Donald Trump

On Ethics, Trump Is No Obama

The incoming president's business entanglements are going to be a problem.

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Trump and Obama
Douliery Olivier/Sipa USA USA/Newscom

There was a time when American voters had to wonder whether Barack Obama was personally corrupt. In 2008, that was the claim of both Hillary Clinton in the primaries and John McCain in the general election campaign. They charged that he had gotten help buying a house from a crooked, wealthy developer. They depicted him as just another sleazy Chicago machine pol.

You may have forgotten all this because it was convincingly refuted and left no permanent stain on Obama. Whatever his failures in the White House, he has not been implicated in old-fashioned graft. He may make huge sums of money after he leaves office. But he didn't do it while he was there.

Contrast this picture with the spectacle of Donald Trump, whose administration promises to be a nonstop festival of ethical breaches. Previous presidents have felt compelled by law and political appearances to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Not Trump. Having amassed riches before being elected president, he sees no reason to stop now.

He has refused to disclose his tax returns or a full list of his assets, which are extensive. "At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries across South America, Asia and the Middle East," reported The Washington Post in November. His financial stake in these places gives foreign governments ways to ingratiate themselves or to put pressure on him.

Instead of looking only at what makes sense for American security and prosperity, he will have monetary incentives to consider what's good for him and his family. Putting his assets in a trust controlled by his two eldest sons, as he said last week he is doing, is wholly inadequate. He'll still be aware of what the trust owns; he'll eventually stand to profit from the deals it makes; and he intends to resume control after he leaves office. In the interim, he will have opportunities for self-dealing beyond his wildest dreams.

Trump, as The New York Times noted this week, has pursued deals in Russia for 30 years without much success. If President Vladimir Putin can accommodate the tycoon on that front, Trump might indulge Putin on Ukraine, NATO, Syria or something else. Unless he transfers his assets to an independent executor with instructions to sell them off and put the proceeds in a blind trust, everything he does will be under a cloud.

Next to all this, Obama's alleged impropriety looks comically quaint. When he and his wife bought a house in Chicago in 2005, developer Tony Rezko, a friend who had raised money for Obama, bought a lot next door from the same seller. The suspicion was that Rezko overpaid the owner so the Obamas could underpay. Later, Rezko sold them a strip of land between the houses to expand their yard—which may have been another financial favor. Rezko later served time on federal extortion charges related to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who also went to prison.

After weeks of trying to ignore the issue during the 2008 campaign, Obama finally addressed it head-on. He came to the Chicago Tribune in March and spent 90 minutes giving a detailed account of what had happened and answering every question put to him. He never evaded, never responded defensively and never showed the slightest impatience. He gave the impression of someone who wanted the whole story known, confident it would vindicate his integrity.

It did. That fall, McCain tried to use the charge against his opponent, but the air had gone out of it. After the March session, the Tribune, which had criticized Obama's handling of the matter, editorialized that he had reaffirmed its confidence in his "professional judgment and personal decency" and set "a standard for candor by which other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries now can be judged."

Trump, on the other hand, has set a standard lower than that of any president in modern times. His business ties will serve as a constant temptation to both him and those who want something from him or the U.S. government. And that's fine with him.

On his way to the White House, Obama understood his obligation not only to behave ethically but to be open with the voters. Trump has insisted on doing whatever he pleases while refusing to provide useful information about his activities.

Obama's view was that he should be careful to avoid scandal. Trump's view is that for him, there is no such thing.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Obama's Final Presidential Press Conference, Senate Committee Approves Mattis for Defense, Senegalese Troops Move Closer to Gambian Border: P.M. Links

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  1. Of course Obama had no business entanglements, you stupid asshole. He never worked a day in his life that didn’t involve sucking on the government tit.

    Way to more or less call for a permanent political class, Chapman.

    1. Obama was an amateur grifter, but Tony Rezko/Hyde Park was a good start. Obama will never work a day or participate in private sector dollar generation that is not related to his government employment and activism. It’s funny the sudden interest in the appearance of conflicts of interests when there were crickets about HRC.

      Trump will profit, people in his administration will profit, majority Republicans will profit, minority Democrats will profit, all their politically protected friends will continue to profit from being involved with government power. They all get wealthy upon going to Washington, so picking and choosing who to criticize is whimsy.

      I will gladly eat my words on Trump if he surrounds himself by people who don’t participate in the graft. Given the Washington record though, I’ll be forgiven if I don’t make a bet on it.

      1. There is a big difference between profiting from a blind trust and profiting from finding $90 k in your freezer. Trump is already a very rich man so he has no need to line his pockets. All those around him may not be as well off, so they may be tempted more. I am sure some will yield to temptation.

        Richest man ever to be President? (relative to the population)

        George Washington – he was the richest person in the country. Does anyone think he was corrupt?

        1. Agreed. Though might you agree that even sitting at the controls of government power creates vast legal opportunities for wealth? There is a reason politicians leave Washington so wealthy without technically violating any laws. Their position and influence is persuasive enough to have opportunities (not available to regular private sector workers) beating their door down. Its a rare person that can avoid making money from just being a Washington politician. I see no reason to believe the underlying mechanics have changed.

          1. There is a reason politicians leave Washington so wealthy without technically violating any laws.

            Yeah, part of that reason is because they exempt themselves from laws that regular people go to jail for. Things like insider trading.

        2. He also just happened to be the largest distiller in the country when he ordered the troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.

        3. George Washington – he was the richest person in the country. Does anyone think he was corrupt?

          Yes, actually. The national myth of George Washington was a stand-up guy though.

  2. What a fantastic piece of reporting, nothing like a real apples to apples comparison aye boys. I feel like a complete shithead for even finishing this derp. Asshole

    1. Heh, at least I didn’t make it through it before chhacking the byline.

      Chapman, you are a fucking worthless excuse for libertarian…

      1. I just knew it was going to be Chapman just from the description before the jump, before I read the last line saying it was going to be by him.

        1. I guessed it was a Chapman article, so I didn’t read it. Figured I’d make a bowl of popcorn and enjoy reading the commentariet rip into Chapman’s latest idiocy.

