Last night, I caught part of Bill O’Reilly’s interview with President Trump, including an exchange that drained the moderate amount of enthusiasm I’ve been able to muster for the new president. O’Reilly asked Trump whether he respects Vladimir Putin. Trump said he does, but that this doesn’t mean he will get along with him.
No major problem so far. In a sense, I think you have to respect what Putin, operating from a position of weakness, has been able to accomplish at the expense of the United States.
However, O’Reilly followed up with an obvious objection: “But he’s a killer, though; Putin’s a killer.”
Trump answered this charge basically the same way he did as a presidential candidate:
There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot killers. What do you think? Our country is so innocent.
Trump was now suggesting that there is a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia under Putin. Would he back this up with specifics; if so, which ones?
The U.S. isn’t entirely innocent. Trump might have cited our treatment of the American Indians in the 19th century, for example. Andrew Jackson can be thought of as a “killer” we respect.
But this isn’t what Trump had in mind. Instead, he cited the Iraq War, and repeated his false claim that he opposed it from the beginning.
The Iraq War may have been a mistake — it was, in all events, fought under a mistaken premise. However, fighting that war in an order to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction does not make the U.S. and its then-president “killers.”
This was not a war of territorial aggression, like the one Russia wages in Ukraine. Nor did it involve the systematic and wanton bombing of civilian populations, as Russia does in Syria. And Bush’s political enemies didn’t die mysteriously, as Putin’s do.
Former president Obama opposed the War in Iraq and, unlike Trump, did so from the beginning. However, he never accused those who waged it of being killers.
Obama did come up short in respecting both America’s past and President Bush. Sadly, Trump appears to come up short of Obama in both departments.