Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/2019: Easy Ethics Edition [Corrected]

I’m baaaack!

Ann Althouse has boasted that she has only missed one day of blogging since she started the Althouse blog, long before Ethics Alarms took its first metaphorical breath. This has enlightened me regarding how much time tenured professors must have on their hands. Missing a full two days of ethics commentary, as I did this week, makes me feel like an irresponsible slug-a-bed who is betraying loyal readers who depend on a service, but it was literally impossible for me to research a post, never mind write one, between hotels, meetings with my teaching partner, meals, travel and the seminars themselves. When I finally arrived at home and office, I almost immediately had to handle a long conference call in which I was quizzed on some tricky legal ethics issues, and then was officially brain dead for the rest of the evening. It is hard to think clearly about ethics when one is exhausted. And I still am, but the warm-up format is a relatively safe way to ease myself back into the saddle.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

1. Getting the really important stuff out of the way first...Sean Spicer made his debut on “Dancing With The Stars.” I posted last month about the double -standards and bias of the pundits who criticized the show for having the former White House spokesman as a contestant, and their animus is still one more example of unethical mainstream media partisanship. However, Spicer taking a pay-off to look ridiculous on national television—he gets $125,000 for each week he “dances” before he is mercifully voted off—is unprofessional, even though increasing numbers of public servants are doing it. Spicer is giving media critics of the President another stick to beat him with, and denigrating his own role as well as the administration by casting himself as a clown.

Spicer was a slow loris even by the miserable recent standards of press secretaries, and emblematic of how the President’s pledge to appoint and hire “the best people” appears in retrospect as a cruel joke. I can’t say I feel sorry for him, still, in presenting himself as target, he has provoked the mistreatment media into exposing its pettiness and apparently irrepressible gratuitous hostility to the President. The New York Times covered Spicer’s terpsichoral misadventures in the politics section, so it could write sections like…

In the White House, Mr. Spicer held a job that has usually been considered a golden ticket to future respectability and financial comfort. His predecessors have landed in lucrative corporate gigs at Amazon and United Airlines, or become the hosts of their own television programs. But trading in his famously ill-fitting suit to become a trending neon GIF felt like the culmination of a different kind of post-White House journey, one that is q.uintessentially Trump.

The job has been a “golden ticket” for “respectability” for recent press secretaries of Democratic administrations, because the mainstream news media seldom had adversarial relationships with Presidents they helped elect. Of course, the Republican varieties who have been hired by Fox News aren’t respectable. Spicer’s fate is “quintessentially Trump” because the current President is the first that the press has refused to grant even minimal respect from the beginning of his administration.

2. “Julie Principle” alert.  Cokie Roberts died. She was one of the most fair, intelligent and articulate Democratic pundits, and I usually enjoyed and respected her perspective. She was still a pro-Democratic Party booster who, admirably, made a good faith effort to temper her favoritism, however. Her father was Hale Boggs, a  Democratic representative from Louisiana who in the early 1970s was House majority leader. After he died in a plane crash in 1972, Cokey’s mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to fill his seat. Her brother, the legendary Tommy Boggs, was a Democratic lobbyist and D. C. power broker.

The news media and my Facebook friends are going bonkers over Trump’s comments after Robert’s death:

I never met her. She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional, and I respect professionals,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to California. “I respect you guys a lot, you people a lot. She was a real professional. Never treated me well, but I certainly respect her as a professional.”

Yes,these was unpresidential, boorish, ungracious, petty and stupid. Really though, so what? Is it a surprise, or news, or significant at this point that the President can be unpresidential, boorish, ungracious, petty and stupid? Does it matter in any way that he talks so rudely about a deceased NPR commentator? That every single example of Trump acting as he has always acted and as everyone who voted for him knew he acted when they elected him is treated by “the resistance”—this now undeniably includes the mainstream media—like a new impeachable offense is pathological, boring, and silly.

3. I don’t know if this baseball story is really about ethics, but it’s nice. I can use nice. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski was the face of the Boston Red Sox for my generation. He played for the Sox for 23 years, and for more games than any player has ever played a single team. About half-way through this season, Yaz’s grandson, Mike Yastrzemski, was promoted from the minors by the San Francisco Giants. the 29-year-old outfielder was not expected to make much of an impact; 29 is old for a rookie. By the time Mike’s grandad was 29, he had already played over 1200 games for the Red Sox. But Mike proved to be a spark-plug for the Giants,  showing Yaz-like power and even hitting for the cycle in one game, he won a regular place in the line-up.

