Sunday Evening Ethics Review, 6/3/18: A-Rod, Obama, And Herbert Hoover

Good evening….

1. Why is Alex Rodriguez on the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting team? I’m watching the game (Boston at Houston), and I’m wondering, “There weren’t any ex-players who weren’t suspended for a full season for cheating with PED’s (banned performance enhancing drugs)?  There aren’t any ex-players who didn’t repeatedly lie to fans and sportswriters, and generally behave like a loathsome creep both on and off the field?”

Rodriguez will be up for membership in the Hall of Fame shortly, and he falls so short of the minimal requirements of the museum’s character clause that if it were a contest between A-Rod and Barry Bonds, Bonds would win in a landslide, and his election would provoke a major protest among living Hall members.

What kind of values does employing Rodriguez convey to kid viewing the game? What does it say about ESPN’s values, or Disney’s, its parent? Why does Major League Baseball allow a sociopath like A-Rod to represent the game on television?

2. And you thought Trump was a raging narcissist…Maureen Dowd has a damning column about Barack Obama that she muffles with equivocation, perhaps out of fear that Times readers can’t handle the truth, just like they can’t handle the results of Presidential elections. Some excerpts…

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Rhodes writes in his new book, “The World as It Is,” Obama asked his aides, “What if we were wrong?”But in his next breath, the president made it clear that what he meant was: What if we were wrong in being so right? What if we were too good for these people? “Maybe we pushed too far,” the president continued. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.”

This from the most tribe-obsessed, intentionally divisive U.S. President in memory.

“Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early,” Obama mused to aides. We just weren’t ready for his amazing awesomeness.

Ack. Gag. Obama was a largely incompetent President and ineffectual leader, and yet he accepts no accountability whatsoever. His failures were everyone else’s fault. Yecchh. The man’s character is  as offensive as Trump’s, just different.

“I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have seen it coming,” Rhodes writes about the “darkness” that enveloped him when he saw the electoral map turn red. “Because when you distilled it, stripped out the racism and misogyny, we’d run against Hillary eight years ago with the same message Trump had used: She’s part of a corrupt establishment that can’t be trusted to change.”

Bad time to figure that out.

Ya think? Especially since Obama ‘s administration was corrupt itself, as Hillary’s prominent role in it amply demonstrated.

Obama did not like persuading people to do what they didn’t want to do. And that is the definition of politics. He wanted them simply to do what he had ascertained to be right. President Obama could be deliberative, reticent and cautious to a fault, which spurred an appetite for a more impulsive, visceral, hurly-burly successor.

Translation: Obama was weak, and Americans prefer strong Presidents.  He paved the way for Trump. And he doesn’t understand at all, because his courtiers and the suck-up news media would only tell him that he was wonderful…for eight years.

How much better a job might he have done in those years if he had recognized that he wasn’t perfect,and the journalistic establishment wasn’t so invested in reinforcing his own high opinion of his performance?

3. When ethics fails, the law steps in..stupidly, in this instance. Reacting to this horrible incident from last year, where a group of teens mocked a drowning man from the beach, Florida state Senator Debbie Mayfield has introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to fail to provide reasonable assistance to an endangered person…a duty to rescue law. I have written about why this is unworkable, unenforceable and irrational in several previous posts, and if I have the time, I’ll try to add some links later. What is reasonable for lifeguard in his 20s may not be reasonable for a former lifeguard in his 40s who has a heart condition. What caused the outrage in the 2017 incident was that the bystanders actively mocked the drowning man. That’ however, is free speech.

In some ways, this misconceived effort to legislate courage, compassion and responsibility is the product of the same statist delusion that drives restrictive gun legislation—the belief that every human flaw can be fixed with the right law. It is also, like the current push to pass a wave of regulations in response to school shootings that would do nothing to stop school shootings, a “Do something!” response to feelings of futility.

Pass a law requiring schools to teach ethics, Senator.

4. Another kind of fake news. Yesterday, as the North Korean talks returned from the (what the Times had pronounced as) dead, and as May’s job report exceeded all expectations, the New York Times and its pundits reported both as if the President of the United States deserved no credit for either. In the Times’ front section ravie review of the jobs report, Trump was not mentioned. Not only that, but Bret Stephens wrote this, and no Times editor felt the responsibility to keep him, and the Times, from embarrassing itself with such inexcusable bias…

“The spirit that really hovers over this White House is Herbert Hoover’s.”

That’s right: on the same day in which President Trump was found to preside over an economy that, in the Times’ own words,

“So in an era of geopolitical risks and potential trade wars, the thing to take away from the May numbers is that the United States economy just keeps humming along at a steady pace, putting more people to work and at gradually higher wages.

…the New York Times tells its readers that he resembles Herbert Hoover, who was held responsible for The Great Depression.


38 thoughts on “Sunday Evening Ethics Review, 6/3/18: A-Rod, Obama, And Herbert Hoover

  1. I watched the game this evening as well. My thought was, this is his way to ingratiate himself with the general public, and the sports writers, for the next 8 years in an attempt to rehabilitate his image.

