The beauty pageant circus that’s the current presidential race is really mindless in what it wants to focus on. The real problems that face our country are ignored while we talk about who “won” the last debate and which candidate is having a tiff with which other candidate this week.
There are lots of more useful things to talk about–perennial topics that none of the candidates want to touch.
* What is the ethical approach to the needs of the American’s who are working and have trouble paying grocery bills and rent at the same time?
* What are we willing to do to protect our environment? What does the environment need from us?
* Is it morally right that the wealthy can get the best medical care while those less fortunate don’t have the opportunities to recover from a serious illness?
* What is our responsibility towards the homeless and mentally ill? Do we have a moral imperative to respond to their suffering?
* Are we willing to sacrifice our privacy and freedoms because of fear?
The news media has appropriated the word “ethics” to mean “Did a public figure do something shady that will help me sell more advertising?” Ethics means the rules of conduct one applies to oneself. It isn’t about the other person or what the ethics committee wants to sanction. It’s about what I’m willing to do or not do in each area of my life.
Since Ben Carson is the front runner in the Republican presidential race right now, I want to imagine, based on his current behavior, how will he act as president.
Currently, there are several issues that are critical of him. I won’t list them because some will fade away, while new ones might come up. However, his reaction is consistent to anything negative: “The liberal media is out to get me!” “The media is lying about that topic!” Or any other paranoid response. (From Merriam Webster: “paranoid: having or showing an unreasonable feeling that people are trying to harm you, do not like you.”*)
This kind of defense is successful because many political conservatives have talked up the motif that the media is liberal and that it can’t be trusted at all. It has been said enough times that people believe it. This is really dangerous. If you don’t believe anything that the news media presents, then there are no resources to ask difficult questions to the people in power.
So, this gets me to President Carson. How would he behave in a controversy about some action of his administration. Since past behavior is the best predictor of future actions, I would expect him to still fall back on “The media is out to get me” & “The media is lying.”
It’s a good thing that that argument didn’t work for Nixon and Spiro Agnew. The media was asking difficult questions about their actions. The media was not saying what they wanted to hear. It seems that, if Nixon were in office now, he could just shout down the media, and he would have stayed in office.
I don’t think this is the way I want my government to work. The media’s job is to ask difficult questions, it’s not their job to “play nice” or “only talk about things the way I want them to.” Right now, it appears that if the media says something critical about a political candidate, it’s not evaluated on its merits. The current attitude is “if they say it, it must actually be false. The opposite is true.” Ben Carson says “I’m wonderful, why don’t they leave me alone so I can control what people think about me?”
There are a lot more difficult and important questions to ask than whether someone got a scholarship to a military academy. The answers to those questions are complex and cannot turn into a quick sound-bite for Fox News or CNN. No one knows beyond “trust me, I’ll only do good things, just wait, you’ll see.”