The Tipping Point Nears…

You know, Vince, in Iran they’d cut your hand off for this. Maybe in Hollywood too, now that I think about it…

Two episodes in recent days have pushed me closer to the tipping point at which I am forced to conclude that even as an ethicist who has held fast to the principle that no one who both reveres the office of the President of the United States and who believes that the office must be held by a man (or a woman, Bernie!) of outstanding ethical character with strong supporting ethical values can ever vote for Donald Trump or want to see someone like him, if there is such a creature, leading this nation.

I am not there yet, but I would have never dreamed at any time in 2012 through most of 2019 that I could get this close. It is true that President Trump has been far more successful than I expected in the narrow category of policy, domestic and foreign. It is true that he has displayed some admirable character traits, though they have all been in the category I call “enabling virtues,” meaning that they are traits that can serve both good and bad motives and objectives. It is also true that this President has never been given a fair chance to do his job, as he has been undermined, harassed and obstructed since the moment he took office in unethical ways never experienced by any of his predecessors with similar intensity and duration.

Nonetheless, voting for someone like Donald Trump to lead the United States of America is ethics antimatter to me, and professionally impossible—right now. However, the behavior of the “resistance” and  Democrats increasingly indicates that they must be decisively defeated so their current approach to American culture, society, rights and political conduct is sufficient ruinous that they begin a period of urgent reform.

Relatively small events often are tipping points with me, and both of these are small as well. However, when conduct is undeniably signature significance, proving that a group or individual is corrupt and untrustworthy because only the corrupt and untrustworthy would behave in such a way even once, my mind’s made up. I consider these two episodes frightening and if not quite constituting tipping points for me, coming too close for comfort.

I. The Vince Vaughn Affair Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Authors Stephen King And Don Winslow

Winslow, King, and their extortion target

Wow. Talk about having defective ethics alarms.

Bestselling novelists Stephen King and Don Winslow (he’s a best-selling detective novelist; I assume you know who King is) have offered to donate $200,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital if  White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham will finally hold a press conference, something the Administration stopped having ten months ago.

I assume you can quickly assess what is wrong with this, even though these successful, wealthy, adult men cannot:

  • They seem to think their wealth entitles and empowers them to manipulate the President of the United States,

   What hubris. What arrogance.

  • The two writers are using sick children as their hostages to try to bend the White House to their will.

Nice. Continue reading

The Big Lies Of The “Resistance”: A Directory, Complete And Updated

Introduction

The “Big Lie” strategy of public opinion manipulation, most infamously championed by Adolf Hitler and his propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, has, in sinister fashion, become a routine and ubiquitous component of the Left’s efforts to remove President Donald J. Trump from office without having to defeat him at the polls. One of the most publicized Big Lies, that the President had “colluded” with the Russian government to “steal” the Presidential election from Hillary Clinton was recently exposed as such by the results of the Mueller investigation, and Democrats, with blazing speed, replaced it with another Big Lie that there is a “Constitutional crisis.” I could add that one to the list, I suppose, but the list of Big Lies is dauntingly long already, and this one is really just a hybrid of the Big Lies below.

Becoming addicted to relying on Big Lies as a political strategy is not the sign of ethical political parties, movements, or ideologies. Perhaps there is a useful distinction between Big Lies and “false narratives,” but I can’t define one. Both are intentional falsehoods designed to frame events in a confounding and deceptive manner, so public policy debates either begin with them as assumptions, thus warping the discussion, or they result in permanent bias, distrust and suspicion of the lie/narrative’s target. For simplicity’s sake, because I believe it is fair to do so, and also because “Big Lie” more accurately reflects just how unethical the tactic is, that is the term I will use.

Big Lie #1. “Trump is just a reality TV star.”

This is #1 because began at the very start of Trump’s candidacy. It’s pure deceit: technically accurate in part but completely misleading. Ronald Reagan was subjected to a similar Big Lie when Democrats strategically tried to denigrate his legitimacy by  referring to him as just an actor, conveniently ignoring the fact that he had served as Governor of the largest state in the nation for eight years, and had split his time between acting and politics for many years before that, gradually becoming more involved in politics and public policy. (Reagan once expressed faux puzzlement about the denigration of his acting background, saying that he thought acting was an invaluable skill in politics. He was right, of course.)

