Ethics Observations On “I Am Part Of The Resistance In The Trump Administration” [UPDATED]

You can find the instantly sensational op-ed here, as well as the New York Times’s various and predictable articles exploiting their own “scoop.”

“I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” says this alleged “senior official.” “…Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back….The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House…. It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t….

Observations:

  • It doesn’t, or shouldn’t to fair and rational readers, matter what the author claims. He, or whoever he, she or it is, is inherently without credibility, just as all anonymous hit pieces are.  By his own admission and the evidence of the essay, the author is a liar, a coward, a spy, a mole and a saboteur, and an individual who is deliberately attempting to undermine democracy. There is no justification for trusting any aspect of his representations. Of course, those who want to believe the worst  about the President will believe everything he writes, because they want to, and because confirmation bias is strong. Nonetheless, the piece is untrustworthy on its face. It would not be admissible as evidence in any investigation or formal proceeding. No manager or leader would treat such a document as useful or probative.

The essay is less credible and less worthy of discussion or serious consideration than the inflammatory claims of Omarosa, the hearsay/speculation/ fantasies of Michael Wolfe in the generally debunked “Fire and Fury,” orthe latest hearsay and anonymously sourced Bob Woodward “tell-all.” And none of those are respectable either. At least, however, those authors have the decency and courage to reveal their own identities.

  • Despite all the hype and horror, this could have been written by an Ethics Alarms commentator—in fact, I could name some likely candidates— as one more familiar, standard statement of why any Trump-hater is determined that he should be impeached. It is a generic brief on the theory that “Donald Trump is unfit to be President and must be removed,” the first assertion of which was rejected by the electorate, and the second of which is legally unsustainable at this point.

The only aspect the op-ed arguably newsworthy is that the author claims to be a Trump administration official.

  • It should be unnecessary to point this out, because it is obvious, but I will anyway: such an op-ed could be issued by any arrogant, self-anointed “savior” who disagreed with the policies and character of any and every President. Every White House has enemies who would write essentially the same words and accusations. Why has this White House been the first to vomit out such vile stuff in the pages of the Times? My guess is that the vicious culture of the anti-Trump Left has created confidence that there will be a critical mass of journalists and others who will represent this inexcusable conduct as not just excusable, but laudable.

The conduct would never have been regarded as anything but despicable coming from a senior official (if he actually is one) of any other administration.  Democrats, “the resistance” and NeverTrumpers have jettisoned all ethical norms in their hatred of this one man who dared to foil them, who is in fact no different from any other President in the most important respect: he was elected, he holds the office, and he should be allowed to do his job.

  • If the op-ed is not a hoax, and if there are, as the writer says, highly placed members of the Trump Administration who are pretending to be loyal government employees but who are actually trying to undermine the President and his policies from within, then the assertions by conservatives and Trump supporters of the existence of a “deep state,” much mocked by the news media and Democrats, have been accurate all along.

This was apparent, or should have been,  before the op-ed, of course.

  • Should the Times have published this? If they confirmed to their satisfaction that it was genuine, and really came from a senior official who revealed to them his identity, sure. The public should know that there are pompous, lying, unethical saboteurs in their government. And it should scare the hell out of them.

We knew this too, though, before the op-ed.

  • President Trump is not blameless here. He and his staff have shown absurd incompetence in vetting staff high and low. It should surprise no one that a President who would allow the likes of Omarosa, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci and others to have places of trust within the administration would blunder into admitting other moles, spies and turncoats as well.

The fact that a manager or leader takes inadequate measures to ensure ethical conduct does not justify or mitigate the unethical conduct that results, however.

  • I assume that we will eventually learn who wrote this. Besides firing, what is the  appropriate punishment for someone who deliberately betrays the trust of elected leaders and who sets out to undermine the efforts that he or she is obligated to support? Such conduct flagrantly violates federal regulations, as promulgated by President George H.W. Bush’s Executive Order 12674. issued on October 1990. That EO begins,

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President, by the Constitution and the laws of the United States  of America, and in order to establish fair and exacting standards of ethical conduct for all executive branch employees, it is hereby ordered as follows… To ensure that every citizen can have complete  confidence in the integrity of the Federal  Government, each Federal employee shall respect and adhere to the fundamental  principles of ethical service as implemented in   regulations promulgated under sections 201 and   301 of this order:

The “Principles of Ethical Conduct” following that the anonymous writer has violated and is violating include,

(a) Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private  gain.

(e) Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.

(h) Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individua

 (j) Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or  negotiating for employment, that conflict with official Government duties and responsibilities.

