Politics – The Ethics of Misspeak – and Hillary Clinton. What is Right in a Political Campaign?

March 25, 2008

It was twelve years ago – March 1996 – when first lady Hillary Clinton made a trip to Bosnia. Now, of course, 12 years later she’s on the campaign trial.

Recently she was quoted as saying, “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

hillary-clinton.jpg

Now, her campaign said she “misspoke” when she discussed or referenced her 1996 trip to Bosnia. The comments were characterized as a “misstatement” and a “minor blip.”

According to an Associated Press story at the time, Clinton was placed under no extraordinary risks on the trip. And one of her companions, comedian Sinbad, told The Washington Post he has no recollection either of the threat or reality of gunfire.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson pointed to Clinton’s written account when asked about Clinton’s remarks of her trip. In her book, “Living History,” she described a shortened welcoming ceremony at Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find,” Clinton wrote.

“That is what she wrote in her book,” Wolfson said. “That is what she has said many, many times and on one occasion she misspoke.”

Questions:

  1. Is it possible that Senator Clinton – after so many years – has a failed memory of those events on her trip to Bosnia?
  2. Was her misstatement done to enhance her credibility as a presidential candidate on the world stage?
  3. Should a person be given the opportunity to correct a “misstatement?”
  4. Should there be concern about Clinton’s written account being contradicted by others including video footage of the event?
  5. Is this all – nothing more than political posturing – making a mountain out of a mole hill?

Bigger Question: What are the ethical ramifications of “misstatements?” Certainly there has been much said about books written as if true only later to be found out to be fiction. Is this such an event? As an ethics speaker, one thing is for sure – Every choice has a consequence. I can’t imagine the pressure that any candidate for president is under when every word will be scoured for accuracy. God bless anyone who will take on the responsibility and endure what it takes.

COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Clinton, Obama, McCain, Romney – Are There Ethics in Presidential Campaigns?

January 8, 2008

With New Hampshire behind them and other states primaries staring them squarely in the face – I wonder if the population feels that the front runners in this presidential campaign are ethical?

As I began to ponder that question, a larger more important question loomed. What is the definition of ethics or ethical behavior?

The copyrighted world wide definition of ETHICS involves two parts:

  • Doing specific things to make yourself and the world better, and
  • Avoiding doing other things so that you don’t needlessly hurt yourself, or others with bad personal judgement.

While I am sure that those who have clearly found the candidate they wish to support in this 2008 presidential election will have a strong opinion, the question is – do the front running candidates (thus far) have the ethics or ethical foundation to stay the course and make American’s proud?

All the candidates (as far as I can tell) would meet the first qualification for ethics – doing specific things to make yourself and your world better.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary Tuesday night, pulling out a stunning victory over Sen. Barack Obama in a contest that she had been forecast to lose.

“I come tonight with a very full heart and I want especially to thank New Hampshire,” she told a jubliant crowd at her campaign headquarters in Manchester. “Over the last week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.

Clinton has stated that she is an agent for change. She clearly wishes to get the message out that she desires to do something good for America.

Barack Obama speech excerpt: “We are choosing hope over fear. We’re choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

The time has come for a President who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face; who will listen to you and learn from you even when we disagree; who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know.”

Obama, likewise, has a vision and passion for where he sees America headed. Clearly the first definition of Ethics – meet.

Senator John McCain speech excerpt: “We live in momentous times. We face a global threat from enemies for whom no attack is too cruel. The world is changing in profound ways. We need to make those changes work for us and for all people who share our beliefs in free markets and free people. Our government has failed to meet some of its most basic responsibilities and the American people have lost trust i n their leaders. This election is about big things, not small ones. We can’t muddle through the next four years, bickering among ourselves, and leave to others the work that is ours to do.”

McCain – ethical – yep – as far as the first definition goes as you can see from his remarks above.

Mitt Romney comments in a speech: “My campaign is about changing Washington to strengthen America: I want to build a stronger military, a stronger economy, and stronger families. I call these the three legs of the Republican stool. These three unite the coalition of conservatives that Ronald Reagan championed – defense conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives.

“We won’t win the White House with only two out of three or one out of three. Republicans win the White House by motivating all three parts of our coalition to carry us to victory. We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.”

Well…by my account much less vision here with Romney than with the others, but it might be in appropriate to judge based on a quote from a speech.

The real issue with ethics won’t necessarily be found in the first part of the definition, that’s the easy part for most. Rather, it will be found in the second part. “Avoiding doing other things so that you don’t needlessly hurt yourself, or others with bad personal judgment.”

When the heat of the campaign arises – the real test will be who sticks to the VISION for the future of America or who gravels in the mud to sling the most dirt.

Chuck Gallagher - The Ethics Expert

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