Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/2019: The White House Correspondents Dinner, Robert E. Lee, And The Boy Scouts

Good Morning!

1. “You’re a coward for not letting me abuse you…” Politico has a useful review of how the White House Correspondents Dinner got to where it was last night…a largely and appropriately irrelevant event brought low by its organizers hubris, conflicts of interest and arrogance. Blaming President Trump for the dinner’s fall, as Politico, Brian Stelter and others have had the gall to do, is ludicrous. Nobody with a shred of common sense would subject themselves to the kind of mean-spirited and personal attack Trump was guaranteed to receive from whichever leftist comic character assassin the WHCD hired to eviscerate the President and his family. Indeed, the President had an obligation to protect his office from having its occupant denigrated in public.

Here is an example of the kind of respect and witty repartee the President, his staff and family could have expected from the night’s entertainment—this is Sandra Bee last night, in her alternative to the dinner, presented on TBS…

“There are so many things you could say about the president: that he’s vicious, vindictive, stupid, unattractive, unloved, and will die alone, but what can we say that Melania hasn’t already said?” cracked Bee. “So tonight, I really want to focus on what a fucking coward he is. Imagine being the most powerful man in the world and you can’t listen to a comedian razz you for five minutes? Barack Obama did it, George W. Bush did it…”

I have to stop here. Bee is lying: neither Obama nor Bush were ever insulted personally in the manner that Michelle Wolf attacked Trump’s staff last year, and would have surely attacked him. When Stephen Colbert was deemed by objective observers to have breached the alleged spirit of the dinner–professional good will and respect—with his partisan attack on George W. Bush in 2006, his much criticized routine was nowhere near what President Trump would have faced. Obama–that’s hilarious. Obama was surrounded by sycophants and worshipers at the dinner; no joke at his expense in eight years was anything worse than gentle needling. More Bee…

“Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks are the best thing about her. She has shiny hair, pretty eyes, and a lovely complexion. But on the inside? Hideous as a pinworm in an anus. On the inside? That woman is 90 percent taint, and I mean that medically.”

As a leader  and a supervisor, I would never return to any event that denigrated a member of my staff the way Wolf attacked Sanders last year, and Bee’s “jokes” last night are not sufficiently far from what the President could have expected had he chosen to attend the dinner. Yes, this year the correspondents, either hoping to lure the President back or in hope of starting a clean slate that might cause him to attend  next year, had a historian rather than a comic as the main act.  the tactic  wouldn’t get me to attend, if I were Trump. Historians have been among the most unprofessional critics of the President, and I wouldn’t trust anyone connected with the dinner not to try to embarrass the office.

2. Facebook Wars. A lawyer Facebook friend declared the President “a moron” because he said over the weekend that Robert E. Lee was “a great general whether you like it or not.”

Except for some contrarians who dispute some of Lee’s battle field strategies, the historical and military consensus is  that Lee was “a great general whether you like it or not.” I pointed out that who Lee fought for and his attitude toward slavery couldn’t and didn’t make him less of a general. My friend replied that he regard’s praise for Lee as an endorsement of white supremacy. I pointed out that virtually every single white man and woman in Lee’s time, including Lincoln, was a white supremacist.

With all the objectively moronic things the President has said, to attack this historically correct statement shows how in the eyes of “the resistance” and progressives, if Trump does it or says it, it must be  wrong.

Another example of this phenomenon was the Facebook-wide mockery of Trump’s various statements, comparing himself to Joe Biden, that he, the President, felt young and vital. Compared to Biden, Trump seems like Pete Buttigieg. His energy level is always high, at least on camera….his energy is one  reason he stood out in the 2016 debates, while sleepy competition like Carson and Jeb Bush were overwhelmed. On “The View” last week, Biden looked stiff, grayed out, enervated and shockingly old, notably less vital than just four years ago.

His enemies’ denial is Trump’s friend.

3.  I’m glad my father didn’t live to see this. From NPR:

The Boy Scouts of America’s own records show that more than 12,000 children have been sexually assaulted while participating in the organization’s programs. The documents came to light through court testimony given by a researcher whom the Scouts had hired to do an internal review. The records reveal allegations against thousands of Scout leaders — allegations that date from the 1940s.

With such a huge number of victims, the organization could be facing multiple lawsuits and, as a result, bankruptcy.