(k) Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities. [NOTE: The New York Times is not an appropriate authority.]

(n) Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards promulgated pursuant to this order.

  • Of course, the President is taking the bait, and now fulminating in his usual clumsy and childish way against the writer and the New York Times. In this he again falls into the trap being constantly set and re-set by those who are engaging in the slow-motion coup.

I wish he’d let me ghost write his tweets.

  • The conduct the writer extols and claims to be engaged in would be unethical and indefensible in any organization, large or small. The ethical responses to opposing ones’ superior’s conduct or the policies of one’s organization are to resign, or not to take the post in the first place. Joining an organization and actively working against the authority of superiors is never justified or justifiable except in wartime or as part of a law enforcement exercise.

Reactions to the op-ed from around the web:

Althouse:

“If I didn’t maintain rudimentary trust in the basic integrity of The New York Times I would think that there is no real person behind the famous anonymous op-ed. I’d think it was a concocted composite based on the Woodward book and motivated by the Woodward book. Look how that little thrown together collection of paragraphs is now drawing more attention than the book Woodward labored over, which dominated headlines on Tuesday. Wednesday, this column comes out. What is in the column that couldn’t have been extracted from the book and worked up into an op-ed purporting to be from a senior official in the White House?”

(Why does Althouse have any trust in the integrity of the New York Times?)

She also writes,

“This person is singing about his own heroism. We just don’t know his/her name, because he/she has got to stay hidden to continue sabotaging the work of the President the deplorables elected”

Bingo!

The LA Times:

“If you’re reading this, senior White House official, know this: You are not resisting Donald Trump. You are enabling him for your own benefit. That doesn’t make you an unsung hero. It makes you a coward. “

Liz Shield:

“How does it feel to learn that there is a powerful self-interested bureaucracy asserting itself above and against the will of the people?”

Byron York (Washington Examiner):

“Early in the piece, the author admits that the Trump administration has had significant success on the issues most important to American voters. “Many of [the administration’s] policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” he writes. Later, he makes a list: “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” Perhaps the author doesn’t see it that way, but peace and prosperity are any president’s two most important accomplishments. Conceding Trump’s achievement undercuts the broader theme of the article.”

Glenn Greenwald:

The irony in the op-ed from the NYT’s anonymous WH coward is glaring and massive: s/he accuses Trump of being “anti-democratic” while boasting of membership in an unelected cabal that covertly imposes their own ideology with zero democratic accountability, mandate or transparency

Professor Reynolds: 

“The more they tell us Trump’s crazy, the crazier they act. Meanwhile lefties are starting to push the 25th Amendment again — it’s like they’re cycling now — and I have to say, if you think removing Trump will leave you in a better position, well, it won’t. Getting rid of Trump won’t return things to “normal.” It will make sure things are never normal in our lifetimes. But why do I bother? These people are crazy.”

Nick Gillespie (Reason):

There is no question that Trump was a uniquely unqualified candidate to run for president and he seems to have virtually no expertise in anything other than Twitter trolling. He clearly understands nothing about trade deficits, for instance, and his policies clearly don’t add up to anything particularly coherent (then again, they didn’t on the campaign trail, either). He is not a traditional Republican, but since when is that an impeachable offense? The author genuflects to John McCain, a well-respected public figure but also one whose incoherent and grandiose economic, social, and foreign policy positions were hardly worth emulating, and concludes

“Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.”

With all due respect: What the fuck does that even mean?

Few outlets have been more stridently #NeverTrump than The New York Times, a fair stand-in for the legacy media which also has nothing but contempt for Donald Trump and sympathy for Hillary Clinton (it was her time!) and a broad Democratic agenda of more-active government. The anonymous op-ed can only be read through that light and thus discounted.

To sum up, the Times op-ed is just one more manifestation of the horrific mass misconduct that the entire left side of the political spectrum has persuaded itself is responsible, fair, rational behavior when it is in fact dangerous, undemocratic, and reckless. I am bored with pointing out this fact, but this President was faced with impeachment demands before he took office, was not accorded the minimal election spoils of united acceptance of his election traditionally symbolized by a peaceful, joyous celebration of our system and history at his inauguration, and he has continued to be undermined by behavior that never would have been tolerated by the public or the news media if focused on any other Chief Executive.

There is no question that it is wrong. The only question is how much damage it will do to the United States of America before it has run its course, and whether that damage will be permanent.

