Tom Brokaw: Friends Across Barbed Wire and Politics

The friendship between Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson, who met at an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, reminds us of what Washington has lost.

Comments: 176

  1. Thank you, Tom Brokaw, for an amazing story.

    And thank you, Senator Simpson and Congressman Mineta, for reminding us through your actions what we have lost in today's political climate.

  2. But it shouldn't be an amazing story. Clearly, Mr. Mineta shouldn't have had to endure internment. And Mr. Simpson should have protested whether or not he had a personal relationship with Mr. Mineta. Why is it necessary to overcome the ties of ethnicity, race and clan before we do the right thing? And why is it hailed as an act of heroism when we do?

  3. That's true, Partha.

    But here's the thing. Sometimes there are world events that are so much bigger than us that we are powerless in front of them. Take Japanese internment, or the Holocaust, or the suffering people of Syria today... none of this should happen but it does.

    Even in the face of injustice, and horrific circumstance, some people manage to maintain their humanity, and reach to another person, even someone whose people have been unfairly demonize.. made to suffer for another's fear, be it irrational or not,

    These two men are two of those people!!!
    Simpson went to the camp to play although it was scary and the other teams would not. Minetta was open enough to speak to Simpson, despite what had been inflicted on his family and himself.

    Everything you mentioned should not exist but it does. Injustice must still be fought everywhere, but those who reach out to others while in its midst deserve celebration. Especially now, when inflammatory rhetoric has become the unhelpful norm,

  4. Imagine my thrill in 2002 when Republican Senator Alan Simpson, going against George W. Bush's decision to defund the UN Population Fund of the $34 million Congress had voted for the health of women all over the world, sent a healthy contribution to our grassroots movement called 34 Million Friends, (still going today) countering this cruel unnecessary purely political move which contributed to the misery and death of countless women. His phone number was even on the check and I got up my nerve and called him in Wyoming to thank him profusely. He was very cordial and seemed quite pleased and thankful for this grassroots effort. Yes, these honorable people are in short supply these days.

  5. What a beautiful sharing Jane. You should write about this. We, in the US, don't compliment good hard working people anymore, or protect and promote them as we should. Look who comes to power, who stays in power, who has authority and who gets away with cruelty, unfairness and pure evil. Party loyalty, personal agendas, patriarchal policies and personality tiffs and ego clashes now dominate DC, and the business crowd, especially the big corporations, loves to exploit this for their petty petty material interests and profits.

    What a sad, sorry and frightening state of affairs.

  6. What an extraordinary story - thank you for sharing it.

  7. It is just terribly unfortunate that it seems to have taken real experience of all out war in their relative youth for our political leaders to forge the common bonds of human understanding that transcend ideology and excessive partisanship.

    Just as unfortunate, we may have reached the point where we don't have the luxury of relying on all out war to forge such bonds. War making of this magnitude today is more likely to break any human bonds for all eternity.

    On the other hand, and on a more positive note, the human reality that we do face with its relentless degradation of our own environment, even without resorting to all out war, represents such an existential threat to our collective future that if we are to succeed in surviving and thriving beyond it, a great many more of us will need to forge these transcendent bonds for any success to be achieved.

  8. Thank you for sharing this important story. I bet you didn't think you wouldn't have to remind people of these lessons when you were racing through the Black Hills with Bill B all those years ago.

  9. Mr. Brokaw understands what America was, and what it can be.

  10. I doubt I will live to see Congress become sane and viable again. The individuals being elected simply do not have good character: Those electing them have even less.

  11. Growing up, one of my favorite television shows was The Twilight Zone. There was an episode titled, Death's Head Revisited. It was about a concentration camp in Germany. Many years later on a work trip, I visited a state operated museum in Arkansas, which had an exhibit about the two Japanese internment camps in the state. The exhibit was shocking. The scenes in the photos looked almost exactly the same as was depicted in the TV episode. How could it happen in our country, the land of the free? When we moved to California, we made a detour to see the remains of Manzanar. A bone chilling experience. There should never been internment camps. Not in our country. And we should ensure that they never happen again.

  12. But they are happening again. Except now they are called immigration detention centers. As a result, American citizens are forced to chose to between living as near orphans or moving to their parent's home country. Families are selling off their properties, businesses, etc to keep their families together. It is happening again. All over again.

  13. America's not-so-dirty secret. Happening out of sight still and fueled by a wall of misinformation about immigration, undocumented workers and their contributions to society. Policies that are ill-formed, ill-conceived, tragic, punitive, and dangerous.

  14. My heart goes out to the Japanese-Americans who were interned. However it's outrageous to compare Manzanar with Auschwitz and Buchenwald. My 85-year old great grandmother and multiple great aunts, uncles and cousins - many toddlers and babies- were dragged from their villages in Hungary and tossed into gas chambers. Truly a false and disturbing analogy.

  15. Kudos to Mr. Brokaw for this piece. Well done.

  16. Gooood op-ed. But I'm not sure that collegiality is completely dead in Congress, it's merely moribund. Many more years of the kind of purist faction extremists on both sides have ginned-up and it COULD die, but the promise remains of rekindling it. It starts with the desperate and bipartisan need to move forward, in the absence of a sure vision and confident and competent leadership from the White House. Men and women of both good intentions and a recognition that legitimate legislative sausage cannot be made without compromise can find enough middle ground to achieve that movement by working together -- as Ted Kennedy did for so many years, achieving more for the left than almost anyone before him and certainly anyone since.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Brokaw ends a good op-ed with a gratuitous dig at President Trump, whose entire life makes it highly unlikely that he would "set off a tweet storm of epic proportions" in outrage at Justice Murphy's careful words. We don't successfully edge back from that chasm of bootless, vitriolic faction by such unreasonable attacks.

  17. Richard, very observant and thoughtful comment on this wonderful article by Mr. Brokaw. Ted was of a time when congressional members actually ate together in the congressional dining room, able to put aside partisan rancor and find compromise and middle ground. I particularly enjoyed your spot on scarcastic wit in your final paragraph. Thanks for the morning chuckle.

  18. Describing online posting habits in a way that accurately reflect the history of Mr. Trump's behavior on Twitter does not constitute "a gratuitous dig" at him, especially since he was not even named in the sentence. How is it that you seem to recognize the president in it to begin with?

  19. I dare say that people in general were a bit more thoughtful in the days of Mineta and Simpson than they are today. I'm trying to imagine a similar friendship between, say, Ted Cruz and Keith Ellison. It's not working.

  20. Except for if they were that much more thoughtful, they might not tossed her Japanese neighbors into internment camps and seized their property.

  21. Ellen: Mr. Mineta and Mr. Simpson were children at the time of the internment. They are the the generally more thoughtful people Vesuviano is talking about. They did not throw anyone into the camps.

  22. How ironic that we live in an age where we are all so hyper connected, yet we are so rapidly growing apart. I appeal to the American people to start listening, really listening, to those around you and not to be dismissive of those who disagree with you. We've lost the art of listening, and we are so much poorer because of that.

  23. When I worked in a US government agency in 1960s I met a number of Japanese Americans were interned in these concentration camps. They told me many touching and sad stories but many of them also joined the US army fought in Europe or in the Pacific islands. They did not express any bitterness and hate. They wanted to forget the sad experiences. Another shameful decision made in the US was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Today, President Trump and his hateful conservative law makers again wanted to exclude the so-called undesirable immigrants coming to our great country. Tom Brokaw was my favorite newscaster and I hope he will continue to be active in different projects pertaining to human rights and equal rights. I wonder who was the one recommended to FDR to sign this 1942 executive order in the White House?

  24. sadly, but it is hardly ever mentioned that the Hon. Earl Warren, who later went on to become the defender of the constitution as the Chief of the U.S. Supreme Court, executed the Order when at the time he was the Governor of California. One stain in an otherwise remarkable life.

  25. Great story, thanks. What is often said is a description of the camps. What is rarely said is the true crime, that after the war, they returned to their farms, businesses, and homes, they found that inside were happy smiling white families occupying are running them. So the loss extended to the children, the grandchildren...of a life that was forever taken from them, after being carved out of wilderness with their bare hands. That was the true everlasting crime. They weren't concerned about security near as much as they were the free land grab that was the inevitable free prime land available for the taking.

  26. The U.S. was built on such crimes. It started with stealing the land from Native Americans. Then there was the Mexican-American War, where we grabbed what became several states. And the crimes continue--now Virginia is, via "eminent domain," taking land that belongs to the descendants of African slaves, in order to enrich the Amazon corporation. See

  27. Last year, Sen. Simpson's brother, Pete, led a Wyoming politics/history/culture class at Sheridan College. There were 30-plus students in the class, mostly adults. For the last session, Sen. Simpson spoke about Wyoming and politics and afterwards, I interviewed him during lunch for the Sheridan Press, the local newspaper. It's remarkable that this story told has been told time and again, by Sen. Simpson and his brother, in a variety of venues, and yet it never runs out of gas. It not only reveals the lack of efficacy in U.S. politics these days, but also illustrates the depth of humanity, friendship and humor of two great men.

