10 Ethics Observations On The CNBC Republican Presidential Candidates Debate

cnbc_moderatorsnew

The transcipt is here.

1. Seldom are the  verdicts on a presidential debate as near unanimous as those on last night’s CNBC affair, in which Gov. John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Gov. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen.Ted Cruz, and Sen. Rand Paul took loaded questions from the CNBC panel of Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla. The questions and interjections from the moderators were so hostile, so disrespectful, so obviously concocted from a biased perspective, that the criticism came from all sides of the political spectrum.

Mostly the work of the CNBC trio was just unprofessional. The rules seemed arbitrary, the three talked over each other, they neither commanded nor deserved the participant’s cooperation. It was, correctly, called the smoking gun of news media bias, and a terrific honesty, fairness and integrity test for anyone watching. If you did and still say that it didn’t stench of a hostile exercise in media bias, then you lack all three. It was an embarrassment for CNBC and journalism.

2. Ironically, though the moderators were terrible, it arguably was the best debate yet for the Republicans. The hapless trio actually gave Sen. Ted Cruz a chance to show that you tangle with him at your peril, and to display his impressive mind and speaking ability. He said…

“Let me say something at the outset. The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions — Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues? The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every thought and question from the media was, which of you is more handsome and why? Let me be clear: The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense, than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Nobody believes that the moderators have any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other, it should be what are your substantive solutions to people at home.”

Bingo. Cruz’s perfectly delivered reprimand is being sloughed off by many in the press as a repeat of Newt Gingrich’s trick, in the 2012 debates, of routinely beating up on moderators regardless of what they asked. This, in contrast, was fair, accurate, as perfectly delivered as it was impressive. I had followed the debate closely, and I wouldn’t have been able to run down the list of hostile questions like that without checking notes. Cruz is probably the smartest candidate in the race. Too bad he’s a rigid ideologue and a demagogue with the charisma of a chain saw.

3. CNN’s comment on the Cruz slap-down: “Here’s an attack all Republicans can love.” This means, I suppose, that only Republicans care about having a news media that isn’t trying to manipulate national elections. That conclusion should offend all Democrats—unless, of course, it is true. The desire to have an unbiased and competent news media should not be a partisan issue. Continue reading

Marco Rubio Better Have An Explanation For This Unethical Statement Other Than The Obvious Ones

Seen on Sen. Rubio's Senate office door...

Seen on Sen. Rubio’s Senate office door…

The obvious ones would be:

  • Because I can.
  • Because I lack integrity.
  • Because I’m as immature as I look.

I can’t make the Rubio quote making the rounds this morning an Ethics Alarms “Unethical Quote of the Month,” because it occurred, we are told by the Washington Post, on the evening of September 18 during the last Republican candidates’ debate. Why didn’t I pick up on Rubio’s statement then? I don’t know: no one else did either, based on a Google search.  I guess when there are 11 GOP candidates embarrassing themselves and their party seriatim (By the way, did you know that the WordPress spellcheck program says that the word I wanted to type there is “Maserati’?), it’s easy to miss a few outrageous statements.

Anyway,here is what Sen. Rubio said, however, after being chided by Donald Trump for missing so many Senate votes:

“That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate. I am not running for reelection.”

The front page Washington Post story says that Rubio is frustrated with the unresponsiveness of the U.S. Senate to his attempted leadership:

Marco Rubio is a U.S. senator. And he just can’t stand it anymore.

“I don’t know that ‘hate’ is the right word,” Rubio said in an interview. “I’m frustrated.”

This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust…Rubio had arrived at one of the least ambitious moments in Senate history and saw many of his ideas fizzle. Democrats killed his debt-cutting plans. Republicans killed his immigration reform. The two parties actually came together to kill his AGREE Act, a small-bore, hands-across-the-aisle bill that Rubio had designed just to get a win on something.

Now, he’s done. “He hates it,” a longtime friend from Florida said, speaking anonymously to say what Rubio would not.

So Rubio is missing votes in the Senate because he hates his job?

That’s not exactly indicative of trustworthy character, not just for national leadership but for any position, including busboy. He ran for the job, got it, is being paid for it, and if it isn’t as much fun or as rewarding as he thought it would be, tough. Rubio still has an obligation to fulfill his duties as best he can. Who gets to goof off at work because he or she doesn’t like a job or is “frustrated”? Just Marco Rubio, it seems. Leaders have to be role-models and ethical exemplars. Rubio is modelling the “stop doing the job if you’re not good at it but still collect your paycheck” approach to the workplace. Who does he think he is?

Barack Obama? Continue reading

Entry For “Unethical Headline Of The Year”: Mother Jones

mother-jones-3

The real “Mother Jones”

A headline is a declarative statement, and ethical headlines are factual—not teases, not bait and switches, not lies, not deceit, but factual. Misleading headlines have become increasingly common on the web (click-bait, you know), and if this one from Mother Jones is any indication, the election season is going to be ugly as well as confusing.

