Tag Archives: Barack Obama
1. I am afraid that today’s posts may be heavily tilted to the ongoing mainstream media implosion, depending on what other issues surface and what the Ethics Alarms ethics scouts sleuth out. Afraid, because I know that many readers here, like the news media itself (not surprisingly, but tellingly, the legacy news media isn’t reporting this story, but it is being thoroughly reported in the “new”–as in online–news media) want to pretend that it isn’t a story at all. The repeated deflection—they are deflecting, whether the mainstream media defenders can admit it to themselves or not, because the news media is destroying itself with unrestrained anti-Trump bias, and its defenders like anti-Trump bias, as they are suffering from it themselves—is “Isn’t an untrustworthy President worse than an untrustworthy news media?” The answer is absolutely not. A President’s job isn’t to be trustworthy, though being trustworthy is crucial to doing the job and maintaining the vitality of his Office. A President’s job is lead the government and use his power to keep the nation safe, free and prosperous while upholding the Constitution. A trustworthy President is more likely to accomplish those goals, and I insist that a trustworthy (that is, ethical) individual should always be preferred over an untrustworthy one who claims to have more popular policies in mind. Nevertheless, untrustworthy Presidents can have successful administrations, and have before in our history. Moreover, a President who is untrustworthy can be replaced in four years.
We don’t elect journalists. What is happening to our pampered, privileged, arrogant journalistic establishment cannot be remedied at the ballot box, and indeed impedes effective elections. A news media that increasingly sees its function as manipulating public opinion to serve its own ideological and partisan ends threatens democracy itself. That makes the rogue news media of today a far greater threat than one incompetent President, and the more urgent ethics concern.
How will this professional ethics abdication be addressed and repaired? It must be, and the starting point has to be the journalism field’s own recognition that there is a crisis.
2. There was a flicker of hope on the self-recognition front yesterday, when former CNN chairman and CEO Walter Isaacson, being interviewed on Bloomberg’s “What’d You Miss, lamented the current state of the media, saying that news coverage and bias was the at least partially at fault for the “enormous political divide” in the U.S. Now leading the Aspen Institute’s education and policy studies, Isaacson said that the polarization and partisan hostility “have been exacerbated by all forms of media. People are getting more and more partisan.” He also pointedly refused to accept the standard “It’s all Fox News’ fault” rationalization, saying, “I put everybody [in the media] in the category, including all of us, that we can step back from knee-jerk partisan elections…that would be good.”
Isaacson’s statements are too mild and meek, and not exactly a ringing rebuke, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ll take what I can get. Continue reading
1. The controversy over the Central Park “Julius Caesar” casting Donald Trump–his stage clone, really—as Caesar continues to be ignorantly argued. What’s worse, Fox News constantly calling the Shakespearean classic an “assassination play” (it’s not, not even close), or people who really would love to see Trump assassinated arguing that there’s a double standard because some professional productions of “Julius Caesar” in recent years cast a black actor as the targeted emperor? Does anyone for a second believe that if a high-profile theatrical production depicted a character as clearly intended to symbolize Obama as the New York City production styles its Caesar as Trump being assassinated in a scene like the one below, there would not have been equivalent, indeed greater outrage?
The most cited production with a black, modern business-suited Caesar had an actor with a shaved head playing the role, clearly signalling that this was NOT Barack Obama. This, however, is “Donald Trump”:
My question is: Does the audience cheer? I bet they do, and I bet that’s exactly what the director wanted. I support the production, and reject efforts to pressure donors into pulling support. Theater is often political, and outrageous, and should be. But the play’s defenders who cite versions that evoked a black leader as equivalent are arguing that people are more upset at a faux Trump assassination than they would have been if “Obama” were slaughtered in Central Park, and that is absurd.
2. Another looming boycott is the effort to punish NBC’s Megyn Kelly for interviewing InfoWars’ Alex Jones, the professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing liar. Because he famously suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax—an instant IQ test for anyone deciding to ever pay attention to this jerk again—Sandy Hook parents and their allies are condemning NBC and Kelly for “giving him a platform,” and have succeeded in getting one sponsor, JP Morgan, to drop its ads. How long before both ends of the political spectrum start routinely pushing boycotts of any journalists who “give a platform” to someone their “side” has pronounced as evil? The Sandy Hook victims’ families continue to abuse the sympathy their tragedy evoked by using it to attack core rights using appeals to emotion and little else. Some quotes from the Washington Post story: Continue reading
See. when we do it, it’s ethical.
It’s small wonder that the rest of the world sees the United States as the most arrogant nation imaginable. Hot on the heals of elected officials from both parties declaiming the outrageous conduct of Russia to “interfere in an American election,” with Democrats, depending on which excuse has been chalked on the blackboard as Hillary’s excuse du jour, even claiming that Vladamir Putin’s e-machinations stole the election, President Trump endorsed far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Oh, as usual with this President, it was a confusing endorsement with a touch of deceit: in an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said although he was not offering an endorsement, Le Pen is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” In other words, he endorsed her by saying she was the best candidate. The translation of Trump’s statement: “I won’t endorse her, but I’m endorsing her.”