As I have mentioned here before, my father regarded the Boy Scouts as having saved his life. Without the intervention of World War II, he may have chosen a career in scouting, so dedicated was my dad to the program. Yet this news is no surprise, nor should the problem have been a surprise to the organization’s leadership. Of course child predators would see the Boy Scouts as a hunting field, and it was the obligation of the organization’s leadership to take effective measures to protect the boys. It didn’t. Instead, it covered the abuse up, following the example of the Catholic Church.


42 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/2019: The White House Correspondents Dinner, Robert E. Lee, And The Boy Scouts

  1. I find it unfathomable how the media is so fast to degenerate the strong women in the Trump administration. I mean you can like him or not, but I have seen Sanders and Conway attacked mercilessly by the media on the basis of their gender on several occasions. I cannot imagine the outrage if these same types of attacked were directed at left leaning women.

  2. 3. As has been the case with the Catholic Church, I suspect the foxes have been running the Boy Scout hen house forever. I remember too many bachelors in leadership roles in the Scouts.

    • Knowing that in 80 years there were 12000 allegations, yes one is too many but impossible to achieve, means the BSA is one of the least likely places for a child to be abused compared to almost any other organization.

        • I suppose so but your comment likend it to the catholic church but the numbers and facts don’t support such a comparison.

          • It’s exactly the same organizational “protect the hive” phenomenon, where children and other victims are sacrificed to “the greater good,” meaning preserving the reputation of the organization so it can continue its “good work” and vital mission. Doesn’t matter if it’s ten or a million victims. And, of course, if you believe those 12,000 is the whole extent of the abuse, I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn for you to look at.

            • How do you arrive at that? 1st the numbers do matter, it is indicative if it is an institutional issue or not. 12,000 out of 110,000,000 over a 80 year period: What is the distribution? How do those numbers compare to general society during the same period? 2nd The organisation also matters, with the BSA you have a decentralized club that is lead basically by peers. With the church you have a bureaucracy that rivals many nations lead by professional men and women who speak with the authority of God. 3rd We are taking about a long period of time in which cultural norms, policing, reporting and communications have changed greatly. 4th Criminals exist, they likely always will, they will be neighbors, join clubs, churches and become professionals, what crimes committed by members are organisations supposed to track and advertise? At what point in history should this taken effect? Should it have said on the top of the black and white flyer advertising our troop decades ago that the BSA has had X number of kiddy fuckers associated with it in the past?
              Pedophilia hopefully can be eradicated one day but until then it is a risk that has to be assessed and mitigated. Technology and societal changes have a huge effect on how we evaluate things. It is easy to say today; why the hell haven’t we tracked X data for the last X decades without taking in consideration changes in society, policing, background checks, laws, communication, employment regulations, data storage, media and family. The only evaluation that I think can be fairly done for an club like BSA is a comparison of the general public’s reporting and conviction of crimes against children during the same period and those associated with members of BSA=is the BSA unethical as it pertains to sexual misconduct.

              I was curious what public education reporting looked like since you know, there are worse things.

              From what I could initially find over a two year period I think it was 14′ and 15′, 17,000 reports of sexual misconduct by teachers out of 50 million students, but that was just a the tip of the disgusting iceberg. Now granted the numbers below likely come from a report done by some biased soft science types but even fractions of these numbers indicates a much sicker society than anything coming out of the Vatican may imply.

              From the The Children’s Center for Psychiatry

              “Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (SESAME) is an organization that describes itself as a national voice for prevention of abuse by educators and other school employees. It has compiled alarming statistics on the incidences of sexual abuse in schools nationwide, reporting that just under 500 educators were arrested in 2015 (2016 statistics were unavailable as of this writing):

              -Of children in 8th through 11th grade, about 3.5 million students (nearly 7%) surveyed reported having had physical sexual contact from an adult (most often a teacher or coach). The type of physical contact ranged from unwanted touching of their body, all the way up to sexual intercourse.
              -This statistic increases to about 4.5 million children (10%) when it takes other types of sexual misconduct into consideration, such as being shown pornography or being subjected to sexually explicit language or exhibitionism.
              -Very often, other teachers “thought there might be something going on”, but were afraid to report a fellow educator if they were wrong. They didn’t want to be responsible for “ruining a person’s life,” although that is exactly what they are doing to the child if they don’t speak up, thus allowing the abuse to continue.”

