Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

The day looks good, feels bad…

1. No, “lynching” is not the right word for the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media impeachment assault. The word worked for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill ambush, but someone ought to remind the President that Thomas was and is black.

The correct word is coup. This has always been what the effort to delegitimatize and remove Trump has been, and this is what it remains. “Witch hunt,” which some idiot issued as an anti-impeachment talking point again a couple of weeks ago, is also an inappropriate term. It may accurately evoke the McCarthy-like methods being used, but it is historically and politically confusing, focusing on methodology rather than objective.

The inability of this President and his staff to communicate competently is a dangerous weakness. It has always been so, but now more than ever. The public literally doesn’t understand what is going on, and a clear, credible, trustworthy advocate for the President who is able to explain what is so wrong, so insidious, and so damaging to democracy about what the “Troika of Totalitarianism” (I’m trying to imagine what Spiro Agnew would have called them) have been doing since the 2016 election is an essential bulwark against impeachment and conviction. Even someone like—I can’t believe I’m writing this—Lanny Davis would be an upgrade.  Kellyanne Conway destroyed her credibility with her “alternate facts” gaffe. Rudy Giuliani got himself enmeshed in the Ukraine controversy. Mick Mulvaney proved, with his naive and ham-handed explanation about why there is nothing criminal or inappropriate about any President using the leverage of his office to persuade a foreign government to do something that needs doing, that he isn’t up to the job. And the President is foolish to believe that his tweet-storms are an effective remedy against  a news media determined to tell only one side, the “resistance” side,  of the issues.

Why, for example, isn’t there an advocate for the White House who can point out, clearly, that the misleading characterization in this morning’s Times front page “news” story—the New York Times no longer does “news” involving Trump, only adversary spin—that the President used strong-arm tactics to force the Ukraine to “investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals”? Joe Biden isn’t “political rivals,” he’s a former Vice President of the United Sates who may have been using his high position to enrich his son and warp foreign policy.

At this point, Joe Biden isn’t an official election opponent of the President either. It is completely legal and responsible for our government to find out exactly what was going on in the Biden-Biden-Ukraine tango, and the idea that a President cannot legally pursue investigation of serious misconduct in the previous administration because the members of it can now be called his “rivals” is, or should be,  a transparent Catch-22 concocted to advance the coup. Is that really so hard to explain? Why isn’t anyone explaining it?

A prominent  reason is that one of the more effective and damaging tactics in the coup attempt has been to intimidate and threaten any competent D.C. professionals who could advise and assist a President under siege. Until the Trump administration, the accepted norm when a patriotic member of the Washington establishment, regardless of party,  was invited to help a President was for the individual so invited to say, “Of course.” This was how President Clinton persuaded Reagan advisor David Gergen to rescue his administration from self-immolation.

Today, any political establishment figure, no matter how well-respected before, can count on being savaged in the news media if he or she agrees to join the administration, as well as harassed if they go out for dinner. The phenomenon effectively gives this White House a lobotomy by making it a huge and risky sacrifice to try to assist the White House.  It also isolates the President, and increases the chances of him making his situation worse out of anger, frustration, and his unfortunate lack of impulse control.

This too has been part of the coup strategy from the beginning: withhold from this President all of the honors, respect, fairness, deference and cooperation every other President has earned as a right of office by virtue of being elected, and eventually he will do something that will justify impeachment.

It’s a coup. “Lynching” just muddies the waters, and in this dirty business, muddy waters is exactly what the “resistance” wants and needs.

2. One more thing: I would advise the President to ask to throw out the first pitch at a World Series game.

The Washington Nationals are in the World Series, and the “norm” has been that when this rarity occurs, the President is invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Trump has not yet performed the honors for the Nationals, trying to spare the office from the indignity of seeing the President of the United States jeered by a baseball crowd, an ugly phenomenon that marked Herbert Hoover tenure. A baseball boo-fest now, however, would vividly illustrate what three years of the Left delegitimatizing the Presidency has done to the nation and its institutions. I would advise Trump to defy the effort to take his perks away from him, and handle the abuse with courage, a smile, and elan.

3. Not “guilty,” but perhaps “incredibly hypocritical.”Should Flying Make You Feel Guilty?” asked a feature in the New York Times business section yesterday. Apparently I am one of the 12% of Americans who fly six or more times a year, and who are thus responsible for nearly 70% of all domestic flights. These travelers, on average, are responsible for the emission of more than three tons of carbon dioxide per year.

