Tag Archives: James Comey

Comment Of The Day: “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured Crisis: The Comey Firing Freakout”

With so much loose talk about impeachment going around (and by “loose” I mean “inexcusably ignorant”), texagg04’s review of the Constitutional standard for the removal of a President is a gift to readers of Ethics Alarms, and one of the most interesting and informative comments ever to appear here.

He was reacting to a New York Times op-ed, cited by another commenter,  by political scientist Greg Weiner (no relation) titled, “Impeachment’s Political Heart,” in which the author concluded,

“The question is by what standards they should conduct this work, and that question provides an opportunity to correct the mistaken assumption according to which presidents can forfeit the public trust only by committing what the law recognizes as a crime. That is a poor bar for a mature republic to set. It is not the one a newborn republic established. And that is why the idea that the conversation about impeachment is simply a political persecution of a man who is technically innocent of a literal crime not only jumps the investigatory gun. It misses the constitutional point.”

Having studied the issue myself, I immediately rejected Weiner’s analysis (which still is worth reading in its entirety) on the ground that a constantly evolving standard of what is a “high crime and misdemeanor” simply means that Presidents can be impeached for behaving, or governing, in ways that enough members of Congress, the news media and the public don’t like. That is what is being advocated now, and that approach would undermine our democracy, the power of elections, and the office of the President.

My gut response, however, is wan and insubstantial compared to tex’s masterful historical review and astute analysis, which (whew!) reaches a similar conclusion.

Here is texagg04’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the post, “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout”…I’ll have one brief comment afterwards:

[Weiner] is making an argument from the same source material I mentioned, chiefly the Federalist papers. I still haven’t found Madison’s own specific arguments regarding it, but I think the source is irrelevant as the body of work published by the Founders (“Federalist” and “Antifederalist” alike) should be read as a single work documenting an internal dialogue, to be used as clarification when and where the final adopted documents possibly contain ambiguity. This could very well be one of those cases. That being said, the body of work by the Founders which may aid in revealing their intent or at least how they believed their philosophy of our political system out to be enshrined in the constitution, isn’t the only body of work used to interpret their intent. There is precedence and tradition, which the author of this article disregards when he says “Our tendency to read the impeachment power in an overly legalistic way, which is ratified by 230 years of excessive timidity about its use, obscures the political rather than juridical nature of the device.”

He’s right in nothing but that many of the earliest drafts and proposed language of the impeachment standards were very vague, such as (not an exhaustive list):

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day (2): “Five Reasons Why This Was President Trump’s Dumbest Tweet Yet”

It would be unfair to characterize fattymoon’s comment, which was, like the previous COTD, supposed to be posted almost a week ago, as an example of the phenomenon just discussed. Fatty, a smart, disillusioned Occupy veteran, is bipartisan opponent of the status quo, and a revolutionary with integrity: he does not embrace the double standards that render the “resistance” ridiculous, taking such self-disqualifying positions as  Maxine Waters’ classic that while President Hillary Clinton could have fired FBI chief Comey without wrongdoing, it was an obstruction of justice for President Trump to do so. I chose his comment for reposting because it is a virtual archive of the faulty reasoning and rationalizations that sustain the anti-Trump barrage. I will elaborate on that after you read fattymoon’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Five Reasons Why This Was President Trump’s Dumbest Tweet Yet”:

Some of your quotes followed by my thoughts…

“None of it justifies the fake news” – Which entity pours on the most fake news, the media or the White House? Open to argument, yes?

“concocted Russian conspiracy theories” – You’re jumping the gun, sir. The jury is out.

“I stand behind the office.” – I refuse to accept the man behind the office. If left unchecked, Trump will bring down the office after inalterably defacing it.

“I made it clear that Trump had neither the Character, nor the skills or knowledge, to hold it, just as I made it clear that Hillary Clinton was also an unfit candidate because of her thorough corruption.” – Are you saying that Trump is not thoroughly corrupt? Just a little corrupt?

“This is Andrew Johnson all over again.” – Rightfully so, imo. (“Johnson is regarded by many historians as one of the worst presidents in American history.” – Wikipedia)

“I have minimal influence, but I will do my best to protect the Office and institution of the Presidency from those who would destroy it, no matter who occupies that office.” – And I will do my best to protect the Office and institution of the Presidency from those who would destroy it, i.e. Donald Trump. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz

“If it was a polite request saying, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a good guy, Flynn, I wish you’d back off this thing,’ that’s not an obstruction of justice. If it was a command, it would raise stronger problems.”

—Retired Harvard law professor , Constitutional scholar, lawyer, liberal and CNN commentator Alan Dershowitz, trying to explain to MSNBC what “obstruction of justice” means.

I’ve never been a Dershowitz fan, but when the List of Shame is complied after the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has finally ground to a halt, he’ll be on another list: the one containing those who maintained their integrity.

He needn’t have bothered: the news media/Democratic Party/ “resistance'” collective has already labelled James Comey’s so far only rumored “memo” recounting that the President asked the then-FBI Director, in a private meeting in February, to close the FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, proof of criminal motives and acts.

