Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/17: More Factchecker Spin, More Hillary (Unfortunately), And A Thank-You [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1 One comment thread over the last few days encompassed media fact-checkers and the consistent position here that they are intrinsically biased and untrustworthy. Law prof/blogger Jonathan Turley was so incensed (his term was “floored”) over one of the better factcheckers (Wapo’s Glenn Kessler) spinning for James Comey and against Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he wrote a column for The Hill exposing it. (Hey! That’s MY job!) He writes on his blog about what prompted the column:

I have discussed previously how there has been a palpable bias in reporting on the Trump Administration. It is often that case that some journalists are not simply satisfied with disagreeing with the Administration. They sometimes take judgment calls or opinions and declare the Trump side to be simply factually incorrect. This relieves the need for readers to address the opposing view of controversies like the alleged misconduct of former FBI director James Comey. Those views are simply dismissed as untrue. This is a prime example.

The professor is right. It’s embarrassing. Read Turley’s whole piece, clearly prompted because Kessler refers to Turley’s repeated indictments of Comey (while saying that he does not believe Comey should actually be indicted). One respect in which the ever-polite and professorial Turley differs sharply from Ethics Alarms: he says that he has ” written for the Washington Post and [has] great respect for the publication. Indeed, I have objected to the attacks by President Donald Trump on the Post and the New York Times which remain two of our premiere journalistic organizations.”

Hmmm.

1) Turley obviously wants to keep writing for the Post, I guess, and 2) premiere members of a group that has become unprofessional and untrustworthy are still unprofessional and untrustworthy. Be that as it may, Turley concludes,

The Post concludes that the memos were, despite Comey’s denial, FBI material and that he violated FBI rules in removing and releasing such information. It also accepts that employees under Comey as director could well have been fired for such violations. It also agrees that the memos might have been either classified or privileged, even though there has been no final determination. Regardless, the Post awarded two Pinocchios for Sanders stating that Comey’s actions were “improper and likely could have been illegal.”

I have to give the Post two “Blue Fairies.” (I do not want to steal the Post’s Pinocchio signature motif so the Blue Fairy in the Disney story will do). After all, it was the Blue Fairy who said, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.”

2. There are two items about Hillary Clinton in the Warm-Up today, because she is simultaneously a human ethics train wreck of a failed Presidential candidate, but also needs as little publicity for being so as possible.

Here is #1: As reported yesterday, when Clinton was asked on NPR if she would  “completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now,” Hillary answered, “No. I would not.”

This sounds pretty unequivocal to me, especially since after Gross repeated, “you’re not going to rule it out?”  Clinton said, “No, I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Yesterday, at a roundtable interview with Mic in its New York office, Hillary said,

“I think no one, including me, is saying we will contest the election. I’m in the very large group of people who believe that, you know, there’s no legal basis, no constitutional basis for that.”

She won’t contest the election, she’ll just question the legitimacy of the election. Or, in her terms, she’s among the “no ones” who will  never say she will contest the election; she just says she won’t rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election.

This is typical of Clinton’s performance throughout the campaign, and indeed her whole career. “I would never say what I said, because it you parse my words, you will see that it didn’t mean what everyone who heard it thought it meant, and what I wanted them to think.” Why did anyone trust someone who talks like this? Why do they still?

3. This is #2: Yesterday, Hillary went on Late Night Trump-Hate Central to explain to Stephen Colbert what she would have said to the U.N.

Are we really going to be subjected to this ugly and presumptuous shadow Presidency forever? Hillary telling Jimmy Kimmel what her State of the Union Address would have been, Hillery telling Trevor Noah what she would be doing about taxes? As I’ve mentioned before, no previous Presidential loser has lacked the basic professional decency to stop kibitzing from the sidelines, not even Richard Nixon, the politician Hillary most resembles, except that he had better legs.

“I thought it was very dark, dangerous, not the kind of message that the leader of the greatest country in the world should be delivering,” she told Colbert regarding Trump’s speech. His approach should have been “diplomatic,” she said:  “What I hoped the president would have said is something along the lines of ‘we view this as dangerous to our allies, to the region and even to our country. We call on all nations to work with us to try to end the threat caused to us by Kim Jong-un,'” and emphasized that the message also should be that “when you face dangerous situations, like what is happening in North Korea, to make it clear that your first approach should always be diplomatic.”

