On Trump, Otto Warmbier, Knowledge, Responsibility, And Making The Public Dumber

And now, a brief note on ethics, leadership, and English comprehension….

President Trump did not say or imply that Kim Jong Un wasn’t responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier. Of course he’s responsible, just as President Trump is responsible for anything his government does. Ken Lay claimed that he didn’t know that his company was one big scam, and anything is possible, I guess. But as CEO, he was unquestionably responsible.

President Trump is getting clobbered on all sides for saying, regarding the late American student who was put in a coma by harsh treatment by North Korea, during Kim’s regime “He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word.”

Yes, it was a stupid, needlessly provocative, politically inept thing to say. However, I have been hearing talking heads all over the news stations falsely stating that Trump said Kim Jong Un wasn’t responsible. Words matter, and so do basic ethics terms. A leader is both responsible and accountable for wrongdoing by his or her organization. If he or she doesn’t know about what he or she needs to know, that’s a breach of duty. Are journalists this stupid and ignorant, or are they just trying to make the public dumber? “Trump tried to assure reporters at a press conference Thursday that Kim wasn’t responsible for Warmbier’s harsh captivity, which left him with extensive brain damage,” writes the Hill.writes the Hill.

FALSE. Fake news. And yes, that misrepresentation matters.

Allow me to recall that when Obama’s IRS illicitly abused its power to hamstring Tea Party groups during the 2012 elections, the President Claimed that he knew nothing about it. My response at the time was ‘maybe, but he’s still responsible, and should be held accountable.’ I was right.

Maybe the news media is confused now because they helpfully conflated knowledge with responsibility to bail Obama out of a scandal.

 

47 thoughts on “On Trump, Otto Warmbier, Knowledge, Responsibility, And Making The Public Dumber

  1. Kim should have relied on the excuse that what happened to Warmbier was conducted by rogue prison officials.

    When Otto was initially removed from tbe plane I said he brought this on himself by taking a political artifact. He took a chance and lost. I cannot believe anyone with even a handful of brain cells would not know that getting locked up in North Korea might mean never ever seeing freedom again. NatGeo has for over a decade produced “Locked Up Abroad” in which Americans describe the hellish conditions in third world prisons after being arrested overseas. What was Warmbier thinking?

    Obviously, in our culture, no person locked up should suffer the cruelty that occurs in prisons around the world but to think Otto is an exception is wrong. Where is the outrage from the press for everyone else languishing in hell hole prisons around the world.

    What I think is unethical is the Warmbier’s family statement criticizing Trump’s comments.

    Whether his (Trump) comment was stupid or not at this juncture is unknown. This meeting was about nuclear weapons reductions and not about a stupid college kid who unfortunately died while in NOKO custody.

    By introducing the Warmbier issue into this meeting the only outcome would have been to push Kim into a defensive posture undermining all trust building work. If the press were honest they would have to say getting Kim to trust the US enough to agree to giving up his nukes was made far harder by HRC when she pushed to take out Quaddafi after agreeing to eliminating his nuclear ambitions.

    Right now, the Warmbiers should remain quiet and be thankful that Trump got Otto home at all.

      • SW

        I fully understand the Warmbiers emotions. My only point is that chastising the President for not attempting to diminish li’l Kim on a world stage during relatively sensitive trust/ relationship building meetings is inappropriate. What happened to Otto was deliberately done. Whether Kim knew about it or ordered it is conjecture.

        But, is some finger wagging worth it if it causes Kim not to return to the table or worse starts missle testing again.

        Also lost in this discussion is that SK president Moon wants sanctions lifted and more connections with NK. So when our left leaning allies are somewhat undercutting a tougher stance Trump must navigate very treacherous waters.

  2. The Warmbier comment is unfortunate, to put it in a diplomatic way. Although it goes along Trump’s negotiation style of buttering up his opponent. i wouldn’t say it’s a shocking comment, knowing what we know, but it’s certainly distasteful. I wish the president didn’t say it. Will I move on? Yes. The point that this “legitimizes” Kim, as some say, is dumb though. He controls his nuclear bombs, it doesn’t get anymore legitimate than that. No amount of finger wagging is going to change that. And nobody else from NK is going to come to the table for talks, so Kim is as legitimate as he’s ever going to be until he dies or gets deposed of.

    • About half an hour ago I saw the video of that comment. Here’s where words don’t always tell the story.

