I’ll admit to having been fascinated by the Scott Peterson trial…this seemingly “normal” young man with his pregnant lovely wife. How did those last horrific moments come about? What did he say? What did she? What was in his mind as he watched her die? I would wonder how he rationalized snuffing her life and the life of his child? If one could ever get the truth from him, what would he say? What was he thinking? How does someone like this form a personal defense… even to his own self?
Nowadays I think this same way about Robert Steel and Dick Brodhead. What’s the emotional and moral make-up of folks like this? I’ll confess I’ve never met either of them. I bet they are charming at cocktail parties and impressive in their insular little world, okay…fine. But everything I ever needed to know about either of them, I learned , if true and accurate, in the written summary of the third lawsuit.
Let’s start with Steel. Jason Trumpbour relays a conversation with Steel that just might be the most stunning moral indictment of the current Duke leadership to date. Now, stay with me here. Trumpbour tells us Steel felt it would be best FOR DUKE if Collin, Reade, and Dave…WENT TO TRIAL. Best for Duke. Say that again: “BEST FOR DUKE.” If convicted, he shrugged, “it would all be sorted out on appeal.”
Who thinks like that?
What kind of man thinks like that?
I can’t even type that without stopping to take a deep, outraged breath. Imagine you are the Finnertys, or the Evans. Or the Seligmanns. Your child, your boy, already scourged, and branded, and sullied by an outrageous LIE, would best serve the University’s interest by going TO TRIAL, perhaps being convicted of a felony and imprisoned in some hellhole. This is the measured, moral opinion of the chairman of the Board of Trustees at his school. It would be BEST for Duke for your INNOCENT child, your ravaged family to endure a TRIAL. And let’s remember the backdrop of this time: the Black Panthers, well represented , no doubt, in our prison system, shouting at Reade “You’re a dead man walking!!!” Sure, Chairman Steel, let it all be sorted out on appeal.
BEST FOR DUKE. He can pull these three young lives out of the equation, discard them, and focus on what’s BEST FOR DUKE.
Wow! That Chairman Steel!…he gives new definition to being a “company man.” And Brodhead, the subservient, self-serving lackey. Duke parents and alumni, you can’t say from here on, you don’t know the quality and moral compass of your leadership!
So what does that say about how Steel ( and his willing sidekick Brodhead) perceive the worth, the humanity, the reality of the lives of Collin, Reade, and Dave? Are they expendable for the PR purposes of Duke? Is it much more INSTITUTIONALLY important in the mind of Chairman Steel to prop up a life-destroying LIE so that Duke appears even-handed and sensitive to Durham’s homegrown strippers and lap-dancers? In lock-step with Durham’s cracker-jack, dump-burning governing entities? Supportive of the “castrate” sign- carrying, racist- diatribes of its activist professors? Why Chairman Steel should have just run a spot on local TV and made his message plain:
“ Hi, I’m Bob Steel, Chairman of the BOT of Duke University and I approve this message:
In the best interests of Duke University, to show our inclusiveness and reverence of even drug-addled, mentally ill prostitutes; our fear of our activist faculty; our guilt-fueled submissiveness to the local political intelligentsia; and our heavy duty P.C. credentials …. we will aid and assist D.A. Nifong in railroading three innocent students of ours and besmirching for life the reputations of their teammates. We and our employees will accomplish this by ignoring and/or suppressing or even ALTERING when we must any exculpatory evidence to the contrary. Like the local newspapers, we will also try to level the playing field, by ravaging the “histories” of these young men to try to bring them down to a level where the Lap-dancer /deranged former felon /and prostitute will appear their moral “equal.” To that end, we will empower commissions to uncover anything and everything negative that we might hand the media to envelop these boys in that stain. We will opine that “whatever they did was bad enough.” We will cancel their season and start a “Mea Culpa” progression around town, mournfully apologetic for having these young privileged men in our midst. We will turn our eyes away from any and all violations of OUR OWN conduct codes as long as the objects of these violations are these young men of the wrong race and income group. We will refuse to meet with their terrified parents or read the defense files that might force us to confront their ABSOLUTE INNOCENCE. We will look on mute while our faculty radicals ravage them in print from ad to op-ed over and over again. Proclaim them “farm animals” and let our silence speak approval.
We will do all this in the best interests of Duke University. To send to the world and our student body, through our actions, a moral imprint of what the leadership of Duke University considers the new expediency, the new righteousness. Here is our blueprint for what’s really important for those who aspire to assume the helm of any business. It’s not people, it’s not the lives of three young men or the reputation of forty-plus others. It’s PR and PC. Public relations and Political Correctness. It’s IMAGE. It’s that thin layer of false veneer we’ll protect NOT with OUR LIVES OR LIVELIHOODS, oh no! But those of OTHERS!
It’s protecting our bottom line and our top guys at the price of those we consider expendable. The Coach, the kids. In the business world we can kick the small investor and the retiree to the curb in the holy name of our corporate interest; at Duke, it’s three white students and their white coach. That’s our lesson for the leaders of tomorrow: it’s BETTER FOR US if these three nothing, nobody, non –protected species kids go to trial… so-o-o-o, let’s help it happen. If convicted….Gee Whiz, no Biggie…it will be settled out “on appeal.”
How does that sound to you, Alumni and parents? Do you like what you hear from the top? Am I wrong? Okay, you give me another way to interpret those words between Trumpbour and Steel. Look at your child before you do. Think of HIM as Chairman Steel and his Lapdog Brodhead’s sacrificial lamb. “If convicted, it can be sorted out on appeal.”
“YOU’RE A DEAD MAN WALKING” they shouted at Reade.
I’ve really tried to think of an alternative take on Chairman Steel’s words. Not to excuse or defend him but just because they astound me. I don’t know people who think like this. Maybe I don’t move in the proper exalted circles.
How can the best interests of Duke trump three real young lives? How can the best interests of Duke require the suspension of all logic and common sense, the suppression of evidence, the submission to the mob? How can the best interests of Duke under the current leadership be only about artificial IMAGE…not about its students, not about the rule of law, and dear God, especially….” not about the truth?”
No parent or alumni can say “move on” until they can confront the awful reality of those unanswered questions. Until they absorb the consequences of the cold fact THAT THIS IS THE MINDSET of those who still remain in power at Duke.
I'm reminded of the last powerful scene in the first Godfather movie: the bereaved newly widowed sister, waving the newspaper describing the Mob hits , pointing at Michael Corleone, besseching her sister-in'law to face it all..."THAT'S your husband! THAT'S your husband!"
That's your Chairman of the BOT.
That's your President of the once esteemed Duke University.
"Sweetheart, you can't leave" ….until all you "Move-On Minions" confront the enormity of what was done to these kids.