Ethics Tales Of Three Governors, As Hope Slowly Dwindles


The U.S.’s recent experiment with a Senator-President has been disheartening—persuasive words unhinged to action and actual principles. There was a remarkable example of this in the President’s NSA speech, in fact, in a quote that would have been the Ethics Quote of the Month had it not been so cynical coming from him. The President said

“Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.”

Wonderful! If only this had been uttered by a leader with credibility and integrity, rather than one who has shrugged off, firing no one, interference with the federal election process by the IRS, illegal spying by the NSA, and the intentional facilitation of illegal firearms coming into the murderous hands of drug cartels by his Justice Department, after bombing Libya illegally in defiance of law, selectively enforcing immigration laws, using drones to kill American citizens abroad without due process, making recess appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess, and more recently, unconstitutionally amending the ACA on his own after it was signed into law.

This was all foretold, however. Community organizers and senators make speeches and inspire people, but unfortunately seldom have a clue how to actually govern unless, as Obama himself has wistfully noted, they have absolute power. This is why, in theory, at least, state governors, who at least have experience governing, now seem like a better recruitment field for the next occupant of the Oval Office. It sounds good in the abstract, but the recent news from the state houses  is like ice water in the face—-

“According to reporting in The Record, [David ] Wildstein has made a habit of buying the Web addresses of people who cross his path in New Jersey politics — including the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2012 and a mid-level official at the Federal Aviation Administration who helped forge a firefighting agreement with the Port Authority that Wildstein disliked. While he was at the Port Authority, Wildstein bought the online names of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top appointees to the agency, including Executive Director Pat Foye, who sounded the alarm about the Fort Lee scheme. Wildstein’s redirect on sends visitors to the website of the New York Yankees. It’s one thing for public officials to subject one another to that kind of low-level, neener-neener harassment, but in New Jersey, reporters have been targeted too. Wildstein snatched up and redirected after Boburg wrote a (not terribly unflattering) profile of the intensely private Wildstein last year and an article on Christie’s patronage hiring.”

Wait...what?? This nut-case, Maddow reports, buys the website addresses that could be made from his supposed enemies’ names and then directs those who log-on to other websites, like that of the New York Yankees. Why would a responsible governor appoint such a person to any post? How could he? Someone with this kind of warped judgment and nasty inclinations is guaranteed to cause problems both practical and political. I thought Chris Chistie was supposed to be smart and know how to govern, which means, for one thing, not to give vicious wackos power because you had high school gym class with them. Guess not.

“Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

Observe, ladies and gentlemen, the perfect illustration of the famous “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy. Those holding views Cuomo disagrees with don’t belong in New York, because by definition, those holding those views are not New Yorkers! So much for pluralism, tolerance, respect for opposing views, and democracy: Governor Cuomo has declared that lock-step ideological homogeneity is the New York way, and if you disagree, you’re no New Yorker and should just get the hell out. Funny, it used to be the Right that resorted to “love it or leave it” and “if you don’t like our way, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” as its all-purpose rebuttal to dissenting voices. Now, increasingly, it’s the Left. Cuomo’s quote, meanwhile, has singular significance as the calling card of a jerk.

Now, Cuomo left himself plenty of wiggle-room for Clintonesque (Hey, look at that! WordPress spellcheck thinks that “Clintonesque” is a mispelling of “Flintstones”!) dissembling, and I’m sure he’ll take it. For example, I’m sure he’ll argue that he was only calling for the exile of those who advocate all of the positions he derided and only in the extreme forms he meant to suggest: no abortion under any conditions, assault weapons as available as beef jerky, and gays rounded up and forced to endure “Clockwork Orange”-style behavior-modification training supervised by Michele Bachmann. Uh-huh. The fact is that no respectable American leader should talk like this, ever.

