Our political discourse is rife with invective. Some of it is based upon a mutual animus between political parties and people. Some of it is based upon a mutual advantage for political parties and people. Some of it is both.
This was explained to me when I was a 26-year-old Republican Commissioner in Wayne County, representing my suburban district of Livonia, Plymouth, and Northville, Michigan. During a public hearing, I had a heated exchange with Commissioner George Cushingberry, Jr., a Detroit Democrat. Afterward, George came over to my desk and . . . grinned.
“I thought you’d be mad,” I said.
“When you yell at me, your folks are happy,” George explained. “And when I yell at you, my folks are happy. It’s a win-win.”
“Attack the argument not the opponent” is both an intellectually honest and eminently pragmatic rule to follow regarding political discourse. If one’s arguments are intellectually sound, one never needs to engage in ad hominem attacks. There are also the practical realities that one shouldn’t attack an opponent today who could be a needed ally tomorrow; and, equally, it is much more difficult to persuade anyone when one’s intemperate ad hominem attack becomes the focal point of the debate instead of one’s reasoned argument.
No, this is not a naïve call to implement the Marquess of Queensbury rules to political combat. It is a friendly admonition to political antagonists and listeners of all stripes to ask a fundamental question before engaging and/or believing: cui bono? No, this is not the U2 singer Bono’s little brother. It is Latin for “to whom is it a benefit?”
Unfortunately, this week someone didn’t properly answer that question prior to launching a verbal assault.
At the very time Democrat presidential contenders are off, running, and leaking horrible accusations and, worse, facts against each other, the elitist media was handed a cornucopia of deflection and distraction based upon the convergence of its favorite subjects: “Orange Man Bad” and Republican-on-Republican violence.
In lambasting the late Senator John McCain, for once President Trump has found the successful invective he deftly employs against his opponents has backfired.
It is understandable the president was outraged by McCain’s role in spreading the Steele dossier’s seditious fictions that weaponized the federal police powers to undermine his candidacy and presidency. But it is regrettable that, in his anger, President Trump’s ad hominem attacks on the deceased senator obscured his apposite condemnation of McCain’s conduct with the Steele dossier.
Impugning McCain the man, Trump allowed his Democratic, elitist media, and NeverTrump opponents—all cemented in place to sing paeans to McCain by his vote not to repeal Obamacare—and even some of the president’s own supporters to praise and defend the entirety of McCain’s career, which is far easier to do than to praise and defend his role with the dossier.
Consequently, this political bickering was not a win for the president. It was not even a win-win for the president and the defenders of the late senator. It was a regrettable setback to anyone who rightly demands a full accounting of the late Senator’s conduct with the Steele dossier, for it is critical to understanding how the bipartisan swamp operates; and, ergo, how to drain it.
True, such an accounting regarding the late senator and the Steele dossier has not been rendered impossible; but it has been rendered far more difficult, which is precisely what all involved in the Russian collusion scam desire, be they resting in peace or still among the living who are doing neither in their desperate bid to escape the consequences of their perfidy.
In the grander sweep and scheme of political discourse, it is also a very timely and practical reminder to always ask, cui bono? And remember “who gains” is damn near never someone who forgets another Latin maxim: De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.
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