Today’s Political Hall of Shame
Trigger warning: this story is quite judgmental. It is especially harsh because politicians are supposed to be good at managing their images. Yet sometimes they seem uniquely bad at an important skill in their line of work.
They are also supposed to be leaders, especially when times are tough.
A small part of what we think of as “politics” is necessary because we want people to choose their leaders and representatives. The rest is attention-getting pure and simple. Highly paid attention getting. In that respect, it is no different from professional and college sports, all of which have had the good grace to cancel upcoming games. Politics should do the same except for the bare minimum needed to meet electoral requirements.
Today’s political hall of shame begins with Bernie Sanders. For the last few weeks, he had the field to himself. Staying in a race with Joe Biden, the near-certain Democratic Party nominee, is a pathetic example of a doddering old man wrestling for the political spotlight.
It is hard to imagine a better example of selfishness and failure to be part of a team then staying in a hopeless race simply because you can still raise money and pay your campaign staff.
The act of asking for contributions, especially from small donors, is to deny them money they may need in weeks to come.
Reporters, it is time to do your jobs. At every opportunity, ask if any member of the Sanders family is receiving any payment whatever that was sourced from campaign contributions. Likely, any such payments will be legal, but legal does not make them right.
Though Senator Sanders had the hall of shame field to himself for the last few weeks, suddenly along came another group of Senators who engaged in behavior that would properly send the rest of us to jail. They traded stocks on inside information. They were briefed on the coronavirus before the market dropped by a third.
According to USA Today, here are at least a few of them for all to scorn. Of course, they have defenses that they hope will get them through the short attention spans of the moment.
Richard Burr (R.NC)
James Inhofe (R. OK)
Kelly Loeffler (R.GA)
Dianne Feinstein (D. CA)
Likely these are the tip of the iceberg since the list includes neither House members, nor congressional staffers.
For good measure, Kelly Loeffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher. Guess what he does? He is the chair of the New York Stock Exchange.
To be fair, Senators engage in insider trading because they passed laws allowing it. I bet you’d like it if they would pass laws allowing you to do it too.
Reporters question: find every Senator and Congressman who voted in favor of those laws and ask them why they favored stealing from other investors.
Finally, a group award to President Trump’s staff. If you don’t think he is hurting his reelection prospects at every daily press briefing, you need to have your heads examined. Wrestle him to the ground if you have to. He is old and fat and should not put up much of a fight.
The President does not make today’s hall of shame because he can’t help himself.
I put the word “today’s” in the title to this story to leave room for future candidates.
Richard Meyer, March 20, 2020 at 5:33 pm said:
Amen to all of the above
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 5:57 pm said:
Thank you Richard.
Doris, March 20, 2020 at 5:42 pm said:
I loved your last sentence. LOL. Can hardly wait for tomorrow’s peccadilloes.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 5:56 pm said:
I bet you could tell from the tone of the email and of the story that my fuse was a bit short on this one.
Garrard Glenn, March 20, 2020 at 5:43 pm said:
The Senate passed laws allowing Senators to insider trade? That seems rather astonishing. I will not ask the Pundificator to outline that law in detail, for fear of reading all the legalese. I will not be surprised if my reluctance to investigate this matter in detail is matched by that of the Pundificator.
I don’t think Trump is harming himself with his daily t.v. appearances with the vast majority of the people who voted for him. Nothing has put them off their feed yet with the Trumpter, including all his off-the-wall tweets. Unless he vows he will vote for Biden, nothing will.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 5:54 pm said:
Gar, Here is the first story I found on the topic. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/it-illegal-lawmakers-trade-stocks-insider-info-they-learn-job-n1165156 I don’t think it is the entire answer. Sadly, the appearance of impropriety is significant and, if our lawmakers wanted, such trades to be criminal they could make it so. I bet a google search would help run this to ground. I welcome your thoughts.
Garrard Glenn, March 20, 2020 at 6:34 pm said:
I have found some detail again via NBC news as to the liability of U.S. elected officials with regard to insider trading:
The Senator’s defense appears to be based on his assertion that his stock sales were based upon public information,
as opposed to classified briefings. Unless the classified briefings clearly pre-dated all and any reports in the press about the spread of the Corona Virus overseas, it looks like the Senator will get off scott-free.
Convenient timing for the Senator? Quite possibly.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 7:49 pm said:
There is slithering and weaseling about the premise of insider trading laws — stealing information from shareholders. If the goal were fair markets, the source of the information would not matter. I am not betting on shame to win the battle.
