How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? [UPDATED!]

 

At the beginning of the month we discussed the scandal in Nashville, Tennessee, where the female mayor, —the news media tried oh so hard to bury her party affiliation deep in reports, but she’s a Democrat— was carrying on an adulterous affair with the head of her security detail.  Some quotes from the Ethics Alarms essay to refresh your memory for the horrors to come:

—She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated.

—“I know that God will forgive me, but that Nashville doesn’t have to,” Barry said. “And I hope that I can earn their trust and I can earn your trust back, and that you will forgive me

—-This is classic appearance of impropriety.

—-In the Bill Clinton mold, the mayor is framing this as a matter of marital fealty rather than official misconduct—which it is—so she can argue that it’s just “personal private conduct.”

—-The conduct is unethical whether there are policies or not.

—-This is sexual harassment. The officer was a subordinate, and she was his boss, with the power to fire him or worse. There can be no genuine consent in such situations. In these cases with the typical genders reversed, neither the news media, nor the public, nor, in all likelihood, a hypothetical jury, would see it that way.

—-Barry’s playing the God Card is grounds to remove her all by itself.

—-Come on, #MeToo, show some integrity. Get this workplace predator kicked out of office.

Interestingly, a prominent and respected female, feminist Democrat who comments here with distinction argued in the comments to that post that this wasn’t even a newsworthy story outside of Nashville. Also interestingly, the New York Times disagrees, and even published a spirited—but stupid!—defense of Barry’s conduct, arguing that unlike, say, Al Franken, who was forced to resign for pre-political career conduct and unproven post-political career allegations, the fact that a Democratic mayor—FEMALE! Don’t forget that she is female!–was using state-paid employees under her supervision as a personal, state-funded dating pool does not mean she’s untrustworthy or qualified for high office.

Okey-dokey then! What we have here is an old-fashioned convenient double standard!

And this just in! Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tenneseean, reports that Rob Forrest, the Mayor’s married lover, earned substantially more overtime than the other bodyguards on Barry’s secuirty detail, $173,843.13  between July 2015 and January 2017, which was nearly $53,000 more than the other four bodyguards received combined. But, as several internet wags have noted, let’s be fair: Rob was doing more for the mayor than those other bodyguards..

Now let’s all read the op-ed*, by Margaret Renkl , whom the Times proudly describes as ” a contributing opinion writer.” This time around, I won’t get into such matters as the odd silence of the #MeToo warriors, who have set out to destroy successful men who were accused of being boorish on a single date. I won’t even question the competence of the Times editors, allowing such unethical, illogical, poorly reasoned hypocrisy to make its way into its pages to make Times readers more ethically inept than they already are. No, I just want to focus on Renkle and her claim that Barry shouldn’t have to resign, and the unethical rationalizations for wrongful conduct she gainfully employs along the way.

Here is the complete current list (some new rationalizations will be added soon, but this is plenty). These are just the titles; go here to get the full descriptions.

1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it”
1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”
The Golden Rationalization has many variations, among them…

  • “It’s done all the time.”

  • “It’s always been done this way.”

  • “It’s tradition.”

  • “Everybody is used to it.”

  • “Everybody accepts it.”

  • “Nobody’s complained before.”

  • “It’s too late to change now.”

1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m on The Right Side Of History”
2. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad”
2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming”
3. Consequentialism, or “It Worked Out for the Best”
4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”
5. The Compliance Dodge.
6. The Biblical Rationalizations
“Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse
8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”)

8A. The Dead Horse-Beater’s Dodge, or “This can’t make things any worse”
9. The Reverse Slippery Slope
10. The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”
11.A “I deserve this!” or “Just this once!”
12. The Dissonance Drag
13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
13A The Road To Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”)
14. Self-validating Virtue
15. The Futility Illusion: “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”
15 A. The Reverse 15
16. The Consistency Obsession
17. Ethical Vigilantism
18. Hamm’s Excuse: “It wasn’t my fault.”
19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”
20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy
21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”
21A. The Criminal’s Redemption, or “It’s just a small part of what I am!”
21. Ethics Accounting (“I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”)
22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
23. The Dealer’s Excuse. or “I’m just giving the people what they want!”
23 A. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”
24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)
24. A. Free Speech Confusion
25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
25A. Frederick’s Compulsion or “It’s My Duty!”
26. “The Favorite Child” Excuse

  • What my guy did is OK, because your guy did it.

