Morality vs. humanity

By Randall Poulton | Jul 25, 2019

Should we judge people only by the worst thing they have ever done? Or was Alexander Pope correct when he said: “To err is human, to forgive, divine”?

Reade opened his argument with a quote from Donald Trump. Here is the thing: Trump’s praise of Jeffery Epstein was from 2002, six years before the sleaze bag was convicted of soliciting prostitution from minors.

In fact, in 2005, Trump exhibited his true moral character and kicked Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago for propositioning a young woman. Yet, Epstein still continued to pal around with Democratic power brokers, including Bill Clinton.

In 2010, after serving his absurdly lenient 13-month sentence, Epstein hosted a lavish dinner party at his home in Manhattan. His guests included Price Andrew, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Woody Allen, Charlie Rose and Chelsea Handler. Where are their morals? It seems to me Trump was well ahead of the pack in distancing himself from Epstein.

Could Trump have handled the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi differently? Maybe, but let’s back up the train for a second. Khashoggi, a foreign national, i.e., not a U.S. citizen, had been writing for the Post for two years. That’s about how long I have been writing for The Republican Journal. Does that make me a journalist? I don’t think so. Here is the rest of the Khashoggi story:

A Saudi national and friend of the late Osama Bin Laden, Khashoggi had already been married and divorced three times when he went to the Saudi embassy to try to get approval to marry yet again, this time to a woman 20 years his junior. (I only mention this because we are discussing morality, and Trump has been pilloried for his three marriages).

I think we all know the Saudis killed Khashoggi. The “why” we may never know. But even if the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pulled the trigger himself, is the murder of this one man, even if he was a journalist, worth sacrificing the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia? I think not.

In the end, Trump said he was "extremely angry and very unhappy" about the murder of Khashoggi. Such are the tough decisions that presidents must make.

Harry Truman ordered the military to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think he made the correct decision, but you can certainly argue the use of nuclear weapons against civilian targets was immoral.

As commander of allied forces in Europe, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for the fire-bombing of Dresden. In one night, tens of thousands of German civilians were incinerated. In the aftermath of the Dresden massacre, Ike said: “I am always prepared to take part in anything that gives promise to ending the war quickly."

Richard Nixon employed all manner of underhanded pollical dirty tricks to get elected, earning the nickname “Tricky Dick.” During the campaign, Nixon repeatedly promised to end the war in Vietnam. When “peace with honor” turned out to be far more difficult than he imagined, Nixon ordered “Operation Menu,” a massive, covert bombing campaign against the neutral country of Cambodia. I would not have believed a president could issue a more immoral order then bombing a neutral country, but….

Then, Barak Obama, acting as judge, jury and executioner in-chief, ordered a drone strike inside a neutral country, apparently intentionally targeting a 16-year-old U.S. citizen. Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, son of an accused terrorist, was blown to bits while eating dinner at a restaurant in Yemen.

I actually agree with Reade: Morality should matter. But, when it comes to U.S. presidents, history tells us morality often necessarily takes a back seat to national security.

If the new moral standard for president disqualifies everyone who has filed for bankruptcy or cheated on their spouse, that would certainly limit the pool of candidates. How about Kamala Harris? Was it OK for her to carry on a long and public affair with a married man? Or, is she out? Was it okay for Pocahontas to lie about her Native American ancestry to advance her career? Obviously, Bill Clinton and JFK would never have met Reade’s moral standard. We are all imperfect human beings. So is Trump. And, so far, Trump has not bombed any civilians.

One last thing: Steve Mnuchin’s warning that “the government is at risk of running out of money” was a reminder that Congress still has not passed a budget. Every year, Congress faces an Oct. 1 deadline to enact a budget. And, every year since 1998, Congress has missed that deadline. That’s not Trump’s fault!

Randall Poulton writes a column for The Republican Journal. He lives in Winterport.


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