Tag Archives: President Bill Clinton

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/9/2017

Good Morning!

1. On the matter of whether James Demore’s Google memo was unethical in its distribution, which some commenters here dispute, apparently he took the precaution of hiring an employment lawyer before he sent the memo. This strongly suggests that he was not merely opening up an internal discussion, but intentionally provoking a confrontation. If he just wanted to alert management to a problem, the ethical approach was to speak directly to management, not put out an e-mail that he had to know someone would leak to the internet.

Meanwhile, Google’s firing Demore for politely raising legitimate culture issues belies its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. It also may be illegal: Federal labor law bars union AND non-union employers alike from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions. California also has a very strong anti-political discrimination law which “prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

2. I noted this in yesterday’s post, but it’s worse than I thought: the left-wing news media, which is to say the news-media, has displayed neither discipline, common sense (you can’t keep signalling how biased you are, guys—eventually people will notice) nor ethical journalism by outrageously misrepresenting the message and the tone of the memo. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, for example, described the memo as saying  “I don’t really like women anywhere near a computer.” That’s false reporting. Do these people understand that anyone can read the memo and see that either they are lying, or haven’t read the memo?

3. The memo’s allegedly “controversial” statement that men and women have some innate physiological, emotional and psychological differences that make their genders (in general, not in specific cases) better or less-well-suited for certain jobs, tasks or fields takes me back to my multiple battles with feminists who insisted that I cast female actors in “Twelve Angry Men.” They simply put their fingers in their ears and hummed when I pointed out that the play was about the group dynamics when twelve disparate male strangers are locked in a room. Do women in such a situation keep threatening each other physically? I think not. Actually, the play is an advertisement for diversity: having women in that largely dysfunctional fictional jury would have probably solved many of its problems, but because women are different from men, not because they are exactly the same, as the Georgetown feminists insisted. Women really need to decide what their stand is: are they different in ways that can be advantageous, or not different at all? They can’t have it both ways. On Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds recalled “The Althouse Rule of Gender Research”, which is, : “Scientists: remember to portray whatever you find to be true of women as superior.”

This goes for commentators, pundits, journalists, educators and, of course, Presidential candidates. ‘We need a woman in the White House (because men screw things up)’ is wise and true, and not sexist at all. Continue reading

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Which Presidents Would Have Tweeted Trump-Style If They Had A Twitter Account?

The tweet above from the President as he doubled down on his unusually stupid attack tweets against Joe and Mika got me thinking. He’s not entirely wrong. Trump is the first President to use social media personally and for candid statements and observations, bypassing the news media, and almost all of the previous Presidents had no choice in the matter. Fourth of July weekend always gets me thinking about the Founders, and the Founders get me musing about the Presidents, and I found myself playing this mind game: Which of our Presidents, had they has access to Twitter, would have used it in a Trumpian manner?

I should clarify some issues at the outset. None of the Presidents would have used Twitter in a stupid, juvenile and boorish manner like President Trump, because none of them were that stupid, juvenile and boorish. (On the other hand, none of their critics, being comparatively responsible and sane, would have argued that stupid, juvenile and boorish tweets were justification to remove the previous 44, as Keith Olbermann thinks.) By using Twitter in a Trumpian manner, I mean using it…

..Personally…

…for the purpose of by-passing the news media and White House spokespersons…

…in order to make declarations of intent, emotions or satisfaction, or

…to attack, accuse, denigrate, compliment, rebut, defend, joke, troll, or otherwise

…communicate directly with the public.in an unfiltered manner.

One other caveat: Trump would definitely be establishing new Presidential norms were his tweets less obnoxious and embarrassing. By the time his term(s) are over, he mat have given Presidential tweeting such a bad reputation that no future POTUS will dare use Twitter for fear of being compared to the Mad Tweeter of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

All right, on to the inquiry!

Which of our previous Presidents would have used twitter in one or more of the ways Trump uses it. based on what we know of their character and leadership styles?

Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Former President Jimmy Carter

jimmy-carter

As its stands now, only Jimmy Carter among the four surviving former Presidents of the United States will be attending Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20. The others, Bill Clinton and the two George Bushes, will not, if their failure so far to RSVP to their official invitations means what most think it means.

President George H.W. Bush can be given a pass due to his advanced age and and precarious health; not so his son and Bill Clinton. Their absence will be petty and unpatriotic. Jimmy Carter knows what his duty is, and will do it. Good for him.

The inauguration of a new President is a national ritual and a vital one, signalling the support of the nation for a  leader duly elected to take the mantle of Washington, Lincoln and the rest. It is a tradition to celebrate the nation and its remarkable  system of peaceful transfer of power, and not, as I will soon explain to the Rockettes, the individual who will be President when the ceremony is over. It is a day to unite the country after an election, not to further divide it.

