The Steve Scully Scandal

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As with so many other confirmations of the reality of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, in which large segments of those entrusted with the integrity of our sacred American institutions decided to betray the nation by setting out to destroy a duly elected President by any means necessary, the Steve Scully scandal should not have been necessary to settle the point. That goal, plot, conspiracy, whatever term one chooses, has been a continuing fact from the beginning of Donald Trump’s term, and even before. The Democratic Party/”resistance”/mainstream news media alliance, what Ethics Alarms refers to as the Axis of Unethical Conduct, has continued its approach of the past four years, now even to the extreme of denying the President a level playing field in the Presidential debates.

It is indeed attempting to rig the election. President Trump was excoriated for describing the situation that way, and as with so much that he says, a greater facility with the nuances of the English language would serve him, and us, better. But he was not wrong, and no matter how the Axis howls with indignation, there is an ongoing effort to “rig” the election. No further proof was needed, but Scully’s conduct is that.

When CSPAN’s Steve Scully was chosen as the moderator of the second debate, it was in brazen defiance of the principles of fairness and an unforgivable example of creating the appearance of impropriety.  Scully had been an intern for Joe Biden. The debate commission wasn’t even trying to appear objective. How difficult would it have been to find a moderator with no past ties to either candidate? C-Span, if it had any integrity, should have vetoed the selection. Scully should have declined.

Then, incredibly and jaw-droppingly stupidly, Scully sent a tweet to notorious Trump associate turned enemy—the President has a lot of those—Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired as White House communications director after what seemed like a minute and a half. When the tweet was found, Scully claimed he had been hacked, and C-Span backed him, as you can see above. Today, C-SPAN announced that Scully has been suspended indefinitely, because he lied. There was no hack. Why he hasn’t been fired, I do not know.

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Did You Ever Want To Reach Right Through A Letters To The Editor Section And Slap A Letter Writer Silly?

When I see a letter to a newspaper published that is indefensible logically and ethically, I often wonder, “Why did the paper print this?” Was the reason that the editors thought the letter made good sense, in which case, “Oh-oh!” Was the reason that it spoke for many readers with similar delusions, and thus would inform other readers that this, however dim-witted, is a common attitude or perception? Or, most ominous of all, was the reason it was published that the editors know the letter is badly reasoned, but think it will persuade other readers to accept a view that advances the paper’s ideological and political agendas?

I believe editors of letters sections are obligated to rebut dumb or misleading statements, either with their own responses or with other letters. The news media should not make people more ignorant, more biased, more stupid, and more misinformed. That our current news media does this now as a matter of course, and often deliberately, is one of the prime reasons I view the label “enemy of the people,” as inflammatory as it is, as fair.

I was thinking about this as I read the readers’ letters to the New York Times about Elizabeth Drew’s recent op-ed arguing that Presidential debates should be eliminated. As I’ve mentioned here earlier, her position was disingenuous and laughable: What a coinkydink that progressive pundits are suddenly opposing debates when the Democratic Party’s candidate is obviously trying to keep the extent of his mental decline from voters! Naturally the Times, being the Times,  permitted just one letter to get to press that expressed that analysis; only two of the seven letters published referenced Joe Biden at all. Continue reading

Late-Starting Week Ethics Warm-Up, 9/3/2019: Why We Have Fake News

A post-Labor Day mess in San Francisco…

Good morning!

1. Why we have fake news, Part A: “Journalists just make stuff up.” From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

A survey of American Jews showed continued disapproval of President Donald Trump, with anti-Semitism high and Israel low on the priority list for Jewish voters. The survey, conducted for a liberal-leaning Jewish organization, the Jewish Electorate Institute, by Greenberg Research, which does polling for Democratic candidates, showed 71 percent of likely Jewish-American voters disapprove of Trump and 29 percent approve, commensurate with polling since Trump’s election…The survey released Wednesday of 1,000 Jewish voters nationally was taken between May 6 and 12, and is consistent with past polling of a constituency that leans strongly Democratic…The poll showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorable/unfavorable score as 45/38. Netanyahu used to score high approval among American Jews, but his sustained clashes with Obama on Palestinian and Iran policy, and his closeness to Trump appear to have eroded American Jewish support.

