Easy Calls
Quick Takes on Current Events

  • What’s going on here? There is a sudden plague of high-profile, rude, self-centered, unethical boors:

    Rep. Joe Wilson, who shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to Congress. He apologized to the President, but not to the institution he shamed, Congress. Do all those who applaud this disrespectful, uncivil act not comprehend that traditions and institutions have meaning, and that maintaining decorum and formal manners during the rituals of democracy are essential? I don’t want to hear how Wilson was “right” that Obama was shading the truth; it’s irrelevant to the ethical issue at hand. Wilson was wrong—as wrong as a lawyer who calls the judge a fool in open court (he goes to jail) or the baseball player who screams at the umpire that he’s blind (he gets tossed out of the game.) There is no defense for Rep. Wilson’s lack of respect for democratic institutions. He is unethical.

    Serena Williams, tennis champion, who in reaction to a line judge calling her for a foot-fault, approached the judge menacingly and shouted, "I’ll stuff this fucking racket down your fucking throat!" For that gracious little moment of pique, she forfeited the final point of the match and was fined a paltry (for her) $10,500. It took Williams more than a day to issue an apology. Her initial comments questioned why she was being called for a foot-fault in that match, when, she implied, she usually gets away with it. Serena would normally warrant a pass for a bad moment under stress, but her attitude is troubling: she labors under a delusion that she is above the rules that other players must obey. Some commentators, incredibly, argued that Serena was the victim of a YouTube culture, that in an earlier time her antics would have been barely noticed. Well, good for YouTube. Serena Williams’ nastiness and lack of sportsmanship should be exposed and condemned, not ignored. Perhaps she’ll learn.

    Kanye West, rapper and incorrigible egomaniac, who leapt onstage during the MTV Music Video Awards to hijack the acceptance speech of country singer Taylor Swift for best Female Music Video. Incredibly, West proceeded to tell the audience that Beyonce Knowles, not Swift, deserved the award. West also apologized later, but he is a serial boor: he has done this sort of thing before. Later, the equally undisciplined pseudo-comic Russell Brand, who hosted the show, resorted to the pathetic “he didn’t kill anyone” rationalization to excuse West, but this, like Wilson’s breach of decorum, is an easy call. West can’t be trusted to behave like a civilized adult. He should be banned from the show.

    Finally, there is Michael Jordan, who used his acceptance speech at the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame to settle scores with every coach, executive or player who didn’t bow down and worship his greatness. It was a petty, mean-spirited display of ego, arrogance and insecurity at a moment when tradition and common sense dictate that humility and graciousness should reign. Again, Jordan’s bad conduct had defenders. Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon argued that the speech typified Jordan’s competitive fire. One wonders if he would make the same argument for Joe Wilson. For not being able to control one’s passions is a failure of civility and responsibility, and those who want to minimize the significance of this social deficit, like the clueless defenders of Wilson, Williams, West and Jordan, are choosing chaos over civilization.
  • Here is the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, displaying her concept of fair and ethical conduct in an interview on Bloomberg News: "I don’t like using words like ‘villains,’ but people call me a villain all the time, so I figure it’s probably okay to use it back." This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has observed the conduct through the years of Pelosi, or for that matter most of those we call our elected leaders in Washington. But it is still an expression of what The Blog of the Weekly Standard accurately calls, “the moral reasoning of a 5-year-old.” And the really sad part is that most Americans probably see nothing wrong with that reasoning. [08/09/2009]
  • A relatively unknown college kid engineered a smashing two-handed dunk over Cleveland’s NBA superstar LeBron James at the latter’s very own summer basketball camp. That’s cool…this is what the camp is for: giving aspiring players a chance to learn from and test themselves against the best. But James was caught napping, and apparently was embarrassed. So his staff and representatives of Nike confiscated a video of the event, on the theory that it would diminish his reputation as the best basketball player on earth, hurting his commercial value. What childish, dishonest, cowardly nonsense! The tale of the dunk has been sports media fodder for days; not only is the “destroy the evidence” approach unfair to the public, the media and the kid, it is also pointless. Naturally, a copy of the tape has leaked out. Ethics tip for LeBron: it’s unethical to try to obliterate the past, and also futile. Remember the “Terminator” movies. [08/09/2009]
  • Too bad the senators couldn’t ask Judge Sotomayor about this one. According to various celebrity news sources (because this is even too stupid for the AP), the square-jawed actor who played James Bond only once, living trivia answer George Lazenby, is suing his more famous, more successful ex-wife, former tennis star Pam Shriver, to have their pre-nup cancelled and to require her to pay him $16,133 a month in spousal support. His reason? His house is so much smaller than hers, and she is so much richer, that his children look on him with distain and he is embarrassed. True, he’s a millionaire too, but wealth is relative, you know, and Shriver (a member of the Kennedy clan) is reportedly 30X better off. This ridiculous suit isn’t even a cry for help; it’s a cry that says, “I’m so completely warped by the values of U.S. celebrity culture that I no longer understand what the word “fairness” means.”

