Ethics Train Wreck Updates: The Obama Presidency and The Washington Redskins

Obama golfing

1. Update: The Obama Presidency Ethics Train Wreck

This has been a week dominated by Ethics Train Wrecks old and new: the Ferguson Express, which will presumably slow down for a few months until we find out what the grand jury does and why; the previously dormant Donald Sterling choo-choo, which came around another bend in its tracks, and, predictably, the Ethics Train Wreck that is the entire Obama Presidency, highlighted by the President more or less intentionally refusing to act like an engaged leader, happily going back to fun on the links after making a statement regarding an American journalist beheaded on video by terrorists.

Naturally the latter concerns me more than the rest, but I have realized that most of those who are in permanent denial about this leader’s ineptitude simply don’t want to process the truth in this regard. Mention the obvious, or what should be, that this frightening confluence of crises domestic and foreign is an irresponsible time to be perceived as taking a break, and one is bombarded by specious comparisons with Bush or JFK’s home away from home on Cape Cod. Some observers have the integrity to concede what many–you know, those mean Obama critics who are out to get him because he’s black–correctly discerned long ago. Here’s The New York Times, consistently one of the President’s most incorrigible apologists:

“Yet the juxtaposition of his indignant denunciation of terrorists and his outing on the greens this week underscored the unintended consequences of such a remove. If Mr. Obama hoped to show America’s enemies that they cannot hijack his schedule, he also showed many of his friends in America that he disdains the politics of appearance. He long ago stopped worrying about what critics say, according to aides, and after the outcry over Wednesday’s game, he defied the critics by golfing again on Thursday, his eighth outing in 11 days on the island.

It was all the more striking given that Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain canceled his vacation after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released the video showing Mr. Foley’s death because the accent of the masked killer suggested he came from Britain. Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Mr. Obama would “rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis.”

But the criticism went beyond the usual political opponents. Privately, many Democrats shook their heads at what they considered a judgment error.”

It is not a judgment error at all. It is just another example of Obama’s flat, flat, flat learning curve regarding leadership. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Barack Obama


“You have to understand that if you seek that office, then you have to be prepared to give your life to it. Essentially, the bargain that I think every President strikes with the American people is, ‘you give me this office, then in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure, is gone. I am giving myself to you.”

—-Barack Obama, running for President of the United States in 2008.

Of course, he was correct. That is, or should be, the deal and the commitment. (He also should have included fundraising.)

Even if he had not made this sweeping declaration that he had no intention of  fulfilling, winging off to Martha’s Vineyard while crises are intensifying at home and abroad is irresponsible. It also sends a message of detachment and lack of seriousness to observers abroad, many of whom are happy to exploit the weakness and indifference of American leadership. From Walter Russell Mead:

“The fact that President Obama thought that the day of an Iraqi coup was a good time to hang on the Vineyard and get on the links is bad news. Either the President blew off warnings from his advisors, or the intel community got blindsided again. Both possibilities reflect badly on the management of the nation’s affairs.”

Of course. And Obama, as he said in 2008, knows it. Now he just doesn’t care.


Pointer: Instapundit

Source: IJR

OK, OK, He Steals Our Money Too. But I Still Hear Eric Holder’s One Hell Of A Guy….

But what really matters is whether he's better than Alberto Gonzalez, right?

But what really matters is whether he’s better than Alberto Gonzalez, right?

From the Washington Post:

The agency that tracks federal travel did not report hundreds of personal and other “nonmission” trips aboard government planes for senior Justice Department officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to a watchdog report.

Congress’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the 395 flights cost taxpayers $7.8 million. But the General Services Administration, which oversees trips aboard federal jets, did not require documentation because of a GSA reporting exemption that covers intelligence agencies, even in cases of unclassified personal travel.

The GSA exemption contradicts decades-old executive-branch requirements, specifically guidelines established by President Bill Clinton and the Office of Management and Budget, according to the report. The report said GSA “has not provided a basis for deviating from executive branch requirements.”

The findings, released Thursday, came out nearly 19 months after Republican lawmakers began questioning Holder’s use of an FBI jet for travel unrelated to Justice Department work. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to look into the matter.

In its report, the non-partisan Congressional GAO reprimands the GSA, noting that “GSA regulations that allow intelligence agencies not to report unclassified data on senior federal official travel for non-mission purposes are not consistent with executive branch requirements, and GSA has not provided a basis for deviating from these requirements.” Now the GSA is promising to rectify the non-mission exemption.