For former Presidents Bush and Clinton not to recognize this is no less than disgraceful…specially these Presidents, one who himself won office while losing the popular vote, and the other who never received a majority of votes cast in two elections. We know why Clinton and Bush are sulking. President Elect Trump, in his ugly campaign, personally insulted both Bush 43 and his younger brother Jeb, and Jeb may well regard his brother’s attendance at the Inaugural a betrayal. Well, Jeb needs to grow up. January 20 is about the United States of America, not hurt feelings or family solidarity. George Bush has an obligation to be there, not back in Texas snubbing the nation to get back at Trump. Continue reading

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Encore! Presidents Day Ethics: The Presidents of the United States on Ethics and Leadership

It’s President’s Day, and I see that it has been five years since the most popular Ethics Alarms President’s Day post was published. That one, from 2011, reminds us of the ethics wisdom and leadership acumen of the remarkable men who have served their country in the most challenging, difficult, and ethically complicated of all jobs, the U.S. Presidency.

In the middle of a campaign season littered with some disturbingly unethical candidates, it seems especially appropriate to re-post that entry now….with some updates. In 2011, I left out three Presidents, including the current one. Now all are represented, most of them well.

So…

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States of America:

 

George Washington: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

John Adams: “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” 

Thomas Jefferson: “On great occasions every good officer must be ready to risk himself in going beyond the strict line of law, when the public preservation requires it; his motives will be a justification…”

James Madison: “No government any more than any individual will long be respected without being truly respectable.”

James Monroe: “The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”

John Quincy Adams: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

Andrew Jackson: “One man with courage makes a majority.”   (Attributed)

Martin Van Buren: “No evil can result from its inhibition more pernicious than its toleration.”

William Henry Harrison: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.” Continue reading

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A Presidents Day Celebration (PART 4 and Final): The Wild, Wild Ride From FDR to W.

smiling-presidents

All of the Presidents (except FDR) in this last section were alive and kicking while I was, and so to me they are both more real and less fascinating to some extent. Familiarity breeds, if not contempt, a tendency not to idealize. These leaders are no more flawed than their predecessors, they just seem that way thanks to mass media.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

Three terms plus, a World War, a Depression, a transformative Presidency and an epic life spent in public service: FDR is another President who can’t be summed up in an anecdote, one book, or a hundred. He accomplished enough great things to be a deserving icon; he committed enough wrongs to be judged a villain. (He was pretty clearly a sociopath, but a lot of great leaders are, including a fair proportion of ours, including some of the best.) The only completely unfair verdict on this Roosevelt is not to acknowledge the importance and complexity of his life. Here are some of my favorite items about him:

  • FDR wrote down a plan when he was still in school outlining the best way for him to become President. The plan was essentially to follow his distant cousin Theodore’s career steps: Harvard, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice-Presidential candidate, and President. (He skipped “Rough Rider.”) Amazingly, he followed it, and it worked.
  • Conventional wisdom holds that FDR’s polio transformed his character, and that without that crisis and challenge he would have been content to be a rich dilettante. I doubt it, but there is no question that he fits the Presidential survivor template, and that his ordeal made him stronger, more formidable and more determined.
  • Many Presidents had strong mothers, especially, for some reason, many of our Chief Executives from Roosevelt to Obama. Franklin’s mom, however, wins the prize. It’s amazing Eleanor didn’t murder her. But Mrs. Roosevelt is why Eleanor was there in the first place: all of our Presidents raised by strong mothers married very strong wives.
  • If a computer program were designed to create the perfect American leader, it would give us FDR. He was the complete package; his charisma, charm and power radiate from recordings and films that are 90 years old. That smile! That chin! That head! That voice! He is one of the very few Presidents who would be just as  popular and effective today as the era in which he lived.
  • And just as dangerous. FDR is also a template for an American dictator, which, I believe, he would have been perfectly willing to be. It’s no coincidence that Franklin was the only President to break Washington’s wise tradition of leaving office after two terms.
  • Political and philosophical arguments aside, at least four of Roosevelt actions as President were horrific, and would sink the reputation of most leaders: 1) Imprisoning Japanese-Americans (and German-Americans, too); 2) Ignoring the plight of European Jews as long as he did, when it should have been clear what was going on; 3) Handing over Eastern Europe to Stalin, and 4) Knowing how sick he was, giving little thought or care to who his running mate was in 1944.
  • Balancing all that, indeed outweighing it, is the fact that the United States of America and quite possibly the free world might not exist today if this unique and gifted leader were not on the scene. Three times in our history, the nation’s existence depended on not just good leadership, but extraordinary leadership, and all three times, the leader we needed emerged: Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin. I wouldn’t count on us being that lucky again.