  28. Miners and Simpson were part of The Greatest Generation that you so eloquently wrote about. I loved that book, Mr. Brokow. I also loved seeing you in Utah a few years back when you told the story of the candy bomber at the Christmas Mormon Tabernacle event. It was lovely.

    I am afraid we have lost something with the new generation of politicians. One is common curtesy toward one another. Another is thoughtful dialogue. The newer generation of politicians also seem to have little regard for the people who have entrusted the care of this nation by their vote.

    Your voice is important. I hope we hear more of it.

  29. This should have said Mineta and Simpson. I hate autocorrect.

  30. Also "Courtesy." :-)) I feel the same way about autocorrection.

  31. So turn it off!

  32. During my high school years in Bridgeton NJ immediately after WW II, many of my classmates and friends were teenagers of Japanese-American families forcibly evicted from their California homes and transported to rural New Jersey where their parents worked as farm and food processing workers.

    One classmate was my principal wrestling competitor, outweighed me a bit, knew some jujitsu and usually beat me handily. Another and I cooperated in preparing patriotic speeches in a competition and coached each other. As a group, they were diligent and unassuming scholars as we survived teenage life. On occasion we talked of their former lives; surprisingly most seemed without bitterness; some, at least, of their families had been relatively affluent before the war, reduced to a menial status by fear and prejudice.

    That was seventy years ago, many of their names are gone from memory, some have died. I still remember their demeanor and behavior was that of people I am glad to claim as fellow citizens.

  33. I choked at the condescension in this note. "I still remember their demeanor and behavior was that of people I am glad to claim as fellow citizens."

    You seem to think that the onus of turning the other cheek is on the immigrant. That immigrants (and many Japanese-Americans were second and third generations) behaved graciously in face of unrelenting, ungodly acts committed by the majority - pleases and impresses you. I am aware that many Americans so think. Tell your claims to the wind; the interned Japanese-Americans were nothing short of patriotic and heroic.

    As a taxpayer, who makes a contribution to the economy, despite your condescension, might accept you as a fellow citizen - but I will reserve judgment until I see evidence that you were gracious and gentle after the majority imprisoned you for your ethnicity.

    Most immigrants are not only carrying our own weight, we are also carrying yours. Natives wont work the farms or construction, nor will natives work in labs, and high tech. All that done by immigrants. I did notice that Uncle Sam writes 93 million checks to the likes of you every month.

    I don't give a whit about what you claim. Citizenship is an interdependence, not a matter of your acceptance or claims. For what it is worth, I work 24/7 for producing a better future for my children. I have taught them the mantra: smarter, richer, better. So they never have to worry about what you and the likes of you claim to accept today or tomorrow.


  34. Kalidan:
    To be fair, only one who is slapped can turn the other cheek.

  35. ALAN SIMPSON, a native son and Norman Mineta, a Japanese American, met at a Scout Jamboree in Wyoming during the internment of the Japanese. Their friendship has endured since that time in World War II, with both serving with distinction in Congress and other government posts. Their friendship is emblematic of what is missing in Washington today among members of Congress. They no longer know or trust, leave alone befriend each other across the aisle, with the result that Congress is paralyzed with a civil war in the GOP and gridlock across the aisle. The Founders wanted members of Congress to work in comity, with a spirit of trust and cooperation, after the election ended. But nowadays campaigns are 24/7/365, vitiating the possibility of one of the most essential an vital characteristics historically of Congress. Working together, in comity, as mandated. If the government is to be functional, it must return to its roots and its mandates.

  36. Norm Mineta is a native son, too. He was born in San Jose, CA.

  37. Yes yes, it would be great to just go back to the good old days. The good old days when everyone was basically committed to growing government, democrats at a fast pace, republicans at a slow pace. "Grand" compromise was made as to the pace of government growth, deficit spending, etc. Now, people are slowly waking up and a lot of them do not want government to grow anymore. Another growing group of people want absolute government. We are reaching an inflection point. Thats what is happening. As poignant as stories like this are, they fail to address the new paradigm.

  38. The dichotomy you allege doesn't ring true to me. What "growing group" wants "absolute government?" Admittedly, there's a strain of fascism that emanates from Trump and his most fervent supporters. But he and they represent a minority. The vast majority of Americans disdain Trump's "strongman" politics. Trump only get elected because of the flawed, antiquated electoral college system. The political system itself needs to be made more representative -- by such means as automatic voter registration; popular election of president; apportionment of senators based on states' population sizes; reform of campaign finance via constitutional amendment; and so forth.

  39. Look at the results of your "business of America is business" and intolerance for non-whites and foreigners, and shrinking government protections that have made all the difference against conscienceless corporations and businesses, and masked billionaires buying elections, and public money for private schools...

    There would have been no man on the moon with your intolerant, no-government philosophy, nor interstate highways, nor polio vaccine, because the super-rich wouldn't have been taxed at 94%, as they were during WWII or in the 70%, as they were later. That was when America meant something to the world. THAT's why we now have the deficits the Republicans are crying about, because the super-rich have decided democracy's a drag and want ALL the money.

    Now you've got your businessman president. He and you deny the fact of climate change and are threatening nuclear war. China and Putin and all the world’s dictators are just thrilled about the new, small government America.

  40. You're oversimplifying. In between government not growing and absolute government is a medium where it's just right. You say people are waking up and don't want government to grow. I say a lot more people are waking up and saying government can and should "promote the general welfare".

    Healthcare's an example. The majority of Americans now favor Obamacare because it works, causing multiple attempts at repeal and replace to fail. Trump saved Obamacare because he made Americans really think about the effectiveness of the program instead of parrot Republican lies. Now the majority agrees government should make sure everyone has affordable coverage.

    In the 1960s, there were about 60,000 traffic deaths per year. Government mandated seatbelts and required their use. Initially there was public outcry about government interference. But traffic deaths fell dramatically and as lives were saved, support grew. Today, no responsible parent would tell their teenager don't bother buckling up. Front seat airbags further reduce deaths. Now traffic fatalities and gun deaths are comparable at about 35,000 per year. But we drive a lot more than we shoot. Government regulations saved lives where in guns, no regulation kills people.

  41. OK, this is a nice little lament and a friendship remembered. I wish Brokaw would have asked how and why the current situation had developed.

  42. Alan K. Simpson is someone whom I primarily recall for his dogged focus on cutting Social Security.

  43. Yep. Simpson was a rock-ribbed Republican. Just as John McCain is today. There is very little I would agree with in either's policy positions.

    But, guess what? Wyoming and Arizona wouldn't elect my senator, Elizabeth Warren. Both those states are going to elect hard-right Republicans. And, in both states, there would have been very little pushback if Simpson voted against reparations or McCain voted to repeal Obamacare.

    This is where both Simpson and McCain earn my admiration: They didn't -- as most politicians, liberal or conservative, would -- lift a finger to the wind and take the easiest, most politically expedient vote. Instead they, knowing that it would draw ire from party leaders and many of their constituents, voted in favor of principle.

    If you can list more than a handful of such politicians, you are a better man than I.

  44. Moving and an important testament to two people who forged a path to become leaders and then use their influence to achieve a greater good; a recognition of the ill treatment rendered on U.S. citizens. I hope Mr. Brokaw will write more columns and look at the current state of dis-union troubling us.

  45. We should heed the lessons our own history teaches us. The hard truth, coupled with some measure of comity,compassion, common sense, and a more thorough knowledge of our shared past, might provide a welcome antidote to the bloviating, purple rhetoric that passes for today's public commentary which, more often than not, drives us farther apart from one another.

  46. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw, for you beautifully written piece with so many implications for our current circumstances. I'm reminded how presidents once reached across party lines to include members of the opposition, even in their cabinets. Of course, the failure of our unforgiving and intolerant president (whose patriotism may be in question, too) is his inability to step into anyone else's shoes and see the value in views that conflict with his own myopic perspective.

  47. The Japanese Internment has long had a strong resonance to me because, as a boy and young man, I surfed at a Malibu beach that had been a Japanese fishing village and the houses were never returned to the owners after WWII,

    The properties were somehow acquired by something called the LA Athletic Club which rented the quaint houses but never developed the real estate even though it was in Malibu.

    The property was eventually acquired by the State of CA and turned into a public beach after evicting all the tenants and tearing down the homes- it had become something of a bohemian artists colony, probably the only beach property within hundreds of miles where non-millionaires could afford the rent.

    I wonder if any of those Japanese-Americans ever got any compensation for their loss. If so, I'm sure it was inadequate.

