Senator Schumer’s Virtuoso Rationalization Orgy, Annotated

First prize in the rationalization derby!

Active Ethics Alarms reader/commenter Steve Witherspoon tracked down the transcript on Senator Schumer’s remarks in response to Mitch McConnell’s accurate attack on the senate Minority Leader’s unconscionable comments at the Supreme Court, thuggishly threatening Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh over decisions they haven’t made yet.

I’ll interlineate the text—I’m sorry it’s all in caps, but that’s how C-SPAN’s transcripts are—pointing the astounding number of rationalizations Schumer nicked while trying to justify the unjustifiable.

THANK YOU, MADAM PRESIDENT. NOW, MADAM PRESIDENT, I JUST LISTENED TO THE REPUBLICAN LEADER, AND THERE WAS A GLARING OMISSION IN HIS SPEECH. HE DID NOT MENTION WHAT THE RALLY YESTERDAY, MY SPEECH, OR THE CASE BEFORE THE COURT WAS ABOUT.

The issue at hand is the Minority Leader of the Senate threatening, by name, two Supreme Court justices. The context of such threats is absolutely irrelevant, because such threats, as McConnell correctly made clear, are indefensible. Schumer is signalling that his defense will be based on Rationalization 2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or They had it coming. “This argues that wrongdoing toward a party isn’t really wrong when the aggrieved party has aggrieved the avenger. The victim of the unethical conduct no longer deserves ethical treatment because of the victim’s own misconduct. But the misconduct of a victim never justifies unethical conduct directed against that victim.”

A WOMAN’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO CHOOSE. TO THE WOMEN OF AMERICA, WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE, WHAT I AM FIGHTING FOR HERE IS YOUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE.

At least three rationalizations are implied here:

  • 25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!” “The unethical option involved less sacrifice, less controversy, less criticism, less effort…in short, less courage, than doing the right thing. … But you still had a choice, and you are still accountable for the choice you made.”
  • 25A. Frederick’s Compulsion or “It’s My Duty!” “We all have competing duties; that’s what makes ethics difficult…Ethics requires that when performing a duty will unquestionably result in injustice and harm to others, some consideration and balancing must be applied, followed by making one or more difficult choices.  Duty itself is not enough to dictate those choices, and ethics may, and often does, dictate that a duty must be superseded by other priorities.”
  • 28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.” An argument for those who embrace “the ends justify the means”—but only temporarily, mind you!—the Revolutionary’s excuse has as long and frightening a pedigree as any of the rationalizations here….This rationalization suggests that standards of right and wrong can and should be suspended under “special” circumstances, always defined, naturally, by those who defy laws, rules, and societal values. ..Unethical conduct has become ordinary, the new normal. This is, it is fair to say, the current state of American politics.

AN ISSUE, OF COURSE, LEADER McCONNELL COMPLETELY IGNOREDI N HIS SPEECH. I FEEL SO PASSIONATELY ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND I FEEL SO DEEPLY THE ANGER OF WOMEN ALL ACROSS AMERICA ABOUT SENATE REPUBLICANS AND THE COURTS WORKING HAND IN GLOVE TO TAKE DOWN ROE V. WADE. I JUST READ ABOUT A WOMAN IN SHREVEPORT WHO UNDER THE LOUISIANA LAW NOW BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT WOULD HAVE TO TRAVEL OVER 300 MILES TO EXERCISE HER CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS, AND THIS IS HAPPENING IN STATES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. REPUBLICAN STATE LEGISLATURES ARE RESTRICTING A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE SO SEVERELY AS TO MAKE IT NONEXISTENT…

Ah! This makes Chuck so darn angry and he cares so much! Say hello to…Rationalization 25B, The Irresistible Impulse, or “I can’t help myself!”

Here is where Schumer may have alerted us to a missing rationalization. I’m pondering adding 25C, The Romantic’s Excuse, or “I care so much!” What do you think?

…AND THE COURTS ARE NOW LIKELY TO GO ALONG BECAUSE SENATE REPUBLICANS HAVE CONFIRMED NOMINEES THEY BELIEVE WILL STRIP AWAY WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGE THIS COUNTRY. GOING SO FAR AS TO DENY A DULY ELECTED PRESIDENT THE RIGHT TO PICK A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE. REPUBLICANS ARE AFRAID HERE IN THE SENATE TO CONFRONT THIS ISSUE DIRECTLY SO THEY TRY TO ACCOMPLISH THROUGH THE COURTS WHAT THEY NEVER WOULD ACCOMPLISH IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, AND THEY LEAVE WOMEN OUT IN THE COLD.

Got it: 2. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad…which “posits the absurd argument that because there is other wrongdoing by others that is similar, as bad or worse than the unethical conduct under examination, the wrongdoer’s conduct shouldn’t be criticized or noticed. As a distraction, the excuse is a pathetic attempt to focus a critic’s attention elsewhere, by shouting, “Never mind me! Why aren’t you going after those guys?”

