Do Morals Matter?

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S1: The following program may offend those with delicate constitutions, Baptiste’s FCC commissioners and the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan.

S2: It’s Monday, May 4th, 2020, from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. The question of if Joe Biden sexually assaulted terror. Reid is no closer to being answered after a weekend where Biden did his first interview on the subject and Reid turned down her first opportunity to be interviewed on TV. Why Reid declined the Fox News Sunday. Sit down. Still unknown, but here was Biden on Morning Joe being asked by Mika Brzezinski. Why would tell Reid say this if it didn’t happen?

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S3: I don’t understand it, but I’m not going to go in and question her motive. I’m not going to attack her. She has a right to say whatever she wants to say. But I have a right to say, look at the facts. Check it out. Find out whether any of that was. She says there’s a certain or true.

S4: Biden either is a guilty man who gave a slick answer designed to appeal to a crowd that wants to believe women, or actually he really did give a laudable answer, showing forbearance and resolve in the face of an untrue accusation and accusation that attacks his character and torpedoes his ambitions.

S1: I don’t think in that MSNBC interview, Biden said anything other than what a person being unfairly accused would have said. I also don’t think Biden said anything other than what a good liar he was adapted covering his tracks would have said. So we get no further. Maybe that’s why some goofballs on the Internet are trying to fill in those nettlesome ambivalences. A Twitter user almost hesitate to use his name, his uncle Blazer. Fine, no checkmark. Uncle Blazer found some footage of a Dr. Phil show from last year where a woman claimed to be having a secret love affair with Vladimir Putin talked about how she then, based on this, helped Trump win the presidency.

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S5: I feel that my prior life had protected President Trump during the campaigns. There are two different times. And in prayer, I saw people trying to comen either to attempted assassination. Something wasn’t right. And I would send an email and warn and, you know, they email me back. Thank you for the information.

S4: And then Uncle Blazer tweeted, Is terror read? Quote, Jennifer? That’s the name of that woman who appeared on the Dr. Phil show in late 2019, claiming Putin was in love with her and that she was getting ready to reveal something hugely beneficial to Putin.

S1: Let’s take a look. So I did and it didn’t look like anything. I mean, the two women who are supposed to look alike, they look closer than Brad Pitt and Anthony Foushee, but they don’t really look as close as, say, Alec Baldwin and Donald Trump. The tweet Uncle Blazer and unbe growing less avuncular by the tweet. But the tweet from the good uncle got thousands of re tweets, a trending notification and a close up. This is one thing he did. He did a close up of each woman’s lower Senate teeth and there were some matches. It was peak Internet fever dream. Technically, I think it is the rare case of the wild eyed centrists conspiracy theory. Unless you believe every newspaper every day. Bump, bump. Here’s my real takeaway. Having looked at the is Jennifer. Tara Reid tweets. It’s this. Dr. Phil sucks. I mean, he invites on this obviously deranged person and he just berates her and he doesn’t even do that well.

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S6: Would you agree that Vladimir Putin is one of the most powerful men in the world? I do. He’s worth several hundred billion dollars. He sits atop one of the most powerful nuclear arsenals in the world. So if he’s in love with you. Why is he never let you? Well, and I’ve questioned not only was he. I mean, this guy is the most powerful guy in the world. Why can’t he meet you? Well, I mean, it’s not like he can’t afford to come see you.

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S1: That’s how you confront a florid psychotic. You asked her to comment on the logistics of Putin’s itinerary. Miss Leather’s if Anthony Weiner really is obsessed with you. Why would you only meet you over the Internet? Why would he. A man with access to a car only talk to you online? I don’t know. Maybe that’s one aspect of centrist conspiracy theorizing that it has to be far fetched musings about people actually crazier than you are. I also like this part. Thanks. Thanks, Dr. Phil, for this part.

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S6: Well, Jennifer says while working for the Trump campaign, she realized her mission here on Earth is to share her prophetic visions with world leaders in order to stop wars, assassinations and spread global peace. All good missions, of course.

S1: Thank you for the clarification, Phil. Without the context, I’d have thought that I was the crazy one. Unfortunately, discerning truth in the real world isn’t quite so easy as unscrewing a set of termite infested Russian nesting dolls and saying That’s rotten Russian Vlad. You listening on the show today, I spiel about the governor of Mississippi’s mindset and decision making prowess. But first, Joseph Nye is the former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He was undersecretary of state in the Carter administration as deputy secretary of defense in the Clinton administration. He’s often named in surveys of academics as the single most influential scholar on American foreign policy. So you know what? They just decided to let him on. Fine, you win. His new work is Do Morals Matter? And in about 15 or 16 minutes, you will know the answer.

