Tag Archives: abuse of power

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/17: Al Franken’s Day That Will Live In Infamy [UPDATED]

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

Good Morning, Bad Memories…

1 The duty to remember…The most amazing thing about Pearl Harbor was perhaps how lucky the United States was that the sneak attack by Japan, as devastating as it was, didn’t permanently cripple our ability to defend ourselves. Two links lead to explanations why. Here is a letter written by Admiral Nimitz, then in his eightieth year. to Admiral David L. McDonald, the present Chief of Naval Operations. The National Review provides the tale of how a forgotten Georgia Congressman, Democrat Carl Vinson saved the country and probably the world.  An excerpt:

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined. Vinson had assumed in the mid-1930s that fascist Japan and Germany posed existential threats to the United States. For America to survive, he saw that America would need mastery of the seas to transport its armies across the Pacific and Atlantic.

This is Thank You Carl Day. Read it all.

2. ‘I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and doggone it, nobody likes me!’ This appears to be the end for Senator Al Franken. If it’s not, the end is near and inevitable. His seventh new accuser was the tipping point, for some reason, though her story Franken denies—especially the part where the anonymous woman claims that after she ducked his attempt at a spontaneous kiss in 2006, he  protested, “It’s my right as an entertainer! ” The soon-to-be-former Senator told Politico,

“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

That “It’s my right” comment sounds to me like a desperate attempt to save face by making a joke out of an awkward situation, not a serious claim. If I’m right, then Franken’s statement is deceit: he’s saying that he would never claim such a right, but he isn’t saying that those words never came out of his mouth. Al’s slippery, mealy-mouthed, not-quite apologies are a large part of why he’s in this mess, as I wrote here. 

Still, no one should be presumed guilty or face negative consequences for a public accusation by an accuser who refuses to go on the record. This is basic fairness and due process. Never mind: the Democratic women in the U.S. Senate are less interested in due process and fairness than grandstanding and standing for the proposition that women must be believed in cases of sexual assault, unless they were assaulted by Bill Clinton. I think that’s the rule, right?

They led a coordinated attack on Franken yesterday by 16 U.S. Senators, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—you know, the one who championed “Mattress Girl”?–who  wrote in a 650-word statement,”While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

That’s right, Senator, it’s better to send the message that due process is just a sham to make doing what you want to do look fair.

For example, how do you like this (from Politico):

Two former colleagues of the woman independently corroborated her version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was “an entertainer.” The first former colleague interviewed by POLITICO said she was told of the incident in 2006, shortly after it happened. The second former co-worker said she was made aware of the encounter sometime in 2009 or 2010.

What? Those women didn’t corroborate the the accuser’s “version of events”! How can any journalist write such junk? How could an editor let it pass? All they can do is corroborate that the woman said this happened, not that her account is accurate or true.

But again, never mind. This is The Terror. Al’s a man, Democrats have been caught in the web of hypocrisy they started spinning when Clinton was President, and his metaphorical blood must cleanse them. Continue reading

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Your Boss Asks If You Have Prayed About A Work-Related Matter…What Is The Ethical Response?

This question was asked of the New York Times’ “Workologist” (It’s stuff like this that keeps me subscribed despite the paper’s disgraceful partisan bias and unocnscionable manipulation of the news):

I recently had a manager ask me if I have “prayed about” a particular situation at the office… this statement crossed a personal line with me. I am very private about my religious life. Do you have any recommendations on how I could handle this?

The question immediately reminded me of “Breach,” the film about the capture of spy Robert Hannsen (Chris Cooper), who was always urging his clerk (actually the undercover FBO agent recruited to unmask him) to pray. The “Workologist” (Rob Walker) begins by pointing out the obvious: a boss can’t demand that you pray, or fire you for refusing to. Then he adds,

Your manager can’t discriminate against you on the basis of religion, but your company can’t discriminate against him, either — by, say, forbidding him to ever mention prayer. In general, companies are supposed to make an effort to accommodate the religious practices of employees, although this can be weighed against the potential burden on the employer…Faith-related workplace conflicts and litigation have become more common in recent years. So it might be better to think about this incident in the broader context of personal expression and identity…

your best move is to make your own boundaries clear — yet also try to avoid an outright conflict. The fact that you already consider him your “worst manager” might make that difficult. But simply declaring his question inappropriate or offensive won’t help.

