Ethics Dunce (yawn!): Donald Trump

I know, I know…designating Donald Trump an Ethics Dunce again is in the “dog bites man”category. Nonetheless, I couldn’t let this pass.

Presumably as part of his advance PR as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination, thus ensuring the ugliest campaign since 1860 and maybe ever, the Once and Future POTUS is about to unveil “Letters to Trump,” a book revealing 150 private letters sent to him by celebrities and VIPs, among them Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan,  Princess Diana, Ted Kennedy,  Mario Cuomo, Arnold Palmer, Regis Philbin and more; those are the dead ones. Tradition and law holds that that they have no privacy rights now, so I can’t find fault with the inclusion of their letters in the book, which will also include Trump’s comments about the letters and their authors.

However, the book will also include letters from the living, like Bill and Hillary Clinton,  Jay Leno, Liza Minnelli and Oprah Winfrey. I think its fair to assume, since Hillary is on the list, that Trump did not ask for or receive permission to publish their letters. He doesn’t have to, of course: once they are mailed, they are his to do what he wants with them. Nonetheless, common respect and courtesy demands that sharing such communications presumed to be private at the time they were sent—you know, just like President Trump expected that communications he had with advisors, Cabinet members and others during his presidency would be treated as confidential. What about the Golden R..oh, never mind.Can you imagine how thrilled Oprah will be to have it revealed that after Trump sent her an excerpt from his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” in which he wrote that his “first choice for vice president would be Oprah Winfrey,” O wrote back in part, “I have to tell you your comments made me a little weepy…It’s one thing to try and live a life of integrity — still another to have people like yourself notice…Too bad we’re not running for office. What a team!”?

Trump writes, “Sadly, once I announced for President, she never spoke to me again.” Ha! I’m sure. That’s Oprah’s integrity for you! As for Trump, his writing that he considered Winfrey a legitimate VP candidate might have been pure flattery, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If he believed that, he’s ethically estopped from criticizing Biden’s irresponsible selection of Kamala Harris, who was more qualified for the job than Oprah.

Trump knows how the exchange with Oprah will earn her the fury of the Trump Deranged. I have no problem with anyone revealing to the world how two-faced, dishonest and untrustworthy Winfrey is, but betraying her trust by making a private exchange public without permission is a rotten way for Trump do it.

Typical, however.

10 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce (yawn!): Donald Trump

  1. I have to disagree here, Jack. As you said, they are his letters, and unlike presidents meeting with their advisors and cabinet members, or parents communicating with their children, or intimate notes between lovers, there shouldn’t be any real expectation of privacy for this category of correspondence.

    The abject hatred shown for President Trump over the last six years has exposed the true colors of so many of this country’s most esteemed public figures. Letters like Oprah’s shows the insane level of hypocrisy of these people.

    Prior to running for office, Trump was a celebrity all on his own…certainly not without his critics, but someone who made his mark in several fields. And when he was “one of them”, he was highly regarded. However, running as a conservative, he shattered the bond that the entitled, insular, godless, unethical, uninformed, insufferable, amoral Hollywood Elite believed that he held sacred alongside them.

    And with that, he broke their brains. Trump Derangement Syndrome spread throughout the celebrity world and Ivory Tower Academia like wildfire.

    Showing those in our nation who are willing to read the book (most likely to mock it but some perhaps from sheer curiosity) what their heroes really thought of Donald Trump-their peer and friend back when they presumed he was completely aligned with their aggressively liberal and/or progressive groupthink-and how they spun 180 degrees, going from decades of gushing that he was this brilliant, savvy, astute businessman, fair and generous, respected and hardworking, charismatic & a leader…to their incessant shrieking of how stupid, ignorant, racist, bigoted, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, hideous and boorish, etc etc etc he is.

    If that doesn’t illustrate to the general public that their idols-those darlings of the screen/music/fashion/literary world, the tech titans, the past & current political leaders they admire, and their very own educators-are liars and frauds, unworthy of their praise, devotion, blind acquiescence and reverence, nothing will. And those people are lost to the cause.

    • All true. It still is unethical to make public a private letter —email—text—or conversation without consent. It doesn’t matter who is the revealer or who is the one whose trust is betrayed. It’s wrong. I sure wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me, and I would never communicate with such a person again without assuming that everything I said would be publicized. I have relayed social media comments made to me on a Facebook page, because Facebook is quasi-public, but I’m not crazy about that either.

