Trump’s Critics And The “Julie Principle” Follow-Up: And If You Don’t Pounce On Every Silly Trump Tweet Like It Was A Threat To The Constitution, You Won’t Be As Likely To Have THIS Happen…

doh-dohFrom PHILADELPHIA (CBS/CNN)

“President-elect Donald Trump is coming under fire that there should be “consequences” for flag burners, but in 2005, Hillary Clinton backed a bill that would have criminalized burning the American flag.

While she was senator of New York, Clinton co-sponsored the Flag Protection Act of 2005, which would have outlawed “destroying or damaging a U.S. flag with the primary purpose and intent to incite or produce imminent violence or a breach of the peace.”

You see, another benefit of practicing”The Julie Principle” is that it provides some protection from confirmation bias, which, as Ethics Alarms keeps telling you, makes you stupid, and cognitive dissonance, which warps your perception. Let me return to another section of the original “Julie Principle” post:

My father had essentially four close friends his whole life: men he met and learned to love as a fatherless child in Depression Era Louisville, Kentucky, forced to move and change schools every few months because his mother would run out of jobs and rent money. They all belonged to the same Boy Scout troop, and though life took all four into different locales and careers, they stayed in close contact throughout their lives. One of them, “Bud,” lived the closest to the Marshalls, so we saw more of him than the others. He was a sociopath. My mother couldn’t stand him, and with good reason. He was a shameless rogue. Lies and manipulation were his calling cards: after he died, it was hardly a surprise—though it was a surprise—when a second wife from Australia showed up, unannounced, at his funeral. Bud  had maintained a second family while supposedly being happily married to the long-suffering wife that we knew.

Long before Bud’s demise, I asked my father, whom I never knew to lie about anything, why he remained friends with a man who was despicable in so many ways. He smiled and launched into a tone-deaf rendition of the opening line of the famous lament (“Can’t help lovin’ dat man o’ mine”) sung by the character Julie in the epic musical “Show Boat”: “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…”  Knowing the song, I first assumed that he was telling me that the answer to my question was the same as Julie’s explanation in the song for why she continued to be loyal to her abusive, untrustworthy lover: she couldn’t help it; that was just the way she was. But that wasn’t his meaning.

He meant that Bud wasn’t going to change. Bud was always like this, and his sociopathic tendencies were as natural to him as flying was to birds and swimming was to fish. “It makes no sense,” he told me, “to keep getting angry at people for who and what they are. You make a decision, that’s all. Do I care enough about this individual, for whatever reason, to be his friend, or don’t I? If I do, I accept the package, wings, gills and all. I knew Bud was like he was when we were kids. He was there for me, along with the others, when I had nothing else, and he has always been loyal to me. I decided he was my friend just as he was, and that I would accept the aspects of his character the I didn’t like. The alternative was having nothing to do with him.”

That’s the Julie Principle.

What I foolishly neglected to say yesterday, and found myself writing multiple times in replies to comments on the post, was that it’s all about good will. If you have good will toward someone, then you acknowledge their intractable flaws while deciding that they are less important than the person as a whole. If you have bad will toward someone, every new example of habitual conduct is further justification for it.

We should all strive, with a new leader facing a task that nobody is really prepared for and that has defeated some of the best and most qualified statesmen the nation has ever produced (Adams, Madison, J.Q. Adams, Buchanan, Taft, Hoover, LBJ, Nixon…) we should all strive, as Americans, to begin with good will. Good will means, among other things,  applying the Julie Principle to known flaws when they surface and the consequences are minor. Doing otherwise to Trump is evidence of bad will, like that of  Charles Blow, John Oliver, Harry Reid and “Hamilton.”

Trump’s superfluous and impulsive tweet about flag-burning, which there is literally nothing he can do about as President, was treated by his critics as if it was smoking gun evidence of the dictatorship to come. The New York Times thought it was worthy of an editorial, when it was only worthy of an eye-roll. The tweet, it said, demeaned the Presidency and was inciting, feeding “lies and ignorance directly to 36 million people.” Yet when Hillary Clinton, as a Senator, did quite a bit more than offering her opinion that flag-burning should be a crime, 16 years after the Supreme Court declared it protected speech, the Times, while critical, had a much more measured response.

