Now that Donald Trump has won the election, his transition team should be able to concentrate on the job of governing. Instead, they are busy putting out brush fires in the press created by the actions of their friends.
First, Mr Putin has made it clear that he likes Donald and cannot abide Hillary. Given his position as the head of the Russian govenment, the best way he could have helped Donald Trump would have been to do nothing. Apparently, inaction is not one of Mr Putin’s long suites. Disregarding the political impact of his actions, he scooped up some emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta from Hillary’s headquarters. The USA and Russia have been fighting each other in electronic warfare for over fifty years so the fact of Russian agents hacking the DNC and Hillary is hardly news. Hillary’s cavalier attitude toward security which she demonstrated at the State department made her headquarters an easy target. The DNC has been a target since at least the Nixon days.
What Mr. Putin did not seem to understand is the consequences of his openly dumping the hacked files on Wikileaks which is the next thing to posting them on CNN. Folks in this country take a dim view of Russians diving headlong into our elections. A bit more discretion would have been wise. Mr. Putin is as subtle as a D-9 Caterpillar Bull Dozer. He runs the show in his country so has no need to pussyfoot around. Donald did not need, nor did he ask for his help. All the hacked emails did was confirm what was becoming more obvious with each passing day. The Hillary gang were totally out of touch with the level of discontent in the American middle class. With friends like Putin, Donald does not need enemies.
Meanwhile, up on Capital Hill, the gong show that passes for the US House of Representatives was busy. I think it was Daniel Webster who said, “No man’s fortune is safe while Congress is in session.” Congress does not have to be in session to trash Donald. All they need is a mike and a reporter. For reasons known only to themselves, a few Congressmen decided to get a head start on the new Congressional session by perfectly executing a moonshot with maximum visibility. They decided that two committees focusing on Ethics was at least one too many. There are much better ways to call attention to oneself than abolishing a committee on Ethics. This leads the curious, including the press, to wonder why you are on the other side. Committees on Ethics, no matter how inefficient are perceived as being on the side of good. One does not want to appear to be lining up on the opposing side, evil.
Damage control in Congress will be difficult. It would be a good idea if the GOP in Congress adopted the standard of Caesar’s wife. Caesar’s wife declared that she needed to avoid even a hint of scandal. This will be hard to do in the modern political world where conflicts of interest appear in swarms.
When Boeing was headquartered in Seattle, one of the Senators from the State of Washington was referred to around the nation’s capitol as the gentleman from Boeing. That was perceived as appropriate assistance for an important employer in his State. At what point does the financial support from Boeing cross the line to become an unethical influence?
In their defense, the House GOP can point to the Clinton operations where some alleged that Hillary ran a pay to play State Department. Bill and Hillary amassed a fortune of many millions by more than clever investing.
In our complex modern world choosing the ethical option in each situation is not always that easy. When I was being considered for elevation to the rank of Fellow of the American College of Forensic Examiners, back in the day, the final hurdle was an examination on professional ethics. This consisted of an essay examination with each question presenting a fact situation that could arise in the course of consultation. One had to decide the ethical choice in each situation. Before the exam arrived I was certain it was going to be a Mickey Mouse exercise. Wow, was I ever wrong. I found myself sweating as I wrestled with complex fact situations. The last question was the hardest. I was asked to describe a situation from my own practice that had presented an ethical dilemma and to describe how I solved it. That was the source of the future examination questions.
When I was performing as a business professor, a call from the Economics Department Chairman was seldom good news. After one such call I slouched in a chair in the Department Chairman’s office and got off some sophisticated line like, “so, what’s up?”. I quickly learned two facts: the school dean had decreed that we would offer a Graduate Seminar the next semester in Business Ethics and that, since I had an undergraduate degree in Sociology, I had been selected to teach it.
I promptly agreed as long as it was either Tuesday or Thursday evening. As a sailboat racer I needed to keep my weekends free. As a university professor I considered Mondays and Fridays as part of the weekend. The Chairman’s response was, “What are you going to teach?” I took the easy way out. I approached business ethics as an exercise in risk management. In the business world we do not have ethics committees. We leave it to the courts, where it is possible in most states, to bring an action for what, in insurance, is known as a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In the trade these are referred to as actions in Bad Faith. In non-insurance industries these are actions for Exemplary Damage, also referred to as Punitive Damages. My advice to the students was to conduct your business affairs so that you avoid, as much as possible such actions.
As my Italian cousins would say, “You doa the right thing.” I suggest the House GOP and the Trump administration doa the right thing.
Professor Joe Launie is a Professor Emeritus of Risk Management at California State University,
Norhridge. His latest book is “The Road to the Ox Carts”, where he warns that continued abuse of the middle class by the government may lead to an insurrection.