Ethics Quiz: Is It Ethical For The President To Cut In Line?

"I'm more important than you are, so I'm cutting in line."

“I’m more important than you are, so I’m cutting in line.”

[Fred, who sent me this one, prefaced it by writing, “You’ll love this.” He was right. I do. I also hate it.]

News Item ( Austin 360):

“Following his speech at the Paramount, President Obama’s motorcade traveled to Franklin Barbecue on East 11th Street. The restaurant is well known for its great brisket and extremely long waits, but the president circumvented that using the powers of his office. “I know this is a long line. I feel real bad, but – I’m gonna cut,” Obama said, according to a pool report from the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell. [Owner] Aaron Franklin told the Statesman’s Ciara O’Rourke that nobody cuts the line at Franklin … except Obama.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical for the President of the United States to cut into a line for goods or services?

Can you guess my answer?

It’s not just “no,” but “Hell, no!”

Talk about the Imperial Presidency! There is no basis, justification or excuse whatsoever for the President to cut into line under these circumstances, especially by saying, “I’m gonna cut.” The proper answer to that, my friends, is “No, you’re not, Mister President. Why don’t you ask politely, and maybe everyone ahead of you will be magnanimous and agree?”

Obama—why is it that I’ve had to write this so often?—isn’t a king. He doesn’t have the power or the right to order you, me or any of the diners at Franklin’s to do his bidding, including to give up their places in line. Does he think that there is some kind of job hierarchy in this country, where billionaires like Bill Gates can jump in front of superstars like LeBron James, LeBron can cut in front of a CEO, who can jump ahead of bank VPs, then bank VP’s can cut in front of graphic artists, graphic artists can cut in front of auto mechanics, and the President can cut in front of all of them, because he’s the Biggest Cheese of All?

This is the United States of America, not Brunei, and our society doesn’t work that way. The President wasn’t in a legitimate rush to do an official duty—though he should have been—he was campaigning, because that’s really all Obama knows how to do. Swell. That doesn’t give him the right to get his barbecue before citizens who have been standing in line longer than he has.

It makes me angry that we have a President who thinks this way, and it makes me angry that we have subservient citizens who tolerate such conduct from leaders.

I live in the Washington, D.C area, and I see VIPs try to pull this stuff all the time. It’s despicable. It is the official, unspoken version of “Do you know who I am?,” and it works, because who wants to tell a powerful leader that he’s out of line? Well, we all should. Shame on the customers at Franklin’s—what’s happened to Texas?

I am not generally a Chuck Shumer fan. Yet the New York Senator was behind me in the security line—I was at the end— for the New York to D.C. shuttle recently, and we were both late. His aide tried to push him ahead in line, and Shumer, to his great honor and credit, said,  quietly, “Don’t do that. I can wait like everyone else.” And that was when I recognized his voice and turned around—I had been preparing to grab his aid by the shoulder and shove him back. I said to Shumer, “Senator, you can go ahead of me if you want,” and he said, “Thank you so much. You are very kind…that will help.” Interestingly, that was his ultimate position in line—in front of me, behind many more. He didn’t ask anyone to give way, and none of the other fliers in line volunteered their place. Good for them, and good for Shumer.

And bad for Obama, and bad for the Texas barbecue fans who allowed him to assert a superiority he does not have. Small moments can have great significance. I really don’t like what this minor incident tells me. Not one bit.

Post Script: Mediaite’s story, by Tina Nguyen on the incident airily dismisses the it, saying that this is “one more thing for Republicans to grumble about.” Really? Really Tina? Only Republicans resent their leaders acting as if they can claim special privileges that exceed their power and debase the concept of democracy?

Good to know.

______________________________

Pointer: Fred

 

 

46 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Is It Ethical For The President To Cut In Line?

  1. Well he thinks that he is royalty so is this a big surprise? I remember an occasion where Julie Nixon Eisenhower was signing her book she wrote about Pat Nixon. The line of people waiting to have the book signed was quite long and it was obvious she was tired and ready to go home. She graciously signed every single book.

    • She graciously signed every single book.
      *********
      Don’t worry, no one will ever be able to accuse Obama of being gracious.

  2. Such public offices impose greater responsibility to be fair and just rather than less. Too bad so many people get it so backwards.
    I appreciate both your gesture and Shumer’s refusal to use his office to get privileges.
    If I had to guess I’d say if Obama had gotten on at the end of the line the people in line would have offered to let him cut in front of them all the way to the front, not only making Obama a humble servant of the people, but the people honored to be able to show respect for his office.
    Or am I still hopelessly naive in spite of being so jaded?

    • Such public offices impose greater responsibility to be fair and just rather than less. Too bad so many people get it so backwards.”

