Sunday, April 15, 2018

Justifies the Means

CNN's Jake Tapper interviewed Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel about the Republican response to former CIA Director James Comey's new book. And one of the questions that Mr. Tapper asks is, effectively, "Are Republicans sure they should be throwing stones from a glass house?"

Which I understand. Given the fact that President Trump makes either completely unprovable or verifiably false statements on a regular basis, Republican complaining about Mr. Comey's alleged untruthfulness seems openly hypocritical.

But hypocrisy is beside the point. Political parties, even moreso than individuals, have interests, rather than values or principles. And to the degree that that many political parties see their policy goals as being in the bests interests of the nation as a whole, they are interested in outcomes, rather than process. They pay lip service to the idea that they must pursue their desired outcomes only through accepted processes, because this is a public piety, but in the end, winning is the only thing that matters.

And so while I appreciate the need that Mr. Tapper felt to ask Chairwoman McDaniel about values, principles and process, it produced nothing other than the predictable song-and-dance of Chairwoman McDaniel pretending that the Republican party actually cared about the means it pursued to its ends, and when that seemed untenable, deflecting the perceived criticism or otherwise seeking to change the subject.

It's reasonable to forgo a particular end, because it doesn't seem worth the means required to attain it. That can even be laudable. When it becomes a requirement, however, it tends to produce dishonesty about means, rather than a reconsideration of the ends. There is something to be said then, I think, for relaxing the requirement.

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