 

Ethics Observations On The Red Hen

Believe it or not, I had not heard about a Lexington, Virginia restaurant kicking out Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family who were there to enjoy a meal when I wrote, a couple of hours ago, in part…

The virtue signaling fad is officially dangerous… since sanctuary cities are applauded for defying law enforcement, and more and more private establishments are basing their service on the political view of potential customers…This will spread, and we will have a completely dysfunctional society if and when it does. It is the natural progression of the divisive strategies and rhetoric employed by “the resistance” and the news media, and is undiluted cultural poison.

Here’s the story: Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the bucolic rural Virginia restaurant, was called at home and told the President’s spokeswoman was dining there with a group. Asked what the staff should do, she somehow couldn’t think of the correct and ethical answer, which is “Give her and her group the same hospitality and excellent service we strive to give all our customers. We don’t discriminate.” Instead, she drove to the establishment and told Sanders to leave. Sanders tweeted,

“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

For her part, the owner told the Washington Post that she would do it again, because “there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”

Sanders is right, and Hutchinson is despicable, un-American, unethical, and wrong.

Other notes: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/8/2018: George Washington, Elaine Chao, Brown-Haired Fox News Babes And Clumsy Cheerleaders

Good Morning!

1. Diversity at Fox News! There was a brunette co-anchor sitting with Bill Hemmer this morning. I almost spit out my coffee, Now if the network would only hire a female newsreader who wouldn’t be a credible contestant in a beauty pageant, the culture might advance a bit…

2.  Can an employer refuse to hire an asshole? The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance  on behalf of free-agent safety Eric Reid,  alleging collusion that has denied him a job for the upcoming 2018 season, and arguing that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects “the rights of players to demonstrate,” and the collective bargaining agreement states “league rules supersede club rules.”

The grievance loses, or the NFL is in big trouble. Well, it is already in trouble, but more trouble. Demonstrating players annoys fans and hurts business. The NFL may force teams to allow jerks like Reid and ex-player Colin Kaepernick to interfere with Sunday head-bashing frolic by imposing their half-baked politics on the proceedings, but team can certainly choose to pay million dollar contracts to players who have better judgment, and are thus more trustworthy employees.

3. At George Washington University, it’s The Political Correctness Morons vs. The Conflict-Averse Spineless! I can’t believe I’m writing this. No, of course I can: I’ve predicted it.

The following on-line petition has garnered the requisite number of signatures among George Washington University students, and now will get an official response:

“We, as students of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes its official mascot. The use of “Colonials,” no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large. The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression. Alternative nickname recommendations are “Hippos,” “Revolutionaries”, or “Riverhorses.”

They apparently don’t teach American history at GW.  The nickname  for the athletic teams  is “The Colonials” because the United States, prior to its liberation, were called “the Colonies,” because they were colonies. Colonials are those who have been colonized, not those who do the colonizing. The mascot, meanwhile, is called “George,” because he is a caricature of George Washington, who led the Colonials to victory over Great Britain, and anyone who can’t puzzle that out shouldn’t be in college.

The petition represents the mutant offspring of a one night stand between The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck and The Niggardly Principles.

Who will win? Oh, the Morons, probably. On campuses the Morons almost always defeat the spineless administrators, as well as common sense and rationality. [Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur]

Oh…here’s George:

4.  Speaking of spineless…The cheerleading  coaches at Hanover Park High School in New Jersey decided that there would be no more try-outs for the squad. The school’s athletic director said that after a single mother complained about her daughter not making the cut, the policy would be changed in favor of “inclusion.” The school board released a statement saying: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/17: (Part Two) Debunking WaPo’s False Claim That Shep Smith Debunked The Uranium One Scandal, And More

And good morning again!

(Continuing from Part One…)

5. Why journalism is beyond hope…Shepard Smith, the #1 Fox New anchor who is reliably skeptical, independent and brave pointed out that the reporting, especially by his own colleagues at Fox, on the Hillary/Russia/Uranium One scandal:

“Now, here’s the accusation,” Smith said.

Nine people involved in the deal made donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling more than $140 million. In exchange, Secretary of State Clinton approved the sale to the Russians, a quid pro quo. The accusation [was] first made by Peter Schweizer, the senior editor-at-large of the website Breitbart in his 2015 book “Clinton Cash.” The next year, candidate Donald Trump cited the accusation as an example of Clinton corruption.

Smith pointed out that the statement  was “inaccurate in a number of ways.” “The Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction,” he noted, explaining that it had to be approved by an interagency committee of the government consisting of nine department heads, including the Secretary of State.

