Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART 2] [CORRECTED!]

David Frum’s assertion that President Trump is one of the “least physically capable” Presidents only shows that his knowledge of the Presidents is an inch deep and about as wide….or, in the alternative, that he knows what he is saying is false but is counting on the public’s ignorance of history and CNN’s complicity in gratuitous Trump bashing to get away with it. Well, at least on Ethics Alarms he’s not going to get away with it.

Let’s look first at Trump’s predecessors after FDR. Recall that Frum’s  statement was that Trump is “the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair.”

  • George H.W. Bush, tough old bird that he was, dealt with more health issues as President than Trump. He suffered from bleeding ulcers, arthritis,  atrial fibrillation and the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease.
  • John F. Kennedy was a sick man throughout his short term in office; he just had his staff and reporters cover it up.  His 1947 diagnosis of Addison’s disease, an incurable disorder of the adrenal gland, was kept secret until well after his death. JFK’s chronic back pain caused him to develop an addictions to painkillers, stimulants, and other medication; historians suspect that he made important decisions while “bombed out of his mind.”
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower had three major medical incidents during his two terms in office: a heart attack, a stroke, and Crohn’s disease. Saying Eisenhower was more “physically able” than Donald Trump is either gross ignorance on Frum’s part, or a lie. Of course, Stelter couldn’t correct him, because he’s an idiot, and wouldn’t correct any false attacks on President Trump anyway.

Going back before Franklin Roosevelt (who was beyond question the least physically able President in history when he won his final term in 1944, since he was dying of heart disease and worse, knew it; it had nothing to do with his whellchair) we have a veritable Presidential intensive care unit. Let’s skip over Harding, who suffered his whole life from anxiety and emotional problems, and who had undiagnosed heart problems that ultimately killed him, and go to the runner up champ of physically disabled Presidents, Woodrow Wilson. Afflicted with untreatable (then) hypertension, Wilson was plagued by chronic headaches and double vision until he had  a series of strokes. One affected his right hand, leaving him unable to write normally, then more serious strokes rendered Wilson blind in his left eye, paralyzed on his left side, and eventually unable to discharge his duties as President. This was hidden from the public and Congress, with his wife and his doctor handling most of Wilson’s presidential tasks.

President Taft, as we all know, was morbidly obese at well over 300 pounds, and as a result suffered from sleep apnea (he dozed off during meetings), high blood pressure, and heart disease. Teddy Roosevelt managed to exude health with his ostentatiously vigorous lifestyle, but he wasn’t healthy. TR battled clinical depression his whole life, and despite what you will often read, he never overcame his childhood asthma. He was also diagnosed with a heart murmur, and advised to live a sedate life.  He did not.

This may well have contributed to the fact that he was dead shortly after his 60th birthday.

In addition to being the second most obese President, Grover Cleveland suffered from many maladies while President, most notably cancer, necessitating a secret operation that replaced his upper palate with a rubber prosthetic. My favorite obscure President, Chester A. Arthur, was ill during his entire three years in office, and died shortly after. He had progressive kidney failure from Bright’s Disease.

Before Arthur, the previous physically-limited President was, surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was another depressive, but his symptoms probably had a physical cause: likely permanent brain damage from being kicked in the head by a horse when he was young. Lincoln also had malaria flare-ups, and got smallpox during the Civil War. He may have suffered from mercury poisoning from pills that were frequently prescribed at the time.  Abe’s  photographs indicate drmatic weight loss and muscle wasting during the war, and some doctors believe he  was afflicted with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B) or Marfan syndrome, rare genetic disorders, although he lived longer than either of those conditions usually permit.

Two Presidents before Lincoln we had poor, broken Franklin Pierce in the White House, perhaps the most disabled of all.  He spent his entire, disastrous term in office in deep depression following the horrible death of his young son before his eyes in a train accident as his family headed to Washington after his election. Pierce’s wife Jane was never the same after teh accident, and Pierce’s alcoholism became intermittently debilitating.

Donald Trump, as you probably know, is a lifetime abstainer from alcohol.

