A Southern reader who identifies himself as “Christian, Catholic, Republican, veteran (peacetime)” writes to say:
I am writing, briefly, about Trump, and Trump hatred. For instance, Dr [Russell] Moore, who I know is your buddy. He is so appalled and offended by Trump’s brutishness. I can see it. But it seems to me all out of proportion, versus Bush-Cheney — lies, torture, thousands of dead American soldiers, more maimed, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. Where was he (and Erick Erickson and the rest) back then? And not a one of them ever had the character to say, we were wrong, we screwed up. I have to say, it seems to me that many of these “conservatives” have malformed consciences. Did Bush get a free pass on this stuff because he was an evangelical and spoke a certain religious language? Or because he promised progress on the pro-life front (none of which was ever delivered by the way)?
I think the reader has a point, though I don’t know where Russell Moore stands on the Iraq War today, where he stood back when it started, or what he has said in the interim. For what it’s worth, he is (or once was) a Democrat who worked for a former Democratic US Congressman from Mississippi. If Dr. Moore has the time and the interest in responding to the reader’s remarks, I will publish it here. I want to caution you readers, though, not to impute things to him he may not believe.
To give a broader context for the reader’s observations, in a Pew survey taken back in 2009, 62 percent of white Evangelicals polled defended torture, and 52 percent of white Catholics, said that torture was either “often” or “sometimes” justified — in the Evangelical case, that’s significantly greater than the general US population. And the more often someone went to church, the more likely they were to support torture.
Leaving aside his criticism of specific people, I think the reader’s general point is worth pondering: that some of the things that Trump critics deplore about him amount to picking specks out of his eye while ignoring logs in their own. I won’t go into the GOP presidential candidates guilty of this, because they don’t matter anymore, but it’s worth thinking about how willing Trump’s conservative critics were to criticize his opponents for supporting the Iraq disaster, which turned the Middle East into a charnel house of instability. Remember when Trump brought this up in the South Carolina debate, how Jeb Bush complained that Trump was insulting his family — and none of the other candidates agreed with Trump, or ever did?
(By the way, Trump in March called for US ground troops in Syria and Iraq. This is why I don’t trust what he says about being a non-interventionist.)
Note well, for example, that Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, pushed the destruction of Libya, which destabilized the region, further empowered ISIS, and has contributed to the mass illegal migration into Europe, from Libya — and she’s still defending it!
Look, for all we know, Trump in power would have done the same thing, or the same sort of thing. And Trump has certainly endorsed torture, with a particularly disgusting relish. I think he deserves to be criticized for this and other things he says. But I appreciate the reader’s pointing out the double standard here. Is it plausible to say that the difference between George W. Bush and his team, versus Donald Trump, on the subject of torture is that the respectable Republicans denied and euphemized the horror of it away, while Trump is not a hypocrite or a dissembler about the matter?
That’s hardly an endorsement of Trump, mind you, but the reader’s comments make me think that a lot of us — me included — had better try to understand why people who are more sympathetic to Trump than we are find our objections to him less than compelling.
What do you think? I find myself in the position of believing that Trump is likely to get us into another war because of his crude recklessness … but that Hillary Clinton is likely to do the same because of her sophisticated, think-tanked-to-the-hilt, establishment-approved recklessness.