Anyone Who Tries To Use A 43 Year Old Essay To Smear Bernie Sanders Is An Unethical Jerk, And You Can Tell Them I Said So

Come to think of it, Gene's poetry was as bad as Bernie's porn,

Come to think of it, Gene’s poetry was as bad as Bernie’s porn,

It is all Richard Nixon-style smearing… designed for mouth-breathing audiences, bottom-of-the-barrel, unfair, irrelevant, democracy-polluting garbage that has no more of a legitimate place in campaigns than surreptitiously commandeered laptop camera photographs of the candidates naked. To say such miserable archeological dirt-digging violates the Golden Rule is giving it too much prestige; it violates the Brass Rule, the Tin Rule, and the Cheap Styrofoam Rule. It is the kind of revelation that thrills the jerks who applauded smut-merchant Larry Flynt when he offered a bounty for proof of adulterous affairs in the distant pasts of Republican members of Congress, to support the Lanny Davis “Everybody does it” defense of Bill Clinton’s Monica cover-up.

Mitt Romney was a bully in prep school, George Allen used the word “nigger” when he was a teenager, Jim Webb had sexy passages in his novels, Hillary Clinton’s honors thesis praised Saul Alinsky, Bill Clinton maneuvered to avoid serving in Vietnam, Rick Perry used to go hunting at a lodge rented by his father that was once called “Niggerhead” and a rock with the name on it was still visible even though it was painted over…yes, the Washington Post even gave a front page story to that last one. Ugh, yuck, pooie, gag, ichhhhhhh, ew.

So now we have learned that Bernie Sanders, who is 74 years old, wrote an essay about rape fantasies in 1972, when he was 31 years old. Just as he’s too old (realistically)  to be elected President now, he was too young to be elected President then. There’s a reason for that: the Founders believed that a man isn’t mature or experienced enough to be trusted with the job until he is at least 35. The most relevant aspect of Senator Sanders’ creative writing experiment might be that it suggests that Jimmy Madison and the gang were, as usual, right. Otherwise, so what? 43 years ago, I mistreated a wonderful, sweet girl I was dating, and I’m sure she hates me to this day. If my son behaved like I did, I’d ream him out. But that distant incident no more represents who I am today than my exploits on my high school tennis team. Sanders’ essay was written so long ago, it is far beyond the statute of limitations for prosecuting actual rape…you know, like what Hillary Clinton’s husband probably did to Juanita Broderick in Arkansas (Statute of Limitations: 6 years). Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Ad Hominem Attack! or “Boy, Is Howard Dean An Ass, or What?”

“True, Harry didn’t go to college, but he’s a Democrat.”

People commenting on Ethics Alarms constantly accuse me of making ad hominem attacks, when what they mean to say is “You’re name-calling.” I’ll cop to name-calling. It’s can be a bad habit, but it has its uses, best illustrated when President Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” The description was true, and it immediately focused values-based criticism on a government and culture that needed it and deserved it.

Ad hominem, in contrast, is a logical fallacy in which one attempts to counter a substantive argument by attacking the character or other aspects of the advocate that can’t possibly have any bearing on the argument’s validity. For example, “you’re uglier than a pug” does nothing to disprove the substance of your adversary’s position, even if he is. Similarly, Bill Cosby has argued, even before 34 women accused him of raping them, that his advocacy of black community responsibility should not be undermined because of questions about his own rectitude.

There is nothing inherently fallacious, however, about diagnosing the conduct or statements of someone as proof that he or she is a fool, or a liar, or a jerk. It may not be civil, and it may be unfair, but it is not an ad hominem attack. As I have  explained it before, if I say you are an idiot because I think your comments are idiotic, that is a legitimate, if rebuttable assumption. (I may also be using “you are an idiot” as shorthand for “you are talking/sounding/acting like an idiot, and should avoid that.”) If I say you are an idiot, and therefor everything you say must be dismissed and ignored as the rantings of an idiot, that’s an unethical debating technique, ducking the argument by impugning the advocate.