  • The conduct of your guy, which I think is wrong, should set the standard of conduct for my guy, who I think is better than your guy.

  • The worse your guy can behave without being criticized, the worse my guy can behave without my objecting.

  • The conduct I deplored in your guy is acceptable to me in my guy, because you didn’t have the integrity to criticize it.

  • It’s all right for my guy to do what your guy did, but I still think your guy is scum for doing it, and you were a hypocrite not to criticize him.

27. The Victim’s Distortion
28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
29. The Altruistic Switcheroo: “It’s for his own good”
29 (a). The Gruber Variation, or “They are too stupid to know what’s good for them”
30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule”
31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing”
32A. Imaginary Consent, “He/She Would Have Wanted It This Way”
33. The Management Shrug: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”.
34. Success Immunity, or “They must be doing something right!”
35. The Tortoise’s Pass: “Better late than never”
36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”
#36 A. The Extortionist’s Absolution (“You were warned!”)
36 B. The Patsy’s Rebuke, or “It’s not my fault that you’re stupid!”
37. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”
38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
#38 A.“Mercy For Miscreants.”
39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?”
40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
41. The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is.”
41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am.”
42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”
43. Vin’s Punchline, or “We’ve never had a problem with it!”
44. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time”
45. The Abuser’s License: “It’s Complicated”
46. Zola’s Rejection, or “Don’t point fingers!”
47. Contrived Consent, or “The Rapist’s Defense.”
48. Ethics Jiu Jitsu, or “Haters Gonna Hate!”
49. “Convenient Futility,” or “It wouldn’t have mattered if I had done the right thing.”
50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
Rationalization 50A. Narcissist Ethics , or “I don’t care”
#51 . The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.”
52. The Hippie’s License, or “If it feels good, do it!” (“It’s natural”)
53. Tessio’s Excuse, or “It’s just business”
54. The Joke Excuse, or “I was only kidding!”
55. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”
56. “The Idealist’s Delusion,” or “We’re/ You’re Better Than This.”
57. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”
#57 A. The Utilitarian Cheat or “If it saves just one life”
58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”

  • Do unto others as you know others would do unto you.

  • Do unto others what they did unto you.

  • Do unto others as you wish others would do unto you even though you wouldn’t deserve it.

  • Do unto others as those others treat others.

  • Do unto others as they threatened to do unto you.

  • Do unto others as others who think like you do would also do to those others.

  • Do unto others according to how you feel about what they did unto you.

  • Do unto others before they do it unto you.

  • Do unto me as you would want to have done unto you if you were as devoid of civilized values as I am.

and, “Do unto others as if the others felt like I do, even though they may not.”

59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”
60 A, B,and C. The Cheater’s Rationalizations
60. A. Barry Bonds’ Pass: “He didn’t need to cheat.”
60 B. The Vendetta Excuse: “It’s not the cheating, it’s the cheater”.
60 C. O.J.’s Facade: “You can’t prove it!”
61.The Paranoid’s Blindness, or “It’s not me, it’s you.”
62. The Doomsday License
63. Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”
64. Irrelevant Civility or “But I was nice about it!”
64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”
65 .The Pest’s Justification or “He/She/They can take care of themselves”

I recommend printing it out, and checking off the rationalizations as you read. I’ll give the answers with analysis in another post. Just to get you started, here’s one for free: the headline for the op-ed is “Nashville’s Mayor Has Stumbled. Who Will Cast the First Stone?”

This is, of course, one of the Biblical rationalizations, #6, and a sadly common one at that. From the entry on the Rationalizations List:

“One must also remember that stoning was a life-threatening ritual in Biblical times. Like many metaphorical passages in the Bible, this metaphor can be carried too far, and has been. There is a big difference between participating in the physical wounding of an individual when one has been guilty of similar failings, and simply disapproving such conduct and calling for appropriate punishment. Interpreting the passage to mean that nobody can ever be punished or admonished for ethical misconduct except by the ethically pure is simply a cynical justification for a universal lack of accountability and responsibility.”