  • In Virginia…it didn’t take long at all for newly sworn-in Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe to remind voters why having to vote for an infamous Camp Clinton sleaze over an uber-conservative Republican radical from the corrupt McDonnell administration was like the T-Rex rescuing the heroes from the raptors in “Jurassic Park.” From the Washington Post:

“Boyd Marcus, a prominent figure in Virginia politics for two decades, made headlines in August when he abandoned a lifetime of supporting Republicans to endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor. McAuliffe’s team and Marcus trumpeted the conversion as an important political sign that mainstream Republicans were rejecting the tea party conservatism espoused by GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli II. Instead, we learned Thursday, the primary motive was entirely mercenary. An e-mail was made public showing that 16 days before announcing he was backing McAuliffe, Marcus had offered to work for Cuccinelli if the Republican agreed to pay him “something in the range of $75,000 -$100,000.” In other words, Marcus was perfectly willing to work for Cuccinelli — whose politics he then spent the rest of the campaign decrying — if the price were right. When Cuccinelli’s campaign turned him down, Marcus followed the greenbacks. His firm received $40,000 in consulting fees from the McAuliffe campaign in four payments from September to November, according to Virginia disclosure statements….But the story has another chapter. It seems that the $40,000 was only a down payment for Marcus’s turnabout. McAuliffe has created the first controversy of his new administration by appointing Marcus to a well-paid position as a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The ABC post is one of the state’s most lucrative patronage slots, having paid an annual salary in the past of between $124,000 and $136,000.  Marcus did not respond to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment. McAuliffe pushed back against the criticism in an interview Friday, telling the Associated Press, “Am I not supposed to appoint Republicans who, you know, honestly had the courage to step out and endorse me?”

Don’t you just love that response? McAuliffe pays the guy to turn on his party, rewards him with a high-paying job, and salutes his honesty and courage? Get ready, Virginia: McDonnell was a bumbling, inept player of the graft and slime poloitical games. Your current governor is a master at it. As the Post writer, Robert McCartney, points out,

“First, one of McAuliffe’s principal challenges as governor is to overcome his image as a political wheeler-dealer from years of work as a campaign fundraiser and partisan operator. Also, he’s pledged to set a new ethical tone in Richmond after the gifts scandal that embroiled former governor Bob McDonnell (R). The Marcus controversy “confirms the worst perceptions that people have about politics, in both high and low places, which is that individual people are getting something personally from it, and there are all these deals being cut, and there are all these backs being scratched,” said Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.”

Still, recent and historical experience tells us that governors are still better bets to be effective Presidents than Senators.

Isn’t that depressing…


Sparks: Instapundit, Althouse

Sources: Fresno Bee, MediaiteWashington Post

30 thoughts on “Ethics Tales Of Three Governors, As Hope Slowly Dwindles

  1. I have to admit, when I saw you quoting an MSNBC talking head, I assumed there was sarcasm coming. Maybe it was just over my head…. Oh well.

  2. Politics is such a rich vein to tap when looking for ethics violations. It should help us remember that the less we have to do with politicians the better. And especially the less we have to deal with the results of what politicians think their job is the better.
    It’s time to elect some honest non-politicians, wherever they might be. Nowhere near politics, that’s for sure. Catch 22.

    • Sure is a catch 22. Of course part of the problem is the prevailing puritanism that seems to demand a completely perfect past when running for office. How many truly good men have decilned because they didn’t want their past (and worse their family’s every deed) so minutely examined.
      There was an excellent opinion piece by Adam Gropnik in the BBC news magazine today, discussing the Hollande’s current liaisons.

      Even if you don’t agreen with everything he says, he does raise some interesting points.

      And, from an ethical standpoint, does having an affair make you a poor choice to govern?

      While “everyone does it”, is not an ethical defence, there is also a concept here, to my mind, that a biological imperative (i.e. evolved instinct), may tell us that it is inappropriate to regard this as an entirely normal ethical fault. On the other hand much of ethics is to do with wholly invented social rules that teach us to rise above biology. However since morality (and it is often hard to distinguish morality from ethics), has changed so much over the centuries (one of the fundamental problems with being wedded to the “What Would the Founders Do” ideal), it’s hard to pin down what is relevent.

      So, how do we create a culture that is open to government by great and good men, that allows them to have problematic pasts (without having to become “Born Again” after bouts of alcoholism, or to swear to give up smoking).

      • And, from an ethical standpoint, does having an affair make you a poor choice to govern?

