that we are clean on this side?

VOICE: No, no.

STANSELL: Absolutely not, Glenn. It's a two side -- this is Keith. There's two sides to this. You know, you were speaking earlier about the Mexican border. Well, the hundreds of millions of dollars that are made and finance this narco-terrorist drug trafficking rings now, we're creating a second one in Mexico.

GLENN: Okay.

STANSELL: I know we think about the Mideast but we better look down south. We see this every day.

GLENN: No, that's why I had you on. This stuff is coming our direction. It already is in Mexico but it's going to be much, much worse, coming soon if we don't pay attention to it. Okay, guys, we'll talk to you on television. Thank you so much.

VOICE: Thank you, Glenn.

GLENN: Welcome home. Name of the book is Out of Captivity.

This edition features a brand new number two, a big mover in the top five, and the biggest drop since we started the power rankings.

In case you're new here, read our explainer about how all of this works:

The 2020 Democratic primary power rankings are an attempt to make sense out of the chaos of the largest field of candidates in global history. Each candidate gets a unique score in at least thirty categories, measuring data like polling, prediction markets, fundraising, fundamentals, media coverage, and more. The result is a candidate score between 0-100. These numbers will change from week to week as the race changes.

The power rankings are less a prediction on who will win the nomination, and more a snapshot of the state of the race at any given time. However, early on, the model gives more weight to fundamentals and potentials, and later will begin to prioritize polling and realities on the ground.

If you're like me, when you read power rankings about sports, you've already skipped ahead to the list. So, here we go.

See previous editions here.

24. Mike Gravel: 15.3 (Debut)

The month Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, Mike Gravel left his last government job.

He was a Senator from Alaska from 1969-1981, where he was known for his anti-war efforts and attempts to implement direct democracy. The latter is what led a couple of teenagers to attempt to draft him into the 2020 race. When I say "draft," I mean "ask him once on social media."

Gravel fought for something called the National Initiative, which would allow state style ballot initiatives to be passed on a federal level. What could possibly go wrong?

He is probably best known for one of the strangest political ads in history during his Presidential run in 2008. Entitled "Rock," the commercial begins with Gravel staring into the camera for well over a minute. Then it gets really boring. He also was a self-described "womanizer" which you might think makes him a perfect fit for the VP slot for Joe Biden— however, he's been critical about "Joe Biden's creepiness around young girls."

Gravel is 89 years old, making him one of the youngest candidates in the field.

23. Wayne Messam: 15.8 (Previous: 20th / 13.4)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

A full 3% of Americans have a positive opinion of Wayne Messam.

Admittedly, that sounds bad.

Coincidentally, it also is bad.

The good(?) news is that another 8% know who he is. Unfortunately, all of them have a negative opinion. Messam is the Mayor of Miramar, FL, which is actually larger than South Bend, IN — the home of Pete Buttigieg. That strikes me more as a point against Buttigieg, but we'll count it in Wayne's column for now.

And hey! He's out of last place!

22. Eric Swalwell: 20.2 (Previous: 17th / 20.2)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Swalwell has navigated his desperate quest for attention in campaign form with little success so far, which is unsurprising. (Even his parents are Trump voters, and it's not yet clear if they will vote for him.)

Candidates like Elizabeth Warren have rejected town halls on Fox News, but not Swalwell. He would love to have a town hall on Fox News. It's just that Fox News doesn't want him.

Running for President is hard.

21. Marianne Williamson 20.6 (Previous: 19th / 17.1)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

"I'm deeply grateful to the many people who expressed early support for my candidacy. Today we reached an important milestone and we can go full steam ahead from here."

This is the sort of thing you say when you've accomplished something major in a campaign. Marianne Williamson said it after this: "We just hit 1% in our 3rd poll!"

It's a microcosm of the bizarre nature of the 2020 Democratic primary experiment, but in theory, this feeble showing in the polls may be enough to get Williamson on the debate stage.

It's on that stage where she is sure to shine, as she explains the narrow logical pathway of her worldview. She is a self-described "capitalist with a conscience" but also seems to admire socialism: "What's supposed to scare me about socialism, the free health care or the free college?"

Usually, it's the 100 million dead in a century. But, when you find out how much that "free" health care and college cost, they can get pretty scary too.

20. Seth Moulton: 21.5 (Previous: 16th / 20.6)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

"America is not a socialist country." Sure, this statement used to be entirely uncontroversial (like, way back in 2018). But, Seth Moulton is saying those things in 2019, in a Democratic primary, which seems almost disqualifying. It's hard to imagine a path towards success for someone with this opinion, unless maybe your last name happens to be Biden.