In Trump’s case, the disinformation was even more misleading, He was a successful international businessman and entrepreneur in real estate, hotels and casinos, and it was that experience, not his successful, late career foray into “The Apprentice” (as a branding exercise, and a brilliant one), that was the basis of his claim to the Presidency.

The “reality star” smear still appears in attack pieces, even though it makes even less sense for a man who has been President for three years. The tactic is ethically indefensibl . It is not only dishonest, intentionally distorting the President’s legitimate executive experience and success,  expertise and credentials, it is also an ad hominem attack. Reality TV is primarily consists of modern freak shows allowing viewers to look down on assorted lower class drunks, vulgarians, has-been, exhibitionists,  idiots and freaks. Class bigotry has always been a core part of the NeverTrump cabal, elitist snobs like Bill Kristol, Mitt Romney the Bushes, and George Will revealing that they would rather capitulate to the Leftist ideology they have spent their professional lives opposing than accept being on the same team as a common vulgarian like Donald Trump.

With all of this, the final irony is that “The Apprentice” wasn’t even a true reality show.  It was an elimination  contest, with Donald Trump as the arbiter.

This earliest of the Big Lies backfired on its creators.  Trump’s adversaries began to believe it themselves,causing them to under-estimate their adversary.  They realized, too late, that they weren’t running against poor Anna Nicole Smith, Kim Kardashian, or Scott Baio, but a tough, ruthless, confident street fighter with some impressive leadership and public speaking skills.

It is a mark of how flat the learning curve of the President’s adversaries is that they still think calling him a “reality TV star” shows anything but their own dishonesty and ignorance. Continue reading

The “Resistance” Is Desperate To Hide The Fact That Their Attempted Coup Is One. Don’t Let Them Get Away With it.

“A coup by any other name would still be a coup, and would still stink” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. (Well, he said something like that….)..

Just for the record, I’ve been calling this a “coup” all along. For some reason Facebook yesterday was stuffed with the specious and technical arguments that the Democratic Party/ “resistance”/mainstream media alliance’s efforts to find a way to remove the elected President literally from the moment he was elected (bringing those objective TV anchors and reporters to tears), and now finally culminating in a contrived impeachment hearing, is not accurately called a coup. “But it’s not through military violence!” “But if Trump is removed, it would make Pence President, so there’s no regime change!” I’ve explained before that what is being attempted meets the exact definition a “soft coup,” and thus that saying this isn’t an attempted coup is like saying a scrambled egg isn’t an egg.

This side of the ideological divide, as we know, thrives on word games and deceitful framing: heaven forbid that the public grasps what is going on under their noses.

It is particularly annoying when I am told that by one of the Facebook Borg whose understanding of the traditions  and institution of the Presidency extends to what they have been told by Rachel Maddow lectures me that by using “coup” I am mouthing Fox News “talking points.” First, I don’t watch Fox News; second, Fox News has its share of pro-impeachment fans (making it more balanced than any other network, all of which appear to lack any prominent on-air employees who are not coup-collaborators), notably fake “judge” Napolitano,  and third, most notable of all, Ethics Alarms began using the term “coup” while most critics (and Presient Trump) were throwing around “fishing expedition” and “witch hunt.”

Maybe the pundits who are suddenly using coup secretly read Ethics Alarms. That would be encouraging.  In that spirit, here is a summary of Victor Davis Hanson’s ten reasons (to which number he adds “at least”) the current impeachment effort is in fact a coup, in a column yesterday in the New York Post adapted from a piece in the National Review: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2019: “Happy Birthday Little Sister!” Edition

Good Morning!

