Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Halloween Ethics Warm-Up, 2018: Problematical Communications Edition

Boo!

1. How can CNN, or anybody, continue to justify employing Don Lemon as a “journalist”?

He defaults to emotion regularly. He is incapable of objectivity. His partisan and ideological bias is palpable. ( He gets drunk on the air every New Years…) And he says idiotic things like this. Good for Scalise, the perfect individual to flag Lemon’s incompetence. His Twitter followers have also noted many other cases of Democrats “killing people.” Or is Lemon and CNN going to stand on the fact that nobody was killed by the Bernie Sanders-supporting sniper who seriously wounded Scalise? I wouldn’t be surprised.

2. Stop making me defend Hillary Clinton! During an interview with Recode executive editor Kara Swisher (full disclosure: I had some unpleasant experiences dealing with Swisher in her Washington Post days, and wouldn’t trust her to walk my dog around the block.)  in New York City over the weekend. Swisher asked Clinton a question regarding a quip that was previously made by Holder, but mistakenly attributed it to Senator Spartacus, Cory Booker. “What do you think of Corey Booker … what do you think about him saying ‘Kick them in the shins,’ essentially?” “Well, that was Eric Holder,” Clinton said. “Yeah, I know they all look alike.” “No, they don’t,” Swisher responded.

Now Clinton is being called “insensitive” by her party’s political correctness posse. It was a joke, and also a rebuke of Swisher. The former was absolutely fine (and funny); the latter was a mean-spirited “gotcha!” suggesting unfairly that Swisher thinks of all blacks as fungible, a bigoted attitude, when she just made a mistake. (I get Cory Booker confused with Kirk Douglas sometimes.) Then Swisher turned the finger-pointing back on Hillary, implying that Clinton meant her remark literally rather than sarcastically. Continue reading

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On The Disapproval Of President Trump

Talk about cognitive dissonance…

The recent barrage of  anti-Trump stories, self-inflicted Presidential wounds and media smears has the President’s approval ratings down again, back to his unshakable 37% or so core, presumable the American who, as he so memorably joked, would support him if he shot someone in Times Square. It has also been as high in some polls as 50% in the not so distant past, and substantively, not much has changed, except that the economic news keeps getting better. “There’s Never Been a President This Unpopular With an Economy This Good,”writes Bloomberg, and I’m sure that’s true. There was also never an individual as unpopular as Donald Trump elected President of the United States before he was.

The “disapproval rating” of his performance is incoherent, of course, because it is an undecipherable mis of apples, oranges, and wooden shoes.  Some disapprove of Trump because of his almost completely revolting character. Some disapprove of him because they disagree with his policies, since they are socialist, statist  One Worlders who believe, against all evidence, that Barack Obama was a great leader. Some are Republicans who are embarrassed to have such a man representing their party, no matter what policies he pursues. Some are conservatives who regard Trump as not sufficiently conservative, for indeed he’s not a conservative at all. Some are classist snobs. Some are morons who just believe what social media and the mainstream media tells them to believe. I’d love to know how this group breaks down, but we’ll never have that information.

Still, I find it encouraging that Trump remains unpopular despite his many positive achievements, some arguable, some not. It is good that the idea that there is more to being a respectable and admirable President than presiding over positive economic times, strong foreign policy, and military success. It is especially encouraging to see Democrats and progressives being driven to that position after stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that the character of a national leader is important during the Bill Clinton years, and after nominating Hillary. The President of the United States is not a CEO, and not a mere policy wonk (Yes, I recognize the absurdity of calling someone like Donald Trump a “wonk” of any kind). Leadership is as much a symbolic role as a pragmatic one. Leaders shift cultural values and norms; they define, or should, what a nation and its public regard as good, bad, right, wrong, admirable, and unacceptable. This was the basis of my initial, long-held, endlessly expressed, and unyielding opposition to his leadership style and personal demeanor, perhaps most forcefully explained here.

