Incompetent Candidate For High Political Office—I Hope Of The Year, But Somehow, I Fear Not: Harley Brown

Harley BrownThe incompetence of  people like Harley Brown, a GOP candidate for Governor of Idaho, running in the primary, makes me angry and sad.

Some will protest that candidates for office have no ethical obligation to be competent. After all, running a bad campaign is its own punishment: you lose. That is not necessarily true, however, particularly in the states, but even if it is true, you can do a lot of damage while losing.

Like any other role, task, or job, running for a high elected office like governor of a state comes with responsibilities. For one thing, other people would like to run, work hard at it, and in the process, help democracy work better by giving voters a choice. Incompetent candidates like Brown not only block someone from running who might be good at it, they also give voters less choice, and sometimes, no choice at all. Those who complain about President Obama should review the pathetic campaign performance of John McCain. All these years to prepare, and he couldn’t master the skill of reading from a teleprompter without looking like he had been zapped by Dr. Strange and sounding like a Rotary Club awardee who begins his speech with “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…”?

There is more to resent about inept candidates, but let us focus on what makes Brown so awful. Many Idahoans were introduced to him during the recent Republican candidates debate, in which he began the night dressed like a superannuated biker, which is apparently what he is, or maybe Santa Claus in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Then he launched into what is obviously going to be his real schtick: blue collar, redneck sensibilities as imagined in the stereotyped  dreams of Bill Maher, delivered in wince-inducing bumper-sticker slogans and bad jokes that would be the low-lights of the worst stag party routine of all time.

Harley, as his website warns you, has declared war on “political correctness,” and he intends to campaign with what he egotistically calls “Harleyisms”:

“This is a unique compilation of American blue-collar attitudes, political philosophy and non-politically correct humor to both edify and entertain you.I am an opinionated grandfather trying to do what I can to help America become a better place for my grandchildren. To tell the truth, political correctness is in fact, “bondage to fear. “I am making a major political issue of FREEDOM from political correctness. I intend to walk the walk, not just talk the talk…I want to present myself as a much different “Candid Candidate” from the politically correct lawyers now dominating political circles. Perhaps then multitudes of righteous citizens ( particularly the hoards of my currently unregistered blue-collar brothers) will become politically active and help me fight for the futures of our grandchildren with tremendous passion motivated by love…I believe Harleyisms to be a splendid weapon against the vile bondage of political correctness…”

“Harleyisms,” however, really means “moldy and mostly unfunny jokes someone else made up that are only funny to bigots, fools and kids, and are certifiably embarrassing coming from anyone over the age of 12 who is claiming to be worthy of representing, leading, and looking out for the welfare of an entire state.” Continue reading

No “President Asterisk”

asteriskThe IRS scandal has spawned a new round of partisan “what ifs?” from Republicans and conservative commentators, the gist of them being that President Obama’s election in the 2012 contest was the result of cheating, and the IRS’s successful efforts to stifle Tea Party organization efforts. Surely the less than 2% difference between Mitt Romney and the President might have been bridged had the kind of conservative enthusiasm that marked the 2010 Congressional election not been unethically and illegally stifled! Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto has dubbed Obama “President Asterisk.” A research paper from the American Enterprise Institute suggests that the post 2010 targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status may have cost Mitt Romney the Presidency. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunce: Rep. Michele Bachman”

Oh, how I LOVE LOVE LOVE this comment, from “ruralcounsel,” regarding my post about Michele Bachmann embarrassing herself, and not for the first time. Seldom does a commenter employ such shameless rationalizations and staples of intellectual dishonesty, and for his grand finale, he breaches one of the explicit Comment Policies by employing that all-purpose fallacy, “you’re just using ethics to go after political enemies.” I’m especially happy about the latter, because no one has accused me of being biased against the Right since “Ronbo.” I can’t hope for as much entertainment from ruralcounsel, but I am certainly grateful for this (Forgive me. I have to give interlinear commentary. I can’t resist): Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Rep. Michele Bachmann

Ah! Historical New Hampshire...

Rep. Michele Bachmann (D-Minn), Tea Party leader and potential presidential candidate, recently told a Manchester, New Hampshire crowd that she was in the state of “the shot heard ’round the world.” Ethics Foul. Minnesota disgrace. Congressional Disgrace. Tea Party disgrace. National disgrace.

U.S. educational system disgrace!

As most grade school children know (Some grade school children? Grade school children in New England, maybe? Please?), the source of that loud shot, the Battle of Concord (the Battle of Lexington was fought on the same day) was fought in Concord, Massachusetts, which, like Lexington, is a next door neighbor of my home town, Arlington, Massachusetts, known as Menotomy on April 18, 1775 —which, as Rep. Bachmann can tell you, was also the date of Phil Sheridan’s ride. Oops! I mean Paul Revere’s ride! Continue reading

The Ignorant Citizen’s Ethical Duty Not To Make Others As Stupid As He Is

Here is the problem, of which the worst of the Tea Party movement is only the latest in a long line of examples.

We want typical citizens to participate in the democratic process. It is critical that they do. But the Framers recognized that participation in self-government needs to be responsible, and that responsible democratic government requires knowledge, common sense, and wisdom. They also recognized that the majority of any population doesn’t possess that; this is why they originally limited the right to vote.

Okay, that was a big mistake: if you are going to have free society, everyone should have a say in it. Still, a citizen has an obligation to be civically literate before he or she starts trying to tell everyone else the best way to run the town, the state or the country, and civic literacy, as anyone can tell by reading the comments on any news or public affairs website (except this one, of course), civic literacy, not to mention common sense, is in short supply. People either don’t value civic literacy, or more likely, don’t recognize when they don’t have it. Continue reading

Blood Libel Ethics and the U.S. News Media’s Integrity Dead End

First you make a baseless, inflammatory accusation–the Big Lie. Then you attack your victim for how she responds to it.

The news media’s self-destructive obsession with discrediting Sarah Palin has reached its ethical nadir, and with it any reasonable hope that U.S. journalism, as currently practiced, will be returning to credibility and respectability within the foreseeable future. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)

I know that Ethics Alarms has been a bit relentless regarding the accusations and the innuendos against Sarah Palin and others in the wake of the Arizona shooting, but it is an unusually widespread out-break of unfair conduct, and the Ethics Dunces are coming in waves, and from all sides and sectors.

We have a sheriff on the scene, Clarence Dupnik, who seems determined to create the assassin’s defense for him, by claiming, in the face of much evidence to the contrary, that he was driven to violence by inflammatory political rhetoric. Watch Loughner’s crack criminal defense team run with that. We have the nation’s supposedly premiere news source, the New York Times, running a revolting editorial describing Loughner’s attack as political, when this is clearly not true. (An excellent condemnation of the Times piece by James Taranto can and should be read here). Not to be outdone, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, took the same low road. Referencing defeated G.O.P. Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s justly criticized “Second Amendment solution” statement from the campaign (it probably, and justly, lost her the election), Clyburn tied it to Jared Loughner’s attack. Continue reading

Ethics Final For Barack Obama

Is President Obama the fair, ethical, unifying, anti-partisan president of all the people that he promised to be in 2008, or is he a Machiavellian, undercover Chicago pol, willing and ready to use divisiveness and deceit to enhance his power, silence critics and advance his agenda? During the past two years, there has been ample evidence supporting both descriptions, but his address in Arizona Wednesday could settle the issue. If the President emulates his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, using the massacre in Arizona as a political wedge the way Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing—if he adopts the philosophy of former Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emmanuel that one should never waste a crisis—then we will know the dispiriting truth about Barack Obama. Continue reading