Rep. Adam Schiff’s “Have You No Sense Of Decency?” Moment

Well, another “Have you no decency?” moment…

“Trump could offer Alaska to the Russians in exchange for support in the next election, or decide to move to Mar-A-Lago permanently and leave Jared Kushner to run the country, delegating to him the decision whether they go to war.”

—Lead House Impeachment Manager Congressman Adam Schiff of California during closing arguments in the Senate impeachment trial Monday, bringing  unconscionable partisan fear-mongering and anti-Trump hysteria to a new low.

Res ipsa loquitur.

And failure to recognize Schiff as an unprincipled and shameless buffoon is a symptom of Stage 5 Trump Derangement.

Ethics Morning Sickness, 9/29/2018: The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing Hangover

According to several sources, Republicans not only have the votes to confirm Brett Kananaugh,  a couple of Democrats may even join their ranks. If true, that’s amazing, and also the most encouraging piece of news I’ve heard since Aaron Judge went on the Disabled List.

I don’t have any special fondness for Brett Kavanaugh, and I have no stake in his confirmation. All I have ever cared about is having outstanding, smart, analytical judges on the Supreme Court. I was thrilled when President Obama nominated Elena Kagan, who fits that description; depressed when he appointed touchy-feely mediocrity Sotamayor, lowering the quality of judicial talent so he could check off a diversity box, but then, that’s Obama. Justices like Blackmun, Souter and Kennedy, all appointed to skirt controversy rather than to ensure a competent Court, do subtle, long-lasting damage to our laws. Aggressive, thoughtful, brilliant jurists like Scalia and Ginsberg keep the third branch of government strong. Kavanaugh is undeniably the kind of qualified, experienced judge who has always been routinely confirmed by the Senate regardless of the President nominating him or his party affiliation. What the Democrats and their allies among activist and the news media have done to Brett Kavanaugh is more than wrong; it is very dangerous, and threatens further the basic comity and respect without which no democracy can function. The treatment of Kavanaugh, which I have discussed in detail elsewhere—the demonizing, the fear-mongering, the character assassination, based purely on an unremarkable judicial philosophy—continues down a slippery slope, already greased by “the resistance,”  that ends in civil war.  The Democrats will only turn away from this disastrous path when they conclude that it won’t work, that the American public rejects “the ends justify the means” as an operating strategy. There are signs that the Democratic Senators televised conduct during the Kavanaugh hearings may be a tipping point. I hope so. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Nothing much has changed in my assessment since I wrote this post ten days ago. I still don’t believe or disbelieve Ford or Kavanaugh. There is no basis on which to believe either of them, but the accuser has the burden of proof, and as was true ten days ago, she can’t meet it and didn’t meet it. Nobody confirms her account. She cannot provide specifics, even as to where the alleged attack occurred, who held the party where it allegedly occurred, or an exact date, making investigation nearly impossible. Her parents, who are alive, have not confirmed her account; apparently she didn’t even tell them about the incident. Her testimony was convincing. So was Kavanaugh’s. Those who say “they believe” either party might as well have a “Bias has made me stupid” sign on top of their head. In yesterday’s New York Times, a full page ad listed thousands of names of men proclaiming “We believe Anita Hill. We also believe Charistine Blasey Ford.” All they are doing is virtue signaling for their pals, proclaiming their partisan affiliation (believing Ford is required to save abortion, and depending on which hysterical activist or pundit you listen to, female suffrage, gay marriage and the continued abolition of slavery), and or proving that they lack the power of critical thought.

I’ll have to sort through all of the logical fallacies used against Kavanaugh later: I’m sure a new rationalization for the list or twelve is in there. For example, I have been told and read that women believe Ford because they know other victims of sexual assault who never reported it. But that doesn’t justify believing Ford! It indicates that the fact that she waited all this time, until evidence was gone and memories faded, to suddenly make her accusation when it was most politically useful to her party doesn’t prove she isn’t telling the truth, but it doesn’t make it any more likely that she is, either. A commenter yesterday suggested that there should be more sympathy and accommodation for victims who are afraid to come forward soon after a sexual assault. “I would like to remind you that women often are not able to speak out against harassment until long after the fact because they are afraid and unable,” she wrote. I replied,

Then they lose their chance. There are a lot of things in life like that. If I’m reluctant to speak up and challenge a mob harassing a US Senator while he’s dining with my family, I can’t wait 20 years and do it then, can I? If you are afraid to report a community criminal when you have evidence against him because you’re afraid to snitch, it’s no mitigation to report the evidence after more people have been hurt because of your delay. How about women who don’t stop their boyfriends from sexually molesting their children because they are afraid? Is it acceptable that they wait until the Statute of Limitations has run, the damage has been done, and the kids are grown and molesting children themselves before they speak up?