This is blather that relies on viewer ignorance and fear.. The history of U.S. relations with North Korea is that the rogue nation rattled its saber and issued threats, then the U.S. gaves it concessions “diplomatically” to stop persuade it from being bellicose until the next time. Our first response, and second, and third, has been “diplomatic,” and now North Korea is firing missiles over Japan.

The seeds of the Cuban Missile Crisis were planted because Kennedy had signaled that the U.S. was weak. To Russia’s surprise, when it came to the existential threat of missiles being aimed at the heart of the U.S. from a Russian ally in our own hemisphere, the U.S. response was “Removing the missiles is non-negotiable. Get them out, or else.”

Missiles fly a lot farther now. To suggest that an outlaw regime perfecting nuclear attack capacity and proclaiming that its goal is to attack the U.S. should be pleaded with, placated, appeased and negotiated with is, at this point, irresponsible. There is no negotiation position other than “Stop this, or else.” Trump was clear as crystal about that, as he should be. Clinton, as we saw in #1, is never clear about anything, which in negotiation and diplomacy, as my teacher in that area, the late Adrian Fisher (chief negotiator of the SALT treaty)explained frequently, is dangerous.

4. No, I wouldn’t have called the North Korea leader “Rocket Man,” and I agree that Trumpian insult-nicknames are unpresidential, at the U.N. and anywhere else.

To be fair, however, Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” rhetoric was attacked on the same basis by his political critics, and in that case, the direct verbal assault paid off. I’ll also give the President integrity points: for better or worse, that’s him. That’s who we elected. Staying true to his instincts, as crude as they are, also gives his threats extra credibility.

5. UPDATE! In an example of the headline version of res ipsa loquitur, here is the headline on the main New York Times editorial. I opened my edition as if I was defusing a landmine; I knew the Times editors would be absurd, Ikne they would be fulminating against the President’s U.N. speech. It read…

WAR ON PEACE

It really did.

6. Ethics Alarms recently lost its head issues scout Fred, who is moving on to other pursuits than scouring the web for buried ethics stories. His assistance was generous, indispensable, and often brilliant. He also saved me hours, literally, every week. I still have over a hundred links from him, and Fred’s archive will continue to be a resource here. As I just wrote him, my gratitude is bottomless.

Thank you, Fred…from me, from Ethics Alarms, and all of its readers.

23 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, War and the Military

23 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/17: More Factchecker Spin, More Hillary (Unfortunately), And A Thank-You [UPDATED!]

  1. Glenn Logan

    The professor is right. It’s embarrassing.

    Yes, and yes. It’s amazing to me the depths some in the media are willing to sink to try to gig Trump and his administration for every little minute detail possible.

    Look, I get that they don’t like Trump, and even “hate” him. But this minutiae, and parsing of every single utterance by Trump, his associates and his administration personnel is some kind of obsessive mania. Never in my life have I seen such tiny, arguable points subjected to so much “analysis” and I use that word in the most general possible way. Describing Kessler’s absurd abuse of language, ripping away of context, and transparently prejudicial screed as analysis is unfair to the word and the English language in general. He obviously started with a conclusion, and then wrote 1500 words or so to support it. As you say, embarrassing.

    1) Turley obviously wants to keep writing for the Post, I guess, and 2) premiere members of a group that has become unprofessional and untrustworthy are still unprofessional and untrustworthy.

    Turley is not as blunt as you, Jack, and he undoubtedly is trying to preserve his relationship with the Post, giving them a lot of benefit of very little doubt. I personally find that a throwback to the past, and rather charming. We could probably use more of that in this world.

    But calling a spade a spade is also welcome, and absolutely necessary.

    Are we really going to be subjected to this ugly and presumptuous shadow Presidency forever?

    Yes. Next question.

    …not even Richard Nixon, the politician Hillary most resembles, except that he had better legs.

    Made me wince.

    Missiles fly a lot farther now. To suggest that an outlaw regime perfecting nuclear attack capacity and proclaiming that its goal is to attack the U.S. should be pleaded with, placated, appeased and negotiated with is, at this point, irresponsible.

    Indeed it is. Threatening an enemy with death is exactly what is needed in order to clearly indicate the bloody-mindedness of our country when it comes to self-defense. When someone points a gun at you, you shouldn’t be worried about killing them to defend yourself, or informing them of your intent to do so.

