Ethics Dunce: President Trump


The White House announced this week that President Trump called Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  to congratulate him on winning a sinister referendum that will lock-in his autocratic rule over the country and further erode Turkey’s democratic institutions, which are already on life-support, or maybe not even that. It is reported that 140,000 Turkish citizens have had their passports canceled. More than 100,000 people are at risk of imprisonment or worse  for being suspected of complicity in the recent the attempted coup: so far  71,000 of these have been detained, and 41,000 have been arrested.  Six thousand academics have lost their jobs, 4,000 judges and prosecutors, 24,000 policemen and security personnel, and 200 governors and their staff members. Seven thousand military personnel have been relieved of their posts. Fifteen universities, 1,000 schools, 28 TV channels, 66 newspapers, 19 magazines, 36 radio stations, 26 publishing houses and five news agencies have been shut down.

Erdogen has also imprisoned moderate Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas on the charge of inciting violence with his criticisms of the regime, and thousands of members of Demirtas’s political party, H.D.P., have been detained or arrested.

Our President’s irresponsible official response, if indeed he is aware of these developments  (it is all a mouse click or briefing paper away) was, in essence, “Hell of a job, Ergie!”

It is not ethical, responsible leadership or competent representation of the values of the United States of America to the world for the President  to applaud anti-democratic measures, emerging dictatorships, and human rights violations, or appear to be doings so, whatever the intent. Why should it even be necessary to write this?

One reason is that, as we know and have known for years, this President frequently does stuff and says things without thinking them through, or thinking at all. Another is that there is not a single reliable, trustworthy, forceful and respectable advisor among the barrel of monkeys that includes Trump’s assertive but experience-free son in law, the Fortress America-minded Steve Bannon,  the wet noodle-spined Reince Priebus (or is it Rience Preibus?) and the in-so-far-over-her-head-that-she-is-under-the-shark Kellyanne Conway.

Let me renew Ethics Alarms’ earlier call for the President to capitulate to the obvious and recruit a forceful, experienced, accomplished figure to whip his chaotic administration into shape. The need for this measure was screamingly obvious two months ago; it is more obvious and urgent now. It will grow more so by the day until either the White House is in metaphorical flames or the President realizes that his “best people” pledge requires something more than relatives, yes-men and fanatics. Right now, the Trump administration is so far out of shape that it has none: this is like a re-make of “The Blob,” scarier than the original.


Pointer: Ethics Bob Stone.

24 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: President Trump

  1. He doesn’t fully understand the subtleties and nuance of realpolitik in regards to geopolitics.

    Yes, we need to keep Turkey nominally on “our side” due to their geographic position, but no, not so much as to overtly congratulate actions antithetical to our values.

      • Sound advice, texagg04. I am curious as to how often the POTUS does reach out to any of his predecessors. The MSM must enjoy watching and listening to him validate their hyperbolic characterizations.

    • He doesn’t fully understand the subtleties and nuance of realpolitik in regards to geopolitics.

      This strikes me as similar to saying “Hitler doesn’t fully understand the subtleties and nuance of the Torah.”

        • I don’t. I wasn’t saying “Trump is Hitler!!!” I was saying that the statement “Trump doesn’t fully understand the subtleties and nuance of realpolitik in regards to geopolitics” is a hilarious understatement on par with my analogy.

          Capitalize away.

  2. I think, and I admit I have no factual basis for this, but I think that it is possible that Trump is seeing how our media acts here, how the hand wringers at Salon treated him muzzling the EPA’s Twitter account, how his administration and followers are smeared, and he assumes that that is normal. Because… Let’s face it… Our perception is our reality.

    Carry that forward to this: Trump watches the news, and there is Poohbah Erdogan being talked about in similar language as he is. Well, in Trump’s experience, people that the media talks about in those terms really aren’t that bad of people. Erdogan is a world leader, they have some stuff in common, right? And Erdogan just won re-election! Congratulations are in order.

    Now I’m not excusing Trump. He’s the president of the United States of America, for Christ’s sake. But I am going to assert that the average person who isn’t particularly informed, especially in areas of world politics, might approach the coverage of Erdogan in exactly the same way as I think Trump might have.

    And that is the damage progressives are doing to the public discourse. They’ve ruined labels like “racist” “sexist” and “misogynist” by putting them through a very broad academic litmus and applying them to basically everyone. We no longer have words to separate truly vile people from those we find moderately distasteful. Milquetoast candidates like McCain and Romney were called bigoted, insane and evil, and so the only room left to further demonize someone that might actually think of as personification of those terms was “fascist”, “Nazi”, and literally Hitler. So where the hell do you have left to go when dealing with a real fascist dictator?

    • I mean…it didn’t sound like you were excusing Trump at all, it sounded like you were calling him an idiot who doesn’t bother understanding basic facts about the world.

      But then you went and blamed liberals for that. That’s an excuse, and a pretty embarrassing one.

      • It doesn’t surprise me that that’s what you took away from what I wrote, although I suppose it disappoints me.

        I do think that progressives help cause and actively exacerbate this kind of ignorance by diluting language in their perpetual search for outrage… But that doesn’t change the fact that the kinds of people that hold responsibilities like President of The United States have a duty to overcome ignorance like this. And so in saying that, I’m explicitly not excusing Trump on this.

        What I am saying is that I think that the kind of mindset that led Trump to congratulating Erdogan is the kind of lowest-common-denominator thinking that the average person is going to apply. You, and people like you, have a fundamental inability to understand, to empathise, with average middle class, non-activist, non-academic Americans in a way that isn’t particularly new, but has just recently started to cost you elections.

