President Trump issued a statement yesterday denouncing antisemitism. It was strongly worded and absolutely correct.
This is not the first time he’s done something well. It happens on an irregular basis, amidst his mishandling of foreign and domestic policy and his reflexive pettiness and ignorance. Whenever he does so, discussions from the early days of his Presidency are called to mind, where the question was about how much credit to afford him for these events.
One side argues that giving him credit for correct actions provides cover for the many bad things he’s done. This opinion is bolstered by the truism that he rarely does good for the correct reason. For example, in this instance, it is quite plausible that the statement was actually written by a staffer and simply tweeted by President Trump. The indicators of accurate spelling and a lack or random capitalization point toward that possibility. Also, President Trump has repeatedly reached out to Jew-hating white supremacists in an effort to corner that otherwise-ignored voter bloc and moved to strengthen Erdogan and undermine the Israel-friendly Kurds; it seems implausible that he has any true affinity toward Israel.
The other side argues that acknowledging when he does good and condemning him when he does wrong gives an indication of fealty to the truth. This, in turn, strengthens their case when they are pointing out Trump’s many failings.
I have always believed in the second argument. I am, partially, wrong.
The reason I’m wrong is that, for many Trump believers, “truth” has become completely mutable, and in the absence of truth they have realigned behind devotion. It does not matter how often one may praise or agree with Trump. The moment a person deviates from the Trump line, they are an apostate and must be destroyed. We have seen this happen to countless high officials and pundits, and it is ludicrous to believe that anyone starting with a lesser reputation among the Trumpists would be afforded greater respect.
So, to the independents, and more specifically to that subset of them who may vote and are undecided: most of them aren’t paying much attention yet. When they do, I think that the ‘balls and strikes’ people will have more influence, but those voters are unlikely to delve back into minor postings and arguments of months past.
What that leaves us with are those who are not oriented toward Trump and those who are easily influenced. Both of those groups are most receptive to a message which consistently attacks Trump…. and, as mentioned earlier, they have been given an endless stream of ammunition. As the saying goes, “There’s always a tweet.”
While I can make an intellectual argument for remaining on the attack against Trump even when he occasionally ventures into the correct course of action, doing so would be a violation of my principles in two ways.
First, it would make me a liar. I wrote and said repeatedly after Trump’s election that I would credit him where that credit had been earned. Trump is not in any way worth my honor. He wouldn’t even be worth my notice, were he not President. I’m not elevating him more than a plethora of suckers have.
Second, it would elevate concerns about him over concerns about the topic on which he was correct. In this case, that’s antisemitism. If he wants to attack that, and in so doing disappoint some of his white supremacist followers, fine. Hatred of “The Jews” has resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Trump’s certainly not more important than that.