Part I is here.
At the end of this post, I will repost, from the archives, my Ethics Alarms essay from November 7, 2016 titled, “Donald Trump: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2005-2016.” I’m going to comment on how and why my assessment now is different (and how it is not) before the piece, because it’s long, and to some extent out of date.
Reading over the essay below, I had two thoughts immediately. One was that it was more vociferous than I remembered, and the other was amusement, looking at it again, of how many times I have been accused of being a “Trumpster” and a “Trump supporter” over last four years.
My assessment of Donald Trump has changed over that period in the following respects:
- I am now almost convinced that he was not, in fact, mocking the disabled reporter’s malady, in one of his more disgusting campaign breaches of good taste.
- I do not argue that he is unfit to be President, since he has been President, and managed to perform well enough to meet a minimum fitness standard.
- As for character, I saw no admirable character traits a year ago, and I do now. The President had had to fight for his job, his office, and the institutions of government under the most unfair and unrelenting personal attacks any President has ever had to endure. He has shown resilience, determination and courage in this, and deserves respect for that. For better or worse, he has found himself placed in the position of being the nation’s firewall against a conflagration seeking to consume the nations pride, self-respect, historical foundations, values and institutions. The President has not shirked that role. He has performed it the best he could, and he has refused to give up.
The ethical argument for re-electing Donald J. Trump finally comes down to this: with or without a personal ethics compass, he has done some things I believe needed to be done, accomplished them in the face of unfair obstacles, and has kept more of his campaign promises than most Presidents in my lifetime. I believe Presidents and leaders should be trustworthy, and Trump is not, but if a President is effective, the public can live with that queasy feeling, especially if there is no more trustworthy alternative, and there isn’t.
One of the main marks against him in 2016 was that he had no political experience or a relevant and applicable leadership background. Now he’s been President for four years, so that is no longer true. Normally I might argue that he deserves a second term because he never was given a chance in his first; that is true, but he’s not going to get a chance in his second term either, unless, as they richly deserve, the Democrats are swept out of power in both Houses of Congress.
Unfortunately, voting for the President requires a particularly pragmatic, the ends justifies the means rationale. He was, and is, the means, a very ugly and infuriating one, but the ends, many of them, were and are crucial. It was crucial to get out of Obama’s incompetent and deceptive Iran deal. It was crucial to oppose illegal immigration. It was crucial to cut back on the regulations suffocating recovery from the 2008 collapse. It was crucial to expose the dangerous news media bias seeking to manipulate elections and public policy. It was crucial to have the President condemning statue-toppling and attacks on the Founders and other figures who deserved to be remembered. It was crucial to make disengagement from hostile military campaigns around the world a priority, and to achieve energy independence from the Middle East, once a major liberal agenda item.
As for his character and ethical bearings, well, this post still is accurate….
Donald Trump: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2005-2016
Donald Trump has no character or trustworthiness. Next question?
Oh, all right, in the interests of equity and fairness, I’ll submit The Donald to the same process as I did with Hillary Clinton, though in his case the verdict is res ipsa loquitur. Trump’s lack of ethics and his unfitness to fill the shoes of Washington, Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, or Millard Fillmore is, or should be, self-evident. Those for whom it isn’t self-evident are either ignorant, devoid of values themselves, or intentionally seeking to harm the United States.
I’ve been writing about the awfulness that is Donald Trump since 2005. He was noted for his dishonesty on my Ethics Scoreboard when I called foul on his marketing “various ‘get rich’ products, including tapes, seminars, and “Trump U,” an on-line delivery system for more of the same.” I wrote in part…
There are thousands upon thousands of Americans who started with meager resources and made themselves rich through talent, hard work, creativity, inventiveness, and some luck. …Not Trump. The success of his pitch to the desperate wannabes and clueless is based on their erroneous assumption, nurtured by Trump but not explicitly supported by him, that he can teach them to do what they think he did…make himself rich through hard work and a business savvy. But what Trump is best qualified to teach is how to make yourself richer when you inherit an established business and have millions of dollars plunked into your waiting hands after your Dad has sent you to Wharton.
