Ethics Quiz: The Hypocrite and the Hecklers

GLAAD precedent: Emperor Hirohito reads the announcement of his Nobel Peace Prize for agreeing to end World War II...

GLAAD’s  precedent: Emperor Hirohito reads the announcement of his Nobel Peace Prize for agreeing to end World War II…

Former President Bill Clinton received the first Advocate for Change award at the GLAAD Awards in Los Angeles over the weekend. Clinton, who uniquely appears to be immune from ever being held accountable for his mistakes and misconduct, was honored by the LBGT advocacy organization for opposing a ban on same sex marriage in North Carolina, and supporting efforts to legalize same sex marriage in New York. In his remarks, Clinton attacked the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits legally married same sex couples from receiving federal benefits and protections, saying,

“I want to keep working on this until not only DOMA is no longer the law of the land, but until all people, no matter where they live, can marry the people they love. I believe you will win the DOMA fight, and I think you will win the Constitutional right to marry. If not tomorrow, then the next day or the next day.”

What Clinton did not say is that he is 100% responsible for the fact that DOMA is the law of the land, as he is the one who signed it into law in 1996. Nobody held a gun to his head: it was a popular bill in its day, and Clinton—surprise!—was following the polls. He also said at the time that he believed that the law was just.

This inconsistency—GLAAD honoring Clinton with an award for opposing a law he is responsible for inflicting on the gay and lesbian community, and his having the brass to accept it, are the stuff of Onion stories—prompted some at the event to heckle Clinton, shouting, “You signed it!”  I am tempted to cheer this development, but must pause—I object to heckling on civility and fairness grounds. One can rebut speech, but one shouldn’t seek to obstruct it. Yet there are exceptions to every rule, even in ethics. Thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is this query:

Is it ethical to heckle Bill Clinton under these circumstances?

Prof. Turley seems to think so, writing on his blog,

“…I have become increasingly irritated by politicians who have cloaked themselves in principle in supporting gay marriage after years of opposition . . . after polls showed a majority of voters supporting it….It is particularly maddening to see leaders who explain that they just didn’t understand the issue until one of their kids revealed that they were gay….As for Clinton, he says that he really did not understand why DOMA was such a big deal or a bad idea until his daughter Chelsea explained it to him…This is one of the classic methods of politicians to avoid personal accountability in their prior actions. By citing to a father’s love for a child, the politician raises positive images to counter the image of their prior role of leading the mob against an insular minority. Did Chelsea really have to explain this to Clinton? In 1996, thousands of people were in Washington asking to explain it to him. He did not want to hear it because it was politically popular to be against the gays and lesbians on the issue….The test of true principle is supporting rights that do not directly benefit or personally appeal to you. That is one test Clinton never tried to pass as president. I have to agree with the naysayers at GLAAD. I think the omission of this role by the organization in its award is hypocritical and wrong. I also do not believe Clinton deserves any award or acclaim for finally and belatedly doing the right thing — particularly after leading the effort to deny this right to millions.”

I think I agree with him, and I think a little heckling was the least Clinton (and GLAAD) deserved. I admit to a massive and overwhelming bias against Clinton, however, for his relentless success at ignoring ethics and prospering anyway. I can’t be objective here. I hope you can.


Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Sources: Raw Story

Graphic: Sergio Ruggier




29 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Hypocrite and the Hecklers

  1. Bill C is a legend. 4 term gov, 2 term president, and unlike his Republican counterparts before and after him, he never faded and he always craved the spotlight. Public service is in his blood.

    And did he ever lose a fight? Put Republican stalwarts on the trailer and into retirement.

    He is the one politician I would like to meet.. He must be a quite the man.

  2. Can be broadened, I suppose, to this:

    At what point does an ethical being forgo the rules of civility, politeness, and respect when faced with a gleeful certainty of the opposing elements?

    They ENJOY being unethical. They thrive on the fact that we will not fight back. But there’s got to be a difference between fighting back – and fighting hard, and with every intent to win – and fighting dirty back.

  3. I have become increasingly irritated by politicians who have cloaked themselves in principle in supporting gay marriage after years of opposition

    Why can not people simply say that DOMA was appropriate public policy in 1996, and no longer appropriate public policy today?

    Is it illogical to believe that DOMA was good public policy then but not now (or the reverse)?

  4. The only thing I disagree with is saying that Clinton is 100% responsible for DOMA. DOMA passed the Senate 85 to 14, and passed the House 342 to 67. Clinton should have vetoed it, but if he had, his veto would almost certainly have been overturned. He really didn’t have much power to stop DOMA.

    Some of the responsibility for DOMA goes to Clinton, but most goes to Congress.

    • I think that’s a legitimate point to make, though as you know, the margins have a lot to do with the understanding in Congress regarding the President’s support of any bill, or lack of it. We wouldn’t have seen those kind of margins if Clinton had opposed the bill, nor is it certain that enough Democrats would have voted to over-ride Clinton’s veto—I venture to say that that (unlike some Presidents I could name), if Clinton didn’t want DOMA to become law, he had the skills and the tools to make sure it didn’t, and it would not have.

      But 100% is unfair. I think he could have successfully blocked DOMA if he really wanted to, though.

      • Exactly – gotta remember what ol’ Slick Willie did best – horse trading. He’s not like our current president, who is held hostage by a group of petulant congressmen. He treated them as partners, and when he wanted them to vote some way, why, he went right out and convinced them to. None of this blaming, or shaming, or rabble-rousing, or pulipt-pounding, or…

        Good Lord. I miss the days when CLINTON was president. What have I become?

        • Bill knew how to be President. He had wonderful leadership skills. He had every reason to be a transformational, bi-partisan, heroic and great President, and he was too selfish, lazy, indulgent and sociopathic to do it. Instead he gave us the polarized, hateful mess we have now. It’s unforgivable.

          He’s the Democratic Nixon, a moderate with great skills whose character weaknesses destroyed a great opportunity for the nation and harmed both the office and the culture.

      • I think Especially should be substituted for Even in the comment above. A comma should also be added.

        Sorry, I’ve been grading reports and the last part was reflex.

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