      2. Chapman, you are a fucking worthless excuse for libertarian…

        I’m not sure Chapman has ever claimed to be a libertarian. I’ve always assumed he was just some standard issue Proggie whose article reason for some reason re-publishes from the Chicago Tribune. Why, I don’t know.

        Wait, wait… let me guess: something about “phony libertarians pretending until they can get a job with Huff Post?”

      3. Darn it! He got me again. I read it.

  3. I’d rather a politician was biased by cold-blooded business considerations than party favoritism or personal favors.

  4. Well fuck. What else can I say that hasn’t already been said?

  5. “On his way to the White House, Obama understood his obligation not only to behave ethically but to be open with the voters”

    Ok, enough with the satire…. Wtf, you meant that Chapman?

    *watches future donations to Reason vaporize*

    1. He understood his obligation, but granted himself a waiver when the obligation got in the way of his desired result.

    2. What is with the knee-jerk responses from so many “libertarian” commentors? Obama is gone, no need to keep pretending he is the devil incarnate. He was a mediocre President, and didn’t fuck things up as much as Bush. That will be his legacy. Trump is actually in charge now and pursuing a radical role for the intrusion of government into our lives – picking winners in the business world, immigration restrictions, sweetheart deals with Russian oil producers, loyalty tests, and other crap he’s learned from Putin and Erdogan. Time to move on.

      1. Hi george. I hear the market hasn’t been kind to you lately. I can understand your angst.

      2. I think the knee-jerk response is born from a significant portion of these commenters are not in fact libertarians, but partisan conservatives pretending otherwise.

        Not to say that only libertarians can read Reason of course….

        1. Some straw men never die.

        2. I have it on good authority that only Tulpa reads Reason. Not the articles, though, of course.

        3. I think the knee-jerk response is born from a significant portion of these commenters are not in fact libertarians, but partisan conservatives pretending otherwise.

          I know. Because the only people who have issues with Obama’s presidency are conservatives.

          1. Racist conservatives, more over.

            I mean, let’s face it, there is no reason why someone who opposes expanding the size and scope of the state would think Obama a bad president. No reason at all. Nope, not one…

        4. And I think you’re a fool who doesn’t know a thing about the majority of this community, but somehow feels the need to arrogantly declare a dishonest fabrication.

          If you’re going to call out say, John as a Trump supporter or something, that’s at least based on evidence But handwaving the legitimate libertarian criticism of Obama’s abuses as “partisan conservatives pretending otherwise” is only reflective of your own disingeniousness.

          1. I used to think such accusations were disingenuous, but I don’t think so anymore. Some people are just that stupid. They honestly feel that anyone who disagrees must be a conservative. That is the only explanation that makes sense to their feeble minds. Being incapable of understanding principles, they simply cannot comprehend libertarianism. To them you are part of this team or that team. Period. Because they are too stupid to think for themselves, they assume no one else can either.

            So I don’t think this is an intentionally dishonest fabrication. Some minds are so small that they can’t imagine anything other than two teams.

            1. I still think the funniest thing is when I keep getting called a secret Republican by various left-wing people and trolls here.

              Yep, all those secret Republicans, hanging out up here in Canada.

              1. I intentionally said Conservative, and not Republican, for that exact reason. Conservatism is a world-wide phenomena, as is partisanship.

                1. I mean, if you’re conceding that limited government and individual liberty are now decidedly right if center ideals, I’m sure the conservatives won’t object.

                  1. They’re decidedly ideals the right pays lip service to. I really can’t decide whether being disingenuously pro freedom is better or worse than dropping the pretense entirely. Like republicans do give freedom a bad name, but you can be 100% sure that no dem’s gonna make anyone in any way freer.

              2. secret squirrel maybe…

            2. I’ll be honest and say I’m a conservative leaning libertarian, that did not pay as much attention as I should have to the crap Bush pulled. It was only in the later years of the Bush Administration that I began religiously reading Reason and became a libertarian, as a lot of the compassionate conservative B.S. was starting to register as Bull crap to me. That means that my cynicism developed much more fully during the 8 Obama years, and therefore I tend to be far more critical of his administration than Bush’s, especially since the media did a pretty thorough job of trashing Bush anyways, while not being very skeptical of Obama.

              1. Forget it. mortiscrotum is engaging in one of the left’s favorite fallacies. Switching the burden of proof. He/she/it accuses you of being a conservative, and now you are supposed to convince he/she/it that you are not. That’s the game. Homie don’t play that.

                1. How many times do you suppose commenters use phrases like “one of the left’s favorite fallacies” vs. phrases like “one of the right’s favorite fallacies”?

                  1. If people on the right felt that logical fallacies were compelling arguments as most people on the left appear to, then your question might actually have a point. Thing is, people on the right tend to actually think. As opposed to feel. That doesn’t make them correct. But it does make the average righttard infinitely more rational than the average lefttard.

                    1. Who’s assuming now? What have I said that reveals my political affiliation to be “left?” And what relevance would that have?

                      You’ve employed ever single wrongdoing you’ve accused me of – strawmanning, stereotyping, and ultimate dismissal of a POV. Yet you’re the thinking one, and I’m an idiot unworthy of conversation. How, exactly?

                  2. 6.02×10 to the 23rd power…

                    1. no wait, I want to change my answer to ….12!

          2. There are legitimate libertarian grievances towards Obama. And plenty of the comments reflect that. But plenty more of the comments, particularly on articles giving Obama (or any Democrat) some tiny level of praise, is met with utter scorn.

            It should be utterly uncontroversial to say “Obama had less conflicts of interest than Donald Trump, and the few he had he handled in a much more satisfactory way.” This claim is the one sentence summary of the article above. But many of the comments 1) doubt whether Obama actually did what he did, 2) directly insult the author, 3) bring in other, unrelated, criticisms of the Obama Administration.

            Refusing to cede even the slightest of “victories” – i.e., admitting a disliked political figure is capable of doing even a single thing right – is straight partisan hackery.

