George Will Is Conflicted, and Telling Us That He Is Doesn’t Cure It

Is George Will's wife making him pull his punches?

Conservative columnist George Will has a conflict of interest problem not of his making. A regular, and superior, commentator on politics and current affairs in op-ed pages and on television, Will’s objectivity and independent judgment is apparently compromised by the fact that his wife is an advisor to the presidential campaign of Texas governor Rick Perry

Initially, Will took the position that his wife’s business and his were independent, and that his integrity should be presumed based on his long and distinguished record as a columnist. But the Washington Post ombudsman, among others, declared that Will’s readers needed to be able to make their own judgment about his objectivity, and lately Will has been issuing formal disclaimers whenever he wades into Republican presidential politics. Most recently he did this while slamming New Gingrich—accurately and with precision—for taking a cheap shot at Mitt Romney regarding Romney’s work at Bain Capital.  Will wrote: Continue reading

Brain Freeze Ethics and Rick Perry

In a moment of awkwardness that is sure to get as much attention and YouTube views as the donkey bray that knocked Howard Dean out of the 2004 presidential race, Gov. Rick Perry insisted in last night’s GOP candidates debate that it was crucial to eliminate three government agencies (he meant “departments”) and couldn’t come up with the third. “Oops,’ he said sheepishly, after he had done a credible impression of Monty Python’s “Spanish Inquisition,” which could never quite recall all of their “methods.”

Perry’s brain freeze isn’t likely to improve his standing, though anyone inclined to be fair should be wary of declaring a sudden attack of aphasia conclusive proof that Perry is unqualified to be president: just try re-capturing that elusive word or name on the tip of your tongue when you are in front of an audience, not to mention national television. It has happened to me more than once, and I suspect that anyone who does much public speaking or performing watched Perry’s crash last night with instant horrible memories of similar experiences best forgotten.

But this morning on CNN, Perry’s response to a question about his flub did disqualify him for national office. He was obviously appearing on the morning news show for damage control, and planned what his response would be to the inevitable question. And what was Perry’s plan?

Duck responsibility, and blame everyone else.

“Well, I wasn’t getting any help from either side…” were the first words out of the Governor’s mouth. Continue reading

The Rick Perry-Birther Flap: An Addendum

I’ll make this uncharacteristically brief.

I wrote, and believe, that media reports that Rick Perry had expressed Birther sentiments were unfair and misrepresented his words. That was correct. In interviews since that post was composed, Perry has suggested that it is fun to tease the President about the dispute over his place of birth and citizenship, and “keep it alive.”

No, it isn’t. It is unfair, disrespectful and wrong. There is no teasing that is appropriate when the subtext is a challenge to a President’s legitimacy. Perry needs to cut it out, though it is too late in one respect: his words indelibly mark him as a jerk.

Let me also say that I am not especially sympathetic to Democratic indignation regarding teasing over a president’s legitimacy. This is exactly what the entire party did for every second of President Bush’s tenure, suggesting that the 2000 election was “stolen,’ thus rendering his tenure illegitimate. This exploited the vast majority of the public’s ignorance about the Electoral College, and also involved impugning the integrity of the U.S. Supreme Court, doing far more damage to the nation than the idiot Birthers on their best day.

That does not excuse Perry, of course. Every additional word he says to keep the Birther issue in the public eye is another reason—and there are already plenty—to keep him in Texas.

The Media’s Birther Smear On Rick Perry

The race for the Republican nomination for president has a long way to go, but the winner of the title of Republican Contender Most Unfairly Abused By The Media has probably been wrapped up. It’s Texas Governor Rick Perry, in a romp.

I’m not sure why, exactly. I suppose the combination of a southern, gun-carrying, capital punishment-supporting, openly religious, conservative Republican just has too many characteristics that the typically Democratic, liberal atheist, gun-hating journalists who overwhelmingly populate the newsrooms instinctively want to destroy. They still have an obligation to do it fairly and honestly, however. Where Perry is concerned, fair and honest seem to be forgotten.

Last week I heard David Letterman say that Perry “is starting to look like someone who crawled out from under a painted rock.” This was a reference to the Washington Post’s unconscionable front page “expose” about a hunting lodge where Perry either did or did not hunt before the name “Niggerhead” had been painted over on a rock that bore the longtime name of the area. Most fair commentators have pronounced that story weak and badly conceived, but as the Post no doubt knew it would, the story has attached itself to Perry, creating fodder for cheap-shot artists like Letterman and Bill Maher, and scarring his reputation.

