Comment of the Day: “The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé ‘Crisis in Character’…GOOD.”

Bill and Monica

Like one of those characters who leaves the band of heroes mid-movie only to make a sudden return to save the day at the climax (OK, I’m thinking about Brad Dexter in “The Magnificent Seven,” and come to think of it, he gets shot), veteran Ethics Alarms pugilist Steve-O-in-NJ vanished for more than a month but came galloping back with an interesting, wide ranging, politically provocative and bitter post about the ex-Secret Service agent’s tell-all book,  its relevance to the Presidential race, my contention that an agent might have an obligation to assist a POTUS with less than savory—but legal!—activities, and when he really gets rolling, much, much more.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, The Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service Condemns Former Agent Gary Byrne And His Clinton Exposé “Crisis in Character”…GOOD.

I think the formal pledge of confidentiality was only instituted in 2000. So legally he may be ok, depending on when he left and whether the pledge was retroactive. Ethically what he is doing is pretty slimy. Unfortunately, in this campaign all bets are off, and he can probably hide behind rhetoric that casts him as a private, concerned citizen exercising his First Amendment rights to make sure that this country does not go down a VERY dangerous path with a female near-Caligula at the helm (alluding to Caligula’s random and capricious abuse of power, not his perversion) .

I have to say, the statement that they are obligated to help the President cheat on the First Lady, a la wheeling FDR to Lucy Mercer, does NOT sit well with me. The Secret Service are law enforcement officers before they are anything else, and they are officers who enforce laws against fraud and deception, i.e. counterfeiting, certain kinds of check fraud, and I think at some point they may also have worked on credit card fraud. As such they need to be doing things better and cleaner than Joe Average. They are not the President’s personal valets, chauffeurs, or manservants, and their role is not to enable the President to commit acts for personal gain or gratification that we ordinary citizens wouldn’t tolerate from ourselves or others. That’s not only setting one set of ethics for the First Family and another for the rank and file of citizens, it’s saying that officers otherwise sworn to uphold the law against fraud have to aid in those dubious ethics.

Maybe this sounds a little bit old-style Boy Scout-ish, but I couldn’t blame a Secret Service agent who told a President who was at least as concerned with chasing ass as he was with running the country that “my job is to protect you, sir, but you will not drag me into your slimy personal affairs and then tell me to keep it quiet.”

Continue reading

Vote Rugby Marshall For Governor Of Virginia: It’s The Right Thing To Do!

That's Rugby on the right...

That’s Rugby on the right…

Periodically,  the same contentious argument breaks out on Ethics Alarms after I assert my position that voters should support the candidate who is the most honest and trustworthy–the one with the most ethical character—regardless of his or her policy positions. My argument is bolstered when someone like Anthony Weiner—and fortunately there aren’t many candidates like him—  runs for office on the extreme opposite concept, that even demonstrably horrible character and dubious trustworthiness are irrelevant as long as a candidate holds the right policy views. He was just clobbered in his quest for NY mayor, getting just 5% of the vote, every one of them cast by a lunatic, porn star, mental defective or ethics dunce.  I doubt that his wife voted for him. Client #9. Eliot Spitzer, also lost in his race for Controller…and he is like Weiner.

My position is shaken when faced with a fiasco like Virginia governor’s race, where a proven huckster, Terry McAuliffe, is carrying the Democratic banner and Ken Cuccinelli is the Republican choice. (I live in Virginia.) That McAuliffe is corrupt to the core, like his pals, the Clintons, there is no doubt. He is pure Machiavelli, and worse, he is gleeful about it, like his pal Bill, but without the charisma. I learned all I needed to about McAuliffe’s character when I learned that he tried to bribe Ralph Nader to drop out of the 2000 Presidential race, but that was hardly the only evidence. Virginia Democrats disgraced themselves by nominating him. I wrote about his public dissembling here and here; I didn’t even go into his dubious financial dealings andthe strange way —well, if you think cronyism is strange— he got rich investing in Global Crossing—as I said, the sliminess of his character has never been in doubt.

Cuccinelli, however, is worse: he’s just unethical in different ways. Continue reading

Eliot Spitzer And The Pathology Of Leadership

Some members of the Enormous Ego Club...

