Sunday Ethics Trio: CREW, Coercion and Condiments

The C Street Horror…Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington appears to have jumped the rails in its hysterical protest of President Obama appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, a venerable if odd event that dates from the Eisenhower administration. Some of CREW’s objections are that the event’s organizers, a group with the admittedly sinister-sounding name “The Family,” preaches “an unconventional brand of Christianity,” (As does Rev. Wright. So what?) lacks transparency (Just like the Obama administration of late. This is a matter worth investigating, exposing and reforming, but if the President has to boycott organizations based on a lack of transparency, he’ll be living on the streets), has been “linked” to unsavory causes (Translation: CREW doesn’t like the group’s politics), and that the C Street Christian home the group maintains in Washington has housed a lot of politicians with ethical problems, like Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen John Ensign. That’s a bizarre complaint, don’t you think? Is the argument that the house on C Street corrupts its residents, like the house in “The Amityville Horror, ” or that the politicians corrupted the house? Hey CREW!  Here’s another structure that also, in your words, “has been linked to an unusually high number of ethically troubled members of Congress”—the Capitol!

President Obama is trying to get back on track as a leader who will bridge the partisan divide. Boycotting a half-century-old traditional event because it tilts hard to the Right is neither wise nor appropriate. There are indeed ethical problems with the work of “The Family,” but it isn’t the President’s job to address them.

Sen. Shelby’s Abuse of Power.…Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, is  personally blocking more than 70 of US President Barack Obama’s nominees to put pressure on the Obama administration to approve lucrative contracts that will bring business and jobs to his home state of Alabama. This is extortion—irresponsible, reckless, and wrong.

NBC’s Condiment Conflict….The excellent “Nightly-Daily Blog” noted that NBC news anchor Brian Williams devoted 25 seconds of Thursday’s Nightly News, as well as his blog post, to Heinz’s new ketchup package, calling it “The biggest development in the fast-food business in generations. “It’s obvious that Brian’s rave was meant to offer some free publicity to a regular advertiser,” Nightly-Daily” notes. This is a sensitive issue for bloggers, who are now required to alert readers when they plug products after getting cash or other benefits from the plugee’s manufacturer. Should Williams have noted that NBC takes millions in advertising dollars from Heinz, perhaps compromising the network’s objectivity? Absolutely. Is a ketchup development really worth a half a minute of coverage in the limited time of a nightly news broadcast? Surely not.

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