Hillary was pandering, griped the Times. You know, like all politicians sometimes do. No big deal. A Senator, introducing actual legislation to criminalize flag-burning, wasn’t committing a serious enough offense to even recall when she was running for President seeking the automatic support those most likely to burn flags. A President Elect, known to shoot off stupid tweets on a whim, agreeing with that Senator Clinton but otherwise proposing and threatening nothing, is worthy of full-throated ridicule and condemnation, for days. “Mr. Trump, Meet the Constitution” (you idiot), quoth the Times to Trump for stating an opinion also held, with some force and logic, by millions of veterans, among others. But Hillary, implied the Times in 2006, didn’t really mean what her proposed legislation asserted, because, “as a lawyer,” she understood the Constitution.

She had the Times’ good will, you see, so when her conduct was inconsistent with what the paper saw as her true and virtuous beliefs, it was shrugged off as an annoying example of politics. Because Trump is the target of bad will only, he gets no such pass even when there is an obvious reason to ignore the terrifying tweet.  It doesn’t mean anything, like most of his tweets. He just has poor impulse control. (Before he was President Elect, I would have said something less flattering. Good will, Jack. Good will…)

There is also a practical reason to use the Julie Principle on such trivial episodes as this. The Times and Trump’s critics dissipate their influence, credibility and ammunition by showing such poor discretion. Could it possibly be that they have never read this?

 

59 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Rights

59 responses to “Trump’s Critics And The “Julie Principle” Follow-Up: And If You Don’t Pounce On Every Silly Trump Tweet Like It Was A Threat To The Constitution, You Won’t Be As Likely To Have THIS Happen…

  1. deery

    It really isn’t much of a d’oh! though. Here is the bill Clinton sponsored:

    Amends the federal criminal code to revise provisions regarding desecration of the flag to prohibit: (1) destroying or damaging a U.S. flag with the primary purpose and intent to incite or produce imminent violence or a breach of the peace; (2) intentionally threatening or intimidating any person, or group of persons, by burning a U.S. flag; or (3) stealing or knowingly converting the use of a U.S. flag belonging to the United States, or belonging to another person on U.S. lands, and intentionally destroying or damaging that flag.

    Which is a lot different than proposing people be thrown in jail or stripped of their citizenship just for burning the flag, or even proposing a constitutional amendment to forbid the burning of the flag (which Clinton was opposed to).

    • Chris

      Yes, I was just about to say this. It isn’t a double standard to judge two totally different proposals differently. Clinton’s proposal only applied to flag-burning if the intent was to intimidate or spark violence; you quoted that exact portion, Jack, so I’m not sure why you ignored it for the rest of your post.

      • Since you are going to ignore this response, I’ll paste a section of it that is relevant:

        Granted the legislation sounds benign as it seeks to make a type of “Yelling Fire in a Crowded Theater” type exception to flag burning, it is nonetheless, legislation limiting the Freedom of Speech, based on an incredibly impossible to prove standard, which would probably have the effect of outlawing MOST flag burning.

        Oh, and you are still using the language of equivalence when you say “It isn’t a double standard to judge two totally different proposals differently.”. Jack has explained to you the difference between an “opinion” and actually pushing legislation. Keep pretending like the difference doesn’t exist though, by all means.

        • Chris

          I didn’t ignore your response, you ass, I hadn’t read it yet. I just responded to it right now in the other thread.

          I’m also not pretending there is no difference between a tweet and proposing legislation. Proposing that we change our laws through Twitter is an undignified way for the president to behave.

          • “Proposing that we change our laws through Twitter is an undignified way for the president to behave.”

            Pivoting? Thought you considered his tweet unethical because of the content… now you are arguing that it’s the method of communicating the content…

            You can hol both views mind you, but lemme know if you are *adding* an angle to this debate. Otherwise it looks like a pivots.

            “I didn’t ignore your response, you ass, I hadn’t read it yet. I just responded to it right now in the other thread.”

            Then I apologize. I just know you’ve ignored a good number of substantive comments that severely undermine your positions in the past and when I saw you becoming active on several other threads it looked to be more of the same.