Gallup:

….Our aggregate from January through August of this year shows a 29% Trump job approval rating among Jews, with 69% disapproval….

Now here’s ABC News Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd on Twitter:

Dowd is just citing statistic pulled out of the air, apparently. How can anyone trust these people? Continue reading

You Know, That WAS An Excellent Post On October 20, 2016!

In response to my recent question in a comment thread about when Ethics Alarms first noted that the Democratic Party was embracing totalitarian attitudes, tactics and principles, reader and commenter Zoltar Speaks tracked the post down, which, as I had speculated, was published in late October, 2016, right before the election. It was interesting, in light of having just passed the two year mark in the Trump Presidency, to review my thoughts at the time. Upon re-reading it, I conclude that there is nothing in that post I would retract, and that I wish I was as smart every day was I was on October 20, 2016. This section, however, really stood out in light of what has occurred since; the context was the last debate between candidates Trump and Clinton: Continue reading

The 2016 Election And Ethics Zugswang

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In a July post I introduced the concept of ethics zugswang, described in the Ethics Alarms glossary as

From the chess term “zugzwang,” describing a board where the player with the next move worsens his position regardless of which move he chooses. Ethics Zugswang occurs when all the opportunity to choose ethical options has passed. Any course of action will have unethical consequences.

I often talk about ethics zugswang in my ethics seminars as well. It is a situation where  no ethical decision is possible, because of poor choices and a failure to play competent ethics chess, not thinking ahead, not anticipating worst case scenarios, and thereby creating a situation where  ethical options are unavailable. All that is left are options that do tangible harm. The idea is to avoid such messes by not blundering through life being governed by non-ethical considerations, emotions, rationalizations, recklessness and ignorance. Sometimes, however, despite all of one’s best efforts, ethics zugswang arrives anyway.

Such is the plight of the American citizen on Election Day, 2016. For months, thoughtful voters who care about democracy and want to participate in choosing their President responsibly have been trying to decide which of several unethical decisions is the best—the most ethical, or rather least unethical– of the available options. Being angry or indignant, or holding one’s breath until one turns blue, will not do. A decision has to be made, and refusing to make a decision is still a decision. (In chess, the most common response to ethics zugswang is to resign, to quit. But one cannot quit being a citizen in a democracy.)

In past posts, mostly in the comments, I and others have exchanged proposed analogies to describe the choice between choosing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to lead the country. Arguing that it was a binary choice that could best be compared to having one’s commercial airline flown by an untrustworthy pilot of questionable skill, motivations and objectives or, in the alternative, a seven-year old, a monkey or a spaniel, my position was that one choice was terrible and the other was infinitely worse, but the terrible one as at least survivable, with luck. Classical literature provides another useful analogy: the myth of Scylla and Charibdis.

In Greek mythology, they were two immortal and deadly monsters who lived on opposite sides the narrow waters in the Strait of Messina, between Italy and Sicily. Odysseus, trying to return home after the Trojan War,  faced the dilemma posed by having to choose between them in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII. Scylla had been a lovely a sea nymph who was loved by the sea god Poseidon, but Poseidon’s jealous wife Aphrodite treacherously cursed the waters in which Scylla bathed. The god-poisoned water turned Scylla into huge and vicious monster with twelve legs, six heads on long, snaky necks, with each head having a triple row of shark-like teeth. The transformed Scylla’s loins were also covered by the heads of baying dogs. (Note to self: don’t mess with Aphrodite!) When ships passed close to her, Scylla’s six heads would each snatch one sailor, then devour them in her cave.

