On 'Whataboutism' And Its Moral Hazards
Sometimes it's useful. Other times, it's immoral.



1. Reminders Of Leftist Dishonesty. When Trump tweets out that Hillary Clinton “may have gotten away with” bad behavior, he’s at least partially reminding the media and the Democrats that they were fine with Hillary’s bad behavior. When conservatives spent much of yesterday reminding the media that Barack Obama pledged “flexibility” to the Russians in exchange for them backing off their aggression in the final days of the 2012 election, they were doing so in order to point out the media’s obvious leftist bias. That’s important and worthwhile, but it should be made explicit.

2. Reminders Of Proportionality. Sometimes, “whataboutism” takes the form of reminding people that something isn’t that big of a deal. Seemingly the entire Left went ballistic this week when it first heard about a House rule that forbade bare arms in the Capitol. The Right promptly reminded the Left that this rule existed under Nancy Pelosi as well. It wasn’t a big deal then, and it’s not a big deal now.

3. Moral Relativism. This is the dangerous form of “whataboutism,” and also the most common. This is the actual message underlying Trump’s tweet: Hillary got away with it, so why shouldn’t I be able to get away with it? This ignores two facts: first, Hillary most certainly did not get away with it in the minds of the American public, which is why she’s not in the White House; second, wrong is wrong. The Right now engages in a fantasy whereby the Left’s dishonesty somehow justifies conservative dishonesty — hey, if Hillary’s corrupt, what’s the big problem with the Trump campaign soliciting information from the Russian government?