I left the bulk of reflection about the character and leadership style of Theodore Roosevelt to one of Teddy’s own speeches to embody, and I’ll do the same for his protege.

On September 23, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech at Manhattan’s Commonwealth Club. (Everyone, conservative, liberal or moderate, should read it….here.) It was a defining statement of progressive principles and modern liberalism, redefining core American values according to the perceived needs of a changing nation and culture.  It is a radical speech, and would be regarded as radical by many today, even after much of what Roosevelt argued was reflected in the policies of the New Deal.

After sketching the origins and progress of the nation to the present, he flatly stated that the Founders’ assumptions no longer applied:

A glance at the situation today only too clearly indicates that equality of opportunity as we have know it no longer exists. Our industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been reached, and there is practically no more free land. More than half of our people do not live on the farms or on lands and cannot derive a living by cultivating their own property. There is no safety valve in the form of a Western prairie to which those thrown out of work by the Eastern economic machines can go for a new start. We are not able to invite the immigration from Europe to share our endless plenty. We are now providing a drab living for our own people….

Just as freedom to farm has ceased, so also the opportunity in business has narrowed. It still is true that men can start small enterprises, trusting to native shrewdness and ability to keep abreast of competitors; but area after area has been preempted altogether by the great corporations, and even in the fields which still have no great concerns, the small man starts with a handicap. The unfeeling statistics of the past three decades show that the independent business man is running a losing race. Perhaps he is forced to the wall; perhaps he cannot command credit; perhaps he is “squeezed out,” in Mr. Wilson’s words, by highly organized corporate competitors, as your corner grocery man can tell you.

Recently a careful study was made of the concentration of business in the United States. It showed that our economic life was dominated by some six hundred odd corporations who controlled two-thirds of American industry. Ten million small business men divided the other third. More striking still, it appeared that if the process of concentration goes on at the same rate, at the end of another century we shall have all American industry controlled by a dozen corporations, and run by perhaps a hundred men. Put plainly, we are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already.

Clearly, all this calls for a re-appraisal of values.

So Franklin Roosevelt re-appraised them: Continue reading

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Is The President Checking Out A “High Crime or Misdemeanor”?

Toppled-King

Anyone who understands President Obama’s behavior the last few months is invited to step forward, and anyone who has a benign explanation for it need to step in front of him. It is so bizarre and unprecedented that amateurs and professionals alike are offering psychological diagnoses. Has any American leader ever responded to failure, adversity and crisis with this kind of a disgraceful combination of defiance, bitterness, and detachment? I can’t think of any.

It is said that during the darkest days of Watergate, President Nixon sank into depression. Franklin Pierce coped with the stress of watching the Union unravel over slavery by staying smashed as much as possible. Woodrow Wilson’s battles with Congress probably helped provoke the stroke that incapacitated him. None of these are really comparable to the current President sinking to gratuitous campaign mode, calling Republicans derogatory names and impugning their motives and humanity, while openly alternating between obsessive fundraising and vacationing the rest of the time as the world is desperate for American leadership.

Say what you will about Bill Clinton, and I often do, but the man never capitulated, gave up, or stopped battling no matter how much (legitimate) fire he was under during the Monica scandal and his impeachment. At very least, one would think Barack Obama would see the need, as past Presidents have, to model virtues like diligence, responsibility, fortitude, courage, and perseverance for the nation, especially the young.

Nope. Continue reading

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The Ethics Corrupter-In-Chief

I wanted to stay far, far away from commenting on the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, because I knew that the double standard of media scrutiny of the deceit and dishonesty there ( in contrast to the media’s adversary stance during the Republican convention) would drive me to drink if I thought about it long enough to write coherently. And so I shall stay away, except for this one infuriating topic, which is broader and more significant than the convention itself.

No political party that cares sufficiently about the ethical values of integrity and honesty, as well as responsible leadership, would feature Bill Clinton as its “rock star” speaker. That the Democrats did, and that the media and the public generally gave them a pass for doing so, confirms that Clinton’s corrupting influence on the American culture continues. Recent polls indicate that he is the most popular political figure in the country today, and Democrats will no doubt cite that as justification for inviting him to speak. To the contrary, it shows the damage that he has done to the values of the nation, and how wrong the Democratic party has been to aid and abet that damage.

Bill gave a good speech, as he usually does. There is no way to know how much of it he believes or meant, for Clinton is a recreational liar: he likes lying. He’s good at it, and he does it at every opportunity. In 2008, on The Ethics Scoreboard, the slower and more formal predecessor to this blog, I made Clinton the first (and as it turned out, sole) admittee to the David Manning Liar of the Month Hall of Fame, writing in part that… Continue reading

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