            • Chris

              It’s both. The manner in which he spits out his ignorant positions is nearly as offensive as the content.

              • Well, in this instance you’ve been proven wrong on the content as it’s a mere opinion. Though you’ve used as defense an actual piece of legislation pushed by your darling. You’ve also hastily generalized the desire to punish people for burning the flag as the same as the desire to be able to crush all free expression.

                And Jack, below, is doing a great job dismantling your arguments from the “method” point of view.

          • Oooh, ICK FACTOR! It’s only undignified because before Obama, no President tweeted. I’m pretty sure Obama’s twitter feed advocated gun legislation, and why not?

      • deery

        Her proposal was pabulum because I’m pretty sure most of those actions are illegal already, whether they involve the flag or not. You can’t deliberately try to incite violence, you can’t intimidate or threaten people, and you can’t steal government or personal property. *shrugs*

        • Wait what?

          Are you taking the “good will” approach and merely stating that Clinton was pandering when she pushed the legislation? I think Jack discussed that angle in depth.

          OR

          Are you stating that because the other items are already illegal, that the law is superfluous? Because I don’t see how the proposed law would be superfluous if someone actually burned a flag with those intentions in mind and then immediately hid behind the protections of flag burning as a defense. The proposed law specifically seems to be to address the hole caused by the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem…

          • Spartan

            Oh, she definitely was a panderer. Just like the nonsense about video game violence that she was behind.

          • Chris

            Because I don’t see how the proposed law would be superfluous if someone actually burned a flag with those intentions in mind and then immediately hid behind the protections of flag burning as a defense. The proposed law specifically seems to be to address the hole caused by the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem…

            So are you saying you agree with Clinton’s proposal?

            • Bless you heart and your diversions.

              I’ve made neither a positive nor negative statement regarding that proposed law. Merely pointing out that deery called it pabulum whereas it did seem to try to fill a potential legal void. Doesn’t mean I agree the void exists or not.

              • deery

                It doesn’t really fill a legal void. You can’t steal property and claim “free speech”, for example, no matter what the object is. At best, and being charitable towards Clinton, it clarifies that for the idiots roaming us.

                • Yeah in regards to theft or vandalism it’s obvious. But the other scenario…”intentionally inciting violence”, “intentionally intimidating”, those are considerably murkier. Did you read Stevens’ dissent?

                  “A flag-burner may also, or instead, seek to convey the depth of his personal conviction about some issue, by willingly provoking the use of force against himself.”

                  “There is at least one further possibility; a flag-burner may intend to make an accusation against the integrity of the American people who disagree with him.”

                  “The flag-burner may wish simply to convey hatred, contempt, or sheer opposition directed at the United States.”

                  That closes the gap considerably, from the other direction…

                  With a gap that narrow, it would seem that there could be arguments from the Ethics Incompleteness Principle that someone needed to have the defense of “well it’s my first amendment right” (in cases that it actually isn’t their first amendment right) taken away.

                  Whether or not it is “to clarify for the idiots”…

                  So, was she pandering? Or was she legitimately pushing a law that could be used to squash that particular form of speech?

          • deery

            Wait what?

            Are you taking the “good will” approach and merely stating that Clinton was pandering when she pushed the legislation? I think Jack discussed that angle in depth.

            OR

            Are you stating that because the other items are already illegal, that the law is superfluous? Because I don’t see how the proposed law would be superfluous if someone actually burned a flag with those intentions in mind and then immediately hid behind the protections of flag burning as a defense. The proposed law specifically seems to be to address the hole caused by the Ethics Incompleteness Theorem…

            A little bit of both A and B. The law is completely superfluous, with at best, providing some clarity to someone who might be confused as to why they can’t steal someone’s property and then claim free speech.

            But I think she obviously proposed (and was derided for at the time) the legislation to polish up her conservative bona fides. Though the proposed legislation would have had exactly zero practical effects, because, like I pointed out earlier, such actions are already illegal.

            I’m not quite sure what Jack wants people to do. Not point out outrageous opinions that people might disagree with? Keep quiet, shut up, and smile blankly? Jack said previously that he liked the “American fighting spirit”, the willingness to flip the bird to those in authority and speak truth to power…but not when it comes to Trump?