  48. My grandad owned a farm in California. Just after WWII broke out, he was roused from breakfast one day to find at his door his Nisei neighbor of many years, a farmer just like him, Indeed, a man he had known for many years.
    He had a question: would Grandad buy his farm?
    Why on earth would this hands-on farmer just like himself, every bit as proud of of his apricots and cherries as was he want to sell?
    Turns out the man and his family had been ordered to move to an internment camp and he had no other option but to leave it.
    Grandad was fair. And he was quick to make up his mind, too. So, after some to-and-fro, he gave a typically blunt response.
    "Sorry, but I can't. But I'll farm it for you while you're gone," he said.
    That's how he was. A Portuguese immigrant of some 50 years himself, he was used to helping neighbors and being helped in turn. That's exactly what he did, too, until his neighbor finally returned at war's end.
    All those people are gone now, save for an aunt and her husband who still live on what was once part of that farm. And I can tell you that when I shared that story with a Japanese friend years later, long after Grandad and Nanny passed, an even more remarkable thing happened:
    Cars began to drive by his old house. Cars filled with nisei and Japanese tourists. They would slow down, then someone would lean out a window and snap a shot of where row upon row of fruit trees, and my Grandfather’s house, once stood.
    There's a message there to all of us, somewhere.

  49. Your Grandfather was a great man.

  50. To see a big reason for the alienation of our parties from we the people, see video of Cspan interview today with the eloquent Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

    He was interviewed by NYT Eric Lipton about his book “Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy”. He gives concrete examples of how our government is impacted by corporate money and special interests, hiding behind front groups enabled by our campaign finance laws. All legalized, all destructive of a representative democracy.

    From their long experience, I'd like to know what Simpson and Mineta think of this and what is their remedy?

  51. In 1988, when the reparations bill passed, there were half as many Asian- Americans in Congress as there are today. Similarly, there were many more women and Hispanics and twice as many blacks. Nostalgia for 1988 is overrated.

  52. Great story, so well told, Mr. Brokaw.

    But I think millions would sincerely disagree with Mineta's statement---“Running up and down the street with a placard isn’t the answer.”

    Street marches are an essential part of the answer when citizens aren’t getting proper representation by their govt. And when they are appalled by an irresponsible govt that was elected---and frustrated by lack of adequate opposition. The message to Democrats is obvious as they "try to find a message".

    Al Gore's statement hit the bullseye in his recent CNN interview re his new documentary--- “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

    Gore: "I think our democracy has been hacked by big money long before Putin hacked our democracy. "

    Now there's some political meat for the media to pounce on. Or will they ignore it? That’s what’s left out of this op ed.

    Congress is dependent on not just staff and lobbyists. but totally dependent to run for office on corporate megadonors who then mold policy. That’s what’s coming between us and our govt--between we the people and the representatives we stand in line to elect from the nominees the big money offers us. Is it rude to discuss this?

    Tom Brokow, you've seen decades of elections. What do you think about our major need for reform of campaign financing as the 1st basis for any return to the kind of party cooperation you wish for? A need that’s hardly mentioned by most of the media whose duty is to inform the people in a democracy?

  53. And what have we learned from such a poignant lesson. Have we become less cruel, less racist, less willing to blame the many for what a few have done? What we have learned is how to be more subtle and underhanded at it. But make no mistake, the consequences are the same. The saddest part of all this is there are many, many Americans who would have absolutely no problem with using concentration camps today. History does repeat itself.

  54. Alan Simpson was as mean-spirited and as partisan as it gets. His treatment of Anita Hill, as just one example, was shameful. I'm amazed that underneath it all, he had the capacity to show some compassion. Too bad he didn't manifest it more when he was in office.

  55. Tom Brokaw: You have this ability to connect, tone down the rhetoric, and remind us that we are part of humanity. Thank you. Hopefully, many will hear you.

  56. Those wondering how internment could have happened in this nation naively forget the foundation of this nation- built by black bodies enslaved by the millions and the near genocide of Native peoples. We have no problem placing millions behind barbed wired; our Prison Economy is a prime example. No- the Internment of Japanese U.S. Citizens was not an aberration.
    Lastly, there is a reference about a conversation with a fellow Congressman regarding Reparations to former internees and the *horror* of having to one day pay Reparations to African Americans; this nation will never be whole until it does.

  57. Most people has no ancestors here during the period of slavery. Why should they be punished

  58. Thank you for this history lesson. I've always loved you, Tom Brokaw! Getting Republicans to know Democrats on a personal level, and to have patriotism, forgiveness, and tolerance coexist in America seem a bridge too far in this current environment.

  59. Mr. Simpson has it all wrong. It wasn't 9/11 that soured relations across the aisle in D.C. It was the DELIBERATE strategy of the GOP to nuke bipartisanship. They decided that the way to "win" although they had a minority of voters was to become the party of NO. With Obama in the White House, they resorted to obstructionism, including refusing to do their duty to advise and consent on Garland's SCOTUS nomination. They shut down the government and came within a whisker of causing default. At the state level, they gerrymandered and intimidated voters to control Congress. They made it a party credo, "Thou shalt not speak with any Democrat." Their recent disgusting back-room attempts by McConnell and Ryan to abolish ACA are clear proof that they loathe bipartisanship. The GOP has become a machine that caters to bigotry and intolerance. It wages war on the environment, on women,on the LGBTQ community, on the poor, the sick and people of color. All this in the interest of the Tea Party, the religious right, the NRA and super rich. Mr. Simpson would most certainly not be welcome in his own party and, hopefully, wouldn't want to be a member.

  60. Good leaders will move citizens away from feel-good platitudes about the nation's greatness and instead face uncomfortable truths. This look at the injust treatment of Japanese-Americans is one example. Another standout was when President Obama went to Japan and addressed head-on the legacy of nuclear warfare.
    The lessons of history should be in our minds today. Strong leaders will take you there beyond the chest-thumping lines.

  61. Japanese were not the only ones affected not to minimize there pain,also Italians,The Great Joe DiMaggio's father couldn't go into his own restaurant because of his Italian heritage and being to close to the water.Also his livelihood of fishing on his boat ended.Giusepie was a commercial fisherman.

  62. Let's not forget that long before the current political splits, things weren't always so wonderful in Congress.
    Remember Preston Brooks beating Charles Sumner with a cane before the Civil War. Into the early 20th century, it was not unusual for political opponents to still be shooting at each other. And let's not forget Joe McCarthy and his ilk spreading fear and venom throughout the country. After he tried to defeat Mike Mansfield in Montana by tarring him with charges that he was a communist sympathizer, McCarthy tried to pretend they were friends and put his arm around Mansfield's shoulder on the floor of the Senate and said "how are things in Montana, Mike?" Mansfield undid McCarthy's arm and responded "A lot better since you left."
    Mr. Brokaw has made a career out of trying to make us believe that our ancestors were far stronger and better than us. History says different.

  63. For Tom Brokaw--or anyone else--to tell a story about two people which singles out a good act, a positive act does not require that he also show the "warts," so to speak, of those same two people. Yes, there have been some seriously bad events in the Congress during our history. But Mr. Brokaw was focusing on an aspect of congressional life which he, and many Americans, find sadly lacking: cooperation.

    Unfortunately, the emphasis in the media nowadays is the "warts." We have forgotten to look at the good that people do in part because the media is obsessed with showing negative events. If we wonder why potentially good candidates choose not to run for public office, look no further than the media. Who wants to subject himself/herself and their families to the relentless search for negative things in a person's life. As was once famously said, "Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone."

    Sure, matter which would make it impossible for someone to serve in public office should be recognized and admitted. But the frenzied search for any "bad news" about public figures has gone beyond that. And now as readers, we can't just assess a story like Brokaw's on its own merits. We've read so much about the "warts," that if none are mentioned, we assume someone is hiding something. We have the media to thank for conditioning us to think and react like that.

  64. Mr. Brokaw has written a moving story about a terrible moment in American history and a powerful friendship that was born of it. Nonetheless, Mr. Brokaw's sentimental and highly selective lens misses, as it often does, the unsentimental and indeed the cruel just below the pretty surface. Neither a single friendship nor a single good act erases or redeems a career filled with bad ones. Alan Simpson, his friendship with Rep. Mineta notwithstanding, has been a darkly regressive force in American politics for much of his career. Not long ago his Simpson-Bowles commission released a series of recommendations for fiscal policy that neglected and indeed would harm those most in need while bestowing benefits on those who needed none. At a time when the average American is struggling simply to make ends meet, the Simpson-Bowles commission could hardly have put out a more destructive and regressive series of recommendations. The likely impact of the Simpson-Bowles plan was best described by Paul Krugman of the New York Times: "BoSimps completely failed to solve the problem they were supposedly addressing, but were quite effective at worsening the policy response to the real problems they chose to ignore." So let Mr. Brokaw, something less than a progressive force himself, now praise famous men, and let the rest of us remember that some of the famous are also infamous.

