Defending the indefensible: Althouse on Trump’s blood libel

There’s always something to be learned from watching seemingly intelligent people defending the indefensible.

Ann Althouse teaches law at the University of Wisconsin, which implies that her IQ must be above room temperature. (Her moral standing, given her at-best-ambivalence about torture (oh, I’m sorry, that’s merely “harsh interrogation techniques”)  is another matter.)  But her hatred of liberals and liberalism is so vehement that she supports Gov. Scott Walker, despite (because of?) his attacks on the University where she teaches. Still, you’d think that Donald Trump would be a bridge too far for anyone not actually a mouth-breather.

But pundits gotta pund, and apparently Althouse regards the common-sense approach adopted by many others on the Right – denouncing Trump as No True Conservative – too obvious, or insufficiently likely to raise the blood pressure of the people she despises. 

So she turns to the sort of silly pettifogging that characterizes really bad legal pleading, which puts great weight on distinctions-without-a-difference. She also makes use of one of her standard tricks: substituting not-very-well-done literary criticism of political statements for any sort of attempt to appreciate the moral dimensions of the arguments they embody.

The current case involves Donald Trump’s strongly implied but weasel-worded claim that Barack Obama is an ISIS supporter or sympathizer. That of course is not merely absurd but disgusting. Althouse, however, had no complaint about it that she wanted to share with her readers: she merely noted that the original Washington Post headline restated Trump’s nasty implication a bit more explicitly than suited Althouse’s delicate taste.

After lots of other commenters – but not Althouse – criticized Trump for that outrageous blood libel, Trump tried to defend himself by pointing to a Breitbart “news story” that points out what everyone knows: that some of the opposition to the hideous, genocidal Alawite regime in Syria headed by the Assad family consisted of Sunni extremists, some of them affiliated with al Qaeda or ISIS. Inevitably, then some of the military aid the U.S. gave the opposition wound up going to bad guys, which is why the Obama Administration had to draw back from a full-out attempt to get rid of Assad. (Formally, it’s no different from the problem Carter and Reagan faced in trying to dislodge the Soviet-backed Afghan government in 1979-83 by backing the mujaheddin resistance, of which the Taliban was an important element.)

Trump triumphantly pointed to the story that Clinton as Secretary of State was warned of the problem as vindication of his claim that the Obama Administration is supporting ISIS terrorism such as the massacre in Orlando. Of course that’s nonsensical, unless you want to say that Ronald Reagan was an al-Qaeda sympathizer.

Althouse leaped in to the fray, of course on Trump’s side.

It’s ridiculous that the media that support Hillary merely attack Trump for pointing at stories that suggest that Hillary/Obama had bad judgment, didn’t know what they were doing, or worse. The media have left the opening for Trump to take these easy shots, and now, when he does, they seem to think it’s enough to say Trump isn’t nice or Trump throws out inconclusive evidence and invites us to think for ourselves and ask questions.

Note the “or worse,” carefully ambiguous as to whether the suggestion is Trump’s or Althouse’s. As to the notion that “Trump … invites us to think for ourselves and ask questions,” that’s a remarkably … well, let’s just say “charitable” … way to put the situation.

Just to be clear: there’s no evidence whatsoever that Clinton and Obama had bad judgement, didn’t know what they were doing, “or worse.” The evidence is that they were in a situation, and knew they were in a situation, where the key local opponents of a genocidal monster were themselves hideously awful, and faced a difficult choice. And Trump is lying (again). And Althouse is helping (still).





Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

18 thoughts on “Defending the indefensible: Althouse on Trump’s blood libel”

  1. Funny how you're defending aiding truly awful people, (Committing atrocities levels of awful.) while declaring helping Trump beyond the pale. A lot of tolerance for people on your own side faced with bad choices, but little for anybody on the other side dealing with them.

        1. Nice to know that you were in favor of not aiding France and Britain in WW2 because that meant also helping the Soviet Union.

          1. Learn to read: I was criticizing Mark's double standard. Criticizing a double standard carries no implication of which of the two standards being applied you actually approve of.

            This is a year of awful choices on the ballot. At least I'm not in denial about both of them being awful.

          2. Learn to think.

            Just because someone disagrees with you about the merits of a candidate doesn't mean they are "in denial." It might just mean they disagree with you.

