Anyway, I ran into Joe downtown this morning with his sidekick Butch Wallace, and the congressman was handing out these souvenirs from his recent trip to Vietnam. He gave me one for me, and one for my Dad, who he knows is a Navy veteran. In his own distinctive rapid, enthusiastic, delivery, he also told me the following as we rode down an elevator together:
- This was not vote-buying.
- Each bill was worth about 12 cents — which is pretty much dead-on.
- Vietnam is the most dynamic emerging capitalist economy in the world.
- Shopkeepers were particularly glad to take his dollars, which is hardly surprising. Hard currency is hard currency. (It was ever thus. When I called my Dad to tell him I had something for him, he noted that in his 1967-68 tour at a PBR base south of Saigon, he doesn’t recall ever having occasion to use actual Vietnamese money.)
- On Good Friday, the cathedral he saw was not only full, but the service was piped out to a large crowd outside — a familiar pattern in countries that until recently suppressed religion. (Maybe Western Europe should send the Vietnamese some of those magnificent churches that they don’t use any more.)
- He really, really loves being a congressman. But we knew that about Joe, right?