      I am no great fan of Trump’s. (though I did and do grudgingly find him preferable to his 2016 opponent). Watch the vid. Look at the body language. Listen to the tone. There is no question, at least in my mind, that Trump said what he did in order to keep things moving. The stern visage as he said that clearly suggests that he DOESN’T buy Kim’s claim, but also leaves the door open to further negotiations by not calling Kim’s bluff..

      Trump is negotiating with a guy who has reportedly executed relatives with heavy artillery. And one who possesses nuclear weapons, is cash-poor and would probably sell them to jihadists for the right price.

      Let us not forget Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik. Sometimes you walk away and flatter, even if your opposite doesn’t deserve it.

      Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal” was most likely ghostwritten. But if he didn’t write it, at least he understands it. And though I understand the Warmbeer’s outrage – just as I understand David Hogg’s – this comment was presidential.

  3. The middle ground is the quiet period between the opposite rhetorical flourishes.
    Fact: people buy from people they like.
    TRUMP IS SELLING DISARMAMENT
    KIM needs an ego boost
    TRUMP delivers ego boost to grease skids. Zero cost.

    Third party (Warmbier) interjects demand Kim be called out on human rights matter. Unrelated to current negotiations.

    Trump maintains strategy

    Everyone bitches at trump .

    Kim remains willing to negotiate later.

    Or,

    Trump calls out human rights violations. Attempts to embarrass Kim in front of the world to appease domestic political opposition.

    Kim abruptly leaves talks and then condemns Trump.
    The strategy pushes us further away from a denuclearized korea.

    Kim restarts missle testing.

    Way to go people.

    • Fact: people buy from people they like.
      TRUMP IS SELLING DISARMAMENT
      KIM needs an ego boost
      TRUMP delivers ego boost to grease skids. Zero cost.

      Lines 1, 3 and 4 are all wrong, the first from misapplication and the other two from cultural misunderstanding. I can’t speak directly for Korean culture, only at second hand, but it should be enough to show just how wrong that is even for relatively close British culture.

      Line 1 only applies when people are already buying, and only for want of better. Someone who wants a car is more likely to buy it from a pleasant salesman. But if he doesn’t want one he won’t even do that, and if he is desperate he will even buy it from one he dislikes but trusts.

      Line 3 is plain wrong. Any ego boost Kim needs, he can get from his own clique – you know, people he himself respects. For his culture, U.S. flattery is worthless, as he simply doesn’t care about U.S. thought as such, but only instrumentally, for how it affects what they do. How do I know? Well, how do you think U.S. praise comes over to most British? As someone who is trying to breach British reserve, that’s how (we usually make space rather than explicitly reject it, so you might not realise its bad effect). Even if you are doing that U.S. bad grammar thing, transferring and hiding the subject, as in “a sick dog needs to be put down” meaning “I need to put down a sick dog”, that only turns the statement into “we need to give Kim an ego boost” – but that is wrong from line 1 being wrong, as it would only strengthen him in pursuing his own agenda. It’s as misguided as 1950s attempts to make homosexuals heterosexual by injecting them with testosterone.

      Line 4 is wrong two ways: that’s not an ego boost, and it could well boost mistrust – and even a desperate car buyer won’t buy a car, even from someone he likes, if he doesn’t trust that he will get it. The previous paragraph shows how U.S. flattery wouldn’t really register as positive like that, coming from an outsider as it does. And British parallels show how the attempt can even breed mistrust, from its over-familiarity. On top of that, the last time something like this happened, when modern U.S. sources claim North Korea showed bad faith, it was when Clinton’s supplies for stopping nuclear work deal ended. That time, Clinton got an up front halt for supplies to come through later, probably counting on buying enough time for a post Soviet collapse to hit North Korea as it was already hitting other communist countries. But the did come for the U.S.A. to deliver, it didn’t, and North Korea resumed its nuclear work as it was no longer bound – yet this is commonly called their bad faith. Anyway, North Korea probably sees attempts to make nice as deflections and distractions from U.S. putting its money where its mouth is – and the more it is tried the worse it looks, if unaccompanied by anything concrete. So, “Zero cost” is 100% wrong; the cost is North Korea putting its guard up.

      • PM
        I forgot to state that my assessment was based on how Kim might be evaluating Trump’s future behavior based on his father’s experiences with US policy makers; many of whom are still in power. Would you consider the possibility that KJU might see Trump more favorably because those same policy makers he distrusts have been since day 1 working to undermine Trump?

        • In what follows, I am also replying to the non-duplicate comment that our host cut as well as the duplicate.

