Nearing The Abyss: The Democrats, “The Resistance” And The Media Cheer On Campaign Sabotage

Brian looks pleased, doesn’t he?

What Ethics Alarms terms the Axis of Unethical Conduct or AUC—the alliance of the Democratic Party, “the resistance” and the mainstream news media—reached a new low in hostility to democracy and  new high in hypocrisy yesterday after it was confirmed that the turnout for President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa had been undermined by Nixon-style “dirty tricks.”

Yesterday morning, the front page of the Times was gloating over the surprisingly small audience for the President. Written by a team including staff Trump assassin Maggie Haberman,  the story, which yesterday had a headline stating that the rally “sputtered” and on line says it “fizzled,” said in part, “The weakness of Mr. Trump’s drawing power and political skills, in a state that voted for him overwhelmingly and in a format that he favors, raised new questions about his electoral prospects for a second term at a time when his poll numbers were already falling.” It quickly became clear that there were sinister factors at work, but the reporters allowed confirmation bias to suppress what should have been an automatic instinct: “Gee, what could have caused this?” Instead, they went with an analysis based on their desires and hostility to the President, and presented readers with fake news.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias.

It soon became clear that Tik-Tok and K-Pop users, mostly teenagers, reserved hundreds of tickets for the rally, without any intention of showing up. Brian Stelter, CNN’s risible “media watchdog,” happily reported Sunday morning,

“And it seems that one of the other reasons why there were so many empty seats is a no-show protest. A no-show protest. This all started with a video on TikTok created by Mary Jo Laupp, who is effectively being called a ‘TikTok grandma.’ So, she made a video more than a week ago urging viewers to go to Trump’s site, sign up to attend the rally, but pointedly not show up at the rally. And look, it did seem to work to some degree. We don’t know exactly how well but Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale was out there talking about how many people were signing up…..

In a tweet, Parscale had announced that there had been 800,000 requests for tickets.

Stelter then rewarded the organizer of this operation by bringing her on his show to interview. Her rationalization for the dirty trick was that black activists were angry because the President had scheduled his rally on the same week as “Juneteenth,” that revered annual holiday that virtually no one, including CNN, had ever talked about before the George Floyd Freakout. Continue reading

The Cautionary Tale Of Egil Krogh

Egil Krogh died this week. By the time of his death he was all but forgotten, but during the fevered days of the Watergate scandal’s unraveling, he was the Nixon henchman whose name nobody could pronounce. (It’s Ed-gel Crow-G) He was an original member of the infamous group known as “The Plumbers,”  the secret White House unit that broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, and later into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the  Watergate complex. By the time of the latter operation, Krogh had withdrawn from the Plumbers because he decided its mission—make sure Nixon won the election by any means necessary–was improper, but it was too late. He became the first member of the Nixon team to go to jail, then was disbarred. His fall was a lesson to all lawyers, indeed all human beings, about the insidious ways and unethical culture can corrupt the best of us. Continue reading

The Forgotten Ethics Hero: William Ruckelshaus (1932-2019)

I’m supposed to be student of American Presidential history, and even I had virtually forgotten about William Ruckelshaus, who just died. It was Ruckelshaus who, along with Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson,  rejected Ethics Rationalization #15, The Futility Illusion or  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” when the United States of America needed a hero, and got two.

His moment of courage arrived on an October night in 1973 destined to be known in the annals of American history as  the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Ruckelshaus was then Assistant Attorney General, and President Richard Nixon, was panicked that the ongoing investigation by Special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox was closing in on his blatant obstruction of justice. A White House-triggered burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the now-famous Foggy Bottom condo complex and hotel in Washington, D.C., seemed about to bring Nixon down, so Nixon resolved to have cripple the investigation by having Cox removed.  Ruckelshaus was the second of three officials the beleaguered POTUS ordered to fire the Harvard law professor. For some reason Nixon thought this might relieve him from having to produce the  nine incriminating Oval Office tape recordings that Cox had subpoenaed.

