“Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright.” — Paul McCartney
Donald Rumsfeld is dead. That’s the major news item of the day. That is until the indictments come down on the Trump organization. Oddly enough, those two stories are related. Oddly enough, Rumsfeld’s death is an uneasy reminder that I was wrong. I know. Everyone is shocked.
One of the things I was taught growing up was that almost everyone in our politics was operating from an understanding that everyone in our politics wanted what was best for America. So, even poor decisions were done with the best interest of America in mind. Occasionally, the lines of legality get blurred or outright erased. Even then, it is done with the best interest of America in mind.
When that happens you are given a choice. You can accept that as a part of politics. You can use it to defeat your opponent, defeat them, and then move on. You can also use political capital to punish them for their crimes. However, if you go with the second option you run the very real risk that the court system becomes a weapon in politics. It’s not an easy decision.
I grew up believing that the pardon of Nixon was on balance a good thing. I grew up believing that moving on from Iran-Contra was a good thing. I then came to believe that moving on from the possible crimes of the second Bush administration was a good thing. I’m a big believer in history and I figured history would treat them harshly enough. I figured people would remember. I figured a lot of things.
I was wrong. The Bush administration isn’t remembered as crooks. History has taught us something else entirely. The Nixon administration did what it did because administrations before had literally gotten away with murder. The Reagan administration did more because Nixon went unpunished. The Bush administration did more because the Reagan administration went unpunished.
Now, we get to the point where the people in power were no longer in it for the best interests of the United States. They were in it for themselves. Suddenly, Bush didn’t look so bad. Suddenly, Rumsfeld doesn’t look so bad. You could even catch the occasional progressive longing for the dark days of the Bush administration before Biden took over. At least you had a patriotic American possibly breaking the law to achieve his view of American interests. It sure beat a narcissistic jackass out to line his own pockets.
Now, I understand the lay of the land. There are two distinct historical trends at work here. First, Republicans tend to be corrupt. At least the ones in the White House tend to be that way. Secondly, when you don’t punish bad behavior it gets worse. Basic parenting should have taught me that, but I thought politicizing justice was wrong. It’s still distasteful, but it’s necessary. The humanization of Donald Rumsfeld should teach us that much.