It might be easier to just ignore President Trump’s most recent comments about Vladimir Putin. However, intellectual honesty sometimes requires us to transcend party politics. Conservatives rightfully protest the America-bashing that has become the Left’s standard fair. It behooves us to stay true to our beliefs even when they conflict with figures on the Right.
Let us first give credit where credit is due. Many conservatives who worried about what direction the Trump Administration would take have been reassured by his Cabinet picks and by his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill Justice Scalia’s shoes. Mr. Trump’s firm stance on Iran and his willingness to mention Radical Islam by name likewise deserve mention. In contrast, unfortunately, Mr. Trump’s recent statements drawing a moral equivalence between Russia and the US are dissapointing. Asked by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly how he could respect Mr. Putin in light of his murderous reputation, the President responded, “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
Now, I can understand that there may be those who argue that the US ought to take a more conciliatory tone vis-a-vis Russia, even if I disagree with that viewpoint. However, even that does not justify drawing a false moral equivalence between Mr. Putin’s Russia and the United States. Mr. Putin is a former KGB agent who has an unsavory reputation of assassinating political critics, invading his neighbors, and callously causing hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in his military operations. Mr. Trump became president because his predecessor, Barack Obama, remained true to this country’s great history of democratic transfer of power and allowed his successor to take office. Of course the US has, on occasion, engaged in unsavory practices. The difference, though, is that instead of openly wallowing in the filth of brutality, we attempt to transcend it and rectifying it when possible. Mr. Putin unabashedly pursues power for power’s sake. Compare the invasion of Iraq with that of Crimea. America invaded Iraq after September 11, deposing Saddam Hussein, a definite mass murderer. Instead of being annexed, Iraq is today an independent country. Then-President Bush’s vision of Iraq was not as an American province, but as a bulwark of democracy. That the occupation of Iraq was mismanaged is sad but does not indicate malicious intent. Mr. Putin, by contrast, forcibly occupies Crimea, continues to foment aggression with Ukraine, and has no intentions of allowing Crimean residents to choose their leaders. The flaws of any attempt to draw a moral equivalence should be obvious.
All this ought to be simple. It is unfortunate that this is not so for Mr. Trump.