Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Ethics of Serving a Corrupt Leader

Some reflections on the two articles linked below. The first paragraph is based on the Rosenstein article, and the rest (starting with Seneca) goes to the McMaster article. For a rundown on Seneca and his relationship with Nero, read this summary of a book about it: Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm

One thing that every lawyer has to pay attention to--even if he or she doesn't care about it--is ethics. (Very few don't care & most don't violate, but your cynical comments may be shared below). And, as I will illustrate by another post, the U.S. military (thank goodness) has a strong ethos of service and political neutrality. But how does one negotiate situations when one has to deal with a corrupt client? For lawyers, this is a common enough problem: some of my clients were violent criminals and some were slimy creeps (and the two sets didn't necessarily overlap). It's tough. But what if your client (or boss, in any event) is the president of the United States? How do you serve your country and yet avoid the taint that someone you serve is compared to mob bosses he's prosecuted by the former top law enforcement officer in the U.S. government (FBI Director)? Do you resign & "save your soul"? Or do you serve, knowing that you will become identified with any wrongdoing and likely get stabbed in the back for your efforts? Another post will follow, this one about a military officer who served in the #45 administration.

The Stoic philosopher Seneca served the Roman emperor Nero (of fiddle fame). For his trouble, Seneca was allowed to commit suicide after Nero turned on him. But he served while he could. So it is that some are called who feel duty-bound to serve, such as General McMaster. What should he have done? As he did? Ditto with General (ret.) Mattis, perhaps the last "adult" left to try to check #45's impulses? I feel for McMaster--he didn't even last in the job long enough for this piece about his work to be published! Again: what are the ethics requirements of those who would serve a corrupt figure, even if he is the lawful president of the U.S.?
Also, on a side note, the beginning of the article delves into the fact that the president is (essentially) a functional illiterate. That is (and these are my words) not to say that he can't read, but that he doesn't, for whatever reason, choose to read. That he is a "visual learner" or "better at listening" (that's a good one!) are so much BS. But in any event, he chooses not to read and in the end, I don't see that's functionally different from being unable to read. Shouldn't our president read? Aren't there important things that are conveyed by the written word that he should know about? I think so, but perhaps I'm just old-fashioned.
Can a national-security adviser retain his integrity if the President has none?
Sometimes the best way to do justice is to compromise with those who would deny it.

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