Post-Debate Ethics, Part I (of 4): The New York Times And The Biased Media’s Disrespect For Mitt Romney

"Boy, what a jerk, warning the public against a power-mad, narcissist blow-hard before they make him President...."

“Boy, what a jerk, warning the public against a power-mad, narcissist blow-hard before they make him President….”

Since the last GOP debate, several ethics issues have emerged, for those inclined to see them:

1. The New York Times and the Media’s Anti-Romney Bias

The biased news media helped sink Mitt Romney’s chances four years ago, and now, perhaps by habit, it can’t stop itself from bashing him even for doing something indisputably good. Though Mitt did a thoroughly statesmanlike, honest, accurate and unprecedented job eviscerating any argument for supporting Donald Trump, his own party’s front-runner for the nomination, most of the media couldn’t bring themselves to give him credit. Democratic operative Matt Lauer, on the “Today Show,” asked Romney if his direct attack was “betrayal,” as Trump portrayed it. (Hint, Matt: any time Trump stakes out an ethics position, you can assume it’s either self-serving or stupid.). The theory behind Matt’s Mistake is that Romney asked and received Trump’s endorsement in 2008, so he owed Trump the same in 2016. Let me explain to you Matt, the concepts of patriotism and statesmanship, as well as truth-telling, and how loyalty works.

You see, Matt, Mitt Romney’s loyalties in this matter, in order of priority, are individual, party, and country. If returning Trump’s courtesy had no negative impact on the Republican Party or the future of our nation, then yes, he would be ethically obligated to return Trump’s courtesy. That is not the situation, however, as I’m sure you know, but want to pretend otherwise in order to try to blunt Romney’s message and ensure that the  Democratic nominee, either the unqualified Bernie Sanders or the corrupt Hillary Clinton, has to face the weakest opponent possible, now that Ben Carson has finally withdrawn.

When Romney sought and got Trump’s endorsement, Trump didn’t predicate it on a future endorsement when Donald ran, because nobody in their right mind, even Trump, would have seriously suggested that Trump would or could mount as credible campaign. Mitt was seeking the endorsement of a businessman, a reality TV figure with high visibility, celebrity and a potential donor, and that’s all he was doing. That doesn’t obligate Romney to return the favor. Lauer apparently thinks Mitt is in “The Godfather” : accept the favor from the Don(ald), and you must do whatever you are asked at a later date, even if it means shooting someone. No, you are not obligated to do anything. What you asked before was a favor; what is being asked of you now is a wrong.

For nominating Trump will wreck the Republican party. It will dissolve its values, embarrass its members, soil its reputation and legacy, and when Trump turns out to be the new Silvio Berlusconi, or a modern day Huey Long, or an American Hitler, or, as I suspect, being an optimist, just a more destructive version of Evan Meacham, the car salesman turned Arizona Governor who became the first U.S. governor to simultaneously face removal from office through impeachment, a scheduled recall election, and a felony indictment, or, in the best case scenario, a national version of Jesse Ventura. Under any of these scenarios, however, the GOP will be crippled, accountable and ultimately doomed, and that’s just what journalists like Lauer want in their heart of hearts. What they don’t seem to realize is that there is a real risk that Trump could win.

Romney owes his first loyalty in this matter to his party, and his highest to his fellow citizens. His speech was not a betrayal of either of these, but an ethical act to its core.

Even worse than Lauer was the New York Times editors, who wrote yet another embarrassing editorial, one of many they have authored in the past 12 months or so as the paper has almost completely shed its mantle as the exemplar of U.S. journalism. Rather than an objective and fair editorial praising Romney’s courageous and well-aimed broadside at a juggernaut, the Times used the opportunity to play partisan politics while expanding and re-using old cheap shots at Romney:

1. It began “Holy Mitt, what a meltdown!” HAHAHAHA! Get it? See, that’s a play on words, see, and you’re supposed to hear “shit” when you read “Mitt.” Isn’t that clever, classy and original? I’m going to save my fingers and repeat what I wrote about this ugly and juvenile trend last May:

I have no idea why anyone would want to recast the culture as a place where professionals curse like sailors and the words “fuck” and “cocksucker” are as likely to issue from a debutante’s lips as those of a hip hop artist, but that seems to be the objective now. President Obama, the Fish Head, signaled his approval by repeatedly using the word “bucket” in a televised event when he obviously meant “fuck it.” First President ever to use fuck on TV! Yes, Obama continues to burnish his legacy. Small wonder that CNN’s John Berman thought his audience wanted to see him snigger over a colleague’s “big stones,” a testicle joke that always has them LOL-ing in the 7th grade. Making sure that there is nowhere for the civil and well-mannered to hide, all the other TV stations happily accept money from advertisers using code words for “ass” (Verizon), alluding to sexual intercourse (Reese’s), and evoking the word “shit” (K-Mart and DraftKings).

