Ethics Observations On The Post-Iowa Republican Accusation Orgy

Cruz wins

A brief summary: After Ted Cruz shocked the poll-worshiping Donald Trump and the incompetent pundits with a first place finish in Iowa, and after a gentle, gracious, classy concession speech by someone impersonating Trump, subsequent days have been filled with accusations from Ben Carson that Cruz deflated the sleepy doctor’s vote total by spreading rumors about Carson dropping out of the race. Cruz apologized for his camp’s part in the confusion, but blamed CNN for misleading news reports, which were inspired by a vague tweet from the Carson camp about the candidate going home to Florida rather than on to New Hampshire, where the campaigning continues. CNN then accused Cruz of blame-shifting. Meanwhile, Trump found that impersonator and shot him, or something, and now says he will sue Cruz, or the Republican party or someone for some combination of Cruz not being a natural born citizen, his campaign’s sending out a deceptive mailer, and stealing Carson’s votes, and will demand a caucus do-over.

Observations:

1. Carson’s incompetence is at the root of this whole mess. His staff, as the caucuses were getting underway, put out an ambiguous tweet that Carson would not be going on to New Hampshire,, but was going home. Since Carson’s campaign has been falling apart in chunks for weeks now (this news today, for example) , his support in the polls has been falling, he was inert through the last debate and has no rational excuse to be running anyway, several news organizations assumed that the message meant that his withdrawal was imminent. I assumed that’s what the tweet meant. Carson’s staff is inept: that was a ridiculous tweet to make at that time. He should take full responsibility for all the confusion.

2. CNN and the various media sources that sent out tweets and statements also suggesting that Carson was quitting are also accountable for sloppy journalism. CNN is denying that its reporters gave out wrong information, but they did. First Chris Moody tweeted…

“Carson won’t go to NH/SC, but instead will head home to Florida for some R&R. He’ll be in DC Thursday for the National Prayer Breakfast.”

“Carson won’t go” to the site of the next two primaries is wrong. The word “immediately” was missing. Then CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted…

“BREAKING: @moody has learned @realbencarson will return to FL following , will not go to either NH or SC”

CNN itself tweeted this:

“After the , @RealBenCarson plans to take a break from campaigning http://cnn.it/Iowa”

CNN’s protests that Cruz is using them as a scapegoat is a lie on its face. The network and its supporters jumped the gun, and suggested that Carson was quitting without confirming this with his organization. If it had any integrity…well, we know the answer to that, don’t we?

3. I can’t let this pass: last night, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly railed at CNN, calling its defense of its reporting “ludicrous” and declaring, “That news agency screwed up big time and apparently doesn’t care.”

He continued:

“The state of American journalism is on the verge of collapse. Ideology has permeated hard news coverage and honest reporting is becoming almost scarce, especially in political circles.”

Bill O’Reilly said this. Bill O’Reilly.

4.  Cruz’s organization cannot be fairly criticized this time. The charge against Cruz is that he had his volunteers telling Carson supporters at the caucuses that their candidate was out, and that they should switch to him. Carson is calling this “spreading rumors.” It is, in fact, politics, and a completely reasonable tactic when a candidate who appeals to similar voters as your candidate sends out signals, however ambiguous, that he may be quitting soon. Trying to persuade voters using arguments that may be less that accurate is not “stealing votes.” Cruz’s workers could also argue that Carson has no more qualifications to be President than anyone off the street, which, in fact, is disturbingly close to accurate. If that argument convinces them to switch, there is nothing unethical about it.

5.Cruz’s apology to Crason for his camp’s conduct does not mean that he admits wrongdoing. I don’t know what the specific apology was, but there is no reason to take an apology as such an admission. He acted on what he thought was good intelligence under time pressure, and apologized for an understandable mistake because Carson felt mistreated. It’s a Level #2 apology on the Apology Scale:

An apology motivated by the realization that one’s legitimate and defensible action or words caused unanticipated, excessive, or unnecessary harm to a particular party or parties. The apology expresses a sincere regret that the harm occurred.

