Trump’s comments on Putin and Obama are morally obtuse — in a way conservatives used to recognize.
There was a time when one of the worst sins you could commit on the American Right was to buy into “false moral equivalence.”
During the Cold War, this usually meant saying that we were no better than the Soviet Union. For example, Democratic Senator William J. Fulbright — Bill Clinton’s mentor — said of the Soviet Union in 1971, “Were it not for the fact that they are Communists — and therefore ‘bad’ people — while we are Americans — and therefore ‘good’ people — our policies would be nearly indistinguishable.”
Conservative icon William F. Buckley with his good
friend President Reagan
My old boss William F. Buckley famously had the best retort to this kind of myopic asininity. “To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.”
After the Cold War, the false-moral-equivalence arguments didn’t stop; they simply mutated to fit the times. The isolated abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were expanded into an indictment of America itself. “Shamefully,” Senator Ted Kennedy declared in 2005, “we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management.” Senator Dick Durbin claimed American policies were indistinguishable from those of the Nazis, the Soviets, and Pol Pot. Amnesty International dubbed the prison at Guantanamo Bay “the Gulag of our time.”
The problem with this sort of rhetoric should be obvious; however bad Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay may be in your eyes, logic and facts can’t make them the moral equivalents of genocidal mass slaughter (in Saddam’s Iraq, Nazi Germany, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, or the Soviet Union). Nor is locking up terrorists and enemy combatants anything like imprisonment — or summary execution — of dissidents, intellectuals, and other civilians.Read the rest from Jonah Goldberg HERE.
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