You don’t have to remind me of the dilemma. I’m sorry, but I am really sick of this argument…It’s an excuse and a rationalization. It makes fairness and due process impossible, and it allows false accusers to manipulate others. Three decades? Holding a complaint until the exact moment when it can’t be defended against AND will do the most damage?

It’s explainable, perhaps, but it isn’t ethically excusable.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/17: The Clinton Campaign’s Russian Dossier Connection, Her Lying Lawyer, And Jeff Flake

GOOD MORNING!

1 I have long been an admirer of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who is one of the few members of Congress, more’s the pity, who will stick to his principles even when they pit him against his own party. However, his freak-out and verbal attack on President Trump accomplish nothing positive (unless you consider making Democrats happy positive) and  at this point constitute pure self-indulgence and, yes, these words are coming up a lot lately, virtue-signalling and grandstanding. I have no sympathy for Flake, Senator Corker, or any other Republican leaders who stood by and allowed Donald Trump to hijack their party. The time for Flake to take a stand was last March, or even earlier. Ethics Alarms stated that the GOP shouldn’t have let Trump into the debates or on its ballot. I said that he should have been kicked out of the debates when he began trashing the party, and when he  became disgustingly boorish and uncivil. I explained that it could have and should have refused to nominate him by changing the rules. The party had a duty to the country to present a competent, trustworthy alternative to the corrupt, venal, dishonest candidate the Democrats were going to nominate: everyone knew who that would be. Instead, the GOP sold its soul. Jeff Flake now says that Trump is reckless, outrageous and undignified? Who didn’t know that? I assume the President’s  voters knew that. On Ethics Alarms, I wrote about those Trump character traits in 2011.

It is particularly galling for me to read Flake’s attack on Trump in the Washington Post today, which begins, “As I contemplate the Trump presidency, I cannot help but think of Joseph Welch.” In fact, it makes me want to scream helplessly at the sky. In this Ethics Alarms post, I invoked Welch’s famous televised slap-down of Joe McCarthy before the first Republican candidates debate, and concluded “If someone doesn’t at least try it, none of these 15 non-Trumps are smart enough to be President.” I wrote that on September 16, 2015. 

Senator Flake is like a Senator  going to Honolulu in December of 1942 and proclaiming that the Japanese can’t be trusted. He deserves no sympathy or support now.

He should have been reading Ethics Alarms.

UPDATE: My friend and frequent ProEthics collaborator Mike Messer called this “flake news.”

2. I haven’t had time to thoroughly unravel what yesterday’s revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign funded what became the infamous “Russian dossier” means. A couple of points, however, Continue reading

An Ethics Alarms Audit: Who Or What Is At Fault For The Rise Of Donald Trump?

I have intentionally avoided most of the many articles that have used the unsettling rise of Donald Trump as a Presidential contender to attack their favorite targets—talk radio, Republicans, Obama, the Tea Party, the “elites,” the news media, reality TV…it’s a long list. One of the few I did read was this one, by Peggy Noonan. Its main thesis:

“The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance. Mr. Trump came from that…What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better….This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens. And a country really can’t continue this way.”

Yup. That’s how populist uprisings always start, and Noonan properly diagnosed this one. Still, it was neither pre-ordained nor necessary that the individual such a movement would unite around had to be such a dangerous, unstable and unworthy one, or that the citizens supporting him would display such complete absence of logic and responsibility.

Reading the debates between Trump supporters and detractors on various websites, I am reminded of the classic “Simpsons” episode where Springfield split into two warring factions, the Mensa group, and the anti-Mensa group. The latter was characterized by angry stupidity, and if a member made a logical and coherent argument against the astute and educated opposition, he would be instantly ejected with the cry, “You’re one of them!”