The New York Times learned of the memo from two people who claim they had read it. One of them read part of the memo to a Times journalist.  According to these unnamed sources’ description of the memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go” in a meeting that took place the day after Flynn was forced to resign.

“I hope you can let this go” would be consistent with what Dershowitz, no Trump supporter but apparently yet to be infected with the integrity- and logic-destoying anti-Trump virus, accurately described as “not an obstruction of justice.”

The Times, however, a card-carrying member of the “overturn the election” cabal—we know this because it stated last August that defeating Trump justified tossing journalism ethics into the trash, and because since the election, its pages have from the book reviews to the op-ed pages have been filled anti-Trump propaganda—called Trump’s reported request “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation” into links between Trump associates and Russia. This must mean that there is no evidence, at all, since saying “I hope you can let this go” is barely influence at all.

The news of the alleged memo was breathlessly hailed by the “Can we impeach him now?” fanatics, including some readers of this blog who should know better and once did, as a “bombshell.” As Alan Dershowitz dispassionately points out, and as I have in the comment threads, it’s no bombshell. This is not  remarkable observation; a New York Times contributor was even allowed to agree with Dershowitz. (The Times can’t completely commit to the lynch mob, for then its efforts to aid and abet would be less valuable. It’s quite a tightrope these people are walking….). Constitutional law prof Elizabeth Price Foley wrote, Continue reading

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Once Again, Stop Making Me Defend President Trump, And Tell Fox To Stop Making Me Defend The People Who Are MAKING Me Defend Him!

 

See? What does Comey have to complain about?

Fred, my topic scout, sent me this and suggested that it was the apotheosis of  Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue or “It’s not the worst thing.”

Boy, was he right.

In last night’s episode of the Tucker Carlson show—right-wingers are actually impressed with Tucker’s skills at taking down lame liberal fanatics, which is sad in so many ways—featured the Fox News conservative dilettante agreeing with guest James Rosen, who was making the fatuous and ethically offensive point that people shouldn’t get so upset about what Trump does because the Civil War and the Cold War were worse.

This argument is the Mother of All Terrible Rationalizations, and especially bad because it spoils a good point, which is that absent historical perspective, it’s not easy to know what a real crisis is. Arguing that people shouldn’t object to something, however, because something else was worse is the mark of desperation as well as intellectual deficiency. Explain why the alleged crisis isn’t one (as in the Comey firing); explain why the assumed harm is exaggerated, or being hyped, or the product of bias and emotion. But to say, as Rosen, a “conservative historian,” which only means he isn’t an aggressive leftist like almost all of his colleagues, did,

“During Watergate, the term ‘crisis’ was thrown around as well and there were people at that time who were old enough to remember when there were legless Civil War veterans still in the streets of Washington.”

And I’m sure conservative historians were reminding those Civil War casualties while their legs were being sawed off without anesthesia that the Civil War wasn’t nearly as horrible as the Black Death. “Ah, I feel much better now,” they smiled. “Just call me ‘Stumpy!’

Here, for the sake of reference, is the description of #22 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List: Continue reading

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Five Reasons Why This Was President Trump’s Dumbest Tweet Yet

(I’m not counting the impulsive re-tweets from white supremacist and anti-Semitic sources.)

1. All tweets from a President of the United States who lacks rhetorical skills, common sense and self-restraint are unprofessional and self-destructive. That’s the foundation.

2. Ex-FBI director Comey isn’t the President’s enemy. Comey has acted, for the most part, with fairness and grace since being sacked. It is absurd to keep attacking him.

3. Threatening private citizens—which is what Comey is now— from the White House is ugly, unseemly, an abuse of power and only harms Trump. He fired Comey from a job he obviously wanted and loved. Isn’t that enough? This appears to be gratuitous harassment and petty nastiness…and appears that way because it is.

4. Tapes? TAPES? Trump mentions secret tapes while his foes and the news media is trying to make tortured comparisons to Watergate?

KABOOM!

This is signature significance for idiocy, or a death wish, or terminal jerkism, or something. TAPES????

5. “When in a hole, stop digging.” How can a man be successful in business and public life and not have learned this basic principle?

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Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout

1. When this ridiculous episode is recounted in history books, if it is, it will only be as an example of how the news media worked in tandem with Democrats to undermine the President of the United States, and deeply wounded American democracy and the public trust as a result. I suppose if it is recounted, it will either be as one of the many factors that led Americans to express disgust for both the news media and the Democratic party, forcing the first to shape up and the latter to re-invent itself, or, under the worst case scenario, to explain how the United States lost its Constitutional government.

2. A President of the United States fired an FBI director who deserved to be fired, and everything else is political warfare and public disinformation. A President firing someone he had the power to fire and that most Americans rightly believed should be fired cannot be a scandal, a crisis, or anything else worthy of the hysterical coverage this story has received. The coverage of the story is the antithesis of the journalism ethics tenet that journalists cover stories but do not create them.