OK, that’s one. How many others can you find?

* UPDATE: I forgot that the Times has a paywall. I apologize for frustrating readers: here’s my solution. It would be unethical to republish the whole op-ed, since the Times chooses to charge for it, so I’m going in include about half of it here, so at least readers can identify the rationalizations in the first part. Maybe some of you will decide to get the online Times. Here we go…

…Along with this confession, the mayor offered the kind of full-throated apology we almost never get from public officials: “I accept full responsibility for the pain I have caused my family and his,” she said. “I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway.”

She ended her statement with a pledge: “God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.”

This promise did not seem like an act of damage control. This is the way Megan Barry really talks. The language of full emotional availability is her native tongue.

Perhaps that’s why this city loves her. She hugs schoolchildren. She looks genuinely joyful at city parades and festivals. She grieves that too many Nashville teenagers are slain by guns. When Max Barry, her own son and only child, died suddenly last summer, the people of Nashville wept with her. When she spoke openly about the drug addiction that killed him, we marveled at her courage and admired her resolve to bring addiction out of the shadows of shame.

But in a red state like Tennessee, this liberal mayor also has powerful opponents, and they are not idiots. An editorial in the conservative Tennessee Star wasted no time in calling for her resignation: “Barry and the fawning, liberal Nashville media are trying the Clinton defense.”

In the age of Donald Trump, conservatives have surely surrendered the right to moral outrage on this particular subject. But for those who are unperturbed by appearances of hypocrisy, a sex scandal presents a golden opportunity to halt Ms. Barry’s ambitious progressive agenda — primarily her expensive plan for public transit, but also her unequivocal support for abortion rights, gun control, same-sex marriage and refugee resettlement — and end any plans she might have for higher office.

From the beginning, the mayor has insisted that this affair was a personal calamity only, that nothing about it was illegal or an abuse of power. But even for those inclined to accept the financial documents she has submitted to justify the professional nature of her travels with Sergeant Forrest, the affair itself raises questions.

Were those travels, and their costs to the city, merely excuses to be alone with Sergeant Forrest? Did her feelings for him influence her defense of the Metro Police Department when it was under scrutiny last year for the shooting of a black man in the act of fleeing? Did the affair put her own staff in the unwelcome role of tacit facilitators? When she recommended Sergeant Forrest’s daughter for a newly created city job, was the young woman the best candidate for the position?

Already these questions, and others, are rightly the subject of public investigations by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and by Nashville’s Metro Council, and there may soon be others. We have no way of knowing whether the investigations will exonerate the mayor or reveal improprieties that are unacceptable in a public servant. Unlike her political opponents, I prefer to wait for their findings before forming an opinion about whether she should resign….

 

27 Comments

Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

27 responses to “How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? [UPDATED!]

  1. JutGory

    For your consideration (I don’t have time to run down the list, unfortunately, but take this for what it is worth):

    I may have told this story before: my Property Professor in Law School was an older Jewish woman from New York (teaching in the Midwest. She tells this story of Jesus and made the point that he performed the work of the lawyer that day. The authorities brought this woman accused of adultery to him and asked him if she should be stoned. Of course, under the law, the answer was, “Yes.” So, the first thing Jesus did, when the question was posed, was he said nothing and drew little marks on the ground so that he had time to think. Then, when pressed, he re-framed the question in a way that he knew he would win. He did not dispute that she should be stoned, he simply said the person who has not sinned (or not committed adultery) should cast the first stone. Recognizing their own failings, the accusers withdrew, leaving Jesus, the only one up to his own challenge to cast the first stone; obviously, he did not.

    (If only the actual practice of law were as simple as appealing to the good consciences of fair-minded individuals!)

    -Jut

    • Gamereg

      One could also argue that they weren’t really going to stone her anyway, the only reason the subject was brought up was to get Jesus to either approve the stoning and risk trouble with the Romans who, since taking charge had reserved capital punishment for themselves, or to forbid the stoning and undermine His own authority as a teacher.

