The Right Wing Media Tries A “Gotcha!” On Brian Williams, And Looks Ignorant, Biased And Unfair

Atom bomb cloud

Bias makes us stupid, as I write here often.

One after another,  conservative media reporters  pounced on MSNBC’s Brian Williams, the exiled ex-NBC anchorman, for saying this on the air, in a discussion about the anti-nukes movement, re-energized by President Obama’s remarks at Hiroshima:

“It is and that is still the threat that people worry about that this material will fall into the wrong hands. If people have found the U.S. to be preachy in the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the use of weapons, it’s because we’re the only nation to have used them in anger. Sometimes, I am amazed that the world has been without these weapons all the years since, but it is a point of, a great pride by the people who have seen to it.”

My God! Brian Williams, that lying liberal, actually smeared the United States and President Truman by suggesting that we dropped the atom bombs out of spite! Revenge! Hate! And he did it on Memorial Day weekend; its’ an insult to everyone who fought and died in that war!

Curis Houck, Newsbusters: “Williams  took a swipe at the entire reason that Truman had the bombs dropped (which was to end the war)”…

David Rutz, Washington Freebeacon: “MSNBC’s Brian Williams said the U.S. used nuclear weapons against Japan “in anger” Friday, an expression sure to upset those who recognize the decision potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives by bringing about a swift end to World War II.”

Matt Vespa, Town Hall: “[T]he notion that anger was seemingly the primary motivating factor in dropping atomic bombs is nonsense. We did it to end the war….”

Sarah Hoyt, Instapundit: “WHAT THE? HOW ABOUT WE USED THEM IN STRATEGY?  Do these people have to have their brains ablated before getting newsmedia jobs?…And if we had used them in anger, would they have stopped the war less?  Stopped the massacre of our troops less? Stopped the likely suicide (in case of American invasion) of Japanese citizens less?  Dear Brian Williams, get a clue.”

There is nothing quite like living up to the worst stereotypes of conservatives pushed by the liberal media. Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Week: President Obama, Threading The Needle In Hiroshima

Obama at hiroshima

“We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women, and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.”

—-President Obama, speaking at the Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park in Japan, in a controversial visit to the site of the Unites States’ decisive use of the atom bomb to defeat Japan without an invasion in 1945.

Good job. Whoever drafted the speech—it may well have been Obama himself—perfectly threaded the needle, simultaneously making a compassionate diplomatic gesture and yet including an unmistakable reference to who was really at fault for the carnage. Those Korean casualties were captured and enslaved citizens of a sovereign nation, acquired as Imperial Japan swept over Asia like locusts. Those prisoners were prisoners of war, and horribly mistreated ones.

The passage of time made Obama’s subtlety more appropriate than President Harry Truman’s typically blunt response to an Aug. 9, 1945 telegram from  Samuel Cavert, the general secretary of the Federal Council of the Churches in Christ in America, saying he was “greatly disturbed” by Truman’s use of the bomb: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Secretary of State John Kerry

Kerry Hiroshima

“It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display. It is a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries … to create and pursue a world free from nuclear weapons.”

—-Secretary of State John Kerry in Japan, as he toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum this week before meeting foreign ministers at the G-7 Summit.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to call this an unethical quote, though it is an infuriating one. It is certainly a stupid quote, but we all know John Kerry’s verbal and intellectual deficiencies, and he was indeed in a tough spot. What would have been an appropriate statement to make in this setting, that would not risk insulting his hosts and setting off yet another debate about Hiroshima that would be a distraction from the G-7 Summit’s objectives?

