Ethical Quote of the Month: President Barack Obama

“You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

“Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

“For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

“So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

“But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together….

“…If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.  Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

“The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy (it did not), but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud…”

—- U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at the memorial event, “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America,” at the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson, Ariz., eloquently and sensitively rejecting partisan and media efforts to exploit the Tucson shootings for political gain, and calling for a unified quest for an end to rancor and violence.

Blood Libel Ethics and the U.S. News Media’s Integrity Dead End

First you make a baseless, inflammatory accusation–the Big Lie. Then you attack your victim for how she responds to it.

The news media’s self-destructive obsession with discrediting Sarah Palin has reached its ethical nadir, and with it any reasonable hope that U.S. journalism, as currently practiced, will be returning to credibility and respectability within the foreseeable future. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)

I know that Ethics Alarms has been a bit relentless regarding the accusations and the innuendos against Sarah Palin and others in the wake of the Arizona shooting, but it is an unusually widespread out-break of unfair conduct, and the Ethics Dunces are coming in waves, and from all sides and sectors.

We have a sheriff on the scene, Clarence Dupnik, who seems determined to create the assassin’s defense for him, by claiming, in the face of much evidence to the contrary, that he was driven to violence by inflammatory political rhetoric. Watch Loughner’s crack criminal defense team run with that. We have the nation’s supposedly premiere news source, the New York Times, running a revolting editorial describing Loughner’s attack as political, when this is clearly not true. (An excellent condemnation of the Times piece by James Taranto can and should be read here). Not to be outdone, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, took the same low road. Referencing defeated G.O.P. Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s justly criticized “Second Amendment solution” statement from the campaign (it probably, and justly, lost her the election), Clyburn tied it to Jared Loughner’s attack. Continue reading

Ethics Final For Barack Obama

Is President Obama the fair, ethical, unifying, anti-partisan president of all the people that he promised to be in 2008, or is he a Machiavellian, undercover Chicago pol, willing and ready to use divisiveness and deceit to enhance his power, silence critics and advance his agenda? During the past two years, there has been ample evidence supporting both descriptions, but his address in Arizona Wednesday could settle the issue. If the President emulates his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, using the massacre in Arizona as a political wedge the way Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing—if he adopts the philosophy of former Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emmanuel that one should never waste a crisis—then we will know the dispiriting truth about Barack Obama. Continue reading

On the Post-Shooting Finger-Pointing Apology Watch

It may be that the first apology for the partisan rush to lay twenty shootings and five deaths at the doorstep of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and conservatives came from Arizona Daily Star’s cartoonist, Dave Fitzsimmons, and the paper itself in an editorial today. It began with a statement from the cartoonist, and continued: Continue reading

Partisan Opportunism: The Media and the Arizona Massacre:

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Federal judge, and 18 others yesterday has exposed media bias and unfairness at its despicable worst. That so many reporters, commentators and bloggers learned of  Arizona parking lot carnage and immediately thought, “Wow, what a chance this is to pin everything on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party!” speaks volumes about the ethics and integrity of America’s journalists. The Daily Beast, for example, began a column this way:

“No motives have emerged from today’s senseless shooting in Tucson, but Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has a long history of being targeted by the Tea Party—sometimes in violent terms.”

Is there a shred, an inkling, a hint or a clue anywhere that the man who did the shooting had anything whatsoever to do with the Tea Party? No. Is there anything at all linking Tea Party rhetoric to his motives for the shooting? No. So how can this paragraph be explained? Easy. The Daily Beast doesn’t like the Tea Party movement, and saw this horrific shooting as an opportunity to discredit it. Continue reading