Now the New York Times editors have followed the leader, and not so subtly using an American public servant’s name a stand-in for shit, because, as all good Times readers know, the Times thinks Republicans and conservatives are shit, or a near equivalent.

Gee, I wonder why Donald Trump’s constant vulgarity has not disqualified him from the Presidency…

2. The Times continues for a while following the theme of its next statement:

“He’s forced a Republican Party reckoning overdue for years, all in a few days. It took the Trump-dominated Super Tuesday contests to awaken Republican leaders to the fact that the darkest elements of the party’s base, which many of them have embraced or exploited, are now threatening their party.”

I expect, even from the Times, a more honest analysis than this. A newspaper is supposed to enlighten, not cherry-pick facts that are most favorable to its favorite party, and this analysis is just willfully false:

  • As has been well documented, the Trump support is not purely Republican. Many of the racists, xenophobes, bigots, fascists, vulgarians and idiots are Democrats, or non-political independents. It serves the Times partisan agenda—which they shouldn’t have, as ethical journalists, but never mind—to misrepresent that inconvenient fact, but they are responsible for telling the truth.
  • The Trump-ites want strong leadership, and the reason they feel that way is that the Presidential leadership of the last seven years has been embarrassingly, disastrously, almost historically weak. I’m certainly embarrassed by it. I notably refused to believe Obama, whose weakness and fecklessness was already on full display when Romney ran against him, could win in 2012 because my decades of studying the U.S. Presidency showed that Americans want strong leadership, irrespective of policy. Well, the nation hadn’t hit its tipping point yet. Now it has. The Trump insanity is in part due to a national yearning for a strong leader, for it has has none for too long. One of the many Rorschach readings of “Make America Great Again” is “Let’s Have  President Who Means What He Says and Doesn’t Wimp Out.” That’s Obama’s fault. It doesn’t matter that Trump is just pretending to be such a leader—if your market is gullible and not-too-bright voters, a mediocre act is good enough, when the previous one was a fiasco.
  • Trump grabbed the illegal immigration issue first. That was what launched his candidacy: strong and principled public opposition to the open borders policies of the Obama administration and the Democrats, and the double-talk on the issue from Republicans. It was ripe for the picking. The Times, dishonestly and irresponsibly, still calls illegal immigration “immigration” and has backed policies that enable and encourage illegals, while tarring opposition—you know, those of us who believe in borders and laws?—as racists and xenophobes. This element that has bolstered Trump was activated by Democrats as much as Republicans, and there is nothing “dark” about wanting to enforce immigration laws.
  • Trump, more than anything else , is a product of the sick values nurtured by a celebrity culture, causing fame and its trappings to become a substitute for substance. The Times and the rest of the media have fostered this, while Barack and Michelle Obama have encouraged the blurring of substance and trivia, with the First Lady dancing with Jimmy Fallon and Obama doing comedy skits on “Funny or Die,” as liberal pundits clap like trained seals. No wonder people see nothing odd about a reality TV star claiming that he should be President, when the First Family reduces national leadership to mere entertainment.

Then the Times settled in to mock the Republican Party and Romney, who was being a responsible American leader, statesman and patriot, unlike, for example, the editors of the Times:

“Mr. Romney did not endorse any specific alternative to Mr. Trump. Instead, he seemed to advocate a course of action that would force a nomination brokered by party leaders, saying that Republicans should vote for the Republican candidate who has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in each state.”

Yes, that’s because the purpose of the speech was not to support any candidate, but to denounce one who is unfit to lead, before it is too late. If only a Democrat had the integrity and courage to do the same with Hillary Clinton. Why is the Times pretending it doesn’t comprehend what Romney was doing, and why it had to be done?

“Of course, in terms of domestic and foreign policy positions, Mr. Cruz is probably more extreme than Mr. Trump, and Mr. Rubio is hardly different.

