Ugh! Here’s One More Unethical Practice (Of Many) Trump Needs To Eliminate From His Repertoire, And Quickly


It’s pretty simple, though President Obama hasn’t figured it out in in eight years:

The President of the United States must not attack or criticize private citizens or negatively characterize their actions, nor should he interfere with local matters, criminal justice, the courts, the news media, or private businesses,  unless it is absolutely necessary, which it almost never is. This applies to his treatment of journalists, celebrities, athletes, local officials, accused criminals, military personnel, lawyers, other professionals…

…and union representatives.

Chuck Jones, the president of the local chapter of the United Steelworkers union that represents Carrier employees in Indianapolis, told The Post on Tuesday that the Trump exaggerated the number of jobs he claims to have saved, since 550 of the union’s members will lose their jobs anyway. Trump immediately sent the tweet above, directly attacking Jones by name. Shortly after the tweet, Jones says, he began getting threatening phone calls. “Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, ‘You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.’ Things along those lines,” he told the Post.

I’m not surprised, but Trump’s “punching down” would be just as wrong if there was no response at all. This is an abuse of power. It is an abuse of influence. It is an abuse of office, and once he is President, it will be an abuse of the “bully pulpit.” The conduct is bullying,  as well as irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid.

I did call it, though! My post in April about Gov. Rick Scott attacking a citizen, in his case a coffee shop critic, in a campaign ad ended with this statement:

It is hard to imagine a more petty, needless, demeaning example of “punching down.” Jennings isn’t running against Scott; she is just a citizen critic, if an especially rude and nasty one. For a governor to focus an attack ad on a mere citizen is an abuse of power and position. It is ethically indefensible.

It is exactly what Donald Trump would do, though.

It is far worse for a President-Elect to punch down, of course; it’s even unethical for a Presidential candidate nobody thinks can win to do it. Trump’s pre-emptively calling Bowe Bergdahl a traitor is now a fair trial problem in the ex-prisoner of war’s court-martial. This is a terrible habit to indulge, and it opens the door to far more harmful misuses of Presidential power. 

Back in 2009, President Obama Punched down at a Cambridge, Mass police officer, calling him “stupid.” I noted that this was a multi-faceted ethics foul, encompassing “bias; conflict of interest; abuse of power; irresponsibility; lack of fairness.” Obama never learned the proper boundaries of his office and the “Bully Pulpit.” He condemned a reasonable state law passed by democratic means while misrepresenting its provisions; he attacked Supreme Court decisions that were competently argued and well-reasoned; he presumed the guilt of corporations while investigations were ongoing (this was similar to Trump’s unwitting interference with the military justice system.) He even  gave an interview in which he tried to influence which team NBA superstar LeBron James  should sign with as a free agent.

Most infamous of all, Obama warped the public perception of the Trayvon Martin shooting by publicly identifying with the victim, and seemed to be accusing George Zimmerman of a race-motivated murder.

Writing about Obama’s various breaches of this principle, I noted that a President who behaves like this raises troubling suspicions that he…

  • Doesn’t understand his job,
  • Does not comprehend the appropriate use of power,
  • Does not recognize the extent of his ability to influence others…
  • Believes that the he has been elected is some kind of ultimate arbiter-supervisor-Big Brother-dictator. King, perhaps.

and I added..

There are limits to presidential power, and many of them involve good judgment, humility, and self-control. After almost a year and a half in the job, President Obama shows no signs that he has learned this, and it is worrisome.

We know Donald Trump hasn’t learned it, and he hasn’t had a good role model in his predecessor, either.

He has to stop.

12 thoughts on “Ugh! Here’s One More Unethical Practice (Of Many) Trump Needs To Eliminate From His Repertoire, And Quickly

  1. This just gets more interesting to me, Jack.

    Trump will be the first president to use – with no hesitation – technology that bypasses the usual constraints on presidential communication with the average citizen. While the potential for ethical abuses, stroke-causing events for diplomats, and head exploding ethicists are many (and almost certain), I can’t help but want to stock up on popcorn for when the House and Senate – mostly small government republicans- begin to tell this Big Government president that he can’t have something. With no compunctions about calling people out by name and it having been confirmed that his devoted “fan base” will do just about anything, just imagine the reactions when he tweets out that “Senator So-n-So won’t support my efforts to bring JOBS back to YOU!” That direct communication link outside of diplomatic and ethical niceties are exactly what the customers paid for and may actually be his superpower. At the moment, it’s definitely not his kryptonite.

    On one hand I see something exciting and dynamic about the potential to directly energize and re-involve citizens in the process, i.e., if President Trump says to call them and bring down the switchboard, I’m on it! His direct links to his deplorables could be the beginnings of Congress being forced to again listen to more than just the folks in their carefully drawn districts.

    On the other hand, it could be a potential shit-show of epic proportion, complete with full-blown diplomatics crisis and market crashes! Wild ride coming.

    • I really do think the Apprentice is setting the stage – not deliberately, but because of who he is – to get himself impeached.

  2. “He has to stop”.


    What will make him? Why won’t he just double down, as he has done on every other previous occasion?

    There may be a number of turbulent priests.

  3. Negative politics have been a part of Presidential elections for a long time. However, now that Trump has been elected it is time for time to put aside being a bully and resist the temptation to call out people not in office that he dislikes. P.S. Hillary was a notorious bully to her staff when she was First Lady.

    • Sorry Wayne. I don’t expect Trump to stop tweeting. He is leading the way to communications becoming even more noisy and even less reliable.

      • Didn’t obama lay the framework for the UN controlling the internet, with people like Mark Zuckerberg promising to parse out what’s real and what’s fake news?

        • Possibly…but I think fragmentation (disunity) is a more natural trend than consolidation (forced and enforced unity), and I believe that people will always find ways around would-be tyrants, because, well, would-be tyrants motivate people to behave like that. I don’t understand why more people aren’t asking out loud: “Why have just one Internet?”

  4. It’s not going to stop and it’s going to take not just a President to NOT do it, it’s going to take a President to *actually verbalize* why doing so is wrong, in a round about way admitting to the errors of the previous Presidents who did it.

    Oh for the days of a Washington, whose greatest act as President was relinquishing the seat of power when he very easily could have kept it for life and immediately undermined the system he helped establish. Now these “great” acts will be required to stop pettiness…

    • I think what the Apprentice is doing is going to turn into a Twitter-shitstorm, with all the members of Congress joining the shortcut around traditional media. Call it fake-news-gets-personal. (Did I mention I hate Twitter?)

  5. It has probably been said already, but here goes: With Obama, we had “leading from behind.” With Trump and his tweets, we have “following from in front.”

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