Give me the whatabout life
Some like the high road, I like the low road, free from the care and strife
BOSS: Jeff, I have to be completely honest with you. You’re doing a bad job. You lie and insult people. You’re disruptive. People are sick of your behavior. We need to let you go.
ME: Really. Huh. Well, what about that time when you yelled at the copy machine and broke it? Is that doing a “good job”?
So President Trump ignored the Constitution, separation of powers and Congress’s control of the public purse to build a wall he over-promised supporters whose fears he whipped up.
Against all experienced and expert advice, Trump declared a national emergency to spend billions in public money that Congress, including his GOP Senate, explicitly denied him.
Bad for America that Trump goes over Congress’s head? What about President Obama’s arrogant imperial presidency, unilateralism and flurry of executive orders when he didn’t get his way with Congress? Huh?
As candidate Donald Trump said 2016, “Nobody ever heard of an executive order. Then all of a sudden Obama, because he couldn’t get anybody to agree with him, he starts signing them like they’re butter. So I want to do away with executive orders for the most part.”
Then as president, Trump signed 55 executive orders like butter for the most part during his first year, 16 more than Obama in his first year, as Vanderbilt University professor Dana Nelson tallied The Hill last month.
Many Trump orders simply reversed Obama’s. Trump’s fake national emergency for wall declaration — the Kanye West of executive orders — trumps any defiance of Congress by Obama.
And what about this: Trump, unlike Obama, has not faced a Congress so openly, gleefully, partisanly determined to undermine his legitimate power.
What about GOP House leader John Boehner’s 2010 pledge to kill Obama’s agenda if the Republicans took the House and Boehner became Speaker? “We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can,” Boehner said.
What about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2010 pledge, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
What about …
Never mind. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. Trump’s defenders will whatabout back whatever indisputable facts one might cite.
Though I do have to ask Trump’s whatabouters: If Obama’s assault on the Constitution was so bad, then why is Trump’s ok?
Trump and his MAGA/Fox/alt-right supporters rely heavily on whataboutism to defend everything he does.
No matter how bad, however demonstrably worse than whatever Obama, Hillary, etc., etc., did. It’s desperate move, but I feel. It’s all MAGAs have in defending the indefensible.
Merriam-Webster defines whataboutism as “Essentially a reversal of accusation, arguing that an opponent is guilty of an offense just as egregious or worse.”
It’s a variation of the French tu quoque, “and you?” and “considered to be a logical fallacy because whether or not the original accuser is likewise guilty of an offense has no bearing on the truth or value of the original accusation,” M-W says.
“It’s actually an old Soviet propaganda tool,” Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver once humorously ranted. “And the reason it is dangerous is that it implies that all actions, regardless of context, share a moral equivalency. And since nobody is perfect, all criticism is hypocritical and everybody should do whatever they want.”
Another problem with whatabouts: They can go on and on, ad nauseam. Look at online commentary — each whatabout invites another, like Oreo Thin Bites Fudge Dipped.
And especially in this time of “you have your facts and I have mine,” the whatabout debating dodge has become so tired and transparent it’s a self-aware postmodern joke.
We whatabout with a knowing Kellyanne wink and smirk. Or we smirk at whatabout’ers who don’t get the joke and whatabout with a straight face.
A Republican friend uses a variation of the whatabout to dismiss any concern about anything political: “Oh, they all do it.”
Even though one party has a much stronger record of pranking our Constitution. Most lately, faking a national emergency, shutting down government, rigging elections and suppressing voters, attacking the free press, denying the other party’s president his Supreme Court nominee, etc.
What if Hillary and the Democrats did any of that?
I used to gnash teeth, tear hair and rend garments over Trump-defender whataboutisms.
My dentist, hair stylist and clothier advised I stop gnashing, tearing and rending. So now heeding the timeless advice, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em,” I’m going to harness the power of the whatabout to free myself from any personal responsibility for my views or anything at all.
For example, I’ll tell a spouse — if I ever get another — ok, so I abandoned the kids at the mall for three days while I was at Disney World with my mistress and her kids, and the police and family services are here to take our kids away forever.
But honey, what about the time you let the kids have screen time all weekend that will rot their brains? Huh?
Or if I’m a governor who didn’t wear blackface but did; a Hollywood mogul or celebrity who took it out or otherwise #MeToo assaulted; the richest man in the world from the internet posting naughty pix on the internet; or any famous successful person acting like normal rules don’t apply: What about the stupid ways that regular people act all the time? Huh?
Finally, if anyone hates this piece, what about your piece about whataboutism? Wait, what? You don’t have one? Or a better one? Too bad — you got owned.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer