Monday Ethics Kick-Off, 12/9/19: Christmas Music, Wildfires And…You Know.

What Christmas song will we play today?

How about one of my favorites, that only professional singers can pull off? It’s a little bit like the “Star Spangled Banner” that way…and nobody nailed that any better than Whitney…

1. Christmas songs and singers. Pet peeve: playing “My Favorite Things” as a Christmas song. The song’s context in “The Sound of Music” has no connection to Christmas; the lyrics don’t mention it. You might as well say the song is about geese. Then there’s Susan Boyle. One of her Christmas songs turned up on the radio. and I was shocked. The winner  of “Britain’s Got Talent” some years back was so hyped, I assumed that she was the second coming of Karen Carpenter. No, her voice was just OK—I know literally dozens of amateur singers who are as good or better—  but she looked like Tug Boat Annie, so her singing was called remarkable not because of the product, but the misleading packaging. A  Jim Nabors Christmas song also turned up: he was like that. We see the same phenomenon in the Oscars frequently:  perfectly average performances are hailed as brilliant and garners awards because nobody thought the actors could be credible in a part at all.  Ed Wynn in “The Diary of Anne Frank.”  Ann Margaret in “Carnal Knowledge.”

This one reason so few Americans really know what great performing is.

2. Wow–I have to give ethics props to the New York Times and CNN in the same week. CNN’s Dana Bash confronted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler  over the position he asserted when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment in 1998. Nadler said:

There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties, and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come.

Bash asked how Nadler’s current pursuit of impeachment wasn’t hypocritical, as not a single Republican has appears to support impeachment. Good for her.

“So, right now, you are moving forward with impeachment proceedings against a Republican president without support from even one congressional Republican,” Bash asked. “Is it fair to say that this impeachment, in your words from back then, will produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come?”

Nadler literally ignored the question, and defaulted to insulting Trump.What could he say? “Sure it will, Dana, but remember, I’m a partisan hack. You expect consistency? Integrity? Don’t be silly.” He also uttered another example of an absurd hyperbole designed to mislead the ignorant members of the public. There’s been a lot of that spewing forth from the coup-mongers lately.   Nadler claimed that the Democrats’ case  against the President is so “rock solid” that any jury would return a guilty verdict “in about three minutes flat.” Continue reading

Even MORE Of The Kinds Of Things That Would Have Been On A Full-Time Impeachment News And Commentary Blog…

1 . You know I can’t let this pass: New Age guru and cool Democratic Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson tweeted out both fake news and, given her number of followers and <cough> far more effective disinformation for the kind of idiots who believe Russian bots than any foreign mischief-maker on Facebook:

She only could believe this absurd “report” if  a) she was so ready to believe anything bad about this President that literally nothing could be too absurd to swallow, and b) if she was so irresponsible that she would tweet it to her gazillion followers without checking.  It seems that she read a phony article published on Nov. 16 by MoronMajority.com. by the light of her lava lamp, after itwas then picked up by  the Daily Kos, which could easily use the name “MoronMajority.” After pulling down the tweet, Williamson had the chutzpa to write she wrote that we had to be vigilant against “big lies” in the coming campaign….you know, like hers.

2. Then there is this from Rep. Al Green, who was calling for Trump’s impeachment, and entered resolutions to that effect, long, long before there was any Ukraaine phone call:

Rep. Al Green (D-TX) said on Saturday during an interview on MSNBC that President Donald Trump needed to be impeached “to deal with slavery.”Green, who has previously stated that Trump must be impeached or else “he will get reelected,” said this week that there is “no limit” to the number of times that Democrats can try to impeach the president.

In other words, he is just like every other House Democrat, just not as subtle. And perhaps a little bit more stupid. Asked to explain what slavery has to do with impeachment, Green replied,

I do believe, ma’am, that we have to deal with the original sin. We have to deal with slavery. Slavery was the thing that put all of what President Trump has done lately into motion.We cannot overlook what happened when he came down the escalator and just demeaned people of color when he talked about the s-hole countries. It’s insidious … racism, the president has played on racism and he’s used that as a weapon to galvanize a base of support to mobilize people.So, I appreciate whatever we will do, but until we deal with the issue of invidious discrimination as a relates to [the] LGBTQ community, the anti-Semitism, the racism, the Islamophobia, the transphobia, and also the misogyny that he has exemplified, I don’t think our work is done.

