Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Sorry: Trump’s Excesses Don’t NORMALIZE Obama’s
Last week, President Trump tweeted that the US government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.” The tweet caused a predictable uproar.
Liberal politicians and organizations tripped over themselves to condemn the move.
What’s interesting about it, though, is the total silence about transgender people serving in our military during Barack Obama’s presidency. It actually wasn’t until July 2016, just last year and a full 7 ¹/₂ years into the administration, that transgender people were allowed to serve openly. Where was the outrage? Where was Elizabeth Warren calling it “shameful” or the Southern Poverty Law Center calling the policy “disgraceful”?
But pointing out hypocrisy like this is frowned up these days as some kind of anti-anti-Trumpism or so-called “whataboutism.”
“Whataboutism” was a classic Soviet deflection mechanism. Sure, we have no bread, but have you seen how racist America is?
Current usage in US politics, however, is usually to squash legitimate criticism of Obama. The targets of the accusation of engaging in whataboutism are simply trying to see the Trump administration and its predecessor with clear eyes instead of rah-rah tribalism.
Obama supporters are so invested in preserving the fiction that his presidency was “scandal-free” and cool under fire that their lack of introspection only serves to weaken their attacks on Trump. Whataboutism isn’t propaganda; critics are merely trying to hold Obama accountable.
When Trump spoke to the Boy Scouts last week, many were shocked by his partsian speech. Yet a few years ago when Vice President Joe Biden spoke to fifth graders at Oaksted Elementary School and peppered his speech with comments on the “God awful recession,” “third party validators” and “upside down mortgages,” few in the media paid attention. In fact, the visit was covered as any other staid stop a veep would make. Where were the cries of inappropriateness?
Health care is another example. The vote on ObamaCare was held in the Senate at 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve. And last month Nancy Pelosi tweeted that “Americans deserve to know what’s in the [GOP] bill.” Yet in 2010, Pelosi famously said that the House had to pass ObamaCare “so that you can find out what is in it.” Cover-of-darkness legislating for me but not for thee.
Then there are Trump’s attacks on the media. Sure, Obama didn’t repeatedly brand media that he opposed “fake news” — but what he did was arguably worse. Obama called Fox News “destructive” and ultimately blamed the channel for Hillary Clinton’s election loss. His administration spied on journalist James Rosen, going so far as to baselessly accuse him of espionage and leaking classified information.
In an April New York Times column, “If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama,” investigative reporter James Risen wrote, “Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.”
Trump may take it too far, but don’t act as if this is the first time a president has lashed out at unfriendly news media. Whataboutism forces the people wearing “Is it fascism yet?” buttons to at least consider the possibility it already was.
Politics is rife with hypocrisy, but the fight against pointing out damaging things that happened before the Time of Trump goes beyond that.
Obamaites tell people to hush up about things that will make their side look bad and to focus all attacks in one direction. It’s dishonest and counterproductive. Trump supporters see these attacks as strictly partisan and they makes them more defensive and protective over “their” candidate. It’s a cycle that we should work to break.
There are, and will be, plenty of things about the Trump administration that are unprecedented. If Trump critics wish to be taken seriously when they rail against “normalizing” Trump’s behavior, they have to stop calling all criticism “whataboutism” and understand the implications of pretending history began in January.