              • I arrive at that because if we are just learning about 12,000 now, then the truth was kept from the public, including from trusting parents who gave the Scouts custody of their kids, and were betrayed. If they covered up all that, it is a fair assumption that there was more that was successfully covered up.

                The numbers matter regarding the victims and total harm; they don’t matter in terms of the betrayal. Public schools do it too? I know that, and they can’t be excused either. There should be strict liability when an organization that claims to be a safe environment for children isn’t.

                • What really disturbs me is the double standard.

                  When stories of teachers having sex with students are published online, the comments section is usually flooded with comments about how lucky the students are,, how the only harm the students experience are in juries from all the high fives.

                  How can the Boy Scouts be criticized for this, if a large proportion of the population actively celebrates this kind of thing?

                • Jack I know how busy you must be but after going through the testimonial and digging through news reports I think your dad could take a great bit of pride out of the BSA, at least as it pertains to intent, it is much harder to evaluate the effectiveness.

                  I will try to unpack and summarize the key points as it pertains to BSA.

                  -The Numbers reported come from an investigation that the BSA commissioned from the University of Virginia, the same folks who train the FBI on forensic investigation of sex crimes. The report from that investigation is expected to be published in the next few weeks. There are 7189 individuals on the BSA list that they have been identified and have barred from having anything to do with BSA. The numbers come from the Boy Scouts’ ineligible volunteer file, which is a list of volunteers and other people that the Boy Scouts removed and banned from its organization over accusations of policy violations, including allegations of sexual abuse.or are reasonably suspected of having sexualy assulted a child.
                  – The disclosure of these numbers come from litigation against The Children’s Theater Company in which the BSA’s protection program is highlighted as the pioneer and the standard. The argument or comparison was that the CTC didn’t take such proactive and responsive actions as the BSA program does. The lead for the BSA investigation was brought on to evaluate CTC actions. Her testimony is a very worthy read as she lays out in a contemporaneous manner responses to reports and rumors of sexual misconduct during different points in history. Here is are few points; sexual acts with children wasn’t criminalized until the 60s, up until then it was dealt with as a family issue (whatever that means), police didn’t want organisations to notify members or parents because the focus was on preserving evidence to be able to prosecute the suspect, police did not share pertinent or significant information with the organisation, organisations were told specifically by police they weren’t investigative authorities and to stay completely out of it, sodomy was criminalized at the time and it is one of the arguments being made in the CTC case, the individual who was convicted of sodomy, consensual with an individual of age, unknown to the CTC, should have been discovered by the CTC and been used to bar him access to the CTC program.
                  -The BSA has a far lower rate of sexual misconduct against minors than nearly every other program and far below the societal rate.
                  -The BSA despite limited resources and technology started tracking and barring risky individuals from access to BSA programs nationwide as far back as 1937. At least annually the BSA would comb their membership and written records for any individuals known or suspected of abusing kids to insure they were barred from membership and access.
                  -The FBI couldn’t couldn’t get their owe mandated program going until 1990, mostly due to technology and communications advances.
                  -The Litigation initiated against the insurance companies by the BSA is due to denial of coverage. The insurance companies say the denied health coverage and financial claims because they state the BSA didn’t do enough to protect children. I really don’t know how to evaluate this case.
                  -There isn’t a mention or claim of the BSA playing hide the pedophile such as there with the church. I am sure we will learn more once all the litigation is done but there is no evidence of inaction.
                  -A great deal of the massive reporting going on with the BSA is due to changes in law, allowing suits against organisations going way farther back than before.

                  Jack your comment that “It’s exactly the same organizational “protect the hive” phenomenon, where children and other victims are sacrificed to “the greater good,” meaning preserving the reputation of the organization so it can continue its “good work” and vital mission. Doesn’t matter if it’s ten or a million victims.” could be true but it doesn’t look like the facts support that conclusion.

                  I would like to know your take on the lawyers primary point in the article; “The fact is that the Boy Scouts of America have never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public,” he said, “and they may have removed them from scouting, they may have kept them in their perversion file — but they never alerted the community.”

                  Should the Scouts have alerted the community? I am no lawyer but I can’t see how it would be the responsibility of the organisation to do a PSA about private citizens.