John Austin Murphy, March 20, 2020 at 5:44 pm said:
The law (several statutes) has been broken.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 5:59 pm said:
John, you are a lawyer. Can you help with Garrard Glenn’s question? I did not do very well, I don’t think
John Austin Murphy, March 20, 2020 at 6:39 pm said:
Haven and Gar: It is my understanding that federal law now expressly makes illegal a member of the House or Senate financially gaining from information obtained (ahead of the public) as a result of their lawmaker status. [
Barr voted against that law.]
Also, insider trading has long been illegal. A federal lawmaker is, arguably, an insider.
Bob Craft, March 20, 2020 at 5:44 pm said:
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 5:59 pm said:
Bob, any thoughts on Garrard Glenn’s question?
Peter W Bragdon, March 20, 2020 at 5:58 pm said:
Garrard Glenn, you are probably right, but Trump does produce an amazing accomplishment: achieving a new low each time he appears, such as his blast today at a respected reporter who asked him a softball question, asked him to present a statement to the American people who are scared and worried. At some point, there must be a tipping point.
Right on target regarding Sanders — truly pathetic
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 6:04 pm said:
Thanks Pete. You contributed to making me pretty harsh on the absence of teamwork and leadership.
Ed Harelik, March 20, 2020 at 7:00 pm said:
Scumbags, all. All four of them are despicable.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 7:45 pm said:
Now there are 5 of them. The controversy continues as to insider trading or not
Mike Moore, March 20, 2020 at 8:32 pm said:
The last week has been a new low in DC. Sanders will go down as betraying everything he held important. Both in 2016 and in 2020. He doesn’t have to endorse. But just go away. Note: As a legislator there are few with as strong a track record of accomplishing so little.
The Senators should face the full inquiries and prosecution. Why can’t Federal public officials who have access to classified information just be required to put their money in a blind trust while they serve? It seems like such a simple solution that of course it hasn’t been adopted. In fact its been opposed by those that benefit from said classified information.
But the President has set new lows this week. It’s clear that the professionals in the room are embarrassed each time he opens his mouth. He’s incapable of sticking to a story and reiterating facts. And facts matter. He’s a terrible manager.
The worst possible driver in an very fast lane. He may go down as the worst President ever (move over James Buchanan!). What is worse, he will be remembered as a truly bad person. It is one thing to have been overwhelmed by the job and the magnitude of the responsibility. Some would say Carter was. But at least he was a decent and kind man. Trump will be remembered for what he is: a raging narcissist and a national embarrassment. I know some don’t feel that way. Maybe they feel he’s doing a great job (“I give myself a 10!”). But if someone from the opposite side of the aisle behaved the way he has, these same people would be storming 1600 with pitchforks, if not AR-15s (which they are more likely to posses).
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 10:52 pm said:
I have always named Millard Fillmore as the worst President. Not sure I can make a good argument for him though.
Mac Norton, March 20, 2020 at 10:26 pm said:
I largely agree with the sentiments expressed by the Pundificator, but doesn’t inside information, in the Rule 10b-5 sense, have to be specific to the company the shares of which are being traded? And doesn’t it apply only to those with a fiduciary obligation to the company’s shareholders? I’m 45 years out of law school, so I’m not sure of this. In any event, I’m hoping that John Austin Murphy’s understanding of a Federal prohibition on benefiting from information gained from lawmaker status is correct.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 10:50 pm said:
You are far closer to right as to 10(b) 5. It depends on the concept of ownership of information. It is not simply based on having information that is simply unavailable to others.
Gary Lee, March 20, 2020 at 10:27 pm said:
In far away Australia it amazes so many of us that a great country like the USA could be led by such an apalling person. Even “down-under” his every appearance is cringeworthy in the extreme. It is near impossible to find a Trump admirer here and I expect the rest of the world feels the same.
Haven Pell, March 20, 2020 at 10:47 pm said:
Our selection process has been overtaken by political consultants. It has not gone well. We send them to other countries too. Our least felicitous export.
Belle Bradley, March 21, 2020 at 1:36 am said:
Haven, I share your sentiments and short fuse re: these supposed leaders, and so well said. I am heartened by the very interesting conversation between you and your readers.
“We’ve spent 5 years on this terrible Constitutional tilta-whirl, where everybody is exhausted by a president who veers from unthinkable to unthinkable to unthinkable.” John Meacham
Haven Pell, March 21, 2020 at 12:33 pm said:
Maybe, when we decide how important presidents are, we’ll decide to encourage better ways of selecting them. We have had the luxury of nearly no threats for decades and have become complacent in how we choose. I’d apply this to both parties because, if you have a bad president, a lot of voters must have thought the other candidate would have been worse.