So long and thanks for all the fish

December 28, 2011

Pundits, columnists and editorialists are good at saying who and what they don’t like. But what is it that they do like? All opinion-makers should be required to pen regular accounts of who and what they admire. As my two-year stint as a Reuters weekly columnist concludes – you’re not out of the woods, I may pop up occasionally – let me offer an incomplete accounting of ideas, organizations and people I view as worthy of praise:

World Vision: Many Christians conveniently ignore Jesus’s teachings about the poor. Many Americans don’t care about the billion people globally who are impoverished. World Vision, an evangelical organization, combats both problems by working to end poverty in developing nations. World Vision has done more to help the global poor than most governments, is pragmatic regarding economics, and its staffers don’t proselytize. There are few organizations one can admire without reservation: World Vision is one.

Barack Obama: His “next year we will get serious about the national debt” act is wearing thin. But in the main, Obama has been a good president – and Americans are turning post-racial so quickly that already we seem to shrug about the incredible historic significance of an African-American in the Oval Office.

Obama took command of the country at a low point: a deep recession, a costly quagmire in Iraq. If he’d come onto the national stage under the conditions encountered by the previous two chief executives – Bill Clinton took the White House at the start of an economic boom, George W. Bush took the White House just before 9-11, which ensured him a five-year honeymoon as the nation rallied – Obama might already be viewed as a great president. And he might still cross that threshold. ObamaCare was a major legislative achievement, and though it has bureaucratic-nightmare potential, bear in mind that few of its advantages have yet taken effect.

Doctors Without Borders: In the parts of the developing world where there are medical emergencies, workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres are viewed as saints walking among men. That’s the way I feel, too.

Cass Sunstein: Obama’s regulatory czar wants regulations to be necessary and cost-effective, which offends both ideological extremes. He’s doing a fine job.

Third Way: The Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute continue to do good work. But Third Way is the future of think tanks, focused on pragmatic solutions, not panel discussions.

International Justice Mission: Founded just 14 years ago, IJM already has achieved results in pressuring the legal systems of African, Asian and South American countries to recognize human rights and to take concrete action against human trafficking, government corruption and police brutality.

Red Cross/Red Crescent/Red Star of David: The structure of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Star of David societies can be confusing. But in a world of situation ethics and I’ve-got-mine-Jack, the brave personnel of these organizations represent the embodiment of selfless virtue.

Stephen Carter: Author of important nonfiction books, of bestselling novels and a chaired law professor at Yale University, for my money Carter is the nation’s leading public intellectual. A political and religious moderate – not many Ivy League professors have written a column for Christianity Today, which is traditionalist on spiritual issues and liberal on social questions – Carter is a fine candidate for a Supreme Court opening. Yes, he writes novels that contain conspiracies, including an evil Supreme Court justice. They’re novels! Surely even the Senate Judiciary Committee can understand the difference between scholarship and entertainment. Carter would bring to the highest court intellectual heft, equability and humility, all of which the Supremes need.

The deficit commission report: It’s the map for the only clear path out of America’s primary domestic problem.

Berea College: Founded to aid the poor of Appalachia, Berea College is a private institution that does not charge tuition. “Financial need” is a requirement for admission. As top colleges and universities increasingly become preserves of the well-off, Berea College tirelessly works to end college-based class distinctions.

Mitt Romney: So he flip-flops. If this is the worst thing about him, he’s a welcome addition to national politics. Romney has been a success as a business and a government executive. He behaves honorably and treats others with respect. At a time when American discourse grows bitter and divisive, an Obama-Romney presidential race could set an example for high-minded public behavior.

The Pew Charitable Trusts: The Pew Trusts is the nation’s leading progressive philanthropy, campaigning for reform in health care, the environment, energy policy and other subjects. Its divisions concerned with state government and public opinion do great jobs. The founding impulse of Pew was a left-wing Christian – a flavor missing in national discourse. Its president, Rebecca Rimel, is a self-made woman who began her career as a nurse.

Reuters readers: I thank all readers who followed this column. You’re number one on my list of What I Like.

PHOTO: People stand together as they create the biggest human smiley in the world on the Zagreb main square May 6, 2011.

15 comments

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Sad to see ya go. You really need to start your own blog. I love you on TMQ but sometimes I like to read you without the football.

Posted by berkyjay | Report as abusive

Mitt Romney? It’s sad that journalists feel a need to balance anything positive said about anything having to do with Democrats or the left (your inclusion of Obama on this list) with something from the right. If there is something from the right that is deserving of praise, then by all means do so. But to label Mitt Romney as honorable?

