Good Morning, everybody.
1 The ancient Greeks in my family were pleased. Yesterday could be used in public schools to teach the concept of hubris. I doubt that public schools teach concepts like hubris, unfortunately. (I doubt that most public school teachers could explain hubris.) For in a single day..
- We saw Steve Bannon dismissed from his kingdom, right-wing propaganda organ Breitbart.
- We learned that Joe Arpaaio, who is only not facing prison time because of a generous pardon frm President Trump, and who lost his latest election for sheriff, and who is 85-years-old, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Arizona.
- NJ Governor Chris Christie gave his farewell address, celebrating himself. Earlier this week he said that he would be President today if not for Donald Trump.
2. “What’s done is done.” Yesterday, a Democratic mouthpiece who sounded like Kristin Chenoweth on speed (looked like her too) was confronted with videotapes of the last two Democratic Presidents swearing that they were committed to strengthening the borders and enforcing immigration laws. “We are a nation of immigrants,” intoned Bill Clinton. “We are also a nation of laws.”
“What’s done is done,” blathered ‘Kristin.’
This is the unethical rationalization known on the Ethics Alarms list as #51 . The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past”:
This rationalization has the honor of being named for a President, though a fictional and sinister one: Frank Underwood, the devious, psychopathic, lying and murdering Chief Executive, played by Kevin Spacey, who leads the den of thieves and blackguards who populate the fictional Washington, D.C. in the Netflix drama, “House of Cards.”
The Underwood Maneuver is versatile. Frank’s favorite use of it is when he is seeking assistance from one of the many elected officials, appointees and others whom he has lied to or metaphorically stabbed in the back. “Why should I trust you now, when you betrayed me?” these poor souls are always asking. “Oh, but that was in the past!” says Frank, in his gentle South Carolina accent. “This is now. We need each other now. What’s done is done. Let’s move forward.”
What makes the Underwood Maneuver so devilishly effective is that, like many other rationalizations, there is a nugget of common sense in it that makes it seem reasonable. Why let an incident that cannot be undone limit our options today? Why be hampered by bitterness, anger, and hurt, when a new slate looms, and all can be made right? Like #50,The Apathy Defense, #51 also hints that dwelling on past wrongs is pointless, graceless and irrational. Everybody has forgotten about that, so why can’t you? Why can’t you move on?
The Underwood Maneuver falsely holds that time erases accountability. Like Frank, real life unethical politicians know that if responsibility for a scandal, lie or crime can be denied, delayed, ducked, distorted and ignored long enough, the news media and the public will become fatigued and frustrated, and ultimately give up on holding the wrongdoers accountable. Outside of political life, we have a sack full of nostrums and wise saying that urge us to move on from bad experiences. Let bygones be bygones. Forgive and forget. Let the past stay in the past.
This of course, is wonderfully useful to the habitually unethical, because “moving on” gives them the benefit of undeserved forgiveness and trust, and an opportunity to repeat their unethical and harmful conduct, or worse. The Underwood Maneuver doesn’t just urge its victims to give up crippling grudges, which would indeed be positive advice. It also manipulates the victim of wrongful conduct into forgiving and forgetting without the essential contributions a truly reformed wrongdoer must make to the equation: admission of harm , acceptance of responsibility, remorse and regret, amends and compensation, and good reason to believe that the unethical conduct won’t be repeated. Frank Underwood never provides any of that, because “That’s in the past” is designed to put gullible victims at ease so they will let down the guard that experience would otherwise provide to them. By emphasizing that wrongdoing was in the past, this rationalization all but assures that it is also lurking in the near future.
3. Whither Plan E? After the embarrassing news media effort to bolster “the resistance’s” Plan E last week, the President holding a live broadcast one-hour meeting with Congressional leaders during which he appeared to be the same Donald Trump we have known, loved and loathed for years was, or should have been, a decisive rebuttal. Amazingly, he did not appear disoriented or confused. He was not at a loss for words. He did not repeat himself, stare blankly into space, sing “A Bicycle Built For Two” (“Daisy, Daisy..”), have a duck sitting on his head or do a strip tease. Public figures with dementia don’t usually allow such long-term unfiltered scrutiny of their behavior—that would be crazy. Wait–that’s it!!!
Update and Correction: I deleted item #4. I misunderstood a news report that was ambiguously stated, then didn’t check sufficiently myself. The main reason, I fear, was my long-standing distrust and dislike of the lawyer involved, Michael Cohen, one of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys and, in my professional opinion, but it’s just my opinion Michael and not a statement of fact, so don’t sue me, you shameless hack, as unethical a lawyer as there is in high places. This was a case of bias making me stupid.
He did NOT, as I wrote in the original version of this post, file the two defamation suits on his client’s behalf, but his own. Good luck to him. The rest of the post, and the poll, can’t be salvaged despite the interesting issues they raise. So in the words of Emily Litella, “Never mind.”
I apologize for the error and my carelessness.
Special thanks to Chris Marschner for the correction.