Eight Ethics Observations On Donald Trump’s Prisoner Of War Slur…And Another New Rationalization: “Popeye’s Excuse”

PopeyeFrom the New York Times:

“Mr. Trump upended a Republican presidential forum here [Ames, Iowa] , and the race more broadly, by saying of the Arizona senator and former prisoner of war: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Mr. McCain, a naval aviator, was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than five years in Hanoi, refusing early release even after being repeatedly beaten.

The only news outlet that isn’t covering this is the Huffington Post, because controversies that directly affect who will be President of the United States aren’t news when they involve candidates the HuffPo ideologues don’t respect.

I thought I should remind you.

Ethics observations:

1. The statement is signature significance that Trump is a jerk as well as a fool, and not very bright as well. The latter is especially important: being an idiot should disqualify anyone for high elected office. Not that Trump’s intelligence, or lack of it, hasn’t been a matter of record for a long, long time, but this is as blazing a tell as anyone could wish for. Anyone who voluntarily places his or her life at risk for their country is a hero; circumstances and moral luck determine what other tests warfare will present to such an individual’s character. When a hero passes such a test with distinction, as McCain did in his prisoner of war ordeal during the Vietnam war, the military makes a special effort to recognize that heroism, in part to inspire others. My father refused to make a big deal about his Silver Star and Bronze Star, because he was aware that the man who was blown up by a shell while virtually standing next to him could have just as easily been the decorated war hero, and my father a statistic, had the shell landed a little bit to the right. My father regarded the man who was killed in his foxhole as much of a hero as he was. Trump would say, “I like people who aren’t killed.”

Only a stupid man could believe that.

2. For Trump to denigrate McCain’s service when he took every possible step to avoid service in the same war is especially nauseating. The ethical values being rejected here are fairness and respect. John McCain displayed courage, patriotism, devotion to civic duty, selflessness and integrity that Trump could not. It’s really that simple. Trump lacks any standing to criticize Senator McCain’s war record.

3. On ABC this morning, Donald Trump was asked about his habit of name-calling and using personal insults as his response to political criticism. He justified his incivility by evoking the Tit for Tat excuse: if you insult him, he’ll insult you, and that includes calling you fat, old, stupid, or–his favorite—“a loser.” This is playground ethics, worthy of a 12-year-old. Your duty to be fair, civil and ethical is not reduced by the unethical conduct of someone else, even when it is aimed at you. Ethical people understand this, often before they are 20. Ethically, Trump is a case of arrested development.

4. Democrats, the news media and various pundits are determined to use this incident to simultaneously slime Republicans and to dishonestly perpetuate a false characterization of Trump’s previous verbal hand grenade, his comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico. On ABC, both Hillary Clinton surrogate Jennifer Granholm and ESPN pundit L.Z. Granderson asked why Trump’s comments about McCain suddenly aroused the GOP presidential field to denounce Trump, while Trump’s “denigration of an entire race” (Granderson) didn’t get similar treatment. Naturally, ABC moderator Martha Raddatz had neither the wit, courage nor integrity to respond…

  • “Wait…since when is “Mexican” a race?”
  • “Trump didn’t denigrate Mexicans, immigrants, or Mexican immigrants. He denigrated illegal immigrants from Mexico, who, being law-breakers, deserve to be denigrated.”
  • “Trump said that among the illegally migrating Mexicans are drug dealers, rapists and killers. Since that statement, illegal immigrants have, indeed, committed murder and rape. His tone and diplomacy were objectionable; his content was not.”

5. Slightly off topic: Why do the networks feel they have to use  unqualified African American political commentators? Donna Brazile, ABC’s favorite, is a paid Democratic consultant and mouthpiece, whose expertise consists of running a losing Presidential campaign for Al Gore. She is routinely deceitful and always biased. Van Jones, a favorite of CNN and NBC, is a far, far left—arguably Communist—radical. He was active in STORM (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement) and supported Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted and sentenced to death for murdering a police officer. He is a former Obama “czar,” an alleged truther, and when he  was asked how Republicans could manage to pass measures through the Senate without a supermajority, yet Democrats, with 58 votes of their own, were being blocked by Republicans, answered, “Well, the answer to that is, they’re assholes. As a technical, political kind of term. And Barack Obama is not an asshole. Now, I will say this: I can be an asshole, and some of us who are not Barack Hussein Obama, are going to have to start getting a little bit uppity.”

Then he apologized, “for the offensive words I chose to use during that speech. They do not reflect the views of this administration, which has made every effort to work in a bipartisan fashion, and they do not reflect the experience I have had since I joined the administration.” (He was right about the asshole part.).

L.Z. Granderson is a sportswriter, whose commentary on social matters have been irresponsible at best. His most outrageous was covered here, when I awarded him the distinction of writing the Most Unethical Column of the Century.  His position was that we shouldn’t know, want to know or seek to know what kind of dastardly activities the government is involved in. Then again, he is a big Obama supporter.

In another post, he argued that civicly ignorant citizens should not be allowed to vote, applying the dubious rationale that conservative voters were more likely to lose their votes than liberals—or African Americans. Granderson’s irresponsible and ludicrous positions should disqualify him as an ESPN columnist, not to mention as a guest at ABC’s “round table.”

