From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “President Obama’s Epic, Tragic Incompetence: A Review”

Obama

I was not planning on re-posting this depressing piece from 2014. I found it while I was doing some research on a post that may have to wait until tomorrow, noting the delightful embarrassment of evidence of Bill Clinton accepting the favors of one of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex slaves being published today, just as Bill prepared to address the Democrat’s virtual convention.

But I realized that this was an ideal time to revisit the post, as the Democrats devote their convention to weaving dreams of an alternate past, when the Presidency was in masterful hands before Donald Trump screwed it up.

I am not entirely happy with the post; amazingly, I did not even mention what may be Obama’s worst, most lasting and most ironic failing, his steady undermining of American race relations, the tragic consequences of which we are seeing today. Four months after I wrote this, a large, angry teen attacked a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and got himself shot. Obama chose not to use his popularity with African Americans to quiet the anger, but to  facilitate the exploitation of it.

***

I stumbled upon this piece in Commentary by Peter Wehner. At first I was grateful that he had written it so I didn’t have to, and then was struck by the title: The New Obama Narrative: Epic Incompetence. New? This has been the narrative of the entire Obama Presidency, and I have been periodically and grimly drawing attention to that fact, while watching the mainstream media attempt to obscure it, from the very beginning. Now, as the Veteran Administration fiasco finally presents a scandal that Democrats and journalists don’t dare to try to dismiss as, in Dana Milbank’s description of the Benghazi cover-up, a “nothing-burger,” incompetence in the unaccountable, unmanaged, embarrassingly unprofessional Obama Administration is suddenly being pronounced unacceptable. To the contrary, it is because the news media unethically accepted it that the incompetence of this President is finally killing people.

The tragic legacy of Barack Obama will be recorded in three parts: his groundbreaking achievement as the nation’s first black President, his utter incompetence at governing and leadership, and his dishonesty and the dishonesty he engendered by those who reported to him. The first has been fatally undermined by the second and third, and the third, dishonesty, necessitated by the second, the relentless incompetence. The reason this is so tragic should be obvious to all. President Obama, like all trailblazers, needed to be a stand-out, exemplary performer to avoid setting back the causes his ascension needed to advance. But instead of Jackie Robinson, he has been Pumpsie Green, and that may be unfair to Pumpsie, the first black player to wear a Boston Red Sox uniform who knew his limitations, and did the best he could for as long as he could. It is also tragic because America, as much as any time in its history prior to the Civil War, needed a strong, wise, confident, unifying leader to deal with great and difficult problems that will only get worse with time. The challenges would have tested the best of leaders; for President Obama, with neither leadership instincts or talent, they have proven impossible. Worse, the basic requirements of governing have been proven to be beyond him, and he does not have the self-awareness or humility to seek the help he needs.

From Wehner’s piece:

“The emerging narrative of Barack Obama, the one that actually comports to reality, is that he is a rare political talent but a disaster when it comes to actually governing. The list of his failures is nothing short of staggering, from shovel-ready jobs that weren’t so shovel ready to the failures of healthcare.gov to the VA debacle. But it also includes the president’s failure to tame the debt, lower poverty, decrease income inequality, and increase job creation. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay and didn’t. His administration promised to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a civilian jury in New York but they were forced to retreat because of outrage in his own party…The White House response to everything from the VA and IRS scandals to the seizure of AP phone records by the Department of Justice is that it learned about them from press reports. More and more Mr. Obama speaks as if he’s a passive actor, a bystander in his own administration, an MSNBC commentator speaking about events he has no real control over. We saw that earlier today, when the president, in trying to address the public’s growing outrage at what’s happening at the VA, insisted he “will not stand for it” and “will not tolerate” what he has stood for and tolerated for almost six years…On every front, he is overmatched by events. It’s painful to watch a man who is so obviously in over his head. And more and more Americans are suffering because of it.”

Just as surprising as the fact that this is still being written as if it were news is that so many pundits, journalists and citizens still deny that the obvious is true. Every agency and department shows evidence of mismanagement, and yet virtually no one is held accountable by the President. He even seems to fail to grasp that such ineptitude is a problem. Asking the Veteran’s Administration to investigate its own scandal, like having Eric Holder’s consiglieri Justice Department investigate “Fast and Furious,” or an Obama political donor to oversee the investigation of the IRS’s misconduct, appears to be a defiant statement that there will be no accountability in the Obama regime, and that only how they play with “the base” matters, not whether the country is governed well. Ron Fournier writes in the National Journal: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are”

The post on Facebook hysteria over the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the largely symbolic Paris climate change accords has drawn perplexing commentary. The post did not assert a position on climate change, nor did it defend the reasons given for the withdrawal.  The post simply stated that it was irresponsible and dishonest to claim dire consequences of the decision when the accord itself is almost entirely symbolic, requires nothing, in the sense that there are no enforcement mechanisms, and can’t possibly carry the existential weight that social media, politicians, pundits and activists are claiming. It is all appeal to emotion and ignorance.

