To be good, it is not enough to be better than the worst. ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Recently, Bill O’Reilly interviewed President Donald J. Trump on Fox News’s, ‘The O’Reilly Factor’. As part of that interview, O’Reilly asserted that Putin was a killer. Trump’s response, included a statement that the media and political opponents were quick to jump on. Watch it for yourself…
“What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” ~ Donald Trump
The sum of the attack against Trump is to criticize him for making an unjust and untrue statement that establishes a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. His political opposition from the establishment right attempts to create the inference that Trump created this “false moral equivalency” through what he said by issuing responses that deny the existence of such an equivalence.
America has been a beacon of light and freedom. There is no equivalence with the brutal regime of Vladimir Putin.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) February 5, 2017
When has a Democratic political activists been poisoned by the GOP, or vice versa? We are not the same as #Putin. MR
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 5, 2017
Broadcast media such as CNN and MSNBC were quick to jump on the bandwagon of Republican’s criticizing Trump for challenging the traditional establishment view of American Exceptionalism. However, moral relativism and moral equivalency accusations are both absolutely false because they depend on accepting a logical fallacy as being true.
Relative Privation: The “not as bad as” fallacy, also known as the fallacy of relative privation, asserts that if something is worse than the problem currently being discussed, then the problem currently being discussed isn’t that important at all. In other words: nothing matters if it’s not literally the worst thing happening. It’s popular with people who know perfectly well they’re doing something wrong. Since they are fully aware that they’re doing something wrong, they feel compelled to attempt to justify it and do so by pointing to other (usually worse) actions.
What Trump acknowledges in his statements is clearly that the U.S. has not always acted with absolute moral authority and in adherence to it’s espoused moral superiority. In essence, this is a fundamental criticism of the moral justification for the Iraq War and the Bush Administration which is held by the Republican establishment and frequently challenged by Trump.
This acknowledgement probably more recently stems from the recent military action approved by Donald Trump in Yemen that resulted in the death of Nawar Al-Awlaki, the eight year old daughter of American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, targeted and killed in a hellfire missile from a US drone strike by the Obama administration in Sept. of 2011 for being. The 2011 drone strike also killed Anwar’s American 16 year old son, Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki which in concert with his father’s status as an American born citizen prompted claims of civil rights violations by Obama for denying the Al-Awlaki’s due process under the constitution.
“The United States is not at war in Yemen, and the government doesn’t have a blank check to kill terrorism suspects wherever they are in the world. Among the arguments we’ll be making is that, outside actual war zones, the authority to use lethal force is narrowly circumscribed, and preserving the rule of law depends on keeping this authority narrow.” ~ Jameel Jaffer, ACLU
While I would not assume to know what’s in Trump’s mind or heart, I would find it hard to believe that any man, especially a new president, who has ordered his very first military action under his authority which resulted in the death of not only a seal team member but also the death of a U.S. citizen who is also a child. It would take, a truly monstrous person to be unaffected by such an action. When then just days later asked about the questionable morality of Russian leader Vladamir Putin and labeling him a ‘killer’, it might not be surprising that Trump would draw a moral equivalence between his own recent actions and killing. Any person with a conscience would do that in his situation.
Trump is not so innocent anymore. He has real blood on his hands.
Just because Trump is not innocent or American is not innocent of having committed immoral actions does not mean that someone else hasn’t done worse. Just because someone has done worse doesn’t mean that there is no immorality in the actions we have, collectively, committed.
The truth is, neither is our country. However, just because we are not innocent doesn’t mean we are equivalent either. That’s where the false equivalency becomes a false accusation and an invalid, logical fallacy. America, in it’s foreign policy has both made mistakes and done things that they knew were wrong. As a country, we are also not morally equivalent to an oppressive, dictatorial, fascist tyrannical government such as Russia. Trump did not create such an equivalency in his statement and one should not be illogically inferred. Those two things are not mutually exclusive ideas but the press will do whatever it can to convince the public that Trump made that equivalency when he in fact did not because it helps to perpetuate the narrative of demagoguery they have resorted to.
They can’t allow him to have a conscience.
To acknowledge that Trump holds a negative view of previous Republican administration foreign policy would require them to acknowledge that they share even the most remote view in common with a man whom they believe to be the incarnation of pure evil.