        ANSWER: Not necessarily a poor choice, but a less trustworthy one than a similarly qualified individual who hasn’t had an affair. Do you deny it?

        • No I certainly don’t deny it. The problem is we want everyone to have lily-white hands. In effect this means that only the nutballs that decided at the age of 10 to become politicians, (and therefore have been vigilant about their wrongdoing) win elections. (OK so I’m engaging in a huge amoung of hyperbole, but…)

          To a certain extent I would prefer to elect someone who has learned from a bunch of mistakes (particularly if it’s in the distant past), than someone who has never made any. (Now of course mistakes can often have nothing do to with ethics, and these ones are definitely “more” OK than others.)

          Also, I would prefer to elect some who has had an affair than someone who appoints their buddies to important positions. Or frankly just about any other form of hypocrisy and unethical behaviour.

          My argument was not that affairs are OK, but rather that wanting our politicians to be wholly pure is completely impractical (and perhaps even misguided – experiential learnin-wise).g

          That beacon of (supposed) monogamy, the swan, has been shown to have cygnets whose genetics do not match the “father” 10% of the time. This is about the same rate as humans …

          Now, with the ethics of “affairs”, Francois Hollande has never married any of his partners (which may imply a promise of fidelity) … so, as we don’t know what promises he has made in private, surely we cannot say definitively that he has been unethical in seeing another woman. We may moralise against it, but surely it’s not unethical per se?

          • Back before he became a knee-jerk Democratic apologist hack, Joe Klein wrote a perceptive essay about how habitual infidelity (Clinton’s) says a great deal about his trustworthiness and characteristics as a leader. The conduct involves lying, disloyalty, betrayal, breach of trust, breaking of oaths, selfishness, lack of self-control, misrepresentation (to the public). It’s not a disqualifier, but it’s a serious indication of character flaws antithetical to trustworthy leadership.

            “Also, I would prefer to elect some who has had an affair than someone who appoints their buddies to important positions. Or frankly just about any other form of hypocrisy and unethical behaviour.”

            Well, in fact what you usually get is both, and they are not unconnected. Corruption is a habit.

            “My argument was not that affairs are OK, but rather that wanting our politicians to be wholly pure is completely impractical (and perhaps even misguided – experiential learning-wise)”

            Pure? Nobody should want pure leaders—by definition, leaders aren’t pure. They have to be willing to get their hands dirty. Since leaders are always borderline sociopaths and/or narcissists (or they are lousy leaders), we have to be especially careful with them. The less evidence that they are cruel, dishonest and manipulative, the better.

            • Your Q&A pretty much nails it down as to why I feel that modern society would be better handled without a single overall leader, but rather each individual has as much say into what happens in their country, as every other individual.

              Decentralization would be an epic and pivotal change, which would inspire growth and better technologies without having it stemmed at every turn by either patent trolls or your government truly. Justice would be better served by the families and friends of the people that got hurt.

              America touts itself as having the “best” organization scheme on the planet. As does every other country — the main difference is that most other countries do not try to make it a global effort that everyone must conform to that countries regime.

              Additionally, it seems that everyone knows that Politicians, and their promotions can never be trusted, so why is this structure still forced upon its denizens. When Obama was first trying to get elected, all those wonderful promises — I called it as this >> it is either a complete load of crap (which as it turns out… this is the case) — or, he is going to get assassinated if he does or tries to do even 1% of what he promised (history shows that there are powers that be that can and have been the final hour for many bold leaders Malcom X, Kennedy, and so forth).

              As an outsider living under a system that was formed to be similar to USA, this entire — For the people, by the people — is a load of crap. First, to be president, apparently you no longer have to prove you were born there. Additionally, in a position of MAXIMUM trust, you don’t have to keep your word ??

              • “Decentralization would be an epic and pivotal change, which would inspire growth and better technologies without having it stemmed at every turn by either patent trolls or your government truly. Justice would be better served by the families and friends of the people that got hurt.

                America touts itself as having the “best” organization scheme on the planet. As does every other country — the main difference is that most other countries do not try to make it a global effort that everyone must conform to that countries regime.