Herman Kahn, the futurist, used to say that even the best plans, organizations, and systems could be unsettled by “the 2% contingency of bad management or bad luck.” The United States has been very fortunate in its approximately 250 years’ experiment. Bismarck famously said that “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America,” and at times it has seemed that way. When the nation’s management failed, the U.S. has been astoundingly lucky. When it has been unlucky, brilliant leaders have been on hand to manage the problem. The Trump phenomenon illustrates the fact of existence that luck eventually runs out: so far, bad luck and bad management have joined forces to produce the threat of a Donald Trump presidency.

There are many people, groups and institutions responsible for Trump getting this far, and it is dishonest, incompetent and unfair to blame one without identifying the rest. Each was arguably essential to the chaotic mix, and thus nothing and no one deserves to be cited as “the” cause.

Here, in rough but not definitive particular order, are the main miscreants. I’ve limited myself to eleven, but the list could easily be longer.
Continue reading

The Unethical Donald Trump Quote Of The Day, Unethical Tweet Of The Month, And Unethical Americans of All-Time

Trump Tweet

I must confess that I got a bit bored with my promised unethical Trump quote of the day feature, since on most days there are so many of them. After a while they are predictable and redundant. It’s best to just assume that Trump is being unethical, and wait until he crosses a new line before highlighting an example of his despicable nature. I think threatening another candidate’s wife is a new line: has any Presidential candidate ever directly and publicly threatened an adversary’s wife? Would any previous candidate survive public outrage if he did?

This attack was particularly outrageous. Trump, whose calling card is Rationalization #2 A, Sicilian Ethics or “They had it coming,” was reacting to an offensive ad by a pro-Cruz group in Utah, which released a nasty ad featuring a nude photo Trump’s  trophy wife Melania once posed for with the caption “Meet Melania Trump, Your Next First Lady. Or, You Could Support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.” It wasn’t Cruz’s ad, and he could not, under the law, have anything to do with it (not that I would put it past his campaign anyway.) Cruz responded by tweeting that Trump had shown that “you’re more of a coward than I thought.” Continue reading

Post-Debate Ethics, Part 2 (of 4): John Kasich’s Opportunity

It is almost too late, but not quite, for Donald Trump to be derailed by a Joseph Welch-Joe McCarthy moment. I called for a qualified and competent GOP candidate to do this seven months ago, but none had the wit or courage to deliver. Since then, Trump has provided one opening after another that could have been exploited to tear away the veil of ignorance from even the eyes of the most deluded Trump supporter. One such opening was September 16, when Trump probably doomed some innocent children by promoting anti-vaxxer myths in a nationally televised debate. A medical doctor, inexplicably running for President, was standing right next to him. Did Ben Carson say, “You know, Donald, your ignorance is stunning. Vaccinations don’t cause autism, and they save lives, but as with every other topic we have talked about, you are shooting from the hip, faking expertise you don’t have, and dangerously misleading millions of trusting Americans by pretending to have expertise you don’t have. You should be ashamed of yourself. Why aren’t you?”? No, Carson, typically, mumbled something accommodating and let Trump get away with more misinformation.

Dr. Carson’s gone now, thankfully, as are many other candidates who might have burnished their own chances and clotheslined Trump with a well-planned “Have you no sense of decency?” sequel. Only one candidate remains who has any chance of pulling off the instant character assassination that Joseph Welch executed so deftly on June 9, 1954. In my post before that September 16 debate, I predicted that one of the non-Trumps would use a variation of Welch’s line, and observed that if I was wrong,  none of them “are  smart enough to be President.”

As Jeff Goldblum muses in “Jurassic Park,” Boy do I hate being right all the time.” Or being right about why I was wrong.

I don’t have much hope for John Kasich, the one remaining alternative to Trump with a chance to play Welch effectively. Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Day: Senator Lindsay Graham

Note: That is not Lindsay Graham on the left, and not Donald Trump on the right. But you get the idea...

