Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.”

The Times, therefore, represented that the title of the play was something other than it was without clarification or, I will add, justification. With all the disgusting stories, vicious bile and other verbal assaults on the eye and mind published by the New York Times, the word “asshole” is viewed as so offensive that the premiere newspaper in the country won’t trust its readers to know what is the title of a play the paper deems worthy of review? This is pure arrogance, and signature significance for an institution that presumes to shade the truth for our own good.

In “All the President’s Men,” there is a fact-based scene in which Attorney General John Mitchell, asked to confirm a piece of evidence in the expanding Watergate story, tells a reporter over the phone that Washington Post owner Katherine Graham had better have her paper back off  if she doesn’t want to have “her tits caught in a ringer.” Post editor Ben Bradley, informed of the conversation, asks, incredulously, “Mitchell really said that?” Informed that he did, Bradley says, “Well, clean it up and print it. This is a family newspaper.”

I thought that was bullshit when the movie first came out in 1976, and it is bullshit now. (No, Ethics Alarms is not a “family ethics blog.” ) What Mitchell said and the ugly way he said it were both news, and the Post was materially misrepresenting the conversation, and Mitchell,  by “cleaning it up.”

We cannot and should not trust these people who presume to know what is good for us.

4. Ex-President Obama publicly attacked President Trump yesterday for properly wiping out Obama’s unconstitutional executive order establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love,” Obama wrote. “And it is cruel.”

As the New York Times would say, Obama’s an ____hole. He set up this mess, knowing that tear-soaked hankies would be pelted at anyone with the integrity to try to clean it up. The so-called “dreamers”  have done something wrong: they have surreptitiously and illegally remained in the country illegally after they were adults. They have been violating the law the entire time, Violating the law is unethical, as in “wrong.”

It is not “self defeating” to hold these illegal immigrants accountable: self-defeating is creating incentives for foreign nationals to break U.S. laws, which DACA does. And for any leader to say that enforcing the law is “cruel” is irresponsible. But then, Barack Obama was a habitually irresponsible leader.

Former President George W. Bush resolutely avoided criticizing his predecessor during the Obama years, even when Obama blamed him directly for his own administration’s failures. “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president,” Bush explained in 2014. More recently, he reiterated that as a former President he knew that “the job was hard enough” without having a former President taking potshots from the sidelines.

Bush understands and lives by the Golden Rule. Bush is right. Obama is wrong…and unethical.

 

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

  1. Other Bill

    Are we sure Obama even thinks he’s not still the President?

  2. Rick M.

    As a Red Sox fan, I am embarrassed by the latest failings of this ethically challenged ownership. The “Other teams do it” is not even worth reviewing. A month ago this group tosses Dennis Eckersley under the bus and pampered the idiotic David Price. Go back a year and they cooked the financial books in an attempt to manipulate the international bonus market. They get caught. The Sox is about as adept at cheating as they are on making sound free agent decisions. A few years ago their “friends” in the media attempted to scuttle any potential blowback on Francona by rumor and innuendo. The Yawkey Way fiasco. The idiotic response to the Adam Jones allegations. Now, this. It is cheating and it is cheating using electronics or just nabbing signals on the field. Leo Durocher would be proud. Don’t even get me started on the players involved. The real laugher is the recipient of this was Chris Young! WTF! You could put a ball on a tee and strike him out.

  3. JLo

    Why did it have to be the Blue Jays that the Red Sox beat last night in 19 innings? And apparently without the use of an Apple watch!

    Red Sox management appears to have admitted the conduct though denied it was sanctioned from the top. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that it was from the top. Small consolation.

    Will MLB take games away from Boston? While MLB award those games to the complaining Yankees? History says no but is there a more fair outcome? Fines are just a cost of making the playoffs.

    • From what I was hearing last night and this morning, there is actually no MLB rule against stealing signs. Where the Red Sox went astray was in using electronic devices to communicate the thefts. One has to assume that if they used hand signals (i.e. signs 🙂 ) to communicate their ill gotten signals to the dugout they would be in the clear.

      From what I’ve heard of this caper, the person actually stealing the signs sent them to the Red Sox dugout via Apple watch (which was the actual no-no), then the dugout signaled the runner on base who then signaled the batter.

      One does have to admire their alacrity in all this signalling, to get the sign from thief to batter in time for the batter to make his adjustment.