      This. Why is the concept that Leaders Should Set A Good Example so hard to grasp?

      –Dwayne

    • If I had to guess I’d say if Obama had gotten on at the end of the line the people in line would have offered to let him cut in front of them all the way to the front, not only making Obama a humble servant of the people, but the people honored to be able to show respect for his office.
      Or am I still hopelessly naive in spite of being so jaded?
      **********************
      If it was a scheduling problem or a security issue, Obama could have discretely sent one of this protectors (SS) in to get the food.
      But no.
      Being the big jackass trying to show how powerful he is and reminding all Republicans (esp. the white ones), he chose to line jump.
      Just what I like in my leaders, a lack of integrity. @@

      • A friend of mine, who is a hopeless Obama apologist, told me that Obama paid for everyone behind him after he cut the line. I asked how he did this, since he had no idea how much each person’s bill was going to be and he told me he didn’t know, but he had heard this on Good Morning, America. Unlikely, that.

        • 1. He paid for the two people in front of him.
          2. It doesn’t matter. He can’t retroactively justify cutting in. He didn’t ask, “If I pay for your meal, can I cut in?”
          3. Your friends are idiots.

  3. I believe that happened in Austin, Jack? If so, there’s your answer. Austin isn’t really a part of Texas. Merely the capital. It’s sort of like Washington DC to America. The relationship of one to the other is circumstantial. In the bulk of Texas, Obama would have been met by a chorus of folks telling him to go straight to Hell. His escort would have likely found themselves outgunned, too.

    • Actually, having lived in Austin, I think the folks there think of themselves as more California than D. C. But no matter, pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened in either of those great BBQ places in Lulling.

      • Hell, it wouldn’t have happened at Rudy’s in Round Rock. It’s amazing the difference in attitude 20 miles can make.

        • I actually doubt it, even in fiercely independence oriented Texas. I think even our generation has been so inundated by Mass Media / Entertainment with submission to those in power and even “celebrities” and our generation has been so neglected by Education not teaching Citizenship and our Society’s values, that in most towns across America (including Texas), you’d see quiet sheepishness.

          After the fact many would think “hey that wasn’t right…he isn’t a King”. That unfortunately isn’t the mark of a good citizen, a good citizen, knowing our society’s values instinctively should bristle at the notion immediately.

          • City people, as a rule of thumb, tend to be more subservient as they as used to being dependent on government in their every day lives. This is especially pronounced in states where big government on all levels is more or less institutionalized. That’s not the case with Texas beyond the Austin City Limits. There are still a lot of surly, self-sufficient people out there who take pride in being that way. The Texas tradition is still strong. Nor must it ever be allowed to weaken.

  4. It makes me angry that we have a President who thinks this way, and it makes me angry that we have subservient citizens who tolerate such conduct from leaders.
    ****************
    You and me both.
    He really is a classless narcissist pig.

  5. This is the United States of America, not Brunei, and our society doesn’t work that way.

    Um… increasingly it does, Jack. As you yourself said ,

    I live in the Washington, D.C area, and I see VIPs try to pull this stuff all the time. It’s despicable. It is the official, unspoken version of “Do you know who I am?,” and it works…

  6. Once, as a Lieutenant, about to be late to a meeting with the Battalion Commander, used my rank to get to the front of the line of an administrative task that everyone in the Battalion was compelled to complete by the end of the day. A Sergeant (administering the task) invited me,”Hey sir, if you’re in a rush, just come up here, you don’t have to wait”. Despite the invite from him, it moved me at least 12 positions forward (likely a 45 minute wait)…positions held by lower ranking guys than the Sergeant. Guy who didn’t give an invitation. It was actually an ethically defensible position from that standpoint. Yet, I should have just left the line and come back that afternoon or after work.

    It bothered me as soon as I was done and even another Sergeant, towards the front of the line gave me the “really, sir?” look. Of course I rationalized it – I was in a rush, I had more important things to do, hell the privates only had to go clean weapons and vehicles later anyway. Yet, I abused my authority and I knew it, and it’s bothered me since.

    And that is coming from a culture in which rank arguably can get away with stuff like that quite ethically, given circumstances – and yet even that culture knows the taboo against it. I wish I’d never done that. I never did it before and I certainly never did it again, but gads laziness got me that day.

    It is utterly unfathomable though, that an elected citizen, elected to perform legislative or executive duties, assumes that those duties come with privileges in the Free Market that subordinate those who elected them. The message that sends is appalling.

