Evening Ethics Leftovers, 11/8/2018: Acosta, Beto, Tucker, And Claire

Good evening…

1.  The Jim Acosta Affair. I suppose my analysis of this hypocritical flap will surprise no one. No White House reporter who behaved as Jim Acosta did at the press conference yesterday would have been defended by his employers or other journalists. Dan Rather (with Nixon) and Sam Donaldson (with Reagan) were rude and confrontational (Funny how the only examples of journalists being disrespectful to Presidents involve Republicans–nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!), but nothing like Acosta was and has been. Imagine a journalist defying President Obama like that! It wouldn’t happen, but as with so much else, the rules are somehow different for President Trump.  This news media’s reporters have decided, consistent with the attitude of progressives and the “resistance,” to withhold even minimum respect and deference to the Presidency as long as Donald Trump occupies the office.

Acosta was not asking questions, but arguing his position with the President. That’s not his job, or his privilege. When the President told him repeatedly “That’s enough,” Acosta did not stop. That, all by itself, justified pulling Acosta’s credentials. The White House was foolish to concentrate on Acosta pushing the intern away. He had crossed the line before that; indeed, he had crossed the line of what the White House should require from a journalist many times before.

If Acosta apologizes to the intern and the President, and promises not to abuse his opportunity to ask questions at press briefings and press conferences, to exhibit a minimal level of respect, then the White House should give him another chance.

Commentators calling Acosta’s punishment a First Amendment violation should be ridiculed for the hypocrites they are. Ann Althouse points out that journalists were up in arms when  Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Michelle Fields, a reporter. The level of contact in the two cases is similar. “Either both instances of battery matter or neither does. Pick one,” says Ann. But there’s a problem that Ann somehow doesn’t see. She writes, “I found myself thinking that Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate.” Acosta and Trump are not equals, however. Acosta is obligated to give due respect to the President of the United States, but the converse does not apply. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 10/19/2018: Digging Out

Good Morning!

My CLE circuit-riding adventure was completed when I returned home last night, and now I have the ethics equivalent of Augean stables facing me. So I’m grabbing my metaphorical shovel, and going to work…

1 Rationalization #22 approach: At least it wasn’t a tweet… During a rally in Missoula, Montana yesterday, President Trump endorsed Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte’s  May 2017 attack on Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs (Gianforte eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault), saying, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”

I’m at a loss. This comment comes in the context of a Saudi journalist being vivisected and Democrats diving at the low road by encouraging incivility and harassment of conservatives. How aware does someone have to be—not just a President, but anyone—to figure out that it is no time to be praising thugs like Ginaforte, whom I wrote about (twice) here?

2. Pro tip: If you want to hide your status as a left-biased hack, don’t use PolitiFact as authority for your opinion. Those who can’t quickly discern that PolitiFact is a blatant example of that oxymoron, a biased media factchecker, are too biased themselves to be taken seriously. (Most of Ethics Alarms’ self-exiled progressive shills were addicted to PolitiFact). Here is yet another smoking gun: now that an election is looming, PolitiFact is barely even trying to appear objective.

First, PolitiFact awarded a “ mostly false” rating this week to former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., for a campaign ad that says of her Senate opponent, “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, [ Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.] was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service.” Even by the service’s own description of the episode, the ad is accurate. Here is PolitiFact’s argument, which is pretty typical of what the news media calls “fact-checking”:

McSally retired from the Air Force in 2010 after 26 years of military service. After 9/11, Sinema led protests against the war in Iraq. At a 2003 rally called “No War! A Celebration of Life and Creativity,” Sinema wore a pink tutu. Media reports of the rallies in 2002 and 2003 quote Sinema as opposing the war and the Bush administration’s policy, but we found no evidence of her disparaging troops. McSally’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Disagreeing over whether or not an anti-war protest disparages troops is not disproving a fact. This, however, is even worse:

The GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund released an ad this week, titled “‘Normal’ MO,” focusing on Senator Claire McCaskill’s penchant for traveling by private plane and alleging that Senator is out of touch with her constituents.