  2. Other Bill

    Hey Jack! Good news! She’s a professional colleague of yours! Isn’t that great!

    From her wiki page:

    Barry worked in business ethics and corporate responsibility for the multinational telecommunications firm Nortel Networks.[5] From 2003 to 2012, Barry was vice president of ethics and compliance at Premier, Inc., a health-care group purchasing organization.[5] She also worked as Principal of Barry & Associates, an independent consulting organization to multinational corporations on issues dealing with business ethics and corporate social responsibility.[5]

    • Other Bill

      Looks as if her husband was a professor of her’s at Vanderbilt’s B-School. So I guess her fondness for unethical relationships is longstanding.

  3. 77Zoomie

    Althouse calls the op-ed “womansplaining”. Brilliant.

  4. Rick McNair

    I have long been completely desensitized to the picadillos of the ruling class. Affairs of the heart (or loins) rarely end well in a business, education and political situation. A few (hello – Ted Kennedy!) will be accepted no matter what excesses they engaged in. Frankly, her actions make titillating reading but little else.

  5. Does the fact that the bodyguard made more overtime mean that he got paid to diddle? If so, doesn’t that make him a hook-… er, a sex worker? Are those legal in Tennessee? Could he get indicted under such a pretense?

    Some young junior DA could make his or her bones on this one… imagine calling the Mayor as a material witness!

  6. Gamereg

    One could also argue that they weren’t really going to stone her anyway, the only reason the subject was brought up was to get Jesus to either approve the stoning and risk trouble with the Romans who, since taking charge had reserved capital punishment for themselves, or to forbid the stoning and undermine His own authority as a teacher.

    • Notice the woman was ‘caught in the act’ yet the man was not brought forward as well? This violated Jewish law.

      I once heard an interesting speculation about what Jesus was doing when he scratched lines in the dirt… perhaps he was naming names of those who had committed the same crime (adultery) along with their lovers? Naming the sins of the accusers?

  7. Other Bill

    I refuse to subscribe to the NYT so I can’t read the op-ed. I subscribed to the WaPo for a year or so but couldn’t stand it. That and my wife asking me every month if the ten buck charge on our Master Card was a mistake.

    • I forgot the paywall! Ok, I’ll put in the whole thing…

    • My gut tells me it is unethical to support the NYT by actually paying them.

      After all, look at their track record. Isn’t that supporting their destruction of journalism (“paper of record”) and with it, our nation?

      Serious question.

      • It’s a great paper, that is politically unethical. But all newspapers are politically unethical, or if not, have other crippling deficits. I travel around the country, and try all local newspapers. They are uniformly terrible. The Post is head and shoulders over them, and the Times is that much better than the Post. In everything BUT politics, it is irreplaceable, with probing reporting in science, the arts, sports, culture, business, everything. It’s an essential resource. Damn them for allowing it to be so noxious to so many with its increasingly extreme ideological bias.

        • Forgive me, jack, for playing devil’s advocate here. I am about to go into hours of boring meetings, and have to get my snark out first. I understand your intent to explain my serious question, though, and have no real issue with your reasoning, given the lack of choices available to you.

          But all newspapers are politically unethical, or if not, have other crippling deficits. I travel around the country, and try all local newspapers. They are uniformly terrible.

          ‘Everyone does it’ rationalization? By the way, you have hit upon my decades old refusal to read ANY newspaper. They have hated my worldview for most of my life. I find that once the integrity is gone, you can find the rot in almost anything they report. How can they be trusted?

          The Post is head and shoulders over them, and the Times is that much better than the Post. In everything BUT politics, it is irreplaceable, with probing reporting in science, the arts, sports, culture, business, everything.

          Kings Pass? Maybe a little bit of ‘it’s not the worst thing?’

          “Print is dead” -Egon, Ghostbusters

          I cannot wait for these dinosaurs to go bankrupt. Not sure if what comes later will be better, but at least this bunch will die off 🙂

  8. luckyesteeyoreman

    Second try…

    A new rationalization has been strawperdaughtered to rescue this latest Mayor Barry:

    “[X] bad, but TRUMP WORSE!”

