Ethics Observations On Trump’s Dinner With Kanye (And Nick)

Last week Donald  Trump  had dinner at Mar-a-Largo with Kanye West—I’ll start calling him by his new name, Ye, once I’m convinced that it’s not just another gimmick, or in other words, “never”—as well as Nick Fuentes, a 24-year-old leader of an annual white-supremacist event called the America First Political Action Conference, and Karen Giorno,  a veteran political operative who worked on Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign. Never in my memory has the identity of dinner companions ever been used by the media as a supposed smoking gun against the dinner’s host. West, you may recall, had a much publicized meeting with Trump when he was President; he has recently been “cancelled” for making what seemed like anti-Semitic comments. (Kanye, it is fair to say, is mentally unstable and a publicity addict, and is likely to say anything at any time.) Fuentes dining with Trump, however, has been the focus of most of the criticism from the media, political figures, and others. The Times’ house anti-Trump specialist, Maggie Haberman wrote,

Even taking at face value Mr. Trump’s protestation that he knew nothing of Mr. Fuentes, the apparent ease with which Mr. Fuentes arrived at the home of a former president who is under multiple investigations — including one related to keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago long after he left office — underscores the undisciplined, uncontrolled nature of Mr. Trump’s post-presidency just 10 days into his third campaign for the White House.

She (and her co-reporter Alan Feuer) also quoted several figures who condemned Trump’s guest list:

  • “To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this,” David M. Friedman, who was Mr. Trump’s longtime bankruptcy lawyer and then his appointee as ambassador to Israel, wrote on Twitter. “Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable. I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong.”
  • “This is just another example of an awful lack of judgment from Donald Trump, which, combined with his past poor judgments, make him an untenable general election candidate for the Republican Party in 2024,” said Chris Christie, a former governor of New Jersey who is considering a candidacy of his own.
  • “Matt Brooks, chief executive of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said, ‘We strongly condemn the virulent antisemitism of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, and call on all political leaders to reject their messages of hate and refuse to meet with them.’”
  • Jonathan Greenblatt, the C.E.O. of the Anti-Defamation League, condemned Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Fuentes, [saying], “Nick Fuentes is among the most prominent and unapologetic antisemites in the country…He’s a vicious bigot and known Holocaust denier who has been condemned by leading figures from both political parties here, including the R.J.C….[that  Trump ]“or any serious contender for higher office would meet with him and validate him by sharing a meal and spending time is appalling. And really, you can’t say that you oppose hate and break bread with haters. It’s that simple.”

Observations:

  • No, it’s not “that simple,” and Trump having dinner with someone does not “validate” him, or even signify approval.
  • The media and the others are playing cognitive dissonance scale games, using guilt by association—extremely attenuated association—to attack Trump.
  • Trump hosting West and Fuentes, nonetheless, is epically stupid and irresponsible. Trump knows that  his opponents have adopted the perpetual smear that he is a racist and white supremacist and have used it with great success against him for seven years. There is a point where defying critics and refusing to alter one’s conduct in response to unfair, baseless or exaggerated accusations crosses the line between integrity and foolishness. Trump charged over that line long ago, and this represents shifting into a whole new gear.
  • I had never heard of Nick Fuentes, or if I have, he made no impression on me whatsoever. He is one of those uncredentialed, unqualified, narcissistic blowhards who has used social media and a willingness to say outrageous things  to achieve undeserved influence while profiting from the experience. He has the legitimacy of a typical “social influencer”: none.
  • Here is a compendium of some of what Fuentes has said and written. Yikes. What an asshole. It is also fair to describe him as a white supremacist, a totalitarian, a racist, anti-Semitic and a Holocaust denier. He’s an admirer of Hitler too. To my ear, Fuentes sounds like a rebellious 15-year-old who is trying as hard as he can to be outrageous and to infuriated people.  Donald Trump is still like that.
  • Trump has claimed, in response to the uproar over the dinner, that he did not “know” Fuentes. That could be true; it could be deceit (he didn’t know him personally but knew who he was and what he has said; or it could be an outright lie. This is Donald Trump, after all.
  • What Trump should have said, if he were smarter and more articulate, was, “Sure, I had dinner with Kanye and Nick Fuentes. I’ll have dinner with anyone I choose to. I learn a lot when I have dinner with people. It doesn’t mean I agree with them, or endosre them, or even like them. Everyone’s calling for diversity: I believe that the more diverse the opinions and ideas of the people you talk to, the more you understand what’s going on in the nation and the world.”
  • Trump says that Kanye West was invited to dinner and brought both Fuentes and Giorno as his unannounced guests. Knowing West, this seems plausible. If that was what happened, what was Trump supposed to do, refuse to let the other two in, or be gracious even when a guest has been presumptuous?
  • Ann Althouse, commenting on the dinner, set off a lively debate on her blog by stating, in response to a commenter who wrote, “You should be able to have dinner with anybody,” :

If you want to be President, you have to meet a higher standard than what people in general are allowed to do. I’m going to assume Trump did this quite intentionally and wants to use Fuentes — with deniability — to signal to right-wing extremists that they should invest their hopes in him.

For someone obsessed with precise language, this was uncharacteristically sloppy. By “higher standard” she meant that Presidential candidates have to be more careful and not hand foes a metaphorical stick to beat them with. I agree. That’s a strategic standard, not an ethical one however. I’d have dinner with most of the worst villains and monsters in history if I could, though I think I would avoid the serial killers, lunatics and cannibals.  Jonathan Greenblatt’s statement that you can’t “oppose hate and break bread with haters” is just untrue: it’s simple as that.

