A Really Late Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2020, In Which I Have A Revealing Exchange With A Woke Sports Journalist

How the day got hopelessly loused up:

  • At 8:30 am, I took my car to the dealer for a 5000 mile servicing. I had asked if I could get a loaner, and was told I could. But I’d have my car back in an hour, I was told, so I passed.
  • Then I found all the doors at the place locked until 9 am. I decided to walk several blocks to get a fast breakfast, but Popeye’s doesn’t have breakfast, and MacDonald’s doesn’t allow you to use the tables. This was a huge McDonald’s: 20 people could eat there and not be closer than ten feet. But Virginia, in the throes of Blue Madness, is catering to hysterics. I ate my sausage biscuit and hash browns and drank my coffee sitting on a curb, like a vagrant.
  • When I returned, I could get into the showroom to sit, but my glasses kept fogging up with the %$#@%!! mask, so I kept going in and out.  My car wasn’t ready at 9:30. It wasn’t ready at 10, or 10:30. They had me, as Beldar Conehead memorably said, “by the base of my snarglies.”
  • I also couldn’t complain, because they had assigned the servicing to my son, who works there.
  • I got home at 11:46 am, the morning effectively shot to hell.

1. The fascinating memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower will be dedicated this week:

Ike was one of my father’s heroes, and the first President I can remember. On a popular Boston kids’ show called “The Big Brother Show,” the host, Bob Emory, would call upon us to get a glass of milk and toast a photo of President Eisenhower as “Hail to the Chief” played. Because, you know, you were supposed to respect the Office of the President.  The New York Times couldn’t even write about a memorial to a Fifties era POTUS without making veiled insults to President Trump:

He was a leader who sought to work across lines toward a common purpose, driven by duty and pragmatism rather than ideology and divisiveness. He steered his Republican Party away from isolationism toward a bipartisan internationalism that prevailed until recent years. He sent troops into the South not to crack down on demonstrations for racial justice but to enforce the desegregation of schools. He ended the Korean War and balanced the budget, presiding over nearly eight years of peace and prosperity. And he pushed through an infrastructure bill that built the interstate highway system.

He also presided over a remarkably homogeneous society, was opposed by a Democratic Party with many selfless statesmen that was barely distinguishable from the GOP (Ike could have been the nominee of either party), and he still was covered by a news media that mostly held to traditional journalism standards.

Ike would have been called a racist and a fascist in 2020. Continue reading

From The “Stop Making Me Defend Donald Trump” Files: The President’s Civil War Musings

It took Dan Rather to force me into this quagmire.

As you may have heard by now, the President was being interviewed and the topic of Andrew Jackson came up, the great, flawed, fascinating man who was the first populist President and who reshaped the Presidency and the American political system. Donald Trump quite logically identifies with Jackson, and if he can show half the governing skill and leadership abilities of Old Hickory, the U.S. will be ever in his debt. at one point, Trump said…

As we have seen again and again, if Donald Trump said that the sky was blue, pundits and journalist would erupt with indignation and mockery about the statement, because everyone knows that the sky isn’t blue, it just looks blue. This is the Left and “the resistance” telegraphing their complete abandonment of fairness, good will and proportion regarding the President of the United States. It is transparent, it is intellectually dishonest, and it is now boring and annoying, since it began more than  a year ago. In this case, talking heads who know virtually nothing about Andrew Jackson were screaming on CNN about how “stupid” Trump’s statement was. At The Washington Post,  Aaron Blake wrote in his essay, “Trump’s totally bizarre claim about avoiding the Civil War”:

Historians with more academic experience than Trump have indeed asked this question about the Civil War often… It’s generally assumed that a deal to avert the Civil War would have included concessions to Southern states having to do with their right to own slaves — the central dispute of the Civil War. Is Trump saying he would have been okay with a more partial or gradual phasing out of slavery? Was there really a deal to be cut on that front? Or does he think Jackson, a slave owner himself, would have convinced the South to abandon slavery immediately, somehow?

Ann Althouse nailed this one: if Trump’s question about the Civil War is so “bizarre,” how come historians have asked the question “often”?

The simple and ugly answer is to much of  Left and the news media,  what Trump says is presumptively stupid or sinister, even if others saying the exact same thing would be ruled reasonable and benign. (See: Loyalty Day)

But I am so tired of this game. Until a friend posted an attack on Trump’s statement by Dan Rather, I had decided to let this round pass. After Dan’s ignorant and biased take, I couldn’t stay on the sidelines.