  • Marion Barry, ex-D.C. “Mayor for Life,” ex-prison inmate, current City Council Member, tax scofflaw, and general embarrassment to the national Capital, except for the loyal voters in his ethically-creative ward, was arrested yet again. This time, it was for stalking his erstwhile girlfriend, who, it comes out, had been given a taxpayer-funded job by Barry as part of his courtship. As reported by The Washington Post, Barry hired Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt as a consultant in "poverty reduction strategies" (Whose poverty? Why hers, natch!) two months after the start of his relationship with her. "She met the criteria for the job and the qualifications for the job," Mr. Barry’s spokeswoman said in defense of the move. She also said that the object of Barry’s lust and affection was in dire financial straits, as if bailing out friends and lovers was a legitimate use of public funds. Of course all of this is unethical; Barry’s entire political and public career has proved that the only laws or principles he respects are the ones that benefit him at the moment. The fascinating thing is that he remains one of D.C.’s “leaders,” after all these years, proving that the city still doesn’t really put honesty, integrity or fairness very high on its priority list.[7/13/2009]
  • There can be few defenders of Levi Johnson, the ex-fiancé of Bristol Palin, whose multiple goals in life now appear to be 1) cashing in on the celebrity and/or infamy he achieved by being the unwed father of Palin’s oldest daughter’s baby; 2) attacking the family that at one time was willing to accept him as one of their own, despite his role in embarrassing the Governor of Alaska, his mother-in-law to be, at a rather critical point in her career, and 3) delivering as many unflattering and critical anecdotes and opinions about the former Governor as his eager interviewers will sit still for. Someone should tell him that America already knows he is irresponsible and feckless (the little matters of the baby, getting his state’s chief executive’s daughter pregnant…), and from his very first televised interview, neither articulate, well-educated, discrete, nor especially quick on the uptake. With each new shot he takes at Sarah Palin, Johnson also reveals himself as petty, nasty, vindictive, and mean. If he can’t understand that shutting up and keeping his opinions to himself is the right thing to do, maybe someone can explain to him that it is the smart thing to do. At worst he’s only an annoyance to Palin, and there are too many smarter, more credible critics of the ex-Governor for there to be any market for a callow, semi-literate ingrate. Levi Johnson didn’t ask to be thrust into the national spotlight, it’s true, but he should have the sense to realize that it isn’t flattering, and his best course now is to leave it. [7/13/2009]
  • It’s easy to make fun of the excesses PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and the group’s recent reprimand of Pres. Obama for killing a fly seems typically over the top. But human beings are the most powerful creatures on earth, and do have a tendency to exercise that power reflexively to destroy whatever weaker, non-human annoyance gets in our way. If all PETA’s admonition does is make us think a second longer before taking life, whether the life belongs to a deer, a fish, a pig, a mouse, a humble fly, or perhaps a human embryo, that’s a second well used. [6/26/2009]

  • In an essay, on the Politico website ,about conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, Time political commentator Joe Klein (the author of the popular Clinton roman a clef, “Primary Colors”), is quoted as discounting Krauthammer’s analysis by referring to his wheelchair-bound status as a paraplegic, saying, “His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about.” Ethics foul, and a particularly foul one. Attempting to marginalize an adversary by using his or her age, gender, race, religion or physical characteristics as a measure of ability is not only offensive, it is an insidious, dirty tactic. Nobody accused Franklin Roosevelt of having limited perspective because of his handicap. Scientist Stephen Hawking, virtually a prisoner of his own body due to the ravages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has managed to unlock the mysteries of the cosmos with his mind alone. Klein, a supposed liberal, is proclaiming analytical superiority to Krauthammer because of Krauthammer’s physical handicap. If a conservative made a comment like this, he would be pilloried, and rightly so. Klein’s below-the-belt assault shows that his own handicaps are intellectual and ethical.[6/26/2009]

  • The Scoreboard has covered this issue before. Switching parties mid-term is the unmistakable act of an opportunist and a fraud, and Sen. Arlen Specter’s convenient transformation, just as polls showed him unlikely to prevail in the approaching Pennsylvania Republican Primary for renomination, is a classic. His party spent its funds to elect him, the voters who cast ballots for him were over-whelmingly Republican, and he solicited campaign funds from citizens and organization that thought they were giving to a Republican. If Specter really believes his party has changed so dramatically since his election in 2004 (it hasn’t) that he can’t fulfill his obligations to those who elected him and funded his campaign, his honorable course would be to change his affiliation and resign. This is how former Texas Senator Phil Gramm switched parties when he was a Congressman: he announced that he was becoming a Republican, resigned his seat, and then ran for it again under his new banner. (He won.) But despite what his self-serving announcement claimed, Specter didn’t switch out of principle. He chose the cynical route of selling his allegiance to the Senate Democrats, who are seeking a filibuster-proof majority (oddly, no politician ever switches “on principle” from a majority party to a minority one), in hopes of keeping his job. This, despite recently denying the possibility of such a maneuver because he said he believed it was important to have checks and balances on the majority party in the Senate. Specter has demonstrated that he can’t be trusted. The Democrats better watch their backs. [05/04/2009]

  • Norm Coleman’s refusal to concede defeat in his Senate campaign at the hands of comedian/ liberal gadfly Al Franken is now squarely in the category of selfish irresponsibility. His determination to challenge the results of the official state recount, which turned an apparent super-narrow Coleman win into an equally slim (less than 800 votes) Franken victory is robbing his state of representation in the U.S. senate during a critical time, and is setting new standards in gracelessness and civic recklessness. Any statistician…indeed, any one who lived through the excruciating Florida recount that gave George Bush the presidency in 2000…could tell Coleman that when there is such a small margin among millions of votes cast, arriving at the "right" vote totals is virtually impossible. It is a statistical tie, and one candidate, the one unlucky enough to be at the short end of the official count, has a duty to concede, shake hands, and respect the democratic process. This is what Richard Nixon did in 1960, when many were urging him to challenge the razor-thin margins in Texas and Illinois that made Jack Kennedy president. And it is what Al Gore refused to do in 2000, creating bitterness that handicapped the Bush administration for a full eight years. Coleman has one final opportunity to do the right thing. It doesn’t look like he will take it, and Minnesota voters should remember that if he ever seeks office in the state again. [4/14/09]
  • There’s not much enlightening to say about David G. Friehling, Bernard Madoff’s complicit accountant who, it appears, not only falsely certified Madoff’s financial scam as on the up-and-up, but who also reaped large profits from the scheme. But it is a good time to reiterate that the clients of accountants are not the businesses or individuals who pay their salaries and fees, but you and I, the public. The duty of accountants is to tell the public the truth, and because they are often hired by exactly the people who might benefit from hiding, misrepresenting, or otherwise distorting the truth, accountants must be individuals with courage, integrity, and professional pride. An accountant with none of these qualities is may become the equivalent of a fireman who assists an arsonist, or a police officer who drives a robber’s getaway car. Without the help of accountants like David Friehling, swindlers like Bernie Madoff couldn’t exist. [03/28/09]

