Oh-oh…Ethics Quote Of The Week: Joe Biden

“My name’s Joe Biden, I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States senate—if you like what you see, help out, if not, vote for the other Biden”

Democratic candidate and gaffe grandmaster Joe Biden, speaking today, before tonight’s South Carolina debate,  to a South Carolina campaign crowd.

It isn’t that Biden’s statement has anything to do with ethics, whatever he was saying.  It’s that his bizarre pronouncement raises an immediate ethics issue. If we were playing “Ethics Password,” the announcer would say in hushed tones, “The password is fairness.” What is fair to Biden here, and how can I get past my biases to decide? I have believed for more than a decade that Biden is an idiot-savant with surprising political skills; I don’t believe you can say ridiculous and nonsensical things as often as he has for so long and not be inherently untrustworthy and more than a little addled. I also have found his demeanor, appearance and increasing tendency to speak in  gibberish of late evidence of precipitously declining faculties from a height that was never all that impressive to begin with.

And yet I am in favor of  giving any politician, disk jockey or improv comic the benefit of the doubt, because I know the perils of speaking extemporaneously from first-hand experience. Thus the question is, how eager should we be to shrug off this latest jaw-dropper from Biden as the natural and forgivable result of flying around the country and its inevitable “If this is Tuesday, it must be Saginaw” confusion? Is it just a particularly egregious example of wacky old Joe being wacky old Joe, and thus an occurrence where the Julie Principle is in play, or, in the worst case, is this latest head-scratcher so close to the former VP showing up nude with a duck on his head that an intervention is called for?

Help me out here.

 

“I’m Baaaack….” Ethics Catch-Up, 11/1/2019: And Answer, A Rebuke, And A Shock

Rolled back into Alexandria last night, having had an uproarious response from the New Jersey Bar to the special Halloween edition of “Ethics Rock Extreme in Asbury Park seven hours earlier.  The group of lawyers demolished all previous groups for sing-along enthusiasm and prowess in the finale, “The Ethics Man,” a parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” (My colleague, collaborator and friend Mike Messer gets credit for their verve, I think, for he was in top form, delivering the various songs in hilarious impressions of Joel, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Fogarty, and Bobby Pickett imitating Boris Karloff. among others.

I couldn’t get up the energy after the four-hour drive to get a post up last night, so the Ethics Alarms commentariat ended up holding down the metaphorical fort here for all of Halloween. I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments, but thank-you, everyone. There were even some baseball ethics posts!

Still, there are a lot of ethics issues languishing in my absence. I’m fried, and there are also paying ethics jobs to do and promised to keep, so be patient with me, please.

1. An ethics answer to an ethics question. One Forum comment I did see was this one, from Sarah B.

I have an ethics question. The set up is a bit long, so please bear with me.

Imagine a small town where one out of every nine people works for the same company. Now, this company hires predominantly men, not because it is sexist, but because the work and positions available are more likely to be applied for by men. 9 out of every ten employees are male. In addition, it pays well enough that if a married man were to work in a salaried position, he could make enough money that his wife could stay home with the children if the couple displayed only a modicum of frugality. Thus, most stay-at-home mothers in the community have a husband who works for the same employer, usually in different stages of the chain of command.

Now, imagine that there was a low level supervisor and one of his subordinates. They are of similar ages and have similar values. Their wives are of similar ages and find each other to be enjoyable company. Their children are of similar ages and like to play together. Also, no one else in the supervisor’s area is of a similar age, value system, or time in their families. (No kids or college age kids)

Is it unethical for these two families to hang out socially? What if it is just the wives and kids, not the husbands? What about kids birthday parties, as the kids are friends?

I have heard both sides of this argument played out in my town, but often with both sides using some set of rationalizations from our host’s list. I’d like to hear a more educated opinion here.

Continue reading

Joe Biden, The Double Standard Candidate

The fact that Joe Biden is even taken seriously as a Democratic candidate for President is an indictment of his party, as well as evidence that  progressive principles are instantly alterable, optional or ready for deep freeze any time they become inconvenient.

