1. George Conway is unethical. It’s really as simple as that. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, a lawyer, has decided to take advantage of his wife’s notoriety to grab unearned influence and fame for himself. He has become a regular twitter critic of the President, routinely blasting the Administration through mostly re-tweeted commentary from other sources. This, of course, makes the Trumpophobes ecstatic, embarrasses his wife, and gives George 15 hitch-hiked minutes of fame.
Let me count the ways this is wrong:
- He’s not contributing anything valuable to the public debate, just bolstering his wife’s enemies. Social media-users who can’t muster their own arguments and who only appeal to authority should not be taken seriously, and if George wasn’t undermining his wife, he wouldn’t be.
- Who he is married to is the only reason anyone pays any attention to his tweeting. Surely he knows this. Surely he knows that the result is his wife’s embarrassment, and that he he is actively working against her. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin act, where both spouses are independently regarded as powerful political consultants. This is spousal sabotage.
- He’s risking his wife’s career for his own aggrandizement. I’ll say this for Trump: he’s more forgiving than I would be. I would give Kellyanne an ultimatum: get your husband to stop undermining us, dump him, or quit. This is analogous to the crazy estranged husband who keeps coming to his wife’s place of business to harass her. The employer’s completely justified message: “We can’t have this. It’s your problem; fix it, or we will.”
2. ‘We don’t care: he’s a racist whatever he does.’ President Trump announced his long-rumored pardon of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson yesterday. (The Times has an interesting feature about Johnson’s travails here.) Praising the President for this long over-due exoneration, an NAACP spokesman said…nah, I’m kidding, the civil rights organization didn’t say anything. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged President Obama to finally right this decades-long wrong, said…no, they had nothing to say either. [ Correction: Originally I wrote here that John McCain, who sponsored a resolution asking for Obama to pardon Johnson,, did not signal praise for the pardon. He did, and I apologize to the Senator for the error. Thanks to Dan Abrams for the information.]
There is no reasonable argument against pardoning Johnson, and there never has been. Apparently Obama was hesitant–but then he was always hesitant—this time because Johnson had a reputation for domestic abuse. Thus I presume that the female contingent in the White House pulling Barack’s strings—Valerie and Michelle—along with the all-important advocates for the Democratic Party’s feminist base wouldn’t let him do it. Obama, a lawyer, or so I hear, must have realized that Johnson’s racist persecution by the government for being a famous and defiant black man who openly had white female companionship had absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse, and that misconduct a controversial figure may or may not have engaged in unrelated to an unjust criminal conviction shouldn’t play any part in a pardon assessment.
That Barack. So principled. So courageous…
3. I like David French, but...his recent op-ed for the Times attacking the NFL’s ruling on National Anthem protests going forward—if a player won’t stand respectfully, the he must stay off the field, in the locker room—is ethically obtuse. French’s point is that conservatives should champion free speech at a time when the Left is trying to suppress it. That’s a good point, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has nothing to do with the NFL’s kneelers. I suspect that French wanted to make this argument, and negligently grabbed at the NFL policy as his chance to make it.
He writes in part,
Conservatives can recite the names of the publicly shamed from memory. There was Brendan Eich, hounded out of Mozilla for donating to a California ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and woman. There was James Damore, abruptly terminated from Google after he wrote an essay attributing the company’s difficulty in attracting female software engineers more to biology and free choice than to systemic discrimination. On campus, the list is as long and grows longer every semester.
It is right to decry this culture of intolerance and advocate for civility and engagement instead of boycotts and reprisals. The cure for bad speech is better speech — not censorship. Take that message to the heartland, and conservatives cheer.
Until, that is, Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel. Until, that is, the president demanded that the N.F.L. fire the other players who picked up on his protest after he was essentially banished from the league.
Like so many others, French ignores what is materially different about the Kneelers. They are abusing a captive audience with their grandstanding. It may be true that what Kaepernick claimed was his message was especially offensive to conservatives, but any protest, and any personal message, is inappropriate in the workplace. Eich’s contribution was personal. Damore wrote a job-related message to Google management. Students being punished for their speech breaches the whole purpose of a liberal arts education. There’s no disconnect between defending students bullied by political correctness and telling Kaepernick and his disciples to save their political blatherings to when they aren’t wearing shoulder pad. Fans don’t pay over a hundred bucks to watch a Politics Amateur Hour, they pay to see professional football. It doesn’t matter what the players are protesting (sometimes even to them: they have never been consistent about what exactly the kneeling meant)–Save the Whales, Down With Trump, Up With People, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”, climate change or the metric system. It’s not in their job description, so they have no business doing it on the job. This isn’t speech, it is conduct.
Why doesn’t French understand this? He writes,
In our polarized times, I’ve adopted a simple standard, a civil liberties corollary to the golden rule: Fight for the rights of others that you would like to exercise yourself. Do you want corporations obliterating speech the state can’t touch? Do you want the price of participation in public debate to include the fear of lost livelihoods? Then, by all means, support the N.F.L. Cheer Silicon Valley’s terminations. Join the boycotts and shame campaigns. Watch this country’s culture of liberty wither in front of your eyes.
Oh, Super Balderdash, David. I guess you are confused because a lot of the rhetoric from the President and others focus on why these particular inappropriate workplace demonstrations were offensive to many: they involved the flag and the Anthem. FOCUS!
If you are arguing that the NFL shouldn’t forbid its employees from using the workplace for their personal political purposes because it harms the “culture of liberty,” then you must also believe that my supermarket must allow the butcher to loudly read Karl Marx in the middle of the store. You must assert that nurses in hospitals can harangue bed-bound patients on the virtues of Hillary Clinton, though admittedly that would be a short rant. And of course you must be in favor of public librarians proclaiming that the Iran deal must be upheld.
No, and obviously no. Workplace protests are not personal speech, they are worker misconduct that harms the business and annoys customers, and the content of the protest is irrelevant. Like George Conway, such workers are unethically abusing a relationship for their own purposes. Unlike George, however, they have no right to do so.