Unspoken Ethical Quote Of The Month: Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Attn. General Holder Testifies At Senate Judiciary Hearing On Justice Dept Oversight

“No, I respect the motives and intentions of my critics. Those who have opposed me genuinely disagree with my philosophy and approach to the job, and I would never denigrate them by attributing their opposition to race, bias, or anything but the same passion and belief in their goals for the nation that I have in mine.”

What Attorney General Eric Holder could have and should have answered in his “exit interview” with Politico’s Mike Allen, in answer to the question, “Now, there clearly have been times …when you have felt disrespected on Capitol Hill. How much of that do you think relates to race?”

Holder didn’t answer this way, however.

Holder is black, and consistent with the message that has been trumpeted from the White House, Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Presidential advisor and Holder consort Al Sharpton for more than six years, any and all problems, criticism, misfortune or failure affecting African Americans can plausibly, reasonably, credibly, and advantageously be attributed to racial bias or outright racism.

Thus Holder’s actual answer to Allen was…

“Yeah, there have been times when I thought that’s at least a piece of it.”

Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Day: Ken White at Popehat

File photo of U.S. Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS Lerner being sworn in to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington

“Pardon me: if you accept the proposition that the government targets organizations for IRS scrutiny because of their political views, and you still say things like ‘why take the Fifth if you have nothing to hide’, then you’re either an idiot or a dishonest partisan hack.”

—-Attorney-blogger Ken White, discussing former IRS official Lois Lerner’s refusal to testify in front of Rep. Daryl Issa’s House Government Oversight Committee

Good point.

Elaborating on the point before this statement, Ken points out why this is so:

“You take the Fifth because the government can’t be trusted. You take the Fifth because what the truth is, and what the government thinks the truth is, are two very different things. You take the Fifth because even if you didn’t do anything wrong your statements can be used as building blocks in dishonest, or malicious, or politically motivated prosecutions against you. You take the Fifth because if you answer questions truthfully the government may still decide you are lying and prosecute you for lying.”

Got it. Or, you take the Fifth because you really did engage in illegal activity in a coordinated effort to obstruct legal political action for partisan motives, on orders from someone with close ties to the White House, which still may be the case.

In the same post, Ken explains that Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, or may not. If she has, then she is in contempt of Congress. If she hasn’t, she isn’t.

My observations on this slow-motion ethics train wreck: Continue reading

Now THAT’S An Ad Hominem Attack

"How do I rebut your argument? Here's how, you, brain-damaged Hell-spawn!"

“How do I rebut your argument? Here’s how, you, brain-damaged Hell-spawn!”

David Plouffe at least has done something useful, if not ethical.

We get a lot of accusations here—aimed at me and also between warring commenters—of using ad hominem attacks. Ad hominem attacks are indeed unethical, not because of the negative descriptions of the target they involve, which may well be accurate and fair, but because they are a dishonest and unfair debate tactic. The motive behind a true ad hominem attack is to avoid dealing with the substance of what an adversary claims, argues or asserts by attacking the person, character or background of the adversary.  The intention is to avoid the implications of a fact or illuminating opinion by asserting: “This person is bad, so don’t listen to what he has to say.”  It is a logical fallacy, of course. Whether an individual is bad or not doesn’t change the facts; a bad person may have performed a brilliant analysis, uncovered the wisdom of the ages, or uncovered the key perception that solves enduring mysteries. It is unethical for one seeking to rebut the argument to attack the arguer as if it’s the same thing. When successful, ad hominem attacks deflect the real debate and turn it into a debate about something else, focusing on the original speaker, now feeling the need to defend his honor rather than his position. Continue reading

Now Showing: “The Benghazi Chronicles,” or “How The Absence Of A Trustworthy And Objective Newsmedia Undermines Democracy”

If you think she would lie to Congress, you must be one of those Obama-hating conservatives!

Never mind what the e-mails say: if you think she would lie to Congress, you must be one of those Obama-hating conservatives!