The ethics value issue, of course, is integrity. If the Democratic Party cared about it, Joe Biden would be looking forward to spending his Golden Years playing with his grandchildren and copping feels with their baby-sitters.

That’s the threshold hypocrisy, as we know. Joe is a serial and unapologetic sexual harasser. There are many photographs online, and probably many more to be found, of him hugging, sniffing, and fondling women of all ages while they seem approximately as comfortable as if Joe were a rabid octopus. The conduct displayed is the equivalent or worse  of behavior that has caused hundreds of executives and  many  high-profile leaders in a wide range of sectors to be removed from their jobs. The Democratic Party styles itself as the party of women and #MeToo, but has been flagrant about applying double and even triple standards: witness Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, still in office with the support of his party despite both a credible rape accusation and an allegation of sexual assault, both more serious than any of the accusations made against Senator Al Franken, a Democrat, who was forced to resign. None of the Republicans or Democrats who have been pilloried for sexual harassment carry the photographic evidence that indicts Biden, and yet there he is, topping the polls.

The Democratic Party’s hypocrisy goes far beyond harassment where Joe is concerned, however, as a recent Times article called Joe Biden Knows He Says the Wrong Thing,” itself a naked rationalization to excuse incompetence. Hmmmmm...Is this rationalization  on the Ethics Alarms list? Give me half a minute while I check…

NO!

Incredibly, Joe’s excuse, “I know I’m doing it,” has so far escaped the definitive rationalizations list! That will be remedied shortly.

Joe and his defenders regularly employ other rationalizations for his groping problem (and others), among them, #1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it” variations “Everybody is used to it.,” “Everybody accepts it,”“Nobody’s complained before” and “It’s too late to change now,” #8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”),#13A The Road To Hell, or “I meant well,” #19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice,’  #21A. The Criminal’s Redemption, or “It’s just a small part of what I am!,”#22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.,” #41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am,”  #42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?,” 43. Vin’s Punchline, or “We’ve never had a problem with it!,” and #64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!.”

Sorry for the digression. Back to the Times article: I seriously considered posting the whole piece with Donald Trump’s name replacing Biden’s. How could the Times reporters write this, or anyone read it, without noticing that all the habits and tendencies being cited as Joe’s problems are the exact same proclivities that Democrats claim should disqualify Trump for high office, and all of the defenses on behalf of Joe echo the arguments of Trump defenders? Here are some quotes: Continue reading

At CNN, Bias, Incompetence And Unethical Journalism Earns A Promotion.

You have to understand that CNN’s Chris Cuomo is an irresponsible, reckless and not very bright left-wing hack. Let’s just review the Ethics Alarms Chris Cuomo files from most recent back. Remember, he’s just one small part of what we follow here. If I watched Cuomo regularly, which I won’t, or read his social media blather, which I wouldn’t, this list would doubtlessly be much longer:

  • Here, he breezily asserted that Americans with mental illness should lose their rights.
  • Here, he falsely claimed that the President used “shithole” so children were exposed to the word, as Cuomo wrote it on a whiteboard, exposing children to the word.
  • Here, he told the public that “hate speech” wasn’t protected under the First Amendment, and ordered everyone to read the Constitution, which he obviously doesn’t comprehend.
  • Here, he advocated harassing, intimidating and threatening a private citizen for exercising his right to publicize his views on the internet if the views don’t meet with liberal approval.
  • Here, he cackled over a Simpsons clip that was run on his show solely because it attacked President Trump.
  • Here, he tried to spin an accurate story as false because it reflected badly on the Obama Administration.
  • Here, he promoted a documentary that pushed the false narrative that Michael Brown had his hands up and was crying “Don’t shoot!”
  • Here, he intentionally misresprested a Trump tweet condemning Berkeley’s student riots aimed at shutting down free speech as support for the extremist speaker.
  • Here, and my personal favorite, signature significance for an idiot, Cuomo told viewers that they couldn’t download the Wikileaks leaks, saying—and this guy’s a lawyer!— ”Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”
  • Here, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds of other examples, Cuomo unethically took the role of a partisan advocate to debate a Trump surrogate.
  • Here, despite being a lawyer, Cuomo allowed the term “homicide” and “murder” to be conflated by non-lawyer protesters, who at least have an excuse for their ignorance.
  • Here, he stood by as a guest declared Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Constitution, not only failing to correct the gaffe, but endorsing it.
  • Here, a pattern, he encouraged an advocate of preventing “crazy people” from have gun ownership rights.
  • Here, he pandered to Jorge Ramos, saying that he “respected as a journalist” the  openly activist Mexican broadcaster who was properly ejected from a Trump campaign event.
  • Here, he led an embarrassing, partisan, live laugh-fest mocking the fact that the GOP was “stuck” with Donald Trump as its nominee.
  • Here, he showed his complete ethics ignorance by saying that rules determine whether conduct is wrong. I wrote, as my brains dripped down on me from the ceiling,

