Right from wrong: The downside of victory

In general it is much easier to be a critic than a champion, because all positions are flawed in some way.

September 3, 2017 21:34
2 minute read.
donald trump president  Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (not pictured) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)

Though members of the anti-Donald Trump camp would die before admitting it, they are in a state of exhilaration over his presidency. Every time he opens his mouth they feel vindicated in their opposition to his election and justified in their personal loathing of him. The same goes for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s detractors.

I know exactly what they are going through, as this is how I experienced the eight years of former US president Barack Obama’s tenure. When Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, I wept both tears of sadness and joy. I was upset that this radical Saul Alinskyite with an antisemitic pastor was about to step into the most important position in the world. I was amused, however, that he had emerged out of nowhere to swipe the Democratic candidacy out of the clutches of Hillary Clinton, who had been promised by her party that she was a shoo-in. But mainly I was relieved, as a columnist, to be able to spend the next several years calling the powers-that-be to task, rather than having to defend them.

In general it is much easier to be a critic than a champion, because all positions are flawed in some way. This is especially true where our preferred politicians are concerned. Those we elect to represent our worldview not only have faults, we are lucky if any of them are even capable of understanding the debate, let alone articulating it. So we end up having to do that on their behalf.

To be effective in this endeavor, we have to be clever, and that takes work. It’s hard always having to preface support for an idea by acknowledging its blemishes – as Winston Churchill did when describing democracy as the “worst form of government... except for all those other forms.” Imagine how trite and pathetic that sentence would have sounded had its order been reversed.

Indeed, to put up a good defense we have to anticipate the prosecutorial argument of our adversaries and head it off at the pass by presenting its merits, even when we don’t really wish to see any. Members of both the Left and the Right who fail to do this come off as fanatics or fools.

In contrast, being on the offensive requires little more than hurling darts at the heart of a matter. Which is why I so frequently go after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Iranian regime and all their apologists in the West.

Far trickier is defending Trump and Netanyahu, both of whom I voted for and still support, in spite of qualms about each.

As a dual citizen of two democratic countries, I am faced every few years with the same type of choice on either side of the Atlantic Ocean: a candidate/party whose platform I completely reject versus a candidate/party with the right agenda, but dubious ability to carry it out. I always opt for the latter.

Since 2015 I have had the misfortune of voting for the victor. It has been a burden I often wish I could shed. The one mitigating factor – that which makes my job less difficult – is the violent reaction in America to Trump and in Israel to Netanyahu. It is an extreme response I do not share and cannot accept. But it does make me envious.

After all, there is nothing quite like the elation that comes with political outrage and moral indignation.

The writer is an editor at the Gatestone Institute.

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