      One can also only assume that had the Yankees pitchers not been slower than molasses in bringing the ball to the plate, the ball would have arrived well in advance of the stolen sign.

      One also wonders if any of the Red Sox runners got picked off whilst paying more attention to the dugout than the pitcher.

      Perhaps I could suggest a more efficient way of communicating this information. Once you get the signal in the dugout, simply have several players stand on the steps and shout “Low and away”, “High and tight”, etc. Of course, only the batter will know which shouter is the active shouter for that pitch.

  4. Chris Marschner

    Seems to me that DACA’s fee requirement is quite similar to protection money demanded by the mob. Pay this fee and submit and we will ensure that no harm comes to you. Of course, no one would ever see the $500 fee every two years as extortion of the legally vulnerable. If these young adults are so worthy why the fee?

  5. #2) Well,you know, they don’t do irony unless, of course, it makes President Trump look bad.

    #4) I pretty much agree with you, but I do have a question about the ‘Dreamers’.

    This concerns those covered by DACA: is there a way, either from existing law or created somehow by DACA for these people to regularize their status? I assume that any such way would involve some sacrifice, but if belonging to the United States is so valuable (which they seem to be saying and I would agree with), is it not worth some hardship? I also assume that, if they planned it out, such a hardship would be less onerous than if they were forcibly deported.

    Assuming there is such a path, do we have any idea how many have taken it since DACA was proclaimed? Or, are the immigration advocates advising any of these people of their options? If not, shouldn’t they be?

    I am not opposed to legislative action on the Dreamers — and isn’t that how it’s supposed to work anyway? — but it also seems to me that it would be appropriate for people to be proactive and help themselves.

  6. Chris

    2. Could it be that the investigation into Trump’s people is more thorough than the investigation into Hilary because their potential crimes are more serious?

    4. Ex-President Obama publicly attacked President Trump yesterday for properly wiping out Obama’s unconstitutional executive order establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

    DACA is not unconstitutional.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/09/04/the-case-for-daca/?utm_term=.16e35fb3c1b9

    As the New York Times would say, Obama’s an ____hole. He set up this mess, knowing that tear-soaked hankies would be pelted at anyone with the integrity to try to clean it up. The so-called “dreamers” have done something wrong: they have surreptitiously and illegally remained in the country illegally after they were adults. They have been violating the law the entire time, Violating the law is unethical, as in “wrong.”

    Remaining in the country where you have lived since you were a small child is not unethical. if it is illegal, then the law is unethical.

    Bush understands and lives by the Golden Rule. Bush is right. Obama is wrong…and unethical.

    The Golden Rule says “treat others as you wish to be treated,” no?

    I would not wish to be deported for something my parents did when I was a small child. I would think you would wish the same. Trump’s violation of the Golden Rule here is far more serious than Obama’s.

    Criticism of past presidents is rare, but sometimes necessary. I am not going to spend a second’s thought feeling sorry for the most powerful man in the world because he doesn’t like being criticized by a man he has smeared, lied about and falsely accused of committing a felony. I’d rather expend my emotional energy on the far less powerful people Trump is deporting because of things their parents did.

    • RomanBW

      Chris, appreciate you expressing the thoughts I, myself, was unable to put into appropriate words. Thanks.
      RomanBW

    • 2. Could it be that the investigation into Trump’s people is more thorough than the investigation into Hilary because their potential crimes are more serious?

      No, it couldn’t be that, for many, many reasons.

      As an aside, this was such a jaw-droppingly awful comment it shorted my brain out, almost as much as yours had to be shorted out to write it. Good lord.

      1. The FBI is a professional organization, and is obligated to investigate every potential crime aexactly as rigorously. The FBI doesn’t 9investigate minor crimes.

      2. The prospect that a woman believed to be the almost certain future President was engaging in deliberate breaches of her own department’s policies regarding electronic communications, thus making them vulnerable to foreign interception, is as serious as it gets. It is certainly at least as serious as an entirely hypothetical claim the the current President, while a candidate, engaged in a conspiracy to manipulate the election, especially since the former involved actual evidence–a secret, unapproved, private server—and the latter involved weak circumstantial evidence at best.

      3. The handling of Clinton’s interview has been criticized across all law enforcement, legal and political lines.

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