Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/26/17: Rationalizations And Double Standards [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1 Flat learning curve  On “Meet the Press” today, Nancy Pelosi’s defense, if you could call it that, of besieged Democratic representative John Conyers was a special display of what a total integrity void looks like. It was so obvious one has to wonder—again—if these people have that much contempt for the public, or if they are just not very bright. She called for “due process,” which presumably means a formal investigation or some kind of official proceeding, but Democrats haven’t cared about “due process” while demanding that Roy Moore withdraw because of the allegations by his teenage dream dates, or while attacking candidate Trump based on his boasting on the “Access Hollywood” tapes. Nor was “due process” a concern when they sicced Anita Hill on Clarence Thomas during his nationally televised confirmation hearing.

Pelosi then appealed to Conyers’ status as an “icon,” saying,

“John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women – Violence Against Women Act, which the left – right-wing – is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that, and he did great work on that.”

In other words, “The King’s Pass.” Conyers should be treated differently from any regular, run-of-the mill member of Congress, because his many accomplishments should be able to offset any wrongdoing. I’m sure Pelosi endorses this anti-ethical principle; after all, she thinks that she’s an icon too. In truth, kings, stars and icons should be held to higher ethical standards, not lower. If not, they become ethics corrupters.

Pelosi also employed another cynical rationalization, saying she was sure Conyers would do “the right thing.” This is a sneaky version of Rationalization #14. Self-validating Virtue, since she never says what the right thing would be. She is saying that whatever Conyers does would be the right thing, because he’s an icon and what he does must be right.

As a final hypocritical flourish, Pelosi questioned the credibility of Conyers’ accusers. Wait–isn’t the position of the Democratic party and progressives that such women should be believed? Pelosi also spoke as if none of the alleged victim of misconduct had been identified. Naturally, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd let Pelosi get away with this, although she said, “I do not know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”  An ethical and non-partisan journalist would have said, “Actually, Rep. Pelosi, government ethics lawyer and former staffer Melanie Sloan is one of the Congressman’s accusers. Since her organization, CREW, is a government watchdog that is habitually easy on Democrats, she has a lot of credibility.  Why don’t you believe her?

UPDATE: Conyers has surrendered his leadership position on the Judiciary Committee.

2. Nah, there’s no progressive media bias! The Daily Wire—just because its a conservative website doesn’t mean it’s facts are always wrong–produced this list of 24 sex scandals involving Democrats that CNN chose not to report on.

3.  Blame Senator Moore on Franken, Conyers and Pelosi…and Alabama Republicans, of course… If Roy Moore wins a Senate seat, spectacles like Pelosi’s doubletalk and spinning will be a major reason why.

4. A new rationalization! A comment in the Joe Morgan/steroid/Hall of Fame thread made me aware of a missing rationalization. LoSonnambulo wrote, in an excellent comment explaining the history of the dispute over allowing baseball’s proven steroid cheats into Cooperstown, Continue reading

Once Again, President Obama Displays His Aversion To Accountability

It's far from the only missing piece in the Obama leadership puzzle, but it's a big one...

It’s far from the only missing piece in the Obama leadership puzzle, but it’s a big one…

The so-called liberal news media (also called “the news media”) has largely ignored the implication of the President’s recent comments on the link between child health and climate change, but not every source. In a couple of recent interviews, Obama has attributed his determination to control global warming to a personal interest in childhood asthma.

A White House “fact sheet” on climate change notes that the percentage of Americans with asthma has “more than doubled’ in the last three decades [ I haven’t checked these statistics; as you know, the President fudges numbers frequently], and says that “climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital,” with those at greatest peril including children, the elderly, the poor, those who are ill and minority communities. “Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries,” the document informs us.

Speaking on ABC with chief health correspondent Dr. Richard Besser, the President connected climate change to a frightening Obama family episode. “Well you know, Malia had asthma when she was four, and because we had good health insurance, we were able to knock it out early,” the President said. The children of less successful parents, however, won’t be as lucky, Obama said. “It will be an all-around benefit to society if asthma can be curtailed.”

This is standard issue climate change fear-mongering, along with the convenient and cynical use of children to drive emotional responses from the public rather than allow them to rationally weigh facts, options, and the balancing of costs with benefits and risks. The entire climate change debate has been waged in this unethical manner, on both sides of the issue, and thus has been incompetent, irresponsible, and untrustworthy.

There is something else here, however.

USA Today makes a strong case that there was another more likely cause of Malia’s breathing problems: her father. Continue reading

Our News Media’s Integrity Vaccum: The Malia in Mexico Blackout

Here is a good example of how framing is critical in analyzing the news. When various conservative blogs and commentators started complaining that the AP’s report on the Obamas’ oldest daughter spending spring break in Mexico was disappearing from news media websites across the net, I saw it as a non-story from an ethics perspective, and certainly not, as was being suggested, an example of White House censorship of legitimate news. If I was President  Obama and my young teenage daughter was in Mexico, I’d ask the media to leave her alone too.

I thought other criticism of the President in this incident was unfair as well. Some critics suggested that it was irresponsible of the First Couple to allow their daughter to travel anywhere in a nation where the State Department had issued an advisory that it was not safe to travel. The Obamas are bad parents now? I assume that they are certain that their daughter will be safe, and have taken appropriate measures to ensure that. This is not within the realm of legitimate topics for political sniping.

Thus I wasn’t going to write about this, just as I decide not to write about a wide assortment of ethics-related events and topics that I consider and discard every day. By looking at it as an issue of  government and leadership ethics, however, I missed the real story, which involves journalistic integrity and courage. The Obamas certainly had a right to ask that Malia’s spring break travels be unreported, but a responsible and fair U.S. news media would have told them, politely, no. Continue reading