Ruckelshaus, under Nixon the first head of the new Environmental Protection Agency,  had been named acting head of the FBI in April of 1973, replacing L. Patrick Gray III. He was soon named the top deputy to Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson. When Nixon ordered the mild-mannered Richardson to fire Cox that fateful night, Richardson shocked Nixon by refusing, and resigning immediately. That made Ruckelshaus the Acting Attorney General, and he was suddenly on the hot seat, tasked with carrying out Nixon’s legally and ethically questionable orders.

Cox had been guaranteed complete independence by Nixon and Attorney General Richardson during the prosecutor’s Senate confirmation hearings in May of 1972.  Congress directed that he could be  be removed only for “gross malfeasance” in office, and by October 20, 1973, there had been none. “I thought what the president was doing was fundamentally wrong,” Ruckelshaus said  later. “I was convinced that Cox had only been doing what he had the authority to do; what was really of concern to the President and the White House was that he was too close. He hadn’t engaged in any extraordinary improprieties, quite the contrary.” Continue reading

I Figured It Out: The Congressional Democrats Are Imitating Saddam Hussein [PART II]

[Continued from PART I, here]

As with Saddam’s disastrous bluff, the “we have enough for impeachment but we’re not going to impeach just yet” dance involves some reckless brinkmanship and depends on corrupt and under the table alliances, with the mainstream media replacing the U.N and its complicit members. So far the media has neglected to educate the public regarding how desperate and absurd the current subpoena tactic is, with its close similarity to the Radical Republicans’ attempt to get rid of President Andrew Johnson by demanding that he obey an illegal law, the Tenure of Office Act. (“Andrew Johnson? Who’s that? You must mean Lyndon Johnson, right? No?”)

As Johnson did, President Trump has a Constitutional obligation to protect the Separation of Powers from a House majority intent on abusing its oversight powers. The House Democrats are simultaneously claiming that they have enough WMDs—lets’ call them WTDs, Weapons of Trump’ Destruction—to take down the President, while they continue to search desperately for what they are lying about having. Thus they are demanding that they see the unredacted Mueller report, which would be illegal, getting Trump’s tax documents, which would be a dangerous abuse of privacy and the oversight function, and forcing the former White House Counsel to reveal privileged information, which he cannot legally or ethically do. The idea appears to be to let these orchestrated controversies distract the public and continue into the 2020 campaign, with the Democrats running on a “he should be impeached, but it’s easier just to beat him” theme.

The only question is whether the news media will be any more successful saving the Democrats from their dishonest and dangerous bluff than the U.N.’s crooks were protecting Saddam. I doubt it. The U.N. had and even now has more credibility than  the self-flaying news media, and for good reason.

Last week, for example, two New York Times columnists made foolishly weak arguments that Trump had committed impeachable offenses. For clinically Trump-deranged Charles Blow, for whom every column is a barely restrained primal scream against Trump’s existence, the imagined offense is criticizing the press for being exactly as corrupt, biased and untrustworthy as Blow proves it is every week. His own dishonesty is what distinguishes the column; for example, he writes that a poll (Blow loves cherry-picking polls, a flaw he shares with Trump) found that 49% to 36%, Republicans agree that the news media is “the enemy of the people,” but all other groups say that the media “is an important part of democracy.” Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/19/18: Operating Under A Disability

Good Morning,

from Erie, Pennsylvania!

1. Handicapped. Unfortunately, my circumstances on this trip, which include a draining computer, hours of driving, the usual vicissitudes of travel but time two (my wife is with me), and multiple speaking responsibilities are going to influence my choice of topics. This is the blogging ethicist’s version of dealing with a disability, as I was discussing in yesterday’s seminar.