          You buy from who you trust and likeability is a key to trust …

          This is so wrong, I hardly know where to start. It’s a wet pavements cause rain thing even when it does hold. And certainly, in most of the many countries I have been in, attempts to be likeable, followed by attempts to sell, thoroughly damage trust – because it’s seen as cupboard love. That is not the same as coming to trust someone you have started to like, long before any hint of a transaction is there.

          If there is no ego boost why do all the analysts worry that meetings with Kim and this praise gives Kim undeserved legitimacy that weakens our hand?

          Do all of them think that? or do some of them think it might weaken your hand by, as it were, showing your hand? What counts for North Korea isn’t how the outside world thinks of it as such. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t care what the outside world will do – and it cares about those instrumental effects of outside opinion. If U.S. opinion flows through to its practice, well and good, but even that isn’t something North Korea for the future – which means it isn’t even an intangible asset, to be valued like business goodwill.

          I forgot to state that my assessment was based on how Kim might be evaluating Trump’s future behavior based on his father’s experiences with US policy makers; many of whom are still in power. Would you consider the possibility that KJU might see Trump more favorably because those same policy makers he distrusts have been since day 1 working to undermine Trump?

          No, because:-

          – He has no reason to think Trump is cut from a different cloth rather than, as it were, cut with a different style.

          – What counts is what happens down the track as well as what happens soon, and he knows that the U.S.A. is very like that; for instance, those individuals could rise again, though he is probably thinking more that their type could. Think the Frog and the Scorpion, or the way David Niven said of Errol Flynn, “You could always count on Errol, he always let you down”. All North Korea can really count on is that, as, when and if the U.S.A. stops delivering it will have a good spin to claim that it should; no cognitive dissonance there.

          • If I cut out a non-duplicative post written by a certified commenter, it was an error, and all anyone has to do is point it out, and I can easily retrieve it. I try to help out when a commenter says “fix this post” or “please trash this double post,” but I have messed it up, usually because while the double posts are next top each other in the Comment thread, they aren’t on my dashboard.

            So the ethical thing is to just flag the mistake, and not to be a jerk and imply something sinister about it, or to bitch without trying to give me what I need to address the problem.

            • So the ethical thing is to just flag the mistake, and not to be a jerk and imply something sinister about it, or to bitch without trying to give me what I need to address the problem.

              No, it is also ethical not to bother the overworked host about it at all, but just to explain to readers why those seemingly lost quotations and responses were there.

              It is not the act of a jerk NOT to imply anything about it at all, sinister or otherwise. It would certainly be an unwarranted inference to suppose that that was happening.

              Nor is it the act of a jerk not to bitch about it at all, nor to omit to give any such details about what you need to address the problem, when nobody was telling you about it or complaining that it had happened at all, but rather I was just showing readers – and in particular that commenter – how the peculiar reply had come about. For all I care, you need not make the repair, because I myself already provided that introduction to explain what might seem free floating.

              Now, of course, if your remarks were of a general nature and had nothing to do with me, why, so also were those paragraphs immediately preceding this, and the comment you are flagging here. But these remarks of yours do risk being misunderstood as personal, particularly if they themselves reflect just such a misunderstanding with less cause.

              The wicked flee where no man pursueth; perhaps that principle is of broader application.

  4. Seeing’s this is an ethics blog, is it ethical for someone that’s been banned, knows they’ve been banned, knows the blog administrator wouldn’t want them posting, yet sneaks like a skulking POS-In-The_Night and posts, regardless?

    I’m thinking…NO!

    But in Lefty’s World, if you think you’re morally right and you have the approval of your dark li’l conscience, what place do ethics, the truth, or a fact-based reality have?

  5. Yoikes!

    This thread’s accumulated traffic got certifiably pasted!

    It lost more heft, FAR more quickly, than WeightWatchers’ shareholder value the other day.

    Even non-Chris comments got…um…eliminated in the cross-fire.

        • PM It is quite possible that a cultural difference could make my analysis faulty.

          However, relationship building is part of the sales process irrespective if someone is in the market to buy right now. That was the rationale for Apple to give away thousand of Apple 2gs to public schools years ago. It builds goodwill for long term selling. Another example is why there are so many social events for chamber of commerce members. You buy from who you trust and likeability is a key to trust.

          If there is no ego boost why do all the analysts worry that meetings with Kim and this praise gives Kim undeserved legitimacy that weakens our hand? I cannot be sure that either player is being a straight shooter with their rhetoric but belligerancy and antagonsim to appease the political opposition at home is counterproductive.

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