Comments: People I Hate, Negotiation and the Presidential Election

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Josh , Eugene OR   09/08/08
Lyndon Johnson
Just wanted to say thanks for the new article. I happened to have read Robert Caro's last book about LBJ a few years ago so I appreciated the subject. I, too, was impressed with the force of LBJ's will and his supreme negotiating/political ability. After reading the book, I wasn't sure whether his ultimate betrayal of the Southern Bloc was evidence of a savvy manipulator who pretended to share the worst racism of his compatriots to achieve secret political goals, or whether he had no moral center whatsoever and duped his former allies when he saw his chance to ride the wave of the civil rights movement to increased power. I'm sure neither conclusion fits, exactly, but as you wrote, regardless of his motivations, one has to be in awe of his political ability to forge alliances and achieve his goals.

Dr. Jerry , Doral FL   09/08/08
To the person who hates Republicans
I am sure that as an individual you have personally met every Republican in the world. If you have I sincerely accept your comments of Hating Republicans as being valid. If not you might want to rethink the profession you are in. As for George Bush, if you have not met him personally, as mediators we are supposed to not be predisposed with opinions without actual firsthand knowledge. This comment is neither pro Bush nor con Bush simply an observation of what a true Neutral is supposed to do. BE NEUTRAL UNTIL THE FACTS ARE MADE KNOWN FIRSTHAND TO YOU, NOT THROUGH FUNNELED INFORMATION OR SCEWED ARTICLES. How would you handle a mediation if you were predetermined to the outcome based on articles you had read about one of the parties, and it went against your values or ideals where would your opinions end and your skills begin?

Dr. Jerry , Doral FL   09/08/08
I refuse to post any political comment pro or con about any candidate on this forum as again I think it is inappropriate forum for such comments. As I believe political comments should remain those of the individuals and in their local surroundings. If promotes or actively promotes these types of comments then it is not the forum for which I wish to participate or promote as a viable source of quality information regarding Mediation/Arbitration. Nor will it be my source of information continuing forward. Political agendas serve no purpose on you web site. While diluting the integrity of your organization and its member’s expectations of what your actual purpose is. The excuse that no one has made any comment pro McCain is no excuse for allowing Political agendas on your website. I as a NEUTRAL and a professional Neutral find that biased comments in a Neutral setting are disturbing and discredit the profession. To that note I find it apprehensible that these types of comments are allowed on your site. From you very first kick off of your web site I admired the direction, but today that admiration has come to an end for me and many of my associates. If your site is becoming a political forum then it is not a site that lends creditability to our industry.

Jim Melamed, Eugene OR   09/08/08
Should Be Neutral and Impartial?
Greetings all.

The question has been raised as to whether should have a goal of somehow being, as we might expect a mediator to be, "impartial" and "neutral" in our publications. For the moment, let's agree that these are laudable guiding lights for mediation practice. Does this somehow also mean that a web site devoted to further the mediation industry should be "impartial" and "neutral?" I am not sure that one follows the other.

The purpose of is to further the growth of mediation and constructive dispute resolution processes. From a content persective, our goal is not to be "neutral" or "impartial," but to be interesting and relevent.

Further, and importantly, we do not seek articles of any particular persuasion. Our articles are submitted to us by motivated authors. The test for publication is not whether the article is pro this or anti that, but, rather, whether it is interesting and a contribution to dialogue about the work we do and world we live in.

We do have some requirements. For example, we do not allow anonymous publication of articles.

If there is an imbalance in the number of articles favororing Obama, that is because a number of our authors have taken it upon themselves to submit these articles and McCain supporters have not.

Please do take this opportunity to help us understand how the republican platform and McCain candidacy elevate the interests of mediation and constructive dispute resolution in the US and in the world. Jim Melamed, CEO and Co-Editor

Dr. Jerry , Doral FL   09/08/08
Read Again my comments
Again I reiterate my comments, that have spurred further discussion of political issues on, as an inappropriate forum for such comments. Feel free to voice your comments on your own web site but leave for true neutrality and informative information regarding mediation, and the acts of being neutral.

Kevin , Encinitas CA     09/07/08
Reply to Mr. Benjamin
I took the trouble of breaking down your article into its essential points because I have been entertained and informed by your presentations at conferences we have both attended in the past and was, frankly, interested to figure out what you were talking about in your provocatively-titled article “People I hate, Negotiation and the Presidential Election.” In my far-less-than 40 years of mediation experience, I have learned that it is important to understand the positions of the respective parties before attempting to adjust those positions to a point where they, hopefully, overlap. I do not believe that neutrality requires you to agree with everyone. And I do not agree that your article is non-partisan. Your words “Obama appears qualified by any standard,” appearing in an article about the “Presidential Election” can fairly be understood to be an endorsement of Mr. Obama, particularly when coupled with your negative comments about President Bush and Vice President Cheney. I’m sorry that I must confirm your fear that my summarizing your article IS reflective of my work as a “neutral” mediator. I find that more and better settlements are reached when dealing with facts than when dealing with fiction.

robert benjamin     09/07/08
reply of Robert Benjamin to Kevin Forrester of Encinitas, CA
I hope your attempt to 'facilitate THIS discussion' and your summarizing of the article are not reflective of your work as a 'neutral' mediator. Somehow, it feels a bit biased. Some of my reaction might, however, be because your conclusion and judgment was given before your summary. In any event, I do not disagree that the article is political; I don't agree that it is partisan or inappropriate. I would be interested in the thoughts of all readers as to: 1. the defining line between discussion of negotiation and mediation practice and politics, which is, almost by definition involves the negotiation and mediation of public issues between varying interest groups; and, 2. Why and when such discussion should be deemed inappropriate?