Instead, try something like “Well, I’ve thought about it,” and either leave it there or, if that doesn’t seem to connect, add something like “But I’m not comfortable talking about what I do or don’t pray about.” This should be delivered in a friendly-to-neutral tone. You’re not making any judgments — and neither should he.

I find that approach cowardly and dishonest. Continue reading

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The Rep. Kihuen Matter And The Trouble With Witch Hunts

Accused Congressman with unidentified woman…

After last week’s appearance on an NPR panel on sexual harassment, hosted by Michel Martin, I posted some important aspects of the topic that I felt needed to be covered, but were not because of time constraints. I wrote in part…

[T]hese accusations can be weaponized, just like rape accusations on campus. Sexual harassment law can be used as a sword as well as a shield, and if provided the chance, I can explain how and give real life examples. One is Anita Hill…

The fact that sexual harassment has to be unwelcome sexual attention in the workplace is not generally understood. It also is unique: what other acts are deemed unlawful, regardless of intent, based on how the object of those acts chooses to react? This feature is why sexual harassment law is viewed by many women and men as inherently unfair. It literally means—I have a skit I use in training that illustrates this—that if actors George Clooney and Steve Buscemi behave exactly the same toward an object of their affections in a workplace setting, and the woman involved finds George attractive and Steve not so much, Steve has engaged in sexual harassment, but George hasn’t.

“When ethics fail the law steps in,” and this is a case where the law is a terrible substitute for ethics. Men like George, and, yes, Trump and even Harvey, are convinced that their touches, hugs, gropes and kisses won’t be unwelcome, and so they don’t think of themselves as harassers. For poor Steve, Al, Louis and other homely non-billionaires, it’s worth a shot, in their mind.

Meanwhile, what is “welcome”? … Is the conduct by a man with a grope or a kiss sexual harassment whenever the woman decides she would have rather it hadn’t happened? That is the issue raised by these late allegations. Let’s say a woman was [ spontaneously ] kissed by Donald Trump, and afterwards, she said to her friends, “That was cool! Donald Trump kissed me, just like that!” Then he’s running for President, and everyone she knows hates the guy, and now she thinks, “Yuck! That creep kissed me! I was one of those women he was bragging to Billy Bush about! He harassed me!”

Is that fair? Is that right? Can a man be retroactively guilty of sexual harassment because a woman’s perception of what happened changes over time?

These and other issues were just raised in one of the latest witch hunt accusations, the claim by a former 2016 campaign staffer of Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen (D-Nev), once a rising Democratic Party star,that he harassed her.

Unlike many of the other notable men who have been run down by the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, Kihuen, at least so far, has been accused of the most common and least horrible form of sexual harassment. The allegations would support the case that Kihuen created a hostile work environment for his subordinate by unwelcome sexual advances.  “Samantha” says that she rejected multiple sexual overtures by Kihuen, including once when when he suggested they get a room together in a hotel. She also says that in two instances he began touching her thigh, and asked if she was open to cheating on  her boyfriend. She says these attentions made her  so uncomfortable—that’s a hostile work environment!—that she quit as his campaign finance director after only five months on the job.

If an employee made these complaints to a business’s HR department, there would be an investigation. No job action could be taken against a supervisor based on her word alone. If there was no substantiation,  the supervisor denied it and no similar accusations had been made by other employees, no company could or should fire the accused individual. Moreover, until an investigation is complete, the position must be that the supervisor is innocent, and will not be penalized pending an investigation. Any other handling of such an episode is unethical: unfair, harmful, and wrong.

Kihuen denies that he engaged in harassment. Yet Nancy Pelosi, she who insisted less than a week ago that “due process” must play out before Rep. John Conyers should have to resign after multiple accusations from women, now says that Kihuen must resign based on one woman’s allegation, before any investigation.

This is true witch hunt stuff. Nothing has been proven. By this standard, a woman can kill a man’s career with an accusation. That is a lot of power. Power corrupts. Pelosi wrote, Continue reading

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Ethics Lessons Of The Dallas Prosecutor-Uber Driver Confrontation

Dallas prosecutor Jody Warner was fired from her job in the Dallas District Attorney’s office for an ugly—and subtantially recorded—argument with an Uber driver.

“Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated,” the DA’s office said in a written statement. “As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom.”

What happened?

Yikes.

Uber driver Shaun Platt said he picked up Warner, 32, at a Dallas bar. He knew pretty quickly that he had a drunk on his hands, as she yelled at friends out the window when she got in his car. Warner directed him to take a different route from the one his GPS suggested, and he got lost.

“I said, ‘Should I make a left up here?’ and she refused to answer me,” Platt said. “She said, ‘You can follow the fucking GPS’ and she became increasingly angry, even though I was just trying to get her home.” Warner continued berating him, and, he claims, slapped his shoulder. At that point, he pulled his car over, ended the Uber app, and ordered her out.

But the prosecutor refused, threatening that he was “never going to work again” and that she “knows people.”  “Who are they going to believe? I’m a district attorney,” Platt says she told him. (Unstated but understood: “And you’re just a dumb Uber driver!’) At that point he called 911 and started recording her comments on his cell phone.

Highlights:

  • “Oh, my God, you’re going to regret this so much.Just take me home, dude. … Either drop me off at my house, or we’ll wait for the cops because I’m not wrong.”
  • “You’re a fucking idiot.We’ll wait for the cops then if that’s what you think is appropriate.”
  • “Oh my God, you’re an idiot. You are a legitimate retard. I want to go home so badly but you’re so stupid I want the cops to come so that they can fuck you up, that’s what I want.”
  • “Dude, everything’s being reported.I’m an assistant district attorney so shut the fuck up.”
  • “I think this might be kidnapping right now, actually.”

After that statement, the non-lawyer Uber driver correctly made the salient legal point that since he had asked her to leave, and she was free to leave, “It’s not kidnapping, ma’am.”

She replied, “No, it is because there was an Uber that had a destination and you have not taken me to that destination. You’re holding me here, so please take me to that destination.”

Oh..huh? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/26/17: The News Media Hides Sen. Strange’s Corruption, And An NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck Update

Good Morning, Dallas! Proud of your politically correct football team?

Good Morning!

1 The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream news media, it is a relief to know, unethically and deceptively slants its news reporting in favor of Republicans when even worse Republicans are involved. Since the Ethics Alarms post about the horrible Strange-Moore run-off, I’ve been reading several articles about the issues involved. So far, I have yet to read any that mention the corrupt manner in which Sen. Strange got his seat. They all mention Moore’s problems, like the fact that he’s a theocrat who doesn’t believe in the Rule of Law.

And now your NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck update, because it can’t be avoided, unfortunately…

2. The sports weenies of the year have to be the Dallas Cowboys, who didn’t have either the courage to play it straight and let the silly NFL Anthem Protest Train Wreck miss a stop, or the fortitude to climb right on. On Monday Night Football’s game this week, the Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones, Coach Jason Garrett and other coaches and front office executives kneeled in unison before the anthem, then rose and locked arms as it was being performed. What did it all mean? “Our players wanted to make a statement about unity and we wanted to make a statement about equality,” Jones said at a post game news conference. “They were very much aware that statement, when made or when attempted to be made in and a part of the recognition of our flag, cannot only lead to criticism but also controversy. It was real easy for everybody in our organization to see that the message of unity, the message of equality was getting, if you will, pushed aside or diminished by the controversy. We even had the circumstances that it was being made into a controversy.”

That’s clear as mud, as my dad liked to say.

Here was another theory: Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant told the news media that the decision “was a team thing” that was a direct response to comments and tweets by President Trump over the weekend.

“I feel like that’s the true definition of unity.Trump can’t divide this. I think sports show the perfect example of unity. It’s not just black NFL players, it’s different races. I feel like that was a clear shot at Trump, sitting on that knee like that because you just can’t do that [What Trump said was] super disrespectful. We showed great unity tonight. That’s what that was for. I feel like that was needed. … We’re not going to let a guy like that tear us apart. Not just us but this whole entire league. We’re a prime example of positive people. … He should have never said that. It was a clear punch in the face. I feel like we made up for that.”

Wait, so now this is an anti-Trump protest? What happened to protesting officers getting paid while cop-involved shootings were being investigated—you know, what Colin Kaepernick said?

The Cowboys’ whatever it was was naked, cynical virtue-signalling that ended up being stupidity-signalling. Continue reading

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The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part Two

The overview of our latest Ethics Train Wreck continues from Part One

  • Slate published an essay by African-American musician John Legend that itself makes an excellent case against the protests while supposedly glorifying them. Never mind the standard anti-Trump spin at the beginning about “Islamophobia” and the rest, though it is nice for any author to state up front that he’s completely biased and his opinion should be discarded as such. Legend and Slate have the audacity to evoke actual protests that were clear and targeted in comparison the all-purpose “knee”:

“Protest is patriotic. Protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation. Protest in America has been essential to ending war, to demanding equal rights, to ending unfair practices that keep citizens marginalized. If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants.

