Ethics Dunce: Dr. Ben Carson

Carson buttons

The Republicans have the exact opposite problem of the one driving the Democrats crazy. While the Democrats lack of competitive  candidates seem to doom the party to having a horrible candidate in November, it is the abundance of GOP hopefuls that threatens to let Donald Trump, the worst of the worst, get the Republican nomination, forcing some Republican voters to stay home, others to vote Democratic, still others to run a hot bath and grab the straight-edge razor. Trump has cornered the moron vote, which has held steady at about 30% even as Trump has lied, embraced torture, had protesters roughed up, and used talking points from Move-On during the debates. 30% won’t get him the nomination unless the non-Trump vote continues to be disastrously divided.

The sensible, competent, rational and responsible Republicans need to pick the Anti-Trump, and fast. This means that several candidates need to put their egos aside, face facts, be patriots, and do what’s best for the country. Jeb Bush finally reached that stage after blowing through tens of millions of dollars and embarrassing himself; he should have quit months ago, but he finally did, tonight. Good. John Kasich has no realistic chance—he’s a poor campigner and charisma-challenged—but he did okay in New Hampshire, so his refusing to withdraw is, for a bit longer, excusable as wishful thinking and denial. Ben Carson, however,  has no excuse. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On An Ugly–But Entertaining!—GOP Debate

CBS debate

I knew this time would come, and it came the same week for both parties: I’m getting sick of the debates, and it’s harder and harder to find new illumination and conclusions with each one. For some reason, however—the effect of the unsettling news of Justice Scalia’s sudden death. perhaps?—last night’s Republican debate (transcript here) was nastier and more personal than any of the debates this cycle, and Charles Krauthammer may be correct that that it was the most ugly Presidential candidates debate ever.

Observations:

1. This was 100% the fault of Donald Trump. I keep reading that the Republicans should be embarrassed—-what control does the party have over Trump? He’s in the race, and that means that he will drag down the conduct in the race. Arguing with him is like arguing with a 12-year-old—I was reminded of Erma Bombeck’s line that it is impossible to argue with a six-year-old without sounding like a six-year-old. Sometimes I think all the debaters should agree to turn their backs on Trump when he’s ranting, like all the jurors do in “Twelve Angry Men” when the racist finally lets it all out.

I wrote months ago that Republicans should have told Trump he wasn’t a Republican and thus wasn’t welcome in the debates, the nomination race or the party. They had neither the foresight, principles nor guts to do that, and now they are stuck with him polluting the debates and the race, engaging in the equivalent of belching and farting, as the juveniles supporting him cheer and snicker. Good job, everybody.

2. That was excellent, fair, competent moderation by John Dickerson. You know the debate has been a mess when the moderator is the star.

3. I have really come to resent Ben Carson’s sleepy, arrogant, useless statements and observations, wasting precious time, blathering platitudes, appealing only to those ignorant souls, like him, who really think the most challenging and consequential job on Earth should be handed to a proud amateur. In that respect, he is the most unethical individual on the stage. Continue reading

Ethics Clean-Up: Carson’s Negligence, Cruz’s Creepiness, And One Last Super Bowl Complaint

3 thingsBefore I run off to see a movie that will occupy my time while so many of my friends and colleagues disgrace themselves supporting brain damage for profit (here is Sally Jenkins on the NFL’s disgusting imitation of tobacco executives), there are three topics related to recent posts that bear mentioning.

  1. Ted Cruz’s Creepiness

Many Ted Cruz supporters were dismayed that even while flagging the biased and unfair tactics being used by the news media to discredit the most reviled of the seven GOP presidential contenders, I sympathized with those who find the Texas senator creepy. They don’t seem to understand that defense from a non-Cruz supporting ethicist is infinitely more credible and useful to their cause than support from a mouth-foaming conservative pundit, but never mind: nobody understands me, and it’s comforting to be attacked from the right for a change. However, I am thoroughly sick of people who don’t know what an ad hominem attack is accusing me of engaging in it.I ahve never used Ted Cruz’s creepiness or any of his other personality flaws to attack Cruz’s positions or political views. Doing that is an ad hominem attack. In the context of viability as a Presidential candidate, Cruz’s appearance, manner, and vibes, including what many see as creepiness, are relevant to their fitness to run for President, because fitness includes electability.