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S7: Whenever an international excursion is undertaken or a policy is implemented, the American president, to the extent that the American president explains it to the American people, will always use moral terms. This is the right thing to do. This is not just in our interest, but this is who we are. This assumes that morals matter. But that is the question. Do morals matter? It is written by Joseph Nye. Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump. Joseph Nye is I could say this. I’ll brag on his behalf. One of the most consequential American political scientists of the last 30 or 40 years. He essentially invented the theory of neo liberalism in international relations. And if you ever heard of soft power, you wouldn’t have without Joseph Nye. Thanks for joining me, Dr. Nye. It’s my pleasure. So I know the book is Do Morals Matter, but I kind of read it more as answering the question, should morals matter?

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S8: Well, I think it’s both. What I try to do in the book is a show that if you have the cynical view, which is a common view, that morals don’t matter. You’re going to get history wrong. So I try to do two things in the book. I first of all, try to show that there are some cases where morals made a huge difference in terms of how presidents acted.

S9: Harry Truman is a great case in point. But also, I think you can make an argument that when we stand for certain moral principles, we’re more likely to attract other countries. And that is not just good persay. It’s good for our power, for soft power, our ability to get what we want through attraction. So a morals have mattered historically, but they they are a source of power for the United States.

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S7: Yes. If our morals or if acting morally or ethically aligns with the interests or maybe the morals of other countries.

S8: That’s right.

S9: And I think what we find is very often people say, look, it doesn’t matter. Morals are like icing that a politician sprinkles on the cake, that it’s not a really important ingredient, that national interests bake a cake. Then politician comes all sprinkles. A little icing on it makes it look pretty. What I’m showing is, in fact, the moral views of presidents have often been crucial ingredients in the way the cake turned out. If Harry Truman, for example, had not resisted Douglas MacArthur’s advice to use 25 to 40 nuclear weapons on Chinese cities in 1950 to avoid losing the Korean War, we would live in a world in which nuclear weapons were much more normal weapons rather than just weapons of deterrence. That would look like a very different world. And Truman’s reason for not doing it was largely his moral view.

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S10: Right. So let’s take an interesting example, because you talk about three dimensions, the motive, the means and the consequences. And I think the war, an invasion of Iraq undertaken by George W. Bush is interesting, because if you take them at their word, the Bush administration, I think there’s a lot of evidence that you should. That the motives had a strong moral component to liberate these people. You do a report card on all the administrations. And I think correctly, that doesn’t really get them very far. The fact that they had a stated and perhaps to a large extent believed in idea that this was the right thing to do.

S9: That’s right. And, you know, Ari Fleischer, Bush’s press secretary, said you had to admire Bush for his moral clarity of his freedom agenda. And I think his intentions, I would argue, probably were largely good. But, you know, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And if you don’t pay adequate attention to the means at which Bush did not, they discarded all the State Department warnings that this was going to be a disaster. And if you don’t pay attention to the means and then you aren’t careful in assessing the probable consequences, including the unintended consequences, then you’re going to have a moral failure. And I would argue that in legal terms, we say in attention to the means, his failure to do due diligence. And if you haven’t paid enough attention to unintended consequences, that’s what we call culpable negligence. And that’s where Bush was guilty on Iraq. It was a lack of due diligence and culpable negligence, which led to a highly immoral outcome.

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S10: So I was very interested in what you how you would assess Jimmy Carter. First of all, he’s not remembered for having a successful foreign policy. I think that the Iranian hostage situation pretty much eclipsed and defined as foreign policy and the fact that we tend to conflate foreign policy successes with the status of the economy. So things weren’t going well under Carter. We view him as a failed policy. But he was the guy who articulated he put to the public discourse the idea that I will be motivated very much by human rights and by morality. And that wasn’t unpopular at the time. But looking back, some of the more cynical or gimlet eyed or, you know, kids and Jerry, in people who view the world, view him as a failure. But you give him good grades. But I wonder if those good grades, the good motives, the good means, really led to good consequences?