  • Here’s the easiest of Easy Calls, but judging from the comments about the story on the web, even easy ethical calls are too hard for many. Not one but two Bountiful Junior High School teachers in Bountiful, Utah (no jokes, please) have been accused of having sexual relations with the same male 13-year-old student, after their separate relationships with him progressed from personal conversations to sexual text messages to phone sex, and ultimately real sex. The unquestionably unethical parties: 1) the two middle-aged teachers, who violated their ethical, professional, and legal obligations to keep their relationship with this and any other student that of authority figure and child, not lover and sex object; 2.) the school, which failed its duty to screen, train and oversee the teachers entrusted with the social, moral and educational instruction of children. But among the jaw-dropping comments quoted in various newspaper articles were those of Holly Ruhr, parent of a seventh-grade girl who attends the school, who said she was “not worried” by the charges because she has been "impressed in every way" by Bountiful Junior High. "This is just a case of one or two teachers. Not a bad school." Uh, Holly? By definition, a school that employs two teachers who sexually assault a student is doing a bad job. And how do you know it’s only two teachers? Clearly, the ethical culture at Bountiful (I said no jokes!) is seriously deficient. It isn’t as if these two women were running their own sex ring—neither knew of the other’s illicit relationship. How can any responsible parents continue to allow their children to go to a school with this abysmal record? Still, the web is filled with commenters who blame the student (Outrageous. If an adult teacher can’t resist the flirtatious overtures of any 13-year old, even one with the sexual charisma of Elvis, the looks of Brad Pitt and the moves of Casanova, she is in the wrong profession), think the student was “lucky” ( such an opinion marks an individual as ethically and logically hopeless, as well as someone who should have a restraining order against him or her to make certain a teenager never gets within 50 yards), or thinks everything depends on “how mature” the boy was. (The previous comment applies.) There have been enough of these teacher-student sexual liaisons in recent years that every school has a duty to treat every teacher as a potential statutory rapist, requiring training, policies, background checks and regular oversight. One Mary Kay LaTourneau may slip through. But a school that has two is doing something very wrong. [3/27/08]

  • TMZ, the gossip, spying, snark and embarrassing photo website, probably couldn’t spell ethics, much less operate with them. But a new low may have been established with an item on pop star Jewel, who is a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Announcing that Jewel was “cheating” by using steroids to help her in the competition, the site said sternly, “It is unknown what ABC’s policy is on performance-enhancing drugs in reality dance competition.” This was accompanied by a poll asking TMZ readers if using steroids to succeed in the dance competition was cheating. But Jewel isn’t using “performance-enhancing drugs.” She’s getting cortisone shots for arthritis in her knee. Later, TMZ acknowledged this, saying that the item was “tongue-in-cheek.” No, the item was misleading and false, and anytime a celebrity is reported to be using a substance to look better, lose weight or dance well, lots of celebrity-worshipping kids—exactly the people who read this vile site—are sure to follow. So TMZ falsely accuses a woman of using illegal drugs, and glamorizes dangerous conduct in the process. You would think TMZ could find plenty of celebrities who are using illegal drugs without having to falsely accuse one who isn’t. Slow news day, I guess. [03/04/09]
  • Donald Fehr, the head of baseball’s player union, has set some kind of record for intellectual dishonesty. The current furor over steroids was caused by the release of Alex Rodriquez’s name as one of 104 players who tested positive for banned steroids in a voluntary test run by the union in 2003. (The supposedly confidential results were seized by the Feds for their BALCO prosecution, and A-Rod’s name was leaked.) Because Rodriguez had been proclaimed the unquestionably “clean” superstar who would wipe Steroid King Barry Bonds’ soiled career home run records off the books—and had asserted as much himself in an interview with Katie Couric—many fans and writers have been saying that if a player like Rodriguez was a steroid user, all major league players are under suspicion until the remaining 103 names are released. Fehr’s “You baseball fans will swallow anything I say” comment on this: "If that’s the judgment, it seems to me that is entirely wrong. We know what happened in 2003. The number of positives we had was slightly over 5 percent. That means that slightly over 94 percent was negative." So let’s get this straight: since only 5% of the players taking the test tested positive (and remember, that’s 5% of the players who voluntarily took a test for steroids, meaning that 1) the 5% are just the incredibly dumb ones and 2) those who chose not to be tested might have refused because they were riddled with drugs), Fehr thinks it’s unreasonable to be suspicious of all players as long as 103 names remain unknown? If Fehr is in a house with 20 strangers, and knows that one of them is a serial killer, he really believes that it wouldn’t be fair, not to mention logical, to be wary of all twenty until the madman is identified? Fehr’s public statement goes a long way in explaining why much of the public does not trust lawyers, union officials, or Major League Baseball. [03/04/09]
  • I know The Scoreboard has mentioned this before. I know it isn’t on the same unethical plane of outrage as Bernard Madoff or the couplet mother. But I am going to keep pointing it out until it stops: the way the American Idol judges, obviously under instructions from the producers, gleefully torture the desperate, and in some cases, emotionally unstable contestants is unconscionable, and if the contestants hadn’t implicitly waived their legal rights, their conduct would make for a good law suit for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here are the hopeful singers, exhausted, anxious, wondering whether they will be given a shot at stardom, fame and a lucrative career, herded into a room and made to wait hours while the cameras record their every twitch. Then finally, the three American Idol judges, minus Simon Cowell, walk in with sad faces to deliver the verdict. (Cowell annually misses this part. Does he refuse to participate because it would involve him in the human equivalent of pulling the wings off of flies? If so, he is more ethically sensitive than he gets credit for.) They ( Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Kara DioGuardi) make a series of excuses and apologies for the fact that “everyone can’t win,” pronounce their empathy for the young competitors who “worked their hearts out” but sometimes “it just wasn’t good, dawg”), and generally make sounds and faces as if the people in the room are about to be gassed. While they are doing this, their victims are burying their heads in their hands, sobbing, shaking, and generally falling to pieces. Right about the time some members of the group look like they are about to begin vomiting, the judges’ frown turn to expressions of joy and one of them shouts, “You made it!” This isn’t funny, entertaining or suspenseful. It is just plain cruel: disrespectful to the human dignity of the contestants, unfair, and an abuse of power. [02/15/09]