            1. Refusing to cede even the slightest of “victories” – i.e., admitting a disliked political figure is capable of doing even a single thing right – is straight partisan hackery.

              Yes. Because anyone who dislikes Obama is a partisan. There is no other explanation.

              1. God, that’s not what I fucking said.

                1. is fucking to!

            2. It should be utterly uncontroversial to say “Obama had less conflicts of interest than Donald Trump, and the few he had he handled in a much more satisfactory way.”

              No, it should not be “uncontroversial” because it begs the question that the only time a conflict of interest can arise is when it the interest lies outside the government. Obama was a grade-A academic and government hack; his entire adult life is a conflict of interest.

              1. Are you saying that any person who believes in the power of government as a potential source for good has competing interests if they work in government…? I’m not really following you on this one.

                1. Are you saying that any person who believes in the power of government as a potential source for good has competing interests if they work in government…?

                  Sure, why not? A mid-level civil servant votes for politicians who promise to expand his own department, and as a result of the bureaucratic growth ends up as a GS-15. That would be a pretty blatant conflict of interest, no?

                  But more on point, a low-level community organizer aggrandizes himself as a man offering “hope and change” via expansion of government, all the way up the government ranks to becoming President, while enriching himself, his family, and anyone who helped to get him there. Meanwhile, he has few if any meaningful skills and experiences outside of the government-academic complex. Every time he says the government will do some good, he stands to benefit in some way. That’s conflict of interest in the most basic and potent sense.

                  1. This does capture him to a fair degree.

                    1. It captures the modern DNC in its entirety and a fair ratio of the RNC as well. It is the fatal flaw of the republic and the humans that comprise it. Federalism, limited government and separation of powers are no match for human shortsightedness.

                  2. Projecting American conservatism cross-culturally isn’t better…it’s a side-step that completely lacks nuance. You suggest the only possible reason for disliking Obama, or failing to praise him to what you deem is sufficient, is partisan conservatism, which is fundamentally incorrect and is in fact reflective of your own immediate partisan response to what you perceive as unfair criticism. When in reality one may just disagree with you, have an alternative perspective on conflicts of interest or be a product of another form of partisanship. But because you view the system in a binary dynamic the only possibility is conservative partisanship.

                    Conflict of interest itself is at the core of any democratic system. The vote itself is collectively a conflict of interest between the well-being of the nation as a whole and the positions of your supporters. Every democratically elected politician operates under the incentive of voting demographics regardless of whether the action they support is the correct or optimal thing to do (the rare politician who does do the correct thing, in contrast to the demands of his/her base, will result in loss, see Humphry Berkeley for example).

                    1. You choose to elevate business or institutional connections (or at least institutional connections you disagree with) to the level of negative conflicts of interest, but handwave the inherent nature of the system as acceptable. One might, for example, see Obama’s foreign policy, which was dominated not by an actual thought-out long term diplomatic plan but instead was based on what immediately appealed domestically and played well with his base as an inherent conflict of interest that damaged American diplomacy in favour of domestic support. But such thinking requires analysis beyond the immediately superficial.

                      But plenty more of the comments, particularly on articles giving Obama (or any Democrat) some tiny level of praise, is met with utter scorn.

                      Because often times that praise is either incorrect, or fundamentally a product of dishonesty from the writer. Chapman, for example, has regularly engaged in arbitrary partisan praise of some and criticism of others. Just because a writer offers up praise does not mean it is correct.

                    2. RE: You choose to elevate business or institutional connections (or at least institutional connections you disagree with) to the level of negative conflicts of interest,

                      And interesting point, though I don’t see how this is exactly a criticism of me. Simply by being a person who lives in a country, I’m going to have certain ideas about how things should go. If a political figure has close ties a certain industries or w/e that I think would hurt the country more than help, I’m obviously going to few those ties negatively – possibly even call it a conflict of interest, since the politician would be acting in a way that I don’t see as favorable to the country as a whole. The only way to escape this general line of thinking is to not have opinions about anything, which is rather silly.

                      RE: but handwave the inherent nature of the system as acceptable.

                      This I see as a separate but related issue. Rather than having a problem with a particular action in a specific circumstance, one could have a problem with the basic operating procedures of the government itself.

                  3. Huh, I actually find this compelling, though I think you draw too much in conclusion. In particular, “…he has few if any meaningful skills or experiences outside of the government-academic complex.”

                    How is that not a meaningful skill? For better or worse the government is massive and complex; navigating it takes a great deal of skill and insider knowledge. Honestly that seems the most meaningful skill of all, if one wishes to work in government.

                    Also, by your (overall) reasoning, wouldn’t the logical conclusion be that it is impossible to be rid of conflict of interest? That merely by living under the jurisdiction of the government one works in, there’s a conflict of interest because if the government does well the individual does well? It’s a fair point, but not in the spirit of “conflict of interest.” In the typical sense, a conflict of interest is bad because it will cause the person to do their job less well. That wouldn’t apply in this case.

                    1. It’s a fair point, but not in the spirit of “conflict of interest.”

                      No, you say it’s not in the spirit of a conflict of interest because you don’t want to consider it so.

                      In the typical sense, a conflict of interest is bad because it will cause the person to do their job less well. That wouldn’t apply in this case.

                      Utter nonsense. Just because something has a beneficial outcome in terms of a primary or secondary position does not make it not be a conflict of interest. Say Trump has some stocks in a fracking company, and allows them to work on federal land and provide employment to the local communities. Employment’s up, economic growth is up, but it’s still a fundamental conflict of interest because it’s dependent on the material benefit that Trump receives.

                    2. For better or worse the government is massive and complex; navigating it takes a great deal of skill and insider knowledge. Honestly that seems the most meaningful skill of all, if one wishes to work in government.

                      It is a (somewhat) useful skill but not by itself. If your primary or sole skillset is working in government, then you are (at best) just a tool for other people’s purposes and (at worst) just advancing yourself through self-aggrandizement.

                      Also, by your (overall) reasoning, wouldn’t the logical conclusion be that it is impossible to be rid of conflict of interest?