Some distinguished members of the Enormous Ego Club…

The New York Daily News today issued a scathing rejection of Eliot Spitzer’s candidacy for New York Controller, and endorsed his rival. This, from an ethical point of view, is a no-brainer, but it was the manner in which the rejection came about that was noteworthy, and the lessons we can glean from Spitzer’s character that are worth pondering.

The Daily News editors were obviously incensed that Spitzer obfuscated, spun and, in their view, lied when they quizzed him on the shady circumstances that caused him to resign in disgrace as Governor of New York.  Spitzer was alternately indignant—How dare you interview me about my criminal use use of a prostitution ring  when I was Governor, when that was long ago and I’m offering my services to the people of New York?—and evasive, as described in this passage of the endorsement piece: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Economist Paul Krugman

“…The prostitute thing is embarrassing and painful to think about, but not a disqualification for public office. David Vitter is still in the Senate, and in internal LA Republican politics is apparently squashing the very pious Bobby Jindal like a bug…I know that opinions differ about just how effective Spitzer’s confrontations were. But at least he tried — which is more than you can say about almost anyone else in our political life. Basically, the malefactors of great leverage were bailed out and went right back to being bad guys again, and everyone in public life pretended that nothing had happened. That, I think, is why there’s a surprising reservoir of support for Spitzer; people remember him as someone who showed at least some of the righteous outrage that has been so wrongly absent from our national discourse. It’s a useful reminder, and it’s why I regard his entry into the race, win or lose, as a good thing.”

— Inexplicably revered progressive economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, discussing the re-entry of Eliot Spitzer into New York state politics on his blog. Spitzer, despite having to resign from office as governor because he was caught partaking in the services of a prostitution ring—the same kind of enterprise he aggressively prosecuted as state attorney general, is now running for comptroller.

Explain, please: How can anyone rely on the judgment of someone whose ethical reasoning is this miserable?

Explain, please: How can anyone rely on the judgment of someone whose ethical reasoning is this miserable?

I do not understand how anyone can read or take seriously Krugman’s opinions on budget management and national affairs—he thinks that the national debt is no big deal at the moment, a position that is essential to Obama-enabling—when the favorite economist of progressives and Democrats can write something as indicting as the quote above. The post is appallingly irrational, irresponsible and unethical: it suggests that the author’s judgment is miserable, that his ethics are negligible, that his biases rule his intellect….and that, apparently with justification, he is confident that the Park Avenue liberals who quote him at dinner parties won’t lose an ounce of respect for or abandon an inch of reliance regarding a champion who believes such rot. Continue reading

Should Steroid Users Make Baseball’s All-Star Team? Should Felonious and Hypocritical Ex-Governors Be Elected Comptroller?

Bartolo and Eliot

USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan made what I assume will be a controversial argument that baseball players who have tested positive for steroids at any point in their careers should be permanently banned from being honored with inclusion on baseball’s All-Star teams. This is controversial, because a lot of misguided souls, including sportswriters, think that proven steroid cheats ought to be allowed into baseball’s Hall of Fame, a much greater and more significant career honor. The issue arises because Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, who last year tested positive for banned PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs)and was suspended for 5o days, has been selected for the American League All-Star squad. Brennan writes,

“Colon, and every other performance-enhancing drug user in baseball, should never be allowed to become an All-Star, or win any MLB award. No Cy Young, no MVP, no batting title, no nothing. It doesn’t matter that he was caught and suspended last year, not this year…The bottom line is, you don’t suddenly become a non-cheater once your suspension is over. Colon is 40 years old, yet he’s having his best season in eight years. Where have we heard that before? Even though last year’s illegal testosterone isn’t still in his system, it helped build the body that he is using today…Because Colon and his tainted body are in the All-Star Game, someone like (Tampa Bay pitcher Matt) Moore is not. He has the same record as Colon, 12-3, but with a higher ERA, 3.42 to Colon’s 2.69. We’re presuming, of course, that Moore is not on PEDs, which means his season is more impressive than Colon’s because it isn’t built on a chemical foundation as Colon’s is…It’s a privilege to receive these honors, not a right. They are extras, add-ons, awards to be cheered. They do not belong to the Brauns, A-Rods and Colons of this world. Those players should be given absolutely nothing to celebrate.” Continue reading

Stop Picking On Mike Tyson

This time, it wasn't your fault, Mike.

This time, it wasn’t your fault, Mike.