                This is why the Founder’s designed a Federal system. BTW, we’ve swung so far away from that Federal system nowadays, with one Party in a mad dash to make every single issue a national issue and the other Party in reaction to that being forced to battle every issue on the national level.

                As for America having the best organization. We did. Not so much anymore, our cultural decline to centralism and collectivism has defeated much of our formerly free system. As for forcing our organization on others, I’ll say, our organization (when it was at its best) could never work in cultures that do not value the individual as separate from group-identity and equal to all others, sanctity of property rights & contracts, judicial due process to protect the innocent from false conviction, legislative process that protects the minority from the majority, and a mindset that favors rational over emotional decision making.

        • “Not necessarily a poor choice, but a less trustworthy one than a similarly qualified individual who hasn’t had an affair. Do you deny it?”

          Rarely do you have that similarly qualified individual. But, to my knowledge (I could be wrong), Carter, Ford, and Nixon were all faithful husbands (Obama, too, we believe). So, fidelity and honesty in one’s personal life does not make youa good leader..

          I get your point, but i do not necessarily agree that personal failings necessarily bleed over into one’s public life, and, in Nixon’s case, vice versa.


      • Then we get into such ridiculous things as calling out dog abuse for putting a dog in a carrier on top of a car and accusations of letting people die years after they quit working for you. And, most ridiculous of all cutting someone’s hair. If there isn’t a real breech of ethics politicians have no trouble making one up. I’d never go into politics for that very reason. It’s a filthy remorseless abyss and only ethical dunces can play there. Forget how would the founders act. I’d like to see a politician who could be as ethical as an average redneck duck hunter.

  3. Regarding Christie: I don’t excuse his terrible appointments on this ground (no “everybody does it” rationalization here) but I’m getting tired of progressives going “aha!” and pointing at his employees, totally ignoring some of the ludicrous non-firings Obama has pulled.

    Cuomo: No true Scotsman is precisely what I was thinking when I heard this. It turns out that knee-jerk left wingers really really hate when you use formal logical language to point things out. Right wingers probably do too, though.

    McAuliffe: Maybe I’m missing something here. If Marcus is a political consultant, then isn’t it his job to support the side that’s paying him? A lawyer may advocate for a client he doesn’t like, because that’s his client. What’s the issue with Marcus being a consultant for one side in one election and the other side in another? (The appointment to the lucrative position is a different matter, I just mean with regards to the payment for services).

    • You are missing that it was covered in the papers and news media here that Marcus had gone over to the other side as a matter of conscience, and the Democrats trumpeted it as such. Imagine James Carville announcing that he would be supporting the GOP Presidential nominee, because he knew Hillary and in good conscience couldn’t support her as an patriot. Then, after she has lost, it turns out that he was paid 5 million by Karl Rove’s group, and then President Cruz appoints him Sec. of Commerce.

      Got it now?

      • Ah, that makes more sense then. I didn’t realize he was saying his switch was a matter of conscience as such, I thought your problem was simply that he said good things about one party and bad things about the other, then switched when he got hired away by the other- perhaps not the most loyal behavior, but I wouldn’t call it unethical. Yes, if he presented his switch as a personal ethical decision and lied about being hired away, I see the problem. Thanks.

  4. That still leaves 47, not counting former governors. I defend none of the three, but their existence is not cause for despair over electing Presidents from statehouses.

  5. Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay?

    The Fifth Amendment protects the right to life. Is Governor Cuomo arguing that the Fifth Amendment should be repealed?

    I do admit this. If the next gubernatorial race in New York were between a neo-Nazi who openly supported nuking Israel and supports taxpayer funding for all abortions, and Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx), the neo-Nazi would win in a landslide, because the New York electorate is radically pro-abortion.

    • Maybe something about living in New York makes you think killing babies is a good idea. Many pro abortionists best argument is that it’s OK to abort a baby who would have a terrible life.
      Ethical cheap shot?

