Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #1: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

Is Teddy looking down from Rough Rider Heaven and smiling at Trump’s Big Tweet?

Of course, I knew suggesting that President Trump’s deliberate attacks on Amazon via Twitter was an impeachable offense would set heads a-blowing. The resulting debate has been fascinating, with interesting historical parallels being proposed. This comment, by Chris Marschner, is the first of two erudite and well argued rebuttals.

Not to hold you in unnecessary suspense, I am not convinced or dissuaded. I do not see Teddy Roosevelt’s  policy-oriented attacks on the era’s monopolies, correctly leading a movement to reform an area of widespread capitalist abuses that eventually were agreed to be criminal, with Trump’s tweeting crudely phrased animus to the public. Nor do I find Obama’s general criticism of big money lobbying efforts by energy interests in general and the Kochs in particular at the same level of abuse of power as Trump taking aim at the owner of the Washington Post,

I am a lifetime fan of Teddy, but he crossed many lines, and could have been legitimately impeached himself. As I have stated before in multiple posts, the power of the Presidency is too great to be abused with casual wielding against individuals and named businesses. As always, there are exceptions.  I’ll concede that taking on the robber barons and the monopolists in the early 20th Century can be fairly designated as one.  Chris seems to feel that there is a close parallel in Amazon’s growing power, but that’s not the case the President chose to make, instead focusing on a deal Amazon forged with the Postal Service, as much to keep the latter in business as to benefit Amazon.

Basic lessons in POTUS leadership: if you are going to cross lines of appropriate uses of  power, 1) You better be right and 2) Be Presidential about it.

Other examples, like Obama designating Massey Energy as responsible for the Upper Big Branch mining disaster before the investigation was complete, can not be so easily excused, but can be fairly labelled a mistake. (Obama made many, too many, such mistakes.) Trump’s attack on Amazon is neither as limited as Obama’s mistake, not as carefully considered and justifiable as Roosevelt’s trust-busting. I would like to see future Presidents restrained from abusing power in this way, even if it takes a trail before the Senate to do it. If we don’t restrain it, we will be sorry.

But the other side has some good arguments: by all means, read them.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

I would like to point you to this in 2015:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/26/war-words-obama-v-koch-brothers/32423959/

“When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” Obama said at the summit. “That’s not the American way.”

“Josh Earnest said the exchange illustrates the kind of president Obama set out to be.”

“This is exactly why the president ran for office, it’s why he ran for this office, is that for too long, we saw the oil and gas industry exert significant pressure on politicians in Washington, D.C.,” he said. And when Obama fights that influence, “the special interests, including the millionaires and billionaires that have benefited from that paralysis, start to squeal. And I guess in this case, at least one billionaire special interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter.”

This type of rhetoric does not include Obama officials publicly stating (incorrectly and improperly) that one of the Koch brothers paid no income taxes. (http://freebeacon.com/politics/hazy-memories/)

Is it only an abuse of power when referencing specific individuals? Does it matter if you say the 1% don’t pay their fair share or is it an abuse of power only if you identify them by name?

I will concur with the Koch brothers that it is beneath the dignity of the president to go after a specific individual, but to suggest that it amounts to even a misdemeanor abuse of power is a stretch. If calling out a specific firm is an impeachable offense then why was there no call to impeach Obama when he routinely criticized and mocked Koch Industries, Fox News and others that did not line up with full throated support of his agenda.

But , Obama was not the first to chastise “punch down” on a business person. Who can forget the trust buster himself Teddy Roosevelt. JP Morgan was singled out for bad behavior. Continue reading

Samuelson On Climate Change Epilogue: A Telling—And Irresponsible— Rebuttal

terrestrial-wind-farm1

As one of the commenters to the recent post here about Washington Post op-ed columnist Robert Samuelson’s clear-eyed assessment of climate change hucksterism noted, Samuelson’s analysis isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue. Such inconvenient truths are seldom articulated in the mainstream media, however. (A similar article turned up in, of all places, The Huffington Post, which usually favors climate change fascists calling for the arrest of people like Samuelson and other critics whose blasphemy is ensuring the end of the human race.) Samuelson’s column prompted this Washington Post Letter to the Editor from Peter Hildebrand, who is director emeritus of the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It caused me to spit out my morning coffee yesterday:

In his defeatist op-ed concerning climate change, “Can we set the planet’s temperature?” [Dec. 28], Robert J. Samuelson sold short human abilities for scientific understanding and for creative innovations that change and improve how we live. As the Paris climate accord notes, we have solid scientific understanding of our options for limiting Earth’s rising temperature, and, with this knowledge, we can set a path for achieving these goals.

Mr. Samuelson failed to realize that we are already in a second Industrial Revolution, an energy revolution, that will be as unstoppable and positive as the first one. The switch to a largely renewable energy mix is already underway, driven as much by economic opportunity and technological innovation as by a social imperative based on scientific understandings. Mr. Samuelson also failed to note that in order to ensure that our grandchildren have the comfortable life they deserve, this energy revolution is critically needed. We need to embrace and support this revolution, not fight it.

That’s some rebuttal, isn’t it? Samuelson presents facts that persuasively suggest that that the measures “agreed on” in Paris are based on speculation, unwarranted belief in inadequate energy alternatives, and unrealistic projections, and this climate change advocate, presumably a scientist, responds with, essentially… Continue reading

Robert Samuelson’s Objective, Reasonable Analysis Of Climate Change Policy: Now Watch Him Get Called “A Denier”

samuelsonI’ve been reading and marveling at Robert J. Samuelson’s commentary on economic matters for decades. He lacks the panache of George Will, the certitude of E.J. Dionne, the passion of Charles Krauthammer, the comforting wishy-washiness of Kathleen Parker, and the partisan alliances of almost everybody. He’s just smart, articulate, observant scholar who gives his readers a sharp and objective analysis that often defies conventional wisdom. He annoys conservatives and liberals in equal measure, and I suppose is not a scintillating presence, since he is almost never on TV talking head panels.

Finally, he put his cerebral skills to work on the issue of climate change policy. Here, in part, is what he has concluded… Continue reading

Obama’s Coal Mine Tragedy Verdict=Abuse of Power

There are two disturbing implications of President Obama’s premature condemnation of  Massey Energy for the recent tragedy at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where an explosion killed 29 miners on April 5. The first is that the President appears to have a flat learning curve, as this repeats his error in the Professor Gates fiasco in Cambridge, Mass, in which Obama condemned the conduct of a Cambridge police officer without getting all the facts. The second is that for a former law professor, Obama has a rather loose grasp on the concept of Due Process. Continue reading

Ethics Test for Republicans and Conservatives

President Obama’s unexpected announcement that he will reverse the long-time ban on off-shore drilling for oil and natural gas resources should help us answer an important question: Has the GOP’s intractable opposition to President Obama’s policies been based on principle, or the purely political motive of obstructing his presidency in order to win votes and power from a disillusioned and impatient electorate? Obama’s conservative critics on talk radio will be presented with the same test. Rush Limbaugh famously said that he wants Obama to fail: will that extend to a new Obama policy that Limbaugh has advocated in the recent  past?

Opening up off-shore drilling to exploit unused U.S. energy resources was a key plank in Republican John McCain’s campaign when he opposed Mr. Obama, and is anathema to many Obama supporters. If the Republican Party and its conservative media allies have a requisite amount of fairness and integrity, they will both praise the President and support him.

We shall see.