            I get that he seems to want some sort of a grace period for Trump, but Trump ran a very ugly, divisive campaign, and his early rumored picks for Cabinet are pretty ugly and divisive, and his tweets are also ugly and divisive. I’m not sure a principled person can really give him much grace under those circumstances. He has shown over and over again that he mistakes grace and forgiveness for weakness and “loserdom”, and that given an inch, Trump is more than willing to take a mile. When should grace and the benefit of the doubt stop?

            • “I’m not quite sure what Jack wants people to do. Not point out outrageous opinions that people might disagree with? Keep quiet, shut up, and smile blankly? Jack said previously that he liked the “American fighting spirit”, the willingness to flip the bird to those in authority and speak truth to power…but not when it comes to Trump?”

              He has explained it plain as day. He just wants people, when they do disagree with a Trump comment, not to have spasmodic overreactions… which is so far the only thing the Left has done every single time Trump communicates…

              • deery

                He has explained it plain as day. He just wants people, when they do disagree with a Trump comment, not to have spasmodic overreactions… which is so far the only thing the Left has done every single time Trump communicates…

                But what is an overreaction? Disagreeing? Writing editorials? Commenting on Facebook? Thus far no one is talking about gathering all their guns and seizing the government or other “2nd amendment solutions” like when the shoe is on the other foot.

                • Really, no one is talking about California seceding…no one has made mention that left wingers need to arm themselves…no one has made comments that Trump voters need to die?

                  Have you also missed all the posts on Left Wing overreactions from the past 3 weeks?

                  • To clarify, no Jack hasn’t posted on the top paragraph…he’s posted on the myriad other left wing temper tantrums. The top paragraph are items that I’ve noticed.

                  • deery

                    Really, no one is talking about California seceding…no one has made mention that left wingers need to arm themselves…no one has made comments that Trump voters need to die?

                    Have you also missed all the posts on Left Wing overreactions from the past 3 weeks?

                    I haven’t read about anything about Trump voters needing to die, and as far as I know, no groups are banding together to try to make that happen. The California hissy fit (that no one is taking seriously) happened way before any of the Trump tweets and are not in reaction to those. I haven’t heard leftwingers in general needing to arm themselves, but I have heard of minorities being afraid of being attacked, and now arming themselves. Given the huge wave of hate crimes against minorities after the Trump win (did that happen after Obama won?), it might not be a bad move.

                  • Chris

                    Really, no one is talking about California seceding…no one has made mention that left wingers need to arm themselves…no one has made comments that Trump voters need to die?

                    None of the lefties here have done so, and yet we’re often cajoled for “overreacting” to Trump. So I think “What counts as an overreaction?” is a fair question.

                    • “None of the lefties here have done so, and yet we’re often cajoled for “overreacting” to Trump. So I think “What counts as an overreaction?” is a fair question.”

                      So I gave examples of Left Wingers throwing temper tantrums across the nation and your response is that none of the Lefties on here have *thrown temper tantrums? Then demand I again answer the question which appeared to be pretty well posed to address the topic of the conversation, which was national in scope…

                      How is that logical? Do better than that.

                      But to go ahead and answer your question, I’ll merely mention, yet again, that Jack does a pretty good job explaining how to approach any tweet by Trump.

                      *To be clear y’all have already gone off on some pretty hysterical rants…

            • The law isn’t superfluous. Theft, incitement, etc. are all generally prohibited by state law. This makes flagburning a federal offense, subject to federal punishment. And it is a clearly content-based regulation of speech. So it is neither superfluous, nor in keeping with the First Amendment. Why does Hillary get away with projecting to the country that the government should intervene when it doesn’t favor certain speech, but Trump doesn’t?

              • deery

                The law isn’t superfluous. Theft, incitement, etc. are all generally prohibited by state law. This makes flagburning a federal offense, subject to federal punishment. And it is a clearly content-based regulation of speech. So it is neither superfluous, nor in keeping with the First Amendment.

                It is already a federal crime to steal federal property. There aren’t any current exceptions carved out for stealing flags. Therefore flags are included under federal law.