                      Largely, yes. The ultimate interest is self-interest. No one can be rid of that.

                      That merely by living under the jurisdiction of the government one works in, there’s a conflict of interest because if the government does well the individual does well?

                      That is a much more complex proposition to examine than that of a government employee. The causal links are a lot weaker, at the very least.

                      In the typical sense, a conflict of interest is bad because it will cause the person to do their job less well.

                      A conflict of interest raises questions of motive. Did you do X because it serves the company/government/public or because it benefits you/someone you know? A person can do their job well and still be facing conflicts of interest.

                    3. RE: then you are (at best) just a tool for other people’s purposes and (at worst) just advancing yourself through self-aggrandizement.

                      This is just as true of ANY job, except maybe as the owner of a private company. I don’t think you’re wrong, but I don’t think it’s a very meaningful or practical thing. People need to work, most people need to work for someone else, and that makes you a tool of sorts. Self-aggrandizement is hardly limited to public service either.

                      RE: Largely, yes. The ultimate interest is self-interest. No one can be rid of that.

                      As the above, the scope of this definition renders it meaningless. At some level, we’re ALL self-interested, no matter what we do. Acceptable and unacceptable levels of conflicts of interest become the driving factor.

                      RE: A conflict of interest raises questions of motive

                      Exactly. And Obama at least cares enough to make a show of getting himself as conflict-free as possible. Trump clearly doesn’t.

                2. Are you saying that any person who believes in the power of government as a potential source for good has competing interests if they work in government…? I’m not really following you on this one.

                  Why is that difficult to believe? Swap out “government” for “business” and it seems to be the foundation of your–and this article’s–argument. What’s difficult to follow is how the magic purifying ritual of being paid in tax dollars transforms regular human beings into selfless, angelic creatures of wisdom and light.

                  1. What’s difficult to follow is how the magic purifying ritual of being paid in tax dollars transforms regular human beings into selfless, angelic creatures of wisdom and light.

                    Government is Us. It is The People. It is motivated by altruism. Government is the embodiment of Good Intentions.

                    Business is Them. It is The Rich. It is motivated by Greed. Business is the embodiment of Bad Intentions.

                    Government is Good. Business is Evil.

                    What is difficult to follow?

                    1. Ah yes, government is the name we give to the things we do together. Like how family vacation is the name I give to forcing my wife and kids into the car at gun point for a road trip they didn’t realize they wanted to take.

                  2. As I said above, the idea of a conflict of interest being bad is based in the conflict causing a person to do their job poorly. This principle clearly applies (at least superficially) to someone in Trump’s position because of his extensive business ties that he has NOT separated himself from, as both tradition and law require.

                    One could apply a similar argument to, say, an entrenched politician who’s primary goal is to maintain and expand their power, as opposed to govern well. Even then though, the entrenched politician’s true motives and the duties of office overlap significantly more than the businessman who dips their toe in to governance – at a basic level, if someone does a shitty enough job, they won’t be re-elected.

                    In any case though, I don’t think this applies particularly well to Obama, since he’s limited by term.

                    1. In any case though, I don’t think this applies particularly well to Obama, since he’s limited by term.

                      Term is irrelevant, because of two secondary effects. One, handing off acquired power to the next ‘friendly’ like-minded individual (as Obama clearly intended to do with Clinton) provides benefits to yourself, political capital primarily, regardless if you duck out of politics. Secondly, post-politics politicians who expand government receive greater benefits outside of the political realm. Obama will, for the rest of his life, have a position of privilege in society, where he will be guarded, enriched by his political career, have influence over individuals who benefited from his regime, and likely receive financial benefits (speaking deals and the like).

                    2. In any case though, I don’t think this applies particularly well to Obama, since he’s limited by term.

                      Right or wrong, the Presidency is the most prestigious office in the country. For a narcissist, attaining it would be the highest goal in service to self-interest, even if he can’t hold the office forever. This applies to most people who seek the Presidency, though, and not just Obama (there still remains the question of degree).

                      A better way to view the question of conflicted interests is to ask whose interests were served by the actions an individual has undertaken. As much as Obama may have served the interests of his supporters, he also served his own interests, and acted against the interests of his opponents. His interests were no less conflicted than his predecessor’s and likely won’t be any less conflicted than his successor’s.

                    3. RE: His interests were no less conflicted than his predecessor’s and likely won’t be any less conflicted than his successor’s.

                      In the strictest sense, I must agree. In the proverbial court of law, Trump has not done anything wrong. But the court of public opinion is another matter, and it is dictated by appearances: at the very least, it can objectively be said that Trump does mind the appearance of conflicts of interest. His choice to not release his tax returns, his choice to not divest as other presidents have done, his family’s involvement in his business and administration; even if there’s no fire, yet, there’s certainly a lot of smoke on this issue.

                      For someone who was especially pessimistic about motive, this situation would not concern them in the slightest: they’ve already assumed the worst, most self-dealing motives of a public official, and the song and dance over divestment and conflicts of interest amount to little more than a fig leaf. Personally, I do not have this inherent cynicism and thus am very concerned over Trump’s obvious conflicts.

                    4. Personally, I do not have this inherent cynicism and thus am very concerned over Trump’s obvious conflicts.

                      This is contradictory. Either you are a cynic and thus are duly concerned, or you aren’t a cynic and thus have little reason at present to be concerned.

                    5. RE: This is contradictory.

                      Obama, Bush, most politicians, etc., at least keep up a certain level of appearance over conflicts of interest. Being not especially cynical, this is enough to generally convince me that they mean well and aren’t blatantly maintaining ulterior motives. If I was more cynical, appearances would not convince me.

                      Trump however does not even maintain appearances. He operates by brazenly flaunting his conflicts of interest. This is enough for me to question whether he has the country’s best interests at heart.

                    6. because of [Trump’s] extensive business ties that he has NOT separated himself from, as both tradition and law require.

                      If Congress believes that Trump has violated the law, they can begin impeachment proceedings.