Would there have been a Civil Rights Act without the Birmingham protests? When Bull Connor unleashed his fire hoses and dogs on the schoolchildren taking to the streets, racial disparities and the violence facing people because of the color of their skin became the issues of the times. With savage images of the brutal attack in the news every day, President John Kennedy had little choice but to push for a Civil Rights Act that demanded equal services and equal rights.

Protests in Selma, Alabama, changed the trajectory of this nation and catapulted the Voting Rights Act into being.”

A recipe for tapioca would be as germane to the NFL protests as the Selma march. There is no definable law, principle or position these protests bring into focus. Let’s check the Ethics Alarms Protest Ethics Checklist against the NFL grandstanding:

1. Is this protest just and necessary?

No. How is it just? How is it necessary?

2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad or narrow?

Unclear and too broad by definition, since no two protesters make the same argument.

3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

Obviously not. What does football have to do with “racial justice”?

4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so?

None whatsoever.

5. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?

It’s already cost the NFL millions. But nobody is protesting the NFL…

6. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?

No.

7. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)

Sure: every single fan who wants to just watch football.

8. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)

The relentless politicizing of sports and entertainment harms U.S. society and frays the fabric of democracy. That means everyone.

9. Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?

Clearly not: witness the constant complaining that NFL teams won’t hire Kaepernick so their season is dominated by racial politics rather than, you know, football..

10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?

No.

11. What is the likelihood that the protest will be remembered as important, coherent, useful, effective and influential?

My guess: no chance whatsoever, unless unintended consequences count, like getting more votes for President Trump and crippling the NFL count.

12. Could the same resources, energy and time be more productively used toward achieving the same goals, or better ones?

It’s hard to imaging what wouldn’t be a better use of resources, energy and time.

Verdict: It’s an unethical protest. There is nothing patriotic about unethical protests. We have a right to protest; as with free speech, that doesn’t make all examples of exercising that right good, and certainly not “patriotic.”

  • However, let me argue in the alternative, as lawyers often do. Let’s say that, as Legend claims, all protests are patriotic. Fine. Then then Charlottesville protest against tearing down a statue of Robert E. Lee was also patriotic. Why, the, was the President attacked—by Legend and Slate, among others, for not condemning it?

The Left believes that protests are sacrosanct only when they are doing the protesting. There is nothing wrong or unpatriotic about accurately labeling a dumb, badly-conceived or destructive protest, and this one is all three.

“Football was down. The end. We, the good people who read the NYT, must say no to football. What is known cannot become unknown except by willful, immoral forgetting. No decent person can take pleasure in football. No fit parent can allow a child to take up the game. The era of American football is over. Bury it. We can end the misery through the simple and necessary refusal to watch anymore. Say no, America… or hey, wait a minute. Here’s that nasty President of the United States and he’s calling for a boycott of football…

So, watch the liberal media endeavor to save football from bad old President Trump. He’s a racist. This is his racism once again, stirring up the stupid people who voted for him. Here‘s the NYT today:

“The tweet suggested that the president, who used an expletive on Friday night to refer to players who kneel or sit in protest during the anthem — a practice that took hold last season among some African-American players after Colin Kaepernick, the now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, did so to protest racial and social injustice — is bent on deepening a bitter culture-war fight with the N.F.L.

It is a highly charged debate, with unmistakable racial undertones, pitting advocates of free speech who argue that professional athletes should have a right to use their positions to call attention to social issues against those who contend that refusing to honor the anthem disrespects the military and the nation, and that sports is no place for such displays.”

 Ann’s line:

“Let the brain damage continue. We’ve got a culture war to fight.”

Continue reading

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The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

Ah, the post unwritten!  Just three days ago, I was considering a post about the ethics dilemma I face regarding the NFL. On September 21 I read that four  NFL players ( Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, Philadelphia Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles’ Torrey Smith and former NFL player Anquan Boldin) sent a letter beseeching Commissioner Roger Goodell to make November a month of “social activism,” meaning a month of promoting Black Lives Matters, attacking as police’ and the nation whose public they protect as racist.

“Since 2016, police have shot over 300 men and women in this country. Some of the names and stories are familiar—Jordan Edwards, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, but hundreds of others are not,” the memo says. This is typical of the level of erudition much of the news media, and many voices  on the Left, including President Obama, have been enabling and praising since Colin Kaepernick began his showboating, incoherent  protest against the National Anthem last year. The officer who shot Jordan Edwards was fired and indicted. Trayvon Martin wasn’t shot by police. I can’t imagine how Mike Brown was left off the list, with a reference to “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” Probably a typo.

