Dark and Brooding Thoughts

Denis McDonoughFrom Politico:

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough suffered a slip of the tongue Sunday when he offered the first name of an American woman held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In an interview with host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” about the ongoing situation with a Japanese hostage held by ISIL, McDonough mentioned the woman’s first name, which is not public knowledge.

No, Politico, this is not a “slip of the tongue.” McDonough was appearing on a full slate of Sunday morning shows, and he had certain objectives and parameters which, as a professional and a high-ranking advisor to the President of the United States, he was bound and obligated to be competent to fulfill, or he should not have accepted the assignment. There weren’t that many of them. One was not to reveal the name of an ISIS hostage, and he couldn’t do that. He was not properly prepped, or trained, or focused on his assignment.

It’s not because “anyone can make a mistake.” Professionals do not make such mistakes, and if they do, they are in the wrong profession. This occurred, as so, so, SO many other fiascos have, because this entire Administration is led by, staffed by and advised by hyper-partisan incompetents who learn nothing, understand nothing, and place the interests of the United States at constant risk; because a culture of arrogant incompetence has been allowed to flourish under the abdication of journalists to call it to account; and because the potential critics whose allied philosophies would make them the most effective voices to call for accountability are too biased, cowardly, or lacking in integrity to do so.

You can’t trust our national leadership. If you do, you are a fool. This has nothing whatsoever to do about policies, parties, or loyalty.

As I ponder this, I am trying to understand the character of a man who could preside of over such a incompetently staffed and managed administration and still deliver the defiant, dishonest, destructive and divisive speech he gave to the Congress last week.

That may be a futile effort. But I doubt that I  can continue to muster respect for those who continue to offer excuses and rationalizations for this ongoing tragi-comedy of unapologetic ineptitude rather than to face reality and try to help the nation survive the next two years.

That’s what I’m thinking tonight.

I wish I weren’t.

The IRS Scandal Choice: Contrived Ignorance By The President Or Incompetentence By White House Counsel

Unethical lawyer, or ethical pawn in an unethical plan.

Unethical lawyer, or ethical pawn in an unethical plan.

Media reports tell us that White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler was told on April 24 that the IRS had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups, according to an Inspector General audit. She did not tell her client, President Obama, about the fact. [ UPDATE: Law professor and esteemed legal ethics authority Richard Zitrin correctly points out that Ruemmler’s client is the office of the President, not the President himself. So far, I have yet to be convinced that this changes the analysis below.]

There is no way to spin this that doesn’t look bad for either Ruemmler, Obama, or both. The news media has been typically inept in explaining this ethical point. If Ruemmler, on her own, decided to withhold the information to “protect” the President, she was violating her ethical duties, as well  as her duties to the President, his office, and the country. If she was following his directive in keeping him in the dark, then President Obama is guilty of the ethical misconduct of contrived ignorance, a device that is almost always accompanied by knowledge of wrongdoing and irresponsible leadership. Which was it? Continue reading