President Obama and his wife, Michelle invited about 500 guests to a White House party where pop icons Prince and Stevie Wonder entertained guests. Among the guests were Al Sharpton, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his date, singer Ciara, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Tyler Perry, Connie Britton, Angela Bassett, Gayle King, Tracee Ellis Ross, fashion designer Naeem Kha, American Express exec Ken Chenault, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as well as about 480 others of doubtlessly equal glitter who didn’t squeal about the blow-out on Twitter or Instagram or who weren’t mentioned by other guests who did.
The party was not mentioned on the President’s official schedule, and it almost managed to occur without publicity until the White House news briefing on Monday afternoon, when Josh Earnest was grilled about it. The White House spokesman said two interesting things, one audacious in its blatant dishonesty and Orwellian logic, and the other ….interesting. The first:
“I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event and the fact that details of this are known is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent. At the same time, the president and first lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime.”
Further proving how transparent the President was, Earnest announced that no guest list would be provided to the press or the public. Now that’s transparency. The other statement:
[T]”he President and First Lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime. I think that’s consistent with the kinds of values that they have talked about.”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
“Are there any ethical problems with the Obama’s “private party”?
I only make this an Ethics Quiz—Josh Earnest’s jaw-dropping statement about how the party proves how transparent the Obamas are could have been the Unethical Quote of the month or even a KABOOM! because do you think we are complete idiots, Josh????—because the news media are already saying that only conservative critics are troubled by this, so presumably half the nation’s reaction will be, “Hey, what’s the big deal?”
Of course there are ethical problems with it, and lots of them. And if you don’t think so, then you are allowing some form of bias to eat your sense of right and wrong, democracy, responsible leadership and common sense. I will add that if Josh Ernest’s absurd argument that a secret party proves how transparent Obama is sounds reasonable to you, you need professional help.
From the Times:
Gary Walters, who worked in the White House from 1970 to 2007, finally retiring as chief usher, said he knew of no previous party of this size and secrecy. “I don’t know how you get 500 people and not have them talk about it,” he said. “And I know of no party like that where no information was released beforehand. I wouldn’t call that normal.”
That’s because it’s not normal, and because other Presidents, you know, like those who give a damn, recognized that such huge, elite, expensive gatherings being hidden from public view raises legitimate suspicion and creates an appearance of impropriety.
2. As just one example, how many of the “private” guests will write big checks, or already have, to Obama’s inevitable Presidential library, or to Democratic candidates, or Hillary’s campaign? If there are any, isn’t this just a re-run of Clinton’s use of the Lincoln bedroom as a fundraising tool? How will we know? Is that why this party was “secret”?
3. Al Sharpton was there. He’s a tax evader, a race-baiter, a racist, a liar, a fraud and a crook. Are there other verifiable miscreants that the Obamas consider close friends? I don’t have any friends this despicable, do you? What do you think about the values of a leader who is friends with people like Sharpton? Wait, you say, he is just a political ally, and this invitation may have just cemented a useful political relationship.
Oh. Well it’s not a completely private party then, is it?
4. Meanwhile, aren’t we entitled to know what other low-lifes, crooks and miscreants made the cut? Was Rev. Wright there? Rachel Dolezal? Louis Farrakhan? Charlie Sheen? Dorian Johnson? Tom Brady? Barry Bonds? Mattress Girl?
5. Gayle King is a journalist, allegedly. So is Sharpton. Were other journalists there? Was George Stephanopoulos? Chuck Todd? Eugene Washington? Were only black journalists, (or those identifying as black) invited? What would that tell us? Shouldn’t we know?
6. If the President gives a “private party” for his 500 closest friends, isn’t that a direct snub to anyone not invited? Isn’t that—stupid? This is Washington, D.C.: presumably the President has some things he wants to do that requires allies. Do competent leaders go out of their way to signal to potential allies that they aren’t “friends”? I guarantee that if Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan threw a “private”party like this, their toughest political opponents would be there, because they knew how to do their job.
A main ethical breach of the Obama’s party is incompetence.
7. A rule of thumb in ethics is that when someone tries to keep something secret, he knows there is something to hide.
8. It is almost impossible for the Obamas to have paid for all of this party. Security? The White House? Earnest cannot be trusted or believed, based on all the other deceit and lies he has passed on to the press. Isn’t skepticism called for?
9. Let’s say, however, that the Obamas did do this “on their own dime.” How unseemly, self-indulgent and immodest. Unless Prince and Stevie sang gratis, the evening had to cost a fortune. A million bucks? More? Or maybe it was pot luck, and Al and the gang brought casseroles. Is a leader who spends this kind of money for his own amusement embodying democratic values? Is this a king or a President?
10. Are Democrats and progressives intentionally setting out to see how much hypocrisy the public will tolerate? Income inequality! The greedy rich! The invisible poor! A hedge fund tycoon gives his millions to Harvard, rather than to more needy education! And the Democratic, progressive, President of the United States and his wife give away a million bucks for one night of their own entertainment.
If they want a night of private fun, the Obamas should put on some Prince CDs and then watch “Jurassic World” (which is terrific, by the way) like everyone else.
The party and its handling is completely consistent with the arrogance and total leadership tone-deafness Obama has exhibited from the moment he took office. It is also indefensible, and pay attention to who defends it.