Memorial Day: Anderson Cooper gets it right!

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2012

Children describe fallen dads: We aren’t big fans of Anderson Cooper. For one thing, he sometimes airs Tom Foreman.

But Cooper showed up for work last night—and he aired the loveliest Memorial Day segment we’ve ever seen. This was his introduction:
COOPER (5/28/12): In Washington this Memorial Day, family members of fallen service members gathered by for a seminar organized by TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. It includes a camp for kids who had a parent killed in the line duty.

Here are some of their stories.
With that, Cooper played tape of about a dozen kids remembering their fallen dads. Their ages ranged from 7 to maybe 17. This is the way it began:
MCKENZIE STODDARD, DAUGHTER OF ARMY STAFF SGT. JAMES STODDARD: My dad died when I was 13 months in 2005. It really makes me sad when I think of him. We have lots of things of him like pillows and blankets. We even have a poster of him in our room. He is always in my heart.

CALEB ELLEDGE, SON OF ARMY STAFF SGT. MICHAEL ELLEDGE: He would lead me to the biggest wave he could find and then he'd let me boogie board down that.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE (laughing): When he played the guitar, he was really bad, so we all had to run up into our rooms and had to shut the door.

MYA WILLIAMS: We would always—we would go around the zoo and I would be on his shoulders.

MEGAN STODDARD, DAUGHTER OF ARMY STAFF SGT. JAMES STODDARD: He liked to joke around. He was really funny.

JAY STODDARD: The awesomest guy I ever met.

CALEB ELLEDGE: Back in the army he held his own religious service with a lot of other soldiers where he was the pastor. He would preach to all the soldiers and tell them that they're in good hands with God.

C. L. FRY, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ: He was a Marine, and he was really nice.
We’re very glad we saw this segment. To watch the full segment, just click here. For liberals, we would offer this framework:

In terms of their cultural orientation, these children seem to come from different types of homes. Many other children share their situation, of course.

When we teach ourselves to hate tea-baggers, we’re almost surely training ourselves to hate some of these children’s families. Is there a way to promote progressive values without training ourselves to do that?


  1. Quaker in a BasementMay 29, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    At times like these, I like to remember old Studs Terkel. There's not a so-called progressive on the entire internet fit tie Terkel's shoes. By today's standards, Terkel was the leftiest of lefties.

    Nevertheless, Terkel could sit down and talk, person to person, with anybody, any time. He demonstrated endless respect for his fellow Americans, even the ones he disagreed with.

    Maybe someday I'll get to be that kind of liberal.

    1. It's a worthy goal. But the trick is to not lose sight of your own values while doing it. Respect, yes. Compromise, no.

    2. And Studs Terkel won how many votes?

    3. Studs Terkel won my vote. He was a good man; I agree with the Quaker.

    4. Studs Terkel won my vote. He was a good man; I agree with the Quaker.

  2. The answer to Mr. Bob's question -- unless his media criticism reforms the other side first -- is "no". In case he hasn't noticed, communication in a mass-society is not at the personal level.

    Note also that many of those charming red-state children will grow up to have preposterously inaccurate views of what and who liberals are. If there's a better case than Obama, of somebody going out of his way to pander to/conciliate this crowd, and who's a red-stater at heart in any case, what would you have him or her do? And what's been Obama's reward for trying, apart from being deemed a Muslim, a socialist and Kenyan-born?

    The question Mr. Somerby *should* be asking is, can we, or should we, learn to love the Koch brothers because, like it or not, the party which turns out its base wins elections, and winning an election is only way to govern, and we're running not against the Republican du jour, but against Koch & Co.

    1. I think it was Chuck Todd this morning who played a campaign commercial for one of the Texas Senate GOP primary candidates in which he lambased his opponent for being a "moderate."

      "Moderate", folks. As in "moderate Republican" -- the new cuss word in your new GOP, just like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. turned "liberal" into a cuss word.

      Now how much "respect" am I to give people who think like that? Who would devour members of their own party for being "moderate"?

    2. Anyone who uses " moderate" as a pejorative is obviously unworthy of being treated as fully human.

  3. But contempt feels so gooooood! The opportunity to feel contempt is the only reason I'm interested in politics. Some people watch football or basketball or baseball or hockey. I watch politics. And nothing feels better for me than to sneer at other people. I'm a "left wing" version of a dittohead -- or I would be, but I'm much too superior and smart to be a dittohead.

