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.