I guess it is kind of funny, when you think about it…
On the old Ethics Scoreboard, I had a monthly feature called The David Manning Liar Of The Month Award, “honoring” utterly transparent lies from prominent organizations and people that they obviously didn’t expect anyone to believe. The subpoena issued yesterday by Representative Richard E. Neal (D-Mass) to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Charles P. Rettig, the I.R.S. commissioner would get this month’s award if I was still giving it out.
Quick, now: why do Democrats want the President’s tax returns? Is there any doubt whatsoever? Have they been ambiguous about it in the least? They are convinced, because, as we all know, the Orange Man is BAD, that somewhere in his returns is sufficient evidence of serious wrongdoing—that the IRS never noticed nor flagged, mind you, and that occurred before Donald Trump became President—that they can use to concoct a viable impeachment case, or at least use to embarrass and attack him in the coming election.
For a long time the theory was that the returns would provide decisive evidence that the President was involved in an election-stealing plot with Russia, but since that phony premise was thoroughly exploded, Democrats had to find another excuse. The current theory is that since he refused to reveal the returns during the 2016 campaign, he must have something nefarious to hide. This is the totalitarian’s approach to justice, of course. That the Democratic Party and its supporters so easily resort to it ought to give everyone pause.
So we all know why the Democratic House majority is trying to get the President’s returns. The problem is that Donald Trump has the same right of privacy as every other taxpayer. The fact that he broke with recent tradition by not releasing his returns, if Occam’s Razor means anything to you, is best attributed to the fact that no other Presidential candidate of a major party since income taxes were introduced has been an international businessman, with the extraordinary number of transactions and tax maneuvers such status inevitably requires. Pop Quiz: Did H. Ross Perot, when he was running his third party challenge to Bush and Clinton in 1992, release his tax returns? Continue reading →
The current Trump upset over the Stupid border Wall is fascinating as a lesson in the danger of making improvident promises that you don’t think you will ever be in a position to break. Presidential candidates do this all the time; I don’t think Trump’s Stupid Wall was even the worst of the 2016 crop. The President almost certainly thought he had no chance of winning when he began promising to build the SW, then doubled down when he said, ridiculously, that he would make Mexico pay for it.
A lie is still a lie when it is said to deceive even if only the gullible and dim will be fooled, as the old Ethics Scoreboard (current down, but it will rise again) used to remind readers when it celebrated such lies in its David Manning Lie of the Month, named after Sony’s fake movie reviewer that Sony argued wasn’t fraudulent since nobody believed those review snippets in movie ads anyway. “Manning” had said that Rob Schneider’s idiotic comedy “The Animal” was a comic masterpiece.
It’s not certain that the President knew the idea of the SW was ridiculous since he is—well, you know. Either way, however, it was a promise that shouldn’t have been made, just like Bernie Sanders’ promise only to appoint SCOTUS justices who would “repeal” Citizens United should never have been made. Luckily for Sanders (and the rest of us), he wasn’t elected, and never had to try to deliver. That’s just moral luck, though. A promise you cannot keep is unethical when you make it, whether your ethical breach is dishonesty or incompetence. Continue reading →
“We certainly didn’t know what was on the tape.”
—Beleaguered NFL Commish Roger Goodell, telling CBS that although the league had suspended and fined Ray Rice for knocking out his now-wife in a hotel elevator, as he had admitted in court, it had no idea that a videotape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer (now Rice) in the elevator would show him actually knocking her out in the elevator.
On the old Ethics Scoreboard, Goodell would be a slam dunk David Manning Liar of the Month, telling a lie that he can’t possibly think anyone with two IQ points to rub together could accept at face value. How else are we to take this idiotic, deceitful statement, other than as an idiotic, deceitful statement? If the NFL didn’t know that’s what the video would show, why did Goodell suspend Rice in the first place? If it accepted the fact that Rice cold-cocked a woman, what else could the tape have possibly shown?
