Tag Archives: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Sen. John McCain And Critics of “The Handshake”: The Pain Of Obama Derangement Syndrome

The Horror.

The Horror.

There are many, too many,  aspects of President Obama’s conduct of his office that deserve to be singled out for legitimate criticism. Shaking hands with Raul Castro at a non-political gathering of world leaders is not one of them. It’s not even close.

The fury with which Republican and conservatives large and small, prominent among them Sen. John McCain, have attacked the President for this obligatory, unremarkable and  essentially meaningless nod to civility shows that they are in full fever with Obama Derangement Syndrome, a crippling malady with antecedents in the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush 43 administration. Rapid psychiatric intervention is called for. In this instance, President Obama is blameless. He did what any responsible President would do, and what many before him have done. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Etiquette and manners, History

My JFK Ethics Tale

 Shredded Files

As regular readers here  know, I am not an admirer of the character of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, though he had some notable leadership skills that I respect. His reputation as a great man and President is vastly inflated and, in a strange way, I may share some of the responsibility for that.

Several years ago, I had just completed an ethics seminar for the DC Bar. One of the issues I discussed was the lawyer’s ethical duty to protect  attorney-client confidences in perpetuity, even after the death of the client. An elderly gentleman approached me, and said he had an important question to ask. He was retired, he said, and teased that I would want to hear his story. I don’t generally give out ethics advice on the fly like this, but I was intrigued. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, History, Professions, Research and Scholarship

Unethical Quote of the Week: “Face the Nation” Host Bob Shieffer

“The nation was plunged into shock. Nothing like this had ever happened.”

—”Face the Nation” host Bob Shieffer, looking forward to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, and describing the aftermath of the murder in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Wait…what???

Hey Bob...do any of these guys ring a bell?

Hey Bob…do any of these guys ring a bell?

As it is, younger generations have a tendency to assume that what is happening now is unprecedented, that every crisis is the worst crisis, that what they are experiencing is unique. The remedy to this self-centered, ignorant and crippling cognitive malady is education, resulting in perspective. Unfortunately, the schools are doing increasingly little to provide useful historical context, and our leaders find it useful to exploit the low-information voter (worker, driver, patient, parent, student) for its own devices.

That leaves the field of journalism. Journalists, however, do not generally go into the arena of describing the present because of any particular respect or appreciation for the past, so their ability to convey perspective is usually limited as well. Fortunately, there are still older, veteran, experienced pros like Bob Shieffer,  76 years young, who…who…who appears to be as irresponsibly ignorant of basic American history as the college goofs Jay Leno makes look silly on his “Jay Walking” segments. How is this possible?

What could Shieffer possibly mean by saying of JFK’s assassination that “Nothing like this had ever happened” that is not flagrantly misleading, careless, ignorant and wrong? For those of you as bad off as Bob, there had been three previous Presidential assassinations before JFK, and all of them were big deals. Lincoln’s was a bigger deal than Kennedy’s in fact, because the U.S. had barely finished a war, and Lincoln’s assassination caused legitimate fears that it was part of a second Southern assault. Let’s see…maybe we can give Bob the benefit of the doubt and find an explanation for his statement that doesn’t involve having to shop for rest homes: Continue reading

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Filed under Education, History, Journalism & Media

Consequentialism Alert At Redskins Park!

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it's wrong all the time.

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it’s wrong all the time.

A year ago, I wrote about the dilemma faced by Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who was mired in another terrible season with a failing offense engineered by his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator.  Here we have the ethical problem with nepotism, I wrote…

“There is no way to tell what is happening or what the effect of the nepotism is, which is why all appearance of impropriety situations are toxic to trust; there is no way to tell whether the apparent conflict is causing real harm or not. When everything goes well, the doubts will be muted and there won’t be a crisis in public trust, but that is luck, and nothing more…Not only are the Skins losing, but the leaks have sprung in Nepotsim Central, where Kyle Shanahan is responsible. It was fully predictable, not that this would happen, but that it could very well happen, way back in 2010 when Mike Shanahan had the bright idea of hiring sonny boy. Not foreseeing this is a miserable failure to play ethics chess: when a choice is a good bet to create an ethics problem a few moves from now, don’t make it. Owner Snyder should have forbidden it; Kyle should have turned the job down.”

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. The vicissitudes of moral luck have struck again.  Now Kyle’s offense is working like a charm, thanks to the magic arm, legs and mind of rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III. Now the ‘Skins are the NFL East Champions! Now Kyle is an offensive wizard, not a putz, and Coach Dad a visionary for hiring him. What’s the matter with a little nepotism? Never mind!

This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”

I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job.

The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.

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Filed under Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Sports

Ethics Dunce: Gina Chon

“The question I continue to have is when will the conversation return to issues?  Because when they do, I know Brett will become the next ambassador to Iraq.”

