More Post-Election Ethics: “Bias Makes You Stupid” Edition

Dewey Wins!

Dewey Wins!

1. Ugliest moment of election night: Trump’s assembled chanting “Lock her up!” as the electoral victory approached.

2. Anti-Trump bias made the entire journalism profession and punditry class incompetent, forming an almost impenetrable echo chamber that assured its smug occupants and Democrats that Hillary Clinton literally couldn’t lose. “Bias makes you stupid” is a frequent refrain here, and I cannot think of a more powerful example.

In a terrific if rueful article in Slate, Jim Newell writes of how the whole Democratic establishment convinced itself that Hillary couldn’t lose:

I think of the lawmakers, the consultants, the operatives, and—yes—the center-left media, and how everything said over the past few years leading up to this night was bullshit…Think of how wrong the entire national media conversation was—and yes, I contributed my fair share—about how the Republicans were being torn apart as a party. I prewrote a piece Tuesday afternoon, to be published in the event of the expected Clinton win, pushing back against both myself and other members of the media, arguing that Democrats and Republicans were both in existential trouble and that, in the short-term context of a decaying political system, Republicans might even have the edge…This was wrong. Republicans don’t have a slight edge over Democrats in a decaying political system. Republicans are ascendant.

The whole point of experts and analysts is that they use facts and objectivity to cut through rationalizations and bias. If they can’t or won’t do that, they are useless. They are frauds. Here’s the Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, who proves elsewhere in the essay, even as she writes about bias, that she is still a partisan to her core:

To put it bluntly, the media missed the story. In the end, a huge number of American voters wanted something different. And although these voters shouted and screamed it, most journalists just weren’t listening. They didn’t get it.They didn’t get that the huge, enthusiastic crowds at Donald Trump’s rallies would really translate into that many votes. …It would be too horrible. So, therefore, according to some kind of magical thinking, it couldn’t happen.

Journalists — college-educated, urban and, for the most part, liberal — are more likely than ever before to live and work in New York City and Washington, D.C., or on the West Coast. And although we touched down in the big red states for a few days, or interviewed some coal miners or unemployed autoworkers in the Rust Belt, we didn’t take them seriously. Or not seriously enough….We just kept checking our favorite prognosticating sites and feeling reassured, even though everyone knows that poll results are not votes.

The news media anti-Trump bias might have even lost Hillary the election, not just by outraging the public–it was so, so blatant–but by deceiving the Democrats. Clinton didn’t bother to campaign in Wisconsin, so convinced was she that voters there would blindly follow the party, as usual. The state was one of the big victories for Trump.

Yes, bias has made U.S. journalism incompetent, stupid, self-satisfied and useless. It will take more than one fiasco to reform it—if it can be reformed. I hope it can because democracy doesn’t function well with an untrustworthy newsmedia, Continue reading

Ethics Clean-Up: Carson’s Negligence, Cruz’s Creepiness, And One Last Super Bowl Complaint

3 thingsBefore I run off to see a movie that will occupy my time while so many of my friends and colleagues disgrace themselves supporting brain damage for profit (here is Sally Jenkins on the NFL’s disgusting imitation of tobacco executives), there are three topics related to recent posts that bear mentioning.

  1. Ted Cruz’s Creepiness

Many Ted Cruz supporters were dismayed that even while flagging the biased and unfair tactics being used by the news media to discredit the most reviled of the seven GOP presidential contenders, I sympathized with those who find the Texas senator creepy. They don’t seem to understand that defense from a non-Cruz supporting ethicist is infinitely more credible and useful to their cause than support from a mouth-foaming conservative pundit, but never mind: nobody understands me, and it’s comforting to be attacked from the right for a change. However, I am thoroughly sick of people who don’t know what an ad hominem attack is accusing me of engaging in it.I ahve never used Ted Cruz’s creepiness or any of his other personality flaws to attack Cruz’s positions or political views. Doing that is an ad hominem attack. In the context of viability as a Presidential candidate, Cruz’s appearance, manner, and vibes, including what many see as creepiness, are relevant to their fitness to run for President, because fitness includes electability.

Thus it is relevant that Jeb Bush comes off as a bumbling weenie; that Chris Christie is fat, that Ben Carson looks and sounds like he is on barbiturates, that Marco Rubio is short, and that Kasich is dorky. Do you think it’s a coincidence that most Presidents are taller than average, and almost never bald? Charisma is rare, even in Presidents, but having it is a huge advantage (See: Trump, Donald) and having the opposite of charisma—Nixon, Dole, Gore, Ted Cruz—is a serious handicap. I’m really sorry that your hero seems creepy, Cruz fans, but it’s a fact, and it matters. Don’t shoot the messenger.