                  Here is are some additional issues I am struggling with, anyone want to take a crack at these?

                  What was the ethical and I guess in some cases the non libalist actions the BSA was supposed to do?
                  What is an ethical way to promote a youth club; the leadership has a responsibility to the club to protect the clubs name and reputation, what are the ethics involved and how does the BSA balance image and good stewardship?
                  What is the ethical action that the BSA was to take that you feel they didn’t?

                  • Damn, My apologies for not closing out the emphasis after Jack’s Quote or closing the bold after the “Should the Scouts have alerted the community?”.

    • Because they can’t let it go when the offender is probably dead and not a threat anymore. Statute of limitations restrains more than the uncertainty of old evidence, but the pointlessness of prosecuting Jack the Ripper. You can never finish grieving and recover if you don’t leave anger and bargaining stages behind.

    • It is very relevant. It suggests the organization has been aware of, and keeping track of such allegations. Despite knowing about this problem and tracking the problem, it has not been doing anything about the problem. How they dealt with or failed to deal with the problem matters.

      I was at a church that had no known history of sexual abuse. A youth pastor was violating the procedures put in place to keep the children safe from predators. After investigating, nothing inappropriate (with the children) was found to have happened. The pastor was given a ‘1 and last’ warning. The pastor refused to change the behavior and was fired. This resulted in a lawsuit that cost the church $50,000 to defend itself against that lawsuit, which ended in a summary dismissal, appeal, then dismissal. Despite offers to settle or drop the suit if reinstated, the church felt it was worth the money to make the point that these rules are not to be broken. It cost 30% of the church’s total budget that year and 20% of the congregation left the church in protest, but it made the point.

      After the lawsuit, this individual was hired to teach junior high school.

      Of the three institutions listed in this post, which ones do you trust and why?

      • Not sure who you are asking or if I have the correct three but out of the Catholic Church, Schools or BSA I can only say the BSA, I personally know the families and scout masters, I have that responsibility to and the scout masters are peers in my community, unlike teachers and clergy they are not held up as a different class of citizen. Both Teachers and clergy belong to organisations that secrecy is a primary aspect of their professions. Clergy protect the sanctity of confession and discussion, teacher are part of the government with all the confidential and secrets that go along with being a government organisation. Teachers have the authority and power of the state behind them and Clergy have the authority and power of the church. Those two professions require individuals of solid character or corruption is inevitable. These factors are not in play with the BSA.

        • I didn’t say the Catholic Church, I said the church in the example above (not Catholic). BTW, I had to vote to throw the Boy Scouts out of our church for vandalism, the scoutmasters repeatedly lying to the church board, and the schoutmasters maliciously libeling numerous church members before the board. Afterwards, I found out that the Boy Scouts had been thrown out of 2 churches prior to ours.

          Why do you think clergy are held up as a different class of citizen and scoutmasters aren’t? You also can’t really hold up the teachers as an upstanding group of citizens after they have failed an entire generation of children.

  3. 1. White House Correspondent’s Dinner

    Indeed, the President had an obligation to protect his office from having its occupant denigrated in public.

    Why is this so hard for even the ethically-disabled like Brian Stelter to understand? The press spent all its time worshiping former President Obama, yet it feels equally comfortable not only showing its bias by unrepentantly hating on President Trump, abusing him and his family personally and professionally, and then demanding he come to their hate fest and be a target for all the rotten fruit with a smile on his face.

    It isn’t cowardice to refuse to subject yourself to unethical abusive behavior by others.

    Thank God Trump is willing to stand up for the office, and the country he represents and ask them all to pound sand by refusing to go.

    2. Facebook wars

    My friend replied that he regard’s praise for Lee as an endorsement of white supremacy.

    Not to belabor the obvious, but your friend’s opinion is a tragedy of modern irrational thinking, a walking example of a stereotypical social justice warrior, and a person I would never trust as my lawyer in any field.

    I would lament a friend like that if I had one, too.

    3. Boy Scouts

    As a former Scout who learned a lot, and was in no way sexually assaulted or abused, I’m sorry to hear about it. Not terribly surprised, though. If a bunch of priests can do it, it’s hard to imagine who can’t.

  4. As for number 2 I think it is not much different than saying Putin is a strong leader, most everyone framed that as praise for Putin, I only saw it as a statement of fact. Regardless of how bad his leadership may be, saying he is a strong leader doesn’t make one a Russian puppet or admirer.