    I’ll also give the President integrity points: for better or worse, that’s him. That’s who we elected. Staying true to his instincts, as crude as they are, also gives his threats extra credibility.

    Rueful agreement here. Honestly, given our choices in the last election and the behavior of both of them since, particularly the maudlin, bizarre behavior of Hillary! ™ and her refusal to go quietly into the night like a decent human being would, I think we may have actually elected the best of the top two awful candidates.

    Being more awful than Donald Trump is really, really hard. Yet Hillary! ™ has managed to do it.

    • I can’t read it, it’s behind a pay wall.

    • Sounds like some people think they should “try” to override the Supreme Court of the Unites States interpretation of Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and change the conventionally understood legal wisdom that the power of the Presidential Pardon is “unreviewable” and therefore final. Legally overriding the opinions of SCOTUS is rather difficult.

      This wreaks of another partisan attack at trying to strip presidential powers trying to make it “impossible” for Trump to govern as President just because Trump is the President, not because the power itself is wrong.

      • Glenn Logan

        Indeed. Contra the fever dreams of Tribe et. al., the Supreme Court has spoken on the matter of a presidential pardon, and no inferior court may gainsay it. To wit, in Ex Parte Garland (1866):

        The President, for reasons of the sufficiency of which he is the sole and exclusive judge, has exercised this power in favor of the petitioner. The effect of the pardon, therefore, is to make it impossible for any power on earth to inflict, constitutionally, any punishment whatever upon the petitioner for the crime of treason specified in the pardon. [my emphasis]

        That’s pretty unambiguous, I would say. Tribe isn’t just reaching, he’s continuing to embarrass himself and demonstrate complete incredibility where president Trump is concerned.

        • Remember that Tribe is one of the lawyers that is part of the Emoluments Clause lawsuit that had serious standing deficiencies, and interpreted the term “Emolument” so broadly that almost every past President from George Washington to Barack Obama violated that clause.

  2. Re #2: I swore I’d never vote for her. Then the alternative was Donald Trump. Moral of the story: never say “never.”

    That said, I don’t see a problem here. The first statement is in response to a hypothetical; the second refers to current plans. “If we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now,” <she wouldn't completely (not her word, but in the question) rule out contesting the legitimacy of the election. But, in the absence of such evidence–or indeed in the absence of the likelihood that any evidence that does emerge will be quantitatively or qualitatively compelling–she is “not saying [she] will contest the election.”

    If a great job opportunity for me were to come up, I would not rule out taking it. But I have no plans to leave my current job until retirement. I don’t see those two statements as contradictory. As my grandfather used to say, if things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.

    • Glenn Logan

      The only problem with her statement is that there is no lawful way to contest an election after it has been certified. Rule it in, rule it out, it’s utterly irrelevant. In other words, a nothingburger wrapped in a shit sandwich.

      You’d think a lawyer like Hillary would have a clue about that. Alas.

  3. valkygrrl

    If you have trouble differentiating the vast difference between legality and legitimacy, might I suggest going to see one of the thousands of productions of Richard III.

  4. #5 Thanks Fred; you scouted out some great ethics topics!

  5. On HRC:

    I’m trying to find the raw data, but someone on twitter commented that there’s a survey out there that 13% of Hillary voters would not vote for her if they could have a do-over. So 1 out of 8 HRC voters (at a proveable minimum) is honest enough to do some serious introspection.

  6. Greg

    1. Give Obama credit. He’s been pretty restrained about public criticism of Trump. Maybe he understands better than Hillary how difficult the job is. Bill Clinton and George Bush have also been quiet.

    2. Just last week, North Korea threatened to “sink Japan into the sea with the nuclear bomb” and “reduce the US mainland to ashes and darkness.” Under the circumstances, it doesn’t seem inappropriate for Trump to remind Kim that the US actually has the power to carry out a threat like that.

    3. For what it’s worth, I got texts this morning praising Trump’s speech from two friends who voted for Hillary. Both of them thought the threat to totally destroy North Korea was the kind of tough talk that was needed and both particularly liked the “Rocket Man” reference, which they thought was funny. Also, both of them are black men, one in his 30’s and one in his 40’s. A new constituency for Trump?

  7. Glenn Logan

    I knew the Times editors would be absurd, Ikne they would be fulminating against the President’s U.N. speech. It read…

    WAR ON PEACE

    It really did.

    The Times truly has gone around the bend. Then again, tragically, they have quite a bit of company.

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