"There are elements of our party that are going too far toward socialism." True enough. But, it's a little like saying "There are elements of this orange juice that are going far too close to oranges."

Warning: The orange juice is made out of oranges.

19. John Delaney: 21.8 (Previous: 15th / 20.3)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

John Delaney is probably one of the most moderate candidates in the field. He is even selling himself this way, arguing "to beat Trump, we need a moderate."

It's an interesting window into the state of the Democratic party. If the introduction of a $4 trillion global warming tax and spend scheme makes you moderate, what makes you a liberal?

18. Tim Ryan: 24.3 (Previous: 14th / 20.7)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tim Ryan was elected as a pro-life Democrat. Now he's thanking NARAL and Planned Parenthood for convincing him that some babies just shouldn't be alive.

Essentially, your local drive-thru abortion hut won the moral reasoning battle against the Pope, which is an interesting decision for a Catholic: "I believe my faith supports my position because to me being Catholic, to me being Christian, to me following the teachings of Jesus is about being compassionate and an open-hearted toward people who you shouldn't be judging."

Someone should tell Ryan and his other deeply religious Democratic colleagues that judgment of behavior is actually pretty central to faith in general.

Religion may be a lot of things, but it is not about being "open- minded." The foundational book of Christianity is most famous for its list of "commandments."


"Thou shalt…or shalt not, whatever you want to do…let me know." -Exodus 20:9024325 or something.

17. Bill de Blasio 24.9 (Debut)

No one loves Bill de Blasio more than… well, no one loves Bill de Blasio. After his announcement, the New York Post ran the headline "Everyone Hates Bill."

Bill de Blasio is essentially a socialist, but that's not why New Yorkers hate him. They're fine with the left-wing craziness. They just want someone who can at least do his job half as well as he promotes himself.

De Blasio is so disliked in New York that even left leaning publications like New York Magazine admit they struggle to find one person who actually supports him for president. He begins his run with the highest unfavorables in the entire field, an amazing accomplishment considering his late entry into the race.

If you want to find something positive for Bill, it probably comes in the form of cash. As Donald Trump used to describe business life in New York, he would routinely donate to Democratic politicians he didn't like, because it helped grease the wheels for his company. De Blasio will likely get a considerable amount of cash from people who hate his guts, but realize that a hefty "donation" is a great way to get favorable treatment from a powerful socialist.

16. Steve Bullock 27.7 (Debut)

On paper, Steve Bullock could be a strong Democratic candidate for president. He's one of a few governors around the country that fit a very popular profile: in a deep red state, he's a Democrat, but tries to be seen as a "sensible" one. Larry Hogan, Republican from Maryland, has the same approach from the other side.

Bullock ran for governor of Montana with promises of streamlining the regulatory system, fighting prescription drug abuse, tax refunds, protecting the coal industry, and the baby sister to America first— "hiring Montanans first."

This approach had Bullock win reelection in a red state that Trump won by over twenty points. He was also the 4th most popular governor in America with an approval rating of 66%, with only 19% disapproving.

However, there are plenty of hints that Bullock is no moderate. He blocked multiple bills to restrict late-term abortion, supported DACA, supported net neutrality, and is deeply in the pocket of the unions, including wanting to force unwilling participants to pay dues until it was ruled unconstitutional.

Policies aside, Bullock seems to lack a certain je ne sais quoi. If you don't speak French, it's kind of hard to describe why, but basically most people find it difficult to pay attention to him.

Bullock is trying to sell moderation with a wink. The idea that one can sound moderate to get elected, then run the country as a relatively strong progressive, similar to the package he delivered to Montana. In the era of "shout your abortion," it seems like a difficult message to connect with primary voters.

Maybe there's a VP window for Bullock, but if you do want the moderation with a wink approach, it's unclear why you wouldn't just go with Biden at the top of the ticket.

15. Andrew Yang 28.3 (Previous: 12th / 27.1)

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Andrew Yang continues to have the highest buzz-to-poll results ratio in the race. This is partially because of his embrace of issues well off the normal path of politicians. I.e., pennies must go!

Yang does have some legitimate credibility when it comes to our governments pathetic technology infrastructure and is capable of talking about issues like AI, cryptocurrencies, and probably Fortnite. He's embraced meme culture and has a way of going viral that eludes other candidates who try way too hard to do it (see Booker, Cory and Gillibrand, Kirsten.) Unfortunately, you can't tweet yourself into the White House. (Most of the time.)

14. Michael Bennet 28.8 (Debut)

Michael Bennet grew up in Washington D.C. and went to a high end prep school and is currently serving as a U.S. Senator from Colorado. A political outsider, he is not.