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S8: Well, I would argue that Carter is like a stock that has been oversold. And in fact, I think his historians look at Carter 10 years from now. His stock is going to rise. Little bit like Truman. You know, when Truman left office in 52 is his stock is down pretty low in terms of his reputation and popular ratings. And now he’s rated quite high. If you look back on Carter, in addition to the human rights issues, Carter did a number of things which are quite important. One was the Panama Canal, which he hadn’t taken it politically at home to hand over the canal to Panama. And you might have had a anti-American guerrilla movement in Latin America. Another one that he did. Was the Camp David Accords, in which his personal intermediation brought about a degree of stability and the Arab-Israeli situation. Another one was the nuclear nonproliferation policy, which I had personally been involved in, where Carter really toughened up the policy. And it led to stop of a arms race between Brazil and Argentina, nuclear arms race in Latin America, among other things. These are not main consequences. They’re pretty good consequences. He doesn’t get much credit for that. People do give him credit for raising the profile of human rights. And in fact, that did help American soft power. But a lot of these other accomplishments of cadres, of people have spent so much time thinking about the hostage crisis that it’s obscured the other things that Carter did.

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S4: Yeah.

S11: So your basic point, and it is that the United States should just or maybe all countries, but you look at this from an American perspective, should not narrowly defined self-interest and say we are going to act in self-interest and think that that will redound to the best benefit of the country. The leaders of the United States, the people who choose foreign policy, should have a wider view because in the long run, purely short term transactional ism will not be in the best interest of the United States, not to be nice to anyone else, just to be good for the United States. So I want to get to a consequence of that. But I saw you giving a talk and you were citing some interesting experiments with the prisoner’s dilemma and altruism. And you used it to point out that Donald Trump’s definition of transactional ism, it’s not so much wrong in and of itself. It’s just too much of an example of short term thinking.

S8: Yeah, I think the key point is not that leaders act in defense of their national interests. It would be odd if they didn’t expect bet Emanuel, but Kraul should say France first. The question is not do you say America first? It’s how do you define America first? And that’s where this short term transactional ism comes in. Go back to the presidents in the early days after World War Two, who were certainly pursuing American interests. And the United States had most of the cards and we were about half of the world’s economy and had the only nuclear weapons. And yet we set up international institutions that let others play in the game with us. We established the Marshall Plan, where we transferred two percent of American GDP to Europe. Now, we did that out of American interest, but it was long term American interest. Marshall Plan was good for us, but it is good for Europeans, too. There is a big difference there, which is establishing institutions or a perspective where others benefit as well as you do, allows them to participate and to feel involved and is actually good for our soft power. Donald Trump doesn’t get that Trump. It’s every little transaction on its own bottom. Did I win? Did you lose? And this long shadow of the future thinking ahead. Just doesn’t matter to it. And he he fails to see this. And I contrast that to, let’s say, George Shultz, who was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, who said, you know, foreign policy’s more like gardening, where you plant some seeds, you do some weeding. You do some hauling. You stake up the plants. You work on it, but you’re playing for the long run. And with Trump, you don’t feel like that. You feel like it’s always what’s my short term self-interest? He misses this chance to garden for the long term. And George Shultz is a metaphor.

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S12: OK. That is a great point. Let me either play devil’s advocate, maybe even literally devil’s advocate. I think a problem with saying that a power should act morally. One of the problems is that, first of all, I don’t think they should act immorally and go out of their way to do so. And I don’t think they should just scrap morals. But a huge problem is that the definition of what is moral or changes. And if you look at the great powers of Europe in the 16, 17, 18 hundreds, their definition of morality as related to colonialism would include something like let us go to these far flung areas and sure, let us take the resources. But we’ll also be behaving morally because we’ll be introducing Christianity to these backwards people. So that was the moral stance, the widely accepted moral stance at the time. And now it is widely seen as not just less than perfectly moral, but almost totally immoral. And so I wondering, since there’s no such thing as there’s no such thing as an absolute national interest, perhaps, but there’s no such thing as a fixed morality. It’s pretty hard to judge a country’s foreign policy on a very fundable standard.

