Ethics Quiz: The Obamas’ “Private Party”


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.


Sources: Washington Post, New York Times

60 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Obamas’ “Private Party”

  1. This “on their own dime” bit is the ultimate. Josh Earnest seems “earnestly” dedicated to proving that he’s a bigger, more blatant shill than either of his predecessors could have hoped to be. Obama, on the other hand, has either reached the stage of terminal incompetence or simply doesn’t give a damn anymore about displaying his capacity for elitism and hypocrisy. God knows what he’ll rent the White House for, next.

  2. What’s the limit in your eyes? A private party of 20, 50, 100? I can get with you on the transparency piece, but I do think you have to have some guidelines.

    But, re the amount of money spent, assuming it WAS on Obama’s dime, who cares? This is the equivalent of people roasting Romney over his car elevator. They get to spend their money how they want.

    • Or hammering Rubio over his supposed luxury boat? Media partisanship aside, Obama came into office on all kinds of promises that he was going to make life better for the middle class and the poor. We endured a whole winter of crap about the 1%. Then he goes and does something like this and tries to hide it? Does the word HYPOCRITE mean anything to you?

        • Being rich and wanting to make life better for the poor by tapping other people’s pockets so you can gain absolute political power? Not impressed. If you think everyone should donate, then you first.

    • 1. There is no such thing as a private party at the White House with 500 celebrities, journalists, appointed officials and polls. Whatever line you want to draw, this is way, way over it.

      2. You’re not even trying, are you? Romney was smeared on that basis because Democrats claimed this proved he was an elite, unfeeling tycoon,UNLIKE OBAMA. If they had found that he spend a million bucks on a night of fun for fellow unfeeling Republicans (rather than contributing the money to the United Negro College Fund), he would have been crucified. I-N-T-E-G-R-I-T-Y. H-Y-P-O-C-R-i-S-Y.

      3. Really? Can’t see the conflicts of interest? How about the lack of transparency?

      • I’m asking what is the line? If he *just* had Al Sharpton over for dinner — does he have to disclose it? Or *just* the head of Exxon Mobil? Is every individual a potential conflict of interest? Or just ones who might be campaign donors?

        BTW — a rich person can advocate for better treatment for the poor and middle class and still own a yacht, a car elevator, etc. I don’t care about that. Bill Gates — one of the richest people in the world — also is one of the largest philanthropists. There is no hypocrisy or integrity problem in my book.

        You do have one thing wrong though. Obama doesn’t give two figs about Hillary winning the White House. The Sec. of State appointment was payment for her dropping out of the primary race. They actually don’t like each other.

          • Bill Gates isn’t trying to obtain ultimate power as well as wealth, apples and oranges. If there is no hypocrisy or integrity problem in your book I don’t know what book of principles you are reading from (I know it ain’t the Bible, since you’re too smart and too elite for that old white book of fairy tales). You are as soulless and compassless as your party.

            • I could (easily) argue that Bill Gates has amassed MORE power than Obama.

              In any event, I am not talking about Obama specifically. My point is that a person can be both wealthy and altruistic. As for the Bible, I don’t read Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek, so I guess I’m not smart enough to read it — and I distrust the translated version. But you’re right about it being about fairy tales — mostly about tannish people, but still fairy tales.

              I do have a soul and compassion — and I don’t refer to myself as a Democrat. I would respond in more detail, but I have already wasted enough time today talking with the DNR about saving an injured bird in my office’s parking garage. (I write that only because it is true AND its funny based on your last comment.)

              • -No you couldn’t argue that, at least not without making a fool out of yourself. Governments have a monopoly on legal force, courts, laws, and armies. Bill Gates can’t order a single person assassinated by drone strike. The best a guy like Gates can do is try to buy influence over a politician.

                -“Mistrust the translated version”…this is a minor quibble, since a great many people say this sort of stupid thing…but when, EVER, do intelligent people not trust translations of things in regards to any book other than the Bible? I’m sorry you don’t believe that you can grasp the plots of actual fairy tales either, seeing as so many of them came from German.

