Exploring the idea of rightness and wrongness in intent and deed.
NY Times Op-Ed contributers Nathan Thrall and Jesse James Wilkins serve up an interesting history of President JFK’s face-off with Nikita Khrushchev. If we accept their account, JFK fared poorly in the exchange because Khrushchev went on the offensive and handily routed the ill-prepared young president in their one-on-one meetings. Thrall and Wilkins indicate that it was during these meetings that Khrushchev formed a critical impression of JFK as an immature and weak leader, an impression that in part lead to his subsequent decisions to build the Berlin wall and establish a missile base in Cuba.
We’re being drawn to review this period of history because Obama has often quoted Kennedy’s view on negotiating with hostile powers, as expressed in his inaugural address: â€œLet us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.â€ The question being asked — if Obama, also young and arguably less tested than Kennedy, is so taken with Kennedy’s philosophy, would he make the same mistake?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will testify in court during the hearing of the city’s lawsuit against a Georgia gun-shop. The city claims that guns sold in the south too easily make their way into the hands of bad actors (no pun intended) who then use them to inflict harm in New York City. It’s clear from the story that this particular gun shop owner — Jay Wallace — isn’t prepared to give up without a fight and has fashioned his case quite cleverly to present himself as David against Bloomberg’s Goliath.
And in the high stakes world of Internet search engines and on-line advertising (ten years ago, who would have thunk it?) Google is set to defend a proposed deal that would have Yahoo! license and use Google’s superior ad technology. (The backdrop being that Yahoo! has resisted Microsoft’s attempts to buy it — this deal with Google would add about $1 billion a year to Yahoo!’s coffers.) There are rumblings that Google’s deal with Yahoo! would be anti-competitive and fall foul of anti-trust legislation. Google claims to have found a way to fashion the deal so that it won’t. (Coincidentally, or perhaps not at all coincidentally, as a Google Ad Sense and Ad Words participant I just received an e-mail from Google telling me that they now place ads from qualified third-parties. Effectively, they’ve started to do for others what they propose that Yahoo! will do for them… Smart strategy for avoiding anti-trust accusations.)
These three stories present internal conflicts for me, and perhaps some intrinsic philosophical conflicts between ideals and reality.
I want to believe that John F. Kennedy was the better man, the better person, I believe he had more good intent that Khrushchev. But in the wiles and wills of international political maneuvering, Khrushchev had him beat hands down. I want to believe that Obama wouldn’t make the same mistake if he sat down with Kim Yung Il or Assad, but I realize that part of Obama’s charm is that he’s not cunning. (I do hope he’s smart enough and strong enough not to sit down until he’s sure that the right ground has been prepared.) I believe that Obama is a better person than Clinton or McCain; hence, my desire to believe he’s better able to run the country.
I want to believe that Bloomberg is fighting the right fight against those who sell guns. I like Bloomberg. He seems to have all around good intentions. But in this situation, maybe he’s misjudged. Maybe Jay Wallace isn’t the right guy to go after, or maybe Jay Wallace is just better at crafting a sympathetic image.
And even though Google has become such an all-dominant behemoth, I can’t help having a soft spot for a company that has the motto — “Do no evil…” I’m rooting for them against the anti-trust watchdogs.
Sadly, life isn’t fair. Bad people do win.
His fellow Greeks trumped up charges against Socrates and he went on his way with a draught of hemlock. His dying words? “Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?” Now, show me a better man.