Thus it is relevant that Jeb Bush comes off as a bumbling weenie; that Chris Christie is fat, that Ben Carson looks and sounds like he is on barbiturates, that Marco Rubio is short, and that Kasich is dorky. Do you think it’s a coincidence that most Presidents are taller than average, and almost never bald? Charisma is rare, even in Presidents, but having it is a huge advantage (See: Trump, Donald) and having the opposite of charisma—Nixon, Dole, Gore, Ted Cruz—is a serious handicap. I’m really sorry that your hero seems creepy, Cruz fans, but it’s a fact, and it matters. Don’t shoot the messenger.

By the way, you will notice that Chris Christie is working at losing weight. Ted???? Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The GOP New Hampshire Debate

Rubio meltdown

Two ethics controversies occurred before the ABC debate (transcript here) even began.

  • DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is a shameless and audacious hack. Does anyone seriously defend her? After being justly criticized in the news media for unabashedly hiding the Democratic candidates debates, staging them on weekends and against football games to smooth the road for Hillary, she actually had the epic gall to accuse the GOP of doing the same thing in a tweet yesterday, which read:

“Hmmm, wondering why @GOP trying to hide their #GOPdebate on the Saturday of #SuperBowl weekend no less?!”

Is she that lacking in self-awareness? Was she mocking herself? Is she an idiot? After she was blasted left and right for the tweet, she either revealed her real objective or concocted a face-saving retort:

“.@TheDemocrats debates set viewer records. Both parties’ broadcast network debates on wknds. Replies to SuperBowl #GOPdebate make my point,”

Whether this was her original intent of a U-Turn, it was also her trademark, a ridiculously transparent lie. “TheDemocrats debates set viewer records” is deceit: all the debates by both parties have exceeded previous viewer levels, but the Republican debates have significantly out-drawn the Democrats. There is no doubt that the Democrats would have drawn more had they avoided weekends like Republicans did, and that the fact that they did not was entirely intentional.

Why do Democrats tolerate a sleaze like Wasserman Schultz? It is natural to judge a party by its leadership, and she is neither bright, nor honest, nor effective,  nor appealing.

The other issue was the unfairness of leaving Carly Fiorina out of the debate. I don’t pretend to understand the formula used to demote the candidates, but since all of the other potential debaters–Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul—had dropped out, either Fiorina should have been given a chance to debate herself for two hours, which would have been fun, or be in the main debate. Her New Hampshire poll numbers are equivalent to several who debated last night.

Debate observations: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Post-Iowa Republican Accusation Orgy

Cruz wins

A brief summary: After Ted Cruz shocked the poll-worshiping Donald Trump and the incompetent pundits with a first place finish in Iowa, and after a gentle, gracious, classy concession speech by someone impersonating Trump, subsequent days have been filled with accusations from Ben Carson that Cruz deflated the sleepy doctor’s vote total by spreading rumors about Carson dropping out of the race. Cruz apologized for his camp’s part in the confusion, but blamed CNN for misleading news reports, which were inspired by a vague tweet from the Carson camp about the candidate going home to Florida rather than on to New Hampshire, where the campaigning continues. CNN then accused Cruz of blame-shifting. Meanwhile, Trump found that impersonator and shot him, or something, and now says he will sue Cruz, or the Republican party or someone for some combination of Cruz not being a natural born citizen, his campaign’s sending out a deceptive mailer, and stealing Carson’s votes, and will demand a caucus do-over.

Observations:

1. Carson’s incompetence is at the root of this whole mess. His staff, as the caucuses were getting underway, put out an ambiguous tweet that Carson would not be going on to New Hampshire,, but was going home. Since Carson’s campaign has been falling apart in chunks for weeks now (this news today, for example) , his support in the polls has been falling, he was inert through the last debate and has no rational excuse to be running anyway, several news organizations assumed that the message meant that his withdrawal was imminent. I assumed that’s what the tweet meant. Carson’s staff is inept: that was a ridiculous tweet to make at that time. He should take full responsibility for all the confusion.

2. CNN and the various media sources that sent out tweets and statements also suggesting that Carson was quitting are also accountable for sloppy journalism. CNN is denying that its reporters gave out wrong information, but they did. First Chris Moody tweeted…

“Carson won’t go to NH/SC, but instead will head home to Florida for some R&R. He’ll be in DC Thursday for the National Prayer Breakfast.”