  • Rush Limbaugh, as is often the case, leads the way, but he has much company in the conservative talk show ranks, from Sean Hannity to Right Wing performance artist Ann Coulter. The message: Barack Obama is a fraud, and they’re going to cheer when he proves them right by falling on his face. Well, shame on them, and any member of the public that agrees with or encourages them. The President of the United States represents and leads the entire country. Though recent presidents have often forgotten the fact, the presidency is not primarily a partisan position. All Americans owe whomever occupies the office, Republican or Democrat, their respect, allegiance, support and good will until they have demonstrated, in office, that he or she is unworthy of it. To do otherwise is not merely bad citizenship, but also self-destructive. Limbaugh, et al. will argue that they are only treating the Democratic president the way the Democrats treated Bush. And it is true that some vocal Democrats, for example, wanted the Iraq War to fail, were disappointed when the “surge” actually worked, and take glee in the Bush Administration’s travails on other fronts. To quote one of the best known (and most correct) ethical axioms of all, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The Democrats who behaved this way were being bad citizens, and Republicans who emulate them are just as bad. (The Scoreboard gives conservatives ethics brownie points for not fleeing the country when their candidate did not prevail, as too many feckless liberals did in 2004.) Any American who does not want President Obama to succeed is, quite simply, a bad American. And an appallingly stupid one, too. [01/24/09]