The fact that Trump doesn’t lie outright about his background but simply allows his marks to jump to the wrong conclusions puts his “get rich like me” marketing efforts in the category of deceit…but deceit is still dishonesty. Trump undoubtedly has useful wisdom to impart about building a successful career; it’s not as easy to stay rich as some people think. Ask most state lottery winners. Still, the most vivid lesson of Donald Trump’s successful campaign to sell himself as a self-made billionaire is the lesson that 19th Century con-man Joe Bessimer pronounced more than a century ago: There’s a sucker born every minute.
So we knew, or should have known, that this was a con artist at least back eleven years. In 2006, I posted on Trump’s misogyny and incivility, writing about the first outbreak of his feud with the equally vile Rosie O’Donnell, and their public name-calling…
Rosie set off the exchange by suggesting on ABC’s “The View” that Trump’s recent assumption of the role of moral exemplar by chastising and threatening to fire the reigning Miss USA for being a party-girl was more than a little ridiculous, given his own well-documented penchant for fast women and extra-marital affairs. Sometimes Rosie’s full of beans, and sometimes she gets it right; this time she was right, but spoiled it by concluding her commentary with some unflattering name-calling. Trump, no girly-man he, immediately said he would sue O’Donnell, and then launched into an extended riff on how unattractive and fat she was, including the charming phrase, “pig-face.” Classy as always, Donald…. Yes, anyone who admires either of these two annoying characters already has a problem, but there is no escaping the fact that both are celebrities, and as celebrities they contribute to establishing cultural norms of civility and conduct. This is especially true of Trump, who despite his low-life proclivities is a successful business executive. Resorting to personal attacks on an adversary’s weight or appearance is disrespectful, unfair, cruel and indefensible. Doing so on national media is like firing a shotgun into a crowd. There are a lot of fat or unattractive women out there, Mr. Trump, who are smart, generous, productive, loving, intelligent people… Golden Rule, anyone? How are we to convince our children not to ridicule the personal traits of others, when those they see as rich, famous and successful do the same openly, shamelessly, and even gleefully?
You can imagine my continued amazement that ten years after writing this rather obvious assessment, without Trump having undergone a complete transformation, and indeed with his conduct and public statements becoming worse rather than better, we are on the eve of a day that may live in infamy as the moment democracy completely failed the United States of America, inflicting on it, and the world, as unstable and unqualified a leader of a great power as history has ever witnessed.
How this could have happened will be debated by scholars and other for as long as civilization stands, one hopes with the result that it never happens again. That is not the topic at hand however. No one can accuse me of not sounding the alarm, early and often. As with Hillary Clinton, I reviewed all of the Ethics Alarms posts regarding Trump. There are a lot of essays that criticize false, biased or dishonest criticism of the jerk, a circumstance that did not occur with anything close to such frequency with Hillary Clinton. That’s a news media bias issue, and nothing that reflects well on Trump. Still, the news media has helped Trump cry victim because it intentionally seeks to interpret everything he says and does in the worst light possible, just as it substantially covers for Hillary Clinton. Removing these posts from the mix, I was surprised to find the volume of damning Trump analysis less than I recalled, and certainly less than the Hillary archives. This is because Trump character deficits are so crude and obvious, as well as constituting signature significance.
No responsible candidate for high office mocks a disabled reporter in public, or boasts about his penis in a televised debate, or makes a menstrual reference while insulting a female journalist. Ethics Alarms’ mission is to raise ethics issues and assist the public in acquiring skill at analyzing ethics problems. How many times should I have to point out that an inarticulate, ignorant and crude narcissist is an inarticulate, ignorant and crude narcissist?
You will see that by 2016, I am just aghast that I should have to write such posts at all. Almost every one has a sentence like this one, from this post, titled, A Donald Trump KABOOM! How Can A Creep Like This Be Running For President?.