The enmity toward Perry has not abated. Checking the web over the weekend, I found links to stories proclaiming that Perry had come out as a “Birther,” challenging the validity of President Obama’s citizenship. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Gov. Rick Perry

GOP Presidential Candidate History: The Battle of Concord, fought in 16th Century New Hampshire

I’ve been down this road too many times with various Tea Party favorites, so I’ll make it brief:

  • If you are going to keep talking about the Founders, the Declaration, the Constitution and the Revolutionary War, get your facts right. Paul Revere was not warning the British (Sarah); the Shot Heard ‘Round the World was not fired in New Hampshire, no Founding Father  did  spend his life trying to get rid of slavery,  and John Quincy Adams wasn’t a Founding Father (Michele); and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” isn’t from the Constitution (Herman).
  • Don’t make the public more cynical than it already is about the intelligence and competence of its elected leadership by sounding like an ignoramus.
  • Don’t make our already historically ignorant public even more ignorant by giving it  bad information, from a supposedly trustworthy source. Continue reading

Perry, Insomnia, Leadership, and the Death Penalty

When should a leader lose sleep over a decision?

A lot of ink has been spilled over NBC’s Brian Williams’ question to Rick Perry regarding the death penalty, the Republican candidates debate audience’s strange reaction to it, and Perry’s response. Conservatives see Williams’ question—“Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”—as a loaded query by a biased questioner who is pressing the progressive anti-death penalty agenda. Liberals see Perry’s answer as proof-positive that he is an unthinking, unfeeling, blood-thirsty monster. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Does This Show That The Media Is Getting Better, or Worse?

Soon, the press may just make up ALL its stories (From Bad Reporting Comics)

Here’s a real head-scratcher. On September 9, the Associated Press ran this story, critical of Gov. Rick Perry:

Texas wildfire victims wondering where Perry is

BASTROP, Texas (AP) — Residents affected by a devastating Central Texas wildfire are growing impatient with state officials and questioning why Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t spent more time there.

 Some residents yelled at Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst when he visited the command center in Bastrop County Friday, asking where Perry is and why they haven’t had any housing help. Wildfires have destroyed nearly 1,400 homes about 25 miles from Austin.  Perry, running for the Republican nomination for president, interrupted his campaign and returned to Texas for two days before heading to California for a debate Wednesday. He is now fundraising in California.

Perry’s office said “everything that needs to be done to respond to these fires is being done.” Dewhurst said the White House hasn’t yet replied to a request for federal aid.

Then, Saturday morning, this appeared where the story had been: Continue reading

Gov. Perry, Social Security, and Condemning the Truth

He speaks the truth! STONE HIM!!!!

In the Bizarro World that is American politics, Gov. Rick Perry was deemed to have stumbled not at all when he spoke of his skepticism about evolution, because a depressing number of Americans are cheered by the delusion that humans were created in a god-like image 10,000 years ago, despite all evidence to the contrary. But Perry is now seen as making a possibly fatal blunder in his presidential aspirations by telling the truth. Stranger yet, the truth Perry told is an essential one that must be acknowledged to address America’s financial ills, and identifying problems is what leaders are supposed to do. Never mind. People don’t want to believe it, so speaking this truth is “wrong.”

The statement Perry made that has Republicans, Democrats and the media in a dither is that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Continue reading

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Ethics Hero REVOKED, Integrity Missing

Wow, that was fast.

Rick Perry has Jenny McCarthy's vote back...and that's worth a little more cervical cancer, right Governor?

It didn’t take long for newly-minted GOP presidential contender Rick Perry, now leading in the polls, to tell us what we needed to know about his values and integrity.

He doesn’t have them.

Back in 2007, I awarded Perry an Ethics Hero designation for leading Texas to become the first state in the nation to mandate vaccination of young girls for the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is sexually transmitted and can cause cervical cancer. “Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into contact with HPV is responsible health and fiscal policy that has the potential to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer and mitigate future medical costs,” Perry said then in a news release explaining his executive order. Now, however, Perry is declaring what I thought was a courageous decision four years ago “a mistake.”

I hereby revoke his Ethics Hero award. Continue reading

Dear God: Stop Calling!

We now have heard two pretenders for the Republican nomination, Rep. Michele Bachmann and unannounced tease Texas governor Rick Perry,suggest that they have been “called” to run for the White House. In other words, God told them to do it. Apart from the fact that this posits the existence of a rather disloyal and mischievous deity who enjoys starting fights among the faithful for the fun of it, a politician claiming to be endorsed by the Almighty is unsettling in many ways—so unsettling, in fact, that I  think the statement alone is grounds for disqualification for high office, since it strongly argues for a diagnosis of deranged.

Besides that, it is also unethical:

  • If not an indication of insanity, it shows dishonesty, and a frightening willingness to manipulate the gullible and trusting.
  • It is immodest and disrespectful to competitors, like baseball players saluting God after a home run, as if He decided to give a boost to his favorite player on his favorite team. (I have sometimes wondered why  players don’t make the same “Thanks, God!” gesture when a player on the opposing team gets injured on the field.) It takes a trivial and self-centered view of God to presume that the all-powerful creator of the universe has nothing better to do than to mess with the run spread in a baseball game, and only a slightly less trivial and self-centered attitude to believe that He is handicapping the GOP presidential field, and finds the other choices so flawed and sinful that He has to play kingmaker— just like with David in the old days. Continue reading