      • This is a moral case rather than ethical case. Why? Because the pro-choice people don’t believe that at 12 weeks ( or whatever) it actually is a ‘life’. According to one Jewish friend of mine, that religion for example doesn’t believe it is a life until it is actually born, others take a more nuanced view. Anyway if someone has different basic assumptions that’s a moral rather than ethical case (same as pre-marital sex, or female circumcision).

  6. Bill Baroni created the position and appointed Wildstein, which the whole authority is a joint agency with New York if I read correctly. Nothing I found said anything about confirmations and the like. Bill Baroni is a Christie appointee and Bridget Kelly obviously was a direct hire of Christie, neither of which from what I have read seems to have had any red flags in their past.
    ” [David ] Wildstein has made a habit of buying the Web addresses of people who cross his path in New Jersey politics”
    How does this ethically fall in context that while he was working as a top executive at the family sweat shop Apache Mills he started a political blog where these actions took place? He disclosed it when Bill Baroni appointed him.
    Everyone from Christie’s schoolmates/teachers to local politicians deny any relationship or friendship between the two. Christie owns Baroni and Kelly and he deserves the fallout he gets for their actions but I think Wildstein maybe a bridge too far, not as to his actions but pinning his history on Christie.

    For the Terry McAuliffe deal the guy worked for a public affairs firm, sure a republican centric one but still the goal is to make money, election time is primetime for making PA money. The endorsement has to go with the companies client otherwise they would be ineffective.

    • So, what does it say when both Christie and Cuomo both boast high approval ratings? Or is that part of the loss of hope?

      • 1. I lost respect for all of NY when they elected Cuomo the Younger in the first place. He’s an arrogant thug, and has been for a long time.
        2. If they believe Christie, then his approval needle shouldn’t move that much. If he lied, he should be impeached.

        • It was inevitable in 2010 that Cuomo would be elected, the only other choice was the Tea Party caricature Carl Palladino, and even had the more reasonable Rick Lazio overcome that foolish challenge in the primaries I do not think he had the charisma or the resume to win. So now Cuomo is entrenched with a 2/3 approval rating, $30 million in reelection funds, and no realistic challenger emerging this year. Unethical though it may be to be arrogant and to bully, he has frankly no reason to be humble or to stop his heavy-handed ways, and he’s not so stupid as to pull a Spitzer and throw all this away. There’s a good chance he could be elected President in 2020 or 2024, depending of course on what happens in two years and depending on his health.

          Christie’s approval ratings ARE starting to slip and slide as more subpoenas get issued (perhaps Paul Fishman can extend the trickling out of subpoenas to keep them in the headlines) and he hires a prominent law firm in the field that I’ll call special prosecutions defense, meaning accusations of official misconduct, corruption, etc. Like it or not, that just makes him look guilty, because if he is innocent, why does he need lawyers, especially a high-powered defense firm?

            • Not sure about that – he has a certain populist, blunt approach that plays well with his base, and he really doesn’t need charm, after all he was able to strong-arm Republicans in the NY Senate into voting in gay marriage. He doesn’t need to glad-hand or charm anyone, and Hilary can easily smooth the way for him just like Obama is smoothing the way for her as the Democratic party gets more and more entrenched in the White House.

              Bill Clinton, or one of his flunkies, once boasted that Bush the Elder was likely to be the last Republican president ever, presumably since the Cold War was over and the GOP’s unifying issue was gone. That wasn’t the case, of course, but Bill was also the first to float the idea of lifting the ban on gays in the military and universal healthcare. Both flopped at the time, but have since become a reality, for better or for worse.

              With the war on terror lost as a GOP defining issue, nothing else all that great for it to rally around, the press firmly in the Democratic Party’s pocket, and now a second “first” (first woman president) to push while her only viable opponent has just shot himself in the foot and probably given the press a generous magazine of reserve ammunition to shoot at him in October 2016 if he still runs, I can easily see 2 terms of Hilary and 2 of Cuomo over a bumbling, inept opposition. The only way that doesn’t happen is if the Democratic party’s top level does something really scandalous that comes to light, or they get too tyrannical for the average voter to tolerate. The former is unlikely because the press will close ranks around them, and the latter is unlikely because they are savvy enough to know where the line is and not to cross it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.