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

The IRS Scandal Choice: Contrived Ignorance By The President Or Incompetentence By White House Counsel

Unethical lawyer, or ethical pawn in an unethical plan.

Unethical lawyer, or ethical pawn in an unethical plan.

Media reports tell us that White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler was told on April 24 that the IRS had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups, according to an Inspector General audit. She did not tell her client, President Obama, about the fact. [ UPDATE: Law professor and esteemed legal ethics authority Richard Zitrin correctly points out that Ruemmler’s client is the office of the President, not the President himself. So far, I have yet to be convinced that this changes the analysis below.]

There is no way to spin this that doesn’t look bad for either Ruemmler, Obama, or both. The news media has been typically inept in explaining this ethical point. If Ruemmler, on her own, decided to withhold the information to “protect” the President, she was violating her ethical duties, as well  as her duties to the President, his office, and the country. If she was following his directive in keeping him in the dark, then President Obama is guilty of the ethical misconduct of contrived ignorance, a device that is almost always accompanied by knowledge of wrongdoing and irresponsible leadership. Which was it? Continue reading

White House Mendacity on Libya

The White House says this isn't "hostilities." Right.

I detest it when Presidents and their administration play self-evident language games to assert intellectually dishonest positions, whether it is Bill Clinton’s minions claiming blow-jobs aren’t “sex with that woman,” or Dick Cheney arguing that torturing prisoners by water-boarding technically isn’t torture.  Such deceit and mendacity by the representative of the Chief Executive or the President himself vastly increases public cynicism about our government and diminishes our democracy’s most precious and endangered asset, trust.

The Obama administration, despite its leader’s stirring words in the 2008 campaign, has already shown itself capable of outrageous misrepresentations, as when it reported “jobs saved” by the stimulus package using fictional Congressional districts and counting single jobs as multiple jobs “saved.” So we shouldn’t be surprise, only nauseated, when it tells Congress, as it did this week, that U.S. participation in the Libyan uprising doesn’t fall under War Powers Resolution. Continue reading