                The crazy thing here is that the President of the United States threw an exclusive 500-person kegger filled with some of the most rich, powerful, immoral, and infamous celebrities on earth, IN THE WHITE HOUSE, with a house band of Prince and Stevie Wonder, and it was a SECRET, and somehow you’ve distilled that down to “This is the equivalent of people roasting Romney over his car elevator.” No, this is the equivalent of NOTHING. If I heard that LeBron James had thrown this exact same party, at his own house, after winning an NBA title for Cleveland…I still wouldn’t believe it- and the White House wouldn’t be involved. It sounds like a movie plot that would have to star Russell Brand.

      • Beth stopped trying long ago. I get sick to my stomach reading some of her soul-dead posts. This is the future of America, a dominant political party which has abandoned all principles except the will to power.

        • How on earth am I soul dead? I’m not offended, but your comment does make me curious.

          In any event — I don’t like Obama or Hillary — yet still I am lumped with them.

          As for “stopped trying,” I admit you have a point. I often don’t read Jack’s blog in depth anymore and, when I do, I decline to comment or just comment briefly because overall the scholarship and general commentary on this site by the readers has declined dramatically. So why bother writing a composed essay? I’ve noticed the same lack-luster (to some degree) in Tex lately even though he comes from a different world view. This blog has become an echo chamber of the same old people with a very narrow world view.

          • Oh, never fear Beth, it isn’t for the lack of interesting topics nor is it from the usual line up of leftwing kneejerkers.

            I’m just in the middle of a fairly in depth reading of the Gospels in Greek and Greek isn’t easy.

            I’m almost done and will be back with a fury.

            • Ha! I actually have no trouble believing that you can read Greek. And, if you do, more power to you.

              (I was just taking a cheap shot (admittedly unethical) at the cheap shot taken at me. Perhaps I would comment here more if I didn’t get personally attacked each time I did.)

              • Line from “12 Angry Men,” which I am now rehearsing every evening:

                4TH JUROR: I don’t see any need for arguing like this. I think we ought to be able to behave like gentlemen. If we’re going to discuss this case, let’s stick to the facts.

                • So true and I try to live that way. But the various Steves on this blog rarely act like gentlemen, so it’s annoying when they discuss my morals — I sometimes lose my cool.

                  • I make no bones about hating you or the reasons why I do. If you can’t handle it, maybe you should find a “safe space” with cookies and play-doh.

                    • Somehow I doubt you know what they taught then. I’m almost certain you wouldn’t know the Baltimore Catechism from the Summa Theologica. It always amuses me when non-believers presume to criticize the practices or actions of believers, like our faith only exists so that those who think it’s so much hogwash can point out to us how we fail to live up to it. We’re on to your game, and your opinion on how we do or don’t measure up means nothing.

                    • I never asked one. I’d be happy if you kept completely silent, and the possibility of me giving you a pat on the back is just slightly less than that of that other place you don’t believe in freezing over. Frankly I ought to engage in a little “personal therapy” on you, but that would just turn this into another cluster f-bombing campaign, which I refrain from out of respect for Jack.

              • In regards to the Bible…people invested enough to drop a few tenners can learn the English meaning of every Greek and Hebrew word used in the Bible, with a Strong’s concordance. If you haven’t got the cash, it’s also all online for free. It’s one step closer to comprehending the impossible mysteries of books not originally written in English.

            • Which one? My comment about the plagiarizing piece of crap principal? That’s been established as a joke — obviously a bad one as few got it.

              Unless you’re referring to another post. I tend to agree with Jack on the teacher topics though.

          • I do think that’s unfair, Beth. Summer is always a little light on substantive comments, though there are still a lot of them. None of the scholarly commentators have retreated. I’d say relatively few commenter echo my world view, not that I have one, other than believing that people should be honest and apply the same standards of conduct to all regardless of who they are or what they stand for. I can’t control the mix of people who comment here, and objectively speaking, the commenter attempting to say, argue the Darren Wilson should be tried for murder or that Hillary Clinton’s foundation tricks don’t matter have hardly been “scholarly”—in fact, they’ve been pathetic. Look at any of the blog’s more left oriented commenters last entries before they fled—it’s not impressive. In fact it’s disgraceful. Most of them don’t come to engage, they come to deliver talking points and cant. No, I don’t tolerate that, and they get beat up for it.

