There are three steps to evaluating the ethical nature of any law or government action. The first is what was done. The second is how it was done. The third, and usually most difficult to assess, is why it was done, and whether the measure’s objectives are ethical, including whether the measure can reasonable be expected to accomplish them. . What President Trump’s controversial Executive Order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim nations is was covered in the previous post on the subject. Thanks to the fact that our mainstream journalists are incapable of reporting some news events without allowing their biases to distort or confuse the facts, the what was misrepresented to the public, and that misrepresentation is reflected in most discussions of the relevant issues on the web.
How the measure was implemented is an ethics issue, as this involves competence, responsibility, accountability, diligence and leadership.
The Executive Order was incompetent and irresponsible.
There, that was easy.
It’s nice to be able to post an analysis here that nobody will disagree with. Usually I don’t even bother posting such verdicts.
The sudden order (you can read it here) caused world-wide confusion. Passengers were barred from flights to the United States. Customs and border control officials received notice and instructions in the wee hours of the morning, and many began work without knowing what they were supposed to do. The order blindsided Trump’s cabinet—what there is of it so far—including Homeland Security chief John Kelly and, incredibly, “Mad Dog” Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, who was not consulted by the White House during the preparation of the order and was not given an opportunity to provide input while the order was being drafted. Mattis did not see a final version of the order until a few hours before President Trump arrived to sign it at the Pentagon. Now he really has reason to be be mad.
During the campaign, General Mattis criticized Trump’s comments about a temporary ban on Muslim immigration as a move that was “causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves through the international system.” The risk Trump takes by ignoring such opinions is that eventually a cabinet member will get fed up—and Mattis would be a good candidate–and resign in protest.
As many have already pointed out, the order was also sloppily drafted. Any time a major provision has to be yanked back almost as soon as an Executive Order is issued, as was the ridiculous and universally condemned restrictions on green card holders trying to re-enter the U.S., something is badly amiss. There is no excuse for it. This Executive Order wasn’t some idea Trump dreamed up while tweeting last week. It had been under discussion for months. There was no immediate emergency that required haste. Moreover, Trump gave the public no clear explanation of his purpose and process, allowing the hostile news media to frame the order, which just isn’t as cataclysmic as the rabid Left is making it out to be (If I hear one more talking head say “This isn’t who we are,” I’m going to plotz. “We are” a nation that in recent years has droned foreign citizens without due process, dropped bombs on multiple nations without declarations of war, and stood by while Assad gassed his own people, while avoiding any substantive effort to avert the 400,000 deaths resulting from the Syrian civil war, many of them non-combatants, women and children. “We” make decisions in the perceived best interests of our nation, and this order may or may not be such a decision. ) as more draconian that it was. The merits and ethics of the order aside, this was a botch, a self-inflicted wound on the Administration’s credibility, completely unnecessary, reckless, and stupid.
I think that about covers it.
Apparently the rushed rollout was largely the work of rising and much despised Trump advisor Steve Bannon, as well as Stephen Miller, Trump’s policy chief. Well, if the President is the skilled executive he claims to be, he needs to put both of these men on notice that they abused the trust he placed in them, and are on probation. Meanwhile, what was Reince Priebus doing, playing video games? He’s supposed to be the Washington insider advising Trump, and the one who knows how things work. More than any President since Ulysses S. Grant, Donald Trump desperately needs competent advisors to steer him away from tyro mistakes. These guys steered him into one. We have to hope that Trump and his team learns from such blunders; all new administrations make them, and the effective ones adjust.
This is also a troubling display of reckless and self-destructive leadership by Trump. He knows he is going to be attacked by the news media and Democrats no matter what he does. There are political costs to a President looking like amateur, and each botch of this magnitude undermines trust and his political capital. Breaking precedents, refusing to back down and taking on controversial issues is a high risk approach to being President, and the margin for error is small. A President doing something this foolish is indefensible. A President not knowing that it is foolish, and having no one nearby to explain why it is, is terrifying.
The remaining ethics question involves the ethics of the radical Islam threat and immigration policy, and the Ethics Alarms post on that is still percolating.
[An aside on Senator Schumer’s grandstanding statement of opposition: It was shamelessly based in emotion and rationalizations, and a professional embarrassment. Moreover, his line saying that “it will only serve to embolden those around the globe who will do us harm,” a common argument used to silence anyone who dares to treat Islam like any other religion (as in being subject to criticism, satire and mockery), makes the case of the order’s proponents. “Don’t treat them like they are dangerous, or they’ll kill us” is not a persuasive argument to anyone with a spine, Senator.]