  5. 1. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone who LIKES being roasted, even when it’s poking relatively gentle, martini-fueled fun at them. General Electric CEO Jack Welch fired a fairly high-placed officer in his organization who did that. When you’re president you come in for enough crap from editors, columnists, and cartoonists who’ll never have to face you in person. It’s easy to write with a pen dipped in poison or draw with brushes as sharp as scalpels when you know you won’t ever see your target and have him call you out on it. It’s just as easy to throw that stuff in the trash when you’re the target and will never meet these people. It’s quite another thing to stand there and take abuse when you have no way to defend yourself or fight back. Sandra Bee and her like-minded friends need to grasp that both they and the president have been out of 1970s grade school for a very long time. He isn’t the unpopular kid who’s basically stuck there to endure the insults and jabs of his classmates, and to be told “just learn to take it.” Hell, even in grade school now, teachers are probably not saying “eh, just ignore it,” they’re more likely to say “hey, that’s not how we treat each other.” If anyone, she is the “fucking coward” (very grade schoolish) who is “hideous as a pinworm in an anus.” (another grade schoolish comment, scatological insults like that really aren’t even a little funny).

    2. Col. Trevor Dupuy, Jr., may he rest in peace, the guru of American military historians, classed several commanders throughout history as Great Captains. They ran the gamut from the heroic (Washington, MacArthur) to the ruthless (Napoleon, Hannibal) and a few who were pretty close to villains (Genghis Khan, possibly Oliver Cromwell). Lee and Grant both made the cut, in fact they were the only ones from their era to make it. Dupuy was only rating them on their battlefield achievements, their tactical and strategic abilities, any innovations they introduced, and continuing influence. He was not rating them on their moral character or their personal lives. As far as those things go, Lee was certainly a master tactician, strategist, and inspirational leader who did very well against a more numerous and better equipped enemy. He just had the misfortune to lose his one lieutenant who was close to his level (Stonewall Jackson) early on, while Grant eventually got three such men (Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan). Some of his decisions, especially during Gettysburg, are up for discussion. His abilities as a military commander are not. Like it or not, in history some VERY capable commanders fought on what might be considered the wrong side or for goals that might be considered wrong now, and some decidedly mediocre ones on the right side or for goals we might now consider laudable. This doesn’t make the capable ones any less so or the not as capable ones more so. There are also more than a few factual accounts where those who’d now be considered right, especially during the colonial period lost, and lost very badly. Pontiac’s braves still got hacked down by the Highlanders at Bushy Run, the Zulus who’d managed to beat the poorly led and deployed British at Isandlwana were routed by a better-led British force at Ulundi, and the Chinese Boxers learned all too quickly than only Superman can stop a speeding bullet. This just comes back to the left wanting a monopoly on honor, and thinking that those they choose to deny honor to vanish. It would have been foolish for Grant and his officers to dismiss Lee, saying he was fighting for the wrong side and so couldn’t win. It’s foolish for the Democratic Party to dismiss Trump now and say that 76-year-old, tired Joe can beat him easily because he’s on the right side.

    3. Why am I not surprised? I am personally aware of at least two leaders/counselors who were chucked out for being found out gay, even though gay =/=pedophile. More than a few others who were pedophiles kept it under wraps, and you know the rest. To this day I am really nervous around young people. We always have 2 high school students in our chorus who are sponsored by the Rotary International. One of them gravitated to me because my family were friends with her family (her mom taught my niece), and I guess she wanted someone she kind of knew to talk to other than the other student (who belonged to a different clique). Never once did I break the “rule of three” and talk to her alone, though. Post-concert yesterday her mom wanted to take a picture of us together. If it had not been her mom I would have said no.

  6. Check out the comments in this link.

    Given that do mamy people cheer student-teacher sex, how can sex between Boy Scouts and Scoutmasters be wrong?

    How can sex between altar boys and priests be wrong?

    Or are these people, who cheer sex between students and teachers, wrong?

  7. 2) Agreed that Lee was a masterful tactician on the battlefield, especially when he had Jackson carrying out his orders. Not necessarily a great strategist — there I think you have to look at Lincoln and Grant for the Civil War.