  • A key question is whether Trump was responsible for publicizing the dinner, or whether it was leaked by his staff, West, or Fuentes. Ann’s assumption that this was a signal to Trump’s fans on the Dark Side and that he wanted everyone to know about his guests. And then tried to deny that he knew who Fuentes was? Well, again, anything is possible with Trump, but I think it is at least equally likely that the saboteurs Trump is always surrounded by set out to embarrass him.
  • Chris Christie is estopped forever from  accusing anyone of  “awful lack of judgment.” He’s incredible.
  • Ann’s commenters appropriately pointed out the obvious bias and double standards being applied here. Obama did a lot more than have a single dinner with Rev. Wright. His close advisors sucked up to Al Sharpton. Being advised by racists and unethical people is far, far more damning than simply dining with them.

10 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Trump’s Dinner With Kanye (And Nick)

  1. Read elsewhere this morning than Kanye offered Trump the VP slot on Kanye’s ticket in 2024, causing Trump to hit the roof. That aspect of the story falls squarely into the “too good to check/too stupid to be relevant anyway” file, so I’ll not bother to verify. But thought the EA commentariat could use a chuckle this morning.

  2. I think Trump thinks like a business man and not a politician. A politician thinks about how it would look. In Trump’s view, this guy was not a physical threat and it’s not like he could come in and influence Trump’s stance on anything, so what’s the big deal in him being one of a number of guests?

    At least Kanye didn’t change his name to an unpronounceable symbol. Maybe you could call him “the artist formerly known as Kanye”.

  3. This just shows Trump’s ignorance of history.

    Every President since Teddy Roosevelt knows you must be careful about who you invite over to dinner.

    -Jut

  4. Trump’s a really smart guy and usually doesn’t do anything unintentional. That said, he likely has his reasons for his selection of dinner guests, and he knows everything he does is scrutinized by the corrupt media which is always searching for ways to show Trump in a negative light.

    But this Nick Fuentes is one really strange character. Having never heard of him, I had to look him up and concluded he’s a mental case of the first magnitude.

    BTW, I believe this term “incel” means someone that can’t get a date from either sex, so they claim it’s intentional.

      • And the ‘cel’ is short for celibacy. Involuntary Celibacy. I have yet to hear it applied to a woman.
        I think your standard issue Incel is an immature & antisocial or socially awkward man in his mid-20s who has a menial, minimum wage job, lacking in personal hygiene, still living with his mother who does his laundry, picks up after him, and still prepares his meals. He likely watches pornography and is obsessed with video games/Dungeons & Dragons.
        It’s a derogatory term.

  5. But everyone can hang with other scum… Like Epstein and more and that’ “ok” lol… what a world we live in… pretty obvious we’re being groomed to not associate with anyone who doesn’t think just like we do!

  6. I understand the politics of making sure you don’t appear to be validating values that are an anathema to most people but if you do not engage your adversary you never have an opportunity to change the other’s minds.

    Biden just met with Xi who enslaves his opposition yet this is ok because we deem it politically necessary to engage with tyrants. Personally, I believe that Biden actually envies Xi’s ability to rule by decree and eliminate his opposition. Should we attack our leaders when they engage with those who would execute family members if they were deemed a threat to their power?

    I don’t care who anyone invites into their home and I find it the height of irony that those espousing the absolute need for inclusivity and diversity as well as demonizing hate are using the event as a means to advance the cause of equity and social harmony.

  7. . Obama did a lot more than have a single dinner with Rev. Wright. His close advisors sucked up to Al Sharpton. Being advised by racists and unethical people is far, far more damning than simply dining with them.

    Some may call thi9s ‘whataboutism’.

    https://www.quora.com/Why-is-whataboutism-considered-to-be-an-invalid-argument-Isn-t-it-just-pointing-out-hypocrisy-in-the-other-person-side/answer/Robin-Daverman

    It’s an entirely valid argument. The whole British and American Common Law system is based on “whataboutism”. All these previous cases tried in the Courts set up ”precedence”. Then when a new case comes up in Court, the lawyers’ entire argument is “what about this other case that was tried before and judged as so-and-so?”

    I mean, seriously, dude, why is this even a question when everybody is talking about “Roe vs. Wade”? Why can’t you go to the Supreme Court and say, My name is not Roe, or Wade. Talking about those people is “whataboutism”, which is an invalid argument. Why don’t you just forget about those people and listen to me instead?

    Throw out all the Precedents and dump the Common Law system. Make your “whataboutism is invalid” argument to the US Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Live stream it. Then I would at least respect your convictions. What’s the point of making the argument on Quora, with no skin in the game, and no consequence to shoulder?

    I live under a Common Law system. Thank God the judges are expected to respect precedence, instead of saying, “well, you are not that person, so one law for you, one law for this other guy”. Thank Goodness that’s NOT how the legal system works here! I can not, in good conscience, agree with the legal principle, benefit from this legal system, while argue against it.

    One should not burn down the house one lives in.

    PS: All those who drone on-and-on about “invalid argument” are fundamentally arguing for “one law for you, one law for me”, because they think they themselves benefit from it. And they can’t even be honest about it. Good grief!

    In a similar vein, how we dealt with past conduct is a guide as how to deal with present-0day conduct.

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