By the way, you will notice that Chris Christie is working at losing weight. Ted???? Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The GOP New Hampshire Debate

Rubio meltdown

Two ethics controversies occurred before the ABC debate (transcript here) even began.

  • DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is a shameless and audacious hack. Does anyone seriously defend her? After being justly criticized in the news media for unabashedly hiding the Democratic candidates debates, staging them on weekends and against football games to smooth the road for Hillary, she actually had the epic gall to accuse the GOP of doing the same thing in a tweet yesterday, which read:

“Hmmm, wondering why @GOP trying to hide their #GOPdebate on the Saturday of #SuperBowl weekend no less?!”

Is she that lacking in self-awareness? Was she mocking herself? Is she an idiot? After she was blasted left and right for the tweet, she either revealed her real objective or concocted a face-saving retort:

“.@TheDemocrats debates set viewer records. Both parties’ broadcast network debates on wknds. Replies to SuperBowl #GOPdebate make my point,”

Whether this was her original intent of a U-Turn, it was also her trademark, a ridiculously transparent lie. “TheDemocrats debates set viewer records” is deceit: all the debates by both parties have exceeded previous viewer levels, but the Republican debates have significantly out-drawn the Democrats. There is no doubt that the Democrats would have drawn more had they avoided weekends like Republicans did, and that the fact that they did not was entirely intentional.

Why do Democrats tolerate a sleaze like Wasserman Schultz? It is natural to judge a party by its leadership, and she is neither bright, nor honest, nor effective,  nor appealing.

The other issue was the unfairness of leaving Carly Fiorina out of the debate. I don’t pretend to understand the formula used to demote the candidates, but since all of the other potential debaters–Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul—had dropped out, either Fiorina should have been given a chance to debate herself for two hours, which would have been fun, or be in the main debate. Her New Hampshire poll numbers are equivalent to several who debated last night.

Debate observations: Continue reading

KABOOM! Sen. McCaskill Disgraces Herself On National Television

head blowsWhat a horrible thing for a U.S. Senator to inflict on her state. Brains must have been splattering all over ceilings, furniture, family members and TV screens during her excruciating live interview with Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”  There she was, a member of the U.S. Senate representing the great state of Missouri, grinning like a zany and spewing the Clinton campaign’s desperate talking points—from March!—falsely and insultingly insisting that in maintaining a secret and non-conforming private e-mail server while Secretary of State that, as Democratic hack Donna Brazile said later on a truncated round table, that Clinton did nothing wrong.

Just violating policy, being irresponsible, placing official data in jeopardy, destroying potential evidence, and lying about it, but nothing wrong...

“This is a partisan witch hunt!” said Senator McCaskill. Hillary has been forthcoming and complied with every request! She wasn’t the first Secretary of State to use private e-mail! The materials weren’t classified when she had them! There’s no indication she had a motive to expose national secrets! (This is a new one on the talking points list and an audacious straw man. Nobody has argued that Clinton was a spy or committing treason; what she did was place State Department communications at risk to hackers and exposure for her own protection and advantage.) Then McCaskill paraphrased the “let’s change the subject” talking point we have heard now almost verbatim from Clinton and her surrogates: “Hillary Clinton is a fighter, and she will fight through this and continue fighting for Americans”—all while smiling madly as if the whole thing was a big joke, since it all is “nonsense.” Continue reading

Eight Ethics Observations On Donald Trump’s Prisoner Of War Slur…And Another New Rationalization: “Popeye’s Excuse”

PopeyeFrom the New York Times:

“Mr. Trump upended a Republican presidential forum here [Ames, Iowa] , and the race more broadly, by saying of the Arizona senator and former prisoner of war: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Mr. McCain, a naval aviator, was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than five years in Hanoi, refusing early release even after being repeatedly beaten.

The only news outlet that isn’t covering this is the Huffington Post, because controversies that directly affect who will be President of the United States aren’t news when they involve candidates the HuffPo ideologues don’t respect.

I thought I should remind you.

Ethics observations:

1. The statement is signature significance that Trump is a jerk as well as a fool, and not very bright as well. The latter is especially important: being an idiot should disqualify anyone for high elected office. Not that Trump’s intelligence, or lack of it, hasn’t been a matter of record for a long, long time, but this is as blazing a tell as anyone could wish for. Anyone who voluntarily places his or her life at risk for their country is a hero; circumstances and moral luck determine what other tests warfare will present to such an individual’s character. When a hero passes such a test with distinction, as McCain did in his prisoner of war ordeal during the Vietnam war, the military makes a special effort to recognize that heroism, in part to inspire others. My father refused to make a big deal about his Silver Star and Bronze Star, because he was aware that the man who was blown up by a shell while virtually standing next to him could have just as easily been the decorated war hero, and my father a statistic, had the shell landed a little bit to the right. My father regarded the man who was killed in his foxhole as much of a hero as he was. Trump would say, “I like people who aren’t killed.”

