Proportionality and Whataboutism

Two things have been bothering me and they are interrelated, so I thought I’d toss them around today. First, is the absence of what I would call proportionality. Essentially, it amounts to what we would call a scorched earth tactic like the Russians used against the French and the Germans. Essentially, the idea is that when you have no winning hand you make sure your opponent doesn’t have one either.

When Trump was battling Hillary the idea in general was since our candidate might be the least ethical candidate in the history of the country, we are going to play up all of the ethical problems with the other candidates. When they mention Trump university we will mention Benghazi. When they mention the Trump Foundation we will mention the Clinton Foundation. When they mention all the women that have accused him of sexual assault we will hit her emails.

So, this is where proportionality meets whataboutism. Did Hillary have ethical challenges and blind spots? Absolutely. However, her emails and Benghazi had been thoroughly investigated and nothing illegal fell out. Unethical? Sure. Unwise? Sure. Yet, this is where proportionality comes in. How do you equate a man that had stolen from his own charity, defrauded thousands out of their hard earned money with his fake university, and whelched on how many payments over the years to contractors? Trump had been involved in more lawsuits than any candidate in history.

Fast forward to 2020 and the tactic has changed. He tried getting dirt on Joe Biden and that really didn’t stick (remember the whole impeachment thing). Furthermore, while his followers might try to pass the buck (whataboutism) to Obama and the Democrats, that charge really doesn’t stick for the most part. The Obama administration was virtually scandal free and while most people don’t leave Washington poorer than they came, the enormous weight of the Trump scandals and mendacity is overwhelming.

So, it’s Sleepy Joe Biden. Are most Democrats concerned that Biden is 77 years old and occasionally has verbal gaffes? Sure. In fact, those verbal gaffes are the reason he hasn’t ever been president to this point. He’s run numerous times and no one is overly thrilled with the prospect of having an aging Biden in the White House. However, this is where proportionality and whataboutism rears its ugly head.

Has anyone really paid attention to a Trump speech or interview at any point in the last three and a half years. He has never had a handle on the issues. Heck, there are moments where you wonder if he has a handle on reality. His aides and press secretary insists that he reads. Yup, you read that correctly. They insist that he reads. Imagine any president in history where those around him have to try to convince us that he reads.

In his interview with Axios he desperately tried to convince us that he reads. Yet, the scandal of Russia paying off the Taliban never made made it to his desk. Really? Let’s ignore the reports that people like John Bolton said they told him. It has been in his daily briefings. Numerous officials have told us that they have to include pictures for him to pay attention to briefings. If they include stuff about him the odds are better he will pay attention.

Biden has had moments sure, but I’m reasonably sure he has never suggested ingesting bleach or sunlight in order to kill the virus. He doesn’t fumble through numbers and misunderstand basic concepts like per capita. So, the end result is the same as 2016. We all see a man that is either in sharp decline or who never knew anything in the first place. Yet, his supporters are convinced his opponent is loony tunes. This could be said by both sides. See, that’s how it works.

So, the jokes about Biden not wanting to debate or how much Trump would eviscerate him  are an utter joke. In the movie Caddie Shack, there is a scene where Chevy Chase tells the doctor he isn’t playing in the club championship that year. He will have to continue beating himself. The doctor nods agreeably. He doesn’t get the joke.

When you can’t get out multiple interviews with Fox News unscathed do you really think you are going to beat anyone in a debate? He could get up on that stage alone and find some way to fumble the ball. If you listen to some of them, they even know it too. They admit without realizing they are.

A conservative friend that used to be a never Trunper said he thought Trump sounded stupid during the 2016 GOP primary debates. However, that ended up being wrong somehow. I was reacting emotionally to him as he used to. Yet, somehow he didn’t get the irony. He thought he was stupid but apparently doesn’t think so anymore. Has Trump pivoted and shown a maturity we didn’t think he had? No, so he decided that what he saw wasn’t true. We are living in a world where facts and expertise doesn’t matter.

So, every time someone points out how much of an idiot Trump is, they turn around and throw out a meme of Biden being confused. I had another person on Facebook admit that they made up a Biden quote because they could imagine him saying it. That’s rich. So, we either ignore the idiot we see or equivocate with something foolish the other guy says. Ignore the log from my own eye while I remove the speck from yours. Got it.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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