- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

Noble: The winner of a real-life version of the "Survivor" test-of-strength show, Richard van Pham.

Nearly four months ago, Mr. van Pham found himself stranded in the Pacific Ocean, completely cut off from phones, lights and motor cars with hardly a single luxury. The problem wasn't that there was no tribe to vote him off the island. The problem was that his island was only 26 feet long his ship, the Sea Breeze.

Mr. van Pham's fateful trip began in Long Beach, Calif., where he tried to skipper his tiny ship on what should have been a three-hour (or so) tour to Catalina Island. However, the weather started getting rough, and his tiny ship was tossed. If it hadn't been for his courage, the Sea Breeze would have been lost especially after its mast broke, its motor failed and its only two-way radio cut off.

The ship never ground on any shore it simply kept drifting and drifting, eventually covering 2,500 miles. But Mr. van Pham didn't give up.

Instead, he improvised. He hooked fish and bashed sea turtles with a bat. He attached some of the meat to his splintered mast to attract sea birds, salted and stored some of it for future use, and cooked the rest on a makeshift grill he made by tearing wood paneling off his boat. He drank the rainwater he collected in a five-gallon bucket. Occasionally, he watched videos on a small-solar powered television that somehow was still working. Most of the time though, he scanned the horizon for any sight of land or life.

He was finally spotted about 275 miles off the coast of Costa Rica by the missile frigate USS McClusky. The McClusky's captain, Cmdr. Gary Parriott, told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "He's a tough old bird, I'm not sure I would have faired as well as he did."

Mr. van Pham's grit isn't too surprising. He was a refugee when he came to the United States in 1976. He built himself into a successful businessman, but then lost everything about 10 years ago when a car accident put him in a coma for six months and subsequent medical expenses left him almost penniless. The McClusky's sailors were so moved by his experience that they collected (keep in mind that they were on military salaries) $800 to fly him back to Los Angeles International Airport.

Hopefully, Mr. van Pham will be able to repay the debt by selling his story, even if it means seeing some late-night TV huckster pitching his inadvertent diet discovery.

However, Mr. van Pham probably won't be watching. When he was first rescued, he wanted nothing more than help fixing his broken mast so he could sail on again. For his lesson in ingenuity and determination, we can only thank him with James Fenimore Cooper's benediction in "The Water-Witch" "A sailor's blessing on you-fair winds and a plenty."

Knave: Maryland political consultant Julius Henson, for a display of demagoguery and idiocy so extreme that it is hard to see him being taken seriously as an operative ever again.

Most undercover agents don't make it a point to announce their new postings to the media. It tends to defeat the purpose. Then again, most political consultants don't denounce their client's opponent as a "Nazi."

Perhaps Mr. Henson just glanced over the Cliff-notes for "Political consulting for dummies," since there are few reasonable explanations for his despicable behavior. Last week, Mr. Henson, who had just been engaged to turn out the black vote for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Prince George's County, told The Washington Post, "Bobby Ehrlich is a Nazi" and "a really bad man." As the Townsend campaign was scrambling to distance itself from his remarks (basically by dumping him from the campaign), Mr. Henson called The Post again, this time to tell them that although officially he had been fired, he was still working "undercover" on behalf of the Townsend camp.

We can only be thankful for knaves who display the idiocy of Mr. Henson instead of the ingenuity of Mr. van Pham.

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