When the President Agrees With Me, He’s Wrong

Let’s see if I can make this both coherent and succinct.

President Obama was ethical, responsible, and brave to weigh in on the Ground Zero Mosque (more accurately called “The Two-Blocks From Ground Zero Mosque”), and reaffirm America’s commitment to freedom of religion for all faiths by declaring that the Islamic group has the right to build its planned Islamic center.

After being roundly (and predictably) slammed by conservative talking heads, blogging bigots, and ranting reactionaries for stating the obvious, however, the President (or his advisors; the advisors are the ones who thought this was a dandy time to send Michelle and the kids on a luxury vacation in Spain, and can be identified by the large dunce caps on their heads…) decided to come back and clarify his remarks, lest anyone think he was actually endorsing the idea of an Islamic monument so near the spot where thousands of innocent Americans perished at the hands of Islamic extremists.

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Obama told reporters in Panama City, Fla.  “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.” This statement isn’t quite “I didn’t inhale” or “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is,” but it is still a solid candidate for the Presidential Weasel Words Hall of Fame. By saying he would not comment, President Obama was commenting, and implying, by saying what he would not comment about, that if he did comment, it would be that the mosque was probably not such a hot idea, since fairly or not, it was bound to be misunderstood as an insult to the victims of 9-11.

It was inappropriate and wrong for Obama to suggest this, in weasel words or otherwise. (It would be more honest and forthright to eschew the weasel word method, however.) Continue reading

“The Decision” and ESPN’s Ethics Fail: The Ombudsman Blows the Whistle

ESPN’s special broadcast turning LaBron James’ choice (pompously called “The Decision”) regarding which N.B.A. he would allow to sign him for millions upon millions of dollars was a landmark in the demonstration of bad taste, ego, greed and arrogance by professional athletes . As the sports networks ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer, points out in a column almost nobody will read (do you think many of ESPN’s followers are jazzed by issues of journalistic ethics?), it was also a low point in responsible journalism, and shattered  professional ethics standards left and right. ESPN let James’ representatives to choose its own paid interviewer and allowed control the content and ad sales in return for giving ESPN an “exclusive” and a ratings bonanza. The result was a journalistic ethics meltdown.

Some highlights of his criticism (you can read Ohlmeyer’s entire analysis here) : Continue reading

Basketball Ethics: A Writer Advocates Violence on the Court

To the credit of the Boston Celtics and their coaching staff, the team won its N.B.A. semi-final series against the Orlando Magic without resorting to thuggery. That is because they ignored the advice of Boston Herald sportswriter Ron Borges, who wrote a column in Friday’s edition urging the team to physically assault, and conceivably injure, the Magic’s on-court enforcer, Dwight Howard.

No doubt about it: Howard is a very dirty player, and in the relaxed enforcement atmosphere that the N.B.A. allows its refs to adopt during the play-offs, he had gone beyond dirty to abusive. Borges’ recommendation? Mug him. Hurt him. Continue reading

Bully Pulpit Ethics: Obama’s Alarming Flat Learning Curve

This can no longer be called a rookie mistake, like the Prof. Gates arrest affair. President Obama has now had plenty of time to absorb the fact that the President does not have a blank check to insert himself into every local controversy and use his office to sway public opinion and the conduct of others regarding matters outside his responsibilities. Still, he continues to do it.

It may seem trivial at first: the President gave an interview on TNT in which he pointedly suggested that NBA superstar LeBron James consider the Chicago Bulls as he faces free agency.  Continue reading