Here is Rich in CT’s terse Comment of the Day on Item #5 of Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/18: Bad Quotes, Faithless Speakers, and I’ll have some reactions at the end:
Nancy Pelosi Statement on Appointing Rex Tillerson (2.13.16)
“Choosing an oil executive friendly with Vladimir Putin as Secretary of State sends a disturbing signal about President-elect Trump’s priorities. Rex Tillerson’s cozy relationship with the Kremlin is especially alarming in light of his attitude toward sanctions over Russia’s aggressive behavior in Europe, while at the same time the President-elect continues to side with Russia over the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community.
Nancy Pelosi Statement on Dismissing Rex Tillerson (3.13.18 )
“Secretary Tillerson’s firing sets a profoundly disturbing precedent in which standing up for our allies against Russian aggression is grounds for a humiliating dismissal. President Trump’s actions show that every official in his Administration is at the mercy of his personal whims and his worship of Putin.”
Res ipsa loquitur.
I’m back. Rich’s point, that the two quotes together “speak for themselves,” is depressingly true. Just for clarity’s sake, let’s agree on what the really say:
- The two statements collectively reject integrity as an ethical value that Pelosi, a Democratic Party leader, believes is important for elected officials to model to the rest of the nation and the public.Yet integrity, listed under Trustworthiness in Six Pillars of Character, is perhaps the beating heart of trustworthiness, even more than honesty. To be worthy of trust, someone must demonstrate that they can be depended upon to act consistently and dependably, based on ethical motivations and values.
(No, reliably acting expediently and without reference to past words and conduct on the same matter is not integrity: one cannot model integrity by consistently acting without it,)
- What does such openly cynical public conduct accomplish? It makes the public cynical and contemptuous of the democratic process, politics, and the people we allow to govern us. What other effect can it have?
This cannot be healthy for society or in the best interests of the nation.
- For the minority—still many millions— of Americans who pay attention, such blatant flip-flopping also suggests a stupid speaker. Before the internet and YouTube, politicians often got away with such contradictions. Tim Russert, in the days when “Meet the Press” was respectable, made his reputation by tracking down newspaper clippings and old video tape to confront glib and arrogant pols who had just said the opposite of what they had shouted from podiums in the past. This was embarrassing then. Now anyone can do what Russert did, which one would think would make politicians like Pelosi want be careful.
I do think Pelosi is increasingly stupid, but this flip-flop isn’t an example of that. Together, the two statements show that she doesn’t care about modelling integrity to the Americans she is talking to. Her audience is “the resistance,” and her assumption is that they just want to hear Donald Trump denigrated, no matter what he does or says, and no matter what happens as a result of what he does or says. In this she is just expressing and facilitating bias and hate. Intentionally.
- But it is still stupid, but for a different reason. Pelosi and others disarm themselves as legitimate critics by such cynical maneuvers. She has no credibility as a true critics, and to be effective, as well as to carry out their duties, the opposition must be able to plausibly represent their arguments as motivated by reason and the public good rather than emotion and pandering. Democrats, the resistance, and the news media have forfeited that.
“Res ipsa loquitur.”