Unethical Quote of the Week: Economist Paul Krugman

“…The prostitute thing is embarrassing and painful to think about, but not a disqualification for public office. David Vitter is still in the Senate, and in internal LA Republican politics is apparently squashing the very pious Bobby Jindal like a bug…I know that opinions differ about just how effective Spitzer’s confrontations were. But at least he tried — which is more than you can say about almost anyone else in our political life. Basically, the malefactors of great leverage were bailed out and went right back to being bad guys again, and everyone in public life pretended that nothing had happened. That, I think, is why there’s a surprising reservoir of support for Spitzer; people remember him as someone who showed at least some of the righteous outrage that has been so wrongly absent from our national discourse. It’s a useful reminder, and it’s why I regard his entry into the race, win or lose, as a good thing.”

— Inexplicably revered progressive economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, discussing the re-entry of Eliot Spitzer into New York state politics on his blog. Spitzer, despite having to resign from office as governor because he was caught partaking in the services of a prostitution ring—the same kind of enterprise he aggressively prosecuted as state attorney general, is now running for comptroller.

Explain, please: How can anyone rely on the judgment of someone whose ethical reasoning is this miserable?

Explain, please: How can anyone rely on the judgment of someone whose ethical reasoning is this miserable?

I do not understand how anyone can read or take seriously Krugman’s opinions on budget management and national affairs—he thinks that the national debt is no big deal at the moment, a position that is essential to Obama-enabling—when the favorite economist of progressives and Democrats can write something as indicting as the quote above. The post is appallingly irrational, irresponsible and unethical: it suggests that the author’s judgment is miserable, that his ethics are negligible, that his biases rule his intellect….and that, apparently with justification, he is confident that the Park Avenue liberals who quote him at dinner parties won’t lose an ounce of respect for or abandon an inch of reliance regarding a champion who believes such rot. Continue reading

Senator Vitter Thinks Bribery and Extortion Are Ethical

"...and U.S. Senators..."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was initially restricted to a lower salary than other Cabinet members because he was a U.S. Senator when the salaries were raised. The Constitution bars members of the House and Senate from appointment to any U.S. office where compensation was increased during the lawmaker’s term. (Did you know that? I didn’t.)  President George W. Bush in 2008 signed legislation rolling back the Interior Secretary’s salary so that President Obama Salazar could appoint Salazar.

Once Salazar joined the Obama Cabinet, however, he was eligible for a raise. But Senator David Vitter (R-La.) saw a chance for some leverage. He wrote Salazar to inform him that he would place a hold on the bill to raise his salary until Salazar agreed to approve six new deep-water oil drilling permits every month. In effect, Vitter threatened to withhold over $19,000 in salary that Salazar had every right to receive in order to force him to take the actions Vitter favored. How does Vitter’s conduct differ from offering a bribe? No at all, as far as I can see. How does it differ from extortion? Not much. Vitter was trying to force a Cabinet officer make decisions motivated by his own financial interest rather than what he believed was in the best interest of the nation. He was creating an unethical conflict of interest. Continue reading

Another Sexting Pol: Drawing the Lines

"ARRGH! I didn't consent to THAT!"

From today’s  New York Daily News:

“Garden State Democrat Louis Magazzu announced his resignation Tuesday after nude pictures he sent to a woman he had been corresponding with were posted on a Republican activist’s website. At least two of the photos showed the Cumberland County freeholder’s crotch, two showed him dressed to the nines in a suit, and a fifth showed him waist up without a shirt.

Comments and observations:

  • Magazzu didn’t have to resign, but it was right for him to do so. Sexting is a problem among high school students, and it doesn’t help to have elected representatives indulging in it. He was humiliated by publication of the photos, and because the humiliation extended to his constituents and his party, resigning quickly was an appropriate, honorable, courageous thing to do—as it would have been for Bill Clinton, Sen. David Vitter, ex-Sen. Ensign, ex-South Carolina Governor Sanford, and others. He didn’t have to resign, however. Continue reading

As Weiner Finally Goes, Some Lessons That We Already Should Know

I’m sitting in the Washington, D.C. offices of  NPR, waiting to go live at 11 AM. with some ethics commentary about the imminent resignation of Rep. Weiner. He is finally doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, just as his Democratic colleagues are defenestrating him for the wrong reasons. Once yesterday’s old photos surfaced showing Weiner in women’s underwear, his fate was sealed…although it was really sealed already. His forced resignation was inevitable, and the fact that the Congressman was unable to see it so that he could preserve some shred of honor by doing his duty as soon as his disgraceful conduct became public shows how wretched his judgment is.

The 56% of his constituents who, according to polls, thought that he should remain in his job demonstrated their complete lack of understanding of the requirements of leadership and ethics. They weren’t the only ones. It has been fascinating, though depressing, to read the comment threads on various websites and blogs covering the Weiner story, because they are so similar in their rationalizations. The categories, and reasons why they are so misguided, are:

  • Lots of the people criticizing Weiner engage in dubious inline conduct themselves; they are hypocrites.” No, they are non-leaders. When you accept the responsibility of leadership, you accept the duties of  integrity, honesty, and honorable conduct. Rep. Weiner gave up the right to behave as sleazy as the guy we never heard of next door when he ran for office. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

The fact that David Vitter is still stinking up the Senate means that it makes sense to let Anthony Weiner stick around and stink up the House. Yes, that's really the best the Democrats can come up with.

“It’s hard to see what the Ethics Committee would hang its hat on here to say that this conduct would violate the ethics rules. Others have said maybe it’s the lying. What! So no politician has ever lied to us before? That’s the kind of thing we see all the time. So he did behave discreditably (!!) but I don’t think it’s enough for a full-fledged ethics censure. David Vitter is still there.”

—-Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, making excuses for Rep. Anthony Weiner on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC liberal love-in show.

As“Ethics Bob” writes, “If you’re a Democrat and you want an ethics pass, go see Melanie Sloan.”  Bob muses on what kind of behavior Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington “would consider irresponsible or unethical.”

It sure wouldn’t be Sloan’s own conduct, though she infamously used CREW to promote the client of a lobbying firm that she later jumped CREW to join (also conduct that is seen in D.C. “all the time,’ though not usually by heads of so-called ethics watchdog groups).* The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics does some good work, but it has always leaned heavily toward criticizing Republicans. Sloan’s statement to O’Donnell, however, is a new low, a disgrace for anyone who purports to take ethics seriously. Continue reading

CREW’s Top Ten Scandals of 2010

The government ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has announced its list of the top ten ethics scandals of 2010. You can read about them here.

For the most part I like the list, though notable for its absence is the Charley Rangel matter,  the ommission of which reinforces my conviction that CREW is marred by a pro-Democratic bias.  Strangely, the list also fails to include the unfortunate incident where CREW’s former executive director, Melanie Sloan, jumped ship to take a lucrative job with a lobbying firm whose clients CREW had been vigorously supporting for months.

Go figure.

How We Will Know When the GOP Can Be Trusted

The Democrats swept into power in the wake of an unpopular war,  economic collapse, and perhaps most of all, indisputable proof that too many Republican lawmakers were venal, corrupt, arrogant, and unworthy of power. It has taken only a year from the promises of ethical reform made by Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to seem insincere, and Republican’s believe that this time public distrust will work to their favor, returning them to the power they abused. They may be right. Still, the public is not stupid. If Republicans intend to campaign as the party of fiscal responsibility and honest government, they must demonstrate that the commitment is more than a masquerade. Time and credibility, however, are in short supply. Continue reading