He was appointed to the Senate in 2009 and went on to a somewhat surprising victory over Ken Buck in the Tea Party wave election of 2010. He's a Democrat from a purple state that outperformed Hillary in 2016. And it's not the worst thing in the world for his candidacy that his little brother is the editorial page director of the New York Times.

But Bennet is one of a handful of little known, unremarkable, pseudo-moderates in this race that have no chance to win unless Joe Biden slips his hand up a female moderators skirt in the middle of a debate.

The best part of Bennet's candidacy is the fact that he was born in New Delhi, India. Who's ready for another cycle of the media highlighting every random Facebook users posts about birtherism! I know I am!

13. Tulsi Gabbard 28.8 (Previous: 13th / 25.9)

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The Las Vegas shooting was just a distraction for the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Russia didn't hack the DNC.

The Parkland shooting was a false flag.

Pizzagate is real.

Bill Cosby was framed.

Is this a grouping of opinions from Alex Jones? Well, probably yes, but they also happen to be the views of the biggest online fundraiser for Tulsi Gabbard.

As pointed out in her candidate profile, Gabbard is a bit of an odd bird as a Democratic option for president. But the main reason for her support among conspiracy theorists and racists like David Duke, seems to come back to her role as supporter and excuse factory for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Tulsi was able to get herself on the Joe Rogan podcast, which has brought a lot of attention (along with no poll number increase) to her campaign. While there, she mentioned her affection for South Park—the Human Centipede episode in particular.

However, Gabbard does not endorse turning people into human centipedes, that we know of...as of this writing.

12. Jay Inslee 30.4 (Previous: 11th / 30.4)

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Jay Inslee is trying to branch out from his single issue climate change campaign.

Forget sanctuary cities, Jay wants sanctuary states. He's also signed a public option add on to Obamacare in Washington, which was part of Obama's original plan. (Also, not part of his plan was an individual mandate, but I don't see many Barack originalists in the Democratic party on that point.)

Inslee has hit the magical 65,000 donor level to get him into the debates, but has made as much of an impact in this race as his favored amount of carbon emissions: zero.

11. John Hickenlooper 32.0 (Previous: 10th / 32.0)

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Is John Hickenlooper a moderate? He wants America to think he is… but he wants Democratic primary voters to know that he isn't.

"You can have progressive ideas, but you have to present it to them in a moderate way."

This is a very typical Democratic politician approach, or at least it used to be. Today, Hickenlooper couldn't avoid being unmercifully booed for daring to say that socialism isn't the answer… when it comes to beating Donald Trump. In other words, you can have the terrible ideas, but don't tell everyone about it.

Hickenlooper's CNN town hall did beat Beto's town hall in the ratings, which unfortunately says more about Beto's failure than it does about Hickenlooper's success.

10. Julian Castro 34.5 (Previous: 10th / 35.7)

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I usually write these things in order from worst to first, and it's always around Julian Castro where I have the same thought: I've been writing too long to just be at Julian Castro. However, this is a race in which some polls show 17 of the 24 candidates are at zero or one percent, allowing an enormous disappointment like Castro to still squeak into the top ten.

One bandwagon that Castro has jumped on is the "fight for $15"— an attempt to try to force McDonald's to pay its employees $15 per hour. Of course, there are plenty of high-end restaurants/coffee shops/political campaigns that cater to left-wing audiences that don't pay $15 an hour, but McDonald's seems to always be the target.

This is bizarre, considering McDonald's is known for its high-volume, low-margin business model, making it among the most easily damaged by higher minimum wages. It, also, already has technology available to have kiosks replace workers, which can easily be more widely distributed.

Of course, the "fight for $15" is much more about grabbing attention than helping workers. Now, I'm hungry for McDonald's.

9. Kirsten Gillibrand 36.7 (Previous: 9th / 38.1)

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Kirsten Gillibrand is not good at this. One of many examples: she was asked during her Fox News town hall why she flip-flopped from pro-gun to anti-gun after leaving her conservative district for the more liberal audience statewide.

Her answer was to explain that her previous district was more conservative and wanted more gun rights, but the state as a whole was not.

That was the accusation against you. It's not supposed to be the same as your excuse.

When asked what gun policies would have stopped the recent shooting in Virginia Beach, she said we should "stop being beholden to the NRA." This quality analysis wouldn't get you an internship under a low-level editor at Think Progress, but somehow she's a Senator and running for President.

But if you think that's bad, look at her fundraising. "Gillibrand raised less money from small contributors in her first quarter as a presidential candidate than she had in six of the eight previous quarters when she wasn't running for president."