And it is. Especially since most of the social media hysterics haven’t read the accord and are illiterate regarding climate science.

And they are.

I guess I knew that both climate change flacks and those suspicious of them would shift gears into the messy issue itself and its controversial research and models. The dreaded (and misleading) “97% of all scientists” stat even made its appearance, although, again, it was irrelevant to the post.

Finally, Zoltar Speaks!, Popeye-like, declared that “I ain’t gonna take it, ’cause I can’t take no more!” after a side debate over whether the infamous hacked e-mails among climate-change researchers “proved” that there was a conspiracy to distort the science on climate change (no,  they prove that the scholarly research community members are not as objective and independent as they are professionally obligated to be, and that this makes their conclusions inherently untrustworthy). He produced an epic essay in response, so long and detailed that he posted it on a satellite blog. With his permission, I am posting it in it’s entirety here.

Here is the Zoltar Speaks! Comment of the Day on the post, “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are” … Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. [UPDATED and CORRECTED]

“Our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.”

—-New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, announcing that the Times was eliminating its “public editor” and its public editor position.

The decision was bad enough, the disingenuous excuse was almost worse. Yes, by all means, the Times doesn’t need an independent, internal expert on journalism ethics to blow the whistle when the Times ignores its duties of competence, independence and objectivity and breaches its own ethics code: the overwhelmingly left-wing readers the Times panders too daily will keep it on the straight and narrow! Besides. why does the Times need an ethics cop now? After all, the public’s trust in the news media, of which the Times is supposed to be the role model, has never been higher!

Well, no, actually, the public’s trust in journalism has never been lower, and the New York Time’s blatant bias during the 2016 campaign and in the wake of Donald Trump’s election is one of the main reasons. Tell me: if an organization finds its public trust diminishing drastically, which act shows a sincere interest in addressing that distrust and reversing it…

A. Hiring an independent journalism ombudsperson who investigates instances of dubious journalism ethics and reports to the public in the paper, no matter what the results, entering criticism and recommending changes as needed, or

B. Eliminating the above position entirely?

The New York Times chose B. What this indicates is that the Times doesn’t care about the public trust, just its readers’ trust. It knows most of its current readership wants an aggressive progressive advocacy rag, not bold, objective and independent journalism. When a new less-progressive-than-usual op ed writer dared to suggest that critics of climate change orthodoxy be listened to respectfully, Times readers tried to get him fired. Continue reading

Of Bundys, Trump, Wikileaks, Rebellion—You Know, The Whole 2016 Election Thing

jury-nullThe jigsaw puzzle of an existential national crisis, a real one, are assembling sufficiently so an image can be distinguished. It is uglier than I imagined.

1. Item:  The Bundy Brothers were acquitted. This was pure jury nullification, because they were guilty as hell. It might be an aberration, but I fear it is not. The jury is a fractal of democracy, and when juries start finding lawbreakers innocent, they are sending a message that those in power ignore at their peril. They say “We don’t like or respect you or your laws, and you better change, or else.” The complete class, regional and ideological estrangement from the Federal government this decision represents shows how completely Barack Obama has divided the nation, and portend a long, long, difficult and, one can only hope non-violent recovery, if some competent leaders emerge who can handle it. As trust in our institutions have collapsed with accelerating speed over the last decade, civility has deteriorated and authorities have increasingly threatened the basic Constitutional rights of citizens while extending privileges to non-citizens for political motives, the connective tissue of our society has been frayed to the snapping point. Responsible leadership, objective  and rational citizens must not shrug this verdict off as just a bunch of gun nuts and cowboys throwing a tantrum.

2. Item: Donald Trump keeps saying that the election is “rigged.” This is beyond irresponsible, in isolation not more irresponsible than what Trump has said about other things, but the timing and sheer intensity of this drumbeat from him is truly horrible….and also likely to be effective.  Continue reading

Ten Observations On The Trump Assassination Attempt

Huey Long assassination

Perhaps you missed it? Someone tried to shoot Donald Trump. From the Associated Press:

“A British man arrested at a weekend Donald Trump rally in Las Vegas tried to grab a police officer’s gun so he could kill the presidential candidate after planning an assassination for about a year, according to authorities. U.S. Secret Service agents said Michael Steven Sandford approached a Las Vegas police officer at the campaign stop to say he wanted Trump’s autograph, but that he then tried to take the weapon.”

Observations:

1. Wow. Talk about being incompetent at your chosen avocation! This guy has been “planning an assassination for about a year” and the big plan was “try to get a police officer’s gun”?