Also greet 2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or They had it coming,” about which we were warned, and 7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse, “the principle that bad or unethical behavior justifies, and somehow makes ethical, the same or equivalent unethical behavior in response to it. The logical extension of this fallacy is the abandonment of all ethical standards.”

Then  the worst rationalization of them all makes its appearance (Schumer was bound to use this one…): 22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things’: “Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.”

SO YES, I AM ANGRY. THE WOMEN OF AMERICA ARE ANGRY. AND YES, WE WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE. I WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR THE WOMEN OF AMERICA.

Schumer unleashes a classic! 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause.” “This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal.”

He is also appealing to Rationalization 40 A., Otter’s Solution, or “I had to do something!”  “It creates an intellectually dishonest shortcut, making the decision to act before any effective action is considered, designating action the objective rather than what the objective of the action should be. Obviously this is backwards, and it is intentionally backwards, because it takes a detour around essential questions, responsible decision makers must consider before acting…” 

NOW, I SHOULD NOT HAVE USED THE WORDS I USED YESTERDAY. THEY DIDN’T COME OUT THE WAY I INTENDED TO.

Poor Chuck! Luckily, this opens the door to…19. The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” “This is a legitimate defense if, in fact, an individual has been accused of not being perfect.  Usually, however, it is an attempt to minimize the significance of genuine misconduct,” and 19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice,”  which “falsely changes an accusation of wrongful conduct into one of less than perfect or ideal conduct. Unlike it, however, this variation even rejects the proposition that the choice that was made was a mistake. “Mistake” implies error, which implies wrong. “No,” says the wielder of 19A, “I made no mistakes. It simply wasn’t the best choice…Ethical people don’t think like that. Trustworthy people don’t think like that.”

MY POINT WAS THAT THERE WOULD BE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES, POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP AND SENATE REPUBLICANS IF THE SUPREME COURT , WITH THE NEWLY CONFIRMED JUSTICES, STRIPPED AWAY A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE. OF COURSE I DIDN’T INTEND TO SUGGEST ANYTHING OTHER THAN POLITICAL AND PUBLIC OPINION CONSEQUENCES FOR THE SUPREME COURT, AND IT IS A GROSS DISTORTION TO IMPLY OTHERWISE. I’M FROM BROOKLYN. WE SPEAK IN STRONG LANGUAGE. I SHOULDN’T HAVE USED THE WORDS I DID, BUT IN NO WAY WAS I MAKING A THREAT. I NEVER, NEVER WOULD DO SUCH A THING.

Ha. I already flagged the key rationalization here. Chuck is lying, flat out, denying that he said what he said, and that he would never do what he did. It’s  a textbook example of 64. Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is!”

Schumer is also showing us Rationalization 51A.  Narcissist Ethics , or “I don’t care,” which asserts “the validity of completely subjective ethics: as long as the self-satisfied, egomaniacal individual doesn’t care about the ethical standards and values being breached or the predictable results of the conduct breaching them, it doesn’t matter who cares. His or her own assessment is enough. If it’s not unethical to him, it’s not unethical. Neat!”

The “I’m from Brooklyn; we speak in strong language” gives us the Golden Rationalization, #1 on the list, “Everybody Does it,” at least in Brooklyn. But that’s not all. This also hits Rationalization 41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am,”  which “embodies the proposition that genuine unethical conduct and incivility becomes magically virtuous and praiseworthy if it is ‘real,’ ‘sincere’ and ‘unapologetic.’

AND LEADER McCONNELL KNOWS THAT. AND REPUBLICANS WHO ARE BUSY MANUFACTURING OUTRAGE OVER THESE COMMENTS KNOW THAT, TOO. NOW, WHAT WILL REMAIN LONG AFTER THE CLAMOR OVER MY COMMENTS DIES DOWN IS THE ISSUE AT HAND, A WOMAN’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO CHOOSE AND REPUBLICAN ATTEMPTS TO INVALIDATE IT. THE FACT THAT MY REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES HAVE WORKED SYSTEMATICALLY OVER THE COURSE OF DECADES TO INSTALL THE JUDICIAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO TAKE DOWN ROE V. WADE AND DO VERY REAL DAMAGE TO THE COUNTRY AND TO THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE, THAT IS THE ISSUE THAT WILL REMAIN. AND WE OWE, I OWE AN OBLIGATION TO THE WOMEN OF AMERICA TO FIGHT FOR THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

Schumer is repeating rationalizations he’s already used here, plus one. He’s also evoking 56. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”  ….Since Conduct X by a party or party was unfair or wrong,  dishonest or unethical, Conduct Y on the part of someone else—often the protesters— shouldn’t count, should be considered less wrong, or should be punished more leniently. The argument is silly in Scooby Doo cartoons, and is even more ridiculous in real life.”

The total: 17 rationalizations on the list, and maybe an 18th.

Good job, Senator!

20 thoughts on “Senator Schumer’s Virtuoso Rationalization Orgy, Annotated

  1. Nice work, Jack. Thank you. I think the Revolutionary’s Excuse, that “These are Not Ordinary Times!” is pretty much the over-arching rationalization ever since the election. It may very well be the defining symptom of Trump Derangement Syndrome. It’s the font of everything that follows. And it’s completely hysterical and not fact based.