I continue to believe that Gillibrand will drop out long before Iowa casts a vote.

8. Amy Klobuchar 41.9 (Previous: 8th / 45.1)

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Klobuchar's campaign hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire so far. That's the bad news. The good news is there isn't a long list of gaffes on the campaign either. (Bonus! She hasn't abused any underlings on camera!)

This formula probably isn't enough for her to compete for the nomination, and she claims the third largest point drop from our last power ranking.

But this news is not entirely terrible for Klobuchar either, who is likely still a top tier VP candidate. She's been working on entirely controversy-free legislation like securing tax breaks for Gold Star families. If she can look competent in the debates, show some gravitas, and not light an interns torso on fire in front of gasping kindergartners, she might be fine.

Klobuchar's best path to success continues to be avoiding mistakes and hoping Joe Biden wins the nomination.

7. Cory Booker 51.6 (Previous: 6th / 54.9)

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Cory Booker is your white knight, ladies.

Swoon.

Cory wants you to know that men are the problem, which is why he wrote an open letter to all men. The topic? How men need to fight alongside women who are facing new restrictions in their moral crusade to make children more available for expiry. How can a society possibly demand women to endure "lengthy 72-hour waiting periods?" (Yes, it's a real quote. You see, 72 hours sounds long. Three days sounds short.)

Booker wants to heal our divisions about abortion by… what else?... creating yet another government bureaucracy. All hail the "White House Office of Reproductive Freedom."

There is some stunning evidence that voters seem to like Booker, challenging the virtue of democracy, and perhaps our civilization as a whole.

6. Robert Francis O’Rourke 52.8 (Previous: 5th / 60.2)

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Beto's campaign is falling apart. His 7.4 point drop from our previous power ranking is the largest drop since the rankings began.

However, a high-profile launch, followed by a complete fizzle does not always mean the death of a campaign. John McCain's 2008 run began the same way, even leading to a mass firing of campaign executives before relaunching and capturing the nomination.

But McCain was a well-known D.C. power player with massive name recognition and political connections. O'Rourke is essentially a viral video about Colin Kaepernick and a travel blog to find himself wrapped into an Irish guy pretending to be Hispanic.

O'Rourke doesn't have to win to give himself a future in politics (as we've already seen), but he does need to avoid complete embarrassment. This is something he should keep in mind next time he decides to live stream his own haircut.

5. Elizabeth Warren 53.4 (Previous: 7th / 45.3)

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It shocks (and pains) me to say this, but Elizabeth Warren is having a little bit of a moment. Her 8.1 point rise leads the field in this edition of our rankings, and she has created a nice little niche for herself. She's claimed the progressive high ground on policy, with her somewhat effective but twice as annoying "she has a plan for that" mantra. In another era, the idea that a politician has a way for government to be involved in every aspect of your life would show up in an opposition commercial. But today the left eats it up.

To be clear, none of them have actually read any of these proposals. And they all rest on an impossible to pass, completely unenforceable, and almost certainly unconstitutional wealth tax on the rich.

But her combination of a furious technocratic pace, along with her individual outreach to voters (Elizabeth Warren called me!) has lifted Warren out of her self-imposed gaffe-a-thon and back into a serious contender.

We now estimate that Warren has a 1 in 1,024 chance to win the presidency.

4. Kamala Harris 65.9 (Previous: 3rd / 68.6)

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If you're going to make a massively misleading statistic one of the cornerstones of your campaign, you should probably understand how the statistic is calculated.

Kamala Harris is supposed to be one of the intelligent options in the Democratic field, but at times, one is amazed at her ignorance of basic facts.

Literally anyone who has studied or debated the gender pay gap is familiar with the massive problems with the statistic. It simply averages all women working and compares it to all men working. It doesn't account for experience level, choice of industry, education level, and so on.

Harris said to Stephen Colbert "In America today, women on average are paid 80 cents on the dollar of what men are paid for the same work." She then doubled and tripled down on the "same work" aspect of the claim. It is most certainly not a measure of different pay for the same work. We should also note that, of course, Harris is paying women in her campaign less than men. But you probably guessed that one already.

This isn't about the gender wage gap, which can be easily explained in the book 'Why Men Earn More,' for example. It's more of a study of the early disappointment of the Harris campaign. She just occasionally blurts things out that make you crinkle your forehead.

Another example: "Very few people can get by and be involved in their communities or society or in whatever their profession without somehow, somewhere using Facebook." This was said in an explanation about regulating Facebook as a utility. But about a third of adults don't use Facebook at all. One could not say the same about electricity, water, or sewage.