  65. Two points. First, the "destructive and regressive series of recommendations" you describe were not the product of just Republican Alan Simpson. Democrat Erskine Bowles was also co-author of that report. Second, the report issued by the two men gave no specific policy recommendations, only general guidelines. Mr. Simpson, like most Republicans, probably did have tax-cuts for the wealthy as a priority, but that's not the point of the article as I read it. Tom Brokaw's point is that there was a time when legislators took the time to get to know each other; there was a time when there was cooperation among senators and representatives to actually get something done in congress. That atmosphere of cooperation was certainly prevalent during much of the time from the 50s through the 80s. I recall vividly the friendship and cooperation between conservative Republican Ronald Reagan and liberal Democrat Tip O'Neal. Both were pragmatic enough to move away from their strongly-held, idealogical positions and find common ground. That sense of cooperation is nowhere to be found in Congress today.

  66. Thank you for your excellent comment. As I read this,I could not erase the picture in my mind of Alan Simpson's incredibly nasty treatment of Anita Hill during the hearings in the 90s,as well as his participation in other very partisan events.

  67. What strikes me most about this story is the treasure of Tom Brokaw, of his skill as an observer and story teller. We were lucky to have him as a reporter. anchor and analyst on TV all those years. And we are lucky to have him remind us, since leaving TV, of what we once did and should now, aspire to as a culture. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw. Please continue. Any time.

  68. Senator Simpson and Ann came to my birthday party; my husband served in the House with Norm. Congress had a 64% approval rating in America. Those were the days when the government functioned under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
    If you like the current system, you can thank Newt Gingrich and pals.

  69. In my mind, Newt Gingrich has done more damage to this country than any other politician I can think of - even Joseph McCarthy. He deserved being shoved out of the House. We hear stories of politicians getting along just fine, but are afraid to show their friendship publicly for fear of being primaried by another nut job egged on by the media and unscrupulous websites.

  70. " was a matter of principle more than a gesture of friendship."

    Baloney. It was FRIENDSHIP and there's nothing wrong with that, as Brokaw and Simpson point out the necessity of built relationships.

    But the other contradictory point is "principle"--by what standard do politicians determine what is right? and for whom?

    It always amazed me that Hubert Humphrey and Barry Goldwater were, by Humphrey's admission, best of friends in the Senate. I once asked him, in 1977, how this could be. It was the first time I had ever heard, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."

  71. I agree with Mr. Simpson that it is our old nemesis fear in the driver's seat today, just as it was when FDR sadly proved his own point that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Although my father was an Italian immigrant and Italian Americans were also interned during WW II, it was never spoken of - not at home or in school. I only learned of this shameful episode when in law school I read Korematsu v. US upholding EO 9066. I was at once stricken and angry. That was not the America I love, the America my Italian-born father served in uniform WW II, or the America that I would swear to protect and defend. Not in 1942 and not in 2017. Having conquered our fear of despots in Berlin, Tokyo, and Moscow, are we ready to say no to leadership that governs by stoking fear, now of the despot du jour in Pyongyang, and remember that we truly have nothing to fear but fear itself?

  72. Put this one in the orientation packet for every incoming legislator at the national and state level. Thank you, Tom Brokaw, for sharing this wonderful story.

  73. The fracturing of relations between Democrats and Republicans began in the House of Representatives when Newt Gingrich was the Majority leader in the mid 1990s. It soon crossed over to the Senate building to a peak when McConnell became a leader.

    Public approval is at an all time low for Congress for both parties. Most recently both the House and the Senate brought forth health care bills without conferring with the minority party, the Democrats. The House succeeded because their majority was overwhelming. Fortunately the Senate failed because of a few courageous Republicans who care about the health of less fortunate Americans.

    The Democrats have never wavered in their pursuit of working with the opposition party. The change in thinking will have to come from the Republicans. As Ben Franklin said, "We have given you a Republic if you can keep it." Our future as a nation is at stake.

  74. Good article, but will we ever have a world where the personal experience of a decision maker is secondary to the goodness or badness of a situation?

  75. There are three arcs of American history that we need to remember whenever we congratulate ourselves as a bastion of freedom and democracy. This shameful period is one of them. The other two, of course, are the ethnic cleansing of the entire country of its native population, and the nightmare of slavery. Racism is at the heart of all three. As for a lesson in tolerance, I am less than sanguine as to the short term prospects for civility, especially with a schoolyard bully at the bully pulpit. My only issue with the artice is its use of the term concentration camp. That term is more reserved for what the Germans established for the Jews of Europe. As horrible as the conditions were for Japanese Americans, detention camps is a more accurate description. PS: The 442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered among the highest casualties of any combat group in the US Army during World War II. It was almost exclusively made up of Japanese Americans, whose families were at that time languishing in these camps.

  76. And as I recall, the 100th and 442nd (Sen. Dan Inouye among them)
    outfought anyone in front of them, usually Germans. Just ask Texas vets, or remind them.

  77. There are countless instances of people calling the Japanese American camps "concentration camps," from the prisoners themselves up to FDR.

  78. With all due respect, this story speaks a great deal more to what we have gained. In that an interment camp would be incomprehensible to a majority of Americans and it will never happen again. It is also a fair cause of sourness that it took personal experience and friendship to motivate reparations. While there may be decent Republicans, it is fair to say that even the most decent find it gravely difficult to comprehend experience outside their own. When it's their friend, when it's their brother with cancer, when it's their child who's gay, when it's a hurricane ravaging their state, when it's an opiod epidemic for white people...on and on. We can enjoy the story of these two men, but we should not pretend this recalls a past where better things happened. In fact quite the opposite.

  79. Prisons are Americas's modern day internment camps. Mass deportations are another form of intermnent in that they rid society of a scapegoated minority.

  80. The Japanese Americans were interned by a president and a congress who were members of the Democratic Party. The governor of California, who was a major proponent of internment of Japanese American citizens, Culbert Olson was also a Democrat. Just another gratuitous swipe at Republicans by NY Times commenters who are apparently unfamiliar with the racist history of the Democratic Party.

  81. Matt - Its a prescription to look to the present and not allow a small number of people voicing similar prejudices and fears to gain the upper hand. To allow ideology to trump pragmatism and good old human compassion towards the downtrodden, and the systemically beaten.

    I dont think anyone with any historical perspective (which is sorely lacking these days,especially among our youth) looks back and sees a "100% better past" (unless you're prone to nostalgic blindness, like some GOP advocates) but a past that no matter how bad, had the means built in to make things better. But under this current system that "means" has been purposely disabled by certain demagogues and those who swear alternate oaths, that trump the one they make to the US Constitution.

    No matter how bad things were, opposing factions had to face the other each day. Unlike today,where people can Tweet out insults, Tweet out vile opinions about the opposing side, or even their own...and get away with not communicating like adults.

    After the WW2 internment debacle, the nation was faced with the huge mistake everyday thereafter and finally, after lots of hard work, the smallest of paybacks was made. Only because those involved kept at it...kept working...and kept talking, kept dismantling the walls and moving towards friendship.

  82. Mineta and Simpson remind us that we desperately need unity, not uniformity, in congress--and in our society today. They are correct in observing that members of the legislative branch once knew one another, and had personal relationships.

    I was 11 years-old in the summer of 1973 when my grandmother informed me that we were going to watch something extraordinary on TV: The Watergate Hearings. She wanted me to learn how the legislative branch of our government worked. The bipartisan collegiality of those senators made a lasting impression on me.

    For example, Democratic Chairman Sam Ervin allowed Republican staffer (who later became a senator), Fred Thompson to ask the key question of White House aide Alexander Butterfield, revealing that Nixon had a secret taping system that recorded his meetings in the White House.

    Ervin thought it only fair that the Republicans, who had discovered this crucial piece of information, got to bring it out.

    Unfortunately, I cannot imagine that happening today on either side of the aisle.

    Ervin's mother gave him this advice: "Sam, don't try to reform people. Remember there is a lot of good in them, and try to bring that out."

    How transformed would Washington be if all of our leaders followed this advice?

  83. "Distinctions based on color and ancestry are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals.”
    I wish this was true, but sorry no! Racism is fully consistent with history and traditions. The American elite has never believed in the ideals of democracy and equality.
    The same type of racist, right wing conservatives that resisted reparations to Japanese Americans are found in both of the major political parties. Surely they are in control of the GOP today.
    They don't seem to understand the karma involved, but their policies will only exacerbate the problem. The chickens will come home to roost, sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.

  84. “We got to know each other,” [Mr. Mineta] said. Think about that..

  85. To our great shame, Canada also moved Japanese civilians into concentration camps, starting in 1941. Terrible as America's actions were, Canada's were no better. May neither country ever do such a thing again.

  86. This article is a touching reminder of what can go wrong when fear weighs too heavily on good judgment. I would slightly modify the lesson of history attributed to Senator Simpson: that patriotism, forgiveness and tolerance MUST coexist for democracy to work and survive our totalitarian impulses.

  87. Would someone kindly tweet this one to Mr. President, Bannon and his group. " Distinctions based on color and ancestry are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals.”

  88. Maybe the 2 men you write about were sane. Maybe the men (I used that noun on purpose) in DC today are insane. It could be that simple. It is unclear to me whether DC makes men insane or whether something about the place attracts the insane.