The importance of a President’s character goes far beyond being an automatic role model, however. A President, while he is in office, defines the Presidency itself. If he defines it in negative terms and values, everything connected to the Presidency suffers as well (See: the Cognitive Dissonance Scale): our system, democracy, the separation of powers, constitutional government and its institutions. A President has a duty to strengthen his office for future occupants, and to uphold the highest standards that his predecessors set. Donald Trump does not understand this aspect of his job, and never has. The reasons for this can be debated; he is obviously not a student of history, and as someone who has succeeded by breaking rules and defying conventional wisdom, he would be unlikely to understand why this role should be regarded as different from any other executive post. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/21/18: Assholes, Frauds, And Hypocrites

Good morning!

1. “A Nation of Assholes” Update: A congressional intern, can be heard yelling, “Mr. President, fuck you!” at President Trump this week as he arrived at the Capitol for a meeting with Republican lawmakers, as heard in a video clip recorded by NBC’s Frank Thorp. Nice.  This is what “the resistance” and allied Democrats—and Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and the rest, like Peter Fonda, Jane’s younger, less talented brother, who tweeted, “We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles and see if mother will stand up against the massive giant asshole she is married to”— have produced. Hold them accountable. Hold the members of Congress who employs her responsible too: she obviously is reflecting the attitude she absorbs in the office all day long.

As that 2015 post makes clear, making someone like Trump our leader, and thus our culture’s ethics role model—yes, that’s how leadership works—does lead to this kind of disgusting, divisive and un-American conduct. However, it doesn’t justify those who sink this low. She must be identified and fired. Those rationalizing her outburst should be rebuked, just as those who tried to justify Rep. Joe Wilson’s unforgivable “You lie!” during an Obama State of the Union address should have been rebuked.

Besides, after she is fired, MSNBC will probably give her a show.

2. You know, such incidents are making it hard for me to maintain my ethical objections to boycotts. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was having a working dinner at Cocina Mexicana, a popular Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC.  Protesters from the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America entered the restaurant and began harassing her, based on the controversy over the handling of illegal immigrant families at the Mexican border. You can read their content-free chants here; the only one that interests me is “”No borders! No walls! Sanctuary for all!”, which is signature significance for a lawless, ignorant fool. She had to leave after about ten minutes.

Why were the protesters allowed to enter the restaurant and interfere with a customer’s meal? It doesn’t matter who the diner is: the establishments duty to is treat guests as guests while they are in the establishment. Has Cocina Mexicana apologized to Nielsen? It doesn’t matter, really: that kind of abuse should not be permitted even once. Are we now going to have establishments segregated by ethnicity and sympathy for open borders?

I won’t eat there, even if someone else is paying. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Part I)

Good Morning…

…from a galaxy not nearly far enough away…

1. Quick takes on a remarkable 51 minutes on the White House lawn. I just, and I mean just, finished watching President Trump’s spontaneous press conference on the White House lawn, standing within easy spitting distance—brave, given how much so many of these people detest him—of a pack of reporters as Fox’s Baby Doocy held a microphone for him, and picking questions, often hostile, out of the cacophony. Has any previous President done something like this? I’ve never seen such a thing.

If you can’t admire this performance, your anti-Trump virus is raging out of control. I miss the reflex, knee-jerk Democrats and progressives who have, I hope temporarily, taken a hiatus from Ethics Alarms because, in my assessment, they no longer can muster credible defenses of the way this President has been treated by the news media and the resistance, so they have retreated to the warm cocoon of the left-wing echo chamber. Trump’s appearance this morning as well as the Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation are integrity tests. I’d like to think the otherwise intelligent and analytical progressives here would pass them. Ducking the challenge is not a good sign.

