Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: President Barack Obama

Yesterday’s U.S.  missile attack on Syria prompted by Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians clarifies just how inept and feckless President Obama’s handling of foreign policy was.

In an article today in the reliably progressive and Democratic Party-boosting The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg writes,

“President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine, like many foreign policy doctrines, was contradictory at times, and it sometimes lacked coherence.”

1. At times?

2. Sometimes lacked coherence?

3. Notice the obligatory “like many foreign policy doctrines” to cushion the blow. Journalists are in permanent denial over just how epically awful the first black President’s administration was.

Goldberg eventually gets around to Obama’s “decision, in 2013, to go back on his promise to punish the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians. Early in the Syrian civil war, Obama publicly drew a red line concerning Assad’s behavior, but later decided to forgo military strikes, even after being presented with near-definitive proof that Assad had crossed the red line in grotesque fashion. “  This inadequate description intentionally leaves out the dispiriting details of that fiasco. Here is what Obama said in August of 2013 when the first “red line” appeared:

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation….We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.” 

Ethics Alarms:

Now, lawyers and grammarians may argue over what “a red line” means, what constitutes “use” and “a whole bunch,” and what the President considers “enormous consequences.” None of that matters. What matters is what the statement was understood to mean around the world, and it was widely understood to mean this: If chemical weapons are used against the Syrian people by Assad, the United States will act decisively. Last week, reliable evidence indicated that indeed chemical weapons had been used, and that the “red line” had been crossed.

Obama’s response? Double-talk, backtracking and word-parsing:

  • The President to reporters Friday with Jordan’s King Abdullah in the Oval Office:  “What we have right now is an intelligence assessment. And as I said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used, how they were used. Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community. And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this. And I think that, in many ways, a line has been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime. But the use of chemical weapons and the dangers that poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential for chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists — all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region. So we’re going to be working with countries like Jordan to try to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this potential use. In the meantime, I’ve been very clear publicly, but also privately, that for the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues. So this is not an on or off switch.”
  • A White House official to reporters Thursday: “I think what the Assad regime needs to know is that we are watching this incredibly closely. Were he to undertake any additional use [of chemical weapons], he would be doing so under very careful monitoring from us and the international community. There should be no mistaking our determination not just to get to the bottom of these reports, but to send a message … that Bashar al-Assad and his regime will be held accountable for these types of actions. We’re going to be methodical, rigorous and relentless … so we can establish exactly what happened…all options are on the table in terms of our response…If we reach a definitive determination that the red line has been crossed … what we will be doing is consulting closely with out friends and allies … to determine what the best course of action is.”

So those “enormous consequences ” of the “red line” being crossed is that the United States will start consulting with friends and allies?

Well, yes, in a word. Continue reading

The Authority Trap: Elizabeth O’Bagey’s Three Ethics Strikes


It is not, you see, enough to have a good idea, an original argument, or a brilliant solution.There must be reason for important people, people who make decisions that affect lives, to pay any more attention to you than they do anyone else who claims to have such things, because its is often difficult for even intelligent and experienced individuals to distinguish genius from well-expressed garbage. There must be something that elevates that unique and valuable perspective you bring to a problem above the swirling mess and noise generated by the blabbering and shouting competition, and the thing is, if you really have a valuable perspective to contribute, you owe it to not just yourself, but to your country, even humanity.

There is one asset, if you are otherwise unknown, that will provide that elevation besides the inherent virtues of your brilliant idea, and that is authority...a book, a connection everybody knows and respects, or, perhaps most of all, academic credentials. And there are two things that will make it impossible to raise your special contribution above the throng, and they are a conflict of interest, and a reputation for hiding the truth. These are the murderers of trust.

This brings us to the strange case of Elizabeth O’Bagy, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, who managed to get the Wall Street Journal to publish her analysis of the civil war in Syria, and her conclusions, based, we were to assume, on her study, analysis and time in the country, regarding the benefits of U.S. employment of military force in the region. Continue reading

Obama Resorts To Swiftboating

“It was despicable what they did to John Kerry. Hey! Maybe it will work on Romney!”

I didn’t see this coming from the Obama campaign, and I suppose I should have. The President has shown a willingness to abandon virtually every one of the principles his piously stood for during his “transformational” 2008 campaign; the unifying, bi-partisan, President-of -all-Americans has meticulously worked to seed distrust and enmity between black and white, Anglo and Hispanic, business owners and labor, rich and poor, non-Catholic and Catholic, young and old, men and women, and, of course, Republicans and Democrats, as a desperate and cynical strategy to stay in power, disregarding the inevitable harm such a scorched earth strategy will do to the nation. If anyone can recall in our history such a total breach of integrity by a major American political figure, please enlighten me. The closest I can find is President Obama’s 2008 opponent, John McCain, who thoroughly disgraced himself to fend off a tea party challenger in his 2010 Senate bid in Arizona….and it really isn’t close.

Still, I didn’t expect the President to resort to Swiftboating, the political tactic that derives its name from the attacks on John Kerry’s military heroics from some of his fellow Vietnam swift boat commanders (“Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”) who financed a devastating series of negative campaign ads alleging that Kerry’s decorations for valor were based on fraud. Though the ads were based on rumor, hearsay and animus, they put Kerry on the defensive in his 2004 campaign against President Bush. I doubt that the smear really lost Kerry the election—he was a terrible candidate—but Democrats have continued to cite the Swiftboat ads as proof of conservative perfidy and ruthlessness. They, of course, would never stoop so low. Continue reading

Herman Cain’s Unethical Abortion Doubletalk

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain’s explanation of his position on abortion while chatting with CNN’s Piers Morgan is causing his growing legion of fans and supporters discomfort, and with good reason. It was ethically incoherent at best, unethical at worst. In either case, his comments show that he hasn’t devoted sufficient serious analysis to the issue to allow him to have a responsible and consistent approach. That is status quo for most Americans. It is not acceptable for a President of the United States.

