Unethical U.S. Presidential Candidacies: Is Trump’s the All-Time Worst?

There have been many unethical candidacies for U.S. President in American history, and some of them have been successful.

I am not referring to unethical candidates for the job, for there have been too many of them to count. An unethical candidacy occurs when a candidate’s purpose for seeking the job, method of doing so, and/or the effect on the nation of his or her campaign is especially reckless, harmful, or irresponsible. Perhaps the first unethical candidacy was that of Aaron Burr, who attempted to exploit a flaw in the election process to steal the presidency from his position as a vice-presidential candidate. Rutherford B. Hayes allowed himself to be put in office by an undemocratic back-room deal when his opponent, Samuel Tilden should have won both the popular and electoral vote.

Teddy Roosevelt’s decision to oppose his old friend, President Taft, in 1912, splitting his party, breaking his word (he had earlier refused to run for what was in essence a third term, agreeing it was best to hold to George Washington’s tradition), and all-but-insuring Woodrow Wilson a victory, was an exercise in ego and hubris. Eight years later, Sen. Warren G. Harding, who privately expressed doubts about his ability to fill the highest post in the land, may have allowed himself to be manipulated and used by corrupt political operatives for their own purposes. Franklin Roosevelt recklessly ran for his fourth term knowing that he was seriously and perhaps terminally ill, and didn’t take care to ensure that he had a competent Vice-President. (He, and the U.S., were lucky in that regard.)

Gov. George Wallace’s third party presidential run in 1968 was explicitly racist. The beneficiary of that candidacy, President Richard Nixon infamously pursued re-election with a new low of unethical and even illegal tactics against the Democrats. There have been others.

Donald Trump’s revolting candidacy, as yet unannounced, cannot fairly be called the most unethical presidential candidacy, but it is early yet. It may well prove to be one of the most harmful. As the United States faces some of the most difficult challenges in its history, Trump has chosen to use the nation’s process of deciding on its leader for his own ego gratification and self-promotion, without  preparation for the job, deference to fair campaign rhetoric, or acknowledgment of his own fatal flaws as a candidate. Continue reading

Chess Learns to Cheat

The French chess federation has suspended three of its best chess players for cheating in a tournament last Fall. Sébastien Feller, a 20 years old grandmaster, Cyril Marzolo, and Arnaud Hauchard, who is the French team captain, secretly used a computer to feed them moves during their matches. The games were broadcast over the Internet, and a confederate fed the game positions into a computer with a sophisticated chess-playing program (computers beat the world’s best human player very regularly now).  Once the computer made its move, the confederate sent it to the human grandmaster using a text message. The three French chess whizzes matched the  computer almost move for move.

Amazing. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: President Obama

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions. I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

—-President Obama, commenting on Wisconsin’s budget balancing measures, which will include ending collective bargaining by some public employee unions.

"Ladies and gentlemen...The President of the United States!"

This an abuse of power. No doubt about it.

For all his vaunted intellect, the President has displayed a stunningly flat learning curve in acknowledging and respecting the limits of Presidential influence, otherwise known as “sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong” or “shooting of your mouth about something that is none of your damn business.” In less than three years in office, he has… Continue reading

Update: Derek Jeter Is Now A Full-Fledged Ethics Dunce

In an earlier post, I noted that Yankee legend Derek Jeter could do the right thing and accept the New York Yankee’s generous offer to pay him about twice what he’s worth, or become an Ethics Dunce (qualifications: greed, ingratitude, selfishness, unfairness, abuse of power ) by trying to extort the team for millions of dollars he neither needs nor deserves.

He has chosen the latter. Sorry, Yankee fans. Derek’s a Dunce after all.

I really thought he was better than this.

One Word Removed From Ethics Dunce-hood: Yankee Shortstop Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter is not an Ethics Dunce yet, and all those who admire the career of the great Yankee shortstop—even grudging Red Sox fans like myself–have to hope and wish that he does nor become on. He is perilously close, however—one word away, in fact. The word is “no,” and if he utters it in response to the reported contract being offered to him by the New York Yankees, it is time to replace his NY cap with a tall, pointy one. Continue reading

Should Jimmy Carter Annoint Himself As The Best Former President Ever?

Last week, former President Jimmy Carter told NBC’s Brian Williams:

“I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents’. Primarily because of the activism and the — and the injection of working at the Carter Center and in international affairs, and to some degree, domestic affairs, on energy conservation, on — on environment, and things of that kind. We’re right in the midst of the — of the constant daily debate.  And  the Carter Center has decided, under my leadership, to fill vacuums in the world. When — when the United States won’t deal with troubled areas, we go there, and we meet with leaders who can bring an end to a conflict, or an end to a human rights abuse, and so forth. So I — I feel that I have an advantage over many other former presidents in being involved in daily affairs that have shaped the policies of our nation and the world.”

Many commentators felt that Carter’s self-annointment as the best post White House POTUS was unseemly at best, immodest and ungracious at worst. Continue reading