Assassins, like everything else, just aren’t what they used to be.

2. Remember, however, that the only difference between a failed assassination attempt and a successful one is moral luck.

3. The Washington Post asks why the incident didn’t provoke more news coverage. Isn’t that a strange question to come from one of the news organizations responsible for the lack of coverage? Why doesn’t Callum Borchers just ask his own editors at the Post?

The answer seems clear to me: the news media doesn’t want any public sympathy going Trump’s way, or to give him what would amount to positive publicity. This is the double standard we are being told that we need to get used to. Does anyone want to make the case that an assassination attempt on Hillary’s life would be a multi-day story, with a repeat of the U.S. Representative Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting mass accusation, now holding  that Republican “hate speech” and anti-Hillary rhetoric nearly resulted in a tragedy?  Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin were being fingered as the reason why a deranged man went on a killing spree in Tucson. Why not blame a Trump assassination attempt on Paul Krugman or Elizabeth Warren? Or me? Continue reading

Pop Ethics Quiz: Is This Hypocrisy?

"Do as I said, not how I wished they would have done before I said it, and definitely not to me now. Got that?"

“Do as I said, not how I wished they would have done before I said it, and definitely not to me now. Got that?”

In 2003, Dennis Hastert, then Speaker of the House and as yet unmasked as a child molester in his days as a High School wrestling coach,  said

But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done.”

The news media has labeled this statement hypocrisy. Is it?

It is not.

Hypocrisy is a statement of moral or ethical standards that an individual proves by his own actions that he does not believe. The actions that supposedly mark Hastert as a hypocrite had already taken place when he made that statement in 2003. There is no reason to assume that he did not believe that sexual predators should be stopped and prevented from doing harm to others, even though he had been one, and indeed even if he was still inclined to molest young men in 2003.

This is another version of the flawed argument that a parent who smoked pot as a youth cannot credibly demand that his or her own child not do the same. What makes a hypocritical statement is insincerity and pretense at the time it is made, demonstrated by conduct in close temporal proximity to that statement. Continue reading

Ethics Review Of “Supreme Court Vacancy Theater”

Court vacancy

The short review would be “Yecchh.”

The reason that the earlier Ethics Alarms post about the death of Justice Scalia expressed the wish that President Obama on his own declare that he would defer the almost certainly futile appointment of a successor to the tender care of the next President was precisely because it was obvious that any other course was just going to create more ugly partisan name-calling and hypocrisy, accomplishing nothing positive and wasting a lot of energy and time. I also knew that this most divisive of POTUS’s would no more do that than he would deliver his next speech in a duck voice. Thus we have the theater, with people who should know better acting like the Republican Senate’s announcement that it would not be voting on President Obama’s nominee, should he make one, is some  kind of gross breach of duty and ethics, and people who don’t know better acting as if being one Justice short is some kind of Armageddon. Neither is true.

Nor is there any reasonably similar set of circumstances and conditions that makes the GOP’s entirely political decision, and Obama’s entirely political decision to test it, some kind of breach of precedent. There is no precedent—not with these factors in play:

A Democratic President with both Houses controlled by the Republicans

An ideologically and evenly divided Court, with the new Justice potentially having a momentous and nation-changing effect on the determination of many looming cases

An unusually partisan and ideological President who has proven unwilling and unable to seek legitimate input from the opposing party, and who, in fact, has been personally and bitterly insulting toward it

A rebellion against the “establishment” in both parties, from the extreme reaches of both parties, on the grounds that neither is extreme or combative enough

A lame duck, not especially popular President and an approaching national election that is currently being molded by unpredictable personalities and events, and is likely to be hotly contested..

The Supreme Court unusually central to the government of the country.

The vacancy on the Court being created by the death of one of the Court’s most influential, ideological and powerful members.

A degree of political division in the public not experienced since the Civil War.

These are all material factors, made more material in some cases because of the other factors. Thus accusations that the Republican have engaged in some kind of grand, historical crime against democracy is, to the extent the accusers believe it, crap, and to the extent that they don’t, ignorant. Continue reading

Abusing Fairness And Decency To “Get” Ted Cruz

Cruz college

I am in full sympathy with anyone who gets the creeps from Ted Cruz. The news media’s problem with Cruz, however, is also soaked with pure ideological bias. It doesn’t like his religiosity, nor his conservative fervor. If they turned one-fifth of the intensity of their anti-Cruz zeal on Hillary Clinton, maybe a few more of her more zombified followers  might finally feel some neurons firing.   (I don’t know if Trump shooting someone would dissuade his herd, but I have talked to Hillary supporters who would either refuse to believe it or claim it was set up by Republicans.)