Here is the relevant section of the interview (emphasis mine):

PIERS MORGAN: Abortion. What’s your view of abortion?

CAIN: I believe that life begins at conception. And abortion under no circumstances. And here’s why —

MORGAN: No circumstances?

CAIN: No circumstances. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: WSJ Blogger James Taranto

This werewolf attack on Nazi soldiers doesn't weaken the case that Sen. Kerry didn't deserve his medals.

Alternate title:  “Smearing John Kerry”, Part II. The quote:

“The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth disputed whether John Kerry deserved some of his five medals. A large part of Kerry’s defense was an appeal to the authority of veterans who supported him–one of whom has now been revealed to have received a medal he doesn’t deserve. This doesn’t prove the Kerry detractors were right, but it certainly doesn’t weaken their case.”

—James Taranto, the usually astute and witty author of the conservative Wall Street Journal blog, “Best of the Web.” He is referring to the child porn conviction and retraction of the Silver Star of  Wade Sanders, who rose to Sen. Kerry’s defense during his 2004 race against President Bush, when The Swiftboat Veterans for Truth claimed that Kerry had lied about his war record.

A pure slime-job, this…well beneath Taranto’s standards, though he does dip low now and then, and as reprehensible an example of attack by unfair innuendo as you are likely to find, from McCarthy to Olbermann to Beck.

“It certainly doesn’t weaken their case.” No, because it has absolutely nothing to do with their case (which was weak and unfair to begin with), and since Taranto is undoubtedly smart enough to know that, this sentence, and the post containing it, was only written to suggest otherwise. Let’s see…what else “doesn’t weaken” the case of those who claim that the honors bestowed on Kerry for wartime valor by the United States of America were undeserved? Hmmm. We have… Continue reading

Smearing John Kerry

Quick---Who is this man, and why should his problems be news?

Guilt by association isn’t always an unethical suggestion. If all of your closest companions are members of the Mafia, I think it’s fair for me to question your values and taste in friends, if not to assume that you might leave a horse head in my bed. More often than not, however, guilt by association is unethically used for character assassination by applying the unfair presumption that an adversary’s associates’ misdeeds can reasonably be attributed to the adversary as well.

You will seldom see as pure and despicable an example of this than the current effort by some on the political Right to smear Sen. John Kerry based on recent revelations about Wade Sanders, like Kerry a Silver Star awardee, who introduced the Massachusetts Senator at the 2004 Democratic Convention.  Sanders knew Kerry when they both were Swiftboat commanders in Vietnam, and  when the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth questioned the legitimacy of Kerry’s record of heroism during that war in their infamous series of attack ads, Sanders led the counterattack. Now Wade Sanders is in Federal prison, serving a 37-month sentence for possessing child pornography, and the Navy Times reports that Secretary of the Navy has revoked Sanders’ Silver Star due to “subsequently determined facts and evidence surrounding both the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself.”

What does any of this tell us about John Kerry? Absolutely nothing. Continue reading

Cindy McCain Shows Us What the Absence of Integrity Looks Like

What sense can we make out of the conduct of Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain’s wife?

In a celebrity video ad, posted online by a gay rights group called NOH8, Cindy McCain has properly linked the bullying of gay teens (and the recent spate of gay teen suicides) with the second-class citizen, undesirable human being status attached to gays by politicians who support the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Then, as the media began speculating about the policy rift in the McCain household, since Sen. McCain still supports the archaic, unconstitutional and unjust policy that forces gays to hide their sexual orientation or be deemed unfit for military service, Cindy McCain sent out a Twitter message that read:

“I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT.” Continue reading

Despite Evidence, Obama’s D.O.J., Democrats and News Media Stonewall Black Panther Case

The bizarre conduct of the Obama-Holder Department of Justice in refusing to to fully prosecute a 2008 instance of blatant voter intimidation at the polls by members of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia has been denied by D.O.J. (despite a video that proves the Voting Rights Act violation ), ignored or buried by most major news sources (despite Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander chiding his own paper for failing the public with inadequate coverage of the story) and attacked as manufactured by Republicans by partisan Obama defenders  (despite the fact that, well, it just isn’t.) It is both disturbing and depressing that this conduct persists, long after the event itself, months after one Justice Department Civil Rights attorney quit to expose the episode publicly, and while the non-partisan U.S. Commission Civil Rights holds hearings on the case.

At issue is racial bias in Attorney General Erik Holder’s Civil Rights Division, which the Obama Administration must not permit, tolerate or excuse, but appears to be anyway. Continue reading

Lincoln Chafee’s Unethical Attack on Curt Schilling

Former G.O.P. Senator Lincoln Chafee, now running for Governor of Rhode Island as an Independent, did a despicable thing yesterday, and almost certainly has no idea why it was so wrong.

During a radio interview, Chafee criticized a deal state economic development officials approved with 38 Studios, a game development company owned by former Red Sox pitcher and World Series hero Curt Schilling. Chafee, who is not alone in his criticism of the loan, argued that too much taxpayer money is being entrusted to a company that has no proven track record. That’s a legitimate point. But to hammer home his point, Chafee decided to attack the character, career accomplishments, reputation and integrity of Schilling, a man he has never met…based on nothing at all. Continue reading