Ethics Villains Of The Impeachment Coup, Part One

I admit it: just as I sensed that it was important for Ethics Alarms to lend ethical clarity to the potentially (and possibly already) disastrous effort by the Democratic Party to abuse its power and Constitutional processes to remove (that is, overthrow) the President of the United States, I was overcome with a crippling combination of unrelated professional responsibilities and crippling weariness. I’m sick of writing about this topic; I’m even sick of thinking about it. I’m definitely sick of arguing about it on social media. The tag “2016 post-election Ethics Train Wreck” has been appended to more posts than any other, with no end in sight.

I floated the idea of creating a spin-off website that would endeavor to provide one-stop shopping for members of the public who wanted to counter media spin and information suppression on the topic. I do think this is an important project, and I have received a few generous offers to help. I’m still trying to figure out if I have the time to do it right; if I don’t, then it would be unethical to do it at all.

The fact that some polls show that the relentless pro-impeachment propaganda has led to a majority of Americans believing the President should be impeached is troubling, though 1) polls, and 2) on this topic even more than others, all the number shows is how many ignorant Americans are willing to opine at the moment on topics they know nothing about. “Survey Finds More People Would Support Impeachment If They Knew What Crime Trump Was Supposed To Have Committed” snarked the Babylon Bee.

Exactly.

I have several longish essays that I need to write, notably one titled “The Ethics Context of the Trump Impeachment Push.” It should have been written last week, and I’ll be lucky if I can get it complete next week.  I know how important the Democratic Party/ “resistance” /mainstream media coup attempt is. As I have been writing here since January 2017, it is the most important ethics story of modern U.S. political history.

I’ve got to keep the analysis moving, even if it’s too slow.

Here, for reference purposes and future discussions, is a list of the Villains of the Impeachment Coup. Continue reading

Observations On Neil Cavuto’s Oddly-Timed Scolding Of President Trump

Fox News host Neil Cavuto decided to vent his frustration with President Trump yesterday, delivering a direct rebuke, addressing him in the second person. You can read the whole statement below after the commentary, or before, if you prefer.

I like Neil Cavuto. He’s a nice guy, he’s sincere, and he tries to be fair. He even had me on his show once. The format he chose, the Keith Olbermann direct address [Keith: “And why is it, SIR…”], I detest, and feel is pompous and inappropriate. Its a fake confrontation: Cavuto wouldn’t talk to the President like that if he were really in front of him, so it suggests boldness on his part that is illusory rather than real. It’s also arrogant grandstanding. Who is Cavuto to reprimand the President? He can give his opinion like anyone else, but talking to him through the camera like he was a naughty child is presumptuous.

In general, Cavuto’s point is undeniable: Trump’s constant puffery, exaggerations, contradictions, spontaneous utterances  and recklessness with the facts undermine his credibility, infuriate both allies and foes, and give ammunition to those who want to destroy him. In short, his habit is stupid. However, this was a known feature of the man’s style and character a decade ago. No, he can’t or won’t change, and that’s a weakness.  But who didn’t know this? Does Cavuto really think his tirade adds anything to the public’s knowledge? Does he think the President is going to reform because Neil Cavuto takes him to task?

In the specifics of his argument, however, Cavuto’s logic is so shaky that I wondered if he really thought his rant through, or, in the alternative, is not as smart as I thought he was. His initial sally is a non sequitur: the fact that President Trump frequently mangles the truth doesn’t make the news media  any less dishonest, incompetent and untrustworthy. Since a vast amount of the fake news polluting the public’s understanding of the issues involves fake news designed to undermine Trump, he has every right, and I believe a duty, to call it what it is.