Jumping past Presidents Taylor and William Henry Harrison, neither of whom were sufficiently physically able to last a single term before succumbing to illness  (Taylor less that a year and a half, Harrison about a month), we finally reach the all-time champion of unhealthy Presidents, Andrew Jackson.

When he finally won the Presidency at the age of 62 (after having been robbed of victory four years earlier), Old Hickory was plagued by the lingering wound from two of his less successful pistol duels. One bullet was lodged in his arm, where it festered and gave him chronic pain. ( This bullet was finally removed when Jackson was President) A second bullet, lodged in his chest near his lung and  heart, was considered inoperable. It caused serious pulmonary problems and caused Jackson to cough up blood periodically. The bullets also caused lead poisoning.

Jackson was seriously underweight, and there was a good reason for that: his digestive tract was permanently damaged. He suffered from recurring flare-ups of malaria, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, progressive heart failure, and some sources say he had tuberculosis as well. Like Lincoln, Jackson was poisoned by mercury pills given to him by his doctors.

I think I’ll stop with Andy, the President that Trump most identifies with, and justly so.  There is more than sufficient evidence that David Frum didn’t know what he was talking about, and that CNN allowed him to misinform its viewers by adding fake history to its usual fare of biased and fake news.

Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/26/19: The Fish, The Fist Bump, And Harriets’s Lament

Good Morning!

Here is another of my father’s favorite Sousa marches, “The Black Horse Troop.” I remember thinking about the march when I saw that the riderless horse in my father’s Arlington funeral procession was all black.

1. Let’s start with a fish story…

That’s Tom Volk holding  the nearly 17-pound walleye he caught along the Heart River in Mandan, North Dakota. Little did he know that what was briefly a happy experince for him would end up with him being attacked on social media and prosecuted by the state. A fish is considered hooked illegally—it’s actually a crime—if the hook was in the fish’s back rather than its mouth. As soon as Volk claimed the record, he was accused of cheating. The Game and Fish Department opened a criminal investigation. Volk had to hire  a lawyer, and the prosecution could have an impact on his career:  Volk serves as a city councilman in North Dakota and works in drug prevention for the state government.

Finally game wardens compiled an 11-page report on the fish after conducting witness interviews. The county prosecutor said  his office had reached “a consensus view” that the walleye had been improperly hooked. The chief game warden said he was convinced that the fish was “foul-hooked,” but also believed that Mr. Volk might not have known about the infraction until after he left the riverbank. His department issued a written warning, disqualifying the fish from record consideration, but no criminal citation.

The walleye could not be reached for comment. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/17: Height And Leadership, Among Other Things

 

Good Morning, all.

1  Fake news update. The news media’s daily efforts to poison public opinion against the President and everything connected to him is so—someone give me a new adjective,please, as I am sick of despicable, unconscionable,  outrageous, unforgivable, even unethical—reprehensible that I feel pulled into the position of having to defend Trump in order to defend basic ethical principles.

Newsweek featured this headline yesterday:

Melania Trump Orders Removal of Near-200-Year-Old Tree From White House

Those monsters! These crude Trumps, with no respect for history or tradition, trash everything they touch–even the famous magnolia Andrew Jackson planted in 1828, in honor of his late wife Rachel, who died before he took office. The Trump Hate Mob picked it up from there, with one tweeter sneering online,

“A rotten dying Iconic White House tree is representative not just of Trump’s brutal attack on Mother Earth & science, but it’s symbolic of everything that Trump has done to our sacred Democracy since taking office.”

The tree had to be removed, as even Newsweek explained if a reader got past the misleading headline, which many readers don’t…

CNN obtained documents from specialists at the United States National Arboretum, which determined the magnolia tree must be removed. The tree is “completely dependent on artificial support,” the document read.

The document said, “Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.”

Moreover, only part of the tree, and not “the tree,” is being removed. From CBS:

A “large portion” of the Jackson Magnolia, a tree that has been a South Lawn fixture since the 1800s, is being removed, the White House says. It had become a safety hazard after decades of decay…A substantial portion of the Jackson Magnolia will be removed …including one tree limb which will be conducted by the National Park Service, CBS News has confirmed.