“Claire even said this about private planes,” the ad says, cutting to video of McCaskill saying, “That ordinary people can afford it.”

Responded PolitiFact: “Did Claire McCaskill say normal people can afford a private plane? No.”

The video highlighted in the GOP ad shows an August 2017 town hall in which a constituent asked McCaskill, “You know, that’s one thing the United States has that nobody else has, is the freedom to fly around and be affordable where a normal person can afford it.” McCaskill responded, “Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane that normal people can afford it?”

PolitiFact apparently never reviewed the whole exchange, falsely writing that “the audience member never said anything about private planes in the clip; he appears to be referencing the freedom and low cost of the overall U.S. commercial aviation system.” Finally,  Politifact took down its McCaskill story, announcing that it would “re-evaluate” it in light of “ new evidence.”  The new evidence is the full video which has been available for months.

“[A]fter publication,” says PolitiFact, “we received more complete video of the question-and-answer session between McCaskill and a constituent that showed she was in fact responding to a question about private planes, as well as a report describing the meeting … We apologize for the error.” But even after getting the full context and confirmation of McCaskill’s remarks, PolitiFact still only gave the GOP ad a “half true” rating, because, it said, the ad “exaggerated” the full context of what the senator was saying. PolitiFact argues that McCaskill’s comments “seem to refer to ‘normal’ users of private planes, not to ‘normal’ Americans more generally.” She said, “Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane that normal people can afford it?” You tell me: Is PolitiFact clarifying, or desperately spinning for its partisan purposes? [Pointer and Source: Washington Examiner 1,2] Continue reading

Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces

dunces2

Everyone—almost literally everyone— involved in the Jeff Sessions flap has beclowned themselves and revealed that a gerbil running around in a wheel is powering their ethics alarms.

These include such previously noted Ethics Dunces as..

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who couldn’t or wouldn’t answer a simple question clearly….
  • Democrats, who continue to act like spoiled siblings trying anything to make mommie get mad at the one she likes best, embracing conspiracy theories, smearing former colleagues, and generally morphing into walking, talking rectums before America’s eyes, to appeal to their deplorable hard core base made up of people who completed that mutation long ago…
  • Senator Chuck Schumer, displaying a partisan double standard so blindingly, throbbingly obvious than anyone can identify it….
  • Senator Claire McCaskill, engaging in perhaps the best timed hypocrisy and inexplicable amnesia of all time….
  • Deranged Trump-haters, determined to expose their legal ignorance to the world, who proclaimed Sessions guilty of perjury, when he obviously was not…
  • Every reporter, editor and news source who rushed into the trap of declaring that having contact with the Russian ambassador justifies  being “linked’ to Russia, when any dolt should have known that by that formula, anyone in Washington could be “linked” to Russia or be accused of having “Russian ties.”

But wait!

There’s more!

Now we have… Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The AG Sessions-Russian Ambassador Controversy

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To bring you up to date—from the Times yesterday:

“…[N]ew questions were raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ties to the Russians. According to a former senior American official, he met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, twice in the past year. The details of the meetings were not clear, but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr. Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

“I have no idea what this allegation is about,” he said. “It is false.”

Sean Spicer, the Trump White House spokesman, said, “The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election.” He added, “There continues to be no there, there.”

…On Wednesday, a Justice Department official confirmed that Mr. Sessions had two conversations with Ambassador Kislyak last year, when he was still a senator, despite testifying at his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing that he had no contact with the Russians. At that hearing, Mr. Sessions was asked what he would do if it turned out to be true that anyone affiliated with the Trump team had communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign. He said he was “not aware of any of those activities.”

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Mr. Sessions said at the time.

However, Justice officials acknowledged that Mr. Sessions had spoken with Mr. Kislyak twice: once, among a group of ambassadors who approached him at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and, separately, in an office meeting on Sept. 8. The contacts were first reported by The Washington Post.