Distinguishing between these very different but similar-appearing phenomenon can be a problem when trying to be fair to someone whose prior statements and conduct have already generated a negative diagnosis, and thus a bias. I have concluded, for example, that Joe Biden is a dolt, that Michele Bachmann is not playing with a full deck; that Sarah Palin is intellectually lazy and irresponsible, that Newt Gingrich is manipulative and untrustworthy, that Bill Maher is a pompous, none-too-bright blowhard and that Howard Dean is a vicious and unscrupulous ideologue. Nonetheless, I have to fight to assess what they say on the basis of merit, not my well-considered assumptions. It’s hard. When an idiot asserts something, is it unreasonable to be more skeptical of the statement than one would if, say, a brilliant, credentialed, unbiased observer said the same thing? (Wow—I can’t think of a single one!) No. And this is why ad hominem attacks, especially coy, subtle, clever ad hominem attacks, work so well in politics.

This brings us to that vicious and unscrupulous ideologue, Howard Dean. Continue reading

The Kansas Senate Race Ethics Disgrace: Who Can You Trust?

Nobody, apparently.

Welcome to Kansas.

Welcome to Kansas.

The Kansas U.S. Senate race demonstrates why so many Americans tune out politics, spit on both parties, and simply assume that there is no way to avoid being governed by knaves, cheaters and fools.

If you haven’t been following this dispiriting  embarrassment, I commend and envy you. The election is considered a crucial one that could decide control of the Senate, where the Democrats currently have a majority that looks shaky at best. The Kansas Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts, appeared beatable in the GOP primary, and he was in a tough three-way race in the election. Trailing in the polls, the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, pulled out of the race, leaving Roberts to run against an independent, Greg Orman, who has belonged at various times to both parties,  who wants to leave his real loyalties secret for now and who looks like he might beat Roberts. The Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, claimed that under the law, Taylor couldn’t withdraw with the letter he wrote for that purpose, and had to stay on the ballot. This week, Kobach’s position was rejected by the Kansas Supreme Court.

This account just skims the surface of the real sludge in this bi-partisan cesspool. Consider: Continue reading

Eric Holder Scores A Jumbo

Charging Elephant

Elephant? What Elephant?

I was going to let this pass—I pass up a Holder or Obama ethics topic approximately twice a day, just for, you know, diversity—but it is such a blatant Jumbo, and such an insulting one, that it has to be noted. When it occurred last week, I called up my two Hill contacts who have worked with Holder, and asked how they could square this with their “Trust me, he’s a good guy and a decent lawyer who is just over his head” assessments. Now that assessment is “He’s a good guy who is just over his head, the nasty politics is getting to him, and he’s not thinking straight any more.”

Speaking to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network,  on April 10, Attorney General Holder went off script to say this, in the context of his remarks about civil rights progress during the Obama administration:

“The last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face, even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity. If you don’t believe that, you look at the way — forget about me, forget about me. You look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee — has nothing to do with me, forget that. What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

The comments were widely and correctly interpreted as an accusation of racial bias, which is exactly what they were: Continue reading

Joe Biden’s Ethics Catch-22

OK, we get it: he’s an idiot. But why is he Vice-President?

Speaking to a large crowd in Virginia estimated to be about 40% African-American, Vice-President Joe Biden proclaimed that “Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he’s gonna let the big banks again write their own rules — unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”

Telling an audience of blacks that the other Presidential candidate and his party plans to put them back in chains is unequivocally dirty campaigning, race-baiting, divisive, and uncivil, the precise kind of campaigning that Barack Obama swore that he would deliver us from in 2008. Now the Obama campaign, as well as his Administration, has embraced divisiveness as a primary strategy, and outrageous scaremongering with a racial bite is also consistent with the current principle-free attack mode by the Democrats, which has included accusing Mitt Romney of being a felon, a tax-evader and a murderer.