Again, the Times is willfully missing the point so it can attack Republicans. The problem with Trump isn’t extremism. It’s that he has no qualifications to lead whatsoever, has debased the process and continues to, says irresponsible  and dangerous things, lies, uses personal insults as arguments and is substantively incoherent. The Times editors are saying that to them, one Republican is as bad as the other. Well, that’s not reporting, that’s bigotry, partyism, and in this case,  in direct contradiction to blazing reality. Ted Cruz doesn’t boast about his penis on national television. Ted Cruz hasn’t advocated anti-vaxx nonsense, truther and birther conspiracy theories, imitate handicapped people, or have protesters roughed up at his rallies. Ted Cruz would know enough to immediately reject the KKK and white supremacy groups.

“It was a surprising moment, since Mr. Romney relished Mr. Trump’s endorsement in 2012.”

See above. Riight, you utter hacks: Romney should have known that Donald Trump would be threatening to make a laughing stock of the party and the nation four years later.  If I throw someone out of a party at my house when he begins urinating on the furniture and in the punch bowl, you would say, “That’s surprising! You invited him!”  This kind of cheap and lazy criticism isn’t just unworthy of the Times, it’s unworthy of anyone, except maybe Trump himself.

“And Mr. Romney, who was rejected by the Republican electorate in 2008 and the rest of the country in 2012, is exactly the kind of politician that the aggrieved crowds backing Mr. Trump are voting against. Indeed, Mr. Romney’s denunciation might well help Mr. Trump with his supporters.”

Yes, they are voting against competent politicians. This attack isn’t analysis, this isn’t criticism, it is just free-floating hate, and for what? Mitt Romney spoke the absolute truth about Trump, in terms no less sharp that the Times has every day. Donald Trump attacks the news media too. His supporters also resent media bias and manipulation: the Times is also what “the aggrieved crowds backing Mr. Trump are voting against” when they vote for Trump

“At one point, Mr. Romney said: “Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants” — with absolutely no sense of self-awareness. Mr. Romney himself played to the worst kind of xenophobia when he proposed getting rid of 11 million undocumented immigrants by forcing them to “self-deport.”

Illegal Mexican immigrants. Illegal. Can the Times grasp that concept? There is nothing at all hypocritical about drawing a sharp, thick line between Trump’s  insane mass deportation plan (which the New York Times apparently knows is just a ploy, but won’t tell anyone) and what Romney was talking about, which is if the United States stops making it comfortable and profitable to illegally live in the US, not only will illegals stop coming, many who are here will go home. Good. Why is the U.S. providing work, social support and other privileges to those who broke out laws to come here? Saying that we should stop welcoming law-breakers “was the worst kind of xenophobia”? How?

Most of all, why is the Times attacking the messenger when what it should be applauding is the message: “Trump is cultural and political poison”?

“He also listed Mr. Trump’s offenses — “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.” Did Mr. Romney have any sense of irony when he said those words? For far too long, they could have been used to describe many in his party: legislators, congressional leadership, its policy makers.”

They could be used, but the fact is that even the worst examples have not come from the same individuals, and not habitually. This is gratuitous Republican smearing, and that’s all it is. Please, Times, do tell us the name of a single Republican who did grotesque imitations of a handicapped reporter, bragged about the size of his reproductive organ, said that vaccinations cause autism, called another candidate a pussy, and claimed that female reporter was hard on him because she was having her period. Now even if there was one who did all of these as Trump ha, and there isn’t, allow me to point out: That disgusting boor isn’t running for President of the United States, but Donald Trump is.  That’s why it is important that these qualities in Trump be pointed to and condemned. Understand now?

Mitt Romney performed a statesmanlike act or great integrity and courage, in defense of his party but most of all, to try to protect the office of the Presidency, the public, the nation and the world from a reckless, repulsive and dangerous individual. And the so-called flag-ship of American journalism could only respond with petty and dishonest partisan bile, when what it should have said was “Thank you.”

9 thoughts on “Post-Debate Ethics, Part I (of 4): The New York Times And The Biased Media’s Disrespect For Mitt Romney

  1. Great mention of Evan Meacham. I didn’t think many people other than Arizona relative oldsters like me would have remembered good old Ev as we contemplated his doppelganger, The Donald. If elected, Trump will turn the entire country into what Arizona became in the early ’80s for a while: a laughingstock.

