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Being behind bars doesn't necessarily stop a man from continuing to make exactly the same kinds of contributions to society as he did in the years before captivity.

As evidence, we offer the sociologically sound example of "Hogan's Heroes," the 1960's sit-com about a bunch of prisoners in a Nazi POW camp during World War II.

What’s the point?

A convicted former state senator probably isn’t the best choice to build the president’s wall between the United States and Mexico.

That's right, Nazi and sit-com used in the same sentence. Happening as it did just 20 years after the end of hostilities and atrocities, it's a wonder this show ever made it onto the small screen. Can you imagine pitching it to the Hollywood studio head? "OK, let's take some Allied prisoners, throw them in a fenced 'Stalag 13' guarded by Nazi soldiers and let the hilarity ensue."

Apparently, laughing at the bumbling Nazis felt pretty good for a generation that lived through the real-life version that offered little in the way of humor. The show, created by Bing Crosby Productions, lasted six seasons and lived on in reruns for years. You're not likely to find it broadcast anywhere these days.

The 30-minute sit-com told the story of Army Air Force Col. Robert Hogan and his band of POWs who continually fooled the clumsy commandant, Col. Klink, and guard Sgt. Schultz while conducting espionage behind enemy lines. Even as prisoners, they found a way to contribute to the war effort.

Is Jon Woods Northwest Arkansas' version of Col. Hogan?

Woods is the former state senator from Springdale sentenced in September to 18 years in federal prison because of his, shall we say, creative role in the legislative process. He was convicted of taking bribes for directing taxpayer-funded grants to the small, private Ecclesia College in Springdale as well as to a Springfield, Mo., mental health treatment nonprofit. Woods continues to appeal his conviction.

But if Hogan and his heroes taught us anything, it's that a man in captivity still has something to offer.

Woods thinks so, at least according to a letter mailed to President Trump and members of the Arkansas news media.

In the letter signed by inmate 14657-010 and others and mailed from a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, its authors have devised a plan to get the president's wall between the United States and Mexico built. It includes a list of inmates "who wish to begin construction on a border wall for our President." The proposal suggests the inmates form "mobile work cadres" that could be transported to the border and put to work building the president's wall.

"We would also ask that a form of sentence credit be considered for our work if called into action," the letter says.

Woods has only been in federal custody since late September. How in the world did he get involved so quickly with a plan to become part of President's Trump southern defense force? Say what you will about Jon Woods, but he apparently never stops devising plans.

Details weren't offered. We have no way to know whether the project Woods envisions might employ the construction expertise of former state Sen. Jake Files of Fort Smith or the pastoral care of former Rep. Hank Wilkins of Pine Bluff, both of whom pleaded guilty to charges involving state grants and legislative favors.

Maybe Woods is entirely serious about this effort. Or maybe he's just working an angle, something he's got a lot of experience with. The judge in his case told him at his sentencing, "I think your mentality has evolved to the point that I think you have some serious criminal mentality issues" and would return to fraudulent behavior if given a light sentence.

"You were playing chess at a very high level, thinking three or four or five moves ahead," the judge said.

Being behind bars doesn't stop a man from thinking. Indeed, there's probably plenty of time for it in federal prison.

Did the letter reach Trump? We've seen no sign that it did. Maybe it arrived just after the president got an email from a Nigerian prince and he was too busy to read Woods' proposal.

Maybe, like Col. Hogan, Woods can accomplish something good while he's behind bars. We're just not sure building President Trump's wall will turn him into anyone's hero.

Commentary on 11/16/2018

Print Headline: Trump's heroes?

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