  • Daniel Lawrence Whitney is a Nebraska-born comic who has become rich and famous as “Larry the Cable Guy,” a Southern red-neck character with a thick Dixie accent catch phrases like “Get ‘er done!” The celebrity-stalking website TMZ recently crowed about catching Whitney on tape talking on his cell phone like the Nebraska boy he really is. This, to TMZ, was a scoop: “Larry the Cable Guy” was a fraud! His accent was a fake! Note to TMZ from the Ethics Scoreboard: acting is not the same as lying. Harpo Marx really could speak very well; Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe were not dumb (or blonde!). John Wayne’s accent was made up too. There is nothing unethical or dishonest about creating a character for entertainment purposes. [01/09/2008]
  • When a politician says, "I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing," as Illinois Governor Blagojevich did at his first press conference since his arrest on corruption charges, you know that he has to go. The statement means, in essence, “I may be dishonest, I may be corrupt, but I can beat this rap!” Well, it doesn’t matter whether he can avoid conviction in a court of law or not. The public doesn’t trust him, as is only rational considering that he was recorded on tape discussing how he would sell the appointment to Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. If he can’t be trusted, then he can’t hold a public office, a public trust. The Governor has an obligation to resign, immediately. Not doing so only compounds his misconduct and further sullies what is left of his reputation. The fact that his venal scheme was discovered before he could finish it may well keep him out of jail, because he may not have completed a crime. But on the tapes Blagojevich demonstrated, unless he was engaged in some kind of bizarre performance art, that he is a dirty politician with an integrity vacuum. That’s all the public needs to know.[12/21/2008]
  • The now infamous fatal shopper stampede at a Long Island Walmart should be the easiest of calls ethically. Risking human life and the property of others in pursuit of bargain merchandise cannot be excused or justified, though some misguided commentators wee willing to try. This, some said, showed the desperation of ordinary citizens in difficult financial times. No. The Walmart tragedy shows how people whose priorities and values are badly aligned to begin with can degenerate into a cruel, insensitive, self-centered mob. Nobody should be so “desperate” for a flat-screened TV or an X-Box game system that they cause a death, injury, pain or even insult to another human being. Those who do can’t blame the economy. They should blame their malfunctioning ethical compass. [12/9/2008]
  • It isn’t only Democrats who refuse to honorably and respectfully accept the results of presidential elections. From the Republican camp comes attorney Philip Berg, who is pushing the urban legend that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and thus isn’t eligible for the office we (yes, WE, you sore losers out there) just elected him to. He’s filing briefs, petitioning the Supreme Court, and getting poor soon-to-be-Colmesless Sean Hannity all excited. This is a marshmallow sundae for the worst of the nutty right, and the blogs and talk shows are buzzing, humming and drooling. But representing a legitimate election as some kind of fraud because you wish another candidate had won is unethical indeed: dishonest, unfair, and bad citizenship, plain and simple. Most conservatives with brains and consciences have rejected Berg and his followers, and that is the right thing to do. Stop trying to undermine our new president before he even takes office. It is bad for everyone, as the refusal of diehard Democrats to concede that Bush won the 2000 election legitimately proved over the last 8 years. [11/30/2008]
  • Poetic justice isn’t the same thing as fairness. Yes, the supporters of Barack Obama certainly have been quick on the trigger to manufacture accusations of racism against campaign opponents when they were engaging in nothing of the kind (example: Geraldine Ferraro). And yes, the Obama campaign has not been above making excessive political hay out of a careless campaign moment (example: John McCain’s uncertainty about his homes). So there is a certain degree of satisfaction watching their candidate squirm as Republicans accuse him of sexist invective because of his "lipstick on a pig" gaffe. Nonetheless, the accusation is unfair and cynical. "Lipstick on a pig" has been used in political discourse for decades, and it would have been a diabolical play on words indeed to turn the phrase around to mock Sarah Palin following her pitbull and lipstick joke. But anyone clever enough to use the cliché in that way would be also be smart enough to realize it would backfire badly. Obama is that smart…what he obviously isn’t is experienced enough in the gender wars and campaign rhetoric to avoid handing his opposition a stick to beat him with. It would be an ethical break-though if both candidates and parties could agree to give a pass to each other on the inevitable misstatements that lie ahead, and to concentrate instead on things they really mean to say. That will happen, I suspect, when pigs, with lipstick or not, fly. [9/11/2008]
  • The most cowardly and dishonest of moral/ethics waffles, and one especially embraced by Catholic politicians who want to get credit for two diametrically opposed positions simultaneously, is the infamous Mario Cuomo/John Kerry position on abortion: “I personally believe that life begins at conception, but I have no right to impose that view on others.” For the politicians who usually attempt this blatantly dishonest dodge, the unspoken follow-up is “therefore I will aggressively support legislation and court decisions that favor a practice that I personally believe is taking a human life, a.k.a. “murder.” As the Scoreboard has stated before, this position is the mark of an unprincipled political prostitute, and ought to disqualify the coward/con artist/ hypocrite/ idiot (pick one) for any elected office whatsoever. Fine: support abortion by maintaining that a fetus isn’t a life, or support it by maintaining that it is a life, but a lesser one in a trade-off with the mother’s needs or desires, or oppose abortion by holding that an unborn child of any age is a human life with human rights. But a lawmaker saying that he personally believes a practice constitutes the taking of a life but feels he can’t impose his will on others to oppose it…how can anyone, of any political persuasion, seriously accept that? Lawmakers are ready, willing and eager to impose all sorts of other personal convictions involving taxes, property, life-styles, marriage, war, security and privacy on citizens who believe otherwise, but it’s wrong to “impose” a genuine belief about a human life? Why is that, exactly? Because the politician either doesn’t have the guts to state his true beliefs, or doesn’t have the integrity to stand by them. Oh…almost forgot to identify the latest “statesman” to proudly stand up and say that he’d never dream of stopping others from doing what he believes is not just morally wrong, but the taking of a life. It’s Senator Joe Biden. “I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment,” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.” [9/11/2008]
  • Elsewhere on the Scoreboard is a discussion of what is judged an unethical theme of the upcoming presidential campaign: that only racism or cheating can defeat Barack Obama. Those skeptical of this analysis should visit http://www.slate.com/id/2198397/, where Slate columnist Jacob Weisberg, shortly after the Scoreboard piece was written, proved our point. Yes, according to Weisberg, the only possible reason anyone would vote against Barack Obama is his skin color…and that means you and me. If appealing to white guilt doesn’t intimidate enough people to actually win the election for this completely untested and virtually uncredentialed aspiring world leader, we can expect more of Weisberg’s argument following Obama’s defeat, except that it will be more divisive, more bitter and more damaging to America. Avoiding this is almost enough by itself to make someone want to vote for Obama…which is, of course, the whole reason why we’re being warned now. The Easy Call for this tactic: wrong to the bone, and absolutely despicable.  [8/27/2008]
  • Kwami Kilpatrick has just been given jail time for leaving the country in violation of his bond, stemming from the multiple counts of perjury against him for lying about his illicit affair that cost the city of Detroit millions of dollars. He is also charged, in another matter, with assault. This habitual liar, felon and law-breaker is the mayor of Detroit, in case his name didn’t ring a bell. Why? How can an elected official and leader of a city (one with a terrible crime rate, coincidentally) continue to serve in that role, when he has violated his pledge to serve the laws and the city’s interests above all else? Can his failure to resign be justified by any ethical principle? He cannot be trusted: his perjury charges stem from lying under oath in a lawsuit claiming (accurately, the jury found) that he dismissed his city security detail when they uncovered his illicit relationship. He does not respect the law: he willfully left the country in defiance of a court bail order, citing his official duties. But that’s the point: a man battling felony charges can’t do his official duties, and shouldn’t be allowed to try. Kilpatrick’s sole argument for staying in office is that he is the city’s savior (well, he also has argued that his troubles are the result of racist enemies, but that is right out of the Corrupt African-American Elected Official Playbook, co-authored by Marion Barry, William Jefferson and Mel Reynolds), which explains a lot: the man is so convinced of his superiority and infallibility that he makes John Edwards look like a realist. If Kilpatrick had an ethical impulse still twitching in his ego-swollen body, and cared about the welfare of the city’s residents one-tenth as much as he admires himself, he would have resigned months ago. Detroit doesn’t need a self-proclaimed savior as much as it needs a mayor who respects the law, who knows the difference between right and wrong , and who regards the values of accountability and integrity as more important than power. [8/16/2008]
  • So why did the Associated Press feel that a man being arrested for openly stealing money from a charity was newsworthy? Not because of how much was stolen, but because of how little: just forty-two cents. The subtext of the AP story was clearly that the arrest was an oddball example of law enforcement gone wild. 43-year-old Laslo Mujzer was arrested for taking change out a public fountain in Naples, Florida. A sign at the fountain said that all coins would be donated to Habitat for Humanity. Well, the AP is wrong. Theft is theft. Property is property. Forty-two cents is still something of worth, and the mindset that little ethical and legal violations don’t count is a lifetime pass to the dreaded Slippery Slope. The ethical violation isn’t dependent on how much one steals, but that one steals at all. Punishment is another matter: a night in jail for stealing $ 0.42 is tough punishment, but you can’t usually fine someone who is stealing spare change, and the Paris Hilton/Nicole Ritchie/Lindsay Lohan twenty minute jail sentences are a joke. If society doesn’t treat stealing small amounts as a crime, then it is saying that it will be tolerated—and that’s perilously close to saying that it’s acceptable. It isn’t, and good for the Naples police for making sure everyone knows it. [7/27/2008]
  • A cartoon cover of The New Yorker, titled "The Politics of Fear" (drawn by Barry Blitt) depicts Barack Obama wearing traditional Muslim garb, including robe and turban, and his wife, Michelle dressed in camouflage and combat boots with an assault rifle strapped over her shoulder. They are standing in the Oval Office, doing a tapping fists as an American flag burns merrily in the fireplace. A portrait of Osama bin Laden hangs over the mantle. Unfair? It is obviously a tongue in cheek image: anyone who takes it seriously is the kind of person the cartoon is really lampooning. Tasteless?  It depends on your taste in satire. Presumable the Northeast sophisticates who appreciate The New Yorker will get it; at least the magazine’s editors think so. Offensive? Well, sure: satire has to offend somebody. But was it wrong to print it? Absolutely, 100% not! The now-indignant protectors of Barack Obama doubtlessly chuckled at portrayals of George W. Bush as a drooling moron on “Saturday Night Live,” reveled in absurd caricatures of Hillary Clinton as a power-mad, compulsive liar, enjoyed exaggerations of Dick Cheney as a gun-crazed loony, and even received guilty pleasure from cartoons and satiric representations of Bill Clinton as a hyper-sexed, hillbilly glutton. For them now to declare that a cartoon ridiculing the smears of right-wing talk radio against Obama crosses some ethical line scales the heights of hypocrisy. It also makes one dread that these same people will try to use Obama’s race to shield him from the routine and traditional ravages of cartoonists, satirists, impressionists and political opponents, using the bizarre argument that it is somehow acceptable to present the President of the United States as a blithering idiot but improper to bring down similar indignities on a mere candidate for the job. Let’s be clear: seriously asserting that Obama is a Muslim, terrorist-lover and traitor-in-disguise is simple slander, ignorant and dishonest. But for satire that lampoons him as anything from a Muslim to a moron to a marmoset, he is fair game…just like anyone else.[7/26/2008]
  • No doubt about it: T. Boone Pickens can choose integrity or an extra million dollars. And he appears—surprise!—to have chosen the latter. Last November Pickens issued the imprudent promise that he would give a cool mil to anyone who came forth with proof that any of the claims of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth in their vendetta against John Kerry were false. Later, when Sen. Kerry confronted him on the pledge, Boone narrowed it to include only those claims made by the group in the series of TV attack ads funded by Pickens during the 2004 presidential campaign. Now ten Viet Nam veterans have come forward with eye-witness testimony undermining the Swiftboaters’ charges that Kerry’s war medals were based on fraud and misrepresentation. These allegations were always the weakest, nastiest and most unfair of the group’s attacks; others, such as their assertion that Kerry’s G.I bashing while testifying before Congress and his unsubstantiated accusations of routine brutality by U.S. forces in Viet Nam harmed the troops, especially those in enemy hands, were both well-founded and thoroughly deserved. But Pickens said “any” of the claims, and the records and documentation support Kerry. Nevertheless, he refuses to pay up. The Scoreboard pronounces him ethically reprehensible, and is sure T. Boone will cry all the way to the bank… [7/6/2008]
  • At the trial of art student Kristina Caban, her attorney, James Friedman, said, “She’s a good kid, despite the picture painted of her, who exercised poor judgment and got herself into a bad situation. She is not the monster the prosecution made her out to be.” Caban was convicted of enlisting the help of two friends to taser and immobilize a former one-night-stand sex partner, and then branding his torso with the letter “R” in retribution for his not calling her afterwards. Once again, the Scoreboard must reiterate its position that certain acts, especially when they have been carefully planned and pre-meditated like this one was, demonstrate a sufficiently flawed ethical system that the adjective “good” can not reasonably be applied to the person responsible. Can we agree that using hot metal to brand and scar a human being is in this category? Yes, we can. [6/22/2008]
  • Pronouncing a mob moll like Victoria Gotti (daughter of deceased Gambino family head John Gotti and former wife of mobster Carmine Agnello) an “ethics dunce” is pointless; still, her ethics void goes deeper than most. She had accepted a $70,000 advance from Harper Row Publishing to produce a book and never bothered to write it. Then she cancelled the agreement with her publishers, without giving the money back. Her literary agent reportedly says that Gotti will pay back the money when she finds another publishing deal. Analogy: you are paid $500 up front to paint a house, and then decide you don’t want to do the work. You tell the former customer that you’ll return the money when you get another job. Uhhhh, no. Ms. Gotti’s father would have taught her that people who tried that game with him would end up on a meat hook…an over-reaction, no doubt, but one that represents a correct verdict on the conduct as unethical. Keep your promises, Victoria. And don’t accept money for work you’re not going to do. That leaves only one question: why would any rational company trust someone like Victoria Gotti with a cash advance? [6/9/2008]
  • The efforts of Minnesota Republicans to discredit Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful (and former satirist in print, on TV, and on the airwaves) Al Franken echoes the despicable attempt of former Virginia Senator George Allen to discredit his ultimately-victorious opponent Jim Webb, using steamy sex scenes from Webb’s justly acclaimed novels. Republicans would have screamed to high heaven in 1980 if President Jimmy Carter’s campaign had used film clips of Ronald Reagan playing a vicious villain and slapping Angie Dickenson around in "The Killers," and justifiably so. Well, the GOP’s trumpeting the fact that Franken wrote a sexually-provocative humor piece for Playboy eight years ago is equally unfair, and also 100% irrelevant to what kind of senator Franken would make. His obviously satirical story tells us nothing of his character or policy inclinations. All it tells us is that, like 97% of all males who went to college in the late 1960s, Franken does not regard Playboy as the personification of evil or sex as a moral stain on mankind, and that like 99.9% of all humorists having to make a living, he would write what a particular magazine’s readers were likely to read in order to sell an article. It is understandable that Franken would see no stigma in writing for Playboy, since while he was reading the magazine as a Harvard student, it published essays and stories by the likes of Truman Capote, Lawrence Durrell, James T. Farrell, Allen Ginsberg, Le Roi Jones, Norman Thomas, Arthur Miller, Norman Podhoretz, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Georges Simenon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, William Styron, Marshall McLuhan, Eric Hoffer, and John Updike, as well as humorous pieces by Jean Shepherd (of "A Christmas Story" fame), Robert Morley, and P.G. Wodehouse. When Republicans do things like this, they insult voters by assuming that they are narrow-minded and illiterate, celebrate humorlessness, and willfully blur the difference between entertainment and public policy. It was an ethical outrage when Allen tried this tactic on Webb, and he deserved to lose for doing it. If Franken’s opponent, Republican Norm Coleman, permits the same ridiculous attacks to be used on him, it will tell voters far more about his character than any silly article in Playboy tells us about Al Franken. [Full disclosure: I went to the same college as Franken during the same years, though I never met him. Politically, stylistically and personally, I don’t especially agree with or like the guy and what he stands for. I respect and have enjoyed much of his work as an actor and writer.] [6/1/08]