Two weeks later, ex-President Obama directly and formally endorsed Le Pen’s opponent, Emmanuel Macron, saying a video announcing his support..
“I know that you face many challenges, and I want all of my friends in France to know how much I am rooting for your success.Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. En March! Vive la France!”
Also typical, also unfortunate.
Obama’s latest exploits should be called his Hypocrisy Tour: first the man who led the party that condemned the corruption of big money in politics immediately cashes in witb a staggering post-presidency book deal and two $400,000 speaking fees, and now the icon of the party that has been shaking its fist at the skies about foreign interference in U.S. elections openly interferes in the election of an American ally. …because, you see, when we do it, it’s a good thing.
This shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Any efforts by a foreign country, government, official, leaders, former leaders, corporations, organizations or media organs to influence the results of another nation’s elections are wrong, per se and always, no exceptions.
Some forms of outside and illicit influence are worse than others, but they all are wrong: endorsements, contributions, fake news, hacking…all of it. This should be obvious, and it is not a partisan observation. The refusal to admit it, however, IS partisan. The United States cannot protest credibly when its elections are messed with as long as its leaders and others persist in interfering with the democracy of other nations themselves. It doesn’t matter if the meddler is a former President who has been anointed with an unearned, permanent presumption of virtue regardless of reality, or a current President whose conduct is automatically assumed to be sinister by those unalterably biased against him. It is wrong in either case, or any other.
This embodies an international application of the Golden Rule. Democratic elections are nobody’s business but the citizens of the nation holding them. The United States resents outside interference with our elections—some Democrats called the Russian involvement with letting us know just how corrupt the Clinton campaign was the equivalent of an act of war—so we should understand why for us to do the same is similarly wrong.
I admit it: I trolled my Angry Left Facebook friends with this post a couple of days ago:
Barack Obama just endorsed Macron in the French election. Boy, don’t you just hate it when foreign governments and officials try to influence elections?
Former President Barack Obama received a $400,000 speaking fee for an appearance at an A&E Network event yesterday, just as controversy was building over Obama accepting the same fee to appear at a Wall Street firm’s conference.
What’s going on here?
The ex-President is cashing in, that’s what’s going on here. This has become standard operating procedure for former POTUSes, beginning with Gerald Ford, who was showered with criticism by Democrats and the news media for signing with the William Morris agency and picking up what was at the time considered obscene speaking fees from corporations and foreign governments. Ford’s fees are dwarfed by Obama’s, but then Barack is a much better speaker than the late President Ford was. (Almost anyone is.)
Jimmy Carter showed admirable restraint by not devoting his post-Presidency to enriching himself off of his years in office, but Ronald Reagan took some mega-fees to speak abroad. The Clintons, as we know too well, instantly went from rags to riches by selling their celebrity, an exercise that was especially dubious because Hillary was on the rise. Obama’s speaking fees are just one more step along the cashing-in path that both he and Michelle had already begun traveling with the astounding 65 million dollar deal the couple signed to write their biographies.
Some questions and answers on the ethics of Obama’s payday:
1. Is Obama ‘s acceptance of all this money ethical?
In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. He set a fee, and someone is willing to pay it. Hillary’s fee was $250,000; if she can get that much for her dry-as-toast delivery as a former Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady, Obama’s a bargain at $400,000. As a private citizen, he has the same right any of us do to sell his books and speeches at whatever the market will bear.
I, for example, get $37.56 for an hour long speech, and am glad to get it..
2. But it isn’t in a vacuum, right?
Right. Obama still has power and influence; he still promises to be a voice in the Democratic party. He’s not exactly a private citizen, and no ex-President is. Taking such a large payment from a Wall Street firm, after all of Obama’s rhetoric (and that of Bernie Sanders, the non-Democrat now being paraded as a leader of the Democratic party) condemning Wall Street has the decided whiff of hypocrisy about it. Not only, that, but as with Hillary Clinton and Bill, the payment of such jaw-dropping amounts for minimal service natural raises questions of pay-offs. Obama’s administration famously sought no criminal sanctions for Wall Street executives despite their role in what Obama called “driving the economy into a ditch.” How do we know this wasn’t part of an installment payment to Obama for services already rendered, a quid pro quo? We don’t.
It is also hard to make sense out of those fees if they aren’t paying for something more than an hour long speech.
3. So these fees create “the appearance of impropriety?” Continue reading
I don’t have time to come up with a better name.
It’s 4:40 AM, I’m in Sacramento, and my cab is on the way. I’ll be on a plane for about the next 8 hours, and I can’t plan in in-flight internet, so you are on your own for the day. Ethics issues only, please. No political rants. Substance, and please, keep it civil.
Meanwhile, tell me what you think of this.
Particularly, I am interested in hearing from those who would discard it as conservative nonsense what they would call it IF it were true.
See you soon.