Is Cavuto’s showboating just a member of the journalists’ club standing up for his colleagues against their adversary? It sure sounded like it.  He seemed to be mouthing the same excuse I hear from Facebook enablers of the biased media: “Yeah, well, OK, Rachel Maddow was hyping the Russian story and using dubious evidence, but Trump lies even more!” President Trump’s job is to run the country. Not being truthful can get in the way of that, but being accurate is not his job, nor is it one of his duties. Journalists, in contrast, are ethically obligated to inform the public truthfully no matter what whoppers a President may tell. The President doesn’t make the news media lie, so to say he provides the “ammunition” for fake news is nonsense. Cavuto is excusing lousy, dishonest, and divisive journalism. Continue reading

Ethics Verdict: The Democrats Will Be 100% Responsible For The Damage The Impeachment Will Do To The nation.

Impeachment, though it is doomed to fail, will be terrible for the country in too many ways to count, and the Democratic Party, abetted by the mainstream news media, will be 100% responsible for the harm. Not 75%. Not 99%. 100%.

I know I’m going to have to write a lot in the coming months about this, and I’m already sick of it, but if progressives, the media and the Democrats had treated this President as every one of his predecessors had been treated, we would not be here. They all decided to actively search for a justification to remove this President from office without an election. The calls for impeachment and contrived legal excuses to remove him began before Trump even took office.

It is satisfying, I suppose, in a mordant way, that the Democrats somehow trapped themselves into using one of the lamest and least persuasive justifications for an impeachment inquiry imaginable, and will pay a steep, steep price for it. Even the fact that the party and the media will suffer greatly for their attack on democracy, however, does not sufficiently mitigate the damage they will have done to the nation. Continue reading

Ethics Cool-Down, 9/25/19: Democracy On The Rocks

Ahhhhh…

I wish I had a martini, but since I don’t keep alcohol in the house, this will do…

1. More from the Ethics Alarms “res Ipsa loquitur” files:

The story is here.

I remember kindergarten classmates, boys and girls, frequently going on kissing sprees. Adults knew it was nothing decades ago. Had #MeToo really made people this unable to make obvious distinctions? Proportion is an ethical value.

2. Regarding today’s earlier post from the same files...Yes, I think that the transcript of the President’s call to the Ukraine, on its face, should make Democratic claims of an impeachable offense look as silly and contrived as they are. This does not, however, allow for confirmation bias, which is at fever pitch in “the resistance” with some toxic frustration and desperation mixed in. This is one reason the mainstream media keeps calling the transcript a “summary,” which implies that something material is missing, and your Deranged friends keep raising Nixon’s edited versions of White House meetings on Watergate matters, as if this has any similarity to that at all.

Calls with foreign leaders are typically not recorded, so this was a reconstructed transcript, which is as close to an exact one as we are going to get. For those who presume that everything this President does is impeachable, that’s a problem. For those who accept that he was elected President and should have the same opportunity to do his job as all the others, it isn’t, and there are too many like that in the public for this latest manufactured offense to work.

I guess this is Plan S.

I’m so, so sick of this.

3. I guess it’s time for another update:

The Complete Presidential Impeachment or Removal Plans A-S (Updated 9/25/2019)

Plan A: Reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College.

Plan B: Pre-emptive impeachment. 

Plan C : The Emoluments Clause.

Plan D: “Collusion with Russia”

Plan E : ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”

Plan F: The Maxine Waters Plan, which  is to just impeach the President because Democrats want to, because they can.

Plan G : “The President obstructed justice by firing incompetent subordinates, and that’s impeachable.”

Plan H: “Tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable”

Plan I:  “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps and does something really impeachable.”

Plan J : Force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidacy.

Plan K: Election law violations in pay-offs to old sex-partners

Plan L: The perjury trap: get Trump to testify under oath, then prove something he said was a lie.

Plan M: Guilt by association. Prove close associates or family members violated laws.

Plan N: Claim that Trump’s comments at his press conference with Putin were “treasonous.”

Plan O: The Mueller Report proves the Trump is unfit for office even if it did not conclude that he committed any impeachable offenses. 

Plan P: Summarized here as “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!”.”