  • Actress Sharon Stone’s crack that the deadly earthquake in China was "karma" places her squarely in the deplorable group also occupied by Jeremiah Wright and Pat Robertson: people whose response to catastrophes that befall those with whom they disagree is to say, "Well, they had it coming." This betrays a lack of empathy, charity, respect and kindness, not to mention common sense. This is a free country, and prominent figures are allowed to say such mean-spirited and hurtful things, just as the rest of us are entitled to make some judgements about their ethical instincts and IQ’s when they shoot off their mouths in such an offensive manner. [6/1/08]

  • Is there anything that can be said in support of Port St. Lucie, Fla. kindergarten teacher Wendy Portillo, who humiliated a disruptive special-needs five-year old by conducting a vote among his classmates as to whether he should be allowed to remain in class? That she was "frustrated," perhaps, by the difficulty of dealing with a child who had symptoms of autism? Well, would you say that being frustrated would mitigate her offense if she kicked the boy in the gut? That probably would have been less devastating, in the long run. The abused child, whose one friend in the class was reportedly pressured to declare him unfit to remain there, now is traumatized at the prospect of returning to school. And all parents may be traumatized at the prospect of entrusting their children to a profession that seems to be increasingly populated by badly-trained, unprofessional teachers who have serious, and dangerous, deficits in judgment. Perhaps it has always been thus in the public schools, with more abuse, cruelty and incompetence that we suspected. Or perhaps Portillo is an extreme and rare aberration. In either event, she has injured the reputation of her profession as well as the innocent child, and made home-schooling seem more attractive than ever. [6/1/08]