    1. Except, of course, you're not a "left-wing" version of anything. Rather, it would seem you're a fellow who has such tremendous contempt for the intelligence of liberals that you expect to pass yourself off as yet another one of those repentant improbable "life-long Democrats" who is somehow horrified, truly horrified, that the party you once loved isn't sufficiently Republican in these terrible times and isn't sufficiently admiring of the Limbaugh/Hannity audience to learn a thing or two.

    2. @May 29, 2012 1:17 PM

      I was going to ask if it was possible for you to concoct a more odd and off-topic reply, but a little reflection told me the answer already: "yes." But the next step down would involve allegations of racism.

  4. I don't hate the tea-baggers as people. I hate most of what they believe. If they would stop believing those things, or at least stop trying to make me believe them and/or force me to live my life in accordance with them, we'd get along fine.

    I'm sure the reverse is true, as well.

    1. Anon 12:43 -- I'm glad you don't hate tea partiers as people, but only hate what (you think) they believe in. I wonder if you have been given a wrong idea of what they believe in. Tea Partiers believe that the government should stop growing, because the deficit it too high and because taxes shouldn't be increased. TEA is an acronym for "Taxed Enough Already." I can understand why you might disagree with those positions, but I can't see where they're hateful.

      I don't think the reverse is true -- certainly not for me. I don't hate liberals nor do I hate liberal positions; I just don't think they'll work. E.g., I have no doubt that you truly care about the well-being of the poor and disadvantaged. I feel the same way. However, I think those groups would not be better served by a larger government.

      BTW "tea-bagging" is a deviant sexual practice. Calling someone a "tea bagger" is like calling him a "cock-sucker" or like calling a Jew a "Kike".

    2. Hey Dave? Care to tell me where all these Tea Party people were when Dubya was expanding government bigger than a hot air balloon and turning a surplus budget in to deficits his own daddy didn't even dream of?

      Here is what the Tea Party really wants: All of the benefits, but none of the sacrifice.

      Heck, Grover Norquist's No New Taxes pledge wouldn't even allow Dubya to raise the money to fight two wars. He just pushed the costs off on your grandchildren.

      But was there a Tea Party movement then? Nope, because the big funders of this Astroturf movement got their big payoffs in tax cuts. We got ours now, who cares what that cost future generations?

    3. There was a Tea Party then. It was called the Republican Party. They just changed their name when Bush made calling oneself "a Republican" toxic. Same failed ideology, same funding, same people. The media is trying to pass them off as different, and they're hoping the tri-corner hats will confuse you enough to believe them.

  5. Man, Bob must have had a lot of help to hoist up that huge of Straw man....genuinely moving, sweet, and sad, children aside. Way aside.

  6. You know, many of us liberals had relatives in the service. The men like my Dad who won WWII came home and wrote "Catch-22" and "Sgt. Bilko" , knowing that the Military was the last thing that deserved endless, sappy sentimentality. Never more than in recent years has our Military done damage to our national welfare; and never has our Military been the true third rail of our political exchange. The hellish situation we created in Iraq is totally ignored. It is a lot easier to parse through the obviously idiotic Gail Collins than examine Maddow's rather unprecedented "Drift." Today, as W was so apt to do, Somerby hides his foolishness behind the soldiers.

  7. I think the point Bob is making here, and has made repeatedly elsewhere, lines up nicely with Jonathan Haidt's work on moral psychology. Haidt identifies five foundations of morality that seem to recur throughout history and across cultures:

    1. Harm/care: Concerns for the suffering of others,
    including virtues of caring and compassion.

    2. Fairness/reciprocity: Concerns about unfair treatment,
    cheating, and more abstract notions of justice and

    3. Ingroup/loyalty: Concerns related to obligations of
    group membership, such as loyalty, self - sacrifice, and
    vigilance against betrayal.

    4. Authority/respect: Concerns related to social order
    and the obligations of hierarchical relationships, such
    as obedience, respect, and the fulfillment of role - based

    5. Purity/sanctity: Concerns about physical and spiritual
    contagion, including virtues of chastity, wholesomeness,
    and control of desires.

    There is some reason to believe that these have been selected for as part of our evolutionary heritage as intensely social primates, but that's another story. The point Haidt makes is that conservative morality tends to range across all five foundations while liberals limit themselves to the first two, for the most part, and often reject the remaining three as having nothing to do with morality at all.