But never mind all that. The gravamen of the report is that Attorney General Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller spent $7.8 million dollars of taxpayer money for personal travel, and haven’t reimbursed it. What does this tell us? Nothing we shouldn’t have been able to figure out before:

Continue reading

The Bo Deplaning Background: A Picture Not Quite Worth 1000 Words

I reluctantly replaced the background photo of Justin Carter (who is still, by the way, awaiting trial for the crime of making a sarcastic comment on Facebook that post-Sandy Hook hysterics decided to treat as a terrorist threat) and put up the iconic photo of Bo, the Presidential dog, being solemnly escorted out of an Osprey to join the First Family in another spectacularly ill-timed vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, together with a photo of the National Debt clock. I hoped the background picture would save me the proverbial thousand words, because I think it speaks eloquently to several issues. But I have already received some squeals of protest, so I’m going to have to use up some of those words after all.

I generally have no problem with any President taking vacations, since the job is impossible and it travels with him, no matter how much he might wish otherwise. I have a problem with Presidents spending excessive amounts of the nation’s time in partisan fundraising, but that’s another issue. As one of the President’s supervisors, I have serious concerns about this President taking so many vacations, because, frankly, I don’t know what he does all day. He appears to have no foreign policy, other than making speeches, waffling, and dithering. He says he is making the economy his full time priority, but I see little indication of that. We know he doesn’t dirty his hands with engaging in politics and forging compromises with the opposition, and based on his statements and stunned surprise when incompetence or misconduct appears, he seems not to know what is going on in his own departments. We know he doesn’t trouble himself with oversight or management—even #1 fan Chris Matthews admits that.

Obama said on The Tonight Show (he has time to appear on The Tonight Show) that the U.S. has no domestic spying program. Today we learn that the NSA has habitually violated privacy restrictions on its spying, meaning that we don’t have a domestic spying program, just a spying program that repeatedly engages in domestic spying. Call me a stickler, but I think a few of those down days on vacation should have been spent instead actually learning what was the real situation before he told the nation things that weren’t true. Or was he lying? If you prefer that explanation, fine. That is another ethical issue. Continue reading

Why Is Criticism Of The Obama Family Vacations Considered Partisan?

Or perhaps "Lifestyles of the Tone Deaf and Hypocritical" is more descriptive

Or perhaps “Lifestyles of the Tone Deaf and Hypocritical” is more descriptive

I understand a lot of the partisan divide in perception and coverage of President Obama. I don’t understand this.

The President’s persistent practice of sending his family members off on lavish vacations on the taxpayers’ largesse is unequivocally tone-deaf, hypocritical, and wrong. It’s wrong. There’s no defending it. His children’s current trip to the Bahamas and a ski resort, thanks to the necessary Secret Service detail necessary to protect them, is going to cost over $100,000….the last Spring Break vacation for them did. Wrong. Unethical. Obviously unethical.

Why are partisans—and those who aren’t supposed to be partisans, but really are, like most of the press—defending it? They can’t, mind you, but they try anyway. Why?

I know how. They do it by attacking the critics. The Atlantic, for example, in a blog post by Phillip Bump, sneeringly ridiculed the factual reporting by Matthew Boyle on the Obama kids’ expensive vacations by noting 1) the reporter works for Breitbart, and Breitbart is scum 2) that the outrage ginned up by that site over Obamaphones was phony, and 3) reporters, by news media accord, aren’t supposed to report on where First Kids take vacations, citing all the other Presidential spawn that avoided media attention. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Wisconsin Judge J.D. Watts

Nice guy, though.

Jury duty?

Ivana Samardzic, 20, took off for a long-planned Cancun vacation. The problem was that she was a member of the jury in a felony trial, and deliberations had already begun. Samardzic went AWOL after the presentation of the felony shooting case against the defendant, Spartacus Outlaw, calling the court clerk from the airport to say  that she had left her vote with the foreman. That’s gall. That’s also contempt. Rather than call a mistrial, the judge got the defendant to agree to allow the jury to continue with only eleven jurors, who found the defendant guilty of one of the charges against him. ( By the way, if you are named Spartacus Outlaw, I really think crime is a risky career choice.) Continue reading

“Is It Wrong To Go On Vacation When You’re Unemployed?”