Note: That is not Lindsay Graham on the left, and not Donald Trump on the right. But you get the idea…

“You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell. He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represents the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for. … He’s the ISIL man of the year.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), on CNN’s “New Day” turning Trump’s slogan, “make America great again” against him.

Graham is unelectable as well as un-nominatable, and he knows it, for no fool he. The GOP right wing regards him as a RINO like his pal John McCain, and also more than a little strange (why has he never been married, hmmmmm?); Graham is too Southern, too Senatorial, and too candid to have a chance in the general election either.

Graham is running as a truth-teller on foreign policy, and even that has been hard, since his poll numbers are microscopic and he has been relegated to the kiddie table in all of the debates. So it is true that he has less to risk being direct than the other candidates, but his undiplomatic, uncompromising condemnation of Donald Trump is exactly what the nomination race needs, and as I have written from the beginning, a well-executed, slashing, “Have you no sense of decency?” attack would both bring Trump to earth and enhance the candidacy of its Republican messenger. So far, nobody seems capable of delivering it effectively.

Trump’s latest envelope-pushing, evoking the worst of  the U.S.’s domestic World War II bigotry as well as the early stages of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitism, confines his candidacy to bigots, cowards and fools—admittedly a large constituency but a disqualifying one. The clear path to stopping Trump is making his supporters unwilling to look at themselves in the mirror. Democrats faced a similar challenge in 1968, when George Wallace was speaking before huge crowds. Continue reading

How Much Religious Bigotry Will Donald Trump’s Supporters Tolerate?

7th Day

Speaking at a campaign rally in Iowa, Donald Trump decided to attack Ben Carson based on his religion:

“I love Iowa. And, look, I don’t have to say it, I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

Trump didn’t mention Carson’s name, but he’s the only Seventh-day Adventist in the race, and Trumps closest rival in the polls, which is too depressing to bear as it is. What Trump is saying is that believers in one religious faith are inherently more trustworthy than believers of other faiths. This is no more, nor less than a direct appeal to religious bias and bigotry. Substitute “Catholic” or “Jewish” for “Seventh-day Adventist,” and the full un-American ugliness of the statement should become apparent, if, due to some kind of closed head injury, it isn’t already. Trump has already shown himself willing to portray illegal Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals (too many of them are, but that’s another story); reveal himself as an archetypal male chauvinist pig, and now he’s rating character and trustworthiness according to faith. Earlier I suggested that one of Trump’s debate opponents could take him down with a deft Joseph Welch “Have you no decency?” (unfortunately, the attempt was made by Rand Paul, and hardly deftly), and now I have to ask his supporters, “Have you no decency?” What more evidence do you need that this blustering bully and fool degrades his party, nation, gender, species and the office he’s seeking  by his presence in the 2016 Presidential race? Or more bluntly, What the hell’s the matter with you people?

Is this an experiment in whether the meanest, most vulgar and least educated  of the nation’s conservatives can force the nomination of someone so unqualified by experience and temperament to lead? Is it a practical joke by nihilists and anarchists to bring down the Unites States after it has already be weakened by eight years of a misguided, hyper-political, incompetent presidency?

It is true that there is an element of karma in Carson being the target of exactly the kind of religious bigotry he used, with a bit more cause, against Muslims. This isn’t about Carson, however, who is just as unfit for office as Trump, meaning completely. It is about competent democracy, values, and trustworthy leadership.

I have reached the point where the race between Trump and Hillary Clinton for me is only this: Whose supporters do I have less respect for, those who actively support a completely corrupt individual, or those who support a crude demagogue.

At this point, it’s neck and neck.

A Final Post Debate Observation: Cognitive Dissonance And The Welch Effect

Rand Paul23I’m literally the only one writing about this—which is to say that everyone else is wrong— so I might as well wrap it up.

You will recall that I predicted (and hoped) that one of the candidates in the CNN debate on Wednesday would have the wit, historical perspective and guts to prepare a Joseph Welch take-down of Donald Trump, as it is an excellent way of shining harsh light on a bully and ethics miscreant. This is how lawyer Joseph Welch ended the reign of terror of Sen. Joe McCarthy on live TV in the medium’s “Golden Age,” and McCarthy was bigger and more deadly game than The Donald.

