I’m supposed to be student of American Presidential history, and even I had virtually forgotten about William Ruckelshaus, who just died. It was Ruckelshaus who, along with Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson, rejected Ethics Rationalization #15, The Futility Illusion or “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” when the United States of America needed a hero, and got two.
His moment of courage arrived on an October night in 1973 destined to be known in the annals of American history as the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Ruckelshaus was then Assistant Attorney General, and President Richard Nixon, was panicked that the ongoing investigation by Special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox was closing in on his blatant obstruction of justice. A White House-triggered burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the now-famous Foggy Bottom condo complex and hotel in Washington, D.C., seemed about to bring Nixon down, so Nixon resolved to have cripple the investigation by having Cox removed. Ruckelshaus was the second of three officials the beleaguered POTUS ordered to fire the Harvard law professor. For some reason Nixon thought this might relieve him from having to produce the nine incriminating Oval Office tape recordings that Cox had subpoenaed.
Ruckelshaus, under Nixon the first head of the new Environmental Protection Agency, had been named acting head of the FBI in April of 1973, replacing L. Patrick Gray III. He was soon named the top deputy to Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson. When Nixon ordered the mild-mannered Richardson to fire Cox that fateful night, Richardson shocked Nixon by refusing, and resigning immediately. That made Ruckelshaus the Acting Attorney General, and he was suddenly on the hot seat, tasked with carrying out Nixon’s legally and ethically questionable orders.
Cox had been guaranteed complete independence by Nixon and Attorney General Richardson during the prosecutor’s Senate confirmation hearings in May of 1972. Congress directed that he could be be removed only for “gross malfeasance” in office, and by October 20, 1973, there had been none. “I thought what the president was doing was fundamentally wrong,” Ruckelshaus said later. “I was convinced that Cox had only been doing what he had the authority to do; what was really of concern to the President and the White House was that he was too close. He hadn’t engaged in any extraordinary improprieties, quite the contrary.” Continue reading
Of course she does.
Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California has resigned. from the House of Representatives. Ethics Alarms examined Rep. Hill’s plight in the recent post, Just What We Needed: The Naked Congresswoman Principle. It concluded,
“The Naked Teacher Principle, Naked Congresswoman Variation, rules. The fact that these photos became public undermines trust in Hill’s judgement, competence, and trustworthiness, if not her physical fitness. It doesn’t matter how or why they got online. The person ultimately responsible is Hill. If you want to have a career based on respect and trust, don’t pose for naked pictures, sex photos, or pictures that make you look like you’re employed by an escort service. That shouldn’t be so hard.”
The lesson of the Naked Teacher Principle and most (though not all!) of its variations held true for Hill: once there are photos out there of a professional holding a position requiring dignity and trust behaving like or looking like a porn star, a drunken frat date, Kim Kardashian or a Sports illustrated swimsuit model, that professional’s ability to do her (or his) job has been seriously wounded, perhaps mortally. It would have been nice, and admirable, if Hill acknowledged this fact of life, the workplace and politics, but as you can see from her resignation letter below, she did not:
Hill appears to be taking no responsibility for her fate at all. This was a “rising star” in the Democratic Party firmament? Yechh. Continue reading
The resignation is effective one week from today. Acosta’s deputy, Pat Pizzella, will become acting Secretary. In the Trump administration, acting secretary is a real growth position, since the appointments to the administration’s top jobs are so uniformly wretched. As with so many other disastrous appointments, Trump, or someone, should have seen this scandal coming before Acosta was nominated..
In confirming reports that he had stepped down, Alexander Acosta said, “I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s labor department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today.” He said that he called President Trump and “told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside. Because cabinet positions are temporary trusts. It would be selfish for me to stay in this position and continue talking about a case that’s twelve years old rather than about the amazing economy we have right now.”
It was the right move for Acosta whether you believe that he needed to be held accountable for the Jeffrey Epstein fiasco or not. The Democrats are desperately trying to tie Epstein to Trump, and the narrative that Acosta was rewarded for helping a Trump “pal” needed to be squashed. I second the reaction of Ann Althouse, who doubled down on her earlier opinion by re-publishing it after she heard the news:
“I do think Acosta should resign. When it mattered most, the cries of a wealthy man overwhelmed those of ordinary people. That’s not what belongs in the Labor Department.”
I bet you can guess what Trump was saying here…
You know, it’s late, I’m finally finished decorating the tree, nobody’s visiting the blog anyway, and when they do and try to share an article without an scintilla of “hate speech” in it, Facebook blocks it. But ethics never rest, and I’m going to post this anyway.
The President announced that ol’ Mad Dog won’t be staying on for an” orderly transition” at DOD after all: today the President announced that Mattis’s deputy would take over on January 1, and Mattis can get head start on collecting shells in Boca, or something. One more time, the news media and social media are acting like this is some kind of scandal, because they 1) hate the President and 2) couldn’t manage a lemonade stand themselves.