                As for incitement: 18 U.S. Code, Section 2101, which states: “Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including, but not limited to, the mail, telegraph, telephone, radio, or television, with intent to incite a riot; or to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot; or to commit any act of violence in furtherance of a riot; or to aid or abet any person in inciting or participating in or carrying on a riot or committing any act of violence in furtherance of a riot… shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

                Also no exceptions for flags.

                • Sorry, but how is the flag act limited to flag burning in interstate commerce? I still see there being a void between them.

                • Also bear in mind that this act punishes something which is done apart from the theft, i.e., the destruction of the flag, not just stealing the flag. I’d be interested to see if there were proposed penalties for a violation, because even if we assumed arguendo that it added no new punishable acts, the punishment proposed could still differentiate it.

  2. charlesgreen

    Flag specifics aside – this is a really good post. Thanks for re-quoting the original material, I hadn’t been thorough enough to read it the first time. Your dad was a very wise man. Acceptance of others for what they are is a powerful lesson that most of us keep fighting all our lives.

  3. Jack,

    Anyone using the “She was just pandering” argument, such as The Times article you mentioned, are they not ultimately using a rationalization that is cousins to #54 The Joke Excuse, or “I was only kidding!”?

    • Chris

      Anyone using the “She was just pandering” argument, such as The Times article you mentioned, are they not ultimately using a rationalization that is cousins to #54 The Joke Excuse, or “I was only kidding!”?

      Wouldn’t that also cover the argument that we shouldn’t take Trump’s tweet seriously?

      • Depends. Rationalizations are rationalizations if the conduct is unethical. They aren’t rationalizations if the conduct is.

        Is the pushing of legislation *just to pander* unethical?

        Is the posting of opinion unethical?

    • I think it’s more like “everybody does it,” but yes.

      • I actually did type “she was just pandering like everyone else” but decided to delete the “like everyone else” because it struck me as a compound rationalization.

  4. Cynthia Rayne

    Trying to scrape up some good will toward Trump is a difficult task. I’m going to try to let it go, if only for my own sanity. I can point to something I like about all the recent presidents, even if I’ve disagreed with policies or ideologies. I’ve thought all of them had our best interests at heart, even if I’ve thought their ideas might be misguided.

    Since I’m from Ohio, I keep thinking about Kasich and how he would be handling all of this. I guess we don’t always get what we want.

    I just don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so unprepared for this job. There’s a stunning lack of knowledge, along with an enormous ego. And I’ve never EVER seen anyone so thin-skinned in this role. His communication style needs a lot of work, too…starting with using full sentences and not getting sidetracked.

    And for the love of all that’s holy, someone should take away his Twitter account. Doesn’t he have anything better to do than tweet? Like, say, getting those security briefings he’s been turning away.

    I hope he doesn’t fail, but I seriously doubt he’s going to succeed.

    • “I just don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so unprepared for this job.”

      We survived Obama…his only preparation was community rabble rousing combined with a ghost term in the Senate…and hell, he has arguably left the office *less* prepared for the Presidency.

      “And for the love of all that’s holy, someone should take away his Twitter account. Doesn’t he have anything better to do than tweet?”

      Would be nice.

      • Chris

        I just don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so unprepared for this job.”

        We survived Obama…

        Man, you rag on others for not addressing what someone else said and trying to pivot, and then you go and do the same thing. You may think Obama was ill-prepared, but that doesn’t change the fact that Trump is even LESS prepared, by a big margin, having no political experience whatsoever. So why even say this? Because you have a pathological need to always “Well, the left…” every single conversation.

    • Wayne B

      “I hope he doesn’t fail, but I seriously doubt he’s going to succeed.” I guess we’ll just happen to wait and see, won’t we. I wasn’t a big Trump fan during the primaries, but I certainly don’t want to see another four years of Obama. Btw, he’s made some good Cabinet choices to date. I like his recent choice of Secretary of Education who actually is interested in supporting more Charter Schools, Magnet Schools, and home schooling. Kasich in my opinion, didn’t have much to offer: All he could do was talk about how great he made Ohio.

