Ethics Quote of the Week: Political Scientist Ross Baker

“Traditionally, there was a kind of courtesy extended to the party having the convention — the [other] party would basically stay out of the public eye.” 

—- Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker, commenting on the Obama campaign breaking with tradition to schedule the President and Vice-president Biden in high-profile campaign appearances during GOP Convention week, in which they will be “assaulting” the Romney-Ryan ticket.

No, President Nixon didn’t give campaign speeches while Democrats were nominating McGovern in 1972. On the other hand, he DID have the DNC offices burglarized…

Such traditions build and preserve comity, collegiality, civility and cooperation between the two parties, which, of course, greatly facilitates responsive and responsible government. It also creates trust. In an environment where neither party trusts the other, however (“If we don’t bash them during their convention, they’ll still bash us during ours!”…which is almost certainly true, by the way…), and where neither party–neither party—possesses leadership with the skills, integrity, courage or statesmanship to broker a mutual agreement to preserve such a useful symbolic gesture of respect and courtesy, such traditions are doomed.

Don’t think we are not the worse for the abandonment of these traditions, because we are, and will be until a commitment to cooperation and mutual respect regenerates, if it ever does. Responsible leadership would help.

Yes, Candidate Obama promised an end to “politics as usual.” Funny…I never though that would mean that politics would get even nastier.


Facts: Commentary

Graphic: Where’s My Fucking Money?

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

6 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Week: Political Scientist Ross Baker

  1. I don’t think it is fair to compare the despicable tactics of Obama/Biden to anything that Romney/Ryan have done. It is back to the old moral equivalence where solitary confinement in a US prison is the same thing morally as cutting off someone’s head just because they are Jewish.
    I do however think that there is a limit as to what the general public will accept in terms of these tactics and then it may redound to the detriment of those like Obama/Biden who are always hurling unsupportable accusations at their opponents.

    • There’s not a thing comparative in the post, not one thing, and that response is itself evidence on a non-ethical mindset. Comparative ethics is no ethics. The post was about one regrettable decision, and that alone. When I write about Romney, I write about Romney. Bad conduct be beget or encourage bad conduct in response, but it never excuses it.

  2. Poor George Bush II was ‘born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Remember? And he served two terms. All this nastiness — continuing and getting worse — is,I hope, having the opposite effect it is aimed for. Aren’t we all getting tired of just plain meanness and no discussion of issues?

    (N.B.: I ask here a general question: how many US Presidents were NOT upper class millionaires? Let’s start from George Washington and go forward from there. I’d love to see the stats.)

    I think we should take a cue from Britain: they campaign for six weeks only, and then the votes go in. Yes, it’s a Parliamentary election, but it would get us out of the endless fund raising, the lying, the ‘because I say it it must be true,” months and months and months of ugliness in what is supposed to be a civilized nation.

    Frankly, I blame the Obama administration for all this. The Republicans are responding in kind; they have no choice. But the great fear of the Democrats/liberals/Obama administration is only enhanced and demonstrated by their unbelievably nasty and really, lying, campaign ads. Because Obama doesn’t “approve” all the Democratic ads doesn’t get him off the hook. He is — presumably — the leader of the Democratic party, and once again, he says he has “no control” over what his PACs do. Bullshit. One phone call could stop it. Crying powerlessness is not exactly presidential, is it?

    Great. By all means, let’s re-elect him. Inability to control his own minions? What about the nation and our role in the world?

  3. Jack, four years ago, during the Democratic convention, John McCain appeared on Leno, and sent high-profile spokespeople, including Mitt Romney, to talk to reporters at the Democratic convention. On the day of Obama’s big speech, the McCain campaign tried to take some of the news cycle by leaking that they were about to make an astounding VP announcement.

    I think the real problem here is that partisans are constantly looking for the most trivial or (in this case) imaginary slights and trying to make a big deal of them.

    • Barry, that is indeed slippery slope stuff. I wouldn’t call an appearance on the Tonight Show a violation of protocol—in today’s world, you can’t expect a candidate to hide in a cave. Yes, the leaks and employment of surrogates were technically in line with the tradition, but violative of its spirit. So this time, Obama decides to go whole hog and just check spirit and substance.

      I don’t disagree that McCain’s campaign’s games eroded the tradition, greased the slippery slope, and was wrong. It still doesn’t justify the next step: it never does. I wasn’t writing this blog in 2008, and if I had been and noticed this, it would have been worthy of a post.

      I think you are wrong, and that this relatively trivial and symbolic breach of tradition is a big deal, or rather a symptom of a big deal, and there is nothing partisan about it at all. I only hold Obama to a higher standard because he promised one.

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