  89. Whichever way it is I can't imagine wanting to be part of the DC scene today. Which is a frightening thing to say, I know. It should be an honor to serve there, and the fact that for many it no longer is is an ominous sign for our country

  90. Mr Brokaw overlooks the fact that it was a growing grassroots movement of Japanese American survivor testimony encouraged by Nisei and Sansei children that built the ground swell pushing legislators to support reparations. Without that people power, the injustice of the internment would never have surfaced. And regarding this comment from the article, "Who’s next? African-Americans? Do we do Native Americans?” - why not.

  91. What is so important about the future that we continually dismiss the past? We're primarily a great country not because we say we are but because we've worked at making it so, mistakes and all, for 241 years and continue to do so. Brokaw's " Greatest Generation" reminded us of how we saved not only our country but the peoples of the world. There was historic irony when we did the internment. Roosevet cautioned us
    " that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself" and yet he signed 9066 out of the same fear he asked us not to have.
    Great countries do not run from mistakes. They learn from them. The resistance to blaming "all muslims" comes from learning from our past.
    Passions run high whenever we are threatened or fearful. It is then that reason must intervene. That's what happened with Simpson and Mineta. It is happening again! Don't let the passions and the rhetoric take us and the country to places we do not want to go and that we will regret. Among the bluster and passion, men and women of reason must come forward.

  92. Sadly, with how the right has chosen to vilify the undocumented, we already have returned to concentration camps in America.

    They are called detention centers now.

  93. Granted that war hysteria is partly responsible for this shameful infraction of the Constitution, but it goes to show that the danger of a repeated violation is ever-present, and hyper nationalism is its most dangerous element. Unfortunately, we have as our leader someone who not only does not temper such passion, but encourages it.

  94. Many people do not know that the government also interned Italians. Most who had been in the country for many years and just like the Japanese they were business owners and their children were fighting the war.

  95. The internment of a tiny number of Italian nationals was a wholly separate process from the mass imprisonment of every person of Japanese ancestry. There was individualized suspicion as to the Italians, and they all got hearings. It was done pursuant to a law of unquestioned constitutionality that dated to the 18th century. The program for the ethnically Japanese was based on mass race-based suspicion, applied to US citizens, and denied everyone hearings.

  96. Italias and Germans interned in WWI were foreign citizens and given the option of returning to Italy or Germany, so not the same thing at all.

  97. @Susan: Very few were actually interned, and certainly not under conditions that the Japanese-American citizens were subjected to. Joe DiMaggio's father's fishing boat was seized by the government, in California and his family had to carry ID cards identifying them as Italians, and subject to scrutiny, as such. Ironically, Joe DiMaggio served in the US Army for 3 years during the war. The government found that there were too many German-Americans to round up and intern, and also felt less threatened by the Italian-American population, who also were a substantial number, as well. The Japanese were a fraction of the US population, and were "visibly" different. Shameful!

  98. Brokaw evokes a world now unthinkable since the affliction of Political Correctness has rendered us incapable of candor such as that expressed by the man whose son was killed by the Japanese. Back in the 1940s, when Brokaw's own aunt Claire Booth Luce was someone in American journalism and her publications respected and relied upon, men and women of a certain socio-economic stature were expected to conduct themselves and business like gentlefolk. A world irretrievably lost since we have become the barbaric tattooed, pierced monkeys that the Japanese considered us to be in their cosmology.

  99. SO...the man who put the "No Japs" sign in his window was justified because his son was killed in the war? Anyone would feel for the guy but that doesn't make his reaction right. By extenson of your logic it should be okay today for a business owner to refuse service to and publicly villianize all Muslims because his or her son (or duaghter) was killed on 9/11 or in one or the other of our endless mideast wars? Do you not know that Americans of all races, nationalities and yes, religions, have served and died recently in those wars?

  100. "The senator likes to recall the words of Justice Frank Murphy, one of only three dissenting votes when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1944. Justice Murphy wrote that “the broad provisions of the Bill of Rights” are not “suspended by the mere existence of a state of war. Distinctions based on color and ancestry are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals.”

    Back then I don't think people were as petty and shallow. I doubt the judge felt any animosity after he wrote that dissent.

  101. Mr. Brokaw is reminding us that America has gone through periods of highs and lows but that even in the lows, good relationship can grow: Mineta and Simpson as an example. Our Congress is in the midst of a terrible low right now. Our country's welfare has been thrust aside and the process of electing good representatives has been given over to big money. There are no friendships there.

    Today, Justice Murphy's statement would be written, "Distinctions based on pigheadedness, cruelty and greed are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals."

    It's enough to bring a grown man to tears.

  102. When exactly has America not been governed by fear of the "outsider other?" We have always been consumed by the need for a Boogeyman - the Germans, the Soviets, communism, the Vietnamese, the Japanese, Fidel, the Sandanistas, Noriega, Mexicans, bin laden, Saddam, Isis, Muslims, ...... Why? Because it is easier to get an uneducated populace to unquestioningly get in line on more important issues that actually affect their lives.

  103. In the decades after WWII Congress basically worked. For years I have thought that one reason it did was the shared experience by many members of Congress of combat.

    It is hard to disrespect and discount the thoughts of the man across the political aisle who literally had your back in a foxhole.

    The United States has become so balkanized in so many ways it is not surprising that there is no friendship across the aisle. Land use and education have all lead to this balkanization and I do not see a common future for Americans any more.

  104. I would love to see more articles like this one.
    I wish our president had the interest and wisdom to read and learn from them. His behavior suggests an incapacity for compassion, honesty, self-reflection, and integrity. He exploits people's ignorance, fear, and bigotry to promote his shallow, greedy, self-aggrandizing goals.

  105. Alan Simpson and Norman Mineta - both 85 years old now, met as 10-year-olds in a "relocation center" (read concentration camp, lager) for Japanese citizens in 1942 at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Two people of "The Greatest Generation" met as boys - and later - decades later - Simpson, 18 years a US Senator from WY, and Mineta, GW Bush's Secretary of Transportation, renewed their relationship from one of the most shameful episodes in American history, the internment of 120,00 West Coast Japanese- American families (Nisei, Sansei, Issei, 3rd, 2nd and first generation Japanese people living in America).

    The desolate internment camps were located in California, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Colorado, Arkansas and Utah. Tom Brokaw's piece - "Friends Across Barbed Wire and Politics" - is must-reading in this age when history has been ignored, unlearned or forgotten and the horrendous times in World War II in the last century are as unknown as ancient Egypt, Rome and China in the Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers and Millenials minds today. Tom Brokaw wrote about "The Greatest Generation" - the saviours of the world, the Allies against the Axis of Germany, Japan and Italy from 1939-1945. We face - because of Americans' colossal ignorance of history, the idea of "relocation centers" under our appallingly ignorant President, Donald Trump. Lessons of the greatest generation of our past teach us what we must know now not to repeat that tragic past in our demented social-media world.

  106. Another "must read" book on the subject is "The Train to Crystal City".

  107. Justice Kennedy, I suspect, probably agrees with the thoughts expressed by Justice Murphy back in 1944.

    Justice Kennedy should consider staying on, instead of mulling retirement as has been rumored, if only to prevent Trump from appointing to the Supreme Court another person who would support Trump's agenda, which is not the preservation of the Bill of Rights, as he has shown by his frequent assault on the free press, among other things.

  108. Our family hosted two young women of Japanese ancestry during this time. They lived with us. I was just a few years old. They came to us through the good offices of the American Friends Service Committee.

    We lost track of one of them, but were lifelong friends with the other.

    This was an event in my life that strongly influenced my beliefs about justice and injustice to this day.

    I recently learned about the internment of some Americans of Italian descent (and was reminded of it through one of the comments here), and also learned via a show on Canadian television that similar internments of people of both Japanese and Italian descent also took place in Canada, which really surprised me.

  109. Our Supreme Court from the past and present has frequently usurped the original intent of the Constitution.

    Supreme Justices use their Ivy League or other prestigious university educations by playing word games to purposely distort the Constitution’s actual meaning. They then bring in their ideological or religious bias into play to reach a conclusion they had always wanted.

    Case in point. In 1866, Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase ordered the U.S. Mint to add the phrase “In God We Trust” on our coinage. It’s use continues today. What most people don’t know is that Chase was formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It seems to me he intentionally ignored the First Amendment to the Constitution against establishing a religion by injecting his own religious belief which is contrary for a secular government and country. Unfortunately, the phrase “God Bless America” has been unceasingly spoken by politicians, including Presidents. “In God We Trust” is embellished today in every government building in the country.

    The First Amendment has been the most assaulted amendment by our courts. Originalists? Don’t make me laugh!

    Easy question: Which political party uses religion to justify its existence.

  110. The foundations of the current polarization have been in place since 1984 when the South went Republican and the center of the GOP sifted South; and the edifice of this polarization was up by 1994 by which time the rancher West had joined the South and Gingrich had institutionalized the procedural radicalism of the GOP. Clinton and Bush II's Iraq fiasco only temporarily muddied the water and anti-Obama racist mobilization, FOX indoctrination, McConnell's oppositional genius only tightened the vice, as perhaps have the occasional and lately much overgeneralized excesses of political correctness.