Of course, Trump was Trump. As I wrote long ago, constantly harping on what we all know is wrong with Trump is boring and pointless. (See: The Julie Principle) He exaggerated. He spoke in infuriatingly inexact and colloquial word clouds. He celebrated himself and pronounced himself brilliant. I know, I know: if his very existence in the universe is offensive to you, then this performance would be painful. (When Donald Trump isn’t the elected President of the United States, his existence  will probably be offensive to me once again, just as as it was right up to November 8, 2016.) However, the fact is that President Trump showed mastery of the situation. He managed the chaos and maintained his dignity while a generally angry and adversarial mob was shouting at him and interrupting him. I run interactive seminars with lawyers for a living, and I am qualified to say this: what he did is difficult, and he handled it very, very well. Anyone who watches those 51 minutes and refuses to say, “Well, he’s not senile, demented, unstable, dumb or teetering on the brink of madness, I’ve got to give him that much”  had disqualified themselves as a credible Trump critic. He was in command, quick, calm, and in his own way, masterful.

The response of the anti-Trump news media will be to “factcheck” him. He said, for example, that the IG report “exonerated” him, as the pack screamed, “But the report doesn’t discuss the Russian investigation at all!”  This is the old, dishonest and so boring, “Trump is lying when he expresses his feelings and impressions in the cloudy, semi-inarticulate imprecision that he always speaks in, which we will pretend isn’t what we already know it to be.” Of course the report doesn’t formally or actually exonerate him. It does,  in his view (and mine), show a corrupt and untrustworthy culture in the FBI and the Obama Justice Department that treated the Clinton investigation in exactly the opposite fashion that they have used to investigate him. This means, to Trump, that the Mueller investigation is a political hit job, and he regards that as the equivalent of exoneration. Well, he can regard it as cheesecake, if he chooses. His opinion is not “a lie.” (I am being sued, you may recall, by an Ethics Alarms commenter who maintains in his complaint that opinions are lies, so I am rather sensitive on this point.)

Several of Trump’s responses were succinct and effective, as well as infuriating to the anti-Trump journalists, I’m sure. He said that President Obama lost the Crimea when he refused to enforce his own “red line,” thus destroying his credibility and causing Putin to correctly assume that he could move on the Ukraine without consequences. True. He said that he was not worried that Michael Cohen would cooperate with the Mueller investigation, because he, the President, had done nothing wrong. (Headlines like “Will Cohen flip on Trump?” over the last few days imply that there is something to flip about, because the Left, “the resistance,” the news media and those AWOL Ethics Alarms readers have assumed from the beginning that Trump is guilty of some dire and impeachable conduct. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Lies, Dunces, Fools, Villains, Hypocrites And Big Liars In The Resistance’s Plan E, “The President Is Disabled!” [Part 3]”

Here’s another one.

Regular readers here know I’m a sucker for Presidential history, even when I’m not the one expounding on it. I’m also a sucker for posts that I would otherwise have to write myself., and I was outlining a very similar post to this when Steve-O-in-NJ kindly produced this Comment of the Day. For of there is one thing my life-time love affair with the Presidency and the men who have had the audacity to try, always with mixed success, to fulfill its crushing challenges, has taught me, it is that these were all weird men, each in their own unique ways. You have to be weird to seek this job, or survive it.  The argument that Donald Trump’s undeniable weirdness is somehow deserving of less tolerance than any of the other Presidents is  bigotry mixed with ignorance. Leadership is itself abnormal, and has infinite guises.

Welcome to Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, Lies, Dunces, Fools, Villains, Hypocrites And Big Liars In The Resistance’s Plan E, “The President Is Disabled!” [Part 3]

Washington was an inch away from leading an army personally to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Andrew Jackson had a notorious temper (all his life), fought duels (though not while in office), and said he was going to hang the first South Carolinian who defied Federal law to the first tree he could find if bloodshed resulted from that defiance. LBJ gave interviews while on the toilet, more than once. Jimmy Carter talked about having consulted with his young daughter regarding policy matters and claimed to have seen a UFO. Calvin Coolidge brushed off a reporter who had made a bet that she could get more than two words out o him by saying “you lose.” Grover Cleveland had half his jaw cut out due to cancer and told the press he had two bad teeth extracted. He also married a woman who was young enough to be his daughter. Lincoln of course battled what we’d probably now recognize as clinical depression.