    Without denigrating Lee’s battlefield skills, one other thing to keep in mind is that, for much of the war, he was up against the Union’s 3rd team when it came to generals. The Army of the Potomac was as fine a fighting army as we have produced in the United States, but let’s face it — it was generally led by dorks.

    I have long thought that the end to our civil war was highly unusual in terms of history — we didn’t spend generations slaughtering one another after the war was over, but knit the country back together. That rarely happens after bitter, fierce civil wars and Lee was a major factor in accomplishing it when he overruled his officers who wanted to continue fighting a guerrilla war against the Union after Appomatox.

    The Army of Northern Virginia may have been relatively small there at the end, but those who were left were the ones who stuck it out no matter what. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking they were anything but serious, determined young men who would have keep on fighting had Lee told them to do so. For that decision alone, I think Lee can be forgiven many faults.

    • A. On General Lee: “Not necessarily a great strategist…”
      Lee utilized the best overall strategy for an outnumbered and out-resourced army: the strategic defense. Entice the enemy attack you at a time and on ground favorable for defense, repel their attack and then counter-attack the weakened and decimated enemy. Lee knew full well the resources and numbers arrayed against the South. An outright Southern military victory was unlikely, but the North getting tired of a prolonged war was very likely.
      B. In re the “Civil War”: “I have long thought that the end to our civil war was highly unusual…” etc..
      The American “Civil War” was not a civil war at all, in that the South had no desire to overthrow the United States, the CSA just wanted to peaceably separate from the United States. Lincoln chose to subjugate the South in the name of “The Union” primarily to preserve the South’s economic contributions to the national treasury.
      Setting aside the North’s “Righteous Cause” mythology -which is at least as flawed as the South’s “Lost Cause” mythology- one has to separate secession from the war. The causes of secession were many, but the cause of the tragic war itself was Lincoln’s invasion of the South. (The letters and diaries of Confederate soldiers, by the thousands, express clearly that they were fighting for “hearth and home.”)
      I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the war, including slave-owning Yankees and non-slave-owning Confederates, so I have long appreciated the complexities of the conflict and the political context in which it occurred. If history and historic events were as simplistic as many people try to make them, perhaps their lessons would be easier to learn!

      • This is an important point to hammer, but all the hammering in the world won’t make the Left, which includes most historians, drop the misleading narrative that the Civil War was fought to eliminate slavery. Never mind that Lincoln said otherwise, and never mind that legally, the South was on far stronger ground. Not one state would have ratified the Constitution of it believed it was pledging never to leave the Union, until Jackson began flexing the President’s domestic policy muscles, the Presidency was relatively weak, and focused on foreign relations and fiscal policy, leaving the states largely sovereign, and they believed they were. Lincoln’s decision to fight secession was risky, even reckless, bold, and, in 20-20 hindsight, a good thing, but I haven’t read any persuasive scholarship that it was legal, and if he had known how costly it would be in lives and scars to to the nation (and also that it would cost him his own life), I doubt he would have pursued what was an extreme utilitarian course, if not an outright unethical one.

        • It is probably hard for many people to appreciate how strongly many Southerners with ante-bellum roots still feel about that war (aside from the issue of slavery which no moral human can now defend), but I am often reminded of Faulkner’s “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”

          • When living in the South, it was kind of odd how strongly the impression of it still being an area occupied by a hostile force was.

        • At this point the Left has pretty much dismissed any and all other grounds for the south to fight other than slaver, saying other grounds are just bullshit to cover that. They also won’t hear you out if you disagree. A lot of them agree with Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station who said “Fuck Robert E. Lee, he was a traitor, pull down his statue, melt it down, recast it into urinals. Piss on the Confederacy.”

          I don’t repost this to emphasize the angry or profane nature of what was said. There is a (limited) place for anger and profanity in life. I repost it instead to illustrate the ignorance and arrogance that have become the left’s stock in trade. Historical figures and history are properly the province of scholarship or at least of reasoned discussion. Books upon books have been written about Robert E. Lee’s life. There are books upon books about the various aspects of his life, including that fateful day at Arlington three days after Virginia seceded and two days after he was offered command of the Union Army when, after much thought, he wrote the short enough missive to General Winfield Scott, his old commander which I here present in its entirety:

          Since my interview with you on the 18th instant I have felt that I ought not longer to retain my commission in the Army.   I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance.  