  111. Japanese Americans in Hawaii were never sent en masse to concentration camps. Of the 150,000 Japanese Americans in Hawaii, about 1,300 were interned and an additional 1,000 voluntarily went to be with their families. Curious this would happen as Hawaii was a much more likely to be attacked (again) than the west coast. But, we were critical to the economy as Japanese Americans were everything from teachers to managers to plantation workers. Second, the authorities determined they were not a threat.

    In response, young Japanese American men volunteered for manual labor on military construction projects. When the government allowed them to join the Army, they allocated 3,000 slots for the camps and 1,500 for Hawaii. In the camps, about 1,300 signed up. In Hawaii over 10,000. Most of them served in the 442d Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion. Those with Japanese language skills served in the Pacific with military intelligence. The 442d and 100th served with great distinction in Italy and France, earning the nickname "Purple Heart Battalion". For a unit of 4,000, they had to be replaced with 14,000 more. They earned, amoung numerous other medals, 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts. They are the most decorated unit in US Army history for it's size and time in service.

    Eventually, even those in the camps were drafted. If west coast Japanese were treated fairly, they would have volunteered in droves just like those in Hawaii.

  112. Thank you for this intelligent and urgent reminder about the past and its haunting of the present, for better and for worse. Although as a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I am always uncomfortable seeing the phrase "concentration camp" rather than "internment camp" to refer to the unlawful imprisonment of Japanese Americans, I sincerely appreciate this message of reconciliation and peace. I pray that we are able to re-learn this lesson now.

  113. "Concentration camp" is perfectly correct. The objective was to concentrate Japanese-Americans in controlled camps.

    Of course they were not also extermination camps like the infamous Nazi sites.

  114. I'm of the belief that Progresives are a mile wide and an inch deep and the comments on this article suports that belief. For Brokaw's story isn't about a known wrong - like rounding up Japanese and Italian citizens - but rather about Trump's policy to minimize Islamist immigrants entering America.

    But comparing Islam to nationality is comparing Ducks to Helicopters.

    Islam means Sharia Law, allowing behavior - Polygymy, Misogyny, Female Genital Mutilation -to name a few permissable acts that are illegal in America.

    Are you all supportive of this behavior and if so, why? Mormans can't legally practice Polygymy. Why should Islamists be permitted to ?

  115. I believe that they aren't in any state in the US. The law applies to all.

  116. Rocco,

    Either educate yourself far better than what your ignorance about Islam appears to be, or kindly leave the subject out of your conversations.

    Please allow me to give you a proper definition of the Arabic word 'Sharia'-it simply means path-the one each of us choses to guide our lives.

    As for your inaccurate list concerning we who profess Islam, let me advise you that Islam was the first religion to grant women the right to their own inheritance, the right to choose their husbands, the tight to divorce, the right to adequate provisions for housing and child care-and maintenance after a divorce. There is to be NO compulsion or coercion in matters of religion. And our deeds and choices are between us and Allah/God, not between our fellows. there is also no one 'in charge'-the imam is one who leads communal prayers, neither priest, preacher, bishop, or pope.

    By the way, don't mix apples and potatoes or confuse traditions with religious tenet.

  117. Is anyone except the manufacturers of straw men proposing any of what you write? Mr. Brokaw's column indeed grows from the political grandstanding of Trump's pointless Muslim ban, but the main point of it is not Trump's stupidity--there is ample coverage of that elsewhere--but of how it is symbolic of the larger issue, which is that partisanship has damaged the prospect of American progress in the 21st century.

  118. We are a country enjoying the faux-luxury of being at war with itself. Sadly ~ frightfully ~ that's nothing new. But dangerously intense at the moment.
    Egged-on by a psychopath and the moral weaklings who voted for and support him as president ~ both inside and outside the government ~ doesn't give rise to much hope. We've been here before ~ and learned little that is constructive from the experience.
    Benign acceptance of moving from "Lock her up!" to "Locked-and-Loaded!" will prove how vulnerable we've made ourselves: Ripe For The Picking.

  119. Bonds formed during conflict can run deeper than skin color, political ideology, and even religion. What unites the people of the US now in difficult times?

  120. Until we all take a cue from Normal Lear and learn to view each other as "just another version of [ourselves]" we will continue down the path toward destruction of the country, of our families, of our world, maybe even of the human race. The Newtonian illusion of separateness in a world that can be subdivided and exploited for personal gain is provably false and the dark side of enlightenment modernity is now on full display for all to see. The great mystery and the great opportunity of this moment is that the only person you can change is yourself, and yet by changing yourself, you change the whole world. It's not up to politicians in Washington to change the tone in America. It's up to us to change it and they will necessarily come along.

  121. And of course we must insist that the blame is equal because, don't you know, the truth is always found in the middle -- the creed of the "fiscally conservative" social liberal. Balanced budgets and transgender bathrooms forever! Can't we talk???

    You'd never guess, reading this tribute, that Democrats have moved steadfastly to the right for the last 40 years, while Republicans are so far gone they have no counterpart in any other industrial democracy.

    And whose fault is it again that they can't talk?

  122. Granted, the internment was injust. However, we should remember that there were Japanese Americans in Hawaii who were spies and who helped coordinate the attack at Pearl Harbor and this was widely publicized. There was also seething hatred of the Japanese promoted by the government, e.g. "slap a jap".
    I remember as a boy after the war listening to my parents and their friends talking about those who were lost and it was very clear that they still hated the Japanese. It could be that the internment actually saved some lives because in that atmosphere of hate it is likely that some of them would have been attacked. I have worked in a Japanese company for many years and I have been asked more than once why the USA used atomic bombs against Japan and of course I have no answer. But we can't judge previous generations for their war time actions when they believed that they were in a life or death struggle. It is not fair to them.

  123. "However, we should remember that there were Japanese Americans in Hawaii "
    Not true see below from Wikipedia
    "Yoshikawa was sent to Hawaii under the cover of being a vice-consul named Tadashi Morimura ....According to Yoshikawa, although some 160,000 persons of Japanese ancestry lived in Hawaii at that time, he never made use of this resource in his espionage activities. .. while Hawaii should be the "easiest place" to carry out such work in view of the large Japanese population, (he) looked at the locals with disdain. "[T]hose men of influence and character who might have assisted me in my secret mission were unanimously uncooperative...." Wikipedia

  124. There is no documents proof that Japanese Americans spied for JApan or sabotaged our war effort. Japoneses Americans in Hawaii were not intended. In fact many of them worked hard in the American War effort, including on American Military bases. There was no sabatage in Hawaii. Many more joined the US army and formed the most decorated unit in WWII. The number of metal they earned for individual heroism is astounding. Intentionally or unintentionally your comments are based on racism. Remember that neither the German and Italian immigrants ror even the German and Italian citizens were rounded up and interned.

  125. Grew up in Hawaii
    Name one Japanese American arrested as a spy!
    The 442nd Japanese regiment most decorated of WW2

  126. Let's not forget Norm Mineta's courageous testimony to the 9/11 commission concerning the timing of Dick Cheney's presence in the PEOC and the orders he was giving.

  127. Men like these are the ones who are needed to "Make America Great Again!" Thank you, Mr. Brokaw, for this important history lesson!

  128. So much is being lost as the WW2 gen passes. Just the memories of when life was simpler, but also hard. When you couldn't text someone and get a near instant reply. When you had to navigate on your own, decipher long dead urban planners city layouts, and maybe god forbid, ask for directions. Or learn how to read a map! Where making a phone call was some thing that waited.

    When there was no means for a megalomaniac to vomit up every inane thought onto an easily readable, very public, social media platform. Where cooler heads was the norm, and the prescription.

    Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of wrong things being perpetrated by our elders, those currently over 70, but there was also a lot of right in how they got things done, how they communicated to opposing sides, and how at the end of the day they could share a meal and some cocktails and maybe even broker some peace among entrenched factions.

    These old folks lived some hard lives, and it would serve the youth of today to understand those facts. To recognize that many of the privileges they have today were hard fought and hard won. And as such are fragile, and easily disrupted by demagogues and their enablers that think nothing good existed before they came along. The youth of today think new is by default better then before...which is nothing but youthful naivete.

    I mourn the passing of the WW2 generation as a whole. Their descendants, and their children, Boomer,Millennials,etc are unworthy of the same respect.

