Continued Still…From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag: “What’s Your Reaction To Various Ethics Controversies, Including The Use Of The White House, During The Republican National Convention?” Part 3: The White House

The question that spawned this long post [ Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here] was, “What’s your opinion of Trump using the White House as a political prop?”

D. The White House

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Trump will further “destroy” American precedents if given a second term in office. “This is what we can expect in a second Trump administration,” Schumer said. “All the rules, norms, values that have made this country great, Donald Trump will destroy them. He doesn’t care. He only cares about himself. The rules are you shouldn’t sit in the White House and give a speech at a convention. Donald Trump says, ‘I want to do it.’ So they do it.”

There’s no such rule. The President isn’t covered by the Hatch Act, and given all the political uses of The White House by previous Presidents, I’d love to hear the argument that a speech being delivered to a virtual convention during a pandemic using the White House as a backdrop is unconscionable, or even unethical.

Professor Julian Zelizer, whose field is history and public affairs at Princeton University, said that  using the White House as a “prop” at a party convention is “unprecedented” in recent times. “There still is a boundary between politics and governing, and the Oval Office and White House are a public site meant for the country that isn’t meant to be a political backdrop,” Zelizer told ABC News. “To just use it as the major site for a convention speech seems like a lot with President Trump — you just take all the guardrails down.”

Cite, please. That something is “unprecedented” doesn’t make it unethical. The White House has been used as a political prop many times, just not at a convention. Nothing has been quite as grubby as Bill Clinton selling nights in the Lincoln bedroom for big money donations, but way back in the Kennedy Administration, the nation gushed over lovely Jackie Kennedy  hosting a televised tour of her “home,” bolstering the developing legend of how graceful and refined the young First Couple were. (Jack was probably banging a starlet while Jackie was being filmed.) Go ahead, tell me that “special” wasn’t “unprecedented” or political. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Obamas’ “Private Party”

prince

President Obama and his wife, Michelle invited about 500 guests to a White House party where pop icons Prince and Stevie Wonder entertained guests. Among the guests were Al Sharpton, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his date, singer Ciara, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Tyler Perry, Connie Britton, Angela Bassett, Gayle King, Tracee Ellis Ross, fashion designer Naeem Kha, American Express exec Ken Chenault,  former Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as well as about 480 others of doubtlessly equal glitter who didn’t squeal about the blow-out on Twitter or Instagram or who weren’t mentioned by other guests who did.

The party was not mentioned on the President’s official schedule, and it almost managed to occur without publicity until the White House news briefing on Monday afternoon, when Josh Earnest was grilled about it. The White House spokesman said two interesting things, one audacious in its blatant dishonesty and Orwellian logic, and the other ….interesting. The first:

“I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event and the fact that details of this are known is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent. At the same time, the president and first lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime.”

Further proving how transparent the President was, Earnest announced that no guest list would be provided to the press or the public. Now that’s transparency. The other statement:

[T]”he President and First Lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime. I think that’s consistent with the kinds of values that they have talked about.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

“Are there any ethical problems with the Obama’s “private party”?

Continue reading

Selfie Ethics: Yes, Big Papi Exploited The President

Ortiz-Obama-Selfie.jpg

I wrote about this ethical breach when Ellen DeGeneris did it at the Oscars. The short version is this:

“It’s unethical to pretend that a selfie is a spontaneous  gesture of fun and friendship when you have a commercial agreement in place to use the photograph in a way that promotes the cell phone manufacturer.”

This is exploitation for commercial gain, and it’s wrong. It’s wrong when the victims are movie stars, and it’s wrong when the exploited party is President of the United States. Continue reading

Abuse of Power and Press Intimidation At The White House

"Hey, Herald! Get with the program!"

In response to a complaint by the Boston Herald about the limited access its staff would have to President Obama during his visit to Boston,  Matt Lehrich, an Obama aide, attributed the treatment to the White House’s objections to a front page opinion article by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in which he attacked the administration’s job-creation record. “I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the president’s visits,”  Lehrich told the Herald in an email.

And maybe it does. Then again, there is a mountain of evidence that hundreds of media outlets, including four of the five major TV news organizations, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many others, are also biased in their coverage of everything this president does–favorably. Apparently the White House, which has already disgraced itself by repeatedly attacking the one critical network by name for the state offense of not falling into line, can’t abide the fact that some print journalists are as prone to be critical of him as Chris Matthews is likely to get tingles up his leg every time Obama opens his mouth. Their response? Make it harder for the unfavorably biased journalists to cover the news. Continue reading