From today’s Times:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a storm of criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, recused himself on Thursday from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election…Many top Democrats demanded Mr. Sessions’s resignation, and a growing number of Republicans declared that he should not take part in any investigation into the case, given his own still largely unexplained role in it.

But Mr. Trump stoutly defended Mr. Sessions, one of his few early champions on Capitol Hill. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” he said in a statement, which accused Democrats of engaging in “a total witch hunt.”

…Mr. Sessions insisted there was nothing nefarious about his two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, even though he did not disclose them to the Senate during his confirmation hearing and they occurred during the heat of the race between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Sessions was advising on national security….

In his account on Thursday of the more substantive meeting, which took place in his Senate office on Sept. 8, Mr. Sessions described Mr. Kislyak as one of a parade of envoys who seek out lawmakers like him to glean information about American policies and promote the agendas of their governments.

“Somehow, the subject of Ukraine came up,” Mr. Sessions said, recalling that the meeting grew testy after the ambassador defended Russia’s conduct toward its neighbor and heaped blame on everybody else. “I thought he was pretty much of an old-style, Soviet-type ambassador,” Mr. Sessions said, noting that he declined a lunch invitation from Mr. Kislyak.

Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself was one of his first public acts as attorney general. He said he made the decision after consulting with Justice Department officials, and he denied misleading Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, when he said in his confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russian officials about the Trump campaign.

“In retrospect,” Mr. Sessions told reporters, “I should have slowed down and said, ‘But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times, and that would be the ambassador.’ ”

Observations:

Continue reading

Senator McCaskill, A Cheater And Proud Of It

Inexplicably, Richard Nixon never wrote an article boasting about how his campaign forged an attack letter that tricked Edmund Muskie into an emotional meltdown that let George McGovern get the 1972 Democratic nomination.

Inexplicably, Richard Nixon never wrote an article boasting about how his campaign forged an attack letter that tricked Edmund Muskie into an emotional meltdown that let George McGovern get the 1972 Democratic nomination. Strange…

What is increasingly disturbing is that so many of our representatives and high elected officials appear to have no idea what ethical conduct is. This leads them, as Donald Trump did in the Republican candidates debate, to boast about their unethical conduct in public and assume that the public, as well as the news media, will nod approvingly. It is more than disturbing that they are usually correct, and thus are both exploiting the nation’s ethics rot and contributing to it as leaders are uniquely able to do.

This was what the leader of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid did when he expressed no remorse for lying about Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign (“Romney lost, didn’t he?”). Now, in a signed article in Politico, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has explained how she gained re-election by manipulating the democratic process in Missouri. Obviously, she sees nothing the matter with what she did: the article is essentially one long gloat.

With it, she marks herself as a cheat, a fick, and an ethics corrupter, as well as a disgrace.

But she’s a winner, so it’s all good!

In the essay called “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later,” McCaskill explains how, after her campaign identified Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin as the weakest Republican candidate to run against her, it ran cognitive dissonance ads engineered to increase his support among the most ignorant and extreme Republican primary voters. She writes,

So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat? Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad….Four weeks out we would begin with a television ad boosting Akin…then we’d go back into the field and test to see if it was working. If it was, we’d dump in more “McCaskill for Senate” money, and we’d add radio and more TV in St. Louis and Kansas City. ..As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign..

Let me explain this so even the most hopeless “the ends justify the means” partisan can understand it. The idea behind democracy is to have the best possible candidates run for office, and to give the public good choices rather than lousy ones. Each party has an obligation to run a fair competition to find the candidate it believes is 1) best qualified for the office and 2) most able to prevail in the election. It is not fair, ethical or legitimate politics for the opposing party to interfere with this process to ensure weaker competition. This is not fair to the public, which has a right to have a good choice, not a horrible one. It is also undemocratic. It is wrong, no matter how clever it is. Continue reading