Plan Q: Impeach Trump to justify getting his taxes, and then use the presumed evidence in his taxes to impeach him.

Plan R: Rep. Adam Schiff announced on July 24 that President Trump should be impeached because he is “disloyal” to the country. This desperate response to the fizzle of the Mueller Report was ignored and forgotten the second it came out of Schiff’s mouth, but it confirmed what the list above already proved: the Democrats don’t want to impeach the President for something he did; they want to find something he did to justify impeaching him.

Plan S: Trump should be impeached because his call to Ukrainian President Zelensky was really an effort to shake down the Ukraine and force it to find dirt on Joe Biden, thus “interfering” in the 2020 election even though Biden hasn’t been nominated (and won’t be), even though a President has every justification to seek evidence of a prior administration’s wrongdoing in foreign relations, and even though there isn’t a whiff of a threat of quid pro quo in the only transcript of the call.

Continue reading

Reporting The Mysterious Ukraine “Scandal”: Once Again, I’m Fighting The Urge To Conclude That These Are Just Corrupt, Terrible People

 

And losing.

When the first notice of the unnamed whistle-blower’s complaint about—well, something involving the President and the Ukraine surfaced on the New York Times front page, in an article that was so devoid of facts, details and corroboration that its only excuse for publication was to titillate Trump-Haters, I wrote,

“This is what the Times considers front page news now. Instantly, “resistance” members and Democrats will leap to the conclusion that whatever it is, it’s impeachable. Those who are thoroughly sick of the successive coup attempts will assume that this is one more concocted sliming by the Deep State, so we can have a “Russiagate” style investigation that will hamstring President Trump’s second term… For my part, I’ll wait for actual facts, thanks. I don’t trust “the intelligence community” not to manufacture ways to undermine the Presidency, not after Comey, McCabe, the FISA fiasco, the FBI lovebirds texts, and Mueller’s statements, among other smoking guns. I don’t trust the Times reporting, I don’t trust President Trump not to do or say something that crosses ethical or legal lines, and I certainly don’t trust Congressional Democrats to determine what are serious transgressions by this President and what are typical maneuvers that have only become ominous because he isn’t Barack Obama.”

Well, I’ve been waiting. As predicted, Democratic impeachment-mongers and Presidential hopefuls are screaming to the skies, and the mainstream media has been flogging the as-yet non-story, another species of fake news, as if it were the Second Coming. Yet here is how the New York Times itself explained the alleged scandal:

What did Mr. Trump do?

In a July 25 phone call, Mr. Trump is said to have pressed the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Mr. Biden’s younger son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Mr. Trump has seized on an unsubstantiated theory that Mr. Biden was trying to protect the company from prosecution when he called for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016. Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, has pushed the Ukrainian government to investigate the matter.

Is “said to have”? By whom? This is not news reporting, it’s gossip. The Biden theory is unsubstantiated? The theory the Times has published multiple stories about regarding the President’s interactions with the Ukraine is far less substantiated.

Why is this coming up now?

Because of an intelligence community whistle-blower who filed a complaint last month about the president’s actions. An inspector general deemed the complaint “credible” and “urgent” and forwarded it to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has refused to share it with Congress….

Amazingly, it has now been revealed that the “whistle-blower” did not have  direct knowledge of the communications between President Trump and the foreign leader in question. An official who has been briefed on the matter, however, told CNN that the whistleblower “didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications.” The official said that the concerns and subsequent complaint came in part from the whistleblower “learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work.” That’s hearsay by definition, and means that the report has no probative or evidentiary value whatsoever until it is independently verified. Until then, it is also not news.

What did the whistle-blower claim?

The full extent of the whistle-blower’s complaint, as well as the whistle-blower’s identity, is not publicly known. Reporting by The New York Times and others has established that the complaint involves Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukraine and a phone call with a foreign leader — possibly, but not necessarily, Mr. Zelensky. It is not clear if it includes other matters.