The headline is “Republicans Hate Planned Parenthood but Want to Put One of Its Backers on the $10 Bill,” and it is quite an achievement: almost every word is a lie or intentionally misleading.

Let’s begin with “Republicans,” who, according to the headline, both “hate” Planned Parenthood and “want” to put a Planned Parenthood “backer” on the ten. “Republicans” implies all Republicans. Do all Republicans “hate” Planned Parenthood? Gee, I am married to a Republican who served on the board of the local  organization affiliate. There are many Republicans who oppose one of Planned Parenthood’s signature activities, abortion, but that does not mean all Republicans hate Planned Parenthood. Many headline writers, including the one that wrote this one, are lying, manipulative partisan hacks, but a headline that said, “Headline Writers Are Lying, Manipulative Partisan Hacks” would be unfair and misleading.

As for the second part of the sentence, which states Republicans want to put one of Planned Parenthood’s “backers” on the ten dollar bill, it is even more inaccurate regarding Republicans. The article under the headline refers only to the CNN candidate’s debate, and only to three of the eleven Republicans on the stage. Since eight of the Republicans did NOT choose to place the “backer’s” face on the ten, using the article’s own deceitful employment of the term “Republicans,” the article could also be titled “Republicans Hate Planned Parenthood And Don’t Want to Put One of Its Backers on the $10 Bill.” That, of course, wouldn’t convey the impression that Republicans have no integrity, are hypocritical and ignorant, which was really the purpose of the headline and the article. A headline, however, that is less accurate than the opposite of the headline is a really misleading headline. Res ipsa loquitor! Fairer and more honest still would have been a version of the headline that read “Three Republicans Want to Put One of Planned Parenthood’s Backers On The $10 Bill,” but even that would be misleading.

Oh, I’ve just gotten started, for this is some terrible headline. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The ‘So What?’ Follies”

My brilliant friend, lawyer/writer/actor/singer/dancer Loarraine McGee, scores with a  Comment of the Day that it probably takes a Broadway musicals buff, Stephen Sondheim worshiper, Mandy Patinkin lover or “Glee” fan to fully appreciate, a lyrical comment to the melody of Sondheim’s “Buddy’s Blues” from the second act of his great, troubling 1971 musical “Follies.”  Here is the song (Bronson Pinchot is no Mandy, but he’s OK), and then Lorraine’s Comment of the Day, to the today’s post “The “So What?’ Follies,” follows.

“Did you sayFollies”????”

I’ve got those

“Gotta keep the numbers up-Find something!-I can make it Neeeews” Blues!

That

“Long as there are photos I can make it seem important” feeling!

That

“If you’re slightly famous all you do is enough,
As long as there’s a talking head involved it’s good stuff,”
And “Bring the camera closer, gotta make the public buy this!” feeeeeeling!

Those

“Everything is ad sales so I gotta make the nonsense neeeews!” blues!

The “So What?” Follies

So what?

So what?

Reluctant to report actual news, in many cases, that makes their favorite politicians and elected leaders look bad, or perhaps as they really are, our sad, inept and juvenile news media attempts to balance its lack of diligence by promoting other stories as brewing scandals that have no legitimacy whatsoever, and are similarly fueled by bias. Two particularly offensive examples: Continue reading

Integrity Failure: Rubio and Obama Show How Unserious Our Leaders Are About Taxes

“The Hopeless Dawn” by Frank Bramley (1888) This is what this story makes me feel like….

If you pay attention, and most American won’t, the evidence that our elected leaders are not serious about being consistent, responsible, or even governing competently is delivered every day in packages large and small. The most recent depressing example was the bi-partisan tag-team of Sen. Marco Rubio and President Obama backing tax-exempt status for medal-winners on the U.S. Olympic team.

Sen. Rubio concocted his Olympic Tax Elimination Act on the theory that “athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn’t have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back at home.” This is spin and nonsense. There is no “extra tax bill,” any more than there is an “extra tax bill” when your boss gives you a bonus for job well done. It’s just a regular, old-fashioned,  tax bill for income, that’s all. Medal-winning Olympic athletes get bonus payments from the U.S. Olympic team. Is their income—that’s what it is, just income—-somehow less fair to tax than your income? No, of course not. Rubio’s  “representing our nation overseas” justification for special treatment is naked and offensive pandering. How about people who represent our nation here, in the United States? They don’t get to travel to London, all expenses paid, like the pampered athletes—why are they less deserving of a tax break? Or why isn’t Rubio arguing, then, that all federal employees who work abroad shouldn’t be taxed? What is his logic, exactly? Continue reading