Public Servant Ethics, Employment Ethics, Baseball Fan Ethics, And Senator John McCain

A sub-plot of yesterday’s fizzled firecracker of a “bombshell testimony” by James Comey was Senator John McCain’s bizarre questioning. When I saw how many of my “resistance” member Facebook friends were talking about it, I knew how disappointed they were that Comey produced no smoking guns or even a soggy water pistol. Poor John picked the wrong day to stop taking Ginkgo Biloba. Still, Democrats and Republicans alike were bothered by a senior senator and former Presidential candidate sounding confused and semi-coherent.

Here was the whole exchange: Continue reading

Independence Day Ethics Dunce: Sports Illustrated Illustrates How Too Many Americans Regard The Nation’s Veterans

McCain tweet

Sports Illustrated tweeted out the above image and message that linked to a story by “Extra Mustard.” That masterpiece noted that

Senator John McCain attended Tuesday night’s Dodgers–Diamondbacks game and had a chance to grab a souvenir in the seventh inning.Dodgers’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins fouled a ball over the backstop that went bouncing into the lap of the senior senator from Arizona, but McCain couldn’t get his hands on the ball. But McCain deserves a break from critics: As you can see the ball was approaching from a very awkward angle. Still, this photo from Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo does not make the former presidential candidate look particularly athletic.

Apparently neither the reporter nor any of his/her/its editors were aware that McCain has extremely limited use of his arms as a result of being tortured as a North Vietnam prisoner of war. Both arms were broken by his captors and left untreated for so long that he was permanently handicapped, as anyone who watched even a little bit of his 2008 campaign for President could hardly fail to notice. McCain is also 78 years old, not that respect for seniors who have spent their lives in public service could be expected to be a factor in SI’s commentary.

Would any of the magazine’s staff attending a game dare to openly mock a disabled serviceman who didn’t catch a foul ball?  Probably not, since the likelihood of some fans of the National Pastime taking offense and throwing a beer in their smug, ignorant faces would be a real risk. Ah, but from the safety of an office  in New York City and hiding behind a pseudonym—of course, Extra Mustard might be the jerk’s real name, I suppose—it’s easy to insult an elderly U.S. Senator, military veteran and war hero for the consequences of the wounds he sustained in the service of his nation.

Eventually SI was tipped off to its error, and it quietly removed the last sentence. No apology, of course. Such is the historical, cultural, political and ethical ignorance of a substantial portion of our national media.


Pointer: Newsbusters

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

The Corrupting Culture of MSNBC: A Case Study

Get out while your ethics alarms still work, Rachel. They're already breaking down.

Get out while your ethics alarms still work, Rachel. They’re already breaking down.

I’m not interested in criticizing MSNBC for bias. It intends to be biased; serving as the far Left alternative to Fox News is its niche, and was a conscious business choice. What is interesting is observing MSNBC as a case study in how the pressures of a corrupt institutional culture eventually destroy the integrity and ethical judgment of essentially ethical people. From a point where it was merely left-leaning, MSNBC has gradually jettisoned any shred of objectivity, and most remnants of fairness. Much of the transformation was wrought by Keith Olbermann during his fiery tenure, but others have picked up the baton.

The most obviously corrupted have been Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow, all previously well-credentialed and with distinguished service as legitimate and respectable journalists. Under the spell of MSNBC, Matthews has devolved into an angry, race-baiting, smearing hack; the days of grilling Republicans and Democrats with equal fervor on “Hardball” have yielded to shrill, one-sided advocacy. Mitchell’s reporting has gradually abandoned any pretense of neutrality. The greatest tragedy here, however, is Maddow. She is young, smart, articulate and skilled. She doesn’t hide her progressive orientation, but once she appeared to be a rising star, a probing journalist with a point of view, but one committed to being professional and fair within that point of view.

Maddow has joined the MSNBC gun control push, but she has so much company there among the entire span of U.S. journalists that I can hardly blame her that on MSNBC. Misleading video editing has become a staple of her employers, however, as in the disgraceful Neil Heslin “heckling” story, and now Maddow appears to have embraced the technique when it suits her narrative. Last week, to add to the “gun control opponents are heartless and callous monsters” theme that is currently popular in the media, Maddow showed a video of Sen. John McCain at an Arizona town meeting, responding to a woman whose son was killed in the Aurora shooting asserting that assault weapons were responsible and ought to be banned. Maddow introduced the clip by saying,“this happened.” What was then seen and heard was McCain tersely answering the woman by saying she needed “straight talk,” and that the legislation she favored would never pass Congress. [See Maddow’s video here] Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Sen. Lindsey Graham

“If you can give nothing but bad information, isn’t it better to give no information?”

—- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), during a press conference on Nov. 27th, during which he reiterated his position that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had knowingly and intentionally misled the American public regarding the fatal attack on the Benghazi compound on 9/11, in her appearances on multiple news shows five days later repeating “talking points” to the effect that the attacks had been spontaneous and sparked by an anti-Muslim video.


