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

Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention

Yesterday, a massive water main rupture shut down part of the Washington area Beltway, tying up traffic and swamping cars. From the Associated Press story:

“At one point, water from the broken main shot eight or nine feet in the air, said Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There was significant damage to the office park, with chunks of asphalt strewn across the parking lot, building windows shattered and three cars filled with water.

“It looks like somewhere where you would go white water rafting,” Riggins said.”

Advance reports discussing President Obama’s State of the Union message tonight note that he will be talking about, among other things, investing the nation’s resources on infrastructure renewal: roads, sewers, bridges and more. Already, Republican budget hawks and the conservative talk shows are mocking this as simply a euphemism for more “out of control spending.”

Addressing this country’s dangerously decrepit infrastructure will be expensive all right, but it is definitely an investment, and not undertaking it immediately is irresponsible, short-sighted, dangerous and foolish. For a quick refresher on why the neglect of U.S. infrastructure has been a scandalous breach of duty  of duty by generations of U.S. leadership, read this.

Gee, Thanks a Bunch, Chris…Big Lie Ethics and Obama’s Birth Certificate

Great. Now Chris Matthews is giving support to the birther conspiracy theory.

The excitable MSNBC host recently asked why President Obama doesn’t just put the suspicion and rumors to rest by giving the OK for Hawaii to release his original birth certificate, thus proving that he was born a U.S. citizen and ending the claims that Obama is really foreign-born and never was eligible to become President of the United States. By lending his credibility and perceived legitimacy to the lament of the birthers, Matthews has engaged in irresponsible conduct and done a disservice to the President, the office of the President and the nation. Continue reading

Joe Scarborough, Sarah Palin, and “No Labels”

Joe Scarborough, the former Florida congressman and as host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, the token conservative on MSNBC, is a participant in the launching of “No Labels” on December 13 at Columbia University in New York. He will be joined by such political glitterati as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I-Conn.), former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), Los Angeles’s Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sen. Deb Stabenow (D-Mich.) and others.
“No Labels” is a primarily centrist-Democrat call for civility in politics, that according to its “Declaration,” written by Mark McKinnon (a former media advisor to George W. Bush in 2000 and Sen. John McCain in 2008, who appears to be a paid consultant rather than a participant), is dedicated to countering partisan deadlock with reason and cooperation.

“We are not labels, we are people,” the screed says.”We believe hyper-partisanship is destroying our politics and paralyzing our ability to govern… We may disagree on issues, but we do so with civility and mutual respect….We have a crisis of governance – a crisis that compels us to work together to move America forward… We must put our labels aside, and put the issues and what’s best for the nation first.”

In preparation for the “No Labels” debut, Scarborough wrote a column for Politico, in which he warned Republicans to stop Sarah Palin before it was too late. In it, he variously described Palin as “anti-intellectual,” “maniacal,” “a reality star,” and “ignorant.” Would it be fair to label  “Morning Joe” as “a hypocrite”?

Continue reading

Sarah Palin Blows the Whistle On A Classic Media Bias Trick

After Sarah Palin, during a televised interview, said North Korea when she meant South Korea (me, I always mix up North and South Carolina)—an obvious slip of the tongue, since she had correctly identified our ally among the Koreas previously in the same interview, multiple media reports decided the gaffe was newsworthy, or at least another opportunity to show the American public that the former Alaska governor is, as they believe, an idiot. Palin, who is nothing if not feisty, took to the New Media with a Facebook post pointing out that equally egregious flubs out of the mouth of President Obama had been ignored, and listed some of them, including the time Obama raised the number of states to 57, momentarily confusing them with ketchup. Continue reading

Obama’s Halftime Pardon Score: Turkeys 2, Human Beings 0

As of last Wednesday, President Obama has pardoned more turkeys than human beings. He has continued the cutesy presidential tradition of bestowing a presidential pardon on a turkey destined for the Thanksgiving table each November of his two years in office, but is approaching a presidential record for the most days in office before finding a U.S. citizen equally worthy of mercy and forgiveness.

There are reasons for this, but no excuse….not from a President who loaded up his White House with Czars overseeing every conceivable White House priority (Why no Pardons Czar?), not from a President who has criticized the disparate, unfair and racially-tinged penalties for crack cocaine over the powdered variety favored by the white middle class, not when are so many worthy candidates for mercy, most with families whose lives could be infinitely enhanced by the ten seconds it takes for Barack Obama to sign his name. Continue reading

Bush’s Torture Admission, Absolutism, and America’s Survival

George W. Bush, currently hawking his memoirs, has admitted in the new book and in interviews about it that yes indeed, he approved waterboarding of terrorist suspects, believed it was legal, and moreover offers evidence that the information thus acquired saved American lives. W’s opinion on these matter are hardly a surprise, but they have re-energized the defenders of the Administration’s policies of “enhanced interrogation” and rendition of apprehended terror suspects to foreign locales where the interrogation techniques were “enhanced” even more.

“NOW do you agree with the policy?” they ask, as if the answer was obvious. “The information prevented a horrific terrorist attack on Heathrow Airport (in England). See? See?

Let us assume, just to simplify things, that everything is as President Bush represents. Waterboarding was, by some legitimate analysis, legal. The information saved American lives and prevented terrorist attacks. Do these facts mean that the use of torture—and waterboarding is torture, whether one defines it as such or not—by the United States of America was justified, defensible, and ethical?

No. I don’t think so. I believe that for the United States of America to approve and engage in the use of torture is by definition betrayal of the nation’s core values, and thus threatens its existence as the nation our Founders envisioned as completely as a foreign occupation.  I wrote on this topic in 2009… Continue reading

President Obama’s Perfect Lie

What is a perfect lie in politics? It is a lie that gives strength to one’s defenders, cast’s blame on one’s enemies, and yet the victims of the lie would rather let people believe it is true than correct it, because the truth will hurt even worse. These lies are rare, but when you have one, it is a wonderful thing to behold. There is only one problem with perfect lies.

They are still lies.

As Reason’s Matt Welch points out in devastating fashion, President Obama has found such a lie, and repeats it often, though it has no basis in fact whatsoever, and Obama has to know it has no basis in fact whatsoever. Here is the latest version, from a speech this week: Continue reading

“Birthers”: Unethical, or Merely Deranged?

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, a military expert who appears as an analyst on Fox News, has submitted an affidavit in support of Army Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lakin, who is refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because of his belief that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Lakin faces a court-martial for his refusal. Thus has General  McInerney officially admitted to being a “birther,” one of the legion of conspiracy theorists who deny Constitutional eligibility for the White House.

From McInerney’s affidavit: Continue reading

Primary Ethics: Good and Bad Results for Civic Diligence

The tendency of American voters to hand over the reins of power to the sons, daughters, and wives of popular or successful leaders simply because they shared a last name, a bed or some DNA has always been an embarrassment, proof of the most unfortunate aspects of democracy when it is driven by civic laziness rather than diligence. Beneficiaries of this generations-long deficit in seriousness and responsibility include presidents (Adams, Bush); U.S. Senators (Kennedy, Gore, Clinton, Bayh,**), representatives (Kennedy, Bono, Jackson…), and governors (Bush, Bush…). Some have performed well, some not so well, but all of them were initially elected because voters knew their names, and illogically ascribed to them whatever it was that they admired about their family members, regardless of experience, qualifications, or evidence of governing skill.

In Tuesday’s primaries, voters rectified one especially egregious example of this phenomenon, and committed a new one. Continue reading