“Carson won’t go” to the site of the next two primaries is wrong. The word “immediately” was missing. Then CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted…

“BREAKING: @moody has learned @realbencarson will return to FL following , will not go to either NH or SC”

CNN itself tweeted this:

“After the , @RealBenCarson plans to take a break from campaigning http://cnn.it/Iowa”

CNN’s protests that Cruz is using them as a scapegoat is a lie on its face. The network and its supporters jumped the gun, and suggested that Carson was quitting without confirming this with his organization. If it had any integrity…well, we know the answer to that, don’t we?

3. I can’t let this pass: last night, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly railed at CNN, calling its defense of its reporting “ludicrous” and declaring, “That news agency screwed up big time and apparently doesn’t care.”

He continued:

“The state of American journalism is on the verge of collapse. Ideology has permeated hard news coverage and honest reporting is becoming almost scarce, especially in political circles.”

Bill O’Reilly said this. Bill O’Reilly. Continue reading

Considering The Fox Trump-less GOP Candidates Debate

Fox moderators

1. The run-up to the debate yesterday was embarrassing to the news media, especially CNN—even Fox did not obsess as much about the man who wouldn’t be on stage in Iowa as that shameless network. Not that Fox isn’t shameless: it’s greatest shame, Bill O’Reilly, once again showed himself to be both unethical and insufferable when he had Trump on his show and begged, pleaded, and cajoled the real estate mogul to reverse his decision. “Be the bigger man,” Bill said at one point. What the hell does that mean? Bigger than who? His employers—I don’t watch Fox live any more because they are still his employers—who properly refused to let him bully Megyn Kelly out of a moderator’s chair? Megyn Kelly? No, that can’t be it. Trump is a intellectual, moral and ethical midget with delusions of grandeur: O’Reilly was just feeding his ego. Then we learned, from Trump, that O’Reilly had enticed him on the air by promising not to talk about the debate boycott. O’Reilly admitted that was true, and then blathered facetiously about milkshakes, as if lying to a guest’s face was a big joke. O’Reilly is one of the deplorable people—most of his supporters, famous and not, are also in this category—who are so devoid of principles themselves that they make Donald Trump look admirable by comparison.

2. I wish I could say that Megyn Kelly was impeccable last night, but she wasn’t. She had a big chip on her shoulder, and mentioned Trump in the very first question, with a pre-composed, gaggy phrasing about “the  elephant not in the room”—lame witticisms were the theme of the night. That made the first question about her, and journalists are ethically obligated not to inject themselves into the story. No moderator should have mentioned Trump, but Kelly particularly. For the rest of the night she was aggressively adversarial, acting as if she was an undercover moderator from CNBC.

3. If there were any lingering doubts about what an arrogant jerk Ted Cruz is, his performance last night ought to have obliterated them. He reminds me of nothing so much as than the cocky high school nerd who thinks that because he’s elected class President, people really like him, but in truth he is socially hopeless. As a stage director and occasional humor writer, I cannot imagine a more pathetic attempt at a joke than his “I’m a maniac. Everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben Carson, you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump part out of the way (rim shot!) . . .” bit. His timing was terrible, and because the thing went on long after everyone knew what the punchline would be, nobody but a shill or an idiot would laugh at it. Cruz got even worse, talking past his limit, whining about the moderators siccing everyone else on him (though they were), trying to change the rules, and sounding like Bill Clinton as he tried to explain away what were his obvious flip-flops on immigration.

I noticed that as the camera panned the debaters dispersing after the debate, nobody spoke to Cruz or even looked at him, while the others were smiling and being collegial to one another. No wonder. Continue reading

Eleven Ethics Observations On The Fox GOP Presidential Debate In South Carolina

The moderators...

The moderators…

1. Last night’s Fox News debate was the most ethical,  and generally the best of them all so far, in either party.

2. Rand Paul’s boycott of the so-called “undercard” debate reveals his arrogant nature. Chris Christie was demoted for one round, didn’t complain, participated, did well, and came back to the main event. Rand thinks he’s more qualified to be President  than Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Well, then, show us. Paul, in one complaint, proudly pointed to the fact that he’s the only GOP candidate who wants to legalize drugs and return the U.S. to isolationism as the world burns.  Yes, and this is why you’re not on the main stage, Senator. This is called “answering your own question.”