    That new rationalization was articulated using these words: “And Ms. Barry is fully cooperating with the inquiries into her behavior. The same cannot be said of, for example, the president of the United States.”

    So Barry says: “God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.”

    BZZZZZZZT!! Thank you for playing, Ms. Mayor. You can collect your choice of a lovely parting gift of a U.S. Senate seat or governorship of Tennessee, come the next election for one of those positions. The guys who will surround you during your pursuit and occupation of those higher offices will be even hunkier than any you licked your lips with desire for, while in the Nashville island-of-blue in a red state, and it will be harder than ever to resist those those extra-hunky guys, but hey. Your teeny, tiny little mistakes, including getting caught and spending of whatever public funds were spent during the commission of your miniscule, micro-milli-microaggressions against taxpayers, are all OK – SO OK, you might even be able to make them all AGAIN! – because mass transit, abortion, gun control, sex-any-way-anyone-wants-it, and open borders. You are WOKE!

    Plus – BONUS QUALIFICATION! – you’re the heroic, ever-grieving surviving mother of a son who was killed by drugs. Drugs kill like guns, so you probably want stronger drug controls, too.

    Finally, Ms. Mayor, you possess the ultimate trait for getting elected by leftist and similarly stupid voters in middle North America: “The language of full emotional availability is her native tongue.”

    Why, she’s…she’s…Jane the Craptist! The Pre-Oprah! The legitimizer of The Promised Ms.iah!

    Nah – double BZZZZZZZT!!, Madame Mayor. Thoughts and prayers are not enough for survivors of mass shootings. Nor are God’s forgiveness, and your promised “hard work” to earn people’s forgiveness and trust, enough. You will have to resign, and wander the wilderness of Tennessee for a time, wearing nothing but Gucci and eating nothing but king salmon.

    Until the Lord calls you to higher offices and higher crimes.

  9. I don’t know what I did, but I was able to access the whole article…if I’ve accidentally done so in an unknowingly unethical manner, please delete the amount to mitigate this.

    Having reviewed the Rationalizations List, here’s my go:

    Paragraph 2:
    “Along with this confession, the mayor offered the kind of full-throated apology we almost never get from public officials: “I accept full responsibility for the pain I have caused my family and his,” she said. “I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway.””

    But she doesn’t accept full responsibility. If she did, and clearly her affair led to extreme financial irregularities which amount to defrauding the public, then accepting responsibility probably requires resignation.

    Paragraph 3:
    “She ended her statement with a pledge: “God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.””

    I don’t think “God will forgive me” is a rationalization. It may be an actual deeply held belief, but the State of Tennessee is a bit more hard-nosed. At best this is just poll-tested platitude, but at worst, it is meant to convince some people to forgive her also (which makes it a diversion, not a rationalization). Working to earn their forgiveness and trust is an appeal to 21A Ethics Accounting: Criminal’s Redemption. She things future “good works” can atone for past sins. They cannot. What atones for past sins is having that sin and its effects blotted out, which in the case of defrauding the public, the only atoning work is resignation.

    Paragraph 4:
    “This promise did not seem like an act of damage control. This is the way Megan Barry really talks. The language of full emotional availability is her native tongue.”

    Appeal for sympathy, which is the opener for the next string of rationalizations.

    Paragraph 5:
    “Perhaps that’s why this city loves her. She hugs schoolchildren. She looks genuinely joyful at city parades and festivals. She grieves that too many Nashville teenagers are slain by guns. When Max Barry, her own son and only child, died suddenly last summer, the people of Nashville wept with her. When she spoke openly about the drug addiction that killed him, we marveled at her courage and admired her resolve to bring addiction out of the shadows of shame.”

    This is Ethics Accounting again. She’s a really great person…so it’s implied we should overlook this one thing.

    Paragraph 6:
    “But in a red state like Tennessee, this liberal mayor also has powerful opponents, and they are not idiots. An editorial in the conservative Tennessee Star wasted no time in calling for her resignation: “Barry and the fawning, liberal Nashville media are trying the Clinton defense.””