I wrote:

Will the same tactic work on Trump? It should: it would have worked in the first debate. Now, it may not, because many Welches will not be as effective as a single one, and I would not be surprised if several of Trump’s competitors will have a Welchism rehearsed. It also won’t work if the wrong Welch jumps in first, or if he blows his delivery. (Welch was quite an actor.) We shall see. If someone doesn’t at least try it, none of these 15 non-Trumps are  smart enough to be President.

Well, the Welch moment came almost immediately, as the first candidate with an opening to deliver it took his shot: Sen. Rand Paul. As I wrote in my follow-up piece yesterday, it wasn’t completely Welch-worthy, but it stung:

The Joseph Welch moment that I predicted occurred, though it was a wan and, as I feared, an incompetent version.  The Welch-wannabe was Rand Paul, and he directly referenced Trump’s “sophomoric” personal attacks, saying…

“Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with Putin? Do we want someone like that to be negotiating with Iran? I think really there is sophomoric a quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned about having him in charge of the nuclear weapons because I think his response, his real response to attack people on their appearance, short, tall, fat, ugly. My goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?”

…First, a Welch retort has to be delivered with withering contempt, not snotty combativeness. Second, the deliverer has to talk directly to the target; this is key. Not “he,” Senator. “YOU.” Third, whether or not the question was about the temperament of the man with his finger on the button, the danger of having a leader who behaves like Trump goes far beyond that….Still, Welch’s tactic worked a bit. Trump’s rejoinder, essentially “You’re ugly, too!”, got what sounded like awkward laughter, and Donald Trump, who is an entertainer, and who, like most experienced performers, can sense what an audience is feeling, was very subdued the rest of the debate.

What happened is that while the whole bucket of water didn’t land on the Wicked Trump, enough splashed on him to slow him down. When Fiorina delivered a mini-Welch later and Trump simpered his submissive “she’s got a beautiful face, and she’s a beautiful woman” line, he was still melting. She, more than anyone else, jumped in the vacuum left by Trump’s “shrinkage.” Continue reading

Your CNN Republican Presidential Candidate Debate Sneak Preview

Somebody is going to do this to Donald Trump tonight:

The only question is who, and perhaps how many. It worked before, and it could work again. It may be too late for this strategem, though.

If you don’t recognize the incident, one of the first live TV moments to enter history and have a major impact on national politics, here is the background:

It came at the height of the Cold War, and the fear of Communist Russia was as palpable as it was toxic. Being publicly associated with the Communist Party was a ticket to personal and professional destruction, and many politicians wielded the accusation as a weapon of mass destruction.  The Hollywood Blacklist was the archetype of many such lists that kept many Americans who were socialists or merely liberals virtually unemployable in the military, the State Department, police and businesses. Dark times.

Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy used red-baiting to become the most famous, polarizing, popular, controversial—and powerful— American politician not named Eisenhower.  In 1954, two commercial TV networks broadcast live the hearings investigating McCarthy’s allegations against Army officers, and the counter-allegations that McCarthy and his aide, Roy Cohn, had pressured the Army to give preferential treatment to a Cohn’s  friend, later revealed to be  his  gay lover. (See: “Angels in America”)  80 million Americans watched the first ever  broadcast of Congressional hearings, riveted.

Joseph Welch, a prominent Boston attorney, agreed to serve as the Army’s legal counsel in the hearings. He knew, as the GOP contenders should know, that the only effective way to shame and expose a bully and a miscreant is to do it directly to his face. Welch waited for days, playing the quiet, respectful professional as McCarthy ranted and grandstanded. Then he saw his chance.

On June 9,  1954,  McCarthy declared that Fred Fisher, a young lawyer from Welch’s own law firm, had once been a member of the National Lawyers Guild, a civil rights group that J. Edgar Hoover had called a communist front because its attorneys had represente suspected communists. Welch, choking with emotion, it seemed, indignantly defended his colleague while deriding McCarthy:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The chamber’s audience applauded. The public’s infatuation with McCarthy was shattered, and emboldened by the collapse of public support for him,  McCarthy’s colleagues in the Senate censured him for inappropriate conduct. McCarthy’s power evaporated, and the anti-Communist hysteria joined him in a shadowy corner of U.S. history. Continue reading