3. A group of Paul supporters started chanting his name at one point, causing Neil Cavuto to pause and look bemused. Oddly, Donald Trump did not command that their coats be confiscated.

4. Early on, both Bush and Marco Rubio pointed out—since the news media is still trying to soft-peddle it—that Hillary Clinton’s legal problems are serious, and that her lies about her e-mail and Benghazi should disqualify her for national leadership. Good. Continue reading

And The Michele Bachmann Memorial Award For The Most Disqualifying Ignorance Of American History Demonstrated By A Republican Presidential Candidate Goes To….

Michele-Bachmann1

Ben Carson, of course!

WARNING: the next person who tells me that Ben Carson must be intelligent because he separated conjoined twins is going to get a punch in the mouth, unethical or not.

The award is named for Bachmann because she repeatedly mangled American history on the way to becoming the 2012 Republican Presidential hopeful who most embarrassed her party, her gender, her species, bipeds,  and the American educational system. On the way to losing all respect, credibility and the nomination, Bachmann told her cheering, stupid crowds that the “shot heard round the world” was in New Hampshire, and that John Quincy Adams, a little boy in 1776, was a Founding Father. (Bachmann also confused John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy, the serial child killer, and I’m not forgiving that, either.)

Believe it or not, Carson’s award winning statement is worse. Yesterday,on C-SPAN, he said this in his usual inspiring eyes half closed, lips barely moving, droning delivery, when he was asked which of the Founders most impressed him:

“I’m impressed by a lot of them, but particularly impressed with Thomas Jefferson, who seemed to have very deep insight into the way that people would react. And he tried to craft our Constitution in a way that it would control people’s natural tendencies and control the natural growth of the government.”

No, that’s not a slip of the tongue. He specifically mentions Jefferson, and he was not talking about the Declaration but the Constitution, with which Tom had nothing to do—he didn’t write it,he didn’t sign it, and he wasn’t at the Convention.

Dr. Carson’s ignorant, he’s faking it, and he’s an idiot…just like Bachmann, who graduated from law school, remember.

Carson hasn’t bothered to acquire the basic knowledge of his country necessary to become an American citizen, much less to presume to lead  it.

When I interviewed for a job, I made sure that I knew the basics about the company or organization I was attempting to join, because that demonstrated that I was serious and responsible, and at least had a threshold understanding of what my job might require. Carson would flunk a basic job interview, even without being scored down for his terrible presentation—you can’t look an interviewer in the eyes with your eyes closed.

Would it be unfair to require as a prerequisite of running for the leadership of a nation to be able to answer 5th grade-level questions about that nation’s history? You know…who was the first President? Which side won the Civil War? Who delivered the Gettysburg Address?

Which founding document did Thomas Jefferson write????

I don’t think that would be unfair at all.

Here Doctor, you arrogant disgrace, watch this (it’s videoed from a TV screen—tough), since you obviously never read a history book:

 

 

 

Ben Carson’s Stories

ben-carson

The prevailing political foofaraw right now involves Ben Carson’s account, in his 1990 autobiography, regarding a phantom “offer” to attend West Point. Before some analysis, a word or two..

Ben Carson has no business running for President. His supporters are irresponsible and deluded. I was just on WGAN (Maine) on Arthur King’s show, and Carson was discussed. A Carson supporting caller took issue with my statement that he was flat out unqualified for office whatever had been said to him about West Point, and protested that he was a brilliant surgeon, and successfully managed his surgical team. We ran out of time, and I didn’t get to say, “So what?” Is Ned Yost a potential President because he successfully managed a baseball team to a World Series victory? Yost’s training and experience have as much correlation to political leadership as Carson’s, and arguably more. Carson has no qualifications for high office. He is easily the least qualified candidate in either field, with no management experience, no political talents, weak speaking skills, negligible presence, irrelevant education and training, and terrible political instincts. You could throw a rutabaga  into a crowd and have a good chance of hitting someone who would be a more promising President.

Wrote J. Christian Adams succinctly about the current controversy,

“[T]he incident reveals a recurring and perhaps unrecoverable trait of candidate Carson.  He just doesn’t seem to know what he is talking about, whether it be Cuba, the Voting Rights Act, or how West Point works.”