The two biggest offenders for presidential disability were Woodrow Wilson, who was actually completely disabled by a stroke and hid it, in effect making the nation an oligarchy ruled by his wife and closest advisors, and JFK, who hid the fact that he had Addison’s disease (why that didn’t keep him out of the Navy I don’t know), probably PTSD, and crippling back pain that sometimes left him unable to stand without drugs. I also wonder if it would be out of line to diagnose Clinton with satyriasis, given his behavior.

My main point is that some of the arguably best presidents like Washington and Jackson, others who were at least popular like Cleveland and Clinton, and some that official history is reluctant to examine too closely like JFK (although that is starting to change) all had issues of risky or extreme actions, bizarre behavior, or concealing disability from the public, and no one now calls any of them unfit for office, nor was that charge ever leveled to my knowledge at any of them with any level of seriousness. As far as I know no Republican leader has ever leveled the charge of mental or other unfitness at any Democratic president with any seriousness, although Clinton’s sexcapades, Carter’s incompetence and errors, LBJ’s open crudeness and weirdness, and JFK’s litany of problems presented the opportunity several times. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2018: Regrets, “It Rings True,” Bannon The Weasel, And “But It Would Be Wrong…”

Good Morning, everyone!

1 On the other hand, “Bite me!” I find myself feeling bad about a Facebook retort yesterday laying out an old friend, also a former Democratic official’s staff member, for taking a snide shot at my “bias” after my answer to a query about anti-Trump legal ethicist Richard Painter. Painter has been on the “remove Trump by any means possible” bandwagon since the 2016 election, and because he was an ethics advisor to the Bush White House, he has been a favorite go-to source for CNN and MSNBC while authoring bizarre op-eds that distort the Constitution.  My response about Painter was that he has apparently been driven mad by the whole Trump experience, and is now in the process of wrecking a very fine reputation as his colleagues in the field, like me, roll their eyes and weep. (Painter is a Bush family loyalist, and the guessing is that he is following the lead of the two Georges, who hate Trump to pieces.) Yes, Richard was among the first to advocate Plan E, removing Trump because he is “unable” to do the job, so he’s especially hot right now.

I feel bad because I’m a nice guy, but I’ll be damned if I will put up with being called “biased” for correctly pointing out what is dishonest and wrong about the various plots to circumvent the election. It’s not a “bias” to believe that an entire party attempting to undermine an elected President is wrong, and that lawyers and ethicists who pander to that mob have slipped a professional cog. I sent my friend to this website to find any evidence that I am a Trump fan, other than being the apparently rare critic who will give the President credit when he deserves it, and who will defend him against fake news and dishonest accusations. I’m a passionate supporter of U.S. values, the system, our institutions, the Presidency itself and elections. That’s not bias. That’s called being an ethical citizen.

2. Signature significance for a weasel. Five days after his reported quotes in “Fire and Fury” including one accusing Don Jr. of “treason” caused President Trump to slam him on Twitter, former White House aide and Breitbart power Steve Bannon sent an “apology” to Axios, of all places. This is known as ” crawling back.” Bannon, while at the White House, leaked to reporters and played both ends against the middle to further his own agenda, and betrayed the President’s trust and confidence by aiding and abetting sleazy political gossip-monger Michael Wolff.  Now, after Bannon’s split with Trump has obviously cost him support, influence and credibility, the man who chomped on the hand that fed him wants a do-over. Only the worst species of unethical and unprincipled weasel would try something like this. If he genuinely regretted the quotes, he would have  immediately said that they misrepresent him, and repudiated them. Waiting five days makes it clear that Bannon was waiting to see how the episode was playing in the media and public to decide whether to stand by his own words or not. The short version of this is: “Integrity? What’s that?”

Moreover, the text of the “apology” shows that Bannon isn’t very bright. Why bother looking pathetic and weak if you aren’t even going to do it effectively? He doesn’t even apologize:  he says that he regrets his “delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

Ha! I bet he does. But this is a Level 10 apology on the Apology Scale:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

3. Is expressing “regret” the same as an apology? Let’s look closely at which mainstream media outlets call Bannon’s statement an “apology.” Axios does. When President Obama was making his so-called “apology tour,” as it was dubbed by the Right, journalists rushed to his defense, arguing that saying in multiple nations that he “regretted” the policies of his predecessors and the past actions of the United States was not the same as apologizing for them.