Did you know that the Obama Administration’s handling of the Benghazi fiasco last September and its subsequent explanations to the Congress, the American people and the world is under legitimate scrutiny once again, and that there may be credible and irrefutable evidence that the Administration both botched the response and lied about it? Did you know that at least three whistleblowers—Mark Thompson, deputy assistant secretary of state for counter-terrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/charge d’affairs in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, who acted as a regional security officer in Libya for the State Department—who had direct knowledge of the inner workings of the government during and after the crisis, will be testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, perhaps this week? Did you know that there is a significant possibility that, as Conservative pundits and Republicans were screaming at the time, the Obama Administration executed a deliberate and purely politically motivated cover-up operation designed to withhold the truth about the Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and other U.S. personnel until after the elections, if not permanently?

Since this is an important and perhaps transformational developing news story, one would hope that you would know at least some of thus if you have frequented any “respectable” news source over the past few days, and not been spelunking. One would hope, and one would have that hope dashed. There was nothing about Benghazi over the weekend in the New York Times, or on NBC, ABC’s Sunday Morning news show. There was plenty of coverage, all day long yesterday, at Fox, and you know what that means (and is supposed to mean, and in carefully manipulated by the rest of the media to make sure it means), don’t you? The re-opening of the Benghazi issue is a “conservative story,” just concocted, twisted and massaged by the Obama-hating cabal!

To its credit, CBS, via “Face the Nation,” covered the story on Sunday while ABC, NBC and CNN chose to focus almost exclusively on Syria and immigration reform. Bob Shieffer opened the segment by referring to it as “the story that will not go away,” a self-revelatory intro, I think, since Bob, like most of his Obama-worshiping colleagues, probably wishes the story would go away. Yet he quoted one of the so-called whistleblowers, Greg Hicks, who  reportedly told investigators that the Administration, contrary to what Susan Rice was sent out to tell the public and what the President told the world, knew “from the get-go” that the attack wasn’t a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Islamic video, but a coordinated terrorist act. Continue reading

CREW vs. Issa: Biased Accuser, Guilty Accused

Unethical for Rep. Issa to make it, and unethical that CREW didn’t

The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington does almost half a great job in its stated role as a government ethics watchdog. The supposedly non-partisan group is obviously partisan, since it goes after unethical Republican officials with frequency and relish while targeting unethical Democrats with infrequency and reluctance. CREW’s complaints, however, are almost always well-supported and legitimate. Why almost half a great job? CREW can’t be as effective in its efforts to expose unethical Republican conduct as it needs to be because its obvious bias makes the organization’s motives and judgment less trustworthy and more vulnerable to attack.

We have a perfect example in the news. “The Hill” reports that CREW….

“…has asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) violated rules by producing a video that attacks President Obama. Continue reading

The Economic Meltdown: Accountability Check

The shoe fits both Parties.

The ethics story of week was the dropping of the missing shoe in the “Friends of Angelo” scandal that helped drive Democratic Senator and party leader Chris Dodd into retirement. (More here.) It fell like this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former Countrywide Financial Corp., whose subprime loans helped start the nation’s foreclosure crisis, made hundreds of discount loans to buy influence with members of Congress, congressional staff, top government officials and executives of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, according to a House report.

What the report indicates is that the bribery of regulators and members of Congress to allow the sub-prime mortgage con-game to continue was far worse and for more widespread than anyone realized. Countrywide offered special loan deals to dozens of influential government officials to stave off regulations that might have avoided or greatly lessened the mortgage collapse that triggered the current long-term economic crisis: 

“Documents and testimony obtained by the committee show the VIP loan program was a tool used by Countrywide to build goodwill with lawmakers and other individuals positioned to benefit the company,” the report said. “In the years that led up to the 2007 housing market decline, Countrywide VIPs were positioned to affect dozens of pieces of legislation that would have reformed Fannie” and its rival Freddie Mac, the committee said.

More: Continue reading

Fast and Furious: An Open Letter To Columnist Colbert King

Dear Colbert King…

Dear Mr. King:

I am writing to see if you can help me understand your attitude toward the Fast and Furious scandal, as laid out in your recent weekly column in the Washington Post.