Apparently Cruz’s kamikaze legislative tactics, mendacity and dirty tricks in his current campaign isn’t enough ammunition for those who want to derail his ambitions: now the news media is just looking for dirt, or manufacturing. Supposedly legitimate news organizations have scraped the bottom of the academic barrel to find lawyers who would argue that Cruz isn’t a natural born citizen, even though the same editors would have leapt out of their windows before seeking scholarly endorsement of Obama birther theories. Even non-political publications are doing it: Psychology Today just disgraced itself by publishing the ultimate pseudo-science junk piece from  a professor of neurology at George Washington University, Dr. Richard E. Cytowic, who explains in clinical terms why he, at least, finds Ted Cruz creepy. It is nothing but an ad hominem attack based on his opinion that Cruz is funny-looking, exactly as wrong as criticizing Obama’s ears, Hillary’s calves or Bernie’s wrinkles.

Ah, but Ted Cruz deserves this, you see, because he is conservative, Republican, genuinely rather than tactically religious—can’t have that—and one of the “Cuban guys.”

Piling on after the cheap shots taken at Cruz via Twitter by his jealous Hollywood jerk Princeton roommate, journalist Ellie Shechet decided to track down as many of Cruz’s college acquaintances as possible. allegedly to investigate a “rumor” of young Ted doing something disgusting, but really to see who would trash him. Here’s an example of her “investigative journalism”: Continue reading

Ethics Revelations In The Obituaries: Media Bias And “Big Al”

obits

Ethics revelations lurk everywhere, even in the obituaries pages:

The Surprising Integrity of “Big Al”

Al Molinaro, the rumpled, large proboscused character actor best known as “Murray the cop” on TV’s “Odd Couple” and the proprietor of
the diner on “Happy Days,” where he mastered the world-weary catch phrase of “Yeeeaaahh, yeah-yeah-yeah…,” died last week at the advanced age of 96. In his Washington Post obituary, I gained new admiration for Al. (I was always an Arnold (Pat Morita) man, myself, and if you don’t understand that reference, good for you. You ignored “Happy Days.”) At the end of Al’s obit, there was this…

“In 1990, Mr. Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work.

“I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. Molinaro said. “That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. . . . You get to a point where you don’t want to do just anything for the career. You gotta live with yourself.”

Now that’s integrity, and in show business, of all places. Our culture remains civil and benign only if we are willing to fight for it, or at least withhold our assistance as it deteriorates. Molinaro had the courage and integrity to accept this civic duty, Few among as do, and actors—especially specialty character actors like Al, almost never do. I remember that Mel Brooks harbored dreams of getting John Wayne to play “The Waco Kid” in “Blazing Saddles,” and said that he ran in to the Duke and talked him into reading the screenplay.  Wayne called him the next day and told Brooks that he loved the script, but that he couldn’t take the role. “It’s too dirty,” he said. “I’m John Wayne!” But he said he laughed all night as he read it, and promised to be “at the head of the line” when it opens. Continue reading

Colbert And Matthews: You know, Guys,The American Public Deserves Better Than This.

Stephen Colbert

What we  deserve is fairness, truth, respect, and not to have the people with the biggest megaphones working overtime to mislead, corrupt and indoctrinate us.

First, Stephen Colbert.

The media drooling over Colbert taking over for David Letterman has been embarrassing and itself a symptom of anti-conservative bias. Colbert is versatile, smart and funny, but we have many such performers. He is only lovedlovedloved—as opposed to appreciated and admired– because he mocked Republicans and conservatives. and no one else, on his Comedy Central show. (So did Letterman on CBS in his dotage, but Colbert is sunnier and smarter than Dave.) Colbert can be another knee-jerk liberal mouthpiece if he chooses, but its a boring choice and ultimately diminishing: there is ample ammunition for satire and mockery in the conduct of all politicians. Representing otherwise on a big stage every night in an election year will ultimately become an exercise in cultural indoctrination and lazy punditry, like Bill Maher playing to the approving screams of his atheist, drug-loving, progressive audience. Maybe Colbert will get good ratings this way, but it’s not what he suggested would be his course in the run up to yesterday’s premiere on CBS.

I won a bet that I hoped he would lose: I bet that Colbert would mock Trump, and leave Hillary alone. And so he did. Maybe he will make up for this in later shows, but I doubt it very much after his demeanor last night. Trump is an easy mark: Conan has been mocking him for years. But it is Hillary who has provided the best material for a genuine, Equal Opportunity satirist, especially her Manchurian Candidate, robotic “apology” statement from earlier in the day. Talk about creepy…and, if the possibility didn’t exist that this pod person might end up in the White House, comedy gold:

Especially since she didn’t genuinely apologize for anything. Continue reading