  • The Scoreboard is loathe to agree with Star Jones on anything, but… there is no conceivable excuse for anyone, no matter how desperately the public wants to know about their exciting life, exposing private secrets involving lovers and friends in an autobiography. Unless former Senator and, as we now know thanks to Barbara’s new book, former Barbara Walters adulterous paramour Ed Brooke actually gave her permission to spill the beans, it was a despicable, venal, and unethical thing to do. Just like Star Jones said. If there’s one thing Star Jones knows about, it’s unethical conduct. [5/19/2008]

  • Setting the standard for trivial scandals is undoubtedly Casserolegate, in which a list of his wife’s "family recipes" on Senator John McCain’s campaign website turned out to contain nothing but copyrighted recipes lifted from the web. The media laughed it off and McCain’s spokespeople laughed it off, saying that Cindy McCain had no idea that these recipes were listed under her seal of approval. So, in other words, the entire page was a lie: Cindy didn’t really have "family recipes" to pass on; this was just a way to pander to homemakers, entrusted to a low level staffer, and a dim-wit at that. Silly as this is, it doesn’t speak well for the campaign’s ethics or Cindy McCain’s sense of accountability. Message to McCain’s team: Don’t lie about trivial things, because it can become a habit that leads to lying about important things. Message to Cindy McCain and everyone else: If you put your name on something, you’re accountable for it. Even if it’s just a collection of phony recipes. [4/24/2008]
  • It’s a silly issue, but not as silly as you might think: Senator Obama’s flag pin. Obama made a point of not wearing the popular lapel decoration earlier in his campaign, stating that it had become "a substitute for real patriotism," which was, in his case, speaking out against the Iraq conflict. Fine: legitimate symbolism, a courageous stand, and certainly preferable to playing the "I support the troops but I don’t support what the troops are doing" double-talk favored by too many of his colleagues. But Obama’s lack of a flag pin became a lightning rod for right-wing columnists and talk-show hosts, who used it to raise questions about Obama’s patriotism and "real feelings about America," especially after his wife’s ill-considered comment about being proud of America "for the first time," and Obama’s strange twenty-year passiveness in the faces of his pastor’s racist America-bashing. So now he’s wearing a flag pin. The problem is that once you have said an action is an empty substitute for the real thing, you can’t suddenly embrace the conduct when you come under criticism without making the implicit statement that you are doing something you don’t really believe in just to quiet the storm. Taking a bold contrarian stand like "I don’t need no stinkin’ flag pin" to prove my patriotism is an assertion of integrity, courage honesty and ethical character. So what is it when one puts the pin back on as soon as the going gets a little tougher? A small compromise and a minor concession to political realities, or a telling symptom of another politician whose integrity is only as reliable as the next poll results? We shall see. [4/24/2008]
  • The Case of the Hirsute Steak: We usually associate the professional duty of trust with such professionals as accountants, lawyers and doctors, but the fact is that we put a great deal of trust in less celebrated professionals whom we deal with on a regular basis. Cooks, for example. Ryan Kropp, a cook at a Texas Roadhouse, got annoyed at a patron who complained that his steak was over-done, and stuffed his own hair into the new steak he prepared to take its place. Yuk! He is currently facing felony charges, though that won’t make it much easier for his victim to regain trust in the culinary profession. It also demonstrates that some minimal character requirements need to be applied even when the job isn’t as high-paying and consequential as lawyer or doctor. Kropp had been arrested before, though not for stuffing steak with hair, A Code of Ethics for short-order cooks? It might be time. [4/13/2008]

  • Sometimes the law becomes necessary to enforce ethical habits. Actor Nicholas Cage (most recently starring in the "National Treasure" movies and the "Ghost Rider" lark: Cage has settled into his "What the hell, it’s a paycheck!" stage…) just successfully sued Kathleen Turner (a once-terrific actress just trying to stay solvent and famous) for claiming in her memoir, "Send Yourself Roses," that Cage had twice been arrested for drunken driving and had stolen a dog. It should be obvious, but apparently not: spicing up your published recollections with made up stuff is bad enough, but making up stories that impugn a colleague’s character and conduct is a major ethics violation that involves not merely breaking the Golden Rule but complete ignorance of it. Even if Turner erroneously believed what she wrote, she had an obligation to check her facts before labeling Cage a dog-stealer and a drunk driver. Turner, like just about every other movie star, has complained about vicious lies and rumors printed in the tabloids; how can she justify doing the same to Cage? Well, she couldn’t. Turner admitted there was no truth in the stories, Cage is getting unspecified damages (which he will forward to charity) and the book will be corrected. And just maybe an ethical lesson will be learned. [4/13/2008]

  • The problem with single-minded zealots is that they can lose the ability to empathize with others who do not share their passions, and do needless harm to those who are completely irrelevant to their objectives. And so it was that a hoard of pro-life protestors disrupted the Hollywood premiere of “Horton Hears a Who!” Some genius figured out that the movie’s core message of “A person’s a person, no matter how small” (courtesy of Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) could be applied to the anti-abortion cause. That’s swell, but the children who were looking forward to seeing an uninterrupted performance of a kids movie don’t have a dog in this hunt, and shouldn’t have been made the victims of a protest that was ill-timed, unfair, irresponsible and pointlessly obnoxious. A protest has to be able to justify the harm it does to bystanders with sufficiently significant and positive results, and this one didn’t, except perhaps to spawn a new slogan, “An inconsiderate jerk’s a jerk, no matter how well-intentioned.”[4/13/2008]
  • Big story, huge implications, but ethically, a very Easy Call. The Los Angeles Times, which has been running through editors like Kleenex tissues as it tries to cut expenses at the apparent cost of competence and credibility, ran a sensational story about the death of rapper Tupak Shakur that was based on fake documents. Once again it was the website "The Smoking Gun" that set the record straight: the documents appear to have been the work of an imprisoned con-man with a lifetime habit of fraud and audacious lying. Newspapers are supposed to check and double check such things, but like weekly news magazines and TV network news shows, they are media dinosaurs trying to do anything to avoid extinction. So they cut corners, eliminate jobs and checkpoints, and what is the result? "60 Minutes" attacks a President based on a forged document that was never authenticated. The New York Times runs a barely-sourced front-page sex-scandal story about what some of John McCain’s aides "were worried about." The New Republic publishes stories of callous conduct by American soldiers in Iraq by an anonymous "diarist," who turns out to be 1) the husband of a staffer and 2) making things up. These and other embarrassments by the mainstream media shows what happens when a powerful non-ethical considerations like staying competitive in a changing business cause an organization to put professional ethics on the back-burner. Once it is there, other non-ethical and even unethical influences like political biases, ambition and cultural prejudice can run amuck. The lesson of this dismaying series of mainstream media betrayals of the public trust is this: there are no newspapers, network news shows, or periodicals that are any more trustworthy than the internet sources that drove them all to desperation. There are undoubtedly some of them that have maintained high ethical standards, but we cannot know what they are, and worse, we cannot assume that they won’t abandon those standards tomorrow. [3/27/2008]