While I agree philosophically with the editors of the Federalist that it would have been more satisfying if Kerry had said that the display was “a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries to stop extremist regimes like Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” or perhaps that it was “a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries to ensure that we are well prepared for the next force that threatens peace,” each carried its own diplomatic and political risks. So would “Sorry you made us do this, but we didn’t bomb ourselves at Pearl Harbor,” which is what I would have been tempted to say. I’m no diplomat, however, as you may have noticed. Continue reading

A Presidents Day Celebration (PART 4 and Final): The Wild, Wild Ride From FDR to W.

smiling-presidents

All of the Presidents (except FDR) in this last section were alive and kicking while I was, and so to me they are both more real and less fascinating to some extent. Familiarity breeds, if not contempt, a tendency not to idealize. These leaders are no more flawed than their predecessors, they just seem that way thanks to mass media.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

Three terms plus, a World War, a Depression, a transformative Presidency and an epic life spent in public service: FDR is another President who can’t be summed up in an anecdote, one book, or a hundred. He accomplished enough great things to be a deserving icon; he committed enough wrongs to be judged a villain. (He was pretty clearly a sociopath, but a lot of great leaders are, including a fair proportion of ours, including some of the best.) The only completely unfair verdict on this Roosevelt is not to acknowledge the importance and complexity of his life. Here are some of my favorite items about him:

  • FDR wrote down a plan when he was still in school outlining the best way for him to become President. The plan was essentially to follow his distant cousin Theodore’s career steps: Harvard, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice-Presidential candidate, and President. (He skipped “Rough Rider.”) Amazingly, he followed it, and it worked.
  • Conventional wisdom holds that FDR’s polio transformed his character, and that without that crisis and challenge he would have been content to be a rich dilettante. I doubt it, but there is no question that he fits the Presidential survivor template, and that his ordeal made him stronger, more formidable and more determined.
  • Many Presidents had strong mothers, especially, for some reason, many of our Chief Executives from Roosevelt to Obama. Franklin’s mom, however, wins the prize. It’s amazing Eleanor didn’t murder her. But Mrs. Roosevelt is why Eleanor was there in the first place: all of our Presidents raised by strong mothers married very strong wives.
  • If a computer program were designed to create the perfect American leader, it would give us FDR. He was the complete package; his charisma, charm and power radiate from recordings and films that are 90 years old. That smile! That chin! That head! That voice! He is one of the very few Presidents who would be just as  popular and effective today as the era in which he lived.
  • And just as dangerous. FDR is also a template for an American dictator, which, I believe, he would have been perfectly willing to be. It’s no coincidence that Franklin was the only President to break Washington’s wise tradition of leaving office after two terms.
  • Political and philosophical arguments aside, at least four of Roosevelt actions as President were horrific, and would sink the reputation of most leaders: 1) Imprisoning Japanese-Americans (and German-Americans, too); 2) Ignoring the plight of European Jews as long as he did, when it should have been clear what was going on; 3) Handing over Eastern Europe to Stalin, and 4) Knowing how sick he was, giving little thought or care to who his running mate was in 1944.
  • Balancing all that, indeed outweighing it, is the fact that the United States of America and quite possibly the free world might not exist today if this unique and gifted leader were not on the scene. Three times in our history, the nation’s existence depended on not just good leadership, but extraordinary leadership, and all three times, the leader we needed emerged: Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin. I wouldn’t count on us being that lucky again.

I left the bulk of reflection about the character and leadership style of Theodore Roosevelt to one of Teddy’s own speeches to embody, and I’ll do the same for his protege.

On September 23, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech at Manhattan’s Commonwealth Club. (Everyone, conservative, liberal or moderate, should read it….here.) It was a defining statement of progressive principles and modern liberalism, redefining core American values according to the perceived needs of a changing nation and culture.  It is a radical speech, and would be regarded as radical by many today, even after much of what Roosevelt argued was reflected in the policies of the New Deal.

After sketching the origins and progress of the nation to the present, he flatly stated that the Founders’ assumptions no longer applied:

A glance at the situation today only too clearly indicates that equality of opportunity as we have know it no longer exists. Our industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been reached, and there is practically no more free land. More than half of our people do not live on the farms or on lands and cannot derive a living by cultivating their own property. There is no safety valve in the form of a Western prairie to which those thrown out of work by the Eastern economic machines can go for a new start. We are not able to invite the immigration from Europe to share our endless plenty. We are now providing a drab living for our own people….