I can’t bring myself to make you an Ethics Dunce, because few journalists in any community have led such a relentless and powerful crusade against unethical government and corrupt public officials. Your columns have eloquently condemned the culture of corruption that has crippled the District of Columbia, and rallied the indignation and activism of citizens against the legacy of Marion Barry and the tolerance of public betrayal that he sowed and nurtured. You have cataloged, in shocking detail, the ethical rot that has infested the nation’s Capital, marked by lawlessness, cronyism, incompetence and greed. I respect you. I trust you. I think of you as the most credible and objective media advocate for good government that I know.

So I need to understand why you think it is fair and appropriate to call Rep. Issa a “devil” for insisting on transparency, honesty, accountability, and transparency from Attorney General Holder regarding the Fast and Furious fiasco, which left one American and untold Mexicans dead. It is the duty of Congress to exercise oversight over the U.S. government, and if there was ever an episode demanding oversight, this was it. The U.S. Department of Justice allowed the law to be broken, permitted dangerous automatic weapons to cross the border into Mexico and arm the most dangerous thugs in that country (without receiving the permission of Mexico or informing it), and then lost control of both the scheme and the weapons, with fatal results. You always write about maintaining the trust of the public in Washington, D. C. What is more fatal to trust than a law enforcement agency that intentionally allows laws to be broken without accountability? Don’t you believe that public trust in a nation’s Justice Department, its agents, policymakers and leadership is as important as public trust in the D.C. City Council? If you do, why is Issa, in your words, “engaging in cheap political opportunism” by insisting, along with others, such as the scrupulously fair Sen. Grassley, that Holder explain what happened, who was responsible, and what measures have been taken to make sure such an outrageous operation never happens again—beginning with, <gasp!>, firing somebody? Continue reading

Attorney General Holder, Fast and Furious, and Congressional Perjury

"Oh, NOW I see where the confusion is...AG Holder thought the Congressman was asking about when he saw the MOVIE called 'The Fast and Furious.' It's an honest mistake. The Attorney General loves his Netflix!"

It is looking increasingly likely that Attorney General Holder lied to Congress on May 2, 2011, when he was asked by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa about when he knew about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Fast and Furious gun-running fiasco. In this he is following a grand tradition among U.S. Attorney Generals: the last one, Bush crony Alberto Gonzalez, almost certainly lied under oath to Congress too.

Fast and Furious was a botched gunrunning enforcement operation in which illegal guns that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives intentionally allowed to be smuggled into Mexico ended up being used to kill an Immigration Customs Enforcement agent and a U.S. border patrol guard.  Holder was called before Issa’s committee in a typical “what did the top guy know and when did he know it?” inquiry. In response to the latter part of that question, Holder told the Committee that he was “not sure of the exact date, but I probably learned about Fast and Furious over the last few weeks.”

CBS and Fox News have uncovered a series of e-mails and memos that show unequivocally that this was not true. Continue reading

What’s Wrong About the Sestak Caper

The Sestak-White House “Please Force Pennsylvanians to Keep Arlen Specter as Senator” story has officially cracked wide open, and reports are coming out fast and furious while the White House is spinning faster than Kristi Yamaguchi on speed. It began with Rep. Sestak making himself look determined and incorruptible by telling a radio talk show host on the air that the White House had promised him a plum job if he didn’t challenge Specter in the primary. Once Sesatk won, Rep. Issa of the Republican Truth Squad began demanding that Sestak reveal who made the offer, since it would be a Federal crime (as Sestak had described it) and another Federal law requires Sestak to report Federal crimes committed by government employees. The details will be clarified, corrected and spun some more over the next few days, but the following is clear: Continue reading

Rep. Sestak and That White House Bribe…

Can anyone remember another series of elections in which the winners found themselves in so much ethical hot water so quickly? First we have a U.S. Senate convention nominee in Connecticut (Blumenthal wasn’t really elected, just chosen by delegates) revealed having misrepresented his military record multiple times. Then the victorious Republican Senate nominee in Kentucky goes on TV and radio to prove that he cares more about being true to what the New York Times calls “textbook libertarianism” than its real world human and societal costs. Now Rep. Joe Sestak is being caught in an ethical quandary. Is he going to finger members of Obama’s White House, cover up a Federal crime, or admit he was lying? Continue reading