Former President Theodore Roosevelt reacted against those "foolish sentimentalists" who urged that the McNamaras be regarded with sympathy because they were struggling in a war on behalf of their class, pointed out that all of their victims had been "laboring people." "Murder," Roosevelt said succinctly, "is murder."
There is no question that American industry engaged in often ruthless and inhumane practices during the early decades of this century. And industry's standard-bearer in California was the Los Angeles Times. But evil, as they say, begets evil, and the bombing at the Times, along with the revelations of union terrorism that followed, set back labor's cause for a generation.
In the end, the lesson was painfully obvious to Clarence Darrow. Fourteen years after the Times bombing, Darrow, ailing and subdued, spoke the words that he might have delivered to the jury in the McNamara trial if it had been allowed to run its course. Instead, he spoke them at the trial of Leopold and Loeb, imploring his listeners to end the cycle of evil.
"I am pleading for the future," he said. "I am pleading for a time when hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men, when we can learn by reason and judgment and understanding and faith that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of man."
Lew Irwin's book on the McNamara bombing, "Deadly Times," is due out in 2011.