President Trump's comment to