S8: Well, I think that’s true, that moral standards change over time. After all, when the United States was founded, we wrote slavery into the Constitution. Now we all regard slavery is abhorrent. So it’s true that moral standards change. What I tried to do in the book is judge the precedents, by the standards, pretty much of their own time. And since I’m looking at modern American presidents in the what’s called the American era since 1945. Yes, there are some changes in standards, but by and large, there’s a degree of consistency. So I accept your point. And I’m not trying to argue for immutable moral standards forever. But I think when you ask, for example, if you try to compare Trump and FDR, you try to compare Nixon with Gerry Ford just to take two next to each other. I think it’s doable in that time frame.

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S13: I also, as I read your book, was saying, you know, this is a little different because we’re talking about American presidents and not kings. And if it were kings, then you could say, well, the morality of the king is the morality of the king. But the American president is elected by a people to more or less reflect their morality. So is it really making a moral choice or just making a democratic political choice to pursue the foreign policies in ways that align with the will of the voters that have already and in some cases will render a verdict on the person making the choice? Well, in other words, that, you know, they’re subcontracting out there morality as opposed to being guided by what a philosopher would call moral reasoning.

S8: Right. And presidents in democracies face that problem all the time, which is if the people want one thing and they say in your long run, you people should want the other thing. What should a Democratic leader do? There’s a famous quotation from Franklin Roosevelt that I have in the book when he’s trying to persuade the American people that they have to stand up to Hitler and it’s not working and is the best of his fireside chats or failing. And Roosevelt tells his press secretary says, what do you do if you’re a democratically elected leader and you look over your shoulder and nobody’s following in? One of the things that Roosevelt did is he lied. There’s a famous case of the grear, which is the American destroyer, which Roosevelt told the American people that if you vote to German, you voted to attack the grear. In fact, it was the other way around. The American ship attacked first. But Roosevelt felt that it was so important for the American people to look ahead to the long run danger of Hitler that you couldn’t just accept their view, which was then extremely isolationist.

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S13: Yeah. So when you lie about ships, name the Maddox and the Turner joy. And the more you get us into is Vietnam, that’s immoral. When you lie about the grear and the war, you get a thing. Two is World War Two. That’s.

S8: Well, that’s right. The interesting question, and I talk about this a little bit in the book is how do we judge lies? We know that all people lie. But certainly all precedents lie. And how do we judge the lies? Sometimes a lie is personal regarding it’s for my good. Sometimes it’s other regarding it’s for your good or for people’s good. And there’s also the magnitude of the lie. What what are the consequences? Roosevelt essentially was thinking of consequences that turned out to be good, which was that we did have to defeat Hitler. Johnson was basically looking for a blank check so that he could escalate in Vietnam, which turned out to be a disaster. So the nature of the lies, the purpose of the lies leads to different moral judgments. Also, I would argue the quantity of the lies. Johnson and Roosevelt lied, but not all the time. One to one of the problems with Trump is that if you believe The Washington Post, fact checkers in his first thousand days in office, he told something like 15000 lies. If you do that, you debase the currency of trust. Nobody trust you or trust your country. That’s why there’s been a big decrease in American soft power over the last three years.

S3: The name of the book is Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy From FDR to Trump. The author is Joseph Nye. Thanks so much. Thank you. I enjoyed it.

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S1: And now the spiel, Tate Reeves, governor of Mississippi. He put the tape in state and kept out the last S because of savings, not saving lives, however, is one of the more aggressive governors in reopening or to be more precise. One of the least aggressive governors. In closing, Reeve gets to make big Braggs like this one through the media.

S14: I’ve heard some governors talk about when they start reopening, they’re going to reopen, can show outdoor construction, for instance, or they’re going to reopen manufacturing in Mississippi. Neither one of those ever closed down.

S4: And that was on CNN on Sunday. He was also on Fox News Sunday, which is a friendlier forum than CNN. But he was pressed pretty hard by anchor Chris Wallace about the basic math. States aren’t supposed to open until they see a steady decline in cases. But Mississippi is opening or not remaining closed, but also opening a little. And they actually just saw the state’s biggest one day spike in cases. How does Reeves account for that?

S14: What I would tell you is that we had a one day spike and we went up to three hundred and ninety two cases that were reported early Friday morning. We didn’t have time to analyze the data before we made the announcement. And we’re trying to be very cautious. And so we said, let’s analyze the data over the weekend. And what we have found is that it was really a day to day. We got a large number of tests that came in from out-of-state private labs. What we found is yesterday we were going to we reported 220 new cases this morning or later today will report less than one hundred and ten new cases. So it was a one day blip.