    • The story is that during WWII sailors were allowed to eat as much as they wanted from the “gedunk” bar (ice cream toppings), which often resulted in long lines. Two new-fledged ensigns decided they weren’t going to wait and yelled “gangway for officers” only to hear a voice boom out “get back in line!” Thinking they were going to give some NCO who was too big for his bell-bottoms a dressing down, they quickly crumpled when they saw the man who had told them to wait their turn was none other than Admiral Halsey. That’s the mark of a leader.

      • Well, there’d be no rationalizing cutting in line for food or morale based items. None. Never even consider something like that.

        Not even just from the morale aspect… But the strictest interpretation of military leadership ethos would have a principle that says “don’t give your subordinates any notion that you are governed by base urges such as discomfort or hunger”. Which properly extended means (among other things) you as a leader can wait for your food even if it means not eating.

        Even stricter interpretations of that ethos, made by a former instructor of mine who had been an Army Ranger, go like this: don’t ever let your men see you eat. If that means eating becomes a 5 second nibble of something every so often just get a necessary caloric intake then so be it.

      • I heard that story. It’s true, too. Just before the war started, General Patton used to patrol the mess halls of his division in a corporal’s uniform. I don’t know if he fooled anyone, but he brought order to the proceedings!

  7. This post…this post right here…is why we can’t have a serious political discourse. This petty, infantile, trivial, non-issue is such a massive waste of everyone’s time…it’s just baffling.

    Christ almighty you have to be joking. THIS is what you are criticizing Obama for?

    Someone who would criticize Bush, or Clinton, or Regan, or Carter, or Nixon for something like this are absolute fools.

    The anti-Obama sentiment is absolutely off the rails.

    The anti-Bush idiots were exactly the same.

    • Nope. You don’t get it; you don’t get the requirements of leadership, the principle of higher standards, the core values of democracy, and signature significance. You embrace the rationalizations of the King’s Pass, and the Trivial Trap, among others. And you mistake the ethical principle of fractals—if a leader abuses his power when it doesn’t count, he sure as hell is a risk to abuse it when it does count.

      Here are some questions for you:

      1. Would you let your child cut in line?
      2. Would you tell him why it was wrong?
      3. Why should a President be held to a lesser standard of conduct than a child?
      4. If the President, who is supposed to be a role model for all citizens, cuts in line because he wants to, how would you explain to a child why it is OK for POTUS, but wrong for the child?
      5. How big a shot do you have to be to just cut into a line of ordinary Americans who respect each other enough to respect “first come first served”? The richest one? The biggest one? The one who is most famous? The one with the most important job? The one with the best resume? Who has the nicest house? A mayor? A deputy mayor? A governor? A state senator? Or just the arrogant one who thinks he can get away with it?
      6. Or is the President the only American who gets to act like the rules don’t apply to him, in your perfect society?
      7. What else do you think the President should be able to do that the rest of us can’t? Steal small items? Refuse to tip? Be rude to everyone? Push old ladies out of the way? Fart and belch loudly in public? Use obscenities on TV? What?
      8. Do you believe that character manifests itself in significant and telling ways in small acts as well as large?
      9. Do you have any concept of the idea that elected office in a democracy carries no extra privileges than accrue to ordinary citizens? Do you believe that class has its privileges? Do you believe that Presidents are equally accountable under the law? Traditions? Cultural norms?
      10. Would society be orderly and bearable if no one respected lines and the traditions of genteel civilization? Do you really think leaders behaving as they don’t apply to them is healthy for society?

      Anyone who wouldn’t criticize Bush, or Clinton, or Reagan, or Carter, or Nixon for something like this are the fools, but they weren’t faced with the problem, because none of those Presidents would have done it, or dared to do it. This is not “anti-Obama” sentiment in any way. It is anti-arrogant, power-and-position abusing, “I’m better than anyone else and I don’t even have to pretend to believe otherwise,’ democratic culture-challenged, incompetent leader sentiment, and it is dead-on right, as well as important.

      • “Anyone who wouldn’t criticize Bush, or Clinton, or Reagan, or Carter, or Nixon for something like this are the fools, but they weren’t faced with the problem, because none of those Presidents would have done it, or dared to do it.”

        All of the people you have mentioned have done precisely what you have said they would never do. Every single one of them while on a publicity tour or meet and greet have walked into a business, shook hands with people, walked up to the front of the line, took a picture of them buying a product/service, and left.

        What’s so fascinating is that inside your head you actually believe that the current moderate president is a radical. He issues the least number of executive orders in the last 100 years, but he’s an arrogant tyrant. He creates a health care law written by a conservative think-thank in the 90’s, and implemented in YOUR HOME STATE by a REPUBLICAN governor 3 years before becoming a national issue and it’s “radical socialism”.

        You are fascinatingly delusional.

