Wait: Does President Obama Consider THIS A Scandal? Because, You Know, It Is…

Every time either ex-President Obama or one of his slavish acolytes—you know, journalists?—make the statement that his tenure was “scandal free,” honest Americans who have been paying attention grind their teeth down a few more millimeters.

Of course, Obama had plenty of scandals, serious ones—at least they would have been serious in any other administration. The fact that the news media chose to minimize them or ignore them doesn’t make them less scandalous…in fact, that’s a scandal itself.  To name one example that especially rankles me, the IRS, an Executive Branch Agency, eventually admitted that it used its power to meddle in the 2012 Presidential election, against Obama’s opponent. However, the formula of lying, covering up, stalling, and having allies in the press call everything negative under Obama a “nothingburger” carried the day. This was SOP for eight years.

When Obama personally lied—20 times? 30?— about how his signature health care plan would work (All together now: “If you like your plan…”), somehow this Nixon-Clinton level of intentional dishonesty was shrugged off as “the ends justify the means.” The fact is that it was a real, calculated, intentional lie used to trick the American people, not just a case of a President being wrong. Bush didn’t know that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s. Obama had to know what his own health care bill would do.

Blecchh!. I can taste the tooth powder!

This week, another genuine Obama scandal was uncovered that would have had Democrats seeking impeachment votes if it had occurred under Reagan or Bush. The Obama administration secretly gave Iran access to the U.S. financial system, defying the sanctions still in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public that it would not and did not do anything of the sort.

What would you call that?

After striking its bone-headed, constitutionally-dubious nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration wanted to give Iran the promised access to its freshly unfrozen overseas reserves, including $5.7 billion stuck sitting in an Omani bank.  Iran wanted to convert the money into U.S. dollars and then euros, but that would require our giving the rogue nation access to the U.S. financial system. Obama officials had  promised Congress that Iran would never gain such access. As was the usual solution for Obama when law, the Constitution or established procedure stopped something he had decided in his Wisdom was Good and Just, Obama had his Treasury Department issue a license in February 2016 that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman into euros by exchanging them for U.S. dollars. The scheme failed, for the Omani bank blocked the transaction, but this is just moral luck, and does not make the secret end-around the sanctions less wrong.

The license issued to Iran’s Bank Muscat made lies of public statements from the Obama White House, the Treasury and the State Department denying that the administration was contemplating allowing Iran access to the U.S. financial system. After the nuclear deal was announced  in July 2015, Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified under oath—lying to Congress is still a scandal, unless Obama officials do it, and they did it a lot—that even with the sanctions relief, Iran “will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.” A month after that, another Treasury official, Adam Szubin, testified that  “Iran will be denied access to the world’s most important market and unable to deal in the world’s most important currency.”

“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran,” said Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio).   Verdict: Fair and accurate. And what is the rebuttal by the Obama-ites?

Ooooh, lame. Lamer than usual, in fact. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/9/2018: Iran Deal Exit Edition

Gooooooooooood Morning Tehran!

1  Goodbye to an illegal—hence unethical— treaty. To get the pure ethics issue out of the way at the start, the argument from critics of President Trump’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal that, as MSNBC partisan-hack-disguised-but-none-too–well-as an-objective-journalist Andrea Mitchell wrote,

“So no matter what happens now, what they have basically said to the rest of the world is that we are not obeying an agreement that we signed. Now the United States of American under one administration can sign a deal, but it may not be accepted by future presidents.”

What was always the most undebatable objection to Obama’s deal was that it was a treaty that bypassed the Constitutional requirements for treaties. Such a significant agreement with such major risks and implications should have been submitted to the Senate as the Constitutional process demands. Thus it was illegal, as with so much of what the weak previous President foisted on the nation, the theory was that wrong and illegal or not, once “the deal” was in place it was a fait accompli. Note the irony of Obama’s worshipful congregation expressing fears that Trump is autocratic. All Trump could do was to submit the already established deal to Congress to un-do, and despite a majority in favor of doing just that, a filibuster by Democrats blocked it.

Verdict: This time President Trump has the Constitution on his side, and when the Constitution doesn’t suit Democrats, they ignore it.

2. An Ethics Hero for candor: Blogger Ann Althouse concluded her comments about the big news yesterday by saying, “I’m just looking at the public theater, of course. I have no idea what is really going on.”