  2. 1. If the phrase, “I’m fighting for…” were abolished, politicians would perish. Every time I read or hear that, I shut down.

    2. Rationalizations 25, 25A, and 28 have all become staples for Democrats in the Age of Trump. Nothing remarkable here.

    3. Chuck “…feel[s] so deeply the anger of women…” when it comes to their “constitutional freedoms,” in this case a completely manufactured “right” but he is utterly without remorse for the feelings of millions of Americans when it comes to curtailing their First and Second Amendment rights.

    Chuck’s feelings are pretty darn selective, so I’m going to say I don’t believe him. I think he just sees political hay to be made, and wanted to make some at the expense of both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh explicitly, because but for Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, they would still be in their respective circuits.

    4.

    NOW, I SHOULD NOT HAVE USED THE WORDS I USED YESTERDAY. THEY DIDN’T COME OUT THE WAY I INTENDED TO.

    A non-apology apology. Of course he intended to say what he did, and he meant exactly what he said. He wanted everyone to believe that he was going to remove those two guys if he can, because he believes they are illegitimate.

    5.

    MY POINT WAS THAT THERE WOULD BE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES…

    If that was his point, it sure wasn’t made. It sounded to me like he was talking about “peasants with pitchforks” and maybe a couple of lynchings. Or a dagger in the dark, or a bullet in the wee hours.

    But let’s give old Chuck the bennies, and say he really did mean only political consequences. What would that be, exactly? Well, to my mind, there is only one negative political consequence for a sitting justice — impeachment and removal.

    So even if he weren’t threatening them with physical harm, he was threatening them with impeachment and removal. Because that is the only credible political threat that exists to a sitting justice.

    6. Thank you for enumerating the many rationalizations used by Schumer, but in all honesty, it is just what it looks like — the minority leader of the Senate just threatened the Supreme Court with inimical political action. He should be censured by the Senate in a unanimous vote. Of course, that won’t happen.

  3. Jack, thank you for taking the time to work through this and add notes throughout – I especially like the format you chose to use here.

  4. And when the Senator Schumer’s Alinskyite tactics result in incitement to real harm being done to innocent citizens, be they SCOTUS Justices or others, will he and his fellow seditious travelers be charged?

    • adimagejim wrote, “And when the Senator Schumer’s Alinskyite tactics result in incitement to real harm being done to innocent citizens, be they SCOTUS Justices or others, will he and his fellow seditious travelers be charged?”

      In my opinion what Senator Schumer said and the words he used…

      “Over the last three years, women’s reproductive rights have come under attack in a way we haven’t seen in modern history. From Louisiana to Missouri to Texas, Republican legislatures are waging a war on women, all women, and they’re taking away fundamental rights. I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

      …were specifically used to provoke others to act in uncivil ways specifically toward those two Justices and generally anyone that disagrees with Schumer’s side of the argument. Schumer is clearly morally bankrupt.

      P.S. I think Schumer is lying in his statement that Republicans taking away fundamental rights of women, I’ve seen absolutely nothing to support this claim, as far as I can tell it is another big lie concocted by Democrats. If someone can point me to something concrete that’s not typical Democratic Party propaganda rhetoric that’s intentionally misrepresenting the facts, I’d truly like to see it.

  5. Senator Schumer is morally bankrupt and equivalent to an extortionist thug…

    Senator Schumer is a world class hypocrite with transparent double standards…

    Senator Schumer is an unethical rationalizing liar…

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4859124/senator-schumer-expresses-regret-comments-supreme-court-justices

    Senator Schumer is a political hack…

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?469057-1/senator-schumer-speaks-reporters-acquittal-president-trump

    Senator Schumer should be stripped of all his leadership positions in the Senate, censured by the Senate, and his constituency should recall and remove him from office.

  6. It appears Senator Schumer and others are depending on the polite passivity of their opponents. He and they are likely miscalculating as badly as his entire party has since the 2016 election.

  7. Steve,

    Thanks so much for tracking down the transcript. Sen. Schumer’s statements have been mentioned many times on TV, but the news only covers a few sentences, generally starting at “NOW, I SHOULD NOT HAVE USED THE WORDS I USED YESTERDAY.”, and including the next two or three sentences. I hadn’t heard or read the rest of it.

    Jack,

    Thanks so much for dissecting the Senator’s statements. I would have missed a goodly number of those rationalizations.

  8. Jack,

    Off topic I know, but did you catch some of the comments from Hillary Clinton’s latest Hulu documentary?

    I found this particular remark about Sanders 2016 and current presidential campaign particularly ironic-

    “Let’s follow the rules, we had rules last time, we have rules this time,” she said. “Everybody knew when they got into it.”

    Rich coming from the her and her ilk, who after losing to Trump, screamed non-stop about ‘winning the popular vote’, and how the Electoral College is antiquated and how we should consider doing away with it.

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