It is not unethical for a lawyer to continue to practice law while he or she has a drinking problem, or is developing dementia, or has the flu, but it iss unethical to do so while any of these maladies threaten to diminish the lawyer’s trustworthiness, diligence, zeal or competence. The professional has an ethical obligation to manage disabilities. In my case, several ethics issues that are in the news will require more concentration and analysis to handle well than I am able to muster right now, as I type with one eye on the battery charge and try to work in a hotel room with more than the usual distractions and interruptions. The participation of the White House Counsel in the Mueller investigation, for example, will just have to wait.

We are going to try to find a new power cord today. No, the hotel business center computers won’t do: there isn’t enough time to get even a single post up on them, among other impediments. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting

This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.

But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…

Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.

What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent,  is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.

Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.

I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting”  is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.

Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…

  • The Harvey Weinstein esposé wasn’t released before the 2016 election?
  • Provocative passages in Barack Obama’s books about “considering” homosexuality and eating dog never were investigated or explored by the mainstream news media during the 2008 campaign?
  • The revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illicit private server were published by the Times 18 months before the election, giving her plenty of time to make them harmless?
  • No major news organization sought to do a Watergate-style investigation of the IRS sabotage of conservative group participation in the 2012 Presidential campaign, although the Obama Justice Department investigation was obviously a sham?

I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was  devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.

Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.

Duh.

I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/11/17…”Alan Brady” Shows His Ignorance, And The New York Times Shows Its Bias.

Good Morning!

[By the time I finished #1 on today’s list, there was no room for the rest, except for the shortest item. Oops. But it’s Carl Reiner’s fault: he ticked me off.]

1. Carl Reiner, comedy legend and still kicking in his 90s, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging Supreme Court Justice Kennedy not to retire, as some believe he is preparing to do. Kennedy is a relative  whippersnapper at 8o. That Reiner’s argument is unethical in multiple ways should be obvious, but then expecting the editors of the New York Times to spot an ethics problem is naive.

Reiner tells Kennedy that he shouldn’t retire because ” the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.” The problem is that the decision shouldn’t be based on what Kennedy wants or will enjoy. He’s supposed to act in the best interests of the nation, not to maximize the rewards of his golden years. Reiner uses a comparison to his own career—he still acts periodically, but even Reiner can’t possible think that his last five years were objectively more productive than when he was writing and performing in “Your Show of Shows,” or playing Rob Petrie’s hilariously nasty boss on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”—which shows a narrow perspective. If Carl can’t perform the way he used to but movie-goers still like watching him, there’s no harm done. A SCOTUS justice who no longer is in top mental fettle, however, can do substantial harm.

How many screenplays has Reiner had produced since he turned 80? How many studios have hired him to direct? The last movie he wrote was in 1989, when Carl was 67.  His last directing assignment was 20 years ago. So Carl has retired from those jobs that are too demanding for him, just not acting. His argument to Kennedy is disingenuous. Gee, maybe the Justice should try acting, like Carl.

Reiner’s entire piece is a sham: it isn’t about retirement, it’s about liberal politics. He writes,

“The country needs justices like you who decide each case with fairness and humanity, and whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line. You have always voted your conscience, and defended the rights and liberties of all our citizens.”

Is  Reiner seriously arguing that there are no younger qualified judges “whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line” ? That’s what all SCOTUS justices are pledged to do.  Does anyone think that Reiner would like Justice Ginsberg, also in her 80’s, to step down because she reliably hews to Democratic Party positions in virtual lockstep? No, of course not. What he is really saying is that when Republican-appointed justices consider cases, they violate their duty to be objective, but when Democrat-appointed justices decide in favor of progressive positions, they are just being wise and fair. This also the position of the New York Times, which is using an old man as its mouthpiece. Nice. Continue reading

Five Reasons Why This Was President Trump’s Dumbest Tweet Yet

(I’m not counting the impulsive re-tweets from white supremacist and anti-Semitic sources.)

1. All tweets from a President of the United States who lacks rhetorical skills, common sense and self-restraint are unprofessional and self-destructive. That’s the foundation.