These are minor examples of a potential larger issue. Harris needs to know what she's talking about a little more often. To quote Tim Malloy of Quinnipiac polling, "I don't know why she's not caught fire. But she hasn't."

3. Bernie Sanders: 67.2 (Previous: 2nd / 68.3)

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Most people who follow politics realize that Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist. But, the democratic primary has brought his pro-communist and anti-American views of the past into a new light. This has left many Democrat friendly media sources to discover that conservative media has pretty much been correct all along. The New York Times wrote about his past support for communist governments in Central America, including the Nicaraguan Sandistas.

"The Times shows that Sanders went well beyond mere opposition to funding the war. He wrote to Sandinista leaders that American news media had not 'reflected fairly the goals and accomplishments of your administration.' On a visit to the country, he attended a Sandinista celebration at which the crowd chanted, 'Here, there, everywhere, the Yankee will die,' and complained that American reporters ignored 'the truth' about Nicaragua's government, telling a CBS reporter, 'You are worms.'"

Sanders "…at times crossed over from mere opposition to American policy to outright support for communist governments." This isn't from the Blaze. It's from New York Magazine.

"Any politician is going to frame issues selectively, but Sanders is presenting a spin on the controversy so selective it completely fails to convey any of the points relevant to the controversy."

Ouch.

It's getting harder to see Sanders actually winning the nomination, given what seems like a ceiling in his support. The thinking goes, why pick Bernie, when you can get Bernie's policies in a much more attractive package from almost anyone else in the race?

The answer may come down to how dumb, uninformed, and oblivious the primary voters are… at least, according to NBC news:

2. Pete Buttigieg 68.8 (Previous: 4th / 62.9)

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It's completely shocking to see the mayor of South Bend, Indiana at number two in a 24-candidate field. This is a guy that 31% of Democratic primary voters have still never even heard of.

In fact, I had recently been under the impression that the Buttigieg bump had started to fade away. But the numbers say what they say, and Mayor Pete has pushed himself all the way to number two in our rankings.

The first time we ran these numbers, Buttigieg had a candidate score of 30.8, now he's at 68.8. He's moved more than any other candidate, and it's not even remotely close.

Why?

Given this is a Democratic primary, one would be committing a crime against the obvious if we didn't note that identity politics are playing a role. But Buttigieg is an obviously smart, well-spoken candidate that plays well in this particular moment.

In short, he's the polar opposite of Donald Trump—in demeanor, in age, in his interest in hooking up with female supermodels from the Eastern Bloc.

Buttigieg gives Democrats exactly what they're looking for—a candidate to signal to everyone around them that they're more tolerant, more intelligent, more reasoned, and just generally better than those Neanderthal Republicans.

He's basically a Prius in the form of a candidate.

1. Joe Biden 82.3 (Previous: 1st / 78.8)

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Saying that Joe Biden is the "leader" or the "favorite" in this primary doesn't really do him justice. Biden is in a tier by himself. Sure, he continues to hold massive leads in the polls, but perhaps more importantly, those leads are affording Joe the ability to execute the perfect Joe Biden game plan.

1. Run away and hide in the polls

2. Run away and hide in real life

Biden has near universal name recognition and access to the very valuable 2012 Obama campaign voter list. He doesn't have to be seen in public to lead the polls. When he does have to show his handsome face, he's on prompter, and he's keeping his hands to himself.

Most analysts don't think that Joe Biden will simply cruise to a 20-point victory. He will be challenged by someone as this race gets closer. He will be forced in front of cameras. He will say that television was invented in 1593, and he will inhale the follicles of a passing pre-teen. We all know this--and more--will happen at some point in this campaign.

The question is, does Joe have enough in the tank to protect this lead? Can Joe defend himself over what will be uncovered from his political past?

For instance, video emerged of Joe Biden joking about "panty raids" that he once participated in. Can a party constantly talking about male privilege nominate a candidate who once stormed female dorms, only to steal their undergarments?

The fact that Biden made the comments in the 80s, about the 60s, while in his 40s, does not exonerate him.

It somehow makes it even more creepy.

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in history.

The Allied invasion force included 5,000 ships and landing craft, 11,000 planes, and almost three million allied soldiers, airmen and sailors. Despite such numbers, the location and timing of the invasion was still an enormous gamble. The Nazis fully expected such an invasion, they just didn't know precisely when or where it would be.

Despite the enormous logistics involved, the gamble worked and by the end of June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied troops were ashore in Normandy. The human cost was also enormous – over 4,900 American troops died on D-Day. That number doubled over the next month as they fought to establish a foothold in northern France.