                    7. When you consider that politicians can and have used their time in office to feather their nests for retirement, or pseudo-retirement, that firewall between public and private life evaporates. In fact, DC is famous for the “revolving door” whereby politicians at all levels move between sectors using relationships made in one for benefit in the other. An ex-President has a considerable amount of leverage in the private sector, as evidenced by Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, etc.

                    8. RE: When you consider that politicians can and have used their time in office to feather their nests

                      Completely true, though I’m not quite sure what to do about that (short of killing/imprisoning each person at the end of their term – would really make the job only for the selfless, wouldn’t it?). That being the case, I can’t really get too worked up over something that applies equally to EVERY public servant. Instead, a line must be drawn of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

                  3. it’s in the very nature of unicorn farts to cause this wondrous transformation…

      3. What is with the knee-jerk responses from so many “libertarian” commentors?

        It is not a ‘knee-jerk response’, it is a response to eight years of horribly unethical governance covered by sycophants like Chapman who pretend it’s fine.

        He was a mediocre President, and didn’t fuck things up as much as Bush. That will be his legacy.

        No, his legacy will be a continuation of some of the worst abuses of the Bush Administration, coupled with further intervention into Middle Eastern conflicts and an incoherent and idiotic foreign policy that has actively delegitimized American diplomatic power worldwide. The United States is a joke to everyone but Obama’s sycophants.

        Trump is actually in charge now and pursuing a radical role for the intrusion of government into our lives

        See, when you handwave the past eight years as “not as bad as Bush” and then go “but that Trump, he’s horrible though” we know you’re not holding people to the same standards. Check your own biases before you start accusing other people of having them.

        1. Trump is actually in charge now

          If by “actually in charge” you mean “not sworn in and thus not in charge of diddly yet”, then sure.

        2. I don’t have to “handwave the past eight years” to know that Trump is far worse on ethics than Obama. Some things are objectively obvious. Stalin had better facial hair than Hitler. If I was going to build a house or grow peanuts on my back 40 I’d probably go to Jimmy Carter for advice before I go to Ron Paul. Joe Biden would be more fun in a bar than Mike Pence. Trump would be a more entertaining dinner companion than Hilary Clinton. Political beliefs are not the sum of a human being.

      4. Trump is actually in charge now

        Not until tomorrow. We’ve got 24 more hours to continue to slapping Obama around. Then it’ll be Trump’s turn.

      5. That Trump! Pardoning Manning and all those others. I mean he also signed all those regulations last week too.

        Oh wait…

      6. Time to move on.

        Why don’t you tell the author of the article? He’s the one who brought up Obama.

      7. He was a mediocre President, and didn’t fuck things up as much as Bush.

        You’re right. It’s his last day, and lord knows if there’s one thing that drives you up the wall it’s belaboring ex-presidents, right, Captain Irony?

    3. Was Chapman on vacation when Solyndra happened?

    4. On his way to the White House, Obama understood his obligation not only to appear to behave ethically but to be open with the voters that the media whores would run cover for him when caught in any ethical lapses

      Fixed.

  6. Hey guys,

    If you wanted to pick the head of a department charged with overseeing nuclear weapons labs which would you choose

    A. A Nobel Prize winning physicist?
    B. A celebrated physicist and nuclear specialist at MIT?
    C. An idiot who doesn’t know the difference between a chemical reaction and a nucular reaction?

    If you answered C.,maybe you should look for employment as a special advisor to the incoming President. He’s looking for people To validate his anti-intellectualism.

    Favorite part of article sourced below: “If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,'” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”

    Yes, On a Scale of 0 to Avogadro’s Number he’s at a 1

    1. Why are leftists such salty cunts?

    2. I don’t like how you’re othering the nuclear chemist here

      1. I thought they were a self-othering group.

    3. Does the head Dept of Energy actually do any nuclear engineering? He’s not doing the actual maintenance or construction of nuclear weapons and plants. He’s a manager.

      1. I thought FDR personally designed the first atomic bomb.

        1. Many people don’t know this but Big Boy was first called Wheelchair 1.

          1. An odd name for a cheeseburger.

            1. +1 “Fat Man Destroys Nagasaki”

      2. You think an avowed socialist understands good management?

        1. Good management means allowing the experts the freedom to do their work. Socialism is idiots telling the experts how to do their job.

          1. Well, that’s just bad management in any case. It doesn’t become socialism until you also forbid experts from reaping any benefit of their expertise.

            1. They reap benefits, they’re just fringe ones like not being shot or gulag’d, or a nice car while the hoi polloi drive scooters and horses.

    4. Depends. Is A the guy who wants to make everyone paint their rooves white and is B the guy who can’t remember to cut his hair?

      How about D) the “engineer” who couldn’t handle his finances well enough to pay his mortgage?

    5. Oh I get it. We need ‘experts’ to run government. Like how we needed a supposed constitutional law professor to explain to us how it was totally legal for him to kill us via drone without any oversight from Congress or the judiciary.

      1. There was a CONSENSUS.

      2. We need ‘experts’ to run government

        According to a self-proclaimed socialist. Who also denigrates populism. Apparently he envisions a “dictatorship of the proletariat” in which no actual members of the proletariat have any say.

        He’s either a monarchist or a Stalinist but too stupid/dishonest to admit it.

        1. I imagine said socialist wouldn’t be too pleased with the results if we put typical economists in charge of economic policy instead of trial lawyers. The former tend to be marginally more capitalistic than the latter.

          1. I’m pretty sure in his desired system, he gets to pick who does and doesn’t qualify as an expert. Much like how Lysenko got to dictate Soviet science and agricultural policy with Stalin’s and later Kruschev’s enthusiastic blessing while fields went barren and people went hungry.

    6. Hmmm…

      How sexy is C? I find sexy and idiotic a great combo especially if we are like minded.

    7. Hmmm…

      How sexy is C? I find sexy and idiotic a great combo especially if we are like minded.

    8. If you wanted to pick the head of a department charged with overseeing nuclear weapons labs which would you choose

      Lawyers seem to be the preferred qualifications. There is only one physicist.