4. Somewhere, Dan Rather is smiling...I’m putting this in the Warm-Up because, as you may have noticed, yesterday’s posts were dominated by “the resistance’s” Plan E and the news media’s dutiful assist by hyping “Fire and Fury.” Incredibly—yes, I’m an idiot: the degree to which the news media will abandon core journalism ethics if it means bringing Trump down still surprises me–there was little effort on the news shows yesterday to hide the fact that much of Wolff’s book is unreliable,  and that the author admits it. Nonetheless, they reported on the salacious quotes and accounts, debated in panels whether it “proved” the President is disabled, and generally presented the book to the public as fact, not fiction.

How can journalists possibly justify this? It can’t be justified, but the news media’s anti-Trump bias has made them stupid and incompetent.

For example, CNN MEDIA ETHICIST—I have to place both hands over my head to prevent an explosion when I type that, which means I have to type with my noseBrian Stelter tweeted,

Big picture point: Wolff’s errors are sloppy, but many Trump experts say the book “rings true” overall.

Continue reading

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Lies, Dunces, Fools, Villains, Hypocrites And Big Liars In The Resistance’s Plan E, “The President Is Disabled!” [Part 3]

This topic started out as a morning warm-up and has stretched into three posts. I’m sorry: the more I look at it, the more infuriating Plan E appears.

Let’s briefly recap, shall we?

…The news media, using the dubious claims of Michael Wolff as its catalysts, and following the dictates of the anti-Trump resistance, is trying panic the public into believing that the President is mentally incompetent, and that the provisions of the 25th Amendment might have to be activated, removing him from office.

…That this claim is legitimate, justified, or based on anything but the same view of the President the news media, progressives and Democrats had and loudly publicized through the 2016 campaign is a lie.

…Because it is an audacious, unconscionable lie devoid of evidence or justification being repeated for the purpose of making its targets deny it and discuss it, thus giving it more publicity and legitimacy (“Did the Holocaust really happen?” “Did Trump make a deal to have Russia take down Hillary?”), it fits the description of Hitler’s Big Lie propaganda technique.

…The foundation of this disgusting plot is Bandy Lee, Yale professor of psychiatry who has been condemned by her profession, who is hawking a book, who relies on rationalizations, and whose statements betray a political rather than a professional agenda.

Now we continue…

7.  Ethics Dunces: Everyone who accepts, supports or furthers Plan E, the “Trump is disabled” lie. Ethics Dunce is too mild a name here. We have the mainstream news media proclaiming to the world that the President of the United States is mentally deficient based on tweets, gossip, leaks, unethical diagnoses by discredited professionals, an author who has admitted making things up and lying to the White House to get access, and Steve Bannon. Those who enable Plan E are deliberately risking Constitutional disaster and permanent weakening of our institutions. Jonathan Turley properly called this out as the nonsense that  it was in October, only then the supposed crippling malady being claimed was narcissism. That wasn’t flying—Turley: “If we started removing public servants because they were narcissists, the nation’s Capital might become a virtual ghost town. In D.C., the question isn’t who fits that definition? but, who doesn’t?”—so Lee et al. switched to “dementia.”

That’s equally weak and dishonest, and obviously so to anyone who is objective. In the Washington Examiner, Eddy Scarry asks,  “Why hasn’t Michael Wolff’s dementia-Trump ever been seen in public?” We have seen public figures and elected officials show signs of mental problems, like Nancy Pelosi, who has frequently mixed up names, forgotten where she was, sounded disoriented and confused, and talked gibberish in public appearances, or John McCain, who had a disturbing episode in a Senate hearing before his brain tumor was discovered. Trump has had nothing like that occur, either before or after being elected. Scarry: Continue reading

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