    This is a diversion away from the miscreant by accusing the accusers of bad faith motives. #48 Haters gonna hate. Her critics are ONLY demanding accountability because they want a political advantage or want to win a tactical maneuver.

    Paragraph 7:
    “In the age of Donald Trump, conservatives have surely surrendered the right to moral outrage on this particular subject. But for those who are unperturbed by appearances of hypocrisy, a sex scandal presents a golden opportunity to halt Ms. Barry’s ambitious progressive agenda — primarily her expensive plan for public transit, but also her unequivocal support for abortion rights, gun control, same-sex marriage and refugee resettlement — and end any plans she might have for higher office.”

    This is a diversion away from the miscreant by claiming the accusers tolerate the same misbehavior in their “own guy”. #26 Favorite Child Excuse. Here, the writer wants us to assume a double standard on the part of the accusers for not making similar demands of Donald Trump. There is another hidden diversion here, I can’t recall what it would be called, where the writer claims the accusers really don’t care about her affair and likely defrauding of the people, they only want to halt her progressive agenda.

    Paragraph 8:
    “From the beginning, the mayor has insisted that this affair was a personal calamity only, that nothing about it was illegal or an abuse of power. But even for those inclined to accept the financial documents she has submitted to justify the professional nature of her travels with Sergeant Forrest, the affair itself raises questions.”

    Marion Barry’s Misdirection

    Paragraph 9:
    “Were those travels, and their costs to the city, merely excuses to be alone with Sergeant Forrest? Did her feelings for him influence her defense of the Metro Police Department when it was under scrutiny last year for the shooting of a black man in the act of fleeing? Did the affair put her own staff in the unwelcome role of tacit facilitators? When she recommended Sergeant Forrest’s daughter for a newly created city job, was the young woman the best candidate for the position?”

    Fair Questions. Here’s a GOOD paragraph.

    Paragraph 10:
    “Already these questions, and others, are rightly the subject of public investigations by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and by Nashville’s Metro Council, and there may soon be others. We have no way of knowing whether the investigations will exonerate the mayor or reveal improprieties that are unacceptable in a public servant. Unlike her political opponents, I prefer to wait for their findings before forming an opinion about whether she should resign.”

    I don’t see a rationalization or diversion here, but I wonder what her opinions are regarding Trump and the Mueller investigation?

    Paragraph 11:
    ““Please know that I’m disappointed in myself but also understand that I’m a human and that I made a mistake,” Ms. Barry said in her news conference. Many people here are upset with their mayor and angry about the way she has squandered their hopes for her political future. But I think most Nashvillians heard that statement with real compassion.”

    19, 20, 38.

    Paragraph 12:
    “This mayor has been beloved because she’s so human, because she works impossible hours and seems to be everywhere at once, sharing in our happiness and in our heartbreak, wearing her own happiness and her own heartbreak on her sleeve. How shocked should we be to learn that the mayor we love for her humanity is human enough to make this kind of mistake?”

    This is all set up for establishing a King’s Pass. What would we do without her selfless service? This is also another #38: Miscreants Mulligan.

    Paragraph 13:
    “I know I sound naïve. In truth, we don’t know if Megan Barry’s affair was only an error of human judgment. We don’t know if it was different in any substantive way from the kind of behavior that has already brought down so many other public servants. All we know for sure is that this is a particularly fraught moment in American history for a person in a position of power — male or female — to reveal an affair with a subordinate.”

    “Only an error of human judgment”…here we are given a mix between an “Everyone Does It” and a “Not the Worst Thing”. Some conduct is a mistake…some mistakes even occur in the height of emotional passion. But a long-running affair, which results in favoritism and mis-use of public funds is well outside that window and becomes a willful and knowing act. The writer even tries to paint her as slightly heroic for revealing this affair in a “particularly fraught” time…this is almost like using the “These are not ordinary times” to appeal to compassion – perhaps the seeds of a new rationalization?