There were five beach landing zones on the coast of northwestern France, divided among the Allies. They gave each landing zone a name. Canada was responsible for "Juno." Britain was responsible for "Gold" and "Sword." And the U.S. had "Utah" and "Omaha."

The Nazis were dug in with bunkers, machine guns, artillery, mines, barbed wire, and other obstacles to tangle any attempt to come ashore. Of the five beaches, Omaha was by far the most heavily defended. Over 2,500 U.S. soldiers were killed at Omaha – the beach so famously depicted in the opening battle sequence of the 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan. The real-life assault on Omaha Beach included 34 men in that first wave of attack who came from the same small town of Bedford, Virginia. The first Americans to die on Omaha Beach were the men from Bedford.

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America has a national D-Day Memorial, but many people don't know about it.

America has a national D-Day Memorial, but many people don't know about it. Maybe that's because it wasn't a government project and it's not in Washington DC. It was initiated and financed by veterans and private citizens. It's tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the small town of Bedford, Virginia. Why is the memorial for one of the most famous days in modern world history in such a tiny town? Because, as a proportion of its population of just 3,200 at the time, no community in the U.S. sacrificed more men on D-Day than Bedford.

There were 34 men in Company A from Bedford. Of those thirty-four, 23 died in the first wave of attacks. Six weeks after D-Day, the town's young telegraph operator was overwhelmed when news of many of the first deaths clattered across the Western Union line on the same day. Name after name of men and families that she knew well. There were so many at once that she had to enlist the help of customers in the pharmacy's soda shop to help deliver them all.

Among those killed in action were brothers Bedford and Raymond Hoback. Bedford was the rambunctious older brother with a fiancée back home that he couldn't wait to return to. Raymond was the quieter, more disciplined younger brother who could often be found reading his Bible. He fell in love with a British woman during his two years in England training for D-Day. Like in that opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, Bedford and Raymond barely made it down the ramp of their Higgins Boat in the swarm of bullets and hot steel before they were cut down in the wet sand.

Bedford and Raymond Hoback's mother, Macie, learned of both their deaths from two separate telegrams, the first on a Sunday morning, the second the following day. Their younger sister, Lucille, remembered her mother's devastation, and her father walking out to the barn to cry.

The day after D-Day, the killing field of Omaha Beach was already transforming into the massive supply port that would help fuel the American drive all the way to Berlin over the next year. A soldier from West Virginia was walking along the beach when he saw something jutting out of the sand. He reached down and pulled it out. He was surprised to find it was a Bible. The inside cover was inscribed with: "Raymond S. Hoback, from mother, Christmas, 1938." The soldier wrote a letter and mailed it with the Bible to Raymond's mother. That Bible, which likely tumbled from Raymond's pack when he fell on D-Day, became Macie Hoback's most cherished possession – the only personal belonging of her son that was ever returned.

Of the 23 Bedford men who died on Omaha Beach, eleven were laid to rest in the American cemetery in Normandy.

These men, many of them barely out of their teens, didn't sign up to march to the slaughter of course. They had hopes and dreams just like you and I. Many of them signed up for adventure, or because of peer pressure, and yes, a sense of honor and duty. Many of the Bedford Boys first signed up for the National Guard just to make a few extra bucks per month, get to hang out with their buddies, and enjoy target practice. But someone had to be first at Omaha Beach and that responsibility fell to the men from Bedford.

Over the last several years, the D-Day anniversary gets increasingly sad. Because each year, there are fewer and fewer men alive who were actually in Normandy on June 6, 1944. The last of the surviving Bedford Boys died in 2009. Most of the remaining D-Day veterans who are still with us are too frail to make the pilgrimage to France for the anniversary ceremonies like they used to.

It's difficult to think about losing these World War II veterans, because once they're all gone, we'll lose that tether to a time when the nation figured out how to be a better version of itself.

Not that they were saints and did everything right. They were as human as we are, with all the fallibility that entails. But in some respects, they were better. Because they went, and they toughed it out, and they accomplished an incredibly daunting mission, with sickening hardship, heartbreak, and terror along the way.

So, what does the anniversary of D-Day mean in 2019?

In one sense, this anniversary is a reprimand that we've failed to tell our own story well enough.

In one sense, this anniversary is a reprimand that we've failed to tell our own story well enough. You can't learn about the logistics of the operation and above all, the human cost, and not be humbled. But as a society, we have not emphasized well enough the story of D-Day and all that it represents. How can I say that? Because of an example just last weekend, when common sense got booed by Democratic Socialists at the California Democrats' State Convention. When Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper said during his speech that "socialism is not the answer," the crowd booed loudly. When did telling the truth about socialism become controversial?