Only a stupid man could believe that.

2. For Trump to denigrate McCain’s service when he took every possible step to avoid service in the same war is especially nauseating. The ethical values being rejected here are fairness and respect. John McCain displayed courage, patriotism, devotion to civic duty, selflessness and integrity that Trump could not. It’s really that simple. Trump lacks any standing to criticize Senator McCain’s war record.

3. On ABC this morning, Donald Trump was asked about his habit of name-calling and using personal insults as his response to political criticism. He justified his incivility by evoking the Tit for Tat excuse: if you insult him, he’ll insult you, and that includes calling you fat, old, stupid, or–his favorite—“a loser.” This is playground ethics, worthy of a 12-year-old. Your duty to be fair, civil and ethical is not reduced by the unethical conduct of someone else, even when it is aimed at you. Ethical people understand this, often before they are 20. Ethically, Trump is a case of arrested development. Continue reading

The Trustbusters Circle The Wagons: Why?

Why do they always do this?

"Thank you, Sen. Reed, for your comments. You can stop spinning now."

“Thank you, Sen. Reed, for your comments. You can stop spinning now.”

Republicans, Democrats—why? Why do they think, when they are caught in an obvious example of misconduct, it is smarter and more useful—it certainly isn’t honest, courageous or ethical—not to simply confess and apologize, even if it’s with hardly an ennobling statement no better than, “You got us. Yeah, we were lying. That was wrong. Sorry,'” rather than continue to lie? The now ridiculous contortions of Democrats (and their knee-jerk supporters in the public and the media, but forget about them, for they are merely pathetic) are doing independent harm, because they destroy trust in government generally, and that, for a democratic republic, is potentially fatal.

Way back in September, when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice disgraced herself by going on five Sunday talk-shows and stating with deceitful certitude ( “our current best assessment”…”we believe”)  that the deadly attack on the U.S. outpost in Libya was solely the result of spontaneous outrage on the part of extremists over a video, and not an organized terrorist attack, critics said that the Administration was covering up what really happened, and lying about what they knew. The accusation was shouted down and indeed ridiculed by Administration officials, Democrats in Congress, and the Obama-promoting media (it was in the middle of an election campaign) as a partisan smear, but in fact the critics, partisan though they were, were right. Rice was disseminating disinformation. The Administration and its State Department were intentionally blaming a video when they knew better. Why is another story: conservative pundits believe it was to avoid having to admit, mid-campaign, that the signature accomplishment of the President’s term, killing Osama bin Laden and supposedly crushing al Qaida, was not quite the complete victory the Democrats were claiming. If that was the reason, it was a stupid reason, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen that way. Hiding inconvenient facts before an election is despicable, but lying to the public and the world is serious enough, whatever its motive.

When she was questioned in Congress about the misleading descriptions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled that the Administration was in cover-up mode, both by lying outright (“I did not say … that it was about the video for Libya.”) and making her infamous and ethically indefensible statement”With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?” Now, thanks to multiple revelations, the testimony of whistle-blowers, and newly released e-mails, there is no question that Clinton’s State Department took the lead in scrubbing the CIA talking points that immediately attributed the attack in Benghazi to identifiable terrorist elements connected to al Qaida, and not a spontaneous demonstration against the video. Not only are the Administration’s defenders refusing to admit that what happened happened, they are recycling old tactics from other scandals to do it, which if nothing else is lazy and boring:

  • “This is old news.” Or, as (Liberal! Obama-loving!) NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd termed it, “It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true, it’s old news.” Dowd also correctly identified this as a classic from the Bill Clinton playbook, used for too many bona fide scandals to list. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Peter Eyre, Presidential Debate Commission Adviser

“We selected Martha Raddatz because she is a terrific journalist and will be a terrific moderator and we’re thrilled to have her. The notion that that somehow affects her ability is not something we have given a moment’s thought to.”

Peter Eyre, advisor to the Presidential Debate Commission, in a statement to USA TODAY. He was referring to the revealed conflict of interest that calls into question the appropriateness of ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz being chosen as moderator for tonight’s Vice-Presidential Candidates Debate despite the President having attended her wedding and the fact that her former husband was an OBAMA donor and is a high-ranking member of the administration himself.

Let me make this as unequivocal as possible: Eyre’s statement is ignorant, arrogant, incompetent, and disgusting. And, of course, unethical.

Continue reading