Job hunting…

This is the question asked by unemployed author Fran Hopkins, who, her bio says, ” has been searching for full-time work since losing her job in a January 2010 layoff. While “between jobs,” she’s earned an MS degree in Health Communication, does freelance writing and public relations.” In her article on AOL, Hopkins argues that it isn’t wrong, because “I need to get away, just for a few days, close to the soothing sound and motion of the sea, inhaling salt air and unwinding. I have to restore my mental, emotional and spiritual inner resources. I’m running low.” But she feels guilty, and to read the comments, a lot of people thinks she should. On Fark, where I found the post, the wags there simply answered her query “Yes” and filed it under “Dumbass.”

Nonsense. To begin with, the question is unanswerable, since it depends on so many variables. Is it unethical to spend your kids’ college funds or the mortgage money on a vacation? Yes. Is it wrong to spend public assistance on a vacation? Yes. But these are all irresponsible acts, and taking a vacation to recharge your batteries, relieve stress and clear your mind when there are no negative consequences to anyone else from doing so is not irresponsible, and might be the smartest thing you can do.

Poor Fran has been looking for a job for more than two and a half years, and that is, or should be, hard work. Anyone who says, as some commenters do, that there is nothing for her to take a vacation from either has never looked for a work or has no idea how to do it right. Job hunting is a hard job, and a soul-killing one. After a while you tend to become negative and cynical, or pathetic and desperate, and these attitudes can be fatal to your employment prospects. If a week on Cape Cod or the Jersey Shore can restore your vigor and perspective, it is well worth the time and money.

The most annoying  criticism of Fran are the people who write that it is inconsiderate of her to take a break from job-hunting when so many of her desperate fellow-citizens can’t afford to do likewise. If there is a mutated sub-category of liberals that make me want to get a package deal on an NRA/ Ayn Rand/ Donald Trump/ Rush Limbaugh fan club, this is it: the “you have no right to be happy as long as other people are miserable” crowd. Really, however, all the criticism of Fran is annoying, because it isn’t based on concepts of right and wrong at all. There’s nothing wrong with Fran taking a vacation while unemployed; there’s nothing wrong with her giving up on employment entirely and becoming a retiree, a beach bum, a street corner philosopher, a mime or an ethics blogger, either, as long as she isn’t defaulting on her obligations to others, or sponging off people who are working.

Have a great time on your vacation, Fran. You’ve earned it.


Pointer: Fark

Source: AOL

Graphic: Sidney Morning Herald

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

Case Closed on Obama’s Leadership Skills

Anyone who watched the Beltway public issues panel show “Around Washington” knows that there is no more loyal defender of Barack Obama than Colbert King. King is a Democrat and a card-carrying progressive, and also a Pulitzer Prize winner and career-long Ethics Hero, as he has doggedly and revealingly documented the corruption in all corners of the Washington. D.C. government. Colbert King, in short, is a truth-teller, and while his ideological leanings have often caused him to defend Obama when it would be more responsible not to, he has integrity. This weekend, in his weekly column for the Washington Post,  he joined a chorus of conservative critics by expressing dismay that the President would choose this time to take a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard:

“Is there anyone in the White House with nerve enough to tell Barack Obama that Martha’s Vineyard is the last place on earth that the president of the United States should find himself next week? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge the chief executive a little time off from the Oval Office. But to be leaving town to spend 10 days luxuriating in an affluent, New England summer town when millions of Americans can’t find work? To fly off to the Vineyard when the public is losing faith in Washington’s ability to fix the nation’s economic problems, and with people anxious about their futures? What is he thinking?”

I can answer that, and in fact I have. Continue reading

Unethical or Dumb? Three Scenarios From The News

Many actions that appear to be unethical at first glance are really just thoughtless, careless decisions by people who should know better. It is only when knowing better is an obligation of their jobs or positions that a foolish mistake becomes unethical, or when it involves willful disregard for basic ethical principles.

Here are three scenarios from the news. Your choices: Dumb, Unethical, or Dumb and Unethical. Continue reading

What’s Wrong and Not Wrong About the BP CEO’s Yachting Weekend

Tony Heyward. the beset and beleaguered BP CEO who has become the public face of the oil company blamed for the devastating Gulf oil leak, took the weekend off to attend a yacht race off the Isle of Wight. For this he is being pummeled with more criticism, from Rahm Emanuel to Sen. Richard Shelby to angry bloggers on the Left, Right, and Center. Is going to a yacht race really that wrong, in ethical terms? Does it breach any duties or obligations? Here is the score card on what’s right, or at least “not wrong” about his conduct, and what is worthy of legitimate criticism. Continue reading