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S1: Three explanations. Their data dump, out-of-state private lab blip. I don’t know what’s worse. Would it be an instate data dump or an out-of-state blip? Let the philosophers decide, I suppose. But all of these incoordination the add a state data dump blip. What a confluence of a perfect storm of rolling snake eyes. Now, actually, none of those conditions of that spike in figures argue for the spike not being a real thing, an accurate piece of data to take into consideration and out of state lab. This always happens. Tests are flown to where the testing capacity exists out of state labs are in no way abnormal or unusual during this pandemic. Maybe the implication is you can’t trust those Tennesseans. They’ve always had it in for us. Data dump implies that this is a number that doesn’t reflect their one day total, but reflects maybe a bunch of days rolled up into one. OK, but the problem with that is we’re all the days equally distributed. Were they from disproportionately another day with a high number of cases? They might very well indicate that the numbers are rising. The governor seemed to emphasize that it is the case that the numbers aren’t rising because look at the low Sunday totals. But you know what? Sunday totals are low in most places. There is a usual ebb to the reporting on weekends and lots of places. So whereas on Sunday there were a little over 70, 500 cases in Mississippi and 303 deaths today, new data from Mississippi emerged.

S15: And latest numbers from the State Department of Health are in and across Mississippi. The state has more than eight hundred cases and 310 deaths.

S1: That’s W.J. TV Channel twelve on your side, more so than the governor is. Governor Reeves’ returned to those 110 new cases yesterday in The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

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S14: We’ve been hovering around about between 150 and 300 new cases every day, for instance. One hundred, ten new cases we got yesterday was barely a one and a half percent increase in the overall number of cases.

S1: Well, New York state actually fits that criteria barely more than a one point five percent increase, four weeks. Let’s look at the death data from New York from yesterday to today. There was only a one point two percent increase in deaths in New York. It’s still 226 people dead. And if tomorrow there are 227 people dead, you could say that there are more dead than yesterday accurate. But if you do it on a percentage basis, it’s actually a slightly smaller percentage than it was today, because that’s how denominators work with percentages. And oh, yeah, I might remind you that 110 on Sunday did give way to 327 new cases today. Nothing, it seems that numbers the actual numbers make a huge difference to Reeves here, who was back being interviewed by Fox for the last 35 to 40 days.

S14: We’ve been between 200 and 300 cases without a spike. Our hospital system is is not stressed. We have less than one hundred people in our state on ventilators, OK?

S1: It’s not true. 40 days prior to the interview you just heard was March 24th in Mississippi at 320 total confirmed cases on March 24th. That was a 71 case increase from the day prior. And the next day it would increase by 57 cases. They’ve actually had only two days of over 300 cases. That was today in the out of state data dump blip Friday. But they have seen a more or less steady rising generally. More cases day after day and most days more death. And that’s because Corona virus is spreading in Mississippi. It’s not contained and it’s not shrinking. There is not a huge outbreak in Mississippi, but I should probably more accurately say there is not yet a huge outbreak. And here’s what I worry about.

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S4: Can Tate Reeves, who provided the data in the manner that I played to a national audience, can Tate Reeves be trusted to react to the facts and the data he claims to be so driven by? There is some acceptable toe touches into the world of opening up. But I don’t know that Mississippi or Georgia or Florida are the places that are going to do these toe touches. Right. I think there is this belief that if you’re in camp, let’s get this economy cranking again. You’d want to live in a state like Florida, Mississippi or Georgia because those governors want to open up. But actually, I’d be more worried, not less. Those governors show habits of not being the least bit reactive to actual data. They seem to be most insistent on going by gut or narrative or ideology or a knee jerk rejection of actual facts and data. It is worrying. This is a time where the limitations of immunity are clear. But in this case, to be governed by a person who is supremely immune to confounding evidence is a dangerous thing.

S16: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Hely is the gists associate producer. She’s pretty sure that Justin Trudeau is in love with her, but he isn’t quite as confident that Raul Lopez Obrador has gotten the message that she likes him. She doesn’t like like him. Daniel Shrader, just producer, wonders if undersecretary of state for Carter Beats, assistant secretary of Defense for Clinton beats married to daughter for Trump. The gist of out-of-state private lab data dump Blair met the unfounded, unwarranted, unsubstantiated, scurrilous rumor in a dark alley would either be able to step left around together with the right who were desperate to Prue. And thanks for listening.