Sure, socialists, and communists and other anti-American factions have always been around. America certainly had socialists in 1944. But the current socialists trying to take over the Democratic Party like a virus don't believe in the D-Day sacrifices to preserve America, because they don't believe America is worth preserving. They are agitating to reform America using the authoritarian playbook that has only ended in death and destruction everywhere it is followed.

Ask a Venezuelan citizen, or an Iraqi Christian, or a North Korean peasant why D-Day still matters in 2019.

The further we move away from caring about pivotal events like June 6, 1944, the less chance of survival we have as a nation.

At the same time, the D-Day anniversary is a reminder that we're not done yet. It's an opportunity for us to remember and let that inform how we live.

Near the end of Saving Private Ryan, the fictional Captain Miller lays dying, and he gives one last instruction to Private Ryan, the young man that he and his unit have sacrificed their lives to rescue in Normandy. He says, "Earn it."

In other words, don't waste the sacrifices that were made so that your life could be saved. Live it well. The message to "earn it" extends to the viewer and the nation as well – can we say we're earning the sacrifices that were made by Americans on D-Day? I cringe to think how our few remaining World War II veterans might answer that.

Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Gratitude. Personal responsibility. These used to mean a lot more.

Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Gratitude. Personal responsibility. These used to mean a lot more. I don't want to believe it's too late for us to rediscover those traits as a nation. I want to believe we can still earn it.

The challenge to "earn it" is a lot of pressure. Frankly, it's impossible. We can't fully earn the liberty that we inherited. But we can certainly try to earn it. Not trying is arrogant and immoral. And to tout socialism as the catch-all solution is naïve, and insulting to the men like those from Bedford who volunteered to go defend freedom. In truly striving to earn it, we help keep the flame of liberty aglow for future generations. It is necessary, honorable work if freedom is to survive.

The end of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is remarkably relevant for every anniversary of June 6, 1944. This is what D-Day still means in 2019:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Letter from Corporal H.W. Crayton to Mr. and Mrs. Hoback – parents of Bedford and Raymond Hoback who were both killed in action on June 6, 1944

Álvaro Serrano/Unsplash

July 9, 1944 Somewhere in France

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Hoback:

I really don't know how to start this letter to you folks, but will attempt to do something in words of writing. I will try to explain in the letter what this is all about.

While walking along the Beach D-day Plus One, I came upon this Bible and as most any person would do I picked it up from the sand to keep it from being destroyed. I knew that most all Bibles have names & addresses within the cover so I made it my business to thumb through the pages until I came upon the name above. Knowing that you no doubt would want the Book returned I am sending it knowing that most Bibles are a book to be cherished. I would have sent it sooner but have been quite busy and thought it best if a short period of time elapsed before returning it.

You have by now received a letter from your son saying he is well. I sincerely hope so.

I imagine what has happened is that your son dropped the Book without any notice. Most everybody who landed on the Beach D-Day lost something. I for one as others did lost most of my personal belongings, so you see how easy it was to have dropped the book and not know about it.

Everything was in such a turmoil that we didn't have a chance until a day or so later to try and locate our belongings.

Since I have arrived here in France I have had occasion to see a little of the country and find it quite like parts of the U.S.A. It is a very beautiful country, more so in peace time. War does change everything as it has this country. One would hardly think there was a war going on today. Everything is peaceful & quiet. The birds have begun their daily practice, all the flowers and trees are in bloom, especially the poppies & tulips which are very beautiful at this time of the year.

Time goes by so quickly as it has today. I must close hoping to hear that you receive the Bible in good shape.

Yours very truly,

Cpl. H.W. Crayton

It's not as easy as it used to be for billion-dollar entertainment empires like The Walt Disney Company. It would be more streamlined for Disney to produce its major motion pictures in its own backyard. After all, abortion in California is readily available, as well as a protected, cherished right. And since abortion access is critical for movie production, right up there with lighting equipment and craft services, you would think California would be the common-sense choice for location shooting. Alas, even billion-dollar studios must pinch pennies these days. So, in recent years, Disney, among other major Hollywood studios, has been farming out production to backwater Southern lands like Georgia, and even Louisiana. Those states offer more generous tax breaks than Disney's native California. As a result, Georgia for example, played host to much of the shooting for the recent worldwide box office smash Avengers: Endgame.