6. Reports say that Carson accepted Cruz’s apology. Then he continued to complain about the episode, taking a swipe at Cruz in his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, saying that  Cruz campaign’s tactics cost him a lot of votes in Iowa and implying that Cruz should fire some members of his team. Foul, foul, foul:

  • If you accept an apology, it is unethical keep attacking the individual who apologized.
  • There is no evidence that Carson lost any votes at all. His total exceeded projection.
  • No, Carson should fire some of his staff, if he has any. Cruz’s staff acted quickly and competently to react to what they saw as an opportunity, thanks to incompetent media reporting of an incompetent announcement from Carson’s campaign.

7. Carson’s unofficial top advisor, radio talkshow host Armstrong Williams, said,

“We’ve been told all along that Cruz’s operatives play dirty and were capable of this stuff, but Dr. Carson never believed it, he felt like they had a respectable operation. Now we see firsthand that having integrity just doesn’t matter to them. It’s about honor and character, either you have it or you don’t.”

For the record, Williams doesn’t have them either. He lost all credibility when he admitted to accepting pay-offs from the Republican National Committee years ago to slant his radio commentary. Meanwhile, once Carson has accepted an apology, it is unethical for either the candidate or his surrogates to keep attacking.

Williams also said:

“After all the candidates worked so hard, and Dr. Ben Carson had a staff member lose his life working towards this day, to have someone like Cruz and his people deceive and spread falsehoods is unconscionable.”

So deceiving and spreading falsehoods would not be unconscionable if the candidates hadn’t worked hard, and a staff member had not died in an accident? This is Carson’s real problem: he’s being advised by an idiot. That’s a pure appeal to emotion, and an unusually silly one.

8. As for Trump, his accusations and threats are embarrassing, outlandish sour grapes and excuse-making, exposing him as unable to summon the character to take responsibility for his own failings. Cruz’s pre-caucus mailer, as I discussed, was unethical and tells me that he is untrustworthy, but Trump, of all people, lacks the clean hands to argue in court that he was done in by fraud. Allahpundit has an excellent analysis of everything that’s wrong with Trump’s tantrum, factually, tactically, and logically, here. I don’t want to write any more about Trump than I have to. My favorite passage:

…[O]n caucus night he was gracious in his concession speech. The next day he retweeted a fan who said losing Iowa was meaningless, which isn’t quite true but will look pretty good if Trump romps to victory in New Hampshire. Then, last night, he admitted that his ground game in Iowa wasn’t as good as it should have been, which is almost certainly the real reason why he lost. And now, as if he’s going through some sort of sore-loser version of Kubler-Ross, he’s reached the stage where he insists that Trump can only be defeated through nefarious means. Why he would want to do this when he’s 20 points ahead in NH and late deciders are wondering whether they can trust him to be steady and even-tempered as president, I can’t imagine.

9. Here is the take-away from all of this: Beware of amateurs. Politics is not, as so many think, a profession anyone can just jump into at a whim and succeed. The current love for “outsiders,”ignoring the terrible two-term lesson the country has received about the dangers and foolishness of  electing shining-eyed idealists possessing few of the skills, experiences or instincts required for effective political leadership, is the product of civic ignorance. Amateurs in any profession cause havoc and disaster; most professions have effective ways of keeping them out. Not politics, however. Thus an arrogant, strange, completely unskilled and unqualified cypher like Ben Carson can assemble an equally dysfunctional organization and throw the nominating process into disarray. Thus Trump, a fool whose only assets are money and performance skills, can make the entire party and process look ugly and ridiculous. It is unethical to presume to practice at the highest levels  a profession about which one knows nothing, and only the deluded and the arrogant do. [See: Perot, Ross]

25 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Post-Iowa Republican Accusation Orgy

  1. I am grateful to see that Rand Paul quit the race AND said “No” when asked if he was endorsing anyone else. But then, just to keep whatever sanity I have left, I suppose I should expect that even those facts will change, if they haven’t already.