This week the Giants came to Boston for an inter-league game. Giants manager Bruce Bochy started Mike in left field, an unfamiliar position for him, but the place where Boston fans were used to seeing a Yastrzemski roam: Carl is statistically the best defensive left-fielder in the Hall of Fame. In his first game in Fenway Part. mike hit a home run. His second began with him receiving the ceremonial first pitch from grandfather Yaz, who recently turned 80.


16 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/2019: Easy Ethics Edition [Corrected]

  1. Wow. Cokie dying is a huge loss. I was always attentive when I heard her come on NPR, and though I would generally disagree with her, I thought her to be someone to whom I should listen closely. May she rest in peace.

  2. 1. It’s the increasing codification (albeit unwritten) of a new twist on the old “gentlemen’s agreements” that were used to keep “the wrong people” out of certain social avenues.

    In the old days, those agreements were rightly viewed as certain things. But these days, I guess we’ve found that the sort of bigotry seen against Trump supporters is okay with our media, legal, and other elites.

    2. I don’t see anything remotely boorish in the comments Trump made. He was honest.

    I mean, seriously, when Kim Jong-Il died, does anyone really think a tear was shed, or were people playing a certain musical number from “Team America: World Police” as their “tribute” to him?

    3. That was truly a nice moment – for the Yastzremski family and for the fans in Boston, who are dealing with a disappointing season (not making the playoffs).

    • Inquiring Mind:

      Yes, he was honest (and maybe even accurate), but he could have also said, “I never met her… But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional, and I respect professionals,”

      Instead, he digressed into her treatment of him. That is what made it boorish. He has an apparent inability not to focus on himself.

      I don’t think it is a big deal, honestly, but I agree with the assessment that it was boorish.


    • 2. I think it would benefit all defenders of the President when he is unfairly represented or attacked,, foes of the “resistance” and the Trump Deranged, and the genuine supporters and fans of Trump, to work harder at admitting when he is ugly, mean, foolish or wrong.

      Of COURSE it’s boorish, while issuing public condolences to use them as an opportunity to take personal pot shots and settle scores, and it only makes one who does look small. Yeah, Cokie was not nice to Trump, and as a Democrat and Hillery supporter couldn’t control herself after he was elected, showing her anger and also being unprofessional regarding the Russia allegations, but immediately after a distinguished and unusually smart journalist dies of cancer is not the time to say “I didn’t like her.”

      And comparing Roberts to Kim Jong-Il in this context is hilarious. She also wasn’t like Jeffrey Dahmer and Leona Helmsley. Just say, “Yup, that was an asshole move,” and then when there is good reason to defend Trump, you’ll have some credibility.

  3. 3. It’s too early in the work day for me to be crying. Thanks!

    Actually it was a nice coming together to recognize a great baseball family. So, really, thank you.

  4. Take a break every once in a while; we’ll survive. It sometimes sounds like you are subjected to a bit too much stress. I don’t know how you keep up the pace you do, but we’d rather have few lulls in the conversation now and then than to have you stroke out.

  5. Re: Blogging

    You are not a public utility. Remember that.

    1. Sean Spicer

    Stupid is as stupid does. Spicer is doing stupid.


    The job has been a “golden ticket” for “respectability” for recent press secretaries of Democratic administrations, because the mainstream news media seldom had adversarial relationships with Presidents they helped elect.

    Is so true it ought to be written in blood, and not one news service will admit it, because their bias makes it impossible.

  6. Trump’s comments about Roberts weren’t made in a tweet. They were off-the-cuff (and supposedly off-the-record) remarks made on Air Force 1 in response to questions from reporters. The articles that I saw didn’t quote his remarks in full. CNN’s hysterical article (headlined “The very dark truth about Donald Trump revealed in his remarks about Cokie Roberts”) does note that the quoted remarks are only “part” of his response. Knowing Trump, I would guess that his full remarks were rambling and mostly positive about Roberts; and knowing the press, I would guess that they excerpted the negative fraction from his remarks in order to fabricate another opportunity for fake outrage. I’d also be curious to hear the exact question that he was responding to. The odds are high, I think, that the question was something to the effect of, “What was your relationship with Cokie like?”

    And for what it’s worth, she was very unfair to him. She ambushed him in an interview during his presidential campaign with questions about a preposterous and surely false report that school children were using racial epithets because of him.

    Frankly, I’m surprised that Trump allows reporters to travel with him on AF1. He surely knows by now that nothing he says to them will ever result in positive coverage for him.

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