  129. mmm.... member berries.hey wasnt the past great if only peeople could be like they were before. Tom Brokaw, profiting from nostalgia for over 20 years. Trafficking in the rosey, dewy past is easier then covering the present, speaking truth to power or taking a stand on anything

  130. Dumping on Tom Brokaw for bringing us stories from our near past is basically idiotic. It still amazes me how so many people think it is okay to turn their jealousy at someone's success into snark, apparently not realizing it really reflects only on themselves. Brokaw is a good journalist with a sense of history whose insights are helpful. Unlike many "modern" people who call themselves journalists but whose only goal is to hit you over the head with their opinions and one sided versions of their "truth". I didn't know about the friendship of Mineta and Simpson and how it affected our laws, and am pleased to learn. Brokaw serves to counter "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." He has worked hard for his success and begrudging his accomplishments is just petty.

  131. I remember a cartoon showing a devastated blackened landscape with mushroom clouds in the background. Two disheveled men are in the foreground. One looks at the other and says "Say, you look like one of those commie pinkos".

  132. Reminds me of a Des Moines Register editorial cartoon from the early '60s, I believe. Frank Mills? Didn't it win a Pulitzer? Two men sitting on a shell of planet Earth, one saying, "Well, we solved that problem, didn't we."

  133. "Mr. Simpson...said that Sept. 11 “injected something into us called fear.”

    "fear itself," to stay with roosevelt, (proof that the best can also do the worst, btw) is what we have to fear most.

    we are, or ought to be, embarrassed, as mr simpson "thundered" over the "current political enviroment..." but whether we get it or not, we are threatened by it, we have come to fear even the free exchange of ideas in the workplace, or schools and in public...instead of reason we have rage, instead of civility, invective (the press' daily trashing of trashing of trump will resonate long after tump is gone, see how the unprecedented hunting of diana has become the norm for the gotachas who've turned the fourth estate into a slum.

    to borrow from justice murphy, we suspend the bill of rights over the slightest differences of opinion, we neglect "the general Welfare" for the special interest, the "pluibus" no longer makes a "unum".

    addicted as we are to convenience and self interest, and, now rather fearful than welcoming of our differences, doubts about our ability for put things right, the backbone for the "can-do" effort, are not unreasonable.

  134. Alan Simpson, the original Maverick. Who should be saluted also is the Cody Scout Master who accepted an invitation to a detention Camp in the first place, a profile in decency. Uncommon and living the Boy Scout Motto.

  135. Something not mentioned here that helped drive the internment of Japanese Americans was a desire to confiscate their profitable businesses. There was fear of the Japanese but behind closed doors deals were made,farms and other valuable properties were given out to political patrons.

  136. While I generally don't agree on political issues with our former senator Alan Simpson, I greatly admire him as a person, somewhat in the Jimmy Carter mold. He is intelligent and witty and still serving his state and country at an age where he could easily (and in good conscience) step back and relax. Mr. Mineta is cut from the same cloth. It pains me to think about how far this country could progress if we had people like these two representing us instead of the current legislative and executive rabble.

  137. There are accomplished, kind and principled people serving our nation at the elected federal level today. The issues they are debating are far more extreme, and therefore divisive, now than they were in yesteryear. Both these gentlemen are patriots, no question.

  138. One of my clients is the son of one of those concentration camp survivors. His father moved to Japan after the war under a program that offerred to send Japanese Americans to Japan rather than back to his home in California. He married a Japanese woman and had three sons. But his heart was here in the USA. When my client was 13 his family moved back from Japan to Oregon. My client never talked much with his father about the experience (or his mother). They just carried on with their lives. Amazing survivors of brutality.

  139. I've just been re-reading the history of these despicable internment camps, and the way Americans of Japanese ancestry were treated--citizens of this country, treated like criminals. But the camps were not concentration camps, and to call people "survivors" implies others died or were tortured. This was not the case. Deprived of liberty, absolutely, but slaughtered, no.

  140. As a former Miss Wyoming, I have always been proud of Alan Simpson. This little known story has only strengthened my regard, and my pride in the state.
    A terrible time for our Japanese residents and citizens. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw.

  141. American exceptionalism won't account for or provide an excuse for what has happened to politics and governance in 2017 as a result of the Republican party of no. This time it's an incompetent narcissist trying to maintain his support by playing to the very worst aspects of human this case white working class voters who think they have lost their privilege to immigrants, minorities and even women. Congressional Republicans need to stand up for what our exceptionalism supposedly means, and it shouldn't include intolerance, prejudice and discrimination.

    Eclectic Pragmatism —
    Eclectic Pragmatist —

  142. Alan and Norman worked in an era when federal issues seldom had the extreme consequences that that do today...i.e. partial nationalization of health care; changing the definition of marriage, cities/states defying immigration laws and the ominous twenty trillion dollar debt and so on.
    It was easier to have a drink at the end of the work day back when Norm and Alan were in Congress.

  143. Health care system is not nationalized under obamacare. Doctors and hospitals work for private groups and for themselves and independent insurance companies compete with medicare. Illegal immigrants are in the US because rich republican businessmen hire them as farm labor, construction workers. Why not go after the powerful who employ the illegal to save money instead of going after the illegals. If jobs dry up, so will the flow of illegals. The debt went up because of medicare drug benefit by George W Bush and because of financial crisis on his watch.

    Looks like you believe in cliche sayings pushed by trump and have no capacity to analyze anything. Perhaps I am wasting my time..

  144. I felt a necessary need to respond to this article, first of all because I was a eight year old Caucasian boy living behind the so called "Barb-wire" fence, from age 8 through 10 years. I was a young man whose widowed mother worked for the US Bureau of reclamation, as a switchboard operator at the camp. There were only a few Caucasian living on the camp, at age 7 just turning 8 we arrived (the summer of my third grade year). My entire third grade year I was the only Caucasian in my class. Then the next summer things changed at the camp, I was no longer allowed to play with my Japanese companions and friends, when school started the Caucasian students were bussed into Powell Wyoming maybe 24 miles away from the camp. Just a small correction the only barbed wire there was at the front gate (yes there were gate keepers to check you in and out) It was so remote in this location there was really no need for even the front gates. There was no reason, too worry about any escapees, they would be so out of place, and so remote from anyplace they could never leave as they would captured within a mile of the camp.
    I would love to tell my story about living at that encampment. There are a few more corrections needing to told.
    David E. Glass

  145. The most frightening aspect of President Roosevelt's internment policies is not that the process was instituted without Due Process. It is that the process was (ultimately) given more Due Process than most Americans can ever hope to see on any issue that they are involved in. The roundups and the camps and the rights and procedures were blessed as being entirely sufficient and constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  146. While I have all due respect for Mineta and Simpson and their friendship, I think it's a bad idea to assume that personal friendship in Congress would necessarily soften ideological differences. New York's Senator Schumer found out in a heartbeat that his New York constituents didn't share his enthusiasm for then-Senator Jeff Sessions' appointment as Attorney General because of Sessions racist and authoritarian belief system.

  147. Alan Simpson was one of the last of the GOP...(Grand Old Party) who were replaced by RINOs.... Republicans in name only.

  148. Words to reflect upon.

  149. Democrat President Roosevelt signed the order with one purpose in mind, to protect Americans. However misguided in hindsight, it must be remembered that the president signed the order about 2 months after the surprise attack that killed over 2000 at Pearl Harbor and crippled much of America's navy. It was an extreme, temporary measure made during a dangerous time.

  150. Weren't Italians also interred?

  151. I was ten years old that Sunday when Japan struck at Pearl Harbor. My mother had the radio on at the time the announcement came on the air. There was not just surprise but great fear in the country. Our West Coast was naked to attack by the Japanese. The Pacific Fleet was gone as far as our government was concerned at the moment.

    Under the circumstances, desperate measures were taken. Yes, we now are ashamed and dismayed that such a decision could have been made and carried out for so long. However, one had to be there, so to speak, to comprehend the shock and fear of the attack and the vulnerability of being invaded by a nation that had caused the Rape Of Nanking killing many thousands of civilians, and which was continuing its destruction of China at the very moment of Pearl Harbor destruction.

    I detest the action taken but I will not judge FDR or our Supreme Court at the time, harshly. They were protecting our citizens using their best judgement which the circumstances seemed appropriate to them in the moment. Desperate situations can require desperate actions. President George W Bush treated our Muslim citizens in a much better manner after 9/11 and for that, we all should be grateful. History does have its teaching moments.

  152. So, Alan Simpson did one decent thing in his life. I guess everyone has forgotten how despicable he was during the Thomas supreme court hearings to Anita Hill and even his more recent attacks on seniors on social security and medicare. He is not remotely a good man.

  153. “It’s embarrassing,” Mr. Simpson thundered when asked about the current political environment.

    What is more than embarrassing are republicans like Simpson who are only embarrassed, it would appear, because the current occupant unmasked the base of his sick party.

    What is Alan Simpson actively doing to rescue his country from republicans?? Nothing. For that, Simpson should be ashamed.

  154. Twice (at least) in this really interesting article the reporter chose to use the word "appalled": once when describing the response of most Japanese-Americans to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and again when Simpson and Mineta are "appalled" at the hyperpartisanship. I believe "appalled" describes an essentially intellectual response. I like to think that the majority of Japanese-Americans then and Simpson and Mineta later were deeply shocked and gut-wrenching sorry for what had happened.