Charybdis was also once a nymph, a daughter of Poseidon, who angered Zeus, Poseidon’s brother. Zeus turned her into an even worse monster than Scylla. The transformed nymph lurked under a fig tree on the opposite shore from Scylla’s rock, drinking down and belching out  the sea three times a day, causing  fatal whirlpools no ship could survive. Odysseus managed to get the worst of this dual  monster dilemma, sailing close enough to Scylla to doom six of his sailors (who he never warned about the threat) and still seeing his chip wrecked by Charybdis, with him being the only survivor. The shipwrecked Odysseus barely escaped her clutches by clinging to a tree until the improvised raft that she swallowed floated to the surface again after many hours.  To be “between Scylla and Charybdis” means to be caught between two equally horrible alternatives.

As today loomed and this metaphor appeared more and more accurate, I sought wisdom from various versions of the story, only to gradually realize that I was not as certain as I once had been which candidate was which monster. Continue reading

Debate Ethics: Trump’s “Breathtaking Repudiation Of American Democracy”

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Substance, of course, is officially irrelevant to the 2016 Presidential election. This is a bitter “be careful what you wish for” realization for Ethics Alarms and its author, as I have long argued that leaders’ values and character are more important and should be given more weight in any choice of candidates than their political affiliations or official policy positions. I did not foresee  a race in which both candidates have definitively proven that they are unfit for office and corrupt beyond repair or redemption, and one of those candidates is so unfit that even the epic dishonesty and democracy-corroding conduct of his opponent cannot begin to justify a vote for him by anyone with the sense of a bivalve mollusk.

Thus, once again as in the first two debates, the leading story coming out of last night’s snark-fest relates to character, not substance. In this case, it doesn’t even relate to practical reality. Donald Trump was asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace,

Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?

..and after talking around the question interminable, as usual, Trump finally answered,

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

Hillary Clinton immediately pronounced the answer “horrifying,” and her assessment is currently being echoed on editorial pages and by pundits and analysts as if Trump announced that he was raising an army of NRA members to take the White House by force. Gasped the Washington Post this morning, in an editorial titled, “Trump’s Breathtaking Repudiation of American Democracy,” “Respecting the will of the voters has since the end of the Civil War allowed for a peaceful transition of power that has made this country the envy of the world….[Clinton’s flaws] fade to the status of trivia in the face of an opponent who will not accept the basic rules of American democracy.”The New York Times, in its editorial titled “Donald Trump’s Contempt for Democracy,” pontificated,

Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the closing weeks could be dismissed as a sore loser’s bizarre attempt at rationalizing his likely defeat. But his trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example.

It in no way excuses Donald Trump to take notice of the “breathtaking” dishonesty here.

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This Might Force ME To Vote For Donald Trump: Clinton Campaign Manager Robbie Mook’s Unethical Quote Of The Month

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“All that we’re asking is that if Donald Trump lies, that it’s pointed out. It’s unfair to ask that Hillary Clinton both play traffic cop with Trump, make sure that his lies are corrected, and also to present her vision for what she wants to do for the American people…I think Donald Trump’s special. We haven’t seen anything like this. We normally go into a debate with two candidates who have a depth of experience, who have rolled out clear, concrete plans, and who don’t lie, frankly, as frequently as Donald Trump does.So we’re saying this is a special circumstance, a special debate, and Hillary should be given some time to actually talk about what she wants to do to make a difference in people’s lives. She shouldn’t have to spend the whole debate correcting the record.”

—-Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, explaining to George Stephanopoulis on ABC’s “This Week”why the Clinton campaign insists that debate moderators should run interference for her and intervene to contradict and rebut Trump’s assertions, unlike every other Presidential debate and every legitimate and fair debate of any kind, where that responsibility rests with the debaters.

Well, that’s almost it for me. I am officially a hair’s breadth from deciding that as repulsive as the thought of Donald Trump achieving the Presidency is, the prospect of the United States abandoning democracy, process and fair elections to defeat him is infinitely more repulsive.