Just JKF’s type. Also a Communist spy, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Thus did loyal wife Gina Chon rationalize away Republican objections to the appointment of her husband, Brett McGurk, to be Ambassador to Iraq. Her point, apparently, is that the fact that he carried on an illicit and secret affair with a reporterher—while on a previous State Department assignment to Iraq and exchanged e-mails “joking” (?) about exchanging intelligence for sex should be an issue in his conformation.

Let’s see, now. One of the gazillion women President Kennedy may have had an affair with while he was in the White House was Ellen Rometsch, an East German spy. (JFK consistently ranks #1 in polls of which Presidents Americans think were the best. Discuss) Imagine that this came to light, that somehow JFK avoided impeachment for it (he would not have), and avoided Oswald’s magic bullet in Dallas. How would Jackie have sounded, if she argued to the press that since Jack didn’t blab state secrets during his pillow talk, his indiscretion jeopardizing U.S. national security was a non-issue?

Like a loyal wife, like a loyal Democrat, and like an idiot.

Like Chon. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Professions

Unethical Quote of the Week: “Today Show” Co-Host Ann Curry

 “What about Caroline [Kennedy], who is still alive?…Did you think about, as you talk about unburdening yourself, the idea that you’ve burdened other people now with this?”

—-”Today Show” co-host Ann Curry,  interviewing Jack Kennedy mistress and teen-ages sex toy Mimi Alford on Thursday’s NBC and suggesting that Alford was wrong and greedy to share the story of how the late President used, abused, and sexually exploited her, as was his habit.

Ann Curry’s Law: “The important thing isn’t getting the true story, but to make sure to avoid telling the truth when it might upset people I like.” Got that, everyone?

That’s right, Ann…why reveal the nasty truth about the misogynistic and ruthless character of an American icon, when it is so much more pleasant to keep lies alive?

Curry is beyond belief. She is supposedly a journalist, and yet her professed concern is how Kennedy family members will react to credible information about one of their own. History, Ann? Understanding who America’s leaders are? Learning the truth? Exploding mythology burnished by a lap dog press and meticulously nurtured by a wealthy family with a well-documented history of adultery and misogyny? Do any of these seem like legitimate goals to Ann Curry? Alford, whose relationship with Kennedy has been thoroughly confirmed, was miserably treated by the sex-addicted President, and yet Curry thinks that the intern has an obligation to protect the Kennedy family. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions

The Washington Redskins and the Nepotism Trap

Bobby Kennedy was lucky. Kyle Shanahan isn't.

No leadership error embodies the appearance of impropriety more completely than nepotism, and, for good measure, it also creates an inherent conflict of interest and undermines fairness and integrity. Yet people continue to argue that it is not inherently unethical, and leaders and managers in all fields continue to walk into the nepotism trap. The fact that it doesn’t always snap shut is not an argument in its favor, for this is just moral luck; letting your kid play with matches in bed won’t necessarily burn the house down or kill him, but it’s still irresponsible.

Washington Redskins fans now have a painful lesson in nepotism’s drawbacks to guide their own decisions. As has been a routine event about now in the pro football season since hapless owner Dan Snyder became responsible for the team’s personnel, the Redskins season is imploding, and the head coach is on the griddle. This season that coach is Mike Shanahan, and the problem is his offense. The Skins were shut out Sunday, 23-0, and appear to have no quarterback, no offensive line, and no clue.

The team’s offensive coordinator? Kyle Shanahan, the head coach’s son. Now what? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Family, Government & Politics, Leadership, Sports, Workplace

“Give Back” Ethics

Excellent! But is he giving, or "giving back"?

John Stossel, the ABC house conservative who yielded to the inevitable and finally migrated to Fox News, takes issue with what he sees as corporate America’s capitulating to the distorting rhetoric of capitalism-bashing. On his website, Stossel cites with approval this letter, sent by George Mason University  Economics Professor Don Boudreaux to the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain:

“Dear Ritz-Carlton:

“Thanks for your e-mail celebrating your and your employees’ participation in “Give Back Getaways” – activities in which you and your employees (along with some of your customers) “give back to the community.”

“Have you taken something that doesn’t belong to you?  If so, by all means give it back!…If, though, you’ve not taken anything that doesn’t belong to you, you possess nothing that you can give BACK. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Finance, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society

Presidents Day Ethics: The Presidents of the United States on Ethics and Leadership

In commemoration of President’s Day, Ethics Alarms presents the ethics wisdom of the remarkable men who have served their country in the most challenging, difficult, and ethically complicated of all jobs, the U.S. Presidency.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States:

George Washington: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Professions, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Progress: America Kicks Its Kennedy Addiction

For more than 60 years, descendants of tycoon/bootlegger/diplomat/influence-peddler Joseph P. Kennedy have held elite elected positions of power in the U.S. Government. The reason for this has not, in most cases, been the remarkable talents of the family members involved, nor their accomplishments, wit or demonstrated expertise on anything related to public affairs. Voters have elected the Kennedys because of their last name, because too many of them were lazy celebrity worshippers rather than responsible citizens. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Popular Culture, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society