3. President (and candidate) Trump is certainly at fault for handing his enemies sticks to beat him with. I put this is exactly the same category with a voluptuous woman walking into a bar full of drunken, rowdy men and doing a provocative dance to the jukebox as they hoot and drool. She should be safe, but she isn’t, and she should know that she isn’t. The drunken dogs should be trustworthy not to sexually assault her, but they aren’t,   When she ends up like Jodie Foster in “The Accused,” it is her sexual assailants who are guilty, but it is not blaming the victim to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?”

4. Of course, as has been proven at nauseating length here and elsewhere, President Trump does not think, at least in the professional sense of the word. It was stupid to throw out compliments to Vladimir Putin. It was stupid to make defensive-sounding comments about the Russian hacks because he didn’t want to admit that any factors led to his election other than his essential brilliance. One  indication that there are no sinister connections between Trump and Russia is that if there were, it would be mind-numbingly moronic for Trump to do anything but show hostility to the country and its leaders. It is only slightly less moronic for him to say these things when he has nothing to hide regarding “Russian ties.”

[An aside: a recent commenter on another thread repeated the oft-cited nonsense that Trump must be smart (like he says) because he has an IQ of 160. If Donald Trump scored 160 on an IQ test, then IQ tests should be thrown out and never used again. However, that claim is imaginary. (IQ tests don’t prove you are “smart,” either, but that’s a different issue.) A researcher once estimated Trump’s IQ based on his admission to Wharton and the gross average IQ of Wharton grads, which is itself a phony number. Then this  (incompetently) estimated figure was used by other hacks in some of those “Who was the smartest President?” articles, which estimate the IQs of the Presidents using the same kind of bad reasoning as the process that arrived at the figure for Trump (it was 156, not 160). In truth, nobody knows what Trump’s IQ is. Everybody knows, however, or should, that he does and says an astounding number of dumb things, many of which mostly have the effect of harming him, or his ability to do his job.] Continue reading

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UPDATE: More Ethics Notes On The Comey Firing Meltdown

In this matter, at least, President Johnson was right…

1. In 1867, the Radical Republican dominated Congress passed The Tenure of Office Act, an unconstitutional breach of the Separation of Powers that took away the President’s ability to fire his own Cabinet members without the legislature’s approval. President Andrew Johnson, extremely unpopular in the victorious North and more so with his own party (Johnson was a Democrat, added to Lincoln’s ticket as Vice-President to bolster Lincoln’s desperate bid for re-election in 1864), deliberately defied the law by firing War Secretary Edwin Stanton, a Lincoln appointee and an ally of the Radicals. In response, Johnson’ own party led a n effort to impeach him, and he was narrowly saved from conviction by a single vote in the Senate. The Act was soon ruled unconstitutional, as Johnson said it was. As lousy a President as he was, Johnson had every right to fire someone who served at his pleasure, and doing so was not an impeachable offense.

2. The Democrats and journalists who are—absurdly, irresponsibly, embarrassingly, hysterically—calling for President Trump’s impeachment for firing James Comey neither know their history  nor respect democracy. Just check off the names of anyone, including your friends and colleagues, who make this argument, as hopeless, deranged partitions without perspective or integrity. I’m making my own list, with early entries like Maxine Waters and Vox, which beclowned itself by writing that a President’s lawful firing of a subordinate who clearly deserved it raises the  possibility of impeachment. At least the Radical Republicans had an unconstitutional law to back that theory: Vox has nothing but, of course, the Left’s hate campaign against the President of the United States. Then there are Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Mark Pocan (D-WI)  who also think a firing for cause is grounds for impeachment. Gallego:

“We are certainly moving down that path. There is a lot of runway until we get there, but the president is not helping himself by firing the person investigating him. … We don’t have the numbers to do something right now, but when it comes to a point when we feel there is no other recourse, you’d have — I think — we’d have the full support of the Democratic caucus.”

Pocan said that impeachment might be possible “if there was obstruction of justice by firing [the] FBI director … We’re seeing Democrats and Republicans concerned with timing of this decision … We would first need a majority in Congress or some Republican votes … but we need to keep every tool available to make sure the President follows the law.”

Ethics alarm: who elects idiots like these? I have searched for any situation, anywhere, in which a legal and justifiable firing of an official was prosecuted as “obstruction of justice.”  Nor is an act that is neither a crime, nor a “high crime or misdemeanor,” nor something a President isn’t clearly empowered to do “moving down” the path of impeachment.

3. This is public disinformation, aided and abetted by the news media. The primary ethics issue in the Comey firing is that it is just another stage of an unethical, dastardly effort by Democrats, progressives, the left-leaning news media and their allies to veto a Presidential election that they lost by their collective arrogance and incompetence, and to undermine the United States’ elected leader no matter what harm comes to the nation as a result. The firing itself was legal, ethical, and responsible, indeed overdue. Representing it as otherwise is designed to cause fear and confusion among the public. Responsible citizens are obligated to counter this in any way they can. Continue reading

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