  • Here is what Bill Clinton, speaking to a group of veterans in Charlotte, N.C. on behalf of his wife’s candidacy, said: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics." Now, some supporters of Sen. Barack Obama are accusing the former president and charter member of the Ethics Scoreboard “Liar of the Month” Hall of Fame of insinuating, ever so cleverly and deceitfully, that his wife’s opponent isn’t a person who loves and is devoted to the interest of this country. “Horrors!! Bill Clinton suggest something like that? How can anyone think such a thing?” has been the response of Team Clinton. This Easy Call is too easy: of course that’s what Clinton was insinuating, and yes, it is unfair, dishonest and unethical. It is classic deceit: there is nothing wrong with the sentiment or the words, for everyone thinks that would “be a great thing.” But since the comment was made in the context of arguing that his wife is the better candidate to face unquestioned patriot John McCain, there is only one possible interpretation of Clinton’s intent, which was to make those in doubt think, “Hmmmm…what do I really know about that guy who was born a Muslim and whose middle name is Hussein? And didn’t I read somewhere that his mentor and advisor said, ‘God damn America’?” Nobody knows how to make words tap-dance better than Mr. “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Fortunately, people are finally beginning to recognize his handiwork for what it is. [3/26/2008]
  • It is all but certain that neither Michigan nor Florida will give its Democrats a "do-over" so that delegates from those states can be chosen in a fair primary. Now there is only one ethical answer to the burning question of whether Hillary Clinton’s victories in the two rogue primaries that were held against the rules of the Democratic National Committee should provide her with the additional delegates from those states she so desperately needs: no. The candidates did not campaign in those states and she alone allowed her name to appear on the ballot in Michigan. The fact that thousands of people voted? Irrelevant. The fact that they are major states with a major stake in a battle for the Democratic nomination that is, as Dan Rather liked to say, "as tight as a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach" ? Beside the point. The Democratic Party declared that those primaries wouldn’t count before they took place. All the candidates knew it, and pledged to abide by the ruling. Senator Clinton’s advocates, well-trained in "ends justify the means" theology, have been floating all manner of arguments to try to validate the voting results retroactively. That’s called changing the rules after the game has been played, a.k.a. "cheating." The Party has endorsed this tactic before, notably when it tried to change the definition of what counted as a valid ballot in Florida back in 2000, so it can’t get too high up on its horse. But giving Mrs. Clinton delegates that Senator Obama did not compete for is still unfair and wrong. [3/21/2008]
  • In the wake of Eliot Spitzer’s resignation as governor of New York, there has been the predictable flurry of published opinions that prostitution, as a "victimless crime," should not be a crime at all. It is an irresponsible and willfully ignorant position. Victimless? Look at video footage of the stricken face of Spitzer’s wife as she heard her husband admit his prostitution habit. Check the horrendous public health record of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases acquired or spread through the practice of prostitution. Listen to interviews of the desperate, abused women in "the life," and hear how it traps runaways, the poor and the abandoned in an existence based upon exploitation and degradation by men with money and power. Prostitution has wrecked lives and families for centuries, and making it legal would not stop that one bit. Legalization would, however, make a societal statement that it is okay…a statement that usually leads to more of the conduct involved. Well, nothing about prostitution and its effects are "okay." The fact that laws have not eliminated it does not mean that we should eliminate the laws. And calling a crime "victimless" that harms so many is indistinguishable from a lie. [3/17/2008]
  • The Scoreboard is going to be moderate in its praise of Sen. John McCain’s habitual ethical decency, lest he show up too regularly in the Ethics Hero category and threaten the Scoreboard’s claim to non-partisanship. But it’s an Easy Call to praise McCain for repudiating the remarks of Ohio talk-show fire-breather Bill Cunningham, an uncivil, shrill and mean-spirited man even by the abysmal standards of conservative talk radio, who warmed up McCain’s crowd in Cincinnati with anti-Obama vitriol, including the slimy tactic, lately a favorite of the Angry Right, of calling the Illinois Senator by his unfortunate middle name, Hussein. Yes slimy, because the clear objective is to associate Obama, an American and a patriot, with radical Muslims in the minds of those members of the American public who are bigoted, ignorant, racist, or terrified—a very large group, unfortunately. Cunningham has disingenuously protested that there can be nothing wrong with calling someone by his legal name, but he knows what he is doing, and McCain wasn’t about to buy into his juvenile tricks. So after his campaign rally, Senator McCain immediately gave a press conference in which he said: “It’s my understanding that before I came in here a person who was on the program before I spoke made some disparaging remarks about my two colleagues in the Senate, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them ‘Senator.’ We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans…Whatever suggestion that was made that was any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton was wrong. I condemn it, and if I have any responsibility, I will take the responsibility, and I apologize for it.” McCain emphasized that it was not appropriate to invoke Mr. Obama’s middle name in the course of the campaign, saying, “I absolutely repudiate such comments. It will never happen again.” Cunningham was furious, and later said that he would switch his support to Hillary Clinton. I’m sure she will be thrilled. [3/2/2008]

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