Who thinks like that? Who says things like that on TV if they are sick enough to think it?
With Hillary Clinton, I have to analyze syntax and intent, include background and context, what is heard and what is being said. With Trump, it’s mostly, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, what’s the matter with this idiot?”
You can review the posts here. I do not advocate trigger warnings, but I do worry that too much Trump combined with the specter of his winning tomorrow may send more sensitive souls to the edge of madness, so here is a representative sample. I confess, I could only get through about half of 2015 before I was overcome with disgust and grief. This does not include the much-linked “A Nation of Assholes,” but if by some miracle you missed it, here it is.
Here is a sample that makes the case against Trump without, I hope, causing too much panic and despair:
August 16, 2015: 40 quotes that reveal Trump’s ethics
“In selecting the 199 juiciest and most provocative quotes from any prominent American, wouldn’t you expect at least one that was articulate, thoughtful, wise or memorable? I’m not looking for Samuel Butler here, or even Barack Obama, but for someone who is at least for the nonce a “serious” candidate for the highest office in the land, it would be reassuring to find some evidence of wit, perspective, reflection, or a vocabulary beyond that of a typical 8th grader, and it just isn’t there. Has Trump read any literature? Has he ever seen a play? Is he capable of a relevant famous quote or a cultural reference (saying that Bette Midler is “grotesque” doesn’t count, though “grotesque” may be the most sophisticated word that appears on the list)? If so, there is no hint of it.”
October 25, 2015: Trump tries some religious bigotry.
“Earlier I suggested that one of Trump’s debate opponents could take him down with a deft Joseph Welch “Have you no decency?” (unfortunately, the attempt was made by Rand Paul, and hardly deftly), and now I have to ask his supporters, “Have you no decency?” What more evidence do you need that this blustering bully and fool degrades his party, nation, gender, species and the office he’s seeking by his presence in the 2016 Presidential race? Or more bluntly, What the hell’s the matter with you people?”
November 26, 2015: Trump ridicules a disabled reporter.
One theory is that Trump has chosen this week to go all out to see if there is anything he can say or do so beneath the dignity of the office he is seeking and so repugnant to core American values that the idiots supporting him will finally wake up and say, “What was I thinking?” If so, his experiment is working well.
And yes, it is fair to identify anyone who supports Donald Trump at this point as an idiot.
“Trump, however, is using a Big Lie to impugn the patriotism and trustworthiness of a group of citizens based on their religion and cultural heritage, and attempting to stir up purely group-based hate. To hell with Hanlon: this is Nazi Propaganda 101, and deserves to be identified as such directly to Donald Trump’s face.”
December 10, 2015: Trump being Trump.
“When asked about comparisons with Hitler, Trump instead argued that what he was proposing was more like FDR’s imprisoning Japanese-Americans, as if this was a rational defense. Trump, I have long noticed, literally cannot make an argument without citing a rationalization or six. He apparently thinks all of them are genuine justifications for unethical conduct. He can’t argue any other way, except that he sometimes throws in logical fallacies too, like constantly citing his poll numbers (Appeal to Authority) as validation of his positions.”
February 15, 2016: The GOP’s obligation to dump Trump
“Finally, it is now undeniable that while there are many irresponsible, values-deficient, ugly and ignorant fools poisoning our culture and society, and while many, especially criminals, may do more tangible damage, none are more deficient in intelligence, judgment and character, and none are worse citizens, than those who continue to try to put a wretched human being like Donald Trump in the White House, where he can do more harm than any criminal in U.S. history.”
February 27, 2016: Trump vows to gut the First Amendment
“So what does Trump’s ridiculous vow mean? As I said, it could mean that he is a Constitutional ignoramus, that he is pandering to those uneducated voters he loves, that he is lying, that he plans a military take-over, or all of them: Who knows what diseased rats are running around in that skull?”
I still can’t believe I have to write this post..
God save the United States of America.