          3. Whoo, I better link to that one, I'm going to be quoting it frequently in the coming months.

          4. I don't generally accuse you of being in denial, just wildly wrong, on both facts and logic.

            Different thing.

            Let me give you just one example that just occurred to me. In a recent thread I mentioned that Trump had been sued for non-payment by hundreds of contractors on his construction projects. In your response you cast this fact as roughly, "Because Trump is running for President someone went and found a hundred or so unhappy contractors." Wrong. Factually wrong.

            Are you "in denial?" I don't know. I know you're either making stuff up or believing a lot of other people who do. Just an example.

          5. What's denial about that? I think he is being sued, and in some cases probably for good reason. I'm just pointing out that it's impossible to run a huge constellation of businesses without this sort of thing cropping up occasionally. Occasionally being the operative word here. What percentage of his bills are paid late? How many of the lawsuits actually win? These are important questions you actually need the answers to in order to evaluate the situation.

            It's not like Hillary's email scandal, where as a deliberate policy she used private email exclusively, not merely a Gmail account, but a highly unusual private server. There's no question that Hillary's email policy was premeditated and deliberate. She actually went to a great deal of trouble not just to have private email, but private email on a server she could wipe any time she felt the need. And conducted all her business through it, including the classified stuff. She actually made a point of NOT having a government email address on the secure system!

            So, I don't think the two situations are comparable.

          6. No Brett.

            I can't locate the comment. If you can, point me to it.

            But as I recall, the claims was that it was "a hundred or so," and your implication was that someone went and got the people to complain now that Trump is a candidate.

            It was pointed out that there are many more than a hundred, that these are actual lawsuits, not grumbling, and they were filed well before Trump started running, years earlier. So I think you are distorting matters.

            Further, you really are making a ridiculous argument – "well, he probably paid most of his bills, so bankrupting a few businesses by not paying is no big deal." Do you really believe that? Have you actually read the stories, or just the pro-Trump spin?

          7. No, my implication is that a $10 billion business empire is going to have a significant number of lawsuits against it at any given time, some of them even legitimate. Just as a matter of scale, and all human institutions being fallible. And that you can't judge this without knowing, for instance, how often Trump loses these lawsuits. Or what percentage of his cash flow they involve.

            This may be legitimately bad news about him. But, "100 lawsuits!" isn't enough to say.

    1. OK, which atrocities specifically have Obama and Clinton committed? Sources please (Breitbart and Alex Jones do not count).

      On Sunday, the news media reported that the Orlando shooter was born in New York. On Monday, the Republican nominee for president says that he was born “in Afghan,” wherever that is (not on my map of the world but probably on the map in his head). His followers don’t care much for political correctness; they are equally indifferent to factual correctness.

      The Democratic nominee expressed sorrow about that mass shooting; the Republican nominee expressed pride. His supporters agree; they think that if Obama had only carpet bombed Fallujah, the shooter would have said to himself, “I had better behave.” FWIW, the DoD reported that as of June 1, there had been 12,685 strikes against ISIL (8661 in Iraq and 4024 in Syria).

      You cannot decide between these two candidates. There are reasons that you have a hard time getting respect on this website; this is one of them.

      1. Again, I didn't say that Obama and Clinton committed atrocities. (Though if you want to talk about Hellfire missiles being directed at cell phones without knowledge of who was around them…)

        The phrase I used was, "defending aiding truly awful people". Mark is defending Clinton for aiding some horrible people in the Middle East, AND attacking Republicans for supporting Trump.

        Because, sometimes you face a difficult choice. Unless you're a Republican.

  2. Althouse is defending/applauding the old trolling technique of Just Asking Questions, or, as it's known is somewhat less polite circles, JAQing off.

  3. I would take Ann's "or worse" to refer to the possibility of some sort of misguided calculation that some aid to AQIR/ISIS would be worth the price to get rid of Assad quickly. I certainly would never think Ann sees Obama as an ISIS sympathizer.

  4. I see no evidence that this person is in any way worthy of this amount of attention. She appears to be like a Maureen Dowd of legal punditry. And I don't read her either. A penumbra of petty personal b.s., with a soupcon (I bet I spelled that wrong…) of journalistic criticism. Which is nearly unintelligible. Like Henry James, only not in a good way. To figure out what the heck her point is, I'd first need to care. And I just don't.

    You should probably be getting some kind of hazard pay for keeping track of all these idiots.

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