  5. I strongly disagree with your Julie Principle. As I see it, to write someone off as unable to change (as you recommend) is to deny their personhood, and the left is indeed doing that. They’re also rejecting anyone they write off, as you say they are free to. Rejecting people and denying their ability to learn and change as mature people do is a path to bigotry, oppression, and mass murder, especially where scapegoating is involved. We’ve seen this countless times throughout history.

    You’re right, of course, about the Left’s crying wolf about the tweets, but the reason they shouldn’t do that is because the tweets themselves are harmless from a policy standpoint. Once Trump actually threatens to make a bad decision, then people can push back. However, the tweets do provide opportunities for people to change Trump’s thought processes through reasoned discussion and critiques.

    Yes, I’m serious; it’s possible to suck people into a reasoned discussion and keep it reasonable. I had to learn how to do that in order to stop turning reasonable discussions into heated arguments on a regular basis, believe it or not. Instead of engaging reasonably, though, the Left is trying to keep the fear alive in order to retain its popular support, pretending that Trump’s tweets are are portents of doom. The Left fears that if people start thinking Trump isn’t all that terrible, Democrats might allow themselves to see the flaws in the Left ideology and establishment, and the Left won’t allow that.

    • There are things people can change, and things that they cannot. The trick is figuring out what those things are. It is no less than cruel to insist that anyone change hard-wired personality traits. Absent trauma and psychic damage, people don’t alter their character and core traits. Trump is 70 years old. He’s not going to change. Acknowledging that is acknowledging humanity, not denying personhood.

      • Are you saying it’s impossible for Trump to learn to think before he tweets? Are you saying that that’s the sort of thing a normal person would have hard-wired? That’s a very low standard to set for human people.

        There are things I won’t bother trying to change about myself, but that’s because they don’t hurt anyone. There are things that I changed about myself because they were hurting people, or even hurting me. Some of them were pretty well wired in there. However, I installed new paradigms in my consciousness and used mindfulness to reinforce them day to day. It is to psychic damage what braces are to getting punched in the teeth. We need to show people that they can change these silly, stupid things that they do, or we will settle for complacency in government and in society as a whole, and that will allow bad people to take advantage of the stagnation by manipulating people who don’t know how to handle change.

        I will also reiterate that if you send the message that some people will never change their destructive habits, people will extend that to entire cultures, which is a necessary precursor to genocide. It’s a perfect excuse: “They’re inherently bad people who have no place in our society, so they have to go.” It’s what always happens. There can be no peace, nor a reliably good government, unless growth mentality, the paradigm that people have the inherent ability to change, prevails in society.

        • Are you saying it’s impossible for Trump to learn to think before he tweets? Are you saying that that’s the sort of thing a normal person would have hard-wired?

          There is no normal for that trait. Twitter is just an extension of his mouth; he’ll say twice as many equally foolish things as ge tweets. Yes–as a rich, spoiled, successful individual, he’s never had a sufficiently negative reinforcement or guidance to curb this habit, and now he’s President in spite of it, or, he may think, because of it. He’s been that way for seven decades. He’s a narcissist, and narcissist’s don’t change. Has Obama changed, other than getting more bitter? Has Charlie Sheen? Rush Limbaugh? Hillary? Newt? Jimmy Carter? Very occasionally we see a public figure who really does seem to evolve (George Foreman?), but not often. It’s silly to thrash someone unendingly for established patterns of behavior, unless they are so unbearable that you have to just end the relationship. Those who do the thrashing generally don’t want a relationship, they just want to thrash.

          • They can’t end the relationship though. He’ll be the president. They can’t walk away from that. They have to put up with what he will do regardless of whether they continue to thrash him. At least when you end a friendship you don’t have to think of the person again.

            As a matter of pragmatism, the Left should stop thrashing him for tweets. That will not be sufficient, however, to make this work. They need to learn how to talk things out and persuade people.

            • Chris

              I’m sort of with Jack on this one–Trump won’t be persuaded. He won’t change. He can’t. He has gotten everything he has ever wanted by being exactly like this.

              As for persuading people, I would think that calling attention to Trump’s outrageous tweets would do so, but his supporters don’t care. You’re right that, EC, that we can’t end the relationship. What do you suggest?

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