I know I’ve already posted on this, but I feel like I’m losing my mind. The NFL reacts as if the video was a surprise. The media acts as if the video really added new information (“The NFL must have seen it!” Who cares? The NFL had to know what was on it, whether it saw the tape or not! What else could it possibly have shown? The tape, if anything, was arguably exculpatory, as it showed Palmer rushing him in an attempted assault.) And the argument suddenly becomes “Did the NFL know what was on the tape?” That’s ridiculous! Can’t everyone see how ridiculous that is? Can’t everyone see that the NFL isn’t reacting to new information, but only trying to repair its own image?
Not a hotcake. Definitely selling like a hotcake.
There are times when I miss the David Manning Liar of the Month, a regular feature on my old Ethics Scoreboard reserved for flagging a breed of lie that I find the most annoying of all. These are the lies that even the liars know are unbelievable from the moment the dishonest statements leave their mouths. Then, when they are inevitably caught, the liars argue that the lie wasn’t really a lie because nobody believed it in the first place. Such lies tell us that the liar doesn’t think lying is anything to be ashamed of. Beware such people, especially when they dwell in high places. The lie may be trivial, but the attitude toward lying is not.
Spared the indignity of being a David Manning Liar by the Scoreboard’s dormant state is Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who took umbrage at Mitt Romney’s statement that the Chevy Volt was “and idea whose time has not come.” Dingell protested, isssuing a press release that said, Continue reading →
Democratic Party National Chairman Tim Kaine’s insulting, damaging and dumb performance before the media in the days leading to the election warrant a brief revival of a monthly award regularly handed out on Ethics Alarms’ predecessor, The Ethics Scoreboard. It is the David Manning Trivial Liar Award, and since I handed the last one out here almost exactly a year ago, I may have to make it a yearly tradition. As I wrote on November 3, 2009, shortly after this blog debuted,
“The David Manning Trivial Liar” highlights the public lies nobody could possibly believe. It was named for Sony’s “defense” when it was revealed that the movie critic, “David Manning,” whom they advertised as raving about lousy Sony films like “The Animal” (Starring Rob Schneider as a guy who accidentally has animal DNA grafted…oh, never mind…), was a fake invented by their marketing division. Sony said, in essence, that it was no big deal because everyone knows those critical raves in movie ads are mostly lies anyway. I didn’t carry the feature over to Ethics Alarms, because the kind of transparent, shameless, “I’m going to say this anyway even though it will have America rolling its eyes” lie the feature was designed to condemn didn’t come around every month.”
It sure came around this month. Continue reading →
I have long been fascinated by the self-evident public lie. Sometimes the product of desperation, sometimes arrogance, sometimes contempt, each example poses a set of equally unattractive interpretations. Does the liar really believe the obvious lie is true, in which case he or she is deranged? Does the liar think that enough people will believe something so demonstrably false, meaning that he or she holds a deplorable lack of respect for the intelligence of the public? Is the liar so fearful and cowardly that he or she cannot summon the integrity to admit what is obvious, even though doing otherwise looks ridiculous? Or, as is surprisingly often the case, does the liar have so little regard for the truth and such a deficit of shame for lying that he or she doesn’t care that the lie is obvious?
When elected officials and others holding high office resort to the obvious lie in a matter of any importance, it should disqualify them from continuing in office. An obvious lie obliterates public trust. For example, when Janet Napolitano had the gall to pronounce department’s anti-terror airplane security measures a success because, be sheer luck, passengers foiled the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” she forfeited any future trust in her honesty of competence. (She is still Secretary of Homeland Security, however.)
The excuse sometimes offered by obvious liars after the fact is an ethics “Catch 22.” They argue that an obvious lie is a harmless lie, because nobody could possibly believe it. (Over on “The Ethics Scoreboard,” a spectacular version of this argument launched the continuing feature of “The David Manning Liar of the Month,” after Sony tried to justify its use of a fictional movie critic, “David Manning,” to attach glowing—but fake— blurbs to lousy films, like the Rob Schneider comedy “The Animal.” When its deception came to light, Sony protested its practice was harmless because nobody believed critical praise in movie ads anyway.) The defense conveniently ignores the question of why anyone would offer a lie they didn’t expect anyone to believe. It is really a consequentialist scam: if I try an outrageous lie and it works, great; if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t a lie.
What do we make, then, of Sen. John McCain’s stunning claim in a recent Newsweek interview that “I never considered myself a maverick” ? Continue reading →