        I think the problem arises with moderate political figures. Romney was a technocrat and would have made a fine president, but was painted as pretty far right by pundits and people like yourself (on the other side of the aisle). Obama is a moderate and you just can’t deal with that. He can’t be a moderate in your mind. He has to be an arrogant, power hungry liberal… and this post is a perfect example of this craziness inside the mind of political hacks.

        Moderate viewpoints can’t exist. It’s why Scott McClellan’s book didn’t get rave reviews

        What’s interesting is that I truly believe you think this is the first president to do this. You have watched the POTUS cut in line for a photo-op with a store owner dozens of times over the last 40 or 50 years, but this is the only time you have noticed it.

        • 1. No, they really did not. They asked permission, they had aides stand in line, or they made advance arrangements, and they were not in an establishment where no one, ever, ever cuts in line, Find an example of this occurring while I was writing about ethics. There isn’t one. Did others let that President, if there was one, get away with such imperious conduct? Well, shame on them, then. And yes, they are fools.

          When FDR went to Durgin Park in Boston, he sat a long communal table and was served like everybody else—rudely.

          2. Here is your smoking gun paragraph that marks you as a pre-programmed troll. Exposed!

          “What’s so fascinating is that inside your head you actually believe that the current moderate president is a radical. He issues the least number of executive orders in the last 100 years, but he’s an arrogant tyrant. He creates a health care law written by a conservative think-thank in the 90′s, and implemented in YOUR HOME STATE by a REPUBLICAN governor 3 years before becoming a national issue and it’s “radical socialism”

          1. Where is the post did I say that Obama was “radical”? I have never said he was radical. Indeed the post makes no comment about his politics at all, but only his conduct as President. Don’t come on this blog and unload your pre-digested talking points where they are as irrelevant as they are ignorant.
          2. The executive order talking point is especially ignorant. There is nothing wrong with executive orders. What is wrong is using executive orders as a substitute for governing Constitutionally. Here: educate yourself before you shoot your mouth off. And here. Professor Turley is no conservative. He’s a fair and objective law professor and Constitutional expert, and he reached the same conclusion that I have.
          3. Don’t put words in my mouth, you momentous jackass. I have never criticized the ACA on that basis, not once. I do know, however, while you do not, that there is a major difference between a state health care system and a national one. Romney’s version is also falling apart, but it will cause far less damage. Talking point from 2012, and a moronic one. Naturally, you think its persuasive.
          4. To repeat, Don’t put words in my mouth, you momentous, putrid jackass. I have never painted Romney as “far right.” Romney is like FDR…he has no ideological core, he’s just competent, knows how to lead, and gets things done, unlike some Presidents I could name. Don’t lecture me about that, you pompous, lying clod. This is my field.
          5. Talk about delusional—you have “quoted” me as saying things I never wrote, thought, or have ever believed.
          6. Obama is not a socialist, but to call him “moderate” identifies you as being so far left on the spectrum that you can’t tell left from right. Get you eyes and mind checked.

          And you didn’t deal with my questions, because you can’t—your argument comes down to “it’s been done before,” marking you as an ethics ignoramus, a slave to rationalizations, and devoid of critical though. You need some ethics education here…unfortunately, you are bannedbanned for not staying on topic, banned for lying, banned for putting words in my mouth, banned for being a robotic parroter of fatuous poll-tested partisan talking points, and banned for wasting everyone’s time, especially mine.

          • As if you can’t tell, Shane is banned. He was using this post as a departure point for generalized attacks on standard GOP positions that are not mine; he rebutted points I have never made, and is essentially an agent of T.R.O.L.L.

    • “This post…this post right here…is why we can’t have a serious political discourse.”

      Nope. The conduct in question is why we can’t have serious political discourse.

      Why can’t we discuss integral calculus with a kindergartener? Because the kindergartener hasn’t even mastered the basics.

      Why can’t we discuss advanced politics and ethics and citizenship with our current leaders? Because they haven’t even mastered the basics…

  8. There are a few restaurants in the Cincinnati and Dayton area that do not allow the President of the United States to cut the line
    The first that comes to mind is this partial piece from an article about the Pine Club in Dayton, Ohio – ‘The most famous Pine Club story – and this one is documented – is about then President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, having to wait for a table in 1988. The Bushes were visiting Dayton that day and decided to stop at the restaurant for dinner. But Hulme wouldn’t budge on his “no reservations, no breaking in line” rule – even for the leader of the Free World. The president and first lady sat at the bar for 45 minutes until a table opened.’
    I am unable to find the story about Bush dining at the White House in Cincinnati but I believe he may have been made to wait for a table there also (or perhaps the Secret Service waited), I just won’t swear to that one.
    Either way there are a few restaurants that will not allow line hopping to happen no matter who you are – it’s refreshing, don’t you agree?

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