Ah! Now he sounds more typical. This is, of course, Big Lie #4, “Trump is a racist.” John Hinderaker correctly notes on his blog:

Green’s rant is valuable, not because it makes any sense, but because it gives us a window into the Democrats’ real motive for wanting to impeach the president–sheer hatred over political differences. Combined, of course, with the realization that in all probability, he will be re-elected next year if they do not succeed in evicting him from office.

How long can the news media and the public fail to acknowledge this? Continue reading

If I Had Been Able To Swing A Full-Time Impeachment News And Commentary Blog, These Kind Of Things Would Have Been On It…

I. In the House impeachment Report, Chairman Nadler really and truly says this:

“The question is not whether the President’s conduct could have resulted from permissible motives. It is whether the President’s real reasons, the ones in his mind at the time, were legitimate. Where the House discovers persuasive evidence of corrupt wrongdoing, it is entitled to rely upon that evidence to impeach.”

Such an attitude and approach is smoking gun evidence of a rogue process. The President, of course, has not been interviewed, questioned or cross examined. His “real reasons” can only be a matter of speculation, based on the confirmation biases of his prosecutors. In ethics, motives just confuse the issue, because all human actions have complex and interacting motives. In law, malum in re, that is, objectively bad intent, often defines a crime (such as murder), but a legal action does not become illegal because the actor has some wrongful intentions, just as an illegal action doesn’t become legal because the malefactor meant well. For leaders, those who deal in power, distinguishing between rightful and wrongful acts based on motives is particularly difficult, if not impossible.

I suppose Nadler should be praised for candor, but the state of mind of Trump’s inquisitors could not be less trustworthy or more irresponsible. They believe the President to be corrupt, thus they interpret conduct by him which literally any other President could have (and has) engaged in without criticism or condemnation (except on a policy prudence basis) as impeachable. This has been the presumption from the beginning of his Presidency. No leader can function properly in such an environment….which was the idea. Continue reading

The Damning Fake Video

During last week’s  impeachment hearings, Democratic Judiciary Counsel Norman Eisen (above, on the left) presented a video clip showing President Trump  saying: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.” Asked to comment on the video, Harvard Law School Professor Noah Feldman—you know, he’s the one who falsely told the committee and America that Nixon “sent burglars” to steal documents from the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in 1972. That guy— replied, “As someone who cares about the Constitution,” the statement “struck a kind of horror in me.”

Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, referenced the same quotation as it was heard in the clip , concluding that President Trump “believes that in his own words, ‘I can do whatever I want.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was referencing the same video when she said Thursday that Trump threatened  the Constitution by acting as a “king.”

Later in the week, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig twice cited the same clip.  So did MSNBC’s Chris Mathews during  “Hardball,” and  MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe.” The Washington Post spread the same report about the video.

In all six cases, a video deceptively edited to misrepresent what the President was referring to was used to inflame and deceive.  Continue reading

The Pro-Impeachment Experts, Making the Public Dumber

Prof. Gerhardt, making you dumber.

An ongoing theme of Ethics Alarms, not merely related to politics and the news media, is the unethical conduct of intentionally misinforming the public for partisan or ideological agendas. For professionals and those holding themselves out as experts, this is especially unethical conduct, and damaging. Academics, professionals and experts are obligated to use their knowledge to enlighten the public. Using their authority and credentials to deceive them, thus betraying the public trust, is unconscionable. Particularly since the elites in academia decided to help remove Donald Trump, this has become epidemic.

A signal of what was to come revealed itself on election night, when CNN produced once respectable historian Douglas Brinkley, now a shameless partisan hack of the worst sort, to explain to America that Hillary Clinton’s loss was really because Americans seldom vote for the same party to be in the White House three elections in a row. As I wrote in one of my posts about this lie, which no CNN talking head had the knowledge or integrity to challenge,

…esteemed Presidential historian Doug Brinkley, for reasons known only to himself, went on the air live on CNN and concocted a new alibi for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. using fake history to do it. He said that there were powerful historical patterns at work in Hillary’s defeat, and that it is always hard for any one party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms. Then, as exceptions to the rule and to show how rare the exceptions were, Brinkley cited Reagan successfully pushing George H.W. Bush on the nation as his “third term,” and then went all the way back to 1836 for his other exception, when popular Democrat President Andrew Jackson got his acolyte Martin Van Buren elected to succeed him.