I’m sure Mattis would have been welcome to stay on a couple more months as originally announced—if hadn’t publicized a resignation letter that implicitly attacked the President. You can’t do that and expect to stay in any job, much less one as powerful and important as Secretary of Defense.Oddly, Trump’s perpetual critics don’t understand this, either because bias has made them stupid, or they were ignorant to begin with. Continue reading
President Trump announced that he was ending the U.S. mission in Syria, and drawing down the troop level in Afghanistan. His Secretary of Defense,General Mattis, resigned in protest, and copied his letter of resignation to the world.
The news media, social media, and full time anti-Trump hysterics, among others, went bonkers.
- What’s going on here? A President who has long held that U.S. domestic priorities are more important than “being the world’s policeman” followed through on his promise. As is his wont, he sprung the actual news without laying a foundation to cushion the blow. Nobody knows whether the decisions will work out or not, but the assumption is that because this President is the one making the decisions, they must be stupid, evil, or both. This, despite the fact that Barack Obama essentially did the same thing regarding Iraq, except that Iraq gave much more promise of stabilizing with continued U.S. presence. Syria is still in chaos, and nobody can confidently say when and if it will not be. As for Afghanistan, the U.S. has been expending lives and treasure there for a mind-blowing 17 years. What is the mission? Funny—I thought the original mission was to punish the country for sponsoring the 9/11 attacks. We could have declared the point made long, long ago. Is the President wrong to say “Enough is enough”?
I have no idea—and neither do you.
- Having no idea, not having seen the data, not having been advised, and not being President of the United States, I have little basis to challenge or deride the decision. But what’s really going on here is what has been going on since January, 2017. Any decision or action by this President is immediately assumed to be wrong. The analysis attached to it afterwards is superfluous. The position is that President Trump did it, it’s wrong because he’s a Nazi/idiot/ grifter /fool, and that’s all we need to know.
This, of course, makes it impossible, literally impossible, to get honest, trustworthy analysis about anything.
- Anyone who criticizes Trump in public, even certifiable slime like Steve Bannon, James Comey, and Omarosa, suddenly is embraced by “the resistance ” and the news media using the formula that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This rewards unethical conduct, and “Mad Dog” appears to have fallen into the trap, to his eventual shame. As a lawyer, I know it is unethical to drop a client, my employer, and make any pubic statements whatsoever impugning his or her judgment or conduct. It is also unethical to do this in any professional relationship. Professionals know this: I presume at one time Mattis knew this. But having paid attention to how routine betrayals of this President have been cheered and praised, he apparently couldn’t resist temptation.
Now, as a lawyer, my duties are codified. That doesn’t mean that professionals who don’t have the same duties codified aren’t obligated to follow them. Continue reading
In ethical, legal and Constitutional terms, there isn’t really very much legitimate controversy here. The key word here is “legitimate.” “The resistance” is trying its best to spin the issues and confuse the public—yet again. The news media wants to help. They have nothing.
—Attorney General Sessions should have resigned long, long ago. He debased himself by remaining in office. His boss, the President, was publicly abusive, and obviously did not want him to continue in the job.
—I cannot begin to express sufficiently my contempt for the dishonest and absurd argument that Sessions leaving office constitutes an “obstruction of justice” under even the most tortured interpretation of the term. A President can fire and replace his own Cabinet members; this was the issue that technically led to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. Congress had passed a law (later ruled unconstitutional) that prohibited firing a Cabinet member without Congressional consent. The current theory is even more crack-brained than the claim that Trump firing James Comey, who was incompetent, devious and untrustworthy was obstruction. The “theory,” if you can call it that, is that replacing an AG who had a conflict of interest and had to recuse himself from an investigation is somehow sinister, because the new AG will actually be able to do his job, and supervise a Justice Department investigation.
—The investigation is officially about Russian interference with the 2016 election. Because the Trump campaign and its participants (not the Trump administration: this occurred before the election) might have been implicated or drawn into the investigation, Sessions, who was part of the campaign organization, had to recuse himself as a potential target, witness, or otherwise involved person, both for potential conflicts reasons and to avoid any appearance of impropriety. However, these do not apply to Sessions’ successor, much as Democrats and “the resistance” would want Mueller’s investigation to be completely without supervision by anyone approved by the President.
—There is no reason in the world why the acting AG, Matt Whitaker, should recuse himself from involvement in the Mueller matter. Claims to the contrary are made without grounding in law or ethics. Continue reading
(This post was all set to go up before noon. I just had the last item to finish..and then all hell broke loose here. I’m sorry. Now the meal is cold…)
1. Not whataboutism, but rather whatthehellism…It’s a trap, of course. A blatant racist tweet like Roseanne’s yesterday would get CEO fired, a Cabinet member fired, and I suspect, a tenured professor fired, though equally racist tweets have been survived by profs as long as they denigrated whites. Still, the media’s double standard is palpable, as well as undeniable. Thus I was amused when a sudden surge in visits to a post from last September led me to rediscover this, authored then by Keith Olbermann:
Can we assume, therefore, since it was recently announced that ESPN, like ABC owned by Disney, is bringing back Olbermann for a prominent role in its sports broadcasting, that the company does want to be associated with his kind of vulgarity, incivility and hate? Continue reading