“Was just advised that the Unselect Committee of political Thugs has withdrawn the Subpoena of me concerning the January 6th Protest of the CROOKED 2020 Presidential Election. They probably did so because they knew I did nothing wrong, or they were about to lose in Court. Perhaps the FBI’s involvement in RIGGING the Election played into their decision. In any event, the Subpoena is DEAD!”
Gee, why don’t you tell us what you really think, Mr. President?
I don’t want Presidents of the U.S. to express themselves like this, essentially in the style and with the cheap-shot rhetorical flourishes of a middle school wise-ass. It harms the office; it degrades the dignity and credibility of the office-holder, it’s a terrible example for the nation’s #1 role model to set for the young, and it undermines public confidence in the judgment and trustworthiness of the individual.
Trump talked and tweeted like this all through his four years in office, as we know, and has ever since. The approximately 30% of the electorate that, in his immortal words, would continue to support Trump if he shot someone in broad daylight in the middle of Times Square love this crap—it’s so, so authentic!–and they are dead, dead, dead wrong. This kind of outburst shows why Trump should never have been elected, and why people like him should not lead the United States —and until a weird confluence of random events and factors intervened, have not.
Outbursts like that one place me in ethics zugzwang, a place a professional ethicist does not want to be. Zugzwang, for those new to Ethics Alarms who are not chess players, is a term used in chess circles to describe when a player is doomed no matter what move he or she makes, and not moving isn’t a option. Ethics zugzwang, a term that as far as I know originated here, is the situation in life where every alternative involves unethical behavior.
What has made dealing with Trump’s words and actions zugzwang-y is in part the ongoing determination of the news media and the Trump Deranged to destroy him by any means necessary, because 1) they hate him for beating them and their allies, like Hillary Clinton; 2) because he’s right about a lot of their sacred agenda items like abortion and open borders and 3) he doesn’t play by their rules. These are dishonest, ruthless, unethical institutions and individuals, and I view it as irresponsible to assist or support their efforts in any way because they are determined to do damage to basic American values and the foundation of our democracy.
In addition, Trump has been subjected to indefensible double standards, which my recent encounters with some Trump Deranged trolls on another post amply illustrated. There is also the problem that the guy, crude and bluster-addicted as he is, is often right, and in this case, he is mostly right again. The Committee was unethically assembled (“UNselect”); “thugs” isn’t the right word, but the group is a bunch of hyper-partisan, fairness-be-damned, Machiavellian blots on the respectability of Congress; no, there is no proof that the election was “crooked,” but it had enough irregularities that it is reasonable to question its integrity; withdrawing the subpoena is quite likely to be a hint that the Justice Department is not going to be so foolish (and unethical) as to indict Trump on the authority of the Committee’s transparently political witch hunt; the FBI didn’t rig the election, but it was outrageously complicit in undermining Trump’s chances of being re-elected, and yes, the subpoena is dead.
What is the ethical approach to this episode and so many like it? There isn’t any…
- “The Julie Principle” would hold that Trump’s rhetoric is just the way he expresses himself (“fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”) and criticizing what isn’t going to change is reinforcing the strategy of his unethical foes, whose position is that everything Trump says or does is wrong even when many or all politicians have behaved the same way without punishment or criticism.
- Ignoring Trump’s excesses, on the other hand, will be cited as proof of “Trumpism” and an obvious bias in favor of the man, thus undermining my credibility as an ethics umpire.
- Defending him, meanwhile, is even more damning in the jaundiced eyes of the Trump-Deranged.
As readers here know, my approach is to try to thread the needle: defend Trump when he is right or is being held to different standards than Democrats and other Presidents, criticize his worst ethical breaches, and to let the non-substantive, Trump being Trump stuff go when it is self-evidently silly, dumb, or harmless.
How I wish he would just go away.