He wasn’t a saint. Is it unethical to say so?
The truth made a surprising appearance where one should least expect it, MSNBC, yesterday. As the rest of the news media was awash in the sanctification of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, former TIME reporter Richard Stengel, who worked closely with Mandela his autobiography, told shocked MSNBC hosts yesterday that the image of Mandela being broadcast was, in fact, a false one.
“He was a pragmatic politician,” Stengal told “Morning Joe” that Mandela “wasn’t a visionary necessarily, he wasn’t a philosopher, he wasn’t a saint. But he never deviated from [his goal of overturning apartheid]. But anything that would get him there, he embraced, including violence. He created the violent wing of the ANC. And people don’t realize that and don’t remember that. We’ve kind of made him into a Santa Claus. He wasn’t. He was a revolutionary.”
The same day that Mandela’s death was reserved for testimonials and glowing remembrances, the website Buzzfeed had the impertinence to re-publish some of Mandela’s less Santa-like quotes, including praise for communism, communists, and dictators, and condemnations of the U.S. and Israel: Continue reading
“Nelson Mandela Becomes First Politician To Be Missed”
…says the headline currently being sported at the Onion, the web’s preeminent satirical website:
JOHANNESBURG—Following the death of former South African president and civil rights leader Nelson Mandela today at the age of 95, sources confirmed that the revered humanitarian has become the first politician in recorded history to actually be missed. “Today we lost not only an international hero and a symbol of the resilient human spirit, but also the very first political figure ever who people actively wish was still alive and affecting world affairs,” said political historian Wallace M. Delaney of Columbia University…
The Onion’s rueful satire may well escape millions of Americans as old as 40, because it probably seems tragically accurate. Continue reading
“A fellow very friendly to the administration, a longtime supporter, cornered me at a holiday party recently to ask, with true perplexity: “How could any president put his entire reputation on the line with a program and not be on the phone every day pushing people and making sure it will work? Do you know of any president who wouldn’t do that?” I couldn’t think of one, and it’s the same question I’d been asking myself. The questioner had been the manager of a great institution, a high stakes 24/7 operation with a lot of moving parts. He knew Murphy’s law—if it can go wrong, it will. Managers—presidents—have to obsess, have to put the fear of God, as Mr. Obama says, into those below them in the line of authority. They don’t have to get down in the weeds every day but they have to know there are weeds, and that things get caught in them. It’s a leader’s job… to be skeptical that grand schemes will work as intended. You have to guide and goad and be careful. And this president wasn’t.”
—-Former Reagan muse and current pundit Peggy Noonan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Low-Information Leadership.”
At least President Pierce had an excuse.
This is, of course, rank incompetence, but worse than that, it is arrogant, willful, shocking and frightening incompetence. It gives me no pleasure to say that I saw the signs of this years ago, for years ago there was reason to be hopeful. Presidents learn, most of them, anyway. This one, without any experience to speak of in governing, management, leadership or even organizational process, not only hasn’t learned, but has never shown the slightest recognition that he has anything to learn. Continue reading
As regular readers here know, I am not an admirer of the character of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, though he had some notable leadership skills that I respect. His reputation as a great man and President is vastly inflated and, in a strange way, I may share some of the responsibility for that.
Several years ago, I had just completed an ethics seminar for the DC Bar. One of the issues I discussed was the lawyer’s ethical duty to protect attorney-client confidences in perpetuity, even after the death of the client. An elderly gentleman approached me, and said he had an important question to ask. He was retired, he said, and teased that I would want to hear his story. I don’t generally give out ethics advice on the fly like this, but I was intrigued. Continue reading
“Hey, he killed the President—he had to be a Teabagger, right?”
…how it is that both the Washington Post and the New York Times, in the days before the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, ran essays that link right-wing, radical, anti-liberal sentiment in 1963 Dallas with today’s conservative political positions? The Post, doing explicitly what the Times does slyly, even makes the connection direct. Its essay is called “Tea party has roots in the Dallas of 1963″—as in the implicit innuendos, ‘people like those in today’s tea party killed JFK’ and thus ‘the people who think like that probably want to kill this President too.’
