At a dark moment in American history, Franklin Roosevelt said to the American people: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Compare these words from Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural speech, spoken when the nation was in the midst of a frightening economic depression, to comments from Donald Rumsfeld, who as secretary of defense in 2006 instructed his staff on how to respond to a demand for his resignation: “Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists.”
Roosevelt inspired a nation to embrace the future with hope; Rumsfeld promoted a strategy of fear. The details of this memo, one of many Rumsfeld missives to his staff that were obtained by the Washington Post, were reported by staff writer Robin Wright (November 1).
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).