Just as freedom to farm has ceased, so also the opportunity in business has narrowed. It still is true that men can start small enterprises, trusting to native shrewdness and ability to keep abreast of competitors; but area after area has been preempted altogether by the great corporations, and even in the fields which still have no great concerns, the small man starts with a handicap. The unfeeling statistics of the past three decades show that the independent business man is running a losing race. Perhaps he is forced to the wall; perhaps he cannot command credit; perhaps he is “squeezed out,” in Mr. Wilson’s words, by highly organized corporate competitors, as your corner grocery man can tell you.

Recently a careful study was made of the concentration of business in the United States. It showed that our economic life was dominated by some six hundred odd corporations who controlled two-thirds of American industry. Ten million small business men divided the other third. More striking still, it appeared that if the process of concentration goes on at the same rate, at the end of another century we shall have all American industry controlled by a dozen corporations, and run by perhaps a hundred men. Put plainly, we are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already.

Clearly, all this calls for a re-appraisal of values.

So Franklin Roosevelt re-appraised them: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever'”

Atom bomb cloud

Responding to according2grayson’s passionate defense of non-violence and the Golden Rule while encountering bullies (as well as while opposing despots on the march), Steve-O-in-NJ enriched Ethics Alarms with an epic response including historical perspective, ethics and personal experience.

Here is his terrific post—long but not to be missed—and the Comment of the Day, on Comment of the Day: “An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever”:

I question this litany of life experiences, since it sounds a bit too pat and a bit too neat to be real, or at least it sounds sanitized/incomplete. Those with truly outstanding records usually don’t feel the need to trumpet them. That said, I wasn’t there, so maybe it is all true.

I know I tried the non-violent approach a few times, and it just lead to more bullying. I also tried the fight-back approach, smashing one bully’s head against the sidewalk and nearly strangling another, and it frankly didn’t get much more done beyond getting the bullies off my back temporarily. That said, a temporary respite from abuse is better than absorbing abuse every day without a respite. What really broke one group of problem people was a combination of finally going to the authorities and the people overreaching.Despite the justified criticism of Catholic schools (a whole separate discussion), they did have one very big thing going for them: no one who was enrolled had to be, or had any right to be, and dismissal or necessary discipline was easily accomplished. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Follow Up and Clarification On The Hiroshima Apology Cable: I Was Wrong, I Apologize…and More”

Rick Jones, whose blog is a constant source of information, provocation and thoughtfulness, generously contributes his analysis to the botched Hiroshima apology story in this Comment of the Day.  To summarize: here and elsewhere, a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable from 2009  prompted a stampede of mostly conservative news sources to report that President Obama had suggested the possibility of apologizing for the atom bombing of Hiroshima in World War II.  I encountered the story, tracked it in several sources that have proven reliable in the past, and commented on it, critically. About 24 hours later, a friend with impeccable diplomatic credentials and inside information properly chastised me for taking the bait, and offered conclusive evidence that the cable had been misinterpreted. You might want to read my post of last night apologizing to readers and the President that also raises the issues that Rick addresses in his Comment of the Day. I have a follow-up comment at the end:

“While I admire your acceptance of responsibility for what appears to have been a misinterpretation, your commentary raises other issues. Continue reading

Follow Up and Clarification On The Hiroshima Apology Cable: I Was Wrong, I Apologize…and More

This is my indignation going up in smoke.

There are certain advantages that come from making an incorrect conclusion and publicizing it: sometimes you learn something valuable.

Here’s what I have learned about the diplomatic cable discussed in my post, “How Do I Write A Measured Ethical Analysis When I Am Shaking With Indignation and Rage?“:

1. The officer was reporting a hypothetical situation that the Japanese government official raised during the planning stage of the Obama’s visit.

2. The White House never proposed an apology. The fear of the Japanese was that if he went to Hiroshima, some groups within the country would expect an apology.

3.This key paragraph contains the officer’s assurance to the American Ambassador that the Japanese government would prevent any call, from the Japanese, for a public Presidential apology.

I have all of this from a reliable, credible diplomatic source who I know personally and who was in Japan at the time the cable was sent. This is no credit to me: I received an e-mail that said, in effect, “You Moron! You have no idea how to read diplomatic cables!!! Here’s what really happened…” Continue reading