The Corner

But What About . . .?

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., February 19, 2019. (Jim Young/REUTERS)

David writes:

the idea that anyone is treating this report as “win” for Trump, given the sheer extent of deceptions exposed (among other things), demonstrates that the bar for his conduct has sunk so low that anything other than outright criminality is too often brushed aside as relatively meaningless.

I disagree. It is, in fact, a “win” for Trump. The central question in American politics over the last two years — and, indeed, the central question that the investigation into Russian interference gradually evolved to answer — was not “is Donald Trump a good person?” or “is Donald Trump a liar?” or “is Donald Trump fit to be president?” or even “does Donald Trump behave well when under investigation?” It was “is Donald Trump a traitor who colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election, and if not, did his campaign do so on his behalf?” The answer to that question — to those questions, in fact — is a resounding “No.”

That matters enormously, especially given that most of the media and pretty much the entire opposition party insisted that the opposite answer was forthcoming. To accept the “No” with a head-tilt and then move on quickly to the reiteration of what we already knew — that Trump is a terrible, dishonest, capricious person — seems churlish at best and illiberal at worst.

Nothing David writes in his post is untrue per se. Nor, in a broader sense, is it irrelevant; these details are crucial when evaluating Trump in general. But it is not even close to being the point here; the equivalent, perhaps, of saying “well, okay, but he was no angel” when a criminal case against a “gangster” falls apart. Trump was accused of something specific and heinous. He didn’t do it. Switching instantly to “but what about?” strikes me as an unfair thing to do.

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