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day AND Incompetent Elected Official Of the Month, Plus KABOOM! and “ARGHHHHHH!” : Rep. Nancy Pelosi

“The Constitution does not say that a person can yell ‘wolf’ in a crowded theater. If you are endangering people, you don’t have a constitutional right to do that.”

—-Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi in an interview with KRON4’s Pam Moore, as the party leader explained why she believed that alt-right advocates should not have the benefits of freedom of speech and assembly.

Observations:

  • This is a classic. Biff and his various incarnations in the “Back to the Future” trilogy must be kicking themselves.  They said,

 “Eight o’clock Monday, runt. If you ain’t here, I’ll hunt you and shoot you down like a duck.”
(“Mad Dog” Tannen’s Gang Member : “It’s “dog”, Buford. Shoot him down like a dog.“)

and

“Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?

and

“I’m not one to look a gift horse in the butt.”

and

“It’s time to race the music.”

and  Biff’s great-great-grandson Ziff Tannen said,

 “I’m going to make like a banana and skedaddle!”

And more. But “crying wolf in a crowded theater” is funnier—and dumber— than any of them. Continue reading

The Attorney General’s “Island In The Pacific” Gaffe

I guess we’re going to have to get used to this sequence over the next 4-8 years (yes, 8: at the rate the Democrats are disgracing themselves, President Trump may stick around):

1) President Trump and/or one of his surrogates, spokespersons or appointees make a carelessly worded statement

2) Democrats, activists and the news media intentionally, wilfully and maliciously interpret it in the worst way possible under the convetions of the English language

3) They widely represent the statement to the public as expressing malign thoughts intent and principles

4) The Trump-related speaker, being rhetorically-challenged to begin with, fails to clarify the confusion and makes himself or herself look worse the more he tries.

5) Nobody, almost literally nobody, bothers to examine the statement from an objective point of view.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week, referring to the Hawaii -chambered federal judge Derrick K. Watson, who last month blocked Trump’s revised temporary halt on travel from sslected terrorist-rich Muslim countries just before it was to go into effect,

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”

It was an off-hand remark on conservative talk show host Mark Levin’s radio program, but it immediately provoked ridicule and attack. Sessions didn’t know Hawaii was a state. Sessions doesn’t respect Hawaii.  President Trump doesn’t like Hawaii. Just a few minutes ago, I watched ABC’s George Stephanopoulos confront Sessions about the remark. Sessions’ humina humina reply: “Nobody has a sense of humor any more.”

I understood the meaning of Sessions’ statement to Levin the minute I heard it, because I thought the same thing at the time of the judge’s ruling: Hawaii is the weirdest place for Trump’s order to be litigated, since the state  is uniquely insulated from the illegal immigration problems facing the other 49 states, has never had anything close to a terrorism attack, and has a negligible Muslim population. The particular problems that the President’s order purports to address is an abstract one for Hawaiians, more than any other state. Sessions’ comment was rueful, intended as irony (to a friendly interviewer), and none of the vile things it was subsequently accused of being. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: How Much Mockery Should Chelsea Clinton Get For Her Brain-Dead…But FUNNY!— Tweet?