          It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life & all the ability I possessed.
          During the whole of that time, more than 30 years, I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors, & the most cordial friendship from my companions.   To no one Genl have I been as much indebted as to yourself for uniform kindness & consideration, & it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation.  

          I shall carry with me to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, & your name & fame will always be dear to me.   Save in the defense of my native State, I never desire again to draw my sword.
          Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness & prosperity & believe me most truly yours 
          R. E. Lee 

          Lee had spent two days thinking this through. He’d been an officer in the Army for more than 30 years, and a good one, so much so that in his days as a (brevet) colonel in the Mexican-American War Scott described him as “the very finest soldier I ever saw in the field,” while his contemporary Grant was “an untidy young captain.” His father was one of Washington’s officers (Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee), and I’m sure the irony of trying to take apart the nation his dad helped to create wasn’t lost on him. He actually wanted no part of the coming conflict as he wrote this, and didn’t want to even fight again, except to defend Virginia. Unfortunately it did in fact come to that. His views on slavery and the races were complicated, but not out of line for his time, and certainly not as unenlightened as many more southerners. He is not a simplistic traitor by any means. Others have even said he broke the oath he took upon his commissioning. Any of these issues could fill a book, or at least an article if one is not inclined to read a huge book on Lee, and you’d come away with answers, but also more questions.

          I doubt that Jim Wright, or most of the left, has/have read any such book, article, or even Lee’s resignation letter, nor would they be inclined to, since they’ve already made up their minds, the facts be damned. It’s very easy to say “Fuck x” and dismiss it with one sentence of half opinion, half obscene instructions. However, that is enshrining ignorance and arrogance: I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s the thinking that makes Irish-Americans’ brains liquefy and trickle out their ears the moment you point out that their history with England isn’t that simple. It’s the thinking that turns Christopher Columbus from bold but brutal navigator and high achiever of a brutal time to either a nothing or an architect of genocide overnight. It’s the thinking that’s led half this country to believe the president is a racist, when he’s never said a single racist thing that’s been recorded or even rumored. If you dare say anything against any of this, at best you get ignored. At worst you get shouted down:

          “Shut up! this isn’t a debate!”
          “Free speech doesn’t include hate speech!”
          “If you don’t have something liberal to say, then shut up, bigot!”

          Not too far to “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”

      • Sorry, but you attribute to Lincoln motive which he didn’t express and ignore the reasons that he did espouse and views that he did hold for wanting the preserve the Union. The Northern populace went to war not to fight slavery, not for any economic motives, but to preserve the Union.
        While there are many and complex reasons for fighting the war and for how it evolved, there is one that is simple. If there were no slavery, it is hard to conceive there would have been a Civil War. And yes, I do believe that the South was fighting to overthrow the existing United States.

        Regarding Lee and strategy — Lincoln and Grant were able to conceive and execute a strategy that encompassed the entire country. Lee never did — he was focused exclusively on the Virginia theater, and was instrumental in preventing the South from reinforcing the western theater. I believe that both his invasions of the north were strategic errors. But for all that, he was still a brilliant general.

        • The Northern populace went to war not to fight slavery, not for any economic motives, but to preserve the Union. TRUE.

          While there are many and complex reasons for fighting the war and for how it evolved, there is one that is simple. If there were no slavery, it is hard to conceive there would have been a Civil War. TRUE.

          And yes, I do believe that the South was fighting to overthrow the existing United States. I Don’t. But it was trying for a quick knockout, correctly assuming that the public would not tolerate a long war that looked like a loser. That strategy almost worked, and that it didn’t is moral luck.

          Regarding Lee and strategy — Lincoln and Grant were able to conceive and execute a strategy that encompassed the entire country. TRUE, but it also depended on the fact that it could lose soldiers and replace them, and Lee couldn’t. Once Lincoln found a general who could at least fight Lee to a draw, victory was inevitable.

          Lee never did — he was focused exclusively on the Virginia theater, and was instrumental in preventing the South from reinforcing the western theater. The South couldn’t fight a wider war. Again, it was a quick knockout strategy. Of course, Longstreet’s plan would have won: dig in, and make the North invade.

          I believe that both his invasions of the north were strategic errors. But for all that, he was still a brilliant general. EXACTLY.

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