For days after this, I kept hearing Brinkley’s observation cited by talking heads and my disappointed Democratic friends, yet what he had said was wildly, unforgivably untrue. On election night, I ticked off the instances where one party has held the Presidency for more than two terms on the spot, right after Brinkley’s fiction (much to the annoyance of my wife):

After Van Buren, there were a bunch of one term Whigs and Democrats, but Lincoln’s two terms (the last finished by Andrew Johnson) was followed by Grant for two more, Hayes for one, and Garfield/Arthur for four more years. That 6 straight Republican terms, Doug. Then, three terms later, McKinley was elected to two, Teddy Roosevelt for one on top of the McKinley term he finished out, and Teddy anointed Taft as his successor just as Jackson had with Van Buren. That’s four straight Republican terms, or as we call it around my house, “More than two.”

But wait! There’s more! After Wilson and Mrs, Wilson served out two Democratic terms, we got Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, another three Republicans in a row. Then the Democrats made up for those consecutive runs with five straight of their own, courtesy of FDR’s four and Truman beating Dewey. In short, Brinkley gave the nation fake history, which then became fake news.

And he made Americans ignorant. Spinning for Hillary, for example, Whoopie Goldberg told her audience, “You know, there have been very few eight years of one party and eight years of the same party. It doesn’t generally go back to back. The last time I think was Nixon and whoever came in after him was the last. Ford….That was the last time we had a long stretch. When it wasn’t Democrat, Republican, Democrat Republican. So given all the crap that Obama had to eat from his own party, I don’t think Bernie was going to — I don’t think any Democrat was going to–people were going to vote –”

This was regurgitated Brinkley—Hillary also cited him during her endless “It’s not my fault I lost!” tour–and not even accurately regurgitated.  And it’s dead wrong. Imagine: an “expert” whose specialty is American Presidential history was paid to go on national television and used his authority to give out false information about American Presidential history.

The phenomenon has become frighteningly common as the Democratic Party/”resistance”/mainstream media collective has tried to trick, bully and incite the public into supporting its undemocratic cause. The academics recruited by the Democrats for the latest impeachment push have continued to assert outright falsehoods, adopting former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s theory that a lie is virtuous if “it works.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, Pearl Harbor Day, 2019: Actual Crimes, Misdemeanors And Other Despicable Acts Edition

Remember.

1. The Bad Guys. This email message was received by George Washington Law School administrators urging it to punish Prof. Johnathan Turley for presenting a factual analysis of the Democrats’ contrived case against Donald Trump:

“I am writing you all after listening to Jonathan Turley’s disgraceful statement defending the corrupt and impeachable actions of President Trump at the House Judiciary impeachment hearing today. I know you all cringe inside knowing that you are affiliated in some way with Turley and have to work or study at the same institution in which he is employed. He is defending the indefensible and I hope that all of the Deans at GWU Law and the students will recognize that he is not serving in the best interest of our country and is a detriment to the success of your school’s future reputation. His actions today were spineless and shameful. He is clearly a lackey for the Trump Administration I trust you will act appropriately and reprimand this sad excuse of a man.”

The email was unsigned, but the school says it did not come from a student. Meanwhile, on his blog, Turley has stated that his “office and home have been inundated with threats from people irate over the fact that I would question the sufficiency of this record for impeachment.” He also has felt it necessary to respond to intentionally false arguments against his positions. That Turley’s employers would be told by anyone that the public courage and erudition of Prof. Turley could possibly be “a detriment to the success” of the “school’s future reputation” show how completely the  mass determination to “get” President Trump has entered the realm of Bizarro World ethics, or perhaps for younger fans of “Stranger Things,” the Upside Down.

A commenter on the post about the email at Legal Insurrection writes,

In The Coming of the Third Reich (2003), historian Richard J. Evans explains how, in the early days of National Socialist Germany, Stormtroopers (Brownshirts) “organized campaigns against unwanted professors in the local newspapers [and] staged mass disruptions of their lectures.” To express dissent from Nazi positions became a matter of taking one’s life into one’s hands. The idea of people of opposing viewpoints airing their disagreements in a civil and mutually respectful manner was gone. One was a Nazi, or one was silent (and fearful).