“The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale,” Smith said.  “She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale, the president approved the sale, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others had to offer permits, and none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia.”

This was reported by the Washington Post as Smith “debunking his network’s favorite Hillary Clinton ‘scandal'” Now I have to debunk the Washington Posts’ false’ characterization of what Smith did and said.

Smith had obviously read the fact-check by the most reliable and objective of the various fact-checking organizations, Fact-Check.org. It makes the same point Smith does, but also concludes,

“It may be that individuals and companies sought to curry favor with Hillary Clinton and even influence her department’s decision on the Uranium One sale. But, as we’ve written before, there is no evidence that donations to the Clinton Foundation from people with ties to Uranium One or Bill Clinton’s speaking fee influenced Hillary Clinton’s official actions”

There’s no evidence that fugitive Marc Rich’s ex-wife’s huge gift to the Clinton Library influenced President Clinton to pardon her scumbag, irredeemable ex, either, but the timing was sufficiently suspicious that most have conclude that it was indeed a quid pro quo. These transactions are notoriously hard to prove, which is why there are ethics rules requiring Secretaries of State to avoid harming the public trust by engaging in “the appearance of impropriety.” Allowing her foundation to accept millions from foreign entities with a matter of interest before Clinton’s department was a direct violation of the conditions under which she was confirmed by the Senate. The fact that she alone didn’t have to approve the sale doesn’t alter the fact that she had a major conflict, and was obligated to recuse herself entirely. She didn’t. Scandalous, and suspicious. If Bill didn’t get all taht money, far more than his usual fee, because of the pending approval of the uranium deal, why was he paid so much? Suspicious. Scandal.

Yes, we know the Clintons were masters at influence peddling, and covered their tracks better than most. Smith explained to viewers that his own network and President Trump, among others, were misrepresenting the facts. Good for him.

But he did not “debunk” the accusation that the Clintons’ conduct was suspicious, irresponsible, a breach of government ethics standards, and quite possibly corrupt. A Fox anchor corrected his own network’s hyping, and then the left-biased news media used that clarification to mislead the public in the other direction.

Hopeless. Continue reading

The Comey Testimony, Part I.

I have finally read the transcript, which you should do as well. By now I have also seen a lot of video clips. (James Comey really says, “Lordy!” Wow.)

First, some general observations, with more detailed comments to come in a subsequent post.

1. My earlier expressed opinion of James Comey when I defended him against conservative accusations that he was giving Hillary Clinton an undeserved break by not indicting her were revealed as too generous yesterday. I still believe he is honest and non-partisan. More than ever, I believe that he is untrustworthy. He was obviously in a difficult position—many, in fact—that he was not able to successfully manage, if anyone could have. However, his oft-repeated insistence that he (and his FBI) did not play politics was exposed as false, if not dishonest (a gracious interpretation of the sort that Comey denied the President in his bitter testimony.)

2. The fake Russia collusion narrative pushed by Hillary, Democrats and the news media to simultaneously excuse her loss and undermine the Trump Presidency was killed yesterday, but will wander around like a zombie for months if not years because Trump-haters will not have the integrity to admit they were wrong. Chris Matthews, a once astute and courageous liberal Democrat reporter who morphed into a partisan, knee-jerk progressive shill and anti-Republican scold as soon as he started getting paid by MSNBC, had a sudden flashback to his days of integrity when he pronounced yesterday,

“But the big story has always beenthe assumption of the critics of the president, of his pursuers, you might say, is that somewhere along the line in the last year, the president had something to do with colluding with the Russians. Something to do, a helping hand, encouraging them,feeding their desire, to affect the election in some way, some role they played, some conversation he had with Michael Flynn, or Paul Manafort, or somewhere. And yet what came apart this morning, was that theory, because in two regards the president said according to the written testimony of Mr. Comey, ‘go ahead and get anybody satellite to my operation and nail them, I’m with you on that,’ so that would mean Manafort, Carter Page, someone like that. And then he also came across today what was fascinating, Comey said that basically Flynn wasn’t central to the Russian investigation, that he was touching on it. That there was, of course, Flynn had an honest, we assume, wasn’t honest in his answer on the official forms that he had to fill out to become a national security head.”

But it only touched on that, it wasn’t really related to that. But he could be flipped for that, but in other words, they could flip him because they had him caught on something he dishonestly answered but he wasn’t central to the Russian thing, and I always assumed that Trump was afraid of was that he had said something to Flynn, and Flynn could be flipped on that. And Flynn would testify against the president that he had had some conversation with Flynn in terms of dealing with the Russians affirmatively. And if that’s the case, where’s the there there?”