Today marks the birthday of my younger sister, whom I have referred to here frequently. Growing up with her and following her life and career imbued me with an early and ongoing appreciation of the effects of sexism and pro-male bias in society, and I’m indebted to her for that. She has always equaled or surpassed me in ability and enterprise, yet often watched me receive more credit or praise for the same things she could do and did without similar acclaim. I know she resented me for that (probably still does—she won’t read Ethics Alarms, for example), and it frequently bruised our relationship over the years. She also taught me about moral luck: in general, I have been persistently  lucky, and she has not, and the difference was so evident that I learned very early in life not to congratulate myself for how the dice fell. She is finally happy in retirement, is about to welcome the first grandchild for this generation of Marshalls, her two adult children are healthy and prospering, and her beloved Nationals just forced a Game 7 in the World Series. She will have a happy birthday. Good. She deserves it.

1. Tales of the double standard, and the imaginary double standard. MSNBC and much of the progressive noise machine has decided to paint Rep. Katie Hill as a victim of a “vast right wing conspiracy,” in Hillary’s immortal phrase, and a vicious husband. If he indeed was the one who shared the salacious photos of Hill involved in various sex acts,  vicious he certainly is. But how can anyone say, as lawyer Carrie Goldberg does, that  “Katie Hill was taken down by three things: an abusive ex, a misogynist far-right media apparatus, and a society that was gleeful about sexually humiliating a young woman in power…None of those elements would be here if it were a male victim. It is because she is female that this happened’? Nonsense, and deceptive nonsense.

Hill resigned because a House ethics investigation was underway regarding her admitted sexual affair with a Congressional staffer and an alleged affair with her legislative director. She was not going to be kicked out of Congress for either or both; she probably resigned in part because she knew the investigation was going to turn up more and worse. The Naked Congresswoman Principle also played a part, as I discussed here. Does anyone really believe that equivalent photos of a male member of Congress displaying his naughty bits in flagrante delicto (my late, great, law school roomie loved saying that phrase) with both sexes would be shrugged off by his constituents and the news media? Who are they kidding?

Hill was arrogant and reckless, and is paying the predictable price, though she was not smart enough to predict it. Trail-blazers—I’m not sure being the first openly bi-sexual member of Congress is much  of a trail to blaze, but never mind—are always under special scrutiny and have to avoid scandal at all costs. Did Hill ever hear of Jackie Robinson? Allowing those photos to come into existence showed terrible judgment; using her staff as a dating resource was hypocritical for a member of the  #MeToo party and workplace misconduct too.

The fact that she is being defended tells us all we need to know about the integrity of her  defenders. Continue reading

Ethics Verdict: The Democrats Will Be 100% Responsible For The Damage The Impeachment Will Do To The nation.

Impeachment, though it is doomed to fail, will be terrible for the country in too many ways to count, and the Democratic Party, abetted by the mainstream news media, will be 100% responsible for the harm. Not 75%. Not 99%. 100%.

I know I’m going to have to write a lot in the coming months about this, and I’m already sick of it, but if progressives, the media and the Democrats had treated this President as every one of his predecessors had been treated, we would not be here. They all decided to actively search for a justification to remove this President from office without an election. The calls for impeachment and contrived legal excuses to remove him began before Trump even took office.

It is satisfying, I suppose, in a mordant way, that the Democrats somehow trapped themselves into using one of the lamest and least persuasive justifications for an impeachment inquiry imaginable, and will pay a steep, steep price for it. Even the fact that the party and the media will suffer greatly for their attack on democracy, however, does not sufficiently mitigate the damage they will have done to the nation. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files..

Uhhh, no. Not even close.

If Democrats and the resistance think the conversation revealed below is smoking gun evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, or such evidence at all, Trump has truly driven them out of their minds.

As a strong hint that the resistance realizes it has been, once again, outmaneuvered and embarrassed, desperate pundits at the Huffington Post and MSNBC are now peddling the despicable theory that the transcript has been fabricated. So are my Facebook friends, even some of the relatively sane ones. Frustration and desperation will do that, and, of course, bias makes you stupid.

On the other side, some conservative pundits are suggesting that the diabolical President, who is both a genius and an idiot, deliberately set the whole thing up to push the Democrats into proving that their impeachment mania is unmoored to fact or law, while simultaneously putting Joe Biden under the hot lights.  Brilliant!

This is also silly. I will say that Trump has been blessed with the most useful and blundering enemies of any President since FDR.

Here is the transcript:

Continue reading