- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Race for the White House produces two things: lots of attack ads and unwitting overnight celebrities. Think Sister Souljah. Joe the Plumber. Clint Eastwood’s empty chair. The little boy who spelled “potato” without an “e,” only to have Vice President Dan Quayle helpfully “correct” him. With election season again upon us, The Washington Times continues its series remembering some of our favorite campaign one-hit wonders and asking: Where are they now?

Then: James Stockdale was a Navy commander, an author and an academic.

The former pilot and bona fide Vietnam War hero received a Medal of Honor after spending more than seven years in a North Vietnamese prison, where he led a resistance movement of his fellow prisoners and repeatedly beat his own face to a pulp so his captors couldn’t use him in a propaganda film. Of course, none of that mattered in 1992, when his memorable opening line in the vice presidential debate — “Who am I? Why am I here?” — became comedy gold.

Now: After the 1992 election, Mr. Stockdale retired to private life. He died in 2005 at age 81 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease and was survived by his wife, four sons and eight grandchildren. Four years ago, the Navy named the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale after him.

Fun fact:Mr. Stockdale agreed to serve as Ross Perot’s running mate only after his good friend assured him that he would act as a placeholder until a more suitable candidate could be found.

Quotable:Mr. Stockdale, who frequently wrote and lectured about stoicism, told the The World & I magazine that his famous debate line was chosen deliberately, the better to showcase his view of himself as “a philosopher.”