You dismiss his flipflopping as if it was a peccadillo such as an inability to tell good jokes, but Romney’s flipflopping exposes a fundamental flaw in the man’s character which is essential for good leadership: he lacks any sincere sense of conviction. Romney has indisputably demonstrated that he will say whatever he thinks is conducive to winning whatever election he happens to be running in, whether it’s running for governor of Massachusetts, at which time he espoused moderate “beliefs” or running in a Republican Presidential primary, during which he now claims to be a hard right conservative.

As if this alone isn’t bad enough, Romney has also demonstrated a propensity to flat out lie about his opponents, in this case Obama. Mr. Easterbrook, are you not familiar with the ad the Romney campaign ran in which they attribute a quote to Obama that was, in truth, a quote made by John McCain? Obama was addressing the quote made by McCain and the Romney camp presented it as if it was Obama expressing himself. It was unequivocally intended to deceive the American people. Deceiving the American people is honorable? Romney also claims that Obama travels around the world apologizing for America; he claims that Obama is trying to use government to create equal financial outcomes for all people, aka, socialism; Romney claims that Obama is hostile to capitalism and intends to “put free enterprise on trial”; Romney recently claimed that Obama is pursuing policies that Obama “knows” are bad for the country; Romney has been spreading the lie that Obama has slashed defense spending, when the truth is that defense spending has increased under Obama; Romney lies about Obama burdening businesses with increased regulations: “The rate of regulatory burden has increased four-fold since Obama has become president. Four times the amount of regulation coming out per year as in the past. And so businesses say, ‘gosh, I’m not sure I want to invest in America,”; he lies about Obama’s job creation record: “…25 million people are out of work because of Barack Obama…he[Obama] has not created any jobs.”

How can you defend this sort of scurrilous behavior, Mr. Easterbrook? Do you really want to end your 2 year stint on Reuters making the claim that chronically lying is honorable behavior? We shouldn’t be encouraging this kind of behavior. We need to be calling it out and discouraging it at every opportunity. I usually enjoy your op-ed pieces, but this was irresponsible. And I would encourage you to do the same if Obama makes statements that are so blatantly false about Romney. But to be honest, I just don’t hear Obama saying, “Romney is determined to make America fail,” or “Romney wants to see Americans starving in the streets.

Really, Mr. Easterbrook. As a journalist it’s irresponsible not to call Romney out on his chronic lying, but to actually go to the other extreme and praise him for his high-mindedness: “He behaves honorably and treats others with respect. At a time when American discourse grows bitter and divisive, an Obama-Romney presidential race could set an example for high-minded public behavior.” You couldn’t be more wrong and I can’t imagine you not realizing that.

Mitt Romney promises to make the swiftboat lies that Bush used against John Kerry look like a little white lie. This is grossly irresponsible on your part, Mr. Easterbrook. I’m so sick and tired of journalists kowtowing to the right, putting aside the truth and your own ethics in the name of appearing “fair and balanced” for the benefit of your own career. It’s not inaccurate to point out that there were undoubtedly voices in the media in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power who presented the Nazi platform as reasonable with the intention of preserving as many career opportunities in the media as possible. Even here in the United States we saw the news media shirk their responsibility to accurately report the truth during Bush’s run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Everything the Bush administration told Americans about Iraq and a war with Iraq was a lie. Our country, and particularly the soldiers who lost their lives and limbs in that war, paid a very heavy price, in part, for the news media’s unwillingness to properly do their jobs. So all I ask, Mr. Easterbrook, is that you properly do your job and adhere to the truth, even when it’s not popular.

Posted by doggydaddy | Report as abusive

Mr. Easterbrook, thank you for the positive notes and for your writing over the past two years.

Incidentally, you were right to include Romney here. Many people (including myself) do not like him. But that is kind of the point in reconciliation. Giving a little. Kind of like agreeing with your nephew to have breakfast at McDonald’s instead of your favorite diner. You get a little sick and then it’s over. Then you have a proper dinner with greens that evening. No one gets hurt.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

And that effectively sums it up.

A dyed in the wool lefty who patronizingly includes Romney. And that is why Reuters is such a terrible news service – it tilts always to the left. There is no attempt at balance or even-handedness, always left, left, left because you see: though know more than we do.

Recall the recent Israeli-Lebanon war where one of their photographers was caught photoshopping shots of the war that, of course, put the Israeli’s in a bad light.