But now it looks like it's Georgia's endgame. The state recently passed what is known as a "heartbeat" bill – a vicious, anti-woman law that would try to make pregnant women allow their babies to be born and actually live. It's a bridge too far for a major studio like Disney, which was largely built on creating family entertainment. How can Disney possibly go about making quality movies, often aimed at children, without access to unfettered abortion? It's unconscionable. Lack of abortion access makes it nearly impossible to shoot movies. So, what's a major studio to do? Disney might have considered migrating its business to Louisiana, but that state too has now signed a heartbeat bill into law. It's utter madness.

These monstrous anti-abortion bills, coupled with having to live under President Trump, has led Disney to seek a new home for its legendary movie magic. Last week, Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, announced that all future Disney movies will now be filmed on location in the Sub-Saharan African nation of Wakanda.

"Disney and Wakanda are a match made in heaven," Iger told reporters. "Wakanda was, until recently, a secret kingdom, much like our own Magic Kingdom. With this new partnership, we'll not only get to continue our legacy of making movies that parents and children everywhere enjoy together, but we'll get to do so in a safe space that reveres abortion as much as we do."

Wakanda is one of only four African countries (out of 55) that allow unrestricted abortion.

As home to the most advanced technology in the world – and with the planet's highest per-capita concentration of wokeness – Wakanda offers women painless, hassle-free abortion on demand. As the Wakandan health ministry website explains, the complete absence of any white-patriarchal-Judeo-Christian influence allows women in Wakanda to have complete control of their own bodies (with the exception of females who are still fetuses). As winner of the U.N.'s 2018 Golden Forceps award (the U.N.'s highest abortion honor) Wakanda continues its glowing record on abortion. That makes it an ideal location for Disney's next round of live-action remakes of its own animated movies in which the company plans to remove all male characters.

Iger says he hopes to convince Wakandan leadership to share their top-secret vibranium-based abortion procedure technology so that American women can enjoy the same convenient, spa-like abortion treatment that Wakandan women have enjoyed for years.

Wakanda is one of only four African countries (out of 55) that allow unrestricted abortion. Disney plans to boycott and/or retaliate against the other 51 African nations, as well as any U.S. states, that restrict abortion. Specific plans are being kept under wraps, but sources say Disney's potential retaliation may include beaming Beverly Hills Chihuahua into the offending territories on a continuous, indefinite loop.

When asked how Wakanda's futuristic capital city and distinctly African landscape would be able to double for American movie locations, Iger said, "I guess America will just have to look more like Wakanda from now on."

One potential wrinkle for the Left-leaning studio is the fact that Wakanda has an impenetrable border wall-shield-thing designed to keep out foreign invaders as well as illegal immigrants. Iger said he understands Wakanda's policy of exclusivity, adding, "After all, not everyone gets into Disneyland. You have to have a ticket to get in. Anyone is welcome, but you have to go through the process of getting a ticket." When one reporter pointed out that Iger's answer sounded like the conservative argument for legal immigration under the rule of law, Iger insisted that the reporter was "a moronic fascist."

What if the unthinkable happens and Florida also enacts its own "heartbeat" law? That would be problematic since Walt Disney World is located in Florida. Iger responded that Disney would "cross that bridge if we get to it" but that the most likely scenario would entail "dismantling Disney World piece-by-piece and relocating it to the actual happiest place on earth – Wakanda." As for whether Disney would ever open character-themed abortion clinics inside its theme parks, Iger remained coy, but said, "Well, it is the place where dreams come true."

With the Wakanda solution, Disney may have found a place where Minnie Mouse can finally follow her heart and have true freedom of choice.

When pressed about the cost of ramping up production in a secretive African kingdom that has no existing moviemaking infrastructure (which could easily end up being much more expensive than simply shooting in California) Iger said, "You can't put a price tag on abortion freedom. Wakanda Forever and Abortion Forever!"

With the Wakanda solution, Disney may have found a place where Minnie Mouse can finally follow her heart and have true freedom of choice. And that will be welcome relief to traditional families all over the world who keep the Walt Disney Company in business.

*Disclaimer: The preceding story is a parody. Bob Iger did not actually say any of the quotes in the story. Neither is Wakanda an actual nation on planet Earth.

"Journeys of Faith with Paula Faris," is a podcast featuring conversations about how faith has guided newsmakers and celebrities through their best and worst times. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a much maligned religion so Glenn joined the podcast and took the time to explain what it means to him and how it changed his life.

From his suicidal days and his battle with drugs and alcohol, it was his wife Tania and his faith that saved him. All his ups and downs have given him the gift of empathy and he says he now understands the "cry for mercy" — something he wishes he'd given out more of over the years.

You can catch the whole podcast on any of the platforms listed below.

- Apple Podcasts
- Google Podcasts
- TuneIn
- Spotify
- Stitcher
- ABC News app