Initial ethics observations following an amazing night in American history:
1. Give Trump a chance, and take note of those who will not.
He is now in the most difficult job in the nation at the age of 70, with less relevant experience and preparation than any previous occupant of the office. For once, it’s a good thing that he’s an egomaniac and a narcissist, because otherwise he might be perseverating in terror right now. One cannot say that he begins with the most daunting set of problems any POTUS has ever faced, but it’s close. Give him a chance. Nobody becomes President wanting to fail, and not wanting to do a good job for his country and his fellow citizens. Begin with that, and let’s see what happens.
2. Those who are capable of being fair and objective should salute the shades of Mr. Madison, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Hamilton and their colleagues. The Founders wanted a system that was capable of peaceful political upheaval when the public was dissatisfied and demanded change, and their unique creation was strutting its stuff last night. So much has taken place over the last year—the last eight years, really—that has undermined our democracy that it is refreshing to see its resilience and vitality. As before, I still believe that Trump is a cautionary tale about the danger when people who don’t understand leadership, ethics and government become the majority. On the other hand, it’s their country too, and the “elites” (how I detest that word) forgot that, repeatedly, shamelessly, and in many ways.
Jefferson would have reviled Donald Trump, but he would approve of the uprising.
3. Trump’s victory speech last night was widely reviewed as statesmanlike and gracious, which it was. It was also unusually coherent for him. Still, who can’t give a gracious victory speech? The effusive praise being lavished on this shows how low expectations are.
4. Hillary Clinton’s decision to not to appear in person at her headquarters and concede, also graciously, was a failure of character. On CNN, ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and ex-Obama flack Van Jones got in an argument over this, but for once in his life, Lewandowski was right. Given the backdrop of Clinton and the media questioning whether Trump would “accept defeat,” the decision by Clinton was just plain wrong: unfair to Trump, unfair to her supporters, hypocritical.
As Jake Tapper, one of the few network reporters who appeared objective last night said, if Trump had done what Clinton did, he would have been roundly condemned. To the bitter end, Hillary could do no wrong in some eyes.
5. Clinton campaign manager John Podesta appeared at the Clinton “victory” party to tell the loyal Hillary throng to go home, and twice evoked the rallying cry from the disputed 2000 Florida recount: “Let every vote count.” Why did he feel he had to say that? It compounded questions about Clinton’s absence, and suggested that Democrats were already gearing up for an onslaught of lawyers and a challenged result. That he, like Huma, Cheryl Mills, Lanny Davis, James Carville and other Clinton minions who have corrupted the political landscape for so long will, one hopes, recede into obscurity in the wake of Hillary’s defeat is one of the undeniable blessings of Trump’s upset win.
6. Last night, Nate Silver on 538 was saying that their models predicted that Hillary would win the popular vote even as Trump was headed for a clear Electoral College victory. This morning, it appears that he was wrong. That’s moral luck for the Founders and us: one thing this divided country doesn’t need is another four years of Democrats claiming that their defeated candidate “really won.”
UPDATE: It looks like Clinton will indeed win the popular vote.
7. As they prepare for what may be a nasty backlash, Ethics Alarms salutes the resolute conservative Never Trumpers, like Erick Erickson, Glenn Beck, George Will, the Bushes, William Kristol, and others. They were right that party and ideology shouldn’t take priority over principles. That there were almost no prominent “Never Clinton” counterparts on the Democratic side despite Hillary Clinton’s obvious corruption does not speak well for that party, though it does show how thoroughly the Clintons have corrupted it.
8. An ethical, if insulting, statement arose from an unlikely source: Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos founder. In the midst of a predictable angry screed about the election results, he wrote:
“I ask one thing for now: please stop the talk about leaving the country. Conservatives suffered through eight years of Obama and never gave up. So why would you prove yourself weaker than those assholes? “
This is a democracy and it is every citizen’s duty to defend it and correct it when it goes astray. Anyone who seriously believes leaving the nation is a reasonable response to an election they don’t like isn’t sufficiently committed to the concept of the United States of America, which, increasingly, is a malady within progressive ranks. If Cher and Alec Baldwin really are so fearful and contemptuous of their fellow Americans that they want to bolt, fine.
