The Ethics Hero Odd Couple: Ann Coulter and Howard Dean

Two impolitic, frequently uncivil, ideologically zealous and widely disliked public figures just picked up Ethics Hero credentials by bucking the worst tendencies of their natural political allies, and making a stand for more understanding and less mindless partisan combat.

First, Ann Coulter, the political commentator/performance artist whose acid comments about the liberal establishment would make Rush Limbaugh blush: She was kicked off the bill for the ultra-conservative WorldNetDaily’s “Taking America Back Conference” in Miami because she agreed to speak at Homocon, an event organized by gay Republican group GOProud. Continue reading

CNN’s Ocatavia Nasr: Another Victim of Cognitive Dissonance

Octavia Nasr, a CNN editor and reporter for two decades, just got her walking papers for a 140-character tweet reading, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” The problem is that this particular “giant” was an anti-American, anti-Israeli terrorist who advocated suicide bombings and who encouraged terrorist acts by Hezbollah. In an explanatory blog post that failed to save her job, Nasr blamed the limitations of Twitter, and explained that she didn’t really admire him, just his stance against the abuse of Muslim women.

Maybe. Continue reading

What’s Wrong and Not Wrong About the BP CEO’s Yachting Weekend

Tony Heyward. the beset and beleaguered BP CEO who has become the public face of the oil company blamed for the devastating Gulf oil leak, took the weekend off to attend a yacht race off the Isle of Wight. For this he is being pummeled with more criticism, from Rahm Emanuel to Sen. Richard Shelby to angry bloggers on the Left, Right, and Center. Is going to a yacht race really that wrong, in ethical terms? Does it breach any duties or obligations? Here is the score card on what’s right, or at least “not wrong” about his conduct, and what is worthy of legitimate criticism. Continue reading

Obama on Jobs: Spin, Deceit or Encouragement?

What constitutes dishonesty in politics, in leadership, for a U.S. President?

The Labor Department reported today that the nation added 431,000 jobs in May. The good news: it was the fifth consecutive month of job growth. The bad: private employment, the best indicator of real economic recovery, climbed just 41,000. It had increased by 218,000 in April, and economists had predicted private employment, to rise by at least 190,000 in May. Thus the low number was a setback for the economy’s recovery.

Not to hear the President describe it, however. “What these numbers do mean though is that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “The economic policies that we’ve put in place are working.” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews is widely disliked on the Right because he is part of what they regard as the reflexive, Angry Left cabal than hangs out on MSNBC. He is, ironically enough, also distrusted by many on the Left, for his lack of sympathy for President Bill Clinton while he was lying to the grand jury, journalists and America during the Monica Lewinsky crisis. The “problem” with Matthews is that unlike most of his neighbors in Punditville, he has integrity. Matthews is an old-style, blue-collar, Tip O’Neil liberal who doesn’t let his political leanings alter his feelings about what he cares about most: the United States, the ideals of democracy, and bold and committed political leadership.

Matthews demonstrated his integrity and his priorities again yesterday with this impassioned outburst in which he accurately and deftly explained what a President’s leadership imperatives are in a crisis on the scale of the Gulf oil spill, and condemned President Obama’s failure to meet them. Continue reading

The Old Pro’s Betrayal, Baseball Style

It’s a dramatic scenario as old as Homer. The Young Hero (YH) lets his ego get in the way of his judgement, and the Old Pro (OP), now graying, diminished and wobbly, sets him straight with a cuff to the head, a sympathetic smile, and some tough love. Years later, the YH, now established and successful, credits the OP, now dead and perhaps forgotten, with making the difference in his life.

This isn’t just movie and novel stuff, as you know: it really happens. It may have happened to you. I know I’ve played both roles, and more than once.

In 2010, however, the plot is a little different.  Continue reading

The Problem of Fairness, and David Ortiz: A Case Study

Fairness is a core ethical value. It is also one of the most difficult to embody. We all know what fairness is in the abstract: treatment of others characterized by impartiality and honesty, and an avoidance of self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism. In complex situations involving many interested parties, however, seeking fairness becomes a dilemma wrapped in a conflict surrounded by contradictions. One of these complex situations now faces the Boston Red Sox, as the baseball team deals with the travails of its designated hitter David Ortiz. Sports has a fascinating habit of crystallizing ethical problems, and the Ortiz case demonstrates how hard it is to be “fair.” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: England World Cup Team Coach Fabio Capello

Just when I find myself staring disconsolately at the vast expanse of snow, thinking about how futile it is to try to sweep back the ethical apathy and self-serving tolerance for bad conduct that is burying our values as a blizzard buries a garden, along comes Fabio Capello, from the unlikely world of soccer, to give me hope.

Capello gets it. Mere days from his team’s embarking on the annual World Cup quest, he sacked his star Defender, John Terry, as team captain. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sen. Jim Webb

Naming Virginia’s Senator Webb as an Ethics Hero really gilds the lily, for he has been a hero much of his life, most spectacularly in the Vietnam War, where he was its most decorated Marine. It isn’t surprising, then, that while his party was reeling from Martha Coakley’s loss of Ted Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts, and some of his colleagues were spinning plots to find some way to pass health care legislation before Sen. Brown got to Washington, Jim Webb, a Democrat, released this statement before the echoes had even faded away from Scott Brown’s victory speech: Continue reading