(Look at the photo above. I bet you can guess which portion is being removed.)

Wait…one tree limb will be conducted? What’s that supposed to mean? And back to the Newsweek headline: what’s a tree doing in the White House anyway? It should have been removed centuries ago.

Fake news.

Also, news copy apparently written by monkeys at a keyboard… Continue reading

Which Presidents Would Have Tweeted Trump-Style If They Had A Twitter Account?

The tweet above from the President as he doubled down on his unusually stupid attack tweets against Joe and Mika got me thinking. He’s not entirely wrong. Trump is the first President to use social media personally and for candid statements and observations, bypassing the news media, and almost all of the previous Presidents had no choice in the matter. Fourth of July weekend always gets me thinking about the Founders, and the Founders get me musing about the Presidents, and I found myself playing this mind game: Which of our Presidents, had they has access to Twitter, would have used it in a Trumpian manner?

I should clarify some issues at the outset. None of the Presidents would have used Twitter in a stupid, juvenile and boorish manner like President Trump, because none of them were that stupid, juvenile and boorish. (On the other hand, none of their critics, being comparatively responsible and sane, would have argued that stupid, juvenile and boorish tweets were justification to remove the previous 44, as Keith Olbermann thinks.) By using Twitter in a Trumpian manner, I mean using it…

..Personally…

…for the purpose of by-passing the news media and White House spokespersons…

…in order to make declarations of intent, emotions or satisfaction, or

…to attack, accuse, denigrate, compliment, rebut, defend, joke, troll, or otherwise

…communicate directly with the public.in an unfiltered manner.

One other caveat: Trump would definitely be establishing new Presidential norms were his tweets less obnoxious and embarrassing. By the time his term(s) are over, he mat have given Presidential tweeting such a bad reputation that no future POTUS will dare use Twitter for fear of being compared to the Mad Tweeter of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

All right, on to the inquiry!

Which of our previous Presidents would have used twitter in one or more of the ways Trump uses it. based on what we know of their character and leadership styles?

Continue reading

Willful Amnesia And The Great Cat And Dog Massacre

Did you know that animal-loving British families killed an estimated 400,000 household pets—cats and dogs—in the first week after Great Britain declared war on Germany in September, 1939? Neither did I, and now a new book by Hilda Kean, “The Great Dog and Cat Massacre,” sets out to remind us of that ugly episode.

As the New York Times review of the book notes and Kean explains, the mass euthanasia was “publicly lamented at the time,” but has since been erased from memory.  But why has it been erased from memory, and how? This is a disturbing cultural phenomenon that Ethics Alarms has covered before, notably in the post about dance marathons in the U.S. during the Depression. One of the definitions of culture is what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget. Forgetting, however, while often psychically soothing and an easy way to avoid guilt and accountability, is a pre-unethical condition. That which has been forgotten can no longer teach us, and a society that collectively decides to pretend something cruel, horrible or traumatic didn’t happen risks allowing it to happen again.

This, of course, is one more reason why the recent progressive mania for historical airbrushing is dangerous, irresponsible and unethical. Keep that statue of “Joe Pa” on the Penn State campus. Leave  King Andy on the twenty dollar bill.  Don’t take down that bust of Bill Cosby in the TV Hall of Fame. All civilizations have fallen heroes, moments of panic, times when they forget their values and betray their aspirations. Of course it is painful and embarrassing to remember these things, but also essential if human ethics are going to progress instead of stagnating, or even going backwards. We associate the elimination of cultural memories with totalitarian regimes, and for good reason, for they are blatant and shameless about it.

