Trump is No Ethicist: Was Mike Pence a “Human Conveyor Belt?”

Trump is no ethicist.

After hearing testimony that Mike Pence and many other key Republicans took their oath of office more seriously than his wish to stay in office, now he attacks them as being rigid. He does enjoy labeling people and takes pride in coming up with the analogy of “human conveyor belt” to describe Pence’s supposed rigid behavior for following the Constitution. Curiously, this analogy does imply his agreement that he was asking, no, demanding, that Pence and others violate the Constitution. In charging them with rigidity, he once again reveals that he is no ethicist.

In Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing, Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe do argue that wisdom may require deviating from standard principles under certain circumstances. But one of those circumstances is not personal gain, following unsubstantiated claims, or trying to avoid the wrath of a bully. The testimony in the January 6 hearings reveals that Pence and other Republicans Trump tried to corrupt did deliberate about whether this situation justified breaking their oath of office to uphold the Constitution. They determined rightly that it did not. The evidence they asked for was not there. This is not rigidity; it is wisdom and integrity, just what we need from public officials.

But he isn’t trying to be. He seeks infamy.

But of course, Trump is not even trying to be an ethicist. His claim is that Pence “missed his opportunity for greatness,” to do something that has never been done before. No Vice President, as President of the Senate, had ever single-handedly decided the results of a Presidential election before. Presumably usurping a valid election would have been great because Trump is great. Even if these Republicans still believed Trump was great after seeing how out of touch with his oath of office his ego had got him, one of the features of doing the right thing is that you very often lose something in the process. Al Gore is an example of that. He could have become President of the United States by pulling the stunt Trump was demanding of Pence. Pence lost out on making history. Trump wasn’t willing to lose being the most powerful person in the world. Infamy is one type of greatness, I suppose.