    On Obama and Rhodes, I said it Nov 9, 2016 on this blog and I’ll say it again, classic Greek hubris leading to nemesis.

  2. #2 I have swings from having deep contempt to feeling kind of sorry for President Obama. On the one hand he is an arrogant jerk, but on the other hand everybody played along with it and praised him to high heavens. He got a Nobel Peace prize for god knows what, certainly not for his Mid East policies. If everyone is a yes man, you start to believe in your on godliness. But he is still culpable, he had opponents in Congress. The media is free, so there were sources that weren’t friendly. He had plenty of places to learn about his deficiencies. He had plenty of scandals, even if he thinks they weren’t. I hope he finds joy in producing content for Netflix, which will not be political, so we’re told.

    Can they stop lying beyond the office?

  3. We must all be careful about taking Ben Rhodes’s word for anything. Let’s remember that this is the guy who bragged to a Washington Post reporter about how he had essentially created a media circle jerk to drum up support for the Iran deal.

  4. How much better a job might he have done in those years if he had recognized that he wasn’t perfect,and the journalistic establishment wasn’t so invested in reinforcing his own high opinion of his performance?

    You think journalistic prodding would’ve caused Obama to re-evaluate his awesomeness?

    If so, sorry, that’s a non-sequitur. Narcissists aren’t moved by the criticism of their inferiors.

    • Well, it’s a good point. Even narcissists are capable of realizing that they are screwing up; they just need a lot of help. Being constantly told they are just as brilliant and infallible as they think they does them no favors.

      • Perhaps “capable” is a qualifier that would make it so, but in Obama’s case, I’m pretty sure he lacked that gene.

        You’re absolutely right that in the off chance he does have it, the constant drumbeat of obsequious praise probably overwhelmed any chance of self-awareness expressing itself.

      • As D_d would attest to, if Obama has genuine narcissistic personality disorder (at least a few experts in the field think he’s a dead-ringer for an NPD sufferer), you run the risk of incurring narcissistic rage, a terrible thing to behold, if you dare to inflict any injury on their delusions of grandeur.

        • When I say that, what I’m talking about goes beyond any kind of generic insult or criticism. I mean something that points out specific deficiencies, inconsistencies, contradictions, etc.;something that does actual, tangible damage to a carefully and painstakingly-erected facade, a fantasy that they’re only obliquely and dimly aware of as being false.

    • Narcissists and sociopaths aren’t moved by criticism of anyone. They are doubly unmoved if they are successful. The president is arguably the most successful of all, so he was in a position to dismiss and did dismiss criticism, i.e. “I won,” “win some elections,” etc., same as a successful recording artist or filmmaker might tell a critic “when you get your 5 million dollar contract, then you can criticize me, until then, STFU.”

  5. # 2- Lest we forget…the absolutely unsurpassable paradox, burying forever the needle on the irony meter, of the self-anointed Most Transparent Administration EVAH accepting an award for same in a ceremony closed to the press.

    WaPo 03/31/2011: Obama finally accepts his transparency award… behind closed doors

    And in all fairness, can we really ascribe pathological narcissism anymore?

    A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored

    • Trump seems to function… well…. not spectacularly, but well, in this constant media shitshow that surrounds him. There is a certain type of management style that feeds off a self-imposed chaos… I wonder if he would actually do better or worse without the constant spotlight?

      • We all have had/have friends like The Donald, diluted by several orders of magnitude, and likely remaining in our orbits by a heapin’ helpin’ of the Julie Principle.

        “I wonder if he would actually do better or worse without the constant spotlight?”

        I don’t think we’ll never know. IMHO, he’d take a LOT of wind out of Lefty’s sails if he developed some thicker skin and got the fuck off twitter.

        If only someone could to get to him, like LBJ did when he convinced George Wallace to undig his firmly entrenched heels on Voting/Civil Rights.

        “Now, in 1985, George, what do you want left behind? Do you want a great big marble monument that says ‘George Wallace: He Built’? Or do you want a little piece of scrawny pine lying there along that hot caliche soil that says ‘George Wallace: He Hated’?”


    • Heh. The NYT puts forth the roadmap to defeating Trump, yet are incapable of implementing it.

      Liberals and even right wing Trump-haters have no idea that by responding to his provocation, they are giving him exactly what he craves and sowing the seeds of their own self-destruction in the process.

      Irony in its purest form.

      • Already read it. Pages 13 and 14 are a doozy, and a great big middle finger to all those arrogant, religion-hating assholes out there. Someone needs to find the commissioner’s name who said those despicable things and post his personal information online. Let him NEVER have a moment’s peace again.

        • “I would also like to reiterate what we said in the
          hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and
          religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination
          throughout history, whether it be slavery,
          whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean,
          we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom
          of religion has been used to justify discrimination.
          And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of
          rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion
          to hurt others.” Tr. 11–12.

          THAT requires never a moments peace?