There is no there there, and never has been. Thus the anti-Trump hysterics are left with what they have always believed was proof enough: Hillary lost, leaked hacks of e-mails that led the public to realize how sleazy the Democrats were should have never been seen by voters, Trump was the beneficiary of the leaks, he had said nice things about Putin, he’s an unethical creep, and a lot of his associates had business contacts with Russia, and besides, they just know Trump is guilty.

That’s not enough; in fact, it’s nothing at all. Matthews as both a lifetime Democrat and a romantic regarding the Presidency and democracy detests Trump to his Irish-American Boston liberal core, but he knows when to get off a bandwagon that will embarrass him if he stays on board, or make it impossible for Chris to look in the mirror.

3. For a lawyer, Comey’s loose use of the term “liar” and his stated belief that he assumed that Trump was a liar early on in their relationship shows a troubling inattentiveness to his own biases, as well as a classic misunderstanding of what it means to lie. Comey said Trump lied about why Comey was fired, for example. Comey has no way of knowing which of the many legitimate reasons for firing him played the biggest role in his firing. He does not know what Trump was thinking, so he cannot assert that Trump lied. He can say that he believes Trump lied, but that is only his opinion: it does not make Trump a liar, and it is not evidence. Last ditch bitter-enders among the Impeach Trump Lynch Mob will be arguing that Comey’s various opinions and reactions prove misconduct by Trump. But lying and obstruction of justice are not like sexual harassment, where a second party, by his or her reactions, determines whether misconduct has taken place. Comey stated that he took Trump’s words that he “hoped” that the FBI would drop the Flynn investigation as a “direction.” He also could have taken it as a marmoset, but that wouldn’t mean that the President meant it as one.

Any time a supervisor says “I hope you do this,” it is a statement of what will make that supervisor happy. (Did Obama ever say to his Treasury Secretary, “I hope the IRS is tough on those tea party groups: they are about as non-partisan as I am!”?) Nevertheless, it leaves the decision in the hands of the subordinate.

4. Comey came off like a classic disgruntled former employee, and I’ve interviewed many of them, angry that he was fired and determined to do as much damage to his former supervisor as possible on the way out the door.

I thought he was better than that.  Guess not. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has pledged “not participate personally and substantially in any matter that has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests” of his financial holdings, without obtaining an official waiver for doing so. He also had advance notice of how a Trump administration figure could breach ethics rules when Kellyanne Conway, in the course of criticizing organized boycotts of First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s merchandise line, blurted out  “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!” during an interview on “Fox & Friends.”  The Office of Government Ethics and members of   the House Oversight Committee urged disciplinary action for Conway’s clear, if probably inadvertent, ethics violation. (None occurred. It should have.)

Never mind. During a C-Span broadcast interview last week, Secretary Mnuchin was asked for a movie recommendation (this was a set-up, but an easy one to duck), and said,

“I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to ‘Lego Batman.’ “

HAHAHAHAHA!!! ‘I’m not supposed to do this because it’s unethical, but I’ll do it anyway, because ethics rules are silly, the President doesn’t care about them, and besides, Kellyanne got away with it, and so will I!’ Continue reading

Note To Prof. Painter On His Teeth Gnashing Over Trump’s Conflicts: “If You Have No Option, You Have No Problem,” or “NOW You Tell Us?”

Ethics expert Richard Painter, who was White House ethics counsel from 2005 to 2007, has authored a thorough, convincing and I’m quite certain accurate brief about all the problems arising from soon-to-be President Donald Trump’s vast business connections, and the conflicts of interest they can and will involve. It’s an automatic ethics train wreck. Here’s Painter:

Even absent a quid pro quo, the Emoluments Clause bans payments to an American public official from foreign governments. Yet they will arise whenever foreign diplomats stay in Trump hotels at their governments’ expense; whenever parties are organized by foreign governments in Trump hotels (Bahrain just announced such a party in a Trump hotel this week); whenever loans are made to the company by the Bank of China or any other foreign-government-owned bank; whenever rent is paid by companies controlled by foreign governments with offices in Trump buildings; and whenever there is any other arrangement whereby foreign government money goes into the president’s businesses….How can we expect a Trump administration to rein in loose lending practices, particularly in the real estate sector, when the president himself owes hundreds of millions of dollars to banks? What will he do when a foreign dictator acts up in a country where there is a Trump hotel?

Yikes. Yikes and true. Also Yikes, true, and why are you bringing this up now when there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it? Continue reading