No nation is immune from the process’s appeal, however. When I was going to grade school and studying the Presidents of the United States, Jackson and Woodrow Wilson were routinely hailed by (mostly Democratic) historians as among the greatest of the great. The first Jackson biography I read barely mentioned the Trail of Tears. I read four well-regarded biographies of Wilson that ignored his support for Jim Crow, and the degree to which he deliberated reversed advances in civil rights, being an unapologetic white supremacist. The influenza epidemic that killed millions was excised from my school’s history books. Thomas Jefferson’s concubine, Sally Hemmings? Who? Continue reading

Dead President Ethics: The Post Mortem Odyssey Of James K. Polk

James K. Polk is one of my favorite Presidents, in part because he has never received his due for being spectacularly effective, if unwavering ruthless in achieving his goals. By the standards of fulfilling his own stated objectives, a President can’t be more successful than Polk. He pledged to expand U.S. territory to the West, Southwest and North, and did so, then served only one term, as he had promised. Polk also wrote a fascinating diary, essentially an autobiography.

His relative obscurity arises in part because he was a one term President, but primarily because he existed in the shadow of his fellow Tennessean, Andrew Jackson, who was more flamboyant, more influential on more political fronts, and had far more than four years in the spotlight. He was also much taller. Poor Polk lived just three months after leaving office, dying of cholera in 1849, in Nashville. Tennessee. The laws of the time held that those who died of that dread disease be buried within 24 hours to prevent epidemics, so the former President of the United States was  laid to rest in a mass grave less than a year after leaving the White House.

A year later, Polk was removed from the mass grave and buried on the grounds of his Nashville home, Polk Place, in accordance with the will he drew up five months before his death. Polk, a lawyer, stipulated that his body and that of his wife be buried there, and that after his death and his wife’s, the property should be held in trust by the state, which would be bound allow a blood relative to live there. Unfortunately for the dead Polks, the ex-President made a tyro’s drafting gaffe. After Polk’s widow Sarah died in 1891, a court voided the terms of the will because it violated the common-law Rule Against Perpetuities: a property owner can’t bequeath property to unborn future generations. So Polk Place was sold to private interests, eventually razed, and today there is a boutique hotel on the property. On Sept. 19, 1893, Polk’s body and Sarah’s were moved again, to the Nashville grounds of the Capitol.

On a small patch of grass within a stone’s thrwo of the Capitol, the Polks’ grave is lies in a modest but attractive classical monument framed by Greek columns, with an inscription declaring  that Polk “planted the laws of the American union on the shores of the Pacific.” It was designed by William Strickland, the architect who also designed the Capitol itself and George Washington’s sarcophagus at Mount Vernon in Virginia. But Polk’s Jackson problem continues: his gravesite is dwarfed by a nearby equestrian statue of Old Hickory, and tourists virtually ignore it. And while Jackson’s grave at the Hermitage, his family plantation, is a major tourist draw in Nashville, Polk remains—that is Polk’s remains remain—an afterthought. When President Trump visited Nashville last month, he laid a wreath on Jackson’s tomb, and saluted him in a speech. As for the perpetually dissed 11th President, the campaign jeer of the Whig Party running against the first Dark Horse candidate in 1844 apparently remains appropriate: “Who is Polk?”
Continue reading

Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

Texas Says It Will Withhold Funds From Sanctuary Cities, And It Is The Ethical Thing To Do

sanctuary-cities-map

Texas Governor Greg Abbott  says that the state is likely to cut off funding for Travis County after rebellious Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced it would cease cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Nationally, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to do the same with federal funds, punishing various grandstanding sanctuary cities, including the Big Apple, New York City itself.

Illegal immigration facilitating cities should have been stopped at the very beginning, but the Obama Administration, pledged to enforce  the laws of the land, allowed this defiance to continue and spread. As part of an expected, indeed promised, crackdown on illegal immigration, Donald Trump should emulate his most similar past President and take a firm stand against this virtual nullification, just like Old Hickory.

Says Professor Turley…

The coming weeks will see if these confrontations are going to worsen but the politics are not promising for compromise. That would result in the type of confrontation between federal and state authorities that we have not seen on such a large scale. There are over three dozen such cities. It could lead to some interesting constitutional challenges over conditions tied to federal funding. In 1987 in South Dakota v. Dole, the Supreme Court upheld federal conditions that withheld highway funding from cities that did not enforce the federal drinking age…. Ironically, these largely liberal cities may rely the most on a ruling against the Obama Administration. In 2012, the Court found such coercion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, when the Court struck down a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have blocked federal Medicaid funding to states that did not adopt a Medicaid expansion.

