It has been suggested that those on the right have been a bit too energetic in defending the previous president. There can be no doubt that many of President Donald J. Trump’s defenders are aggressive and voluble. There can also be no doubt that in many instances, people conflate defending important elements of the American political and judicial systems with defending Mr. Trump himself.
Let’s clear up the confusion.
Noting the obvious and troubling fact that the FBI and the DOJ are either unwilling or unable to police their own employees is not defending Mr. Trump. Faced with the reality that agents lied to obtain warrants used to surveil campaigns and members of the media, silence seems a lot like a vitiation of the oath that many of us have taken to the Constitution. It is certainly contrary to the oath that every lawyer has taken as well.
Pointing out that no one associated with January 6th has even been charged with, let alone found guilty of, insurrection is not defending Mr. Trump. It is, rather, defending both the utility and primacy of the judicial process in the United States. It is a simple assertion of the foundational understanding that innocence is assumed until guilt is proven.
It is alarming to see how many lawyers – officers of court all – have no confidence in the ability of their own system to find facts, ascertain guilt, and assign punishment and remediation in this instance. If you are a lawyer, and are happy to see what is essentially a criminal matter politicized (think the January 6th Committee), that is a problem.
Listing off a few of the ways that Team Biden has failed the United States (Afghanistan, inflation, energy prices, regressive policies like the student loan debt fiasco, etc.), is also not defending Mr. Trump or Trumpism. It is simply acknowledging the facts as we know them. President Joe Biden understands them to be facts as well. He has been reduced to calling his opponents’ fascists not because they are, but because he and his party have nothing else to run on in the 2022 elections.
Suggesting that a sitting president should not call his opponents (about one-third of all American adults) fascists and threats to the Republic is not defending Mr. Trump. It is simply a practical restatement of the notion that once you place certain people outside the realm of the acceptable, you greatly increase societal entropy and the chances of violence. When people cannot or will not be heard through peaceful channels, the historical answer is usually violence. That’s why the First Amendment is essential; free speech is the first and best bulwark against political violence.
Speaking of that… saying that a United States Senator (Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY) should not threaten violence against Supreme Court justices has nothing to do with Mr. Trump. Nor does pointing out that in the last couple of years dozens of churches, pregnancy centers, and Republican Party offices have been firebombed or otherwise damaged. Again, if you’ve taken an oath – either to the Constitution or to preserve the rule of law as an officer of the court — you should oppose and be vocal about opposing all of those instances of violence and threats. To date, the left has said nothing about these ongoing episodes of political violence.
Finally, pointing out that there seems to be two kinds of justice in the United States nowadays — one in which a leader of one political party (Mr. Trump) is hounded pretty relentlessly by federal law enforcement and one in which the previous presidential nominee and the son of the current president are essentially ignored by law enforcement – is, again, not defending Mr. Trump. It is, rather, noting what is obvious to everyone: That the rule of law is being routinely traduced by those who are part of the legal system. It is small wonder that few citizens retain confidence in federal law enforcement.
Rather than asking why some defend Mr. Trump, perhaps the more important question is, why aren’t more people defending free speech, the rule of law, the judicial process, the citizenry from political violence, judges from political attacks, and federal law enforcement from those who would weaponize it against their political rivals.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated” podcast. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.