This is really what the Times itself says. A “whistleblower” from the intelligence community made a complaint about something he was told by an an unnamed party about a private phone call with a yet to be identified official.

Here’s my favorite, though: Continue reading

The Big Lies Of The “Resistance”: A Directory. Big Lie #6: “Trump’s Defiance Of Norms Is A Threat To Democracy”

My intention to complete the directory what I consider to be the primary seven big lies of the resistance today was unexpectedly bolstered by yet another intellectually indefensible screed by Steven Levitsky and , the two authority-abusing political scientists who wrote the equally indefensible “Why Democracies Die.” This one is a New York Times op-ed titled Why Republicans Play Dirty (They fear that if they stick to the rules, they will lose everything. Their behavior is a threat to democratic stability.)”

Even though the latest from these twp partisans posing as objective scholars focuses on the GOP rather than the President, the dishonest strategy is the same. The exact conduct being engaged in by the “resistance” and the Democrats is projected on their adversaries, accompanied by the false claim that they are endangering American democracy. In truth, the calculated efforts to de-legitimatize the President, his election, and the Supreme Court by “the resistance”(and in this group we must include unethical academics like Levitsky and

And, of course, the New York Times gives the two a platform for their distortions. Of course.

Here’s the opening argument of Levitsky and this morning: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/2019: Easy Ethics Edition [Corrected]

I’m baaaack!

Ann Althouse has boasted that she has only missed one day of blogging since she started the Althouse blog, long before Ethics Alarms took its first metaphorical breath. This has enlightened me regarding how much time tenured professors must have on their hands. Missing a full two days of ethics commentary, as I did this week, makes me feel like an irresponsible slug-a-bed who is betraying loyal readers who depend on a service, but it was literally impossible for me to research a post, never mind write one, between hotels, meetings with my teaching partner, meals, travel and the seminars themselves. When I finally arrived at home and office, I almost immediately had to handle a long conference call in which I was quizzed on some tricky legal ethics issues, and then was officially brain dead for the rest of the evening. It is hard to think clearly about ethics when one is exhausted. And I still am, but the warm-up format is a relatively safe way to ease myself back into the saddle.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

1. Getting the really important stuff out of the way first...Sean Spicer made his debut on “Dancing With The Stars.” I posted last month about the double -standards and bias of the pundits who criticized the show for having the former White House spokesman as a contestant, and their animus is still one more example of unethical mainstream media partisanship. However, Spicer taking a pay-off to look ridiculous on national television—he gets $125,000 for each week he “dances” before he is mercifully voted off—is unprofessional, even though increasing numbers of public servants are doing it. Spicer is giving media critics of the President another stick to beat him with, and denigrating his own role as well as the administration by casting himself as a clown.

Spicer was a slow loris even by the miserable recent standards of press secretaries, and emblematic of how the President’s pledge to appoint and hire “the best people” appears in retrospect as a cruel joke. I can’t say I feel sorry for him, still, in presenting himself as target, he has provoked the mistreatment media into exposing its pettiness and apparently irrepressible gratuitous hostility to the President. The New York Times covered Spicer’s terpsichoral misadventures in the politics section, so it could write sections like…

In the White House, Mr. Spicer held a job that has usually been considered a golden ticket to future respectability and financial comfort. His predecessors have landed in lucrative corporate gigs at Amazon and United Airlines, or become the hosts of their own television programs. But trading in his famously ill-fitting suit to become a trending neon GIF felt like the culmination of a different kind of post-White House journey, one that is q.uintessentially Trump.

The job has been a “golden ticket” for “respectability” for recent press secretaries of Democratic administrations, because the mainstream news media seldom had adversarial relationships with Presidents they helped elect. Of course, the Republican varieties who have been hired by Fox News aren’t respectable. Spicer’s fate is “quintessentially Trump” because the current President is the first that the press has refused to grant even minimal respect from the beginning of his administration. Continue reading