03 February 2016


by Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 03 February 2016

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Epictetus

John Singer Sargent, the most sought after portrait painter in the English speaking world in his day, said about a portrait - "a likeness in which there was something wrong about the mouth."

From what I've read about the celebrated artist his thought mostly sarcasm - from trying to please nit picky patrons. (But when handing over the equivalent of today's $60,000.00 for a portrait should there be expectation of anything less?) 

With every portrait I paint that brilliant Sargent thought comes to mind. 

And though not painting a portrait this week it came to mind anyway.

Customary it is for the President, Cabinet heads, Congressmen, Service Secretaries, Service Chiefs, et al., to sit for a portrait. 

Mr. Sargent has no equal today but there are plenty of portrait painters - from traditional to abstract. Some paint mouths better than others. 

Mr. Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, will most likely sit. For all I know, he may have already. 

But were I to paint his portrait there would not be anything wrong with the mouth - for Mr. Mabus has thought, done, and said some stupid things so the mouth must be agape and with stupid things spilling forth.  

For example, most recently he ordered the U. S. Marine Corps to submit a gender integration plan, with a 15-day time limit, for recruit training. Never mind the Marine model for training basic Marines has been honed, over decades and decades, to near perfection, time-tested, and proven. (Having served in a training battalion for three years aboard the Parris Island depot, I know recruit training.)

General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, publicly restrained his mouth but drew sword - demonstrating courage vice talking about it. Leadership. Refreshing. 

It'd be interesting to know who engaged behind the scenes and what was said but not so much do I care. Whatever happened was effective.  

And so it was yesterday an otherwise do-nothing Congress finally opened its mouth on the matter. In formal proceedings they wire-brushed Mr. Mabus. To be blunt, for his stupidity and his mouth. 

The Marine Corps will not integrate recruit training, at least for now.

Mr. Mabus's mouth is still moving but mostly in the measure three times cut twice mode. He'd be better served listening. And a lot more than twice as much as he speaks. 

Now, before Congress, the commandant and the Army Chief of Staff are on record saying women, same as men, should be subjected to draft. 

And Mr. Mabus opened his mouth saying that should be subject of a national debate. Well, Mr. Mabus's mouth has gotten himself into one big mess. Because so should assigning women to ground combat units have been a matter of national debate. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Mabus.  

A longtime Marine friend suggested - January 2017 look for Mabus under a D.C. overpass with sign "Will make stupid decisions for food!"

With a big enough sign there'll be no need to open his mouth. And for that Mr. Mabus may not be so easily identified. Sort of a self-imposed witness protection program. 


On the wise they sit around and take it all in exercising sage control over the mouth. 

They're easy to paint.

That is if they can be found.

Noses are another conversation. But in case you're wondering, I don't earn $60,000.00 for a portrait (though some believe I should and more still). 

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