Posts Tagged ‘Niebuhr’

The President spoke unethically, even lied, at his news conference

July 3, 2011

President Obama came out swinging at his news conference on Wednesday. Opinion is divided as to whether or not it was good tactics to attack the Republicans and to compare their sense of responsibility unfavorably to 13-year old Malia and 10-year old Sasha. In my opinion it violated a fundamental rule of political ethics, the dictum of Reinhold Niebuhr:

“The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”

But beyond the temper of the fight, there’s no question that the President crossed another, simpler, ethical line: tell the truth.

PolitiFact.com gave him a “Pants on Fire” rating for claiming his regulatory review is unprecedented, when in fact it’s a faint copy of the 1993 review that was a major part of the effort to reinvent government. (Full disclosure: I personally guided the preparation of President Clinton’s executive order and led the effort to slash 16,000 pages from the Federal Register and change the way government interacted with business.)

I think PolitiFact was unfair to the President. He certainly spoke an untruth, but it was only “pants on fire” if he knew he was speaking untruthfully. My guess is he didn’t.

However, he really deserved—and still deserves—“pants on fire” for the way he’s constantly mis-characterizing his tax proposal. For example (more…)

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Flash: Ranking Republican Peter King praises Obama administration’s handling of bombing attempts

November 1, 2010

 

Hooray for Congressman Peter King (R-NY) for his praise of the Obama administration’s handling of the attempted bombings of FedEx and UPS cargo planes last week. In contrast to recent shameful attempts by many Republicans, most prominently Rudy Giuliani, to politicize the ongoing battle with Al Qaeda, King passed up the chance to make hay on election eve over the issue.

Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, King, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, had this to say about the Administration’s actions:

“In the past…I’ve had differences with John Brennan [Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism], but let me make it clear: on this particular matter the Administration is handling it perfectly. They received actionable intelligence, they shared it with our allies, they did what had to be done, the FBI, the TSA—the TSA especially, under John Pistole. They did what they had to do. Everything was done right, they continue to do it right, I give them full credit.”

No equivocation, no hint that Republicans could have done it better, no nudge to vote Republican tomorrow. Just praise for federal workers doing their important jobs right. Reinhold Niebuhr would have applauded King’s contribution to “the temper and integrity of the political fight.

 

A Niebuhr award to George W. Bush for his silence

March 7, 2010

George W. Bush said a year ago, in his first speech after leaving the Presidency, “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him [President Obama]. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence…I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”

For this major contribution to civility in our public discourse, President Bush earns a (mythical) Reinhold Niebuhr award.*

With all the criticism—much of it unfair and quite ugly–of Bush and his administration coming from the left, and with all the criticism—much of it unfair and quite ugly–of Obama and his administration coming from the right, Bush could have made things quite worse. And he would have been forgiven, even justified, because he was only defending his record. But in spite of the provocation, Bush stuck to his conviction and gave President Obama the great gift of his silence. All Americans owe George W. Bush a debt of gratitude.

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*Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”

A Reinhold Niebuhr award for Joe Scarborough

March 4, 2010

Amidst all the scandals erupting from New York (about which, more later–stay tuned), finally a big helping of ethics cheer: Joe Scarborough earns a (mythical) Reinhold Niebuhr award* for bringing good temper and integrity into the political fight.

Thanks to Samuel Jacobs for alerting us to Scarborough’s ethics heroism in his Daily Beast blog.

Scarborough, a conservative Republican former congressman from Pensacola and now co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, blasted Glenn Beck for hate-mongering:

“We’re going to have a conservatives’ honor roll on this show… I’m talking to you, Mitt Romney, and I’m talking about anyone who wants to be president in 2012. … You need to call out this type of hatred.”

The highest level of political ethics is to call out members of one’s own party. We’re not surprised when Republicans call out Charlie Rangel, or when Democrats criticize Appalachian Trail-trekker, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. That’s no contribution to the integrity of the political fight. But when a Republican calls out fellow Republicans like Scarborough did, he deserves kudos. And when he does it on national television he deserves a Niebuhr award. Nice going Joe.

Romney declined, through a spokesman, to take up Scarborough’s challenge.

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*Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”