What Mook is proposing is no less than the rigging of the election process, with one candidate given “special” privileges, while another is subjected to “special” handicaps and the “special” opposition of the news media. I had previously resolved, and on Ethics Alarms so stated, that in a binary choice between the most unqualified, unstable, vile, ignorant and boorish candidate ever nominated by a major party to be President and the corrupt, inept and dishonest Hillary Clinton, responsible Americans are duty-bound to cross their fingers, hold their noses, toss a horseshoe over their shoulders and vote for the certifiably awful Mrs. Clinton, in her own right the most corrupt and untrustworthy figure ever to come this close to the Presidency. (We can debate about Aaron Burr some other time.)

I no longer can say with certainty that I believe that now. Continue reading

Presidential Debate Ethics: The “Have Your One Of Your Adversary’s Husband’s Former Mistresses Sit In The Front Row” Tactic [UPDATED]

"Hi, Hillary! I'm back! Where's Bill sitting?"

“Hi, Hillary! I’m back! Where’s Bill sitting?”

It is being reported that Donald Trump has arranged to have Gennifer Flowers, Bill Clinton’s paramour from the years before his election, sit in the front row of the audience for Monday’s Presidential debate. If true, the objective is obviously to unnerve Hillary.

I hope it is just pre-debate psychological warfare, and that even Donald Trump has more class and couth than to actually do it. What am I saying? The man  has neither, nor any respect for basic decency or fairness, either.  Trump’s capacity to fall below even my low expectations regarding decent and professional conduct continues to amaze.

What adjectives describe this vile tactic of a Master Troll? Let’s see: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: President George H.W. Bush

Bush watchThe big news on the Bush-bashing front is that Papa Bush, #41, has a biography coming out next week, and section released by the publisher shows that he didn’t care much for his son’s (#43) staff, as well as containing other critiques.

To begin with, Bush I is a selfish jerk for allowing his biography to be released during the 2016 campaign, when it can only be used as a weapon against his sons and his party. His publishers want that, of course, because it means sales, and other than the campaign controversy angle I cannot imagine a one-term President whose biography anyone but family members would be less interested in reading. Benjamin Harrison, maybe. (But I’ve actually read not one biography of Ben, but three: Harry J. Sievers’s three-volume biography of Harrison, published between 1952 and 1968. It wasn’t my idea.) Bush, however, doesn’t need the money. His ego has obviously swallowed his common sense and loyalty, or he is being manipulated in his dotage.

That’s one obnoxious feature of the book. The worst, however, is this passage from the Times story describing a section in which Bush confesses that nearly didn’t run for re-election: Continue reading

The Obama Campaign’s Ungracious Character

Poor choice of role model, Mr. President.

Consider these post-debate quotes from various key figures in the Obama campaign:

” The President did a good job explaining his positions, but give credit where credit is due. Governor Romney had a great night. He was focused and clear, and obviously connected with the audience. He’s a capable adversary, as we always knew. President Obama can and will equal and surpass his performance in the coming debates.”—David Axelrod

” Governor Romney proved himself to be a formidable debater, and the President will have to be more aggressive in countering his arguments, which he certainly has the ability and the ammunition to do.”—Stephanie Cutter

“I didn’t feel I had a poor debate, but I obviously need to have better ones. Sometimes the other guy just beats you, and you have to accept that, tip your hat, and win the next time.”—President Obama

If you haven’t seen these respectful, gracious quotes, all typical of the comments of past candidates and their staff after debate performances that were seen as falling short of their opponents’, there’s a reason. Nobody on the Democratic side, including Obama himself, nor most of the media pundits except those who would be fairly classified as conservative, have been willing to give Mitt Romney any recognition for a well planned, well-executed, professional and compelling debate. “What happened?” Diane Sawyer asked the President. “I had a bad night,” he replied. Romney, you see, had nothing to do with it. Continue reading