Ethics Hero: Rep. Ron Paul

One of the benefits of absolutist ethical systems is that they can force you to maintain your integrity when unethical positions are convenient or temporarily beneficial. So it was that libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx) emerged from Monday’s New Hampshire debate among GOP Presidential hopefuls as the only candidate who rejected limiting the participation of gays in the military and the infamous “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. While Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum (naturally), Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty all said, in various and convoluted ways, that they supported DADT, Paul cut precisely to what is ethically offensive about the policy.

“We have to remember, rights don’t come in groups,” Paul said. “We shouldn’t have gay rights. Rights come as individuals….it would be behavior that would count, not the person who belongs to which group.”

I am far, far from being a Ron Paul fan, for his libertarian principles lead him to as many irresponsible positions as ethical ones. And he is certainly emboldened to risk the displeasure of the Republican base as a candidate with about as much chance of getting the Republican nomination as I do (though more of a chance than Newt Gingrich).  But on a night when six of his rivals pandered to homophobia and embraced a policy that both violates core American values and endorses lying, Ron Paul alone had the courage and principle to correctly place “Don’t Ask” where it belongs, in conflict with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

One More Addition to 2010’s Worst in Ethics: Sen. John McCain

I inadvertently left a category out of the Ethics Alarms year end awards for 2010, perhaps because it is such a discouraging one. I just remedied the omission, and added this:

Integrity Meltdown of the Year: Sen. John McCain. A sad spectacle indeed: since losing his run for the presidency in 2008 and having to face a strong challenge from the Right in seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate, the celebrated Arizona maverick reversed long-held positions in favor of creating a route to citizenship for illegal immigrants, reversing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and ending the low Bush tax rates on upper-income Americans. He didn’t change his mind because of sudden epiphanies of clarity, either. He just wants to stay in the Senate. True, McCain held fast to other principles, like opposing earmarks, but those were the ones his critics on the Right supported too. Integrity means being true to your core values even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. Once upon a time, that description fit Sen. John McCain. As of 2010, this was no longer true.

An Ethical Observation and Plea Regarding the “Don’t Ask…” Debate

Sen. John McCain thinks that there needs to be more study regarding whether gay Americans, including those who have already shown themselves to be exemplary soldiers, should be banned from service in the military once their sexual orientation is known. He, and others, don’t want to “rush the decision.” This is callous, inhumane, and wrong.

The public controversy over this atrocious and inhuman policy from the Clinton years has stained America’s principles based on nothing but bigotry and ignorance for over a decade, and now the endless slog to a cure is proving almost as bad as the disease. Continue reading

The Unethical “Dream Act”

In the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, Democrats are going to push for passage of the Dream Act, the poison pill Sen. Harry Reid cynically attached to legislation that would have resulted in ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” right before the November elections. The G.O.P. blocked the provision, which was really just Harry’s (successful) effort to stave off defeat in his re-election bid by pandering to the Hispanic vote. The fact that he ensured the perpetuation of DADT with his gambit was, as they say, collateral damage.

The Dream Act, however, should have been defeated, and it should be defeated again. Its most recent Senate version was called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. In the House, it was called the American Dream Act. The versions provided essentially the same path to citizenship for, as the bills euphemistically put it, “certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children.” Continue reading

Cindy McCain Shows Us What the Absence of Integrity Looks Like

What sense can we make out of the conduct of Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain’s wife?

In a celebrity video ad, posted online by a gay rights group called NOH8, Cindy McCain has properly linked the bullying of gay teens (and the recent spate of gay teen suicides) with the second-class citizen, undesirable human being status attached to gays by politicians who support the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Then, as the media began speculating about the policy rift in the McCain household, since Sen. McCain still supports the archaic, unconstitutional and unjust policy that forces gays to hide their sexual orientation or be deemed unfit for military service, Cindy McCain sent out a Twitter message that read:

“I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT.” Continue reading

Being Fair to Elena Kagan

The long knives are already out for Solicitor General Elena Kagan, now the latest Supreme Court nominee. Once, before the late Ted Kennedy shamelessly accused Robert Bork of being a racist, a sexist and a monster to boot, U.S. Presidents were accorded the respect by both parties in the Senate have confirmed whoever they chose for the High Court, unless the choice was so cynical or politically tainted as to demand defeat. No more. Now each nominee has to thoroughly debase herself or himself by denying the political philosophies that produced his or her nomination in the first place. The first casualty of the nomination process is integrity.

Is it too late to go back? Is it too late to be fair? Continue reading

Ethics Quote by an Ethics Hero: Adm. Mike Mullen

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

Admiral Mullen made the statement testifying last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as he urged the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that permitted the military to discharge gay personnel once their sexual orientation became known, by whatever means.

[Special thanks to the Institute for Global Ethics for reminding me (via its weekly e-mail bulletin] that I had neglected to give Mullen credit last week for a much-needed endorsement of this policy change from a military leader of impeccable credibility.]

Ethics Notes on a Busy Week

  • Sen. John McCain, who had well-earned credibility on military matters,  released a statement after the State of the Union address saying that “it would be a mistake” to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” as President Obama pledged, and added…

“This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”

John, John, John. You have, in other interviews, stated that you served with many gay soldiers who performed their duties with distinction, so the current policy continues a form of bias and discrimination without any  justification. The fact that it may be “successful” is not sufficient reason to continue a practice that is unethical, unfair, and a violation of the principles of civil rights. Success is no excuse for violating core ethical principles; one of the primary justifications for the U.S. allowing torture, an outright violation of the Declaration of Independence, was that it was “successful,” an argument you properly rejected. Continue reading