  2. The Times, dishonestly and irresponsibly, still calls illegal immigration “immigration” and has backed policies that enable and encourage illegals, while tarring opposition—you know, those of us who believe in borders and laws?—as racists and xenophobes.

    it is amazing that so many people are crying racism. This would incite perople to think that if defending America is racist, then racism is not all that bad.

    And you yourself blogged about other incidents of crying racism.

    https://ethicsalarms.com/2016/02/21/unethical-quote-of-the-month-university-of-wisconsin-whitewater-chancellor-beverly-kopper/

    “Last night a disturbing racist post that was made to social media was brought to my attention. This post was hurtful and destructive to our campus community. While social media can certainly bring about positive change, it can also be a place that deeply hurts and harms others.”

    No wonder Donald Trump is getting so much support.

    • The world’s (and America’s) enlightened deem nationalism and patriotism or any sense of belonging to a particular nation anathema and symptomatic of being, well, unenlightened. Which is incredibly ironic in so far as Islamic tribalism is okay because it’s part of diversity.. Go figure.

  3. Jack, your propensity to “tell it like it is” and speak your mind is almost Trump-like. Still, there are some differences. In addition to the presence of civility and lack of hair, the most obvious differences are you have intelligence, knowledge, facts, logic, and reason (i.e., substance) supporting your arguments and beliefs. If nobody else worthy steps up, I may have to write you in for my primary vote.

  4. I find that Fareed Zakaria has it right on this point:
    http://fareedzakaria.com/2016/03/04/where-were-the-republican-moderates-20-years-ago/

    Headlines: he completely agrees with you that Mitt Romney was clear and courageous in his condemnation. And while I agree with you about not needing to vet people who endorse you, neither did Mitt have to run around making jokes about nobody checking his birth certificate.

    Fareed rightly calls out the GOP establishment for putting up with crap like birtherism. You may disagree about what I see as persistent dog-whistle politics in the GOP for the last decade, but here’s something I didn’t know:

    “A memo put out by Newt Gingrich’s political action committee [in the 90s] urged Republican candidates to use savage rhetoric against their Democratic opponents. Some of the recommended words were “failure,” “pathetic,” “disgrace” and “incompetent.” In the past month, Trump has called Mitt Romney a “failed candidate,” Jeb Bush “pathetic,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “a disgrace” and Obama “totally incompetent.” Perhaps he read the memo.”

    In fairness, Zakaria is mostly citing EJ Dionne’s new book Why the Right Went Wrong.

    So – yes, props to Romney – I know several people who know him well, and they tell me he’s the most ethical and decent guy they know, and I believe them.

    But, as others have noted, the fact that he’s right and decent shouldn’t also obscure the fact that he’s a little late to the party, and that given the way things are now, he’s irrelevant at best, and positively a pot-stirrer at worst.

    (Imagine if he’d given the Welch-bomb 6 months ago! What might his career look like?)

    • Citing Newt, in my view, is like citing Carl Rove, Paul Begala, or Allen Grayson. He’s not a representative Republican, he’s just corrupt, lying scum. No party should be judged by its lowest, unless it nominates one for President, or allows one to be chairwoman of the National Committee.

  5. For heck of it, I browsed your list of articles tagged Mitt Romney and scrolled back to the 2012 election. It was just a tiny bit depressing. If the media were to treat him honestly now, they might have to admit that they were completely biased in their treatment back then, and I don’t think they can handle the cognitive dissonance. Mitt’s gift in particular struck me as a perfect example of the backfire effect in action.

    • Would they admit it? The Obama campaign strategy was to completely misrepresent Romney’s history and character, and the news media actively assisted. If he were not a public figure, it would come very close to libel, and even then: this was willfully false, and malicious. Mitt was certainly flexible in his views, in part because he is no ideologue, but he did not deserve, nor was the nation served by, the false portrayal the media abetted.

      • I think this is actually a portion of Trump’s appeal We had to stand by for months while Romney was smeared by Obama’s campaign and he never seemed to do anything to respond.

        Perhaps even subconsciously, they know that when Clinton’s campaign starts its smear tactics, Trump is certainly not going to just sit and take it. Even for me that resonates some, and I am by no means a Trump supporter.

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