When I was the News Director for WMVY FM on Martha’s Vineyard, I had occasion to interview Robert McNamara about a particular story.
I believe it was the summer of 1985, although I may be wrong. It could have been the summer of 1986. I am no longer a reporter and so I am no longer under any obligation to check the facts. It’s not really important to the story.
I do know that it was summer. I do know that Robert McNamara kept a boat docked in Vineyard Haven Harbor.
On this particular occasion my program director came to me and said, “Some people are saying that Robert McNamara’s boat is sticking out into the traffic lane.”
“Some people?” I said.
“Some people.” he said.
I did not know who some people were, but clearly they were some people. They were saying that Robert McNamara’s boat was sticking out into the lane of traffic.
Martha’s Vineyard is an island. Although they had an airport, most people came onto the island on ferries that docked in Vineyard Haven. Some people were saying that Robert McNamara’s boat was making it difficult for the ferries to dock. It may still be that way today. Somebody else will have to check on that.
Then my program director told me I should call Robert McNamara and ask him about the charges. I inquired if he had McNamara’s number. He said, “No,” but some people he knew might have it.
Sure enough, some people did have his number and I gave him a ring. I don’t know what kind of boat he had, but it must have been a big one, the kind that some people will just never have, the kind that sticks out into lanes of traffic.
I don’t remember exactly how our conversation went, but it went something like this:
“Mr. McNamara, my name is James Tripp and I’m the News Director for WMVY. I’d like to ask you about where you dock your boat.”
“Oh, that again?” he said or something like it.
“Can I record this interview for broadcast?”
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the general tone was, “You’re darn right you can!” Clearly, here was a man who wanted to get out his side of the story.
I said, “Some people are saying that your boat is sticking out into the lane of traffic, making it particularly hard for the ferries to dock.”
“Some people?” he said.
“Some people.” I said.
“Well, that’s a lot of horse hockey,” he said, or something like that or not like that at all. He then went on to defend his boat slip. He outlined the history of his boat in that slip with a passion I’m sure he brought to his study of the history between China and Vietnam. By the time he was done he had me thinking, “Mmm…maybe some people are wrong.” Of course, maybe they were right. On any occasion, I had my sound bite. Thank-you, Mr. McNamara.
Perhaps I should have asked him if his boat was sticking out too far into the Gulf of Tonkin, but that was another story, not as important as this particular one.
To this day I’m not sure what kind of a boat he had. I was never invited onboard.