“Law & Order: SVU” cast former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson as a prisoner and past victim of child abuse victim, who murdered one of his abusers. The episode bombed for the NBC show during the crucial “sweeps” ratings period, and Washington Post TV writer Lisa De Moraes attributes the failure to the show’s insensitivity in casting Tyson.  She wrote in today’s Post,

“Before the episode aired, about 7,000 people signed a petition asking NBC to recast the role. The petition was created by an ardent “SVU” fan who is a rape survivor and who said she felt betrayed by the stunt casting. Among those who signed the petition: “NCIS” star and abuse survivor Pauley Perrette. Tyson was arrested in 1991 and charged with raping then-18-year-old Miss Black America pageant competitor Desiree Washington; he was convicted and served three years of a six-year prison sentence.”

If the “Law and Order” producers erred in casting Tyson, it was in under-estimating the fecklessness, bias and hypocrisy of the viewing public.  Continue reading

It’s You, Keith.

The news that The Angry Man of the Self-Righteous Left, Keith Olbermann, was fired by Al Gore’s Current TV was hardly news at all, since most of us had entered a pool on when Olbermann would get jettisoned from his latest gig. The predictable episode does have an ethics lesson for all of us, however, that involves the virtues of accountability, humility, honesty and contrition.

Olbermann, true to form, attacked his former employers and blamed them for his exit, writing  via Twitter…

“…I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV. Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract. It goes almost without saying that the claims against me in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.”

This, of course, is not really an apology. It’s not an apology when your message is, “I’m sorry my employers are unethical slobs who didn’t appreciate the excellent job I was doing.

Keith Olbermann has either been fired or quit under acrimonious circumstances in engagements with, count them, five broadcast organizations: ESPN, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and now Current TV. This, despite being obviously talented and often getting excellent ratings. Olbermann is a smart guy, and yet even now, his reaction seems to be, “Why, oh, why, do people keep treating me so badly?”

It’s you, Keith! Continue reading

Creating Captain Costanzas


I think I stopped finding George Costanza funny when I saw the “Seinfeld” episode in which he panicked at a kids party after smelling smoke and trampled the children rushing to be the first out the door. (His callous reaction to his fiancée’s death from licking envelopes had paved the way for my inability to laugh at George.) The thought of a real-life George Costanza, the most unethical character on a show about unethical characters, serving as the captain of an imperiled ship full of passengers is horrifying, but that’s basically what befell the unsuspecting tourists on board the cruise ship that tipped over after hitting a rock off the coast of Italy. Having caused the accident, it appears, by irresponsibly changing course, captain Francesco Schettino hit the life boats before most of his passengers, and claimed to be directing the evacuation from the relative safety of a lifeboat as he defied orders from the Italian Coast Guard to return to the ship. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Fox News

Hang on, Rod...that phone call is coming any minute now....

Apparently to remind us that it too, like CNN and MSNBC, applies cynical and insulting standards when deciding what its audience will regard as trustworthy commentary, Fox News has announced that it is hiring former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford as a contributor during the 2012 election cycle. Sanford was forced to resign after he shamelessly used his office as a means to conduct a long-distance adulterous romance with his South American fire-cracker soul-mate, going AWOL while supposedly doing his state’s business and lying about it in the process. Is this as bad as what Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced New York governor whom CNN deemed an appropriate hire as a the star of one of its prime time programs, did to end his political career? No. Is it still irresponsible?

Oh yes: Continue reading

CNN, Burying the News to Protect Its Own

Come on, CNN! Who do you expect us to believe---you, Piers Morgan, or Paul?

Here is a suggested rule of reason for integrity-challenged media organizations. If they are intent on being so venal and cynical as to hire high-profile low-lifes who inflate ratings at the cost of the organization’s credibility, they can at least make their new employees agree that in the event of the inevitable scandal or embarrassing revelation, the infamous/dubious quasi-journalist understands and agrees that his or her employers will cover the matter like locusts on a wheat field, and with just as much mercy.

Reason, however, like ethics, has very little place in American broadcast media these days. Even though Piers Morgan, the new Larry King on CNN, is awash in allegations of phone hacking from no less than the King Beatle himself, Paul McCartney, CNN itself is ignoring the story, using the pathetic excuse that it isn’t a story until there is smoking gun evidence or until Morgan actually has to testify in England.

Morgan, for his part, appears to be lying through his teeth. Continue reading