Trump Tweets: The Movies

Stipulated: the ethics position here has been since long before the Trump years that Presidents should keep their opinions of persons, places, things and events having nothing to do with their duties or responsibilities to themselves.

Presidents are not kings, nor popes, nor universal authorities on everything. They have a role to fill, and they should fill it; it’s not like there should be plenty of time left over for weighing in on such matters as sports, popular culture, celebrities, and local controversies.

President Obama did far more of this than was responsible or good for the country, notably during race-related controversies. President Trump, obviously, has taken this misuse of his position into the stratosphere with his addiction to Twitter. His unrestrained tweets have done him at least as much harm as good; my own guess is that if he eschewed social media, his approval ratings would be 10% higher than they are.

It is also, I think, beyond argument that Trump’s use of Twitter guarantees that future Presidents will also use it to opine on matters that are none of their business. This is not a good thing.

The President’s latest self-made controversy, actually two controversies, came when he tweeted in part last week,

“How bad were the Academy Awards this year? Did you see? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know? I’m looking for — where? — can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies. The winner is: from South Korea. I thought it was Best Foreign Film. Best Foreign Movie. No. Has this ever happened before? …”

And then he went off on Brad Pitt’s gratuitous crack about John Bolton. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2020: The Presidents Day Edition

Good morning, guys!

Thank-you for your service!

In honor of our Presidents, Ethics Alarms is  posting some of the best and most important Presidential speeches during the day. We’ll see how many I get up; there are a lot of excellent ones to choose from.

In all of these cases, whichever I post, a President was acting in one of the non-partisan functions of the office, when the President’s job is to represent all of our nation’s citizens. It is a disturbing fact that the current President has been virtually blocked from discharging these duties, as part off the long, relentless effort by the A.U.C.—the Axis Of Unethical Conduct: Democrats, the “resistance,” and the mainstream media—to deny his Presidency’s legitimacy and to reduce his support among the public to the point where it becomes politically feasible to remove him without an election.

The nation needs those non-partisan Presidential moments, because they symbolize unity and strengthen, rather than weaken, our bonds: throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, attending the funerals of distinguished Americans, hosting the Kennedy Center Honors. It is not this President’s fault that he had been prevented from doing his job.

1. Why look! Here’s another example! Yesterday President Trump, having been invited to serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500, uttered the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines!” and boarded  his official limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”, and, with a U.S. and Presidential flag on the front fenders flapping in the wind, headed out onto the track, pacing the full field of cars.

The Horror. Tweeted Maggie Halberman, the usual co-author of New York Times front page features—inevitably negative– on the Trump administration,

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Obama and Bush throwing out the baseball season’s ceremonial first pitches, Obama using his limo for a Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit, and prominently attending an NCAA basketball tournament game–all good! President Trump serving as grand marshal at a NASCAR event? Unacceptably political.

This is smoking gun bias from the journalist the Times uses to inform its readers about what this President does.

2. Now Trump’s stupid tweets, however, are another matter entirely.  Politico reports on what District Judge Reggie Walton, a Reagan appointee,  had  to say about President Trump’s gratuitous social media commentary on the McCabe investigation: Continue reading

Ethics Nosegay,2/14/20: A New Ethics Train Wreck For Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love to all!

What does the Easter Bunny sing on Valentine’s Day? Every bunny loves some bunny sometime…

1. Yes, I think the Roger Stone sentencing mess is an Ethics Train Wreck now. As usual, several cars have been reserved by the President, whose dumb tweeting raised the appearance of impropriety and fed his ravenous critics, who will read anything he does in the worst light possible. Good for AG Barr for saying that such public White House word-barfs make it difficult for Barr to do his job.

The President really and truly does not seem to understand how his own job works: if he makes it known what his personal policy desires are, that’s potentially going to influence policy-makers who are supposed to be independent. Why is this so hard to grasp? True, it would be beyond moronic, if the President wanted to interfere with Barr’s handling of the Stone matter, for him to use Twitter rather than to pick up the phone. Also true: Trump has done things equally dumb.

Do you think the President knows the story of Thomas Becket’s murder, triggered when  King Henry II’s shouted out, to no one in particular, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Two knights decided to make King Henry happy, though they had received no orders. Imagine if President Obama had tweeted—we know he would have been smart enough to just have an aide whisper in Lois Lerner’s ear— “Boy, these tea party groups are a scam! How do they warrant non-profit status?” before the IRS scandal unfolded.

Nonetheless, as is usually buried in Trump Derangement Enabling articles like this one, there are no knights in this case who can do Trump’s wish-fulfillment. “Just as he used US government power to smear Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal, he succeeded in getting favorable treatment for a friend in the Stone case — though the final sentence will be up to a judge,” the CNN article reveals (let’s see) eight paragraphs in.  Trump can stand on his head shouting “Free Stone!” through a megaphone; he has no leverage with the judge. Continue reading

Update On The Roger Stone Sentencing Fiasco

Last night, I wrote in response to the news that all four of Roger Stone’s prosecutors had resigned after the Justice Department had submitted a memo opposing their recommendation to the judge in the case regarding Stone’s sentence…

I can’t figure this out until…

  • I know whether Stone was targeted as a Trump ally, and how much of this, if any, was politically motivated.
  • What the sentencing guidelines are, and exactly what Stone did.
  • What the reasoning of the Justice Department was in opposing its own prosecutors’ judgment.
  • To what degree the President influenced the decision.