      • Jack,
        Is it equally unethical to profess friendship and support one day only to trash the person when you aren’t able to profit from them?

        I think the answer is an unequivocal yes.

        The left has no ethical boundaries or alarms. The question then becomes is it ethical for you to remain a punching bag for the sake of ethical purity?

        • Sure, but Chris, you know that basic ethics in all but the hoariest of the “ends justify the mean” brute utilitarian realm prohibits using different ethical standards for the treatment of individuals based on how those individuals behave themselves. This is the “logic” that “the resistance” used/uses to justify unethical conduct aimed at Donald Trump: “he does/said/tweeted X, so we can presumed he’s guilty of Y without compunction.”

          • I get that but how do you confront such hypocritical behavior. Are we just supposed to say thank you sir may I have another. For the left silence or ignoring them is used as evidence of guilt. Are we supposed to follow in the path of Sir Thomas Moore?

      • When I was a kid, and a young adult, I wrote lots of letters to people I admired. Political leaders, singers, actors, novelists, scientists, etc.. If they’d ever published my letter (as part of an award ceremony, or in a biography/autobiography, or as part of an in memoriam, or read it aloud on their tv show or in some public forum, I’d have been thrilled. I would not require permission…in my mind, when you write to a famous or public figure, it’s often not read, at least initially, by only that person. It’s first read by their team. So it’s not ever private.

        As such, I’d never write something so intimate or personal that I’d be ashamed or embarrassed if it fell into the hands of someone else.

        The letters he’s publishing are, I assume, letters of praise. He’s been a public figure for decades. His team most likely read the letters first even though they came from other public figures.

        In my opinion, if someone from his team had copies of the letters or simply recalled the content of said letters published a book called “Letters to Trump”, THAT would be unethical, because the letters were not written to them and therefore not theirs to share.

        But Trump simply sharing his own letters of praise/support from other famous people? Not unethical.

        The only reason the people like Oprah & the Clintons will cry foul about the contents of this book is because they are “guilty of writing letters of praise to the devil himself”…and their own fans/supporters will be shocked and angry. Their own hypocrisy will be there in black and white. They can’t continue to claim that they’ve always loathed him, and that they’ve ALWAYS thought of him as an inept buffoon, a corrupt businessman, a vile human being and an overall pariah.

        Their own unethical claims over the last six years will be revealed. To me, that truth IS ethical. For them, it’s obviously divine retribution.

    • I’m not sure that this book will be read by many Trump supporters or detractors. Only true believers will stump up $99 for a coffee table book that they’ll have to hide when having company. For another $300, you can have an autographed copy. Trump’s autograph has an abundance of supply and I’m doubtful about the level of demand that would make this book worth $400.

  2. Trump has been in a street fight since 2016 and may be excused from not always observing Marquis of Queensbury rules in dealing with those who are attempting to bury him. You’re the ethics expert, of course, but maybe you could comment on the following. Let’s call it a given that it’s unethical of me to punch someone in the throat. However if someone takes a swing at me, let’s add that he’s got two or three inches and 50 or so pounds on me, I may very well go for the throat and not wait for the big one to land. Is this situational ethics?
    On a tangentially related subject, I agree that John Yoo should not have excused waterboarding and merited (if not deserved) an Ethics Rationalization number (it isn’t what it is). It’s always been my opinion that W should have issued words to the effect that “waterboarding is torture, and we, as Americans, do not condone torture”. That should be the position of the US government regardless of the fact that it occurred. I am reminded of “The Day of the Jackal”, in which the French Police extracted information via (off screen) torture from a suspect in an effort to foil a plot to assassinate de Gaulle. No apologies or defense or indication that such was acceptable policy. Just expedient.

    • 1. Leadership ethics involves serving as a role model publicly while getting into the mud behind the scenes. Trump doesn’t bother with the first part. It’s a fatal error.

      2. Physical threat make bad analogies in this context. I once wrote a defense breach centering on the Massachusetts case of this bully who was constantly beating up people in a neighborhood to the point of near death. A little guy, a common victim of the bully’s attacks, was told credibly that the thug was coming to beat him up. The little guy calmly walked up the stairs to his uncle’s apartment, took his pistol, walked down, and when the bully walked up to him, shot him in the face.

      There is caselaw in Mass is that you don’t have to wait to be hurt to use deadly force in that situation. I agree.

      3. Torture is mentioned her as an example of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle. It is absolutely unethical, except when it isn’t.

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