Brava! And neither do I. And neither do you. Moreover, whether President Trump’s gambit turns out to be regarded as a brilliant masterstroke or a tragic blunder is entirely moral luck, just as his apparent success with North Korea is. All sorts of consequences, good, bad, and currently unimaginable, are possible.

3. Bias makes you CNN. This morning both CNN and CNN’s HLN were fearmongering with viewers, flogging the likelihood that Trump’s rejection of the Iran deal would raise gas prices, and also lose jobs because U.S. airline sales of passenger jets to Iran cannot be completed. Think about the ethical nature of that argument for keeping the deal in place. Lifting sanctions on Iran has allowed the nation to fund terrorism across the region, but its all worth it to Americans if gas prices stay low. Nice.

Then there was CNN’s openly partisan White House correspondent Jim Accosta, who tweeted this:

“Obama policies dumped by Trump: Iran deal, Paris Climate Agreement, Trans-Pacific Trade Deal, DACA, Obamacare Individual Mandate.”

Accosta apparently really thinks that this is res ipsa loquitur for how bad Trump is. A journalist so isolated by his political biases from reality can’t be a competent political reporter. I’m not a Trump supporter, but with the possible exception of the trade deal, I view all of the rest as positive developments, or at least arguably so, especially since most of them were examples of Obama skirting the Constitution or governing by edict. Continue reading

Rejecting Mandates By Nations And Organizations That Share Neither Our Interests Nor Our Values

The U.N.’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which imposed guidelines for the acceptance of migrants and refugees on member nations, was (naturally) endorsed by the Obama Administration, which embraced wholeheartedly the concept of expanding world government in many areas, even those where international mandates would have  profound domestic consequences.

The Trump administration has withdrawn from the accord, saying that it was not compatible with U.S. principles, interests and priorities.

Good.

The U.S. Mission announced that the Declaration “contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies.” Added  U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley:

“Our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter the country.”

Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The 21 Republicans Who Voted Against The Torture Ban

torture

As I explained long ago, torture is already a human rights abomination forbidden by U.S. principles, values, tradition and culture. That does not mean, and has never meant, that the nation’s official and sincere opposition to torture as an ethical absolute must not be subject to a genuine existential exception.  It does mean that an official policy that allows torture degrades the very reason for the nation’s existence.

This vital reason doesn’t even reach the fact that the United States has signed international treaties that state, unequivocally, that it deplores and rejects torture. That one is less complex; as I wrote about the Bush Administration’s doubletalk at the time…

Typically, the Administration is trying to finesse this uncomfortable fact by playing legalistic word games, requesting a “clarification” of what constitutes torture. This is intellectually dishonest, and blatantly so. The methods it wants to define as “something other than torture”…threatened drowning, cold room interrogations with subjects doused with water, beatings and other forms of assault and battery, obviously violate provisions of the Geneva Convention such as those requiring prisoners of war to be treated with “personal dignity” and “humanely,” and that they should not be subjected to “hardships and sufferings.” Meanwhile, torture is defined in Article 1 of the 1984 Convention as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” Simulated drowning, by this definition, is torture, and passing some official “clarification” that declares otherwise won’t change that. Depriving prisoners of sleep and making them stand wet in 50 degree temperatures aren’t going to suddenly become “humane” either, nor will such treatment suddenly cease to cause “hardship” and “suffering.”

The United States exists on the ideal that it, unique among nations past and present, asserts and acts upon its original dedication to the values of human life, liberty and pursuit of happiness above all else. The United States’ identity is that of the Good Citizen, the hero, the trustworthy one. Of course that’s a high aspiration; of course we will fall short of it sometimes, of course such an aspiration appears arrogant and superior to others, and so what? Continue reading

Mr. Friedkin? Mr. Hawks? Meet Mr. Madison and Mr. Twain

It was Saturday Censorship at the Movies last night in Cable Land.

First, I got to watch that manly channel, Spike, blanch at showing a possessed 12-year-old girl use the work “fuck”, which, as you horror devotees know, is a word rather central to showing how she has been taken over, like Helen Thomas, by the demon Pazuzu. There was Linda Blair, as the suddenly possessed Regan O’Neill, bouncing rhythmically on her bed as her horrified mother and physician looked on, shouting “—Me!—Me!—Me!”, apparently horrifying them with a noisy outbreak of egocentricity. The later scene in which the Demon Child is found masturbating with a crucifix was also clumsily chopped up so it was impossible to figure out what was going on. Continue reading