 

Finally, thanks to the always reliable and astute Andrew McCarthy, I do understand, and can confidently say, “What a mess!” Continue reading

Evening Ethics Reflections, 2/11/2020, While Waiting For Joe Biden To Go Down

Hi!

It looks like Joe Biden will end up fourth or worse in the New Hampshire primary, and if he does, it will all be over but for the shouting, or in Joe’s case, the blathering. This was pre-ordained from the second Joe entered the race: how anyone knowledgeable and paying minimal attention could see Joe was a shell of his former self, and his former self was never anything to get excited about in the first place. I have never believed that President Trump thought Biden was a threat to defeat him; if his determination to unravel the Biden’s influence peddling in the Ukraine had a personal component, it was that he just wanted to stick it to Joe and expose his hypocrisy. We will never know, I guess. But I assume trump knew he didn’t need to “cheat” to beat Biden.

It’s amusing and somehow fitting that Joe’s inexplicable “Lying dogfaced pony soldier” outburst is serving as a tipping point, with a lot of people suddenly smacking their heads “I could have had a V-8!” style and thinking, “Hey! This guy really is an idiot!” Yes, he really is. The fact that the bland Amy Klobuchar is surging as the new moderate (relatively) savior of the party shows just how bad Biden has been, and also just how unforgivably incompetent and unattractive a field the Democrats have offered America in 2020. On the hopeful side, at least Democratic voters have recognized Senator Warrren as the manipulative, untrustworthy demagogue she is. If a Massachusetts leftist Senator can’t beat Buttigieg and Sanders in New Hampshire, she’s not going to win anywhere.

All of this couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.

1. The President thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. Our President has an unhealthy tolerance for liars and rogues. There has been a depressing outbreak of renewed sympathy for Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who was banned from baseball for life after being proved guilty of betting on baseball games while a manager, betting on games his own team, the Reds, was playing, and lying about both over many years. The reason is the recent sign-stealing scandal, because, of course, one cheating scandal mitigates a completely different offense that didn’t have anything to do with cheating.

Naturally, there’s a tweet… Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse

“You see what they are doing? They’re blaming Iowa. It’s not the fault of the Democratic Party. It’s Iowa’s fault. After the citizens of Iowa put up with all that interaction with candidates swarming the state for the past year (and more) and after they showed up for this elaborate nighttime gathering in groups in gyms and showing support with their bodies, they are blamed for the screw-up of the party!”

Iconoclastic blogger Ann Althouse, reacting to the Democratic Party’s attempts to mitigate the Iowa Caucuses debacle.

At least they aren’t blaming it all on Trump. Yet.

Ann continues..

The other blame-shifting I’m seeing is: The computers did it. There was an app and it somehow caused all the trouble. Reminiscent of Hillary’s wipe-it-with-a-cloth computer problems. I really don’t want to hear excuses that have to do with computers getting things wrong. This cannot have been a complicated app, and the backup was to use the phones, yet they want to blame the phone lines too! It’s just not credible.”

What triggered Althouse  were Washington Post  headlines telling her that
Sen. Dick Durbin said  it was time to end the Iowa caucuses and that Howard Dean said that Iowa should no longer lead the primary parade.

What I especially like about Ann is that her academic detachment allows her to focus on aspects of an issue that most analysts miss because they care about the results more than she does. This talent is annoying when it results in her going off on tangents about how a particular word is used in a quote or article–she’s been obsessed with the word “garnered” for a couple of weeks now—but this is an example of her picking up on an ethics issue that nobody else, including me, was mentioning: the avoidance of accountability.

I was shocked when I woke up this morning after sleeping in—bad night—to see that the results of the Caucus still hadn’t been announced. It’s a massive embarrassment for the party, and again—commenter Michael West disagrees with me on this, but I’ll double down now—it is bad for everyone, not just Democrats. Ann was focusing on this as well, I think.

The Iowa Caucuses have long been celebrated as old fashioned democracy in action: citizens meeting in firehouse hall and churches, debating, making their preferences known. I come from Arlington, Massachusetts, the largest municipality in the nation that still uses the town meeting system of governance. Local and regional democracy, though the Left increasingly derides it in its quest for global government, is the heart of American values. This kind of breakdown, catalyzed by inflicting technology on a system that has worked just fine without it, undermines public trust in our institutions.

That is dangerous.

Moreover, it is in everyone’s interests, in a two party system, for both parties to find the best possible candidate. This was a point I kept making in 2016. For either party’s system to blow up increases the likelihood that chaos will taint the  process, and cause unforeseen and unintended results—as it did the last time.

That said, the conservative pundits are certainly having fun. Like here. And here. And here. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Week: The Tweeter In Chief

The President could win this category every week, but this one is especially annoying.

  • It gives his enemies—and they are enemies—a stick to beat him with, since they obsess about the most trivial things he says or does anyway whether there is anything wrong with them or not.
  • It reinforces the stereotype that he is an idiot.
  • In doing so, it undermines his credibility and trust as a leader.
  • It makes what is supposed to be an honor for the Chiefs into a joke.
  • The gaffe alienates one entire state, if not two.
  • It exhibits extreme carelessness.
  • It potentially injures untold Americans, who rolled their eyes so hard that they risked blindness.
  • A President should know the states and major cities of the nation he leads…without having to check.

If the President is determined to communicate directly to the public, he is obligated  to do so with care, consideration, and competence. He doesn’t.

But we knew that.