[ I think the professor is stretching here. A lot. If that’s the best legal precedent the sanctuary cities can muster, they are doomed to lose. ] Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Inauguration Day Musings

trump-inaug

In preparation for this post, I just read over the post from December 5 titled “Reasons to be Happy About the Election of Donald Trump?” I wanted to see if any of those reasons on the list, beginning with three that I endorsed from the Glenn Reynolds essay with the same name, without the question mark. Here are the ten:

1.  “Killed off dynastic politics, at least for now.”

2. “Kept Hillary out of the White House.”

3. “Crushing the media’s sense of self-importance”

4. His election, and Clinton’s defeat, pushes back against group identification politics.

5. It demolishes the propaganda that Barack Obama was a successful President.

6. It might spur more citizens to vote next time.

7. Trump’s victory showed that cheating to win, and behaving as if the ends justify the means, still don’t go down well with a lot of the public.

8. The entire Clinton saga has been predicated on their belief that you can fool enough of the people enough of the time, along with a well-practiced regimen of deny-deny-deny. lie, obfuscate, stonewall, accuse and delay, to get away withe all manner of unethical conduct while achieving wealth and power. Finally, it didn’t work. Hooray.

9. Trump’s election exposed, and is exposing, the hypocritical, anti-democratic, bitter, ugly, hateful side of progressives and Democrats.

10.  It is the kick in the teeth of political correctness that this restrictive, arrogant, smug and stifling cultural trend had been begging for.

The post concluded,

I have not changed my analysis that the price we will pay for these boons is likely to be exorbitant and painful at best. Nonetheless, they are still things to be grateful for, and not insubstantial.”

Almost two months later, having experienced the Trump transition and observed the horrifying 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, which of these ten bear amendment or repeal? All but a few are as accurate now as then. #9, relating to the Democratic and progressive freak-out and what it represents, has intensified since December 5 and has been longer-lasting and more outrageous than anyone could have expected. Reynold’s item #3 about the election crushing the news media’s sense of self-importance was clearly wishful thinking, for it joined the embarrassing and destructive Democratic reaction to the election rather than learning anything. Fools.

Finally, there is #5. Trump’s election should have demolished the mythology that Obama has been a successful President, because he obviously has not been, and if he had been successful, Hillary Clinton would be about to be sworn in today.But Barack Obama, who like Donald Trump lives in his own narcissistic fantasy world, exited with a series of self-lauding propaganda lines—some issuing from the mouths of his team, like John Kerry—that the news media and punditry have treated as if he were a burning bush. No, Obama improved race relations! His was a scandal free administration! He did most of the things he wanted to do, and if it wasn’t for obstructive Republicans, he would have done much more! Citizens who weren’t happy and voted against Democrats just didn’t understand how well off they are! America’s standing in the world is terrific!  He is proud of his handling of Syria, and those 400,000 dead don’t prompt any regrets! This has been followed by jaw-droppingly dishonest puff-pieces by writers who should know better.

Here are  additional observations on Inauguration Day: Continue reading

Observations On Donald Trump’s Harriet Tubman Comments

Harriet.Tubman 20

Don’t worry. Despite Donald Trump’s supposed “new leaf” that has him trying act and sound “presidential,” he’s going to continue to say ignorant, stupid and offensive things, because he really doesn’t know what is “presidential,” or ignorant, stupid and offensive, for that matter.

Today’s example was his off-the-cuff commentary about Harriet Tubman replacing President Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.Trump said:

“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or another bill. I don’t like seeing it. Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness. He’s been on the bill for many, many years and really represented somebody that was really very important to this country.”

Observations:

1. Ethics Alarms offers this competence and responsibility-based rule for public figures, especially those running for President of the United States.

If you can’t say something that is constructive, coherent and adds substance to the discussion, keep your opinion to yourself.

Of course, that would mean Trump would seldom get to say anything. Still, this statement was completely gratuitous, vapid, clumsy and wrong. Continue reading