However, since I am a national speaker and consultant on ethics, and since the infrastructure is not yet in place to allow me to hold interactive sessions at distant locations from home, and since I do not believe that sacrificing my career and livelihood to avoid speculative, politically-hyped consequences that may never occur and that may not be preventable anyway, and because I only fly when it’s absolutely necessary, and because I have  had exactly one vacation of any kind  that required air travel in  more than 20 years, AND because I don’t feel like living in a cardboard box, no, I don’t feel guilty. Not one bit.

However, the Hollywood and political climate change scolds who fly all over the world, sometimes on private jets, to hobnob with each other about the urgent threat of climate change are among the greatest hypocrites on the planet. Among them: Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, Woody Harrelson, Julia Roberts, James Cameron,  Arianna Huffington,  Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Cameron Diaz and John Travolta. There are others.

The Times article doesn’t mention or allude to them at all.

4. Am I right about this? A lawyer wants to consult with me about an ethics matter, following up on an opinion letter. I asked for a convenient time to schedule a call, and got the response: “Check my calendar (linked), and find out when I’m available.” WHAT? I’m not this lawyer’s assistant, nor am I the Ethics Monkey. It is not up to me to do the scheduling.

30 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

  1. 1. I was wondering if you planned to do a more detailed analysis of the Ukraine situation. I have read so much, I honestly can’t tell what is going on.

    3. Gwyneth Paltrow must be really hypocritical (you mentioned her twice).

    4. Let me get this straight. He wants something from you and is demanding you seek him for something he wants? It seems downright rude.

  2. You’ve got Gwyneth Paltrow and John Travolta on your list twice. I agree wholeheartedly, though. Lecture me about business travel when you stop jumping on your private planes to go to Telluride…or whatever’s fashionable these days.

  3. 4. I thought the lawyer’s response was the best possible one. He’s saying, “I have some appointments that I can’t break. I’m available at any other time .” He’s inviting you to pick whatever time is most convenient for you. That seems much more efficient and courteous than proposing times specific times that might not work for you.

    • I think it would be better if he were to email Jack with those dates and times and ask which would work best for him rather than send him an electronic calendar to update.

      • I almost wonder if this is a generational thing, because my response was identical to Greg. If you look at the meta of what’s happening here, there’s no universe where anything other than what the other person did takes less time to organize. “Here’s my calendar for the next ever, pick a time that works” is *immaculately* efficient and has the benefit of giving the person granting the meeting the most options of when the meeting takes place. “Here’s a list of times this could work: X, Y, Z, Q, P, or B” works, and maybe soothes the ego better, but takes more time to write out without the added benefit of being a complete dataset. I’d *love* for this to be the way meeting requests are made.

        • That was my thought as well. I will say that if “find out when I’m available” is a direct quote then it comes off as a bit abrupt or demanding, he could have gotten the same full transparency with only a FEW more words if he’d phrased it as “My full availability is on my calendar (linked), let me know when works best for you.”

  4. Yesterday I said the word lynching was appropriate and gave my definition of the process of a lynching and the expected repercussions. I stand by that only insofar as the current processes happening in the Intelligence committee.

    I would and do use the term coup to describe the combined actions since 2017.

    But in fairness none of his adversaries are using accurate terminology either. For example how often have we been told he is a lawless president even though he abides by court rulings. We hear that he is obstructing justice by firing an person that works at his pleasure and is Constitutionally empowered to do so. I need not continue as Jack has outlined the many instances of BS pushed by his adversaries and amplified by a willing media.

    Why so much inaccurate rhetoric? Because it works. People vote based on self interest. They will vote for policies that help the less fortunate as long as it does not impact them negatively. We all want affordable housing in another area in town. We all want healthcare for all unless it drives up our costs. We all want to protect the Kurds so long as none of my loved ones are at risk of getting killed or maimed. The words used are not designed for legal precision they are for emotional effect. To suggest Trump is imprecise in language fails to consider the public’s willingness to stay focused on the long term consequences of this coup attempt. I would bet that all those that want to see Trump impaled on a pike do not give a damn about the societal implications they are filled with rage. If Trump tries to counter with precise even toned language he will be buried by the inflammatory rhetoric of the progressives.

    The goal is not to impeach and remove but to tarnish and smear the opposition because they are afraid to position their ideas against his.

    • They have been using the term for decades. It has never been an issue before, like when Biden said it, or when Naddler said it.

      Then lets not forget who did all this lynching. Hint: It was Democrats. It was Democrats who owned slaves, it was Democrats who fought against Lincoln, it was Democrats who instituted and oversaw a century of Jim Crow (who do you think passed and enforced those Jim Crow Laws — It was not the Republicans). It was Democrats who fought against the Civil rights act.