The next day, we learned that Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots star convicted of murder who hanged himself in prison in April, suffered from a severe case of CTE, “the most severe case” ever seen in a former football player so young.” He was 27. Of course, not a lot of 27 year olds are in a position to have their brains dissected. CTE is the progressive brain disease caused by repeated brain trauma, and there is convincing evidence that the NFL is crippling its players.

My post was going to be about the ethics conflict I face, as one who believes that it is unethical to support the NFL’s profitable mayhem and who also believes that sports should not be made a party to the current progressive indoctrination strategy of making everything in American life a political lecture. The NFL would hasten its own demise, the post would argue, by agreeing to the ridiculous social activism proposal, thus saving brains and lives. Yet this would also exacerbate the divisive and obnoxious trend in the culture wars to politicize aspects of society that should unify us.
What’s a responsible ethicist to do? But it was a busy week, and I thought I could get the piece written over the weekend, which would have been timely if President Trump hadn’t jumped into the issue with both feet. The President ad-libbed an attack on the Kaepernickies during a rally in Alabama, saying,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country…But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”

This immediately turned the National Anthem protest stunt launched by the correctly-unemployed former 49ers quarterback into a late-developing ethics train wreck, and rendered my planned ethics quiz moot. So before anything else stupid happens, let me get down what I hope will be some clarifying observations.Observations:

  • This one is simple, and paramount: Nobody pays to go to sporting events to see continuations of the political disputes and debates they watch sports to avoid. Sports is entertainment, and entertainment is escapism. The same goes for music concerts, movies, plays and musicals. A football player making me watch his half-baked “protest” on the field is no more welcome than the cast of a musical making me sit still to hear its partisan ranting after the show.

Sporting events and other popular entertainment are crucial because they unite society, even if its members disagree passionately on other matters. It is dangerous and unhealthy to remove this crucial oasis of relief from debate, especially now. This should be obvious. It isn’t obvious only to full-time activists who don’t care about the purpose of entertainment or the needs of their audiences. Their objective is to achieve a political agenda by any means possible, regardless of the damage to civil society.

  • A term being used a lot lately on conservative websites is “normals,” describing the Americans who don’t regard politics as the sole focus of their waking hours, and who resent, as the Wall Street Journal termed it, The Politicization Of Everything.

It’s a useful distinction, and there is no question that the President, as misguided and inappropriate as his remarks were,  wins the argument with the many, many millions who just want to watch their favorite teams without being bombarded by political bombast and grandstanding.

  • The NFL could have and should have stopped this train wreck before it left the station by simply re-stating the same standards it had consistently maintained for decades. Players are welcome to have political views and to take part in demonstrations and other activism, but not while wearing their uniforms, and not on the field. Almost exactly a year ago, a player was told by the NFL that he could not wear cleats commemorating 9/11.

Why then did pro football allow Colin Kaepernick to make a far more divisive and incoherent political statement on the field later in the year? The answer is cowardice and abandonment of integrity in the face of race-based politics, the same reason the University of Missouri capitulated to racialist demands by its football team. Most of the players in the NFL are black, so the mostly white leaders of the NFL decided to avoid a confrontation. In doing so, it aligned itself with groups and positions that a large segment of the NFL’s fan base abhors, resulting in lost ratings and revenues. This was a breach of business ethics. The NFL’s business is football, not picking sides in the culture wars.

  • Yesterday, over a hundred NFL players “took a knee” during the National Anthem to protest…something…as the news media cheered them on. This was predictable, and the big question is whether the President prompted the reaction intentionally. I am certain he did not; we know by now that Trump  just blurts stuff out without considering consequences of any kind. The US doesn’t need any more division now, and Trump’s crude outburst was indefensible. Presidents should not comment negatively on the conduct of citizens when they are acting within their Constitutional rights. Nor should they interfere with the policies and disciplinary decisions of private businesses, which he did, and which President Obama also did when he endorsed and defended Kaepernick’s stunt last year.

Both were equally inappropriate and unethical, and abuses of power, influence and position. Of course, Obama’s statement was more dignified and articulate than Trump’s—whose wouldn’t be?—and everything Obama did was greeted with swooning and cheers from the media, while anything this President does is presumed to be an abomination.  They were still two sides of the same unethical coin. Continue reading

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