He wrote on Facebook, the only forum regularly available to him because no legitimate news organization would sully its credibility by having a journalist who tried to influence a Presidential election by representing a forged document as authentic, and who still won’t admit that there was anything wrong with that…

I wanted to let this story go. I really did. I don’t want to be distracted from all the important things taking place. Where are we on the Russia investigation again?

But the sheer craziness of this obsession by Donald Trump with Andrew Jackson and the Civil War is a carnival act unlike anything I have ever seen at the White House. And not to let something drop, there is Mr. Trump on Twitter just recently pouring gasoline on the fires of his ignorance.

Never mind that Mr. Trump’s knowledge of American history seems below that of most gradeschoolers. Never mind that in many people’s view, Jackson is not exactly the kind of president, or man, you would want to hold up as an example. And never mind that there is an implicit criticism of arguably our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. (It reminds me of his slam against John McCain and how war heroes aren’t captured. Apparently great presidents don’t wage a war to keep the Union together).

These are the rantings of someone who really should be focused on the job of governing. Should we not conclude that he approaches policy decisions with the same half-baked conspiracies with which he apparently approaches history?

To be President of the United States is to part of the great American story. To not understand that story is to not understand the presidency. Maybe Frederick Douglass can give Mr. Trump some advice. Apparently, he’s “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.”

This is a post that demonstrates Rather’s ignorance and poor reasoning, not President Trump’s. Continue reading

Political Opposition Incompetence: Will “The Resistance” Ever Figure Out That It’s Embarrassing Itself?

Today, May 1, another segment of the so-called “resistance” to the legal, democratically established Presidency of Donald J. Trump will be holding rallies to proclaim the “right” of foreign citizens to break US law by entering the country illegally, and to stay here unmolested as long as they don’t commit another serious crime, and maybe even if they have.  Despite its enthusiastic support from the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, this concept is so self-evidently bats that most American and even most Hispanic-Americans reject it, but never mind: we will hear and see passionate speakers all day long advocating the non-enforcement of essential laws and the adoption of some kind of bizarre system allowing illegal residents to be treated like legal residents as long as they limit their law-breaking to, say, just endangering the public by driving drunk.

I wonder if Mothers Against Drunk Driving agrees that illegal immigrants should not be treated too harshly for DUI convictions. Actually, I wonder if the anti-Trump, pro-illegal immigrant forces have enough self awareness to realize that their argument is worthy of the Bizarro World.

Incompetent, foolish sounding and acting political opposition to the party in power is in nobody’s interest, especially the U.S. democratic system. However, addressing this requires enough self-awareness to realize when your advocacy has crossed the line into absurdity. Currently a critical mass of Democrats and progressives lack self-awareness, and that’s an understatement. Continue reading

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

On Immigration, Speech Suppression, War, Terrorism, Police and More, It’s Cultural Death By Compassion Poisoning

Think of the children!Compassion is a wonderful thing. A nation cannot govern or even survive, however, using compassion as its guiding ethical principle. The United States currently seems hell bent on disproving this fact, and is well on the way to confirming it. It is too bad that this is true, and we should all agree that it’s  a damn shame that you can’t run a successful democracy without periodically inflicting pain, creating suffering and harming some human beings in order that many more can live in peace and pursue their lawful ambitions and desires. Nonetheless, that is an immutable fact of existence. Government policy that attempts to deny it is not merely incompetent and naive, but ultimately suicidal. A culture that elevates compassion above all other values like responsibility, accountability, prudence, process and proportion is betting everything on the inherent goodness and rationality of humanity. History tells us it’s a losing bet.

When I woke up to the horrible news of the Paris attacks, and after I had finished simultaneous laughing and crying about the fact that President Obama picked yesterday to proclaim that the threat of ISIS had been “contained,” it suddenly occurred to me that the majority of the crises this nation struggles with today are  linked by the same cultural and leadership malady. The United States increasingly is unwilling to accept the reality that governance is utilitarian, and that punishment, deterrence, sacrifice, pain, retaliation and accountability are indispensable tools that must be used and used unapologetically. The alternative is chaos, and chaos is what we are facing.