    Paragraph 14:
    “Predictably, Twitter is aflame with outraged conservatives who believe Nashville liberals are giving Ms. Barry a pass simply because we share her politics. That’s a fair point to ponder. When religious conservatives in Alabama had no trouble voting for a credibly accused pedophile during December’s special Senate election, I voiced the same accusation.”

    Haters gonna hate backed up with an apples to oranges comparison (which in no way alleviates the disgust we can rightly have towards Roy Moore).

    Paragraph 15:
    “People here may be keeping an open mind until the official investigations are complete, but that’s not the same thing as giving our mayor a pass. And Ms. Barry is fully cooperating with the inquiries into her behavior. The same cannot be said of, for example, the president of the United States.”

    Diversion: Favorite Child or “They’re Just as Bad”

    Paragraph 16:
    “In the wake of the #MeToo tsunami, the conservative coyote pack is howling that liberals would be calling for the mayor’s head if she were a Republican man instead of a Democratic woman. But so far, at least, there is absolutely no evidence that Sergeant Forrest was subject to any form of coercion. Ms. Barry’s affair with her bodyguard was both irresponsible and deeply painful for innocent people, but in all the revelations that have unfolded since the news broke, nothing has come to light to suggest that this is the liberal female version of a #MeToo narrative.”

    Claiming that this was just two *equally empowered* adults, when clearly a subordinate and boss are NOT equals, this becomes the “Contrived Consent” rationalization.

    Paragraph 17:
    “This seems to be another kind of story entirely. This is a much more familiar story, a story that’s as old as humanity itself. Read Homer. Read Shakespeare. Read Flaubert. Read Hawthorne. Read Virginia Woolf. Read Jamie Quatro’s new novel, “Fire Sermon.” Read these stories, and here is what you’ll learn: People in the grip of love or sexual passion are apt to burn their lives down to the ground.”

    Everyone does it.

    Paragraph 18:
    “Thirty-two years ago I, too, fell in love with a man I worked with. It started the way so many office romances start, with common interests and a sense of shared purpose, but that isn’t where it stopped. All these years later — years during which we raised three children and buried three parents and tended to the hundred thousand mundane tasks of making a life together — I still remember the way the temperature in that tiny grad-school office changed when he walked in the door, the way the heat radiating from him charged every atom in my body with desire, the way I thought I would not survive another second if I couldn’t touch his skin.”

    Golden Rule Mutation…our writer fell in love at work, so it’s ok. I wonder…did our writer also violate the trust of a significant with someone else who was doing the same, while both were violating the trust and financial stewardship their employers had in them? She ends this with a “Woody’s Excuse” or “the Heart Wants What the Heart Wants”. Quick test: if a man wrote this about a subordinate female staffer…how would we react?

    Paragraph 19:
    “We all know this heat. It can reduce people to ashes. It can make us take incredibly stupid risks and give no thought at all to the consequences. Wise people know better than to put themselves in circumstances that would allow an illicit desire to flower, but people aren’t always wise. And sometimes it is when we are least wise that we are also most human.”

    And here’s the final one: He Who is Without Sin, Cast the First Stone. People may not always be wise…but mayors ought to be wise enough not to do this.

    • Wonderful job, Michael..and welcome to Ethics Alarms. Comment of the Day.
      Sometimes paywalls fail. That’s the Times’ problem

      • Other Bill

        NIce work.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        Well done, Michael West. I still say that Paragraph 15 found a new one:

        “[X] bad, but TRUMP WORSE!”

        • Other Bill

          I like it, lucky, but I think it’s a temporary variant of “These are not ordinary times.” By the time the next three or seven years are over, it may in fact replace “not ordinary times.”

          • “These are not ordinary times” becomes shortened to “TRUMP!” in our society’s cultural lexicon.

            What a depressing thought.

          • Belated thanks, Other Bill. I greatly appreciate your succinctness. I now agree with you – “temporary variant.” Exactly. NOT a new rationalization. I had to think about it for many days – not in a mind to argue with your point, but in a mind of arguing with my own belief that “this is new.” “Faith” can empower, but it can also cripple – or, maybe the verb I should use after “also” is “blind.”

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