I wrote to Reuters eight times asking about the incident and whether this was unique of whether other correspondents did the same. I am still waiting for an answer.

A pox on lefty Easterbrook and a pox on Reuters.

Posted by eleno | Report as abusive

You’re leaving?

Thank God Reuters editors have finally come to their senses.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

So, Gordon2352, what don’t you like about Mr. Easterbrook, and why have you continued to read him? I bookmarked this site just a week ago because of his great stuff in TMQ and the one book I’ve read. His willingness to a) upbraid those on either/both sides of an issue and b) see past the screaming and/or soundbite banalities coming from the mouths of politicians and their minions makes him one of a very small minority among columnists. It’s a shame that you, like far too many people in today’s discourse, can’t appreciate that.

Posted by CIbrate | Report as abusive

I’ll look for you in the cyber world.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

A note from the editor: In the 2006 photo incident to which eleno refers, the images were killed, the stringer fired and a new photoshop procedure put in place. Here’s a story about it http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/reuters _purges_all_920_adnan_hajj_photos_from_d atabase/

Posted by jledbet | Report as abusive

Thank you, Reuters (jledbet) for clarifying that for readers. Mistakes happen and we can’t always prevent them before they occur. All we can do is rectify the situation as best we can after the fact, which Reuters has done. Thanks for that.

I also want to make something of my own clear. I obviously take issue with Gregg Easterbrook’s praise of Mitt Romney. Far too much known about the man had to be ignored in order to present Romney as an honorable candidate for the Presidency of the United States. I’ve always been a passionate advocate for the naked truth. However, Gregg Easterbrook is one of the best editorial writers in the business.

For starters, Easterbrook is a good writer. He knows well how to turn a phrase and he’s adroitly incisive in making his points. He also has a fair and effectively analytical mind which comes through in his op-ed pieces with great aplomb. And it doesn’t hurt that I usually agree with the man, just not when it comes to Mitt :O)

As a regular Reuters reader I hope to continue seeing your pieces appear here, Gregg Easterbrook, and elsewhere in print and across the blogosphere. Thanks for all the excellent, thought-provoking op-eds. Keep writing and keep putting your work out there for us to read. I wish you all the best as you continue forward.

Posted by doggydaddy | Report as abusive

Sad to see you go. Can’t say I see things eye to eye with you on everything, but that is part of why I like reading you. You don’t broaden your own perspective by simply reading things that you agree with. Best of luck to you and yours.

Posted by AustinG | Report as abusive

doggy,

You seem to take everything said on a left wing blog as being true. How does intelligent conversation take place between someone like you and a similar person who takes as fact everything on a right wing site? Do you counter their the President isn’t a citizen with Bush planned 9/11? In what way would it be possible for either of you to ever hold your own side accountable due to the way that you view the other side? I would recommend broadening your perspective if you don’t want to simply be a tool for other people’s agendas. Something resembling holding both sides to the same standard would be a start. If Mitt Romney is a “liar” from what you mentioned then someone could call the President the same if they listened to ANY single speech he has given.

Posted by AustinG | Report as abusive

In answer to CIbrate, I don’t read him because he is an opinionated moron.

I just happened to see the announcement and wanted to say “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.

Reuters articles aren’t exactly exactly of the highest quality journalism to begin with, but this guy and a couple of others are even below their low standards.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

In answer to CIbrate, I don’t read him because he is an opinionated moron.

I just happened to see the announcement and wanted to say “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.

Reuters articles aren’t exactly exactly of the highest quality journalism to begin with, but this guy and a couple of others are even below their low standards.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

I like how the facists call any non biased news organization ‘left leaning’. Not enough of that preachy ‘were republican and better than you’ news they’re used to.

Posted by BakoD | Report as abusive

I appreciated your suggestions for donations, some of which I’ve signed up for or will do after my next paycheck. Can I also recommend The Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – I don’t think any single charity has saved more lives in history; recent research showed a) negatively, that malaria had a greater penetration rate amongst the adult non-elderly population than previously thought, but; b) that the epidemic appears to have peaked in 2004, with drugs provided principally by the Global Fund and partner organisations having successfully helped start to bring this human disaster under control. Extremely worthy cause.

Thanks for all the great articles Greg. Looking forward to seeing you at the restaurant at the end of the universe, please ask Elvis to keep a hit or two waiting for me buddy.

Posted by Aman1 | Report as abusive