          • Comparing someone’s religion to slavery and the Holocaust? Dismissing religion as “despicable” to the point where Justice Kennedy specifically says the state was being hostile to religion? People have been given the twittermob treatment for a lot less than that, and this wasn’t some woman spouting off on twitter before going to sleep on a flight or some celeb making some twitty pronunciation he thought was witty. This was a state official pronouncing in his/her official capacity on a serious case of religious liberty. Sometimes liberals get so caught up in the Establishment Clause, which disallows the state from favoring or supporting one religion, that they forget the Free Exercise Clause, which specifically disallows state hostility to religion, even exists, or they treat it as an afterthought, or as only permitting freedom of worship, not freedom of religion – in other words, keep your fairy tale beliefs in your homes and churches, us enlightened folks don’t want to hear about them. That’s ok for some guy tweeting while dusting his Richard Dawkins collection or a Starbucks meeting of the local religion-haters club. It is not ok for a state official, and represents, in my opinion, the same abuse of power as a state official condemning someone for their race or national origin, which you know you wouldn’t be ok with.

            • Except that doesn’t compare religion to slavery or the holocaust. He said people have used religion to justify those things. The speaker didn’t paint with such a broad brush as to include an entire a religion. He limited it to the people who say their beliefs justify bad behavior.

              Do we get to doxx all the people who say despicable things about Muslims?

              • How about implying that freedom of religion was some kind of dangerous idea which should be limited? What bill of rights was that person reading from?

              • “Except that doesn’t compare religion to slavery or the holocaust. He said people have used religion to justify those things.” … “He limited it to the people who say their beliefs justify bad behavior.”

                Not only do I disagree with your characterisation, the supreme court explicitly rejected it. I mean…. Really… If he wasn’t trying to tie religion, and more importantly, the faithful at large to those acts, then please… Describe to me the legal importance of including them in his decision. What do you think the point being made was?

                • You can claim anything at all is required or forbidden by your religion, even owning or massacring humans. Merely making that claim neither justifies the behavior nor exempts you from laws.

                  • This is true…. But also irrelevant. We aren’t, and they weren’t talking about slavery or the holocaust, we were talking about a cake, inserting the spectre of atrocities into the discussion was at best a red herring, and at worst a complete dismissal of all religious objections.

                • I need to go soon so I might not be till tonight or tomorrow morning that I can reply when you mention the other half of the equation.

                  Spoiler warning.

                  I’m going to lament SCOTUS punting on the chance to tell us where the line is.

                  • I actually wish they had as well. This is a situation that seems facially absurd, but has developed into something that requires clarity, regardless of what bend that clarity takes. At least once everyone is aware of the rules, we can attempt to play by them.

        • There is room for further refinement of these questions, yes, hopefully by less biased and hateful state officials.

        • Narrowly tailored win? Jesus valky, how’s your neck after that one?

          See, that’s obviously the spin they’ll use as well, and they go so far as to explain that in the very first sentence of their article. But even if you wanted to argue that the title was not meant in and of itself to deceive (Which, come on…. It did), in journalism the title of an article should describe what’s in the article, the article shouldn’t have to contextualise the title.

  6. A Rod is unwatchable and unlistenable. Is anyone at ESPN paying attention. I’m going to assume their ratings will go into the tank because of A Rod. I’d love to watch a Sunday night broadcast of MLB but as long as A Rod is in that booth, no thanks.

    And I wish the retired softball player would wear some more flattering outfits.Also, she seems fairly knowledgeable but how does having played fast pitch softball qualify you as a color person for, you know, really, really fast pitch hardball? I’m not sure what her role is in that booth. There’s an announcer and there’s a color guy and there’s … a woman. Weird. Why not a woman play by play person pr sideline reporter?

    • It’s an awful broadcast. The young woman giggles too much, thus advancing a terrible stereotype. They allow side interviews to interfere with the action. They repeat the pre-determined “narrative” endlessly. it’s baseball for people who don’t like baseball.

      • John Miller and Joe Morgan really were a delight. I know lots of people didn’t like Joe, but I did. And John Miller maximized Joe perfectly. It was like watching a great ballet team. Some people must have thought Joe was a pompous, overly critical blowhard, I guess. I thought it was great when he called out bad play. So now we have Stephen A. Smith, who makes Howard Cosell sound like Jack Brickhouse. Among the many reasons I don’t watch sports TV anymore except golf and soccer. Too much noise.

  7. I believe that ARod is a recognizable name, and the common low information fan (“hold my beer!”) won’t know WHY they know his name, and will care even less.

    Any publicity is good publicity, as the saying goes.

  8. #3 When the law cannot feasibly punish people for NOT coming to the aid of those in need, the ONLY option is for the Executive of whatever appropriate jurisdiction and at whatever appropriate level to recognize as heroic those who do come to the aid of those in need.

    When you can’t punish people for not behaving as we’d like, we should reward those who do.

    That last sentence should not leave an opening for fallaciously assuming that rewarding not-bad behavior is better than punishing bad behavior.

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