The networks appear to be telling us that these are the best and the brightest pundits of African descent, and that African Americans can only be reflex progressives. I don’t believe it; in fact, it’s an insult to American blacks. Where is Walter Williams? Why no Thomas Sowell? Allen West? Alan Keyes?  Mia Love? Stacy Dash? (Don’t tell me they are too “extreme”—not with Van Jones accepted as a commentator.) Why L.Z and not Chris Rock? Montel Williams? Star Jones?

6. The responses of some of the GOP presidential candidates to Trump’s attack on McCain have been dumb as well, led by Rick Perry, who looked into the camera and said that Donald’ Trump’s lack of character as displayed by his words should disqualify him from the Presidency, unless he apologizes to Sen. McCain. Will someone explain to the Governor that apologizing is just a pragmatic response to the realization that a politician has made a strategic blunder,and usually doesn’t demonstrate character at all? Does Perry believe a politician can say anything, no matter how idiotic and offensive, but that as long as he or she apologizes for it, the acts or words have no significance?

He probably does.

7. Trump’s defenders articulated a rationalization I had missed, which now goes onto the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List as #41 A, under one of my most detested rationalizations, #41, The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is.”

Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing” is my least favorite of all the rationalizations, but The Evasive Tautology is the most annoying. It is the increasingly popular rationalization of the eternal shrug, the genesis of “Well, what are you going to do?”…”Who can blame him?”…”That’s life!”…”It’s the way of the world” and dozens of other facile clichés in many languages that essentially boil down to the excuse of ethical surrender. This is the rationalization of low expectations, not merely a rationalization but a life philosophy of passive acceptance of wrongdoing, apathy, and non-judgmental complicity in life’s injustices and the lowest common denominator of human behavior. The statement “It is what it is,” whether by others or oneself, must never end an ethical debate but begin it, with the essential follow-up being the question: “What is it?” Often, the answer is unwelcome but simple, and the very fact the Evasive Tautology is designed to evade. What is it? Wrong.

Trump’s defenders extol the fact that he is genuine, that he is unfiltered, that unlike almost all other politicians, he shows the real man beneath the packaging. This is used, incredibly, to argue that his despicable conduct and boorish demeanor are somehow more acceptable than they are. This is Rationalization 41 A, Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am,” the proposition that genuine unethical conduct and incivility becomes magically virtuous and praiseworthy if it is “real,” “sincere” and “unapologetic.” Utter nonsense. I suppose a complete jerk who advertises the fact in neon on his forehead at least can’t be accused of trying to fool anyone, but that is hardly a mitigating factor. Sure, let’s stipulate that Donald Trump is exactly who and what he presents himself as being. The doesn’t excuse his conduct in any way. He is what he is, and what he is is an irresponsible, narcissistic, rude, boorish, uncivil, nasty, destructive, ignorant, impulsive untrustworthy and despicable creep with the resources to misbehave without facing serious consequences.


8. The real villains of the whole ugly Trump fiasco thus far are the naive and blighted citizens who are telling pollsters that they support Trump, thus proving that they have the common sense and values of the average shellfish. Much has been made by the news media of the positive crowd reaction Trump received when he made his nasty remarks about McCain, as if it was representative of conservatives, Republicans, or homo sapiens. No decent, ethical, intelligent individual would cross the street to hear what Donald Trump has to say about anything, so we can fairly conclude that every attendee at the event in question was missing one, two, or all of these qualities. OK, so the unethical, the dim-witted and the mean-spirited think Trump is a hoot. So what?

19 thoughts on “Eight Ethics Observations On Donald Trump’s Prisoner Of War Slur…And Another New Rationalization: “Popeye’s Excuse”

  1. “OK, so the unethical, the dim-witted and the mean-spirited think Trump is a hoot. So what?”

    So, they are what they are.

    Trump didn’t even make up that stupid remark. He stole it from Al Franken. Now there’s a pair for the ages. Taking dumbassery to new lows.

  2. Thanks for tackling the usual suspects the networks trot out. Of course, there’s the Reverend Al Sharpton as well. And Melissa Harris-Parry. And Cornel West. Of course, the answer to your question is the networks only pick Democratic employees or Commies.

  3. Trump is a clown and idiot and obviously never saw the movie “The Great Escape”. It’s unfortunate that Hillary has predictively jumped into This. However, some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans do consider themselves a race. Remember La Raza Unida who are one of the most racist organizations around? “Toda para la raza. . .”

  4. Wow. The esteemed, now Democratic Senator from the great state of Minnesota said that? And here I thought the military pilots who looked down their noses and scoffed at McCain being and Admiral’s son and being stupid enough to “get shot down” were arrogant, insufferable assholes.

    • They are. They all are. I’m not a John McCain fan especially, but only assholes make an issue of his war record. Jack makes a good point about that.

  5. I wish people would do some actual background research on these candidates so we don’t have to spend all our time with this kind of foolishness. Of course, if they did that, Obama never would have been elected president.

    Do you think there is any way to start s spoof website that endorses presidential candidates on behalf of ISIS without being raided by the FBI or the victim of a terrorist attack?

    “Elect Carly Fiorina, let her do to the U.S. what she did to HP.” -ISIS

    “Elect Donald Trump, what are the chances the U.S. will go bankrupt with him at the helm?” -ISIS

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