Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/19/18: Operating Under A Disability

Good Morning,

from Erie, Pennsylvania!

1. Handicapped. Unfortunately, my circumstances on this trip, which include a draining computer, hours of driving, the usual vicissitudes of travel but time two (my wife is with me), and multiple speaking responsibilities are going to influence my choice of topics. This is the blogging ethicist’s version of dealing with a disability, as I was discussing in yesterday’s seminar.

It is not unethical for a lawyer to continue to practice law while he or she has a drinking problem, or is developing dementia, or has the flu, but it iss unethical to do so while any of these maladies threaten to diminish the lawyer’s trustworthiness, diligence, zeal or competence. The professional has an ethical obligation to manage disabilities. In my case, several ethics issues that are in the news will require more concentration and analysis to handle well than I am able to muster right now, as I type with one eye on the battery charge and try to work in a hotel room with more than the usual distractions and interruptions. The participation of the White House Counsel in the Mueller investigation, for example, will just have to wait.

We are going to try to find a new power cord today. No, the hotel business center computers won’t do: there isn’t enough time to get even a single post up on them, among other impediments.

2. Was John Dean a rat? Wow. I haven’t watched the Sunday news shows in quite a while, having tired of the All-Trump-Hysteria-All-The-Time format all of them–even Fox News—had adopted. Now they have completely deteriorated, with panel members shouting, mocking, fulminating and grandstanding while the moderators look helpless and bemused.

Today the freak-out was about one of the President’s tweets that used the phrase “John Dean-type rat.” “John Dean was a hero!” protested CNN round-table panelist (and Democratic Party operative) Jennifer Granholm. Dean, the White House Counsel under Nixon who turned witness against the White House  was not a hero. I detest the term “rat” in this context, but Dean could be called that: he was disbarred and jailed, after all. Moreover, the tweet’s terminology is obscure in part because the President was referring to a New York Times article that suggested that current White House Counsel Don McGahn, given leave to cooperate with the Mueller investigation by the President, was concerned that he was being “set-up” by the White House. Dean, though nobody on CNN explained this, was concerned that he was being set-up a fall-guy by the Nixon White House, leading him to begin surreptitiously feeding intelligence to the Senate Watergate investigation even as he was still involved in the cover-up. This was unethical conduct for a lawyer no matter how you spin it. Dean was an extremely crucial witness in exposing the Watergate scandal, but he acted in self-interest, and was an early architect of the scandal himself.

Trump’s tweet makes no sense unless this is explained, and anyone on a TV news show complaining about the John Dean reference had an obligation to explain it.

Not that there is any excusing Trump’s tweet, or most of his tweets for that matter. They are at best confusing and misleading, at worst unprofessional and self-destructive.

Let me know if I have to keep writing this.

Time’s up! I’ll be back later, if all goes well.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/19/18: Operating Under A Disability

  1. If you have time, visit Presque Isle State Park. We spent an evening there last month on vacation. Lake Erie is quite beautiful and there are a couple of lighthouses worth seeing, too.

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