In a single post I can’t possibly cover all of the heroes, villains and fools who have emerged in the aftermath of the explosion of Trump’s latest hand-grenade tossed into the Presidential campaign. I have to start somewhere, though.
At the outset, I want to officially designate Trump’s campaign as an ethics train wreck, neatly paired with the Hillary Clinton Campaign Ethics Train Wreck (more from that later.) Do you sense that the number of Ethics Train Wrecks are proliferating? You are correct, and it is both a direct result and an indirect result of the Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck. When leadership is feckless, weak, dishonest, unethical and ineffective, a society’s ethical standards start to unravel.
Now on to the initial designations regarding Trump’s declaration that Muslims should be banned from entering the country.
Hero, Villain, AND Fool: Donald Trump. Trump is a hero in his own mind; in ethics terms, the status is accidental, an example of doing a good and courageous thing for all the wrong reasons. In his typical, bully-in-a china-shop way, Trump has forced the national debate to focus on nasty realities rather than operate from President Obama’s fantasy world, where radical Islamic terrorists somehow are not Islamic, and Hillary Clinton’s delusion/lie that terrorism has “nothing to do with Muslims, whatsoever” even after two Muslims, because they were Muslims, killed 14 citizens in a terrorist attack. Muslims who have been radicalized or who have ties to terror groups are a real and existential problem that requires a coherent policy addressed at the problem. Chanted nostrums like “This isn’t who we are” don’t get the job done. A frank debate is mandatory, and sometimes only a boor, a maniac or a boob with less than acute intellectual skills will have the guts to force such a debate. Clarence Darrow regarded nut-case John Brown as such a hero, arguing that some problems require someone whose disregard for conventional societal standards to “cut the Gordian Knot.” By Darrow’s definition, then, Trump is a hero.
He’s still a fool. Once again he told an interviewer (Don Lemon) that he’s “a very smart person,” channeling his inner Fredo. When asked about comparisons with Hitler, Trump instead argued that what he was proposing was more like FDR’s imprisoning Japanese-Americans, as if this was a rational defense. Trump, I have long noticed, literally cannot make an argument without citing a rationalization or six. He apparently thinks all of them are genuine justifications for unethical conduct. He can’t argue any other way, except that he sometimes throws in logical fallacies too, like constantly citing his poll numbers (Appeal to Authority) as validation of his positions.
His FDR rebuttal is Rationalization #32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing.” Then Trump followed up with a reminder that what he was proposing regarding Muslims wasn’t nearly as extreme as the Japanese internment, which is an invocation of Rationalization #22, “It’s Not The Worst Thing.” It takes a muddled brain of epic squishiness to use these two rationalizations to excuse the same position.
And he’s a villain. Trump’s proposed blanket ban of individuals based on their religion alone is the definition of religious bigotry, and he doesn’t appear to recognize it. Whether he sees it that way is irrelevant: he doesn’t seem to care that others will see it that way. Trumps’ evident rationale is “the ends justify the means,” which is the calling card of villains, and an unethical philosophy that has been used though human history to perpetrate murder, torture, unjust trials, all manner of crimes, war and genocide.
Smoking gun proof came in the comments of one of his spokespersons, for whose statements Trump is 100% responsible unless he immediately repudiates her words and fires her within hours, and he did not. Co-villain/fool Katrina Pierson was debating CNN house conservative S.E. Cupp on the ethics, practicality and legality of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Pierson respnded that The Donald’s ideas were actually “nothing new.” (See? Trump’s mouthpieces also think rationalizations are legitimate arguments. This is just one of many variations on “Everybody does it.”) Next, she asserted that “never in United States history have we allowed insurgents to come across these borders,” which isn’t the exact issue. Cupp correctly answered, “No one’s talking about allowing insurgents. You’re talking about not allowing regular Muslims. That’s what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, from Arab nations,” Pierson said. “You know what? So what. They’re Muslim.”
Hero: Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump was getting ready to go to Israel to meet the Israeli Prime Minister, when Netanyahu sent out a tweet stating, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims.“ So much for the theory that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Hero: Andrew McCarthy. While a disturbing number of conservative pundits were bending over backwards to either find a reason to defend Trump or to protect the Republican Party by reflexively attacking him for religious bigotry, the National Review writer explained that Trump had “stumbled upon” an important dilemma: Islam isn’t a typical religion, Sharia law can reasonably be viewed as a threat to U.S. law and culture, and the questions raised by Trump’s rhetoric need to be thought about seriously and considered. He also neatly pinpointed why Trump’s proposal is inherently unjust and un-American:
[I]t is simply a fact that many Muslims accept our constitutional principles and do not seek to impose sharia on our society. They have varying rationales for taking this position: Some believe sharia mandates that immigrants accept their host country’s laws; some believe sharia’s troublesome elements are confined to the historical time and place where they arose and are no longer applicable; some think sharia can evolve; some simply ignore sharia altogether but deem themselves devout Muslims because they remain Islamic spiritually and — within the strictures of American law — culturally. For those Muslims, Islam is, in effect, merely a religion, and as such it deserves our Constitution’s protections.
Villains: Fox News and others who have made the dishonest comparison between Trump’s Muslim ban and Jimmy Carter’s ban on Iranians entering the U.S. during the hostage crisis. Here’s Daniel Greenstein on the Fox site:
“Trump is a monster, a madman and a vile racist. He’s just like Hitler. Or Jimmy Carter. During the Iranian hostage crisis, Carter issued a number of orders to put pressure on Iran. Among these, Iranians were banned from entering the United States unless they oppose the Shiite Islamist regime or had a medical emergency.”
This is either a smart person trying to fool ignorant people using deceit, or a stupid pundit seeing a parallel where no exists. Diplomatic retaliation is a necessary weapon in international conflicts. Religions aren’t countries. Carter was using the ban to pressure Iran to release American citizens. Snopes.com performs the debunking of this nonsense nicely.
Villain: Josh Earnest, White House Spokesman. Fire him. His comment on Trump’s proposal (remember whom he’s speaking for, now…fair is fair):
“The Trump campaign, for some time now, has had a ‘dustbin of history’-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering, to the outright lies; even the fake hair.”
For the White House to engage in ad hominem attacks—what difference does Trumps hair make in assessing his position?—is a new low, even for this amateur-hour, petty, arrogant and inept President. How is this different from Trump mocking the hand gestures of a disabled journalist, or calling Carly Fiorina homely?
Hint: It isn’t.
It’s hard to make the case, as I have, that Trump’s boorishness, lack of dignity and obnoxious personal attacks render him unfit to lead the nation when the current leader behaves similarly. Go ahead, Mr. President, go full asshole; you know you want to. Call Rush Limbaugh fat, and Marco Rubio a shrimp; call Carly a dog and Megyn Kelly a bimbo. Then the GOP can mock Hillary’s legs and Bernie Sanders’ wrinkles.
[ One more thing, slightly off post: For President Obama, of all people, to call any presidential candidate unqualified achieves a new vistas in lack of self-awareness.]