      Carter:
      James R. Schlesinger – Economist
      Charles Duncan Jr. – Chemical Engineer

      Regan:
      James B. Edwards – Dentist
      Donald P. Hodel – Lawyer
      John S. Herrington – Lawyer

      Bush I:
      James D. Watkins – Mechanical Engineer

      Clinton:
      Hazel R. O’Leary – Lawyer
      Federico Pe?a – Lawyer
      Bill Richardson – French, political science, and international affairs

      Bush II:
      Spencer Abraham – Lawyer
      Samuel Bodman – Chemical Engineer

      Obama:
      Steven Chu – Chemical Engineer (Nobel prize in lasers that have nothing to do with nuclear)
      Ernest Moniz – Theoretical physics

      1. So our current Secretary of Energy is Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory? Why isn’t he more hilarious?

        1. Because, as you said, he is Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

      2. You had to go and bring facts into it.

    9. Says the guy who probably read Krugman or Tyson for all things political and sciency.

    10. If you wanted to choose someone to have a political discussion with, would you choose:

      A. A person who has shown honesty and integrity in debates.
      B. An idiot who lives in his own little demented delusions that never argues in good faith?
      C. A pathological liar with a habit of apologia, strawmen and fabrication?

    11. None of the above. I’d pick someone with good management skills since that’s what the head of a federal department needs. Or are you under the impression that the Secretary of Energy personally performs maintenance and repair on nuclear reactors? Dipshit. Do us all a favor and STFU and eat some more cake, retard.

    12. How about No Man? Eliminate the department entirely, and let DOD handle their own nuclear security.

    13. Let us talk about the great stewardship of the Dept. of Energy under Steven Chu, PhD. Oh right, he did a horrible job. But hey, all that matters is having a PhD!

  7. “After the March session, the Tribune, which had criticized Obama’s handling of the matter, editorialized that he had reaffirmed its confidence in his “professional judgment and personal decency” and set “a standard for candor by which other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries now can be judged.””

    So, his fawning, hometown newspaper vindicated him?

    How convincing…

    1. The Tribune fawned over the president far less than the NYT. The Tribune editorial board has long been very critical of the president’s policies. They endorsed him (twice), but it was the first Democrat they’ve endorsed for President ever. The Tribune is like the poor man’s Midwestern Wall Street Journal.

  8. Steve’s problem is this entire article is speculation on his part. Alot of what could happen

    1. While we’re at it, let’s speculate that some of the beneficiaries of Obama’s crony capitalism will help him line his pockets once he enters his Obama Foundation phase. I fully expect to see him raking in half a million for a speech to Elon Musk and friends

      1. The only speculation there is who’ll be giving him the money.

        1. Hitler?

  9. Steve also left out the part of no new overseas deals

    The conflict is some country may allow him to build a golf course or hotel lol. Some leverage!

  10. Considering Obama’s ethics once he got into office, it seems that using ethical standards as a measure of possible future performance might be overblown.

  11. SC;DR

    Hey Reason, fire Champan and bring on that kid who wrote the Hamilton story this weekend!!

    1. Agreed. Fire Chapman! Bring on the Hamilton critic

    2. Nick Pell is awesome. He’s like Hunter S. Thompson with only a mild buzz.

  12. Never doing anything of value has its advantageous, I guess.

  13. Trump has been pretty open about using public office and the pursuit of public office as an opportunity to build his brand and make money. He’s a fucking sleazebag thief and he belongs in prison.

    1. Trump has been pretty open about using public office and the pursuit of public office as an opportunity to build his brand and make money.

      – Citation needed

    2. He’s a fucking sleazebag thief and he belongs in prison

      To quote the FBI director,

      “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”

      If you can’t indict one well connected politico, what makes you think you can indict another?

    3. Robber barons are rarely as bad as ‘altruistic’ tyrants who want to save us from ourselves.

  14. I saw the title and clicked just to confirm it was a Chapman.

  15. shit, if i had to live in the terrifying delusion that must be steve chapman’s mind, i’d be scared too.

    it’s just so weird for a “libertarian” magazine to continue to run the crazy shit he makes up day after day after day. this entire article is just chicken-little bullshit. why don’t you report on something that actually happened chapman? can you tell the difference.

    or fuck man, go ahead and write the article, but can you at least wait to publish it until trump is actually president and has a scandal.

    @reason editors: maybe reason could create another section called “SHIT AND RUN” where all the chapman and other non-libertarian articles run? then what’s left would at least feel kind of like the good site/magazine you used to have. also, please don’t think that “any attention is good attention” and that the rage that chapman and dahlmia receive from the commentariate is good for you. i dropped my annual contribution from $1000 to $1 this year, and i already feel like i overpaid.

    1. Chapman isnt deluded. He doesnt believe any of the shit he writes. He is just a straight-up blue shill cranking out propaganda and no doubt getting invites to all the best cocktail parties.

    2. another section called “SHIT AND RUN”

      Situ ruttu, karu tuleb!

      Also appropriate because Chapman and Co. are often trying to cultivate fear of bears. Or of a certain Bear.

  16. You would think Chapman’s logic would be, they said these things about Obama before he got elected prez, & they turned out not to come about, so a good guess would be the same for Trump. Well, if Chapman weren’t Chapman.

  17. He is not Hillary. Give him a chabce.

    1. Fuck that. Seven billion other people on this planet are also not Hillary, dude.

      1. But most of those are not 35+ years old and born in the United States.

        1. I’m just saying, “not Hillary” is a pretty low bar. They’re not sending their best non-Hillaries.

          1. Some of them, I assume, are bitter, broken-down old hags.

            1. shrill, you left off the shrill…

        2. Who was it that said they’d rather be ruled by the first 535 people in the phone book than the elected members U.S. Congress? Maybe we can choose the President by sortition.

          1. Or russian roulette – which I believe is a type of sortition no?

          2. Claymation death matches…

  18. He has refused to disclose his tax returns or a full list of his assets, which are extensive.

    “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

  19. They depicted him as just another sleazy Chicago machine pol.

    I imagine Jack Ryan agrees.