    • I was surprised…. I had always assumed that Rand would drop out, he had no real chance for presidency and his senate race was looming, But I thought he might be in it for the long haul as an audition for the VP slot. Maybe that’s still possible, but what a godawful waste if he wins his senate seat only to vacate it. No, I just talked myself out of it. That won’t happen.

  2. I do not see the actions of the Cruz campaign as “reasonable.” It is mere trickery such as incessant robo calls pegged to an opposition candidate or any other “rumors” that may be floated as an attempt to debase the opposition. Some may classify this as “old school,” but as one who has been in many campaigns, it has made me an outsider now looking in. Just wait up Team Clinton gets warmed up in September with this type of BS.

    That said, Cruz apparently reached out to Carson and the dust-up appears over. So on the Lego scale, Cruz knocked down the tower and then rebuilt it.
    As for Trump? Jack clearly defined it far better than I could.

    • Why is it unreasonable in a caucus, when word comes down that CNN and other news media is suggesting that a rival has quit, to take full advantage of that, and as fast as possible? Your comment would be reasonable if Cruz’s team was knowingly passing along false information, or if Crason’s bumbling team hadn’t seeded it. It’s not like robocalls at all.

      I’d give the caucus coordinator a raise. The fact that the CNN report was false is moral luck.

      • Cruz or Jeff Roe should have contacted the Carson Campaign. They had the time and resources to do so. They did not and simply ran with it. And, yes, I put it firmly into the disinformation category.

        • A “reliable” news media source should not require that kind of checking by a campaign mid-caucus, and frankly, I think he was going to quit, and changed his mind. It’s inevitable. What if Cruz’s people cited most of Carson’s staff quitting and his virtual non-appearance at the debate, and said, you know your guy is going to be out of this soon, if he isn’t already. Why not make your vote count?” Disinformation?

          • The responsibility is with the campaign to confirm. Media is notorious for sloppy journalism which you constantly point out. The Cruz campaign can pick up a phone and call to confirm. They did not. It was a rush on their part and was all avoidable. I am sure it was a lesson learned and discussed internally.

            The Cruz response was appropriate and Carson accepted the apology only to continue a desperate campaign by continuing to harp on it. That should have been the end of the story.

      • Cruz’s campaign said that the press reported that Carson wod have a big announcent next week. That was untrue, unless I missed it from the many
        Articles I read, including those sent to me by Cruz apologists. That, along with the voter violation mailer, tells me what I need to know about the man.

        • The voter mailing was enough all by itself…as well as Cruz’s refusal to apologize for it.

          I don’t have any sympathy for Carson at all. As I said, I’m not too dim, and when I heard the media reports on Carson going home, I assumed it meant an exit was imminent. He and his campaign are incompetent.

          • Agreed. Although channeling my inner Atticus, picking on Carson is like killing a mockingbird. Besides, just wait and he will go away.

  3. Ah, H. Ross Perot. The man single-handedly responsible for the ascendancy of the Snopeses, er the Clampetts, er, the Clintons. And twenty-five years and a million different hair-dos, sunglasses and scams later, they’re still with us.

    • Given a 2nd Bush ’41 term, do you think Clinton would not have been President in 96?

      Then just think, he could have had a 2nd term for the start of the so-called “War on Terror”.

      • Bush 41 did not want a second term. I am convinced of that.

        I think more of how Bill Clinton’s clinging to his job ultimately caused his party to lose the disputed year 2000 election. If Clinton had resigned, Al Gore would have been the incumbent, and would have convincingly out-polled and out-Electoral-Colleged wannabe “Bush 44.”

        It makes for great fun to imagine what President Gore would say and do following the 9/11/2001 attacks.

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