2. Ex-FBI director Comey isn’t the President’s enemy. Comey has acted, for the most part, with fairness and grace since being sacked. It is absurd to keep attacking him.

3. Threatening private citizens—which is what Comey is now— from the White House is ugly, unseemly, an abuse of power and only harms Trump. He fired Comey from a job he obviously wanted and loved. Isn’t that enough? This appears to be gratuitous harassment and petty nastiness…and appears that way because it is.

4. Tapes? TAPES? Trump mentions secret tapes while his foes and the news media is trying to make tortured comparisons to Watergate?

KABOOM!

This is signature significance for idiocy, or a death wish, or terminal jerkism, or something. TAPES????

5. “When in a hole, stop digging.” How can a man be successful in business and public life and not have learned this basic principle?

UPDATE: More Ethics Notes On The Comey Firing Meltdown

In this matter, at least, President Johnson was right…

1. In 1867, the Radical Republican dominated Congress passed The Tenure of Office Act, an unconstitutional breach of the Separation of Powers that took away the President’s ability to fire his own Cabinet members without the legislature’s approval. President Andrew Johnson, extremely unpopular in the victorious North and more so with his own party (Johnson was a Democrat, added to Lincoln’s ticket as Vice-President to bolster Lincoln’s desperate bid for re-election in 1864), deliberately defied the law by firing War Secretary Edwin Stanton, a Lincoln appointee and an ally of the Radicals. In response, Johnson’ own party led a n effort to impeach him, and he was narrowly saved from conviction by a single vote in the Senate. The Act was soon ruled unconstitutional, as Johnson said it was. As lousy a President as he was, Johnson had every right to fire someone who served at his pleasure, and doing so was not an impeachable offense.

2. The Democrats and journalists who are—absurdly, irresponsibly, embarrassingly, hysterically—calling for President Trump’s impeachment for firing James Comey neither know their history  nor respect democracy. Just check off the names of anyone, including your friends and colleagues, who make this argument, as hopeless, deranged partitions without perspective or integrity. I’m making my own list, with early entries like Maxine Waters and Vox, which beclowned itself by writing that a President’s lawful firing of a subordinate who clearly deserved it raises the  possibility of impeachment. At least the Radical Republicans had an unconstitutional law to back that theory: Vox has nothing but, of course, the Left’s hate campaign against the President of the United States. Then there are Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Mark Pocan (D-WI)  who also think a firing for cause is grounds for impeachment. Gallego:

“We are certainly moving down that path. There is a lot of runway until we get there, but the president is not helping himself by firing the person investigating him. … We don’t have the numbers to do something right now, but when it comes to a point when we feel there is no other recourse, you’d have — I think — we’d have the full support of the Democratic caucus.”

Pocan said that impeachment might be possible “if there was obstruction of justice by firing [the] FBI director … We’re seeing Democrats and Republicans concerned with timing of this decision … We would first need a majority in Congress or some Republican votes … but we need to keep every tool available to make sure the President follows the law.”

Ethics alarm: who elects idiots like these? I have searched for any situation, anywhere, in which a legal and justifiable firing of an official was prosecuted as “obstruction of justice.”  Nor is an act that is neither a crime, nor a “high crime or misdemeanor,” nor something a President isn’t clearly empowered to do “moving down” the path of impeachment.

3. This is public disinformation, aided and abetted by the news media. The primary ethics issue in the Comey firing is that it is just another stage of an unethical, dastardly effort by Democrats, progressives, the left-leaning news media and their allies to veto a Presidential election that they lost by their collective arrogance and incompetence, and to undermine the United States’ elected leader no matter what harm comes to the nation as a result. The firing itself was legal, ethical, and responsible, indeed overdue. Representing it as otherwise is designed to cause fear and confusion among the public. Responsible citizens are obligated to counter this in any way they can. Continue reading