Today’s fascists call themselves “anti-fascists.” Just like the Nazis, they are totalitarian: they are determined not to allow their opponents to murmur the slightest whisper of dissent. Forcibly suppressing the speech of someone with whom one disagrees is a quintessentially fascist act.

Exactly.

2. The Legacy of Marion Barry.  Usually crooked D.C. politicians who are caught stealing money or passing it along to cronies —and there have been oh-so-many of them, resign, long-time member D.C. City Council member Jack Evans, however, became the first local scam artist to be kicked off the body, which voted this week that he  be expelled after a series of investigations found Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker, used his public office to benefit private clients and employers who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“He has betrayed each and every one of us,” said council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who is leading the internal investigation of Evans. “You would speak to him about council things, but he was speaking for the people who were buying him.”

This time, for a change, the elected crook is white, so there will be no demonstrations by D.C. residents claiming racism. Whew! Continue reading

Conclusion To The Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment”

Jonathan Turley ended his epic testimony before the House Judiciary Committee with a flourish. His whole statement was remarkable, leaving no reasonable argument for impeachment standing—but then the now-insatiable desire to undo the 2016 election has never been rational, and it has relied, despicably, on the historical and legal ignorance of the vast majority of the American people. Turley provided an opportunity for responsible citizens to educate themselves: his language was easy and clear, and there were no pompous or especially academic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, few will read or watch the whole thing, allowing the news media, which has exceeded all previous villainy in this three-year long fiasco, to distort and minimize his patriotic achievement. To the degree that they succeed, it is do the detriment of the nation, and its future. Somehow, Turley makes this clear as well, yet does so without the kind of alienating condemnation that I, in his position, would be unable to resist.

No doubt about it, the professor is a far better scholar and advocate than I am, and a brilliantly talented teacher as well. Still, he made me feel good about the analysis I have been presenting here since 2016. I have studied Presidential history for a shockingly long time; I know my impeachment history well, and observed two of the three previous inquiries up close, live and carefully. I have been certain, certain, from the beginning that what we have seen here is an unprecedented crypto-coup, for virtually all the reasons Professor Turley explains. I’m glad to have the legal authority and the meticulous tracking of where the inquisition ran off the rails, but Turley validated the analysis I have  given readers here. That came as a relief and a confirmation.

It was naturally a special pleasure that the professor ended his testimony by referencing the scene in the video above, from “A Man for All Seasons,” my favorite ethics moment in any movie, and the clip most often used on Ethics Alarms. He also referenced the story of the Republican Senators who turned on their party and voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson, for me the most memorable chapter of “Profiles in Courage,” the book that introduced me to the topic of ethics when I was 12 years old. Turley quotes one of the Senators who was only slightly mentioned by credited author John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but it’s a stirring quote, and damn any politician or citizen who ignores its message.

Lyman Trumbull (R- Ill.) explained fateful decision to vote against Johnson’s impeachment this way:

“Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes … no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate …I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection, till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me…”

Those who endanger the future of my country because of their unrestained anger, hate, confirmation bias, partisan loyalty, prejudice, need to conform, and yes, ignorance and their lack of education, are contemptible. Those who lead them in pursuit of power are worse.

[Turley’s entire statement, with footnotes, is here. The Ethics Alarms edited version is here (Part I); here (PartII); here (Part III); here (Part IV), and here (Part V.) The video is here.]

***

V. CONCLUSION

Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks. I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . . and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad. We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?

That is why this is wrong. It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.

It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for an impeachment, but this process concerns the constitutional right to hold office in this term, not the next.

No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached. For two years, members of this Committee have declared that criminal and impeachable acts were established for everything from treason to conspiracy to obstruction. However, no action was taken to impeach. Suddenly, just a few weeks ago, the House announced it would begin an impeachment inquiry and push for a final vote in just a matter of weeks. To do so, the House Intelligence Committee declared that it would not subpoena a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo. Instead, it will proceed on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position. The only three direct conversations with President Trump do not contain a statement of a quid pro quo and two expressly deny such a pre-condition. The House has offered compelling arguments why those two calls can be discounted by the fact that President Trump had knowledge of the underlying whistleblower complaint. However, this does not change the fact that it is moving forward based on conjecture, assuming what the evidence would show if there existed the time or inclination to establish it. The military aid was released after a delay that the witnesses described as “not uncommon” for this or prior Administrations. This is not a case of the unknowable. It is a case of the peripheral. The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information.

To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment. Continue reading