Yet the media line on the Biden speech is that “Republicans” have screamed foul. A Vice-President of the United States, running for re-election with an African-American President, telling black Americans that the opposition plans to put them back in chains? Why are just Republicans screaming foul? Why isn’t every decent Democrat, progressive, reporter, pundit and member of the public screaming foul? Is this really what they all consider appropriate, honest, respectful and civil campaigning for the highest offices in the land, by one of the occupants of those offices? Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Day: Slate’s David Weigel

“The Washington Post condemned Reid for “smear tactics not unlike those of Joseph McCarthy,” which makes sense if you think that refusing to release your tax returns is like being unfairly accused of membership in the Communist Party. It’s a nice idea, that the majority leader of the United States Senate should operate under some rules of decorum about truth, even if it is only randomly applied.”

—-Slate’s David Weigel, in a post dismissing Harry Reid’s Big Lie attack on Mitt Romney as “politics as usual.”

Somewhere at the bottom of the journalism barrel you may see David Weigel, mangling ethics

David Weigel is a Democratic flack posing as a political reporter, and my standards for his writing is low—but not this low.

The Post’s quite correct condemnation of Reid does not, as Weigel disingenuously suggests, amount to saying that “refusing to release your tax returns is like being unfairly accused of membership in the Communist Party.” It amounts to saying that publicly accusing a political adversary of evading his taxes for ten years using nothing more than hearsay from anonymous, dubious and unrevealed sources is like accusing a political adversary of belonging to the Communist party using similar tactics. Romney’s choice not to release his taxes doesn’t justify or excuse Reid’s smear, any more than McCarthy’s victims’ associating with Americans who exercised their Constitutional rights by espousing Communist sympathies justified McCarthy’s smear. Weigel is using a false and flawed analogy to excuse the inexcusable, because, like Reid, he’s on Team Obama. Continue reading

A Directory of Answers For the “Instalanche” on “Funny! But Wrong: The “Harry Reid Is A Pederast” Rumor”

Ethics Alarms just isn’t constructed for large waves of angry commenters, as are occasionally generated when I touch on some interest group third rail. I try to respond to as many coherent comments as possible, but when too many of them arrive on the same topic, my “civilized colloquy on ethics” model breaks down, and I find myself spending too much time writing dangerously hasty responses to trolls, fanatics, web terrorists and others who have as much interest in ethics as I have in stamp collecting. I also have to individually green light every new commenter, and this alone takes up time that could be better spent researching and writing new posts.

Legendary conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds generously linked to my recent post on the “Harry Reid is a pederast” campaign online, and that’s generally a good thing, one that most bloggers would give their right arm for,since his blog Instapundit is one of the most popular (and professional) on the web. This, in turn, triggered the so-called “Instalanche” at Ethics Alarms, which has resulted in this blog getting the equivalent of two weeks of typical traffic in 24 hours. Sadly, the vast majority of the comments following the Instalanche are examples of the kind of thinking this blog was established to combat, and as a whole, the group is a graphic example of why political discourse, and indeed the political system itself is so toxic and dysfunctional. This is no knock on Prof. Reynolds, whose blog I read most days, and who is almost always rational and fair. It is a knock on the majority of his readers (not all) who chose to leave comments here.

The comments were, in addition to being non-ethical in nature, brain-meltingly repetitious in their fallacies and themes. It’s bad enough having more comments than I can keep up with; having to read nearly identical sentiments over and over again is more than I can stand. And since it is clear that most of the commenters aren’t  bothering to read the thread, never mind the links in the posts they are railing about or the rest of the blog, this is not going to cease anytime soon. Yes, I know that most of this breed of commenter doesn’t want a response, because their comments are seldom thought through or carefully crafted, and they are shocked to have their sloppy reasoning called so. (Then they accuse me of ad hominem attacks.) Too bad. This isn’t a bulletin board or a graffiti wall.

So I’m no longer going to answer individually the vast majority of the comments on the post in question, “Funny! But Wrong: The “Harry Reid Is A Pederast” Rumor,” just as most of you will not have the time, stomach or stamina to wade through all the comments to it. What I offer for the convenience of everyone concerned, but mostly me, is this, a directory of the most common comments from the current Instalanche, and my answers to them. I will direct all future commenters on the original post here, and the odds are that they will find their reply waiting for them. Continue reading