      Now that Trump has used the language, it is suddenly not ok though? Bullshit!

  5. 1. I think you’re absolutely right about the White House spokesmen. Shockingly bad. The Ukraine situation in particular seems like something that any reasonably articulate and analytical person could explain persuasively on behalf of the president. For God’s sake, just hire any competent trial lawyer who is experienced at talking to juries of ordinary people. That would be a huge upgrade over what they have now.

    • 1. Biden just apologized for using the word “lynching” to describe Bill Clinton’s impeachment 20 years ago. Better late (and after Trump does it) than never.


      Over 100 celebrities published a letter this week saying that they are in fact hypocrites but “won’t be silenced” because the “earth is dying.” The letter contained nothing about them changing their habits. Only that…

      We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints. Like you – and everyone else – we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.

    • As I understand it, the Trump administration and Republicans on the investigating committee are limited on what information they can disclose because the Democrats are using the Intelligence committee as the forum for hearing “testimony”. Since it is the Intelligence committee, most of what is discussed is considered sensitive security information and cannot be released to the public at this time. What we are seeing in the media are anonymous “leaks” by second or third hand sources. The press then is in the position of deciding which “leaks” to publish. Based on their past performance, I can only assume that any information obtained that cannot be twisted as harmful to the president is not published.

      When this Ukraine quid pro quo issue first broke, Trump did just what you suggested, he took the logical approach and immediately released the official transcript of the supposedly damning telephone conversation, even though, due to separation of powers, he was under no obligation to do. The transcript showed no discussion of any quid pro quo. We see how well the logical approached worked. The Democrats and the media claimed that the transcript must have been doctored because their unnamed whistleblower said that he heard that a quid pro quo was discussed (he was not present for the telephone conversation, the information he has is at best second hand). The Democrats then started the investigation to show that this is obstruction of justice, that being grounds for impeachment.

      The outrage over Trump using the term lynching is just smoke screen. Had he used coup or witch hunt or left-wing conspiracy, to describe the hearings, the outrage would have been be the same.

      So far we are only privy to one side of the story … the side the media wants us to see, and it probably remain this way until official impeachment hearing commences.

  6. #4 is showing some generational drift. It’s not rude to give someone your calendar and allow them to pick the time of the meeting. In the tech world and as an emerging standard in other industries, open calendar access is both faster and more considerate. It’s certainly better than the traditional song and dance of battleship like calendar shots.

    A: I’m free on Tuesday how about you?
    B: Nooope Tuesday doesn’t work for me, how about next Thursday?
    A: No good, what about the 23rd?
    *repeat until one of you get’s a hit or you slowly drift apart and never see each other again

    If you don’t want to pick from his calendar then youre certainly free to send him yours.

  7. Jack, I think you should consider booking all your travel on AMTRAK. Surely you will eventually get to where you’re going and the change will demonstrate that you’re no longer a climate change denier. The exception would be if you book a flight with your seat next to Al Gore.

  8. This is how bad Trump’s communications team is:

    People opposed to the coup keep saying that someday soon Barr will emit a blizzard of indictments and the American people will finally understand the nefarious coup plot, ensuring Trump’s re-election. But I think the likelihood is very high that those indictments would be the death of his presidency. The Democrats and the press have been characterizing Barr as a corrupt rogue prosecutor engaged in a witch hunt, promoting a Russian-inspired baseless debunked conspiracy theory, all in an effort to obstruct the impeachment hearing. When and if Barr indicts anybody, they going to scream that this is the last straw, an attempt by Trump to accomplish his own coup by jailing his political enemies and the witnesses who have testified against him. Right now, polls show a majority of Americans favoring impeachment based on the preposterous Ukraine hoax. If the Democrats and media are successful in selling their coming coup-by-Trump hoax, that number could quickly go to 60% or 70%.

    I haven’t seen any sign that the Trump people are aware that this train is hurtling towards them, much less any evidence that they are prepared with a counter-narrative of their own to defend themselves.

  9. #2. The handlers of this president, such as they are, are at LEAST competent enough to know this wouldn’t end well. I don’t know if he could make the throw (I don’t know if *I* could). I know he doesn’t respond well to unknowns in the moment. If someone DID boo, he’d react in any way that seemed good at the moment to him, and with his past behavior as model, I think most of us would agree NONE of his previous responses would be good. And lawd, if the stadium erupted in loud booing and or worse? I don’t even want to think of it. If there were a mix of cheers and boos, you might even see some folks in the stands getting heated (and stupid). I think it’s best if he doesn’t consider this…

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