The Ethical Take: The Truth is Out There Edition

The words and actions of this unprecedented president, and his cronies continue to chip away at our most fundamental values.

Carter Page –

After the release of a 400-page FBI document, Page, a “campaign advisor” to the Trump campaign, declared that he was not an “informal advisor” to the Kremlin.

According to the document, the FBI believed Page was “the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” The FBI also believes that Page had been “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” and had “established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers.”

Page’s obfuscation with CNN’s Jake Tapper last Sunday (July 22) was striking. When Tapper read that the FBI cited Page as an “informal advisor,” Page responded, “It’s really spin. I sat in on some meetings, but to call me an adviser I think is way over the top.”

Tapper then quoted from Page’s own letter from August 2013 in which he described himself as having “had the privilege to serve as an informal adviser to the staff of the Kremlin.”

Ethical Take: Well…at least Page didn’t blame the “Deep State.”

Rudy Giuliani –

The former New York mayor and current defender of Trump (usually on FOX) issued new terms by which Robert Mueller and his team might interview President Trump.

In a New York Times interview (July 6), Giuliani said, “ ‘If they can come to us and show us the basis, and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity.’

“The president’s lawyers,” The Times added, “want Mr. Mueller to explain how the Justice Department gave him the authority to investigate possible obstruction of justice by the president in what began as a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election meddling.”

Really, Rudy? Is that how the Department of Justice worked when you were a U.S. attorney?

E.T.: Former NY mayor goes from 9/11 hero to Trump goat. History will remember, Rudy.

“We Don’t Know What the Truth Is” –

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week regarding what Trump and Putin discussed, things did not go well.

An exchange between Senator Robert Menendez and Pompeo turned combative when the secretary of state refused to answer any questions about what was discussed. (I’ve included the entire seven-minute exchange for context, and to demonstrate how the Trump Administration stonewalls against members of a co-equal branch of government.)

E.T.: Apparently, Mr. Secretary, the American people and the Senate do not have the right to know what was discussed for more than 2 hours during a one-on-one conversation between the President of the United States and a former Russian KGB agent. Shameful.

Secretary of Ulterior Motives

Ryan Zinke is the Secretary of the Interior, except it’s getting more difficult by the week to determine just how much of the nation’s protected interior will be left after Zinke is gone.

When Zinke was a nominee, he stated: “I’m an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt.”

Really, Ryan? At your recommendation, Trump reduced the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and the 1.88-million acre Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was cut nearly in half. Twenty other public lands are also in Zinke’s sights. Not much to admire there.

But wait, that’s not all!

Mr. Zinke “has been the subject of a whopping 11 federal investigations,” The Good Men Project reports (July 26). “Among the scandals Zinke is under scrutiny for: a shady real estate deal with a Halliburton executive, possibly violating the Hatch Act, reassigning career staffers for political reasons, and… taking advantage of private flights on taxpayers’ dime. Zinke’s team is also blatantly hiding his calendar, only releasing past scheduled meetings and travel after Freedom of Information Act requests.”

The Ethical Take:  I’ve studied Teddy Roosevelt. I admire Teddy Roosevelt. Mr. Zinke, you are no Teddy Roosevelt.

Rand Paul –

How’s this for a Trump ally. After the disaster that was the summit meeting between Trump and Putin, many in Congress – on both sides – clearly denounced the president’s performance. Some Republicans sidestepped the issue with clever wording. Not Rand Paul!

Paul was the only senator or representative who fully supported President Trump’s performance in Helsinki, stating, “I think it’s a good idea to have engagement, and I guess I don’t quite understand all of the people who have gone completely deranged criticizing the president.”

E.T.: While the S.S. Trumptanic may not be taking on water yet, Paul remains a faithful first mate. “Aye, aye, Cap’n. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people on Fake News about icebergs. What you are seeing is not what’s happening.”

All Lies Matter –

“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. … When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. … Before I make a statement, I need the facts.” —President Trump, on Charlottesville, Aug. 15, 2017

How does Trump appear to get away with all the lies he tells?

“Mental health experts have been furiously assessing Trump for years,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio explained in The Boston Globe. “They generally agree that he has a personality disorder that makes him devoid of empathy and unconcerned about social norms.” (e.g. zero updates from Trump about the separated immigrant children.)

“…to understand Trump’s mind-set, all one has to do is consider his perspective on humanity. As Trump told me directly, ‘For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.’

“President Trump learned how the world works from his father, Fred, a real estate magnate who used trickery and manipulation to build an empire of apartment buildings.”

Fred “…imparted two big lessons intended to carry Donald through life. First, the rules that everyone else follows — fair play, square dealing, truthfulness — are for suckers. Second, suckers are losers, and you must never lose.”

E.T.: There’s no easy way to say it; while the mountain of lies continues to grow, Trump continues to “play” the country for suckers. How can we tell? That brings me to…

The Sad News –

According to a CBS News poll (July 17-18), while 55 percent of all those surveyed disapproved of the way Trump handled the recent summit with Vladimir Putin, 68 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll (June 14-17), 77 percent of Republicans “trust” Trump “to tell you the truth about important issues… more” than the media.

E.T.: No matter what the Mueller probe finds, no matter what reliable Republicans, like John McCain and others say, no matter the lies Trump continues to tell, 77 percent of Republicans believe Trump more than thousands of reporters, editors, and photographers. That is truly sad.

Speaking of the Media –

This video clip from a recent Fox News broadcast, in which anchor Shepard Smith defends a CNN reporter, speaks volumes about the Trump Administration’s treatment of the media.

Final Word –

While it cannot be denied that Trump supporters will continue to support this man despite his bigotry, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny and dishonesty, it also cannot be denied that Trump lives in an alternate reality, a sad place where self-interest, deceit and prejudice control his waking mind.

However, after Charlottesville, denigrating anyone and any institution that criticizes him, the cruel separation of immigrant children, insults to allies, praise for autocrats, Trump has become – to borrow a phrase from tobacco insider Jeffrey Wigand – a “delivery device” for our worst impulses; an insurgency of fear and discord against the values this country holds most sacred – equality, diversity, justice, liberty and truth.

As X-Files agents Scully and Mulder believe, the truth is out there, but ultimately, it’s up to Americans to decide if they truly trust this president to act in their best interests or his own.

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