    In practice, however, liberals do moralize about purity, for example, but not when it comes to sex, as do conservatives, but more typically when it comes to food. Or, to take another example, when it comes to hierarchy, liberals get squeamish, at least in theory; I work at a university that is full of dyed-in-the-wool liberals, like myself, but universities are incredibly hierarchical institutions.

    So perhaps instead of characterizing the last three moral foundations as the obsessions of xenophobes, authoritarians, and prudes, we might recognize the ways in which liberals actually do have positions on these issues and then argue the merits of those positions. For example, I do believe that opposition to gay marriage is misguided. But if I start out with the assumption that anyone who has concerns over purity/sanctity is a moron, I won't make much headway.

    So Bob Somerby's question makes sense to me:

    "When we teach ourselves to hate tea-baggers, we’re almost surely training ourselves to hate some of these children’s families. Is there a way to promote progressive values without training ourselves to do that?"

    It's an important question, and a deeply humane one as well. Liberals ignore it at our own peril.

    Here's a link to a talk by Haidt that explains it better than I can:

    1. And all this while, I mistakenly thought that the main danger to liberalism in the U.S. was lack of corporate funding for liberalism, corporate media control which keeps left-wing points of view out of the national discourse, the remarkable disinclination of claimed liberal politicians to engage in hardball politics, and a thoroughly corrupt system of privately financing campaigns, system which ensures that well over 90% of elections are won by the candidate with the most large-donor funds.

      Now, thanks to this blog, I learn that it's all the fault of my bad attitude and my fellow sneering liberals, as imagined by non-liberals!

      But hell -- since liberals have the truth on their side, they really don't need that money and the readiness to fight! Just top hating the tea-party, and respect the opposition, no matter how they may regard you, and those votes will just roll in!

    2. "In practice, however, liberals do moralize about purity, for example, but not when it comes to sex, as do conservatives, but more typically when it comes to food."

      Good lordy! We do get to make stuff up, don't we?

      Let me surprise you sonny boy by telling you this particular "liberal" has been faithful to his wife, and she to him, for a few decades now, and guess what? We are not alone.

      So kindly keep your projections about other people's sex lives based on their political ideology to yourself, lest you prove how foolish you are by opening your yap.

    3. By the way, how many wives have noted conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich been "pure" with, since they give purity in sex all that thought.

  8. Anon 5:28 PM: Sounds kinda trolley to me. The word Liberal is in quotes.

    1. I put the word liberal in quotes so he could make up any connotation he wanted. Like you did.

      My first vote for president was for George McGovern, and I never voted for a Republican for president before. Not even come close.

      Are those bonafides enough for you, or do I have to recount my days protesting Vietnam, and dozens of other causes today including nuclear proliferation, and massive spending on military at the expense of the social safety net?

  9. There are liberals in the military, notwithstanding the recent Gallup poll results. (Earlier poll results were more favorable to Obama.) It is a problem though, and that is the reason I want to return to the draft. Any future endeavors like Iraq and Afghanistan must be shared across all social, economic and political segments of the population. I hope that will put the necessary juice into the system to rein in the politicians. Of course people across the spectrum got around the draft in Vietnam, but we have to start somewhere.

  10. Bob has a point, that military brats might become tea partiers.
    Many military brats are conservative. They learned it from their fathers and occasionally their mothers.
    Military personnel and Tea parties share a common element of Uber Patriotism. They agree that they love America more than the Democrats and other liberals.
    Many of the Tea Party propaganda e-mails were couched in a “Support our Troops” message, and many active duty personnel and veterans and their brats forwarded the propaganda as if were simply a tribute to the troops.

    Some were outright falsehoods and extremely hateful.
    For instance, one was a GI eyewitness describing how Hillary Clinton pushed her way in front of combat troops in the chow line so she could eat first. Another was how candidate Obama snubbed troops while he played basketball at their gym, which held up the chow line so hungry combat troops were sent away without a meal.

    This symbiotic relationship between the military and conservatives goes back a long way.
    Perhaps Samuel Johnson was commenting on this very phenomenon when he said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
    Except now, it is the first refuge. The message is that people that condemn the wars that our troops fight in also condemn the troops.