    1. Zing!

      I guess swinger clubs are just too much for the moralist Left

  20. Obama is the very image of the sleazy Chicago machine pol.

    He’s going to be the picture next to the definition.

    He’s going into their Hall of Fame.

    He’s the best they’ve ever done.

  21. What we need is a super-race whose only job is to administer the state. They won’t dirty their hands by working, or dealing with money. Instead they will be unsullied from the rigors of life. Some kind of aristocracy would be ideal.

    1. How and where do I apply for this honor? I have the perfect resume and I think I may be a latent sociopath.

      1. We had to stack the applications in the hopper of this woodchipper. Just reach in and grab one…

  22. I seem to recall Fuckstick Chapman voted for Hillary, the most corrupt pol in my memory.

    When will Reason stop publishing this team blue shill?

    Stick it up your ass Chapman. You aren’t fooling anyone.

    1. don’t tempt him, I think he likes it up the ass and that’s why he writes this way…

  23. I wonder why people think Reason has gone downhill. Maybe it has something to do with certain sycophants publishing complete lies about Obama’s ‘ethics’.

  24. The tax return part is a non sequitr

    I think chapman and the media are butt hurt trump isnt taking their advice on what he should do with his business

    1. Agreed- this issue keeps being conflated into something it is not. The IRS has his tax info on file they have already been vetted and approved to be above board by Top Men….are those not the rules we play by?

  25. Refusing to disclose his tax return is not an ethical breach. Should he disclose it? I suppose but not doing so is a breech of transparency not an act of malfeasance. Meanwhile, Obama got a sweetheart home loan because of his Chicago political ties and Michelle got a $300,000 a year do nothing job at a hospital, which Chapman doesn’t mention.

    And lets not forget Obama violating the rules against foreign campaign donations in 2008 by allowing donations through his website and making no effort to determine their source.

    Once in office, the list of Obama crimes is extensive, misusing the FBI and IRS to go after conservative groups, allowing guns to be purchase and smuggled into Mexico in hopes they would be used in crimes which could then be used to push gun control, multiple instances of his cabinet members, including his AG, lying to Congress. DOJ refusing to prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress, his historical record of losing 9-0 Supreme Court decisions, his illegal war in Libya and Syria, his assassination of two American citizens, his violating the law in releasing GUITMO prisoners without the consent of Congress, the CIA hacking Senate computers, the NSA spying.,

    1. Yes, but as Chapman notes:

      Obama’s view was that he should be careful to avoid scandal.

      So, what do you have to say to that, Mr. Smartguy?

      /sarcasm

    2. Yea chapman seems to speculate on what could happen (red scare) and ignores qhat actually happened with obama

    3. Maybe Trump can reveal his tax returns at the same time Obama reveals his college transcripts.

      1. gentleman’s “Cs” no doubt…

    4. Once in office, the list of Obama crimes is extensive…

      I suppose, I guess, you might be able to credit him with no scandals to his immediate personal gain. None of the things you cite really benefits him, per se. It’s just things that reflect a totalitarian impulse that should be considered scandalous in a constitutional republic.

      1. None of the things you cite really benefits him, per se

        He has the fawning adoration of the soi-disant intellectual class as well as the vast majority of politically active liberals. Also, he’s enjoyed a standard of living well above his previous means (and that of the people he claims to be helping) and will likely continue to do so thanks to said fawning adoration.

  26. Having amassed riches before being elected president, he sees no reason to stop now.

    Alternatively, having amassed riches before being elected president, and already being a billionaire, he has little incentive to use the office for economic gain. I wonder if we would have gotten the same pantshitting article if HERself was elected? This is especially considering her documented history of influence peddling.

    1. She and He, they which will not be named, are the poster family of using public office for political gain.

      1. Pikers compared to LBJ. He was an object lesson on how to really work corruption efficiently.

    2. On Ethics, Trump Is No Obama

      And you think Obo has been ethical, Steve? Where have you been the last 8 years? I’m sure it’s ethical to use federal agencies against your political opponents, transfer firearms to foreign drug cartels and other criminal orgs, kill american citizens without due-process, operate and expand unconstitutional mass-surveillance programs, lie to the country about massive pieces of legislation, send cash to enemies of the United States, and generally fail to uphold one’s oath of office. Seriously, go to hell.

    3. Yup. He wouldnt have wrote this if his queen got elected.

      Good point on the rich part

    4. Having amassed riches before being elected president, he sees no reason to stop now.

      Chapman is just projecting.

    5. Alternatively, having amassed riches before being elected president, and already being a billionaire, he has little incentive to use the office for economic gain.

      Billionaires become billionaires because they are driven by economic gain. Seems unlikely Trump would switch that off at age 70.

  27. Obama’s view was that he should be careful to avoid scandal.

    [CITATION NEEDED]

    1. Didn’t you hear, he said it himself, there were no scandals during his eight years.

    2. Obama’s view was that he should be careful to avoidmake sure his media cronies ignored every whiff of scandal.

      There you go.

      1. He didn’t have to, they did that all on their own.

        1. Yeah, but he still made sure of it. Dude read the papers. Hell, that’s how he kept abreast of what his own underlings were doing.

          1. It felt good every morning to read the newspaper and know that I’m “officially” as informed as the president.

      2. He waved a magic wand and said the magic words “there’s no there, there” and “not a smidgen of corruption” and *poof* investigative journalism died.

  28. Maybe flying BO and his wife around for vacation after vacation on the taxpayer’s dime is the secret to keeping them ethical?

    If you are too busy flying around with all your friends to fancy resorts every month or so, you just can’t work yourself up to go engage in some good old fashioned grift?

    1. So he was too busy grifting to grift?

      1. grifting to grift

        Nice album name.

  29. At least – phew – no Joooos!

    “On his way to the White House, Obama understood his obligation not only to behave ethically but to be open with the voters…”

    Obama understood how to be a vapid twat who had to carefully orchestrate an image to deceive tarts like you, Chapman.