Even many liberal commentators are now conceding that Rice was being a “good soldier” on September 16, carrying a technically accurate but intentionally misleading message that seems to have been designed by Obama campaign strategists to make sure the death of an American ambassador in Libya wasn’t seen as a refutation of Obama’s claims to a successful handling of that nation’s struggles or a contradiction of the argument that “his” killing of Bin Laden had Al Qida on life support. After all the attacks on Republicans Senators McCain, Graham and Kelly Ayotte for their condemnation of Rice for her part in the Obama campaign’s spinning, including accusations of racism from Congressional Black Caucus members and the affirmatively weird complaint by President Obama (which seems to be that as long as Rice was repeating what she had been programmed to say by others she shouldn’t be held personally responsible for the content of her own public statements),Graham in particular has refused to back off his criticism, and cheers to him for that. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sen. John McCain

It’s good to have the old maverick doing what he does best.


Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota’s shame, used her oxymoronic presence on the House Intelligence Committee to argue in a June letter to the State Department and a letter this week to fellow Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, that  Huma Abedin, the top aide of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, may be a security risk  because Abedin’s late father, mother, and brother had or have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Abedin’s position, Bachmann suggested  ominously, ‘‘affords her routine access to the secretary and policy-making.’’ Her letter to Ellison was signed by  five other Republicans: Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.

Sen McCain angrily took to the Senate floor to call this example of ethnic profiling and Muslim bigotry what it is: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: ABC News White House Correspondent Jake Tapper

Neat trick by Jay Carney: Speaking for the President, AND doing an uncanny impression of a weasel!

It shows the degree to which we now take bias and favoritism by the news media for granted that a reporter doing what once was regarded as his duty now appears heroic.  Sadly, that is where we are.

That is also why Jake Tapper warrants an Ethics Hero designation for pressing White House press secretary Jay Carney on the obvious disconnect between President Obama’s lecture on civility in January in the wake of the Giffords shooting, and his happy acceptance of the call by  Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. to “take these sons of bitches out” at a rally over the weekend. The exchange: Continue reading

Civility and Integrity Tests For Democrats Are Not Going Well At All

Yup, she's just as good as Michael Steele.

Over the weekend, President Obama sat beaming as Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa’s (that’s Jr….not the dead one whose mob connections sent him to sleep with the fishes. It is touching, though, that the Teamsters are so devoted to tradition and maintaining that organization’s long-time”values”…) call for workers to combat the Tea Party and “take these son-of-a-bitches out.” Last week, Rep. Andre Carson accused conservative colleagues in Congress of wanting to lynch African-Americans. The week before, Rep. Maxine Waters told a cheering audience that “the Tea Party can go straight to Hell!”, and in the weeks before that, other members of the party, perhaps even Vice President Biden, took turns calling Republican’s “terrorists.” None of these comments have been repudiated or criticized by leaders in the party.

This morning on Fox News, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debby Wasserman Schultz made it crystal clear that no criticism would be forthcoming, either. Asked by morning host Gretchen Carlson about her party’s official position on the use of such unambiguously uncivil (and arguably violent) rhetoric by Hoffa, Wasserman Schultz launched into a non-responsive, pre-packaged statement about how everyone had to “focus like a laser on turning this economy around.” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sen. John McCain

Arizona Senator John McCain has seriously tarnished his reputation for integrity  since losing the Presidential election in 2008, particularly during his last campaign for re-election to the Senate. The best of McCain was on display this week, however, as he delivered a strong and eloquent denouncement of torture (a.k.a “enhanced interrogation techniques”) on the Senate floor, in response to the ethically offensive arguments being put forth by many conservatives that the successful elimination of Osama bin Laden somehow magically transformed the evil practice of torture into a respectable tactic of national security. It is an important, courageous and persuasive statement from a U.S. Senator with special qualifications to make it, as one who had been tortured himself, and as fine a legacy as McCain, or any Senator, could aspire to.

Sen. McCain said, in part (you can read the entire text of his speech here)…

“Mr. President, the successful end of the ten-year manhunt to bring Osama bin Laden to justice has appropriately heightened the nation’s appreciation for the diligence, patriotism and courage of our armed forces and our intelligence community.  They are a great credit and inspiration to the country that has asked so much of them, and like all Americans, I am in their debt.

“But their success has also reignited debate over whether the so-called, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ of enemy prisoners, including waterboarding, were instrumental in locating bin Laden, and whether they are necessary and justifiable means for securing valuable information that might help prevent future terrorist attacks against us and our allies and lead to the capture or killing of those who would perpetrate them.  Or are they, and should they be, prohibited by our conscience and laws as torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Continue reading

One More Addition to 2010’s Worst in Ethics: Sen. John McCain

I inadvertently left a category out of the Ethics Alarms year end awards for 2010, perhaps because it is such a discouraging one. I just remedied the omission, and added this:

Integrity Meltdown of the Year: Sen. John McCain. A sad spectacle indeed: since losing his run for the presidency in 2008 and having to face a strong challenge from the Right in seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate, the celebrated Arizona maverick reversed long-held positions in favor of creating a route to citizenship for illegal immigrants, reversing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and ending the low Bush tax rates on upper-income Americans. He didn’t change his mind because of sudden epiphanies of clarity, either. He just wants to stay in the Senate. True, McCain held fast to other principles, like opposing earmarks, but those were the ones his critics on the Right supported too. Integrity means being true to your core values even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. Once upon a time, that description fit Sen. John McCain. As of 2010, this was no longer true.