  155. This is the second time since November 22, 2015 on "Meet the Press" that Tom Brokaw has pleasantly surprised me in saying/writing something closer and closer to Walter Cronkite's "Vietnam exposure".

    Tom initially said, "Well I agree, listen. You know, when Donald Trump talks about security or Ben Carson, we're talking about three-year-old orphans who are orphans and refugees because of American policy."

    Which left the other pundits on MTP speechless, but didn't quite say that America was acting like an Empire.

    And now, the author of the "Greatest Generation", IMHO has inducted himself by writing here of Simpson and Mineta, "When they found themselves together again in Washington in the late 1970s, they were on opposite sides of the aisle, but the bonds of their relationship transcended conventional political divisions." --- which IMHO seems close to implying that the "conventional political divisions" of a dual-party Vichy-political facade covering-up an Empire are not an admirable factor in America.

  156. Thank you, Tom Brokaw , for reminding us that only in willingness to meet the 'other' as the human he/she/they is/are can we see more clearly how to crumble artificial barriers, and for the accompanying reminder that he/she/ they who ignore their own history is/are condemned to repeat it.

    I was three weeks old when FDR died at Warm Springs, Georgia in April of 1945, living in the aftermath of the events of WWII in the plains states where young men who barely knew what a river was were sent to the Pacific Theatre to 'destroy' the so-called 'Jap', not a stone's throw from SAC Headquarters.

    In consequence I witnessed the ugly xenophobia and prejudice against any who were of Japanese descent or who defended or protected them in even the slightest word or gesture. A young airman and his lovely Japanese bride lived in an apartment of a person I visited often. Akiko was probably the most gracious person I'd ever met. She made me tea and treated me like a princess in her traditional clothing and flawless skin. But as beautiful and gracious as she was, she was treated abominably by the Americans who interacted with her; and her husband was treated even worse for having dared to marry her and, worse, bring her to the US.

    Because I saw this as a child, and also because I, too, was different, I learned the lesson of not to judge a book by its cover-one that has served me well throughout my life.

  157. I just can't figure out what the reparations could be or amount to for Native Americans. I guess nobody can.
    I am sure nobody cares. Anyway, what would caring look like? Normalized discrimination by invaders unaware they invaded ( and still invade)supposes pretty complicated reparations.

  158. Wonderful piece. Thanks for sharing! Great to remember is that whether Islamic or Buddhist-Japanese, the bill of rights is areligious, a-sectarian, unabridged by skin color, not disminished by impaired intellect, and not privileged by life station.

  159. We never put German-Americans in camps, but they were far more of a threat with their underground activities and more. Why weren't they put in camps? Simple, most of them looked like us.

    This is one of the most horrid episodes in American history and today we have the alt.right railing against Muslims and Latinos. Who is next. I loved this article and it should be required reading in American history classes.

  160. Certainly, having a personal relationship with another can answer questions and quell fears about a variety of personal beliefs. "He's not a bad guy once you get to know him" is a slogan that speaks volumes. The problem is that we don't want to get to "know him." It's better to not get involved. Another long-held belief is, "Let someone else do it" which is all well and good until the 'someone else' does something we don't like. Then we grouse and lay blame on to "them." The very overstated and misquoted statement of "We've met the enemy and he is us" is alive and well, not only in the United States Congress but in most locales in the United States.

  161. How is it that when they met Mineta was 10 years old and Simpson "a gregarious teenager", yet now they are both 85 years old?

  162. Our society will begin to coalesce into the one we idealize as soon as we accept, OWN, and teach the horrendous things we have done to other people, throughout our history.

  163. it was a shameful time (canada did it too). however, i'm not sure it was the most shameful in american history. there are a few other choices......

  164. Tom should read the most recommended or picked comments on this outlet. People who support Trump are not just wrong but they are evil cretinous monsters, or worse.
    Then read the comments on Brietbart or some such place for a mirror image.
    And there you have it.

  165. Big money has replaced majority as our governing principle. Coalitions of bigots, aggrieved oldsters with a lot of time on their hands, folks who feel left behind and need someone to blame, tax cut mavens, and, of course, religious fanatics awaiting God's fire and fury—OK, let's just say a big basket of deplorables, is assembled and glommed into a political party, The GOP. Herding this crew into one corral is the preferred machination of the donor class.

    This mess is assuaged with silly grandiose promises of the best health care ever, an end to LGBT people in one's line of vision, lower taxes, highly protective plexiglass border walls funded by solar panels, which in fact are to be replaced by clean clean coal as political correctness is replaced by white boys screaming about blood and soil.

    I don't know how you go about rescuing this political party, Tom. I think you simply have to resist and fight its indescribable evil with all your might.

  166. A tale for all time. Hope it gets picked up by newspapers and news organizations all over this country. Thank you.

  167. I blame Newt. Gingrich told his caucus that being nice keeps you on C-SPAN, but being nasty gets you on network TV. Suddenly, winning elections was the goal of every policy decision. That worked.

    But the lack of cooperation and compromise -- even civility -- shows why Republicans, in the majority in Washington, still cannot govern. No empathy.

  168. If not now, when? We must raise all people up. We must reach out a hand as well as a fist, and not stigmatized any group. As an Italian-american growing up in this country, I suffered many insults that I learned to ignore or have to fight every day. Eventually their fists and mine opened for a handshake, sometimes 50 years later, but it did happen.
    Today we are building walls and camps and putting ourselves in them, isolating us from Muslims, Iranians, N. Koreans, maybe even Venezuelans. It is time to take down the barbed wire and let ourselves out, open our fists and get to know the"other."

  169. We Americans seem to forget the history lessons of this country. We keep repeating them over and over. In World War II we interred the Japanese-Americans and the German-Americans and tarred them with the same brush as the aggressors that attacked our Country.
    Now we have tarred immigrants, but in particular Muslims with the same broad brush.
    Critical thinking seems to have gone out the window once Obama left the White House.
    And regarding Reparations, we should be giving American Indians and African-Americans Reparations. In the American-Indian case the white man stole their lands and slaughtered them as if they were animals to be hunted down and they have never recovered. In the African-American case the white man forced them into slavery and robbed them of their person hood
    We owe all of these cultures their history, their lands and their lives.
    We forget these lessons to our peril.

  170. Mr. Brokaw, it seems that our president has caused many Americans to lose their values as they continue to support him, overlooking the truth at every turn. What seems appalling to us seems like something to cheer about for others. This divide is astounding. That he made it past the grope tape is astounding.

    I visited the remote concentration camp at Manzanar in California last summer. It was memorable and educational and emotional. No privacy, cold, hot, the wind enough to blow a child over. Desolate. A must for all to see.

  171. Beginning in adolescence, I and my parents used to watch William F. Buckley's show, "Firing Line" - the dictionary nearby. Although I agreed with Buckley on a couple of issues - legalization of drugs, for example - most of his views were anathema to me. I stayed with the show until it left the air.

    I watched him debate James Baldwin, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. - several times - and his good friend, John Kenneth Galbraith....not those you'd call conservative by any measure. The conversations were cordial and civil, two things missing in today's politics.

    Ted Kennedy was best friends with Orrin Hatch. They were diametrically opposed, politically, but worked together to get things done. It was only a couple of months ago that in remembering that friendship, Sen. Hatch wrote an essay for Time Magazine called "I am Re-committing to Civility."

    He came to the essay recalling the recent shooting at a GOP baseball team practice and the two people in Oregon who were stabbed and killed "by a man spewing anti-Muslim hate speech," but mostly by his unlikely friendship with the late. Sen. Kennedy.

    "Had Teddy and I chosen party loyalty over friendship, we were able to look past our differences to find areas agreement and forge consensus." In other words, country over party.

    Whatever you think of any one's - or party's - politics, I've no doubt that Hatch isn't alone and that there are others on both sides of the aisle wondering what they've wrought.

  172. There were and are more German Americans than there are any other kind of Americans by ethnic national origin. And during and after World War II Germans in America including Nazi POW's were treated separate and more equal than any Japanese Americans. While both ethnic national origin groups were treated separate and more equal than African Americans before, during and after World War II.

    And while Japanese Americans received reparations for their World War II internment, African Americans are still waiting for reparations for their colored humanity personhood denying historical enslavement and their separate and equal American defying history of Jim Crow.

  173. The good old days, Jim Crow and the solid South for Democrats, Japs in internment camps and no blacks in the service. Illegal to be gay and women had no rights in the workplace. We have moved forward maybe too fast, Gays are protected, Blacks have rights, women have rights, global warming, less coal, environmental protection, healthcare. almost a right, even a Black president, oh my goodness. Trump, the backlash, will look ridiculous in time and then we can move forward again instead of backwards.

  174. Not to worry Tom and the rest of you whites like him-- an apology to blacks is not in the offing. But beware the last judgement

  175. What a wonderful, professional and powerful way of reporting! Kudos to Tom Brokaw for a story filled with universal human values.