            I don’t like the personal attacks on you, but tossing off-hand trolling-style comments into a serious conversation is the wrong kind of provocative. I don’t believe, frankly, that you can’t see what’s improper about the way the party was handled, or the ridiculous ‘transparency” excuse, or what’s unseemly about a President in an endless recession who has talked about sacrifice spending that kind of money, his or ours, on pure indulgence. I also don’t understand why anyone of integrity, of whatever partisan leanings, wouldn’t see it as well.

            • 1. I never defended the Obama party. My question was and is a practical one. What should we allow? For the millionth time — I don’t like Obama! I wouldn’t throw a party with singers if I were President. I shouldn’t have to go point by point in a response saying whether or not I agree with what you wrote in order to ask a question.

              2. The echo chamber I’m referring to is not necessarily echoing your world views, it’s more that I know “exactly” what they are going to say and it tends to be the same people each time. And anyone who doesn’t fit into that particular circle gets eviscerated — whether they are right or left of that circle. I’m a big girl, I can handle it — but I do think it cuts down on the number of speakers here. I’m not dissing your scholarship of course.

              • Then I misunderstood your response. That rhetorical question seemed to me to be a clear slippery slope rationalization to muddle the isse: if a 500 guest private party is unethical, why isn’t a 250 guest party? …a 100 guest party? a 50 guest party? a 25 guest party? a 10 guest party? a 1 guest party? Well yes, at some point it’s de minimus. 500 is not that point.

                • This seems exactly like the kind of thing that would happen if Pauly Shore or Adam Sandler were to become president through some wacky circumstances.

                  “Mah first executive order…..the greatest parteeeee evaaaah!”

              • Beth,
                As regards your first point, the line is at what a standard, large family gathering, such as Thanksgiving or another holiday would consist of. Say 50-60 guests. Larger than that, and there is should be no expectation, or pretense, that a gathering in the White House is private in any sense.
                Hope that clears it up for you!

  3. Well, you talked me into seeing Jurassic World. Wait – is THAT what the party at the White House was about? Celebrating how much everyone who is someone has evolved? I wonder if we’ll see any selfies (I am not that curious, actually, just wondering idly – have not, and will not, be wasting time searching for such). I wonder if any of the ostensible “press” or “media” were there. I wonder what restrictions there were on guests’ bringing and use of cameras and other recording devices, and what kinds of actions were taken to ensure all the invitees kept sufficiently quiet about the event from the time of being invited up to party time. I wonder if there were listening+recording devices all through the spaces where guests partied, recording what the guests might have considered their most discrete moments.

    There are certain public properties on which private parties are not appropriate. The White House, the residence of the President, owned by The People, used by the President as host, is a most inappropriate site for a private party, in my opinion. At this rate, I am waiting for Barack to host a July 4 “summit party” – private, of course – at the Statue of Liberty, with all the heads of the world’s most “freedom-loving and democratic” regimes including Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Syria…

  4. Maybe this was party was kept secret so people would talk about this rather than the OPM leak. I mean, if the public actually thought about the fact that the government let China steal the database that contains the personal information (mental illness, alcohol drug addiction, arrests, things done but didn’t get arrested for, all financial information, and each person’s SSN 127 times) of 4 million of the 5 million people with security clearance in this country, they might start to realize the damage Democratic voters have done to the free world by reelection Obama. That database has all the information China needs to monitor, recruit, and blackmail all of the people who work on even slightly sensitive projects. Yes, I’m sure President Obama would much rather dodge questions about his party than this. I wonder if he asked Bill “let’s send troops to a third world country to distract the press from my latest scandal” Clinton for advice?

  5. This tweet by Al Sharpton…I just can’t…I’m done.

    “Leaving the White House party w/POTUS and FLOTUS. Awesome to see Prince and Stevie Wonder on keyboards together. Unbelievable experience.”

    • Oops. Mixed metaphor. The patients are running the asylum? Or are the inmates running the prison? Freudian slip?

      • Actually, prisons are now where most of our long-term mentally ill people are housed. Connecticut is a good example. We used to have a bunch of asylums here, but they were cost-prohibitive. Connecticut closed all but one, turned all the nuts loose. Predictably, most stopped complying with their medication regimens, and ended up running afoul of our legal system. The increase in inmate population, and the percentage of mentally ill inmates, was roughly commensurate with the number of inmates released from the loony bins. The state now pays less than a quarter of what it used to for these peoples care.

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.