The above tweet and graphic somehow wended its way to Chelsea Clinton. You know: Hope of the Democratic Party Chelsea Clinton? Lifetime Impact Award winner Chelsea Clinton? Graduate of Stanford,  with a masters degree from Oxford—that Chelsea Clinton?

Here is how that Chelsea Clinton responded:

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is…

How much public ridicule, if any, should be heaped on Chelsea for this?

And why?

Among the  retorts so far:

“No, this is the exact hat Lincoln was wearing when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. People forget that.”

“Nope, Lincoln was wearing that exact hat at the Theater.”

“Nope, they found a picture of Lincoln wearing a MAGA hat from the nineteenth century. No photoshop needed.”

“I remember this photo was taken at the 1856 Republican National Convention and is real.”

“It’s as real as those Bosnian snipers.”

My answer: she should be as much and as wittily as possible, as long as one agrees that similar treatment should greet one’s own brain-farts if they are especially funny, like this one is.  This will be a great test of Chelsea’s character: if she can take the ribbing and laugh at herself, that will win her points with me.

If she doesn’t understand what’s wrong with the tweet, however…well, that would be a problem.

________________________

Pointer: Newsbusters

The Unethical, Depressing, Bar Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway

kellyanneThis post is one I do not want to write, and the fact that I have to write it is profoundly depressing. It requires me to criticize, indeed blow the whistle on,  professional colleagues in the fields of law and ethics, some of whom I know and admired very much, as well as fellow members of the District of Columbia Bar. Some of these colleagues are also members, like I am, in a distinguished association dedicated to the field of legal ethics. A superb book on the topic by one of the professors involved  sits in a prominent place in my office bookshelf.  I can see it right now.

Yesterday evening, I learned that a group of fifteen law professors and lawyers have filed a professional misconduct complaint against White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, claiming that she violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys by giving false statements to the media. The fifteen signed the complaint, which was filed with the D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. When I read the names, signed on a statement printed upon the official stationery of Abbe Smith, a distinguished full time professor at my alma mater, (and where I worked in the administration for four years), Georgetown University Law Center, my heart sank. While I did not need to read the whole complaint to know it was contrived and intellectually dishonest nonsense, I did, and it fulfilled my worst fears. The anti-President Trump hysteria that has caused so many previously fair and rational citizens on the Left to behave atrociously and to betray their previously held values has officially infected lawyers in the legal ethics field. They are now riding the rails on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck.

To be absolutely clear and unambiguous: the complaint is a political attack, and a cheap shot at the President of the United States through his staff. There is no merit to any of its contentions.

The professors claim that they were “compelled” to file the complaint because D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 (a) requires that

“A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”

They are either addled by partisan political animus or lying, because there is no way, no way, these fifteen professors could know that, or even validly conclude it, based on what they have written in the complaint. To call their accusations against Conway a stretch is to be too kind. They are forced, exaggerated, trivial and manufactured. From what I have read in past commentary and opinions of several of them regarding other matters of lawyer misconduct, I have serious doubts about whether they believe them. I know that’s a serious charge, but I see no other explanation, other than temporary insanity.

To begin with, Kellyanne Conway is not working in a legal position in Trump’s White House. She is Counselor to the President, not White House Counsel. The President and Conway may choose, for his protection, to treat her non-legal policy advisor position as a legal representation, but the fact remains that she is not providing legal advice and services, only policy-related ones. Now, lawyers can violate D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, Misconduct, while not engaged in the practice of law, but unless the conduct involved is criminal or displays “moral turpitude” sufficient to call into question the lawyer’s fitness to practice the likelihood of the conduct being regarded as sanctionable by the Bar is vanishingly slim.