  30. *pops some popcorn, settles in to enjoy the shitshow*

  31. So the basic premise is that a successful businessman is precluded from being president? I suppose it’s better to only elect political hacks who have never contributed to society in any appreciable way?

    I’m no fan of Trump, but for God’s sake, let the man at least assume office before prosecuting him for impropriety in said office.

  32. Similar to a few of you, the title alone made me suspicious of authorship. After the jump and seeing ‘Chap–” I knew enough to page-down, skip the article and enjoy the commentariat.
    By the way, Steve Chapman is not, as some surmised, simply a linked syndication. He is included in “Reason Staff.”
    If Reason wants to become a text-based laundry list to controversy, a la Drudge and others, they are welcome to do it; they can knock themselves out and even include every banal, establishment liberal who sucks at the tit of elitism.
    But if they want to be a consistent, critical and profound voice of libertarianism then they need to dump the statist apologists and New Democrat hacks.
    Mysteriously, Nick et. al. can’t bring themselves to do it. They just won’t.

    1. Well Nick is a supporter of the welfare state, it should be noted.

  33. Chapman how do you explain this on a 400K salary

    “Barack Obama’s Net Worth Has Risen 438% Since Running for President. According to financial disclosure reports, President Obama has an estimated net worth of $7 million dollars. Since he was worth $1.3 million in 2007, that makes the millionaire 438% more wealthy than when he first ran for office.”

    This doesn’t even count all the super pricey trips etc.

    A little research is hard I know.

    1. He sold some books about himself.

  34. RE: On Ethics, Trump Is No Obama
    The incoming president’s business entanglements are going to be a problem.

    You’re right.
    After all, Obama didn’t have any business dealings with British Petroleum (what oil spill?), Solyandra (oh, did that go belly up), Warren Buffet (who owes millions to the IRS), any company that got a bailout since 2008 or any other company that visited the White House.
    It must have been my imagination.

  35. On Ethics, Trump Is No Obama

    …and thank god for that.

  36. OH-HO. You’re saying when comparing these two confessedly bad politicians that ONE is worse than the OTHER on a SPECIFIC THING!?

    Clear example of Reason’s bias towards [whatever group we want them to be biased towards to fit our narrative of them not being Libertarian-enough at this particular moment]!!

    Everyone knows that if you don’t devote equal sides to bashing everyone for everything then you’re showing favor to one group or the other!!

  37. Am I the only one who watched the Trump news conference where he brought in his lawyer to talk specifically about how they would avoid conflicts of interest?

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  40. There is not one ethical bone is in obozo’s body. Time will prove this has, is, and will continue with his coverup and when outed like the billary’s, he will lie and obfuscate beyond comprehension. Worse individual to achieve the title of President. Totally a zero individual.

  41. You know who else went full retard?

  42. I would venture to suggest that Trump’s view is that, since the political Left, with special emphasis on the legacy media, will treat EVERYTHING HE DOES as a ‘scandal’, there is little to lose and much to gain by simply ignoring the issue. He could spend all his time and energy attempting to refute various Left-driven ‘scandal’ narratives, and it wouldn’t get him anywhere. Or he can go ahead and do what he feels he needs to do, and let the voters judge him.

    By screaming ‘scandal’ every time Trump blows his nose – “He’s using a linen handkerchief to blow his nose! He’s out of touch with the Common Man, who uses tissues!” – the media and the rest of the Left will reduce themselves to near complete irrelevance….just in time for the 2020 elections.

  43. What a shoddy piece of putrid prose.
    While decrying how Trump’s potential to benefit from foreign interests, Chapman couldn’t be bothered to do even the minimum of research that would have revealed that first, Trump announced that there would be no new foreign projects started by his companies while he serves as President. And second, that he’s going to give foreign profits from his hotels to the US Treasury.
    Why is Chapman writing here and not for CNN?
    Probably because CNN’s standards are higher than those at Reason.

  44. He has refused to disclose his tax returns or a full list of his assets, which are extensive. “At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries across South America, Asia and the Middle East,” reported The Washington Post in November. His financial stake in these places gives foreign governments ways to ingratiate themselves or to put pressure on him.
    ????? ???? ????
    ????? ???
    Instead of looking only at what makes sense for American security and prosperity, he will have monetary incentives to consider what’s good for him and his family. Putting his assets in a trust controlled by his two eldest sons, as he said last week he is doing, is wholly inadequate. He’ll still be aware of what the trust owns; he’ll eventually stand to profit from the deals it makes; and he intends to resume control after he leaves office. In the interim, he will have opportunities for self-dealing beyond his wildest dreams.

  45. Trump has a long history of defrauding everyone he does business with (employees, contractors, investors, customers, etc.), so it’s safe to assume that he will continue business as usual as president.

    Why wouldn’t he now that he has almost unlimited power? If he wants to take your property to build a parking lot or golf course and pay you five cents on the dollar, who is going to stop him?

    If he makes a deal with a foreign power and hides the payments through convoluted transfers with foreign companies, who is going to track that down?

  46. OK, but what should he do? He could put it all in a blind trust, which would deny his heirs the chance to hone their business skills and learn the family business they will inherit. Which would be OK, except it doesn’t accomplish anything–it’s mostly real estate and branding arrangements, he will still know what’s there. That kind of stuff cannot be sold discretely like traded securities. He will know what is in the trust unless it is sold, in which case he will know it was sold because things like hotels and golf courses draw attention when ownership changes. He has said no foreign deals, and domestic deals subject to an ethics review–so the name and independence of the ethics person is important and worth paying attention to. But other than that…

    A fire sale would be grossly unfair, and just invite questions as to whether people were paying inflated prices to gain his goodwill. So, maybe that cure is worse than the disease. The real estate holdings are largely unique and appraisals would be next to useless as ethics standards. And on the branding side, the value is his name, how do you separate that from… his name?

    And what on Earth do you think his tax returns will tell you? This is a guy who controls something like 500 separate business entities–do you need to see every one of them, or just his personal taxes, and what do you think you will learn?

    I get the concern and I share it to a degree, but it’s easy to sit back and criticize–what would you have him do?

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