We’re seeing a lot of liberal despair, nastiness and desperation these days, aren’t we? The instinct seems to be to lash out. Of course, one would think that competent, responsible and fair editors of the two most prestigious U.S. dailies would read this tripe, hand it back to the authors and say, “Hey, go home, have a drink, and take a nap. It’s not so bad, really. Obamacare may be all right. We’ve got Obama’s back. Now, I’m going to do you a favor and forget you wrote this.”
But no. Continue reading
When is an apparent #1 class apology not good enough? Well, in the case of the matter at hand, there are two reasons.
The apology in question came from Martin Bashir, who, as I mentioned in a previous post, used his MSNBC show to suggest that Sarah Palin’s overblown analogy between the financial burden on future generations created by U.S. debt and actual slavery warranted her having to submit to someone expelling excrement into her mouth, and urinating on her as well. He really did say this. On the air. Carefully and deliberately.
See? Yet suddenly, after the weekend, Bashir was contrite, and delivered as elegant and sincere-sounding apology as one could imagine:
“I wanted to take this opportunity to say sorry to Mrs. Palin and to also offer an unreserved apology to her friends and family, her supporters, our viewers, and anyone who may have heard what I said. My words were wholly unacceptable. They were neither accurate, nor fair. They were unworthy of anyone who would claim to have an interest in politics, and they have brought shame upon my friends and colleagues at this network, none of whom were responsible for the things that I said. I deeply regret what I said, and that I have learned a sober lesson in these last few days. That the politics of vitriol and destruction is a miserable place to be, and a miserable person to become. And I promise that I will take the opportunity to learn from this experience.” Continue reading
Before we leave the topic of the ravages of political correctness and the excessive fear of grievance bullies, let’s pause to ask the administrators of Washington University in St. Louis…What’s wrong with you?
On October 30, several students posted a photo (that’s it on the left) on Facebook costumed as three U.S. soldiers pointing super-soakers at another student dressed as Osama bin Laden, with a fifth student holding a large American flag as a backdrop. Several things are not in doubt. 1. This was a Halloween stunt. 2. Osama bin Laden masks and costumes have been relatively common since Halloween 2002, as have been all historical villains in U.S. history since Halloween became a tradition. 3. There is nothing wrong with that. 4. An Osama bin Laden costume is in no way, shape or form an insult to Muslims. 5. Osama bin Laden himself was an insult to Muslims.
Notwithstanding all this, a typical grievance bully on campus named Mahroh Jahangiri, was determined to flex her muscles on behalf of her religion and make innocent fellow-students knuckle under and bow to her will. Maybe she thought they’d even let her speak at the next Democratic national convention, who knows? She posted a screen shot of the photo on her website, and wrote,
“This photo makes a costume of the lives of the thousands of civilian Muslim men who have been murdered during our ‘War on Terror’ and the countless others who have been mutilated, robbed, and stabbed to death in hate crimes across the United States. This is disgusting and cannot be tolerated on this campus. There are very few Muslim students on this campus, and our voice is not loud enough. For those of you who had not heard of this until now, now you have. What are we going to do to change this?” Continue reading
(I am backed up three deep on the “Comments of the Day,” and I apologize to the deserving and patient commenters.)
And who can forget Mickey Rooney’s hilarious turn in that beloved American film masterpiece “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”?
Alex Yuan raised an element of the revolting Jimmy Kimmel stunt discussed in my post, an extension of his penchant for using children as uncomprehending props for his often ugly comedy, that I glided right over: Why was showing a child suggesting that wiping out the Chinese was a viable solution to national problems even considered fit for broadcast, when a similar comment about Jews, gays, Hispanics or blacks would be considered instantly taboo? Why doesn’t the ethics alarm sound when the minority being slurred or threatened is Asian?
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Jimmy Kimmel, Child Abuse, And Signature Significance:
It is interesting that you should mention political correctness because I can’t help feeling that in deciding it appropriate to air this segment, ABC – perhaps as a reflection of societal attitudes at large – is illustrating the alleged double standard against Asians when it comes to how topics concerning minorities and other protected classes are handled in public. Continue reading