At which point I look over at The Weekly Standard and read a piece called, “The Moral Ledger,” by Andy Smarick — and ponder the comparative enchantments of a monastery. From reading Mr. Smarick, it appears that anyone whose relationship with virtue is at least platonic must refrain from praising that which is praiseworthy in the Trump presidency and instead denounce the thing in toto:
Almost every leader in history has had some redeeming characteristic or some defensible initiative. Even profoundly objectionable figures and the profoundly objectionable systems they created were often able to persist because they provided some good to some number of people—the making-the-trains-run-on-time argument. But time judges unkindly those who cheered the timely trains. Some of history’s most ghastly arrangements have been defended by relentlessly pointing to some number of their benefits and turning a blind eye to their costs. This does more than debase debate, it does long-term harm: It serves as a conscience-protecting strategy exactly when our consciences shouldn’t be protected.
“If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons,” observed Winston Churchill as he formalized the Anglo-Soviet Agreement of 1941 which saw the Allies make common cause with Joseph Stalin in the war against Adolph Hitler. “Ah, but you’ve invoked Godwin’s Law,” you say, “which holds that anytime you resuscitate the specter of Hitler you’ve lost the debate.” I neither know Mr. Godwin nor care for his law. “Well then,” you might counter, “are you trying to equate the election of 2016 with the mortal danger which faced the free world in World War II?” Not quite, I reply, though I’ll get around to that point in a moment — after you explain where, in Andy Smarick’s calculus, there is room for Churchill to do anything other than abstain from an alliance with Stalin regardless of the existential threat from Hitler’s Germany.
Because if history looks with disfavor, as Mr. Smarick contends in his allusion to Italy’s Mussolini, upon, “…those who cheered the timely trains,” why should it judge less harshly those who made common cause with a mass murderer? The answer is that thankfully, time, if not Andy Smarick’s Moral Ledger, tends to adjudicate fairly those imperfect mortals who, while operating within the fixed parameters of an imperfect world riddled with still more imperfect mortals and few if any perfect choices, still manage to advance the cause of human freedom. I should think it better to risk the rebuke of Messrs Smarick, Kristol, Will and others, in the cause of such advancement than to consign my grandchildren to a future pinned beneath the heavy boot of the progressive, omnipotent state from which they will ask, “how did this happen?” only to be told reassuringly, “because our consciences shouldn’t be protected.”