I presume Justice Ginsburg was kidding about New Zealand, but if she does, it will just be one more Supreme Court slot for President Trump to fill.
9. Unethical Quote Of The Night: Van Jones.
The CNN race-baiter was doing what he does best, saying,
“You tell your kids don’t be a bully, you tell your kids don’t be a bigot…. and then you have this outcome. You have people putting children to bed tonight and they are afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of ‘How do I explain this to my children?’…This was a whitelash against a changing country,” Jones said. “It was whitelash against a black President in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”
A similar dilemma would face those parents if Clinton won, though Van wouldn’t admit that—unless, that is, these concerned parents don’t tell their children not to lie, cheat, or break the law, and to value integrity. Do they teach their kids that? If they do, why were they enthusiastically supporting Hillary Clinton and a party led by Donna Brazile? There are lots of ways to explain this to children. One is to explain how a democracy works. Another is to explain that when people of any color feel bullied and discriminated against, they look for new leadership and reject the leadership of candidates who say that they are “deplorable.”
Then we had the obligatory race-baiting. I will duly report on the first pundit I find who says that Hillary lost because she was a women, and not because she was a remarkably untrustworthy politician, but the theme for the entire eight years of Obama’s presidency held: whenever he fails—and Clinton’s defeat was also a rejection of Obama’s disastrous leadership—it’s racism that’s at fault.
How sad, how pathetic, and how reckless of Jones. It wasn’t “whitelash against a black President.” It was, in significant part, well-earned backlash against eight years of an arrogant and incompetent President who was constantly being held up by the news media as something he wasn’t.
10. The most embarrassing spin of the night came from partisan Presidential historian and CNN contributor Michael Beschloss. Beschloss has disgraced his profession by slowly morphing into a Obama-celebratiing hack while leaving history in the dust, but last night was a new low even for him. As the tide was turning decisively against the Democrats, he came on the screen with a theory that would erase any larger significance of Trump’s shocking victory. He quotes a conversation he had with the President in which, allegedly, Obama expressed doubts about whether he would be succeeded by a Democrat, saying that sometimes voters want that “new car smell.” ( 1. Ew. 2. Typical and telling expression of condescension from Obama.) Beschloss then lectures the CNN viewers, saying that it is “very hard” for any party to win the White House three terms in a row. You see? This is just the normal political cycle! Nothing to see here! It isn’t Hillary’s fault, and certainly not Obama’s! The esteemed historian then noted that it has happened occasionally, as when Reagan was succeeded by the first Bush, and “in 1838, when Andrew Jackson was able to have himself succeeded by Martin Van Buren.”
Wow! Only twice, then?
Funny, I seem to recall that the Republican Party had (let’s see..) 1,2,3,4,5, 6 consecutive terms from 1860 to 1884. Wait…wasn’t there also the McKinley-Teddy-Taft string of four terms with Republican Presidents? Then another three straight from 1920 (Harding), through Coolidge, to Hoover, until FDR won the Presidency in 1932? Of course, then FDR combined with Truman to hold the White House in Democratic hands for five consecutive terms.
Or to put it another way, renowned Presidential historian Michael Beschloss abused his authority and misinformed millions with bogus history, all concocted to alibi for Hillary.
Well, it was late, and he was in mourning.
11. Speaking of history, and also of hope, I will leave the first installment of the Ethics Alarms post-election ethics audit with this ray for those, like me, who believe that Trump has never exhibited the character to be trusted as a leader.
The least promising Chief Executive the nation ever had, narrowly edging out Harry Truman (who surprised us), was Chester A. Arthur, a New York political bag man who had no executive experience and a record of toadyism and graft. When he succeeded to the Presidency as the assassinated James Garfield’s Vice-President, everyone, including Arthur, feared the worst. He rose to the challenge. Here, from March 2015, is the amazing story of how.
12. Be kind to the unhappy progressives and Democrats in your life. The Golden Rule applies. And forgive them when they lash out, as many are and will.
More to come.
I need some sleep.