    Nixon used this tactic against liberals, so did Reagan, so did Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.
    I won’t go so far as to say that military brats will automatically become Tea Partiers, but the groundwork is certainly laid.
    What Bob seems to forget is that the propaganda machine of the Tea Party is much larger, much more disciplined and much more hateful than the contempt liberals display for the right wing extremists.
    The contempt is not so much for the individuals, but for their blithe ignorance of the consequences of their political and economic philosophies.
    Nevertheless, the Tea Party is very good at pointing out the motes in liberal’s eyes, while ignoring the beams in their own. Too good.

  11. There is a general civility problem in the country, and some of it might fairly be traced to the sometimes funny smart assity of the sixties left. But to single Lefties out (spend an hour on the website of the truly revolting and racist Dennis Miller sometime)at this point is unfair, and to couch it in terms of Memorial day is perverse.

    1. I will call your own tired sterotyping and ask WHO is doing all this? The Feminazis? The Elitist? WHICH term was roundly, and with MUCH self satisfied snobbory, DEMONIZED in our lifetimes? INDEED would TDH feel comfortable dismissing conservative arguements as merely the nonsense of LIZARD BRAINS? It's a little late in the day to be blaming Limbaugh on the left. The term I illuded to was LIBERAL. The idea that liberals are the bigots is only pimped by very stupid liberals.

    2. Greg, the issue here isn't either side's lack of civility, its the elitism, contempt, condescension and general lack of empathy that exists on the left toward conservatives, republicans, tea-partiers, the religious, the non-college educated and, to a certain extent, anyone not from big cities on the coasts. I think, and I imagine Bob would agree, that this is a huge problem for progressives, because we allegedly are all about "the common man." Yet, do we even like the common man?

    3. I want to add that this is something I have been just as guilty of, and am attempting to repent of. It may be a little easier for me because I am located in a very red state. Virtually my entire family, and most of my friends and colleagues, are conservative republicans. Despite that, the vast majority are friendly, intelligent, decent people with good senses of humor, hardly the stereotype of the fire breathing neanderthals we progressives like to pleasure ourselves with.

  12. Anonymous 4:45--I agree with you that a willingness to fight is important. I just think it makes sense to fight smart by making use of an empirically based moral psychology.

    And by the way, I think both Haidt and myself would consider ourselves liberals (unless we've been voted off the island without our knowledge).

    Anonymous 5:28--Congratulations on your long, successful marriage. That is an achievement to be proud of. I don't think Haidt is making an argument that conservatives are more faithful in marriage (I certainly don't think the data back that up), but rather that conservatives think about marriage in terms of purity and as a result tend to think of "the sanctity of marriage" as something that can be polluted, whereas liberals find it ridiculous to imagine that gay marriage, for example, could in some way damage the institution of heterosexual marriage. Anyway, Haidt could be wrong, for all I know, but I find his ideas provocative. Check out the link I posted above and perhaps you will too.

    1. If one of the key points of Haidt's work is that liberals are more "pure" in food, while conservatives are more "pure" in sex, then I won't bother reading any more of it. It's beyond silly.

      I will, however, remain open to the possibility that it is your misinterpretation of his work as you look for easy ways to stereotype both sides in avoidance of deeper thinking.

      I have also run into lots of people on forums who seek to give their own arguments deeper weight by citing a scholarly source. Like when more extreme liberals would say, "Noam Chomsky once wrote . . ." then come up with something that bore no resemblance to anything Chomsky ever wrote, but fit the rather weak argument they were attempting to make rather nicely.

      The thing is, people and issues evolve over time. And people are complicated creatures. The same person could be quite "conservative" on some issues, such as a strong national defense, and quite "liberal" on others, such as gay marriage particularly when you take into their personal closeness to the issue.

      For example, Dick Cheney favors gay marriage. I guess that makes him impure sexually. I wonder what he thinks about the fact that the steak he carves into isn't from a diseased cow. If he is in favor of that as well, I guess he must be a bomb-throwing radical.

    2. Actually, Haidt doesn't argue that "liberals are more "pure" in food, while conservatives are more "pure" in sex."

      If you want to debate Haidt why don't you read him and get back to me. Then we can have a discussion about whether I've misinterpreted him.

  13. By the way, if Bob really wants to see a heartfelt tribute to the families of the war dead, he should check out Joe Biden's speech from last Friday.

    No flag-waving, no pseudo-patriotism as if that could ease the pain in any way. Just words from the heart from a person who has buried a spouse and a child.

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