Kevin Forrester, Encinitas CA     09/07/08
Condensed Version
Yes, this is about politics and, yes, I agree that this is not the site for political discussions. However, in order to facilitate THIS political discussion, I have taken the liberty of distilling Mr. Benjamin's "People I Hate . . . " article into its essential points (same number of paragraphs, 2000 fewer words) here: In 1967, I was eligible to be drafted. A recent New York Times article reminded me of that time. Barack Obama, who I like, appears qualified to be President because he’s this Country’s first presidential candidate of color, and he thinks like me. The civil rights movement made this day possible. Lyndon Johnson was not in favor of civil rights. Johnson, nonetheless, helped to advance the civil rights movement. It is hard for me to negotiate, or facilitate negotiation, with those who have political views different from mine. For example, how could I possibly negotiate a wrongful-death settlement between George W. Bush and the parents of a 19 year old killed in Iraq as a result of having inadequate body armor, when I personally hold George W. Bush responsible to all deaths in Iraq? I’m not afraid to say I really hate George W. Bush. So, could I, as a professional mediator, fairly present his views in mediation? It’s difficult for me to even acknowledge the candidate of the party with which I do not agree in the current presidential campaign. I know there are others who feel this way. Some of them are smart and write books. They say things like, “that’s politics.” Accordingly, I have realized that Barack Obama’s candidacy is less the result of the moral maturity of this Country, than of pure political deal-making. This makes clear the fact that “the deal is the thing.” Some days you get the Moose, some days the Moose gets you. But I really hate Republicans. This sometimes makes my job hard, because not everyone hates Republicans. It is important for a President to be able to negotiate a deal. Change can result from negotiation. Negotiation, however, is rarely taught in school, but must be learned “on the job” in the “school of hard knocks.” After 40 years in the school of hard knocks, I find that I am more like LBJ than I care to admit.

Robert    09/07/08
Robert Benjamin's Reply to Mr. Hall
I assume Mr. Hall ‘hated’ my article. I can only hope he might take another peek at the website and read this response as the “true neutral” he professes to be, before he cancels his membership. His strong, ‘appalled’ response is both surprising and disappointing. However, as the voyeuristic mediator---endlessly fascinated with others’ construction of reality---I claim to be, also intrigued. Frankly, I do not think I the piece was a partisan screed by any stretch. In writing it, I struggled to examine and relate my own personal evolution to events in American history and with my choice of a professional career as an expression of my values. There was no endorsement of either presidential candidate expressed or implied. Finally, with a discussion of pluralism, I offered a conceptual frame that holds the prospect of making bi-partisan negotiations easier. In fact, the strong feelings my article expressed were bi-partisan and included both Democratic and Republican administrations. I would offer that to suggest that mediation and negotiation practice or mediators’ sentiments can be divorced from political sensibilities is naive and unrealistic. Mr. Hall illustrates my worst fears about the pretense of being a “neutral”: that he would not be mindful of what are most apparently his own strong feelings and choose to be dis-engaged. Finally, if I might be so bold, I do consider myself somewhat of a maverick (am I allowed to use that term, or does it suggest to close of an identification with John McCain, a self-described ‘maverick?) in the study and practice of conflict management field. I often have a perspective that is not shared by everyone; while some find what I write useful and refreshing, even if they do not wholly agree, others consider me flat out wrong headed and downright arrogant. I think mavericks have an important and useful role to play. In any event, all are protected because I am not King or running for King, and have no desire (or ability) to force people to agree with me. What should be clear, especially on the web site is that any who disagree with me, or any author, are strongly encouraged to voice those opinions and/or write their own damned article of rebuttal. The only challenge to my work I would not accept is that I have not tried to be rigorous, self-critical and thoughtful in the views I present. OF THIS, HOWEVER, I AM CERTAIN: THE INTELLECTUAL VITALITY AND COMPETENCY OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT PRACTITIONERS DEPENDS ON THE EXPRESSION OF DIFFERENT VIEWS AND PERSPECTIVES AND THAT NO ORTHODOXY OF STYLE OR APPROACH SHOULD BE BEYOND QUESTION. I invite Mr. Hall’s response and engagement in this important dialogue.

Jerry Hall, Doral FL   09/07/08
Appalled on Political Agenda on this site
I am appalled that would allow such biased comments on their web site, as a true neutral I am very disappointed that this has become a political agenda web site. For a true professional mediators stand point, this organization should remain neutral and avoid creating a political forum. I HAVE CANCELLED MY MEMBERSHIP IN THIS ORGANIZATION FOR THAT REASON.

Steve , Federal Way WA   09/03/08
Comments on people I hate........
Very well done. Thanks. We all struggle as well. The question is the same The answer is the same too, Sand in the rice Thorns in the mud Wu-Men Zen verse