An impressive number of these crises have been in the news this week: Continue reading

Robert E. Lee and the Abuse of Principle

Lee: Use his life as a warning, not an inspiration.

As both political parties and the President of the United States seem to be determined to subject the American people, economy and standing in the world to disaster in the defense of principles, it might be a good time to reflect on the fact that principles detached from reality have little value, and that rigidly adhering to principles to the detriment of the community and civilization is not a virtue.

In the current issue of Humanities, historian James Cobb makes these points vividly, if tangentially, while reflecting on the odd reverence with which Americans, and not just Southerners, regard Robert E. Lee. I am proud to say that the lionization of Lee never made sense to me, not even when I was a small boy. But he is the epitome of someone who is revered as a role model and hero for his supposed character and values rather than what he actually did with them.*

Cobb begins his essay with this anecdote:  Continue reading

Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Self-Validating Decision

"My wife, may she always be right, but my wife right or wrong!"

“Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more.”

Thus did Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels remove himself from consideration for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, breaking the hearts of Mitt Romney haters everywhere. Seldom have eighteen words launched so much ethical analysis, or what passes for it in the media.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, for example, applauded the Governor’s priorities while accusing Daniels of “throwing his wife under the bus.” Her point was that Daniels did not have to make it so crystal clear that his wife vetoed his own desire to run, that he should have simply said that he declined, and leave it at that. Indeed, that would have been chivalrous and kind. For a public servant and politician, however, it would also have been dishonest and wrong. Just as the public needs to know why a public figure is running for president (Gingrich: Because he’s deluded….Trump: Because its good for his TV ratings…), it needs to know why a public figure is not. Continue reading

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

In commemoration of President’s Day, Ethics Alarms presents the ethics wisdom of the remarkable men who have served their country in the most challenging, difficult, and ethically complicated of all jobs, the U.S. Presidency.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States:

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.” Continue reading

Rahm Emanuel, History and Hyperbole Ethics

There are times when obvious exaggeration is nothing worse than politeness, nothing more than an expression of admiration and affection. “You’re the best boss anyone ever had,” is in this category, especially when the boss is retiring or dying. But when one is speaking in public about controversial and historical matters involving well-known public figures, the margin between excusable hyperbole and unethical dishonesty or worse is much smaller. Al Gore learned this when he played loyal Vice-President on the day his President was impeached by vote of the House of Representatives. Gore’s statement that Bill Clinton was “a man I believe will be regarded in the history books as one of our greatest Presidents” was intended as supportive, but interpreted as a toadying endorsement of Clinton’s unsavory and dishonest conduct, impeachable or not. It probably cost Gore the Presidency.

Worse yet was Trent Lott’s clumsy effort to praise the ancient, infirm and mentally failing Sen. Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday party. Lott said, “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have all these problems over all these years, either.” Thurmond, running on the Dixiecrat ticket, had opposed segregation, and Lott’s comment, less fact than flattery, made him sound like he longed for the days of Jim Crow and “white only”rest rooms. The lessons of these hyperbolic gaffes are similar: if the well-intentioned compliment concerns a public figure in historical context, historical exaggerations either appear to be unjust to history or its important figures, seem to make inappropriate value judgments, or come off as a blatant effort to mislead the public.

Rahm Emanuel hit the Trifecta with his fawning farewell to President Obama, as he left the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago. Obama, he said, is “the toughest leader any country could ask for, in the toughest times any president has ever faced.”

Wow. Continue reading

Accountability Lessons, Oil Spill Ethics, and Obama’s Leadership Failure

President Obama has shown his inexperience and unfamiliarity with executive leadership ethics in many ways since he took office, but none are likely to be more damaging than his unease with accountability. He had better learn fast.

It is not surprising that so many mayors lose their jobs as the result of blizzards. Budget limitations guarantee that a city’s snow removal capabilities are set to the most likely levels of snowfall and not the extraordinary, once-in-a-decade event, yet when that once-in-a-decade event arrives, it will not do for the mayor to blame the budget or the weather or the City Council or the lack of a magic wand. The public doesn’t want to hear any of that: they want to be able to drive to work. They want the leader to fix the problem, because that’s what leaders are supposed to do. If a leader can’t fix the problem, he had better look as if he is doing everything possible and impossible to try. And he had better make it clear that he understands and accepts that it is his job. Continue reading