        And instead of doing some deep soul searching and wilderness walking, progressives are learning NOTHING. They’re falling back on the same old tired buzzwords, and trusting smug condescension shrouded in erudite jargon and outright gobbledygook to carry the day. Well congratulations, Reap what you sow.

    • Valid points, HT. Concerning the way Trump’s mind might be working, I think you have the right idea. It’s a form of status paranoia. I have known people elevated to the purple who, like many of those born to it and lacking the ability to empathize with others not of their perceived level or shared experience, are easily convinced that all their inferiors envy them (even the ones who chose them in the first place or who now surround them swearing allegiance) and that only their fellow aristos can be trusted or admired … expecting, of course, that they are trusted and admired back! In this rarefied atmosphere, they support one another . . . publicly and warily. Your idea fits Trump’s personality perfectly.

      Coupling that lack of empathy with the extremist labels you pointed out, HT, I have to echo your So where the hell do you have left to go when dealing with a real fascist dictator like President Erdogan. I can tell you what at least one dangerous result has been: I have a close friend who has been working in Turkey for six years now, loving his teaching job, lifestyle and ease of travel to European countries. George was comfortable with Turkey’s history as a secular society and this was most evident in Istanbul, so much so that he felt safer, happier and more relaxed in that city than he had in New York or even San Francisco where we had worked together for some years.

      After all, everything seemed so normal. Turkey had elections; they had a constitution. All of a sudden there was a referendum: When the dust cleared, according to the new constitution, the president heads the executive as well as the head of state and retains ties to a political party…. Erdogan’s party (the AKP) is based on conservative Islam…. The president has powers to appoint new ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree. He alone can announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament.

      In spite of knowing the language pretty well, my friend was unaware of what was going on because even before the failed Army coup, the press there was truly gagged and its courts bound. Turkey’s new penal code makes it a crime to insult the president. Thus a 16-year-old boy who insulted the President indirectly by criticizing the AKP in a speech is currently facing a four-year imprisonment.

      Things began to change fast and George began, sadly, to make plans to come home. He has had plenty of encouragement by family and friends to return, he would have no trouble getting a job because of special skills, we were expecting him home when his contract was up — this July. But George’s emails started mentioning his visits to Auschwitz in Austria a few years back and the remains of that wall in Berlin and bringing up its history; he was getting news from everywhere about Trump, evil Trump, Nazi Trump, plotting with Putin to spoil poor Hillary’s chances, trampling on everybody’s rights and somehow responsible for the “rape culture,” embarrassing the whole country, and leading an unstable mob of fascists into the White House. His parents spoke well of The Marches, he said. . And deplored how one of their friend’s maid’s brother (or in-law, I don’t remember) was beaten up by police for no reason, some other black men murdered by police or incarcerated for no reason. He heard from from a lesbian cousin who was hysterically afraid for her life. (He did say she was “hysterical,” but I couldn’t convince him it wasn’t a “Trump” situation; he had told me often that she was afraid of almost everybody.) I did everything I could to make him see the difference, but the things he was hearing from the US were coming from everywhere else as well, and I couldn’t guarantee him that lots of it wasn’t exaggeration, misinterpretation or lie

      Then last week, the latest email says he hates that his country is falling apart and everyone is either scared or angry all the time so he is going for job interviews in South Asia to get as far away from the United States as he can and see what happens in four years.

      Yeah, well, okay but this isn’t Trump’s fault, George. Mostly not.

  3. Sinister referenda. Seems they can happen anywhere there’s a ballot box. The way things are going in Erdogan’s country, it doesn’t require a bumbling U.S. president for a fellow countryman to dread the high likelihood that the president’s successors will make their country a scaled-up copy of Turkey.

  4. Erdogan is a Fascist thug plain and simple. He admires the system that existed in Nazi Germany, suppresses Kurdish autonomy ruthlessly, and covertly encourages anti-semitism. Unbelievable that Trump congratulated him in winning his referendum. This reminds me of Jimmy Carter’s warmth toward Yassar Arafat.

    • A referendum is only viable when those voting in it are: not scared out of their wits about who they vote for; and able to vote because they are not in jail or dead.

      So, what “referendum?” Really.

      Please, Donald, get some advice from people who know more than you do. That is the power of the Presidency: to gather together the best minds you can find and ask for information and advice before you act or speak for the United States of America. Aauugh!

  5. if he in fact congratulated Erdogan, doing so was just plain dumb. Ethical? Unethical? Not sure it’s relevant. Just dumb, stupid, idiotic.

    • I think the leader of a nation with a specific set of values so valuable they are enshrined contractually has an obligation not to vocally support contradicting values where it’s obvious the values conflict.

      If he has that obligation not to, then doing so is unethical.

        • Tex, I guess I prefer “dumb” because I’m assuming the congratulations were offered in a sort of swinging dick, slap on the back way from one election winner to another. Politician, macho, testosterone laden, locker room type stuff. Which I consider a very prevalent type of stupidity.

    • I guess the same place the Democrat’s voices were when Obama was demonstrating his less spectacular, but equally consistent incompetence.

      Funny how that works.

  6. Our President’s irresponsible official response, if indeed he is aware of these developments (it is all a mouse click or briefing paper away) was, in essence, “Hell of a job, Ergie!”

    Pathetic. That a president could be this ill-informed, or this foolish, is discouraging — to say the very least. You’d think one of his advisors would’ve said something before he trod on his dangly bits, wouldn’t you? I guess not.

    Or maybe they were informed and were being sincere. Pathetic either way.

    Now I remember why I couldn’t vote for him! Well, at least one more of many reasons…

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