Big Lies Die Hard

No, this was no way to pick a President..

No, this was no way to pick a President..

It is clear after nearly 15 years that bitter Democrats will always believe that the 2000 Presidential election was “stolen,” just as the losing parties in 1824, 1876 and 1988 claimed those elections were stolen. (In 1876, the election was stolen.) But as the cliche goes, while they have a right to their opinion, they do not have a right to their own facts. I understand why Democrats flogged this myth during the first term of the Bush Presidency—it was irresponsible, dishonest and divisive, and helped make political discourse the vile swill it is today, but I understand it. However, history should not be permanently warped by strategic lies.

The 2000 Election Big Lie turned up again today, in an indignant letter to the Washington Post. George Will had written a column condemning third party Presidential candidates for warping elections, using Ralph Nader’s quixotic 2000 run as an example and claiming that Nader cost Gore the White House. Will was wrong. Nader ran on his usual “pox on both parties” platform, and nobody knows how his voters would have split if he hadn’t run, or how many of them would have voted at all. Nader’s lawyer, Oliver Hall, protested against Will’s analysis in a letter to the editor, properly pointing out that a chaos-theory illustrating confluence of factors led to Gore’s narrow electoral college loss, not the least of which was that Gore was an inept candidate. (The person most responsible for Gore’s defeat, of course, was Bill Clinton.)

That correct interpretation, however, runs counter to the Big Lie, so partisan reader Bill Yue reiterated it today. His letter claimed that “the removal of any one of those elements ” mentioned by Hall would “likely have put Gore in the White House,” “for example, if the Supreme Court had allowed the recount to continue.” Continue reading

Case Study: The Botched DP, Baseball, Ethics Evolution, and “Getting It Right”


I know this is a long essay.

Yes, it involves baseball.

Bear with me. I think it is worth your time.

Last night, in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, embarrassingly kicked away by the St. Louis Cardinals and won handily by some team called the Boston Red Sox,  an intricate ethics drama appeared, allowing us to see the painful process whereby a culture’s ethical standards evolve and change in response to accumulated wisdom, altered attitudes and changing conditions. An obviously mistaken umpire’s call was reversed by the other umpires on the field as the Cardinals manager argued not that the original call had been correct, but that reversing it was a violation of tradition, established practice and precedent….in other words, doing so was wrong, unfair, unethical because “We’ve never  done it this way,” a variation of the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody does it.”   You should not have to appreciate baseball (but if you don’t, what’s the matter with you?) to find the process illuminating and thought-provoking. Continue reading

No “President Asterisk”

asteriskThe IRS scandal has spawned a new round of partisan “what ifs?” from Republicans and conservative commentators, the gist of them being that President Obama’s election in the 2012 contest was the result of cheating, and the IRS’s successful efforts to stifle Tea Party organization efforts. Surely the less than 2% difference between Mitt Romney and the President might have been bridged had the kind of conservative enthusiasm that marked the 2010 Congressional election not been unethically and illegally stifled! Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto has dubbed Obama “President Asterisk.” A research paper from the American Enterprise Institute suggests that the post 2010 targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status may have cost Mitt Romney the Presidency. Continue reading

The Rick Perry-Birther Flap: An Addendum

I’ll make this uncharacteristically brief.

I wrote, and believe, that media reports that Rick Perry had expressed Birther sentiments were unfair and misrepresented his words. That was correct. In interviews since that post was composed, Perry has suggested that it is fun to tease the President about the dispute over his place of birth and citizenship, and “keep it alive.”

No, it isn’t. It is unfair, disrespectful and wrong. There is no teasing that is appropriate when the subtext is a challenge to a President’s legitimacy. Perry needs to cut it out, though it is too late in one respect: his words indelibly mark him as a jerk.

Let me also say that I am not especially sympathetic to Democratic indignation regarding teasing over a president’s legitimacy. This is exactly what the entire party did for every second of President Bush’s tenure, suggesting that the 2000 election was “stolen,’ thus rendering his tenure illegitimate. This exploited the vast majority of the public’s ignorance about the Electoral College, and also involved impugning the integrity of the U.S. Supreme Court, doing far more damage to the nation than the idiot Birthers on their best day.

That does not excuse Perry, of course. Every additional word he says to keep the Birther issue in the public eye is another reason—and there are already plenty—to keep him in Texas.

Donna Brazile Opens An Ethics Can Of Worms On “The Good Wife”

Is this the real Donna Brazile or the fake one?

The increasingly common practice of using real political figures playing themselves in dramas made me queasy from the beginning, and now I know why.

“The Good Wife,” CBS’s excellent legal drama now highlighting that network’s Sunday nights, has made such blurring of the real and fictional something of a trademark, featuring such real-life political power-player as Fred Thompson and Vernon Jordan in past episodes, not merely in cameos, but participating in substantive scenes as their real-life selves. Last night, Democratic Party strategist Donna Brazile, who had earlier in the day participated in Christiane Amanpour’s roundtable on ABC, played herself in the episode’s fictional meeting between her and  Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), the ethics-free campaign manager for the Good Wife’s Creepy Husband, Peter Florrick (Chris Noth). I must say, Donna Brazile made an extremely convincing Donna Brazile. She has a future in acting, as long as she can play herself. The problem is what fictional Donna Brazile told fictional Eli Gold, and the immediate, and confusing real life ethical issues it raises. Continue reading

Colbert King, Obama Abuse, Bias and Double Standards

Washington Post columnist Colbert King is an around-the-clock Ethics Hero, a relentless journalist investigator and critic of government corruption in Washington. D.C. He has an impeccable sense of right and wrong, as well as intolerance for public betrayal by elected officials. Yet this undeniably ethical, fair man, who eschews rationalizations at all costs while applying rigorous ethical analysis, cannot see a double standard when it is staring back at him from his own computer screen. His is a frightening tale of the power of bias.

In today’s Post, King expresses fury and pain over last week’s despicable birther drama, feelings that I share. He is revolted at the racist undertones of the “joke” photo e-mailed to friends by an Orange County Republican official as am I. He is horrified by the high percentage of Republicans polled who question Obama’s religion and national origin, as indeed he should be And without any sense of irony, King writes… Continue reading

Gee, Thanks a Bunch, Chris…Big Lie Ethics and Obama’s Birth Certificate

Great. Now Chris Matthews is giving support to the birther conspiracy theory.

The excitable MSNBC host recently asked why President Obama doesn’t just put the suspicion and rumors to rest by giving the OK for Hawaii to release his original birth certificate, thus proving that he was born a U.S. citizen and ending the claims that Obama is really foreign-born and never was eligible to become President of the United States. By lending his credibility and perceived legitimacy to the lament of the birthers, Matthews has engaged in irresponsible conduct and done a disservice to the President, the office of the President and the nation. Continue reading