From everything I can determines, Conway, though she is a member of the New Jersey Bar and an inactive (she needs to pay back dues and take my mandatory D.C. Bar ethics course before she can practice) member of the District Bar, has not practiced law in more than 20 years. She has been a pollster, an activist, a flack and TV personality as well as candidate  Trump’s campaign manager, but none of her professional profiles refer to her as a lawyer. The complaint alleges that Conway “engage(d) in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” in breach of D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 (c), and did so while not engaged in the practice of law.  In order to bring down the wrath of the Bar, such conduct must be extremely serious, criminal or bordering on it. Rule 8.3 “limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self–regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent.” What kind of non-law-related “offenses” must “a self–regulating profession…vigorously endeavor to prevent”?  It is well established that questionable statements that an individual with a law license utters in the course of political activity and advocacy is not such conduct. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Times Op-Ed Columnist Frank Bruni

Mazel tov, ass.

Mazel tov, ass.

Is this column signature significance? Is it possible that someone could write something like this and not be an utter jerk?

I was considering writing a post about Scott Walker’s withdrawal from the GOP race for the Presidential nomination.  He realized he wasn’t going to win, and maybe even that he was in over his head, so he got out. Bravo. For proud people, quitting is an act of courage. It was the right thing to do, in contrast with the increasingly loathsome Mike Huckabee, who says that he and his theocratic, anarchistic view of government are in the race til the end. Great. Asked if he believed it was reasonable to have elected officials defying the Supreme Court, Huckabee answered, “If the Court is wrong!”

Anyone who can’t figure out what’s the matter with that answer should not allowed outside without a leash, much less allowed to vote, and this dolt is running for President.

But back to Gov. Walker. I knew he was toast the first time he spoke in the first debate. This is my business, one of them anyway. I have to measure presence, because leaders, like actors, have to have it. Walker disappeared on screen. He has slack expressions and a flat voice; he doesn’t project energy or authority. You can’t be a leader if you don’t seem like a leader. Before George Washington was President and before he or anyone else know what a President of the U.S. was, there was near unanimity that whatever it was, George looked like it.

Not Scott.

A lot of this is cosmetic and technique: give me two hours with a Scott Walker and I guarantee he will be 100% better on screen.  After the first national impression is made, though, it’s too late for me or anyone else. Say what you want about the other ten candidates and even the four outcasts, they have presence. (Well, not Dr. Carson, but he came closer than Walker.) Bruni, being ignorant and biased, thinks the reason Walker sunk was because he’s stupid.

This is the general attitude of biased partyists like Bruni: conservatives and Republicans are stupid, or they are evil. Bernie Sanders can toss out economic gibberish for weeks, and the Brunis of the world—the Times has about ten of them–won’t challenge the depth of his brain pan; Hillary Clinton can say that she had no idea that using a private server for communications raised security issues for the Secretary of State, which is so stupid and ignorant that it makes my toes hurt, and never have her IQ doubted. A Scott Walker, however, is presumed stupid, because, all conservatives must be….unless they are evil. Let’s see, the conventional wisdom on the Presidential candidates from the Republican side since 1952: Continue reading

Typo Ethics: Early Accountability Check For Candidate Clinton

“From her mother’s own childhood – in which she was abandoned by her parents – to her work going door-to-door for the Children’s Defense Fund to her battling to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, she’s fought children and families all her career.”

 

That doesn't mean they don't matter, however...

That doesn’t mean they don’t matter, however…

That was the startling news in Hillary Clinton’s long-awaited presidential candidacy announcement: that Hillary has fought families and children all her career. As an ethicist, I find the candor laudable, but I am surprised that Mrs. Clinton is making such a strong bid for the anti-family and child-hating voting bloc.

OK, it’s a typo. The Clinton campaign website fixed it, and her spokespeople reassured the news media “that the former secretary of state has not been secretly fighting children all these years.”

I almost passed on this story, being seldom able to post a typo-free 800 words myself despite reading the damn things repeatedly, but that would have been cowardly. This is not necessarily trivial. This bears some watching. I know that the large Hillary Zombie Squad, which appears to care only about the former First Lady’s chromosomes and nothing else, won’t give a second’s thought to this if her destruction of e-mail evidence and willful skirting of her own agency’s transparency and security policies don’t trouble them, but it is not insignificant. Continue reading