Yes, and that too.

So if this typical example of the news media blowing a relatively minor incident out of proportion because a Republican poses a threat to Democratic domination should result in Carson’s demise, good. Something has to. It is wrong, another example the double standard we are all used to; and the news media should be called on it hard. Still, if it ends the embarrassing distraction that is Ben Carson, I’m not weeping. The ends don’t justify unethical means, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the ends anyway.

Let us pretend that Carson is a competent, qualified and deserving candidate for President, just to try to strip the bias away. How significant and serious are Carson’s various misrepresentations?

These all arise from what Carson wrote about his youth and early years in 1990, 25 years ago, when running for President wasn’t a twinkle in his eye. He…heck, we can’t pretend, because a competent candidate would be smart and experienced enough to say,

“You know, I didn’t expect anyone to read the book, I wrote most of it off the top of my head, my memory was faulty, I didn’t check the facts and I should have. The West Point story is typical. To me, it sounded like I was being told that I could get into West Point if I wanted to, and that I wouldn’t have to pay tuition, which to me meant a scholarship. I wasn’t trying to fool anybody then or now. I’m sorry. I’ve learned a lot in 25 years. I know most of our personal memories are distorted over time, and cannot be relied upon; mistakes like these turn up to varying degrees in all personal accounts. Bill Clinton says he remembered lots of church burning in Arkansas when he was growing up. Hillary Clinton said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who didn’t become famous for climbing Mount Everest until six years after was born. The difference between my memory flawa and theirs was that mine can’t be attributed to political dissembling. Next question.”

If he had said that, then his other statements that didn’t check out could be explained the same way, and reasonably so. Instead, Carson and his defenders are denying, accusing, double-talking and parsing words like the Clintons. This is foolish because

I) Carson’s not as practiced at it as the Clintons,

2) …The truth is always better, and,

3) Unlike when the Clintons lie, most of the news media are looking for justifications to destroy him as it did Herman Cain. Reporters do not want to not be fair or reasonable with Carson, and certainly not complicit in deception as regularly is for Hillary. Continue reading

How Much Religious Bigotry Will Donald Trump’s Supporters Tolerate?

7th Day

Speaking at a campaign rally in Iowa, Donald Trump decided to attack Ben Carson based on his religion:

“I love Iowa. And, look, I don’t have to say it, I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

Trump didn’t mention Carson’s name, but he’s the only Seventh-day Adventist in the race, and Trumps closest rival in the polls, which is too depressing to bear as it is. What Trump is saying is that believers in one religious faith are inherently more trustworthy than believers of other faiths. This is no more, nor less than a direct appeal to religious bias and bigotry. Substitute “Catholic” or “Jewish” for “Seventh-day Adventist,” and the full un-American ugliness of the statement should become apparent, if, due to some kind of closed head injury, it isn’t already. Trump has already shown himself willing to portray illegal Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals (too many of them are, but that’s another story); reveal himself as an archetypal male chauvinist pig, and now he’s rating character and trustworthiness according to faith. Earlier I suggested that one of Trump’s debate opponents could take him down with a deft Joseph Welch “Have you no decency?” (unfortunately, the attempt was made by Rand Paul, and hardly deftly), and now I have to ask his supporters, “Have you no decency?” What more evidence do you need that this blustering bully and fool degrades his party, nation, gender, species and the office he’s seeking  by his presence in the 2016 Presidential race? Or more bluntly, What the hell’s the matter with you people?

Is this an experiment in whether the meanest, most vulgar and least educated  of the nation’s conservatives can force the nomination of someone so unqualified by experience and temperament to lead? Is it a practical joke by nihilists and anarchists to bring down the Unites States after it has already be weakened by eight years of a misguided, hyper-political, incompetent presidency?

It is true that there is an element of karma in Carson being the target of exactly the kind of religious bigotry he used, with a bit more cause, against Muslims. This isn’t about Carson, however, who is just as unfit for office as Trump, meaning completely. It is about competent democracy, values, and trustworthy leadership.

I have reached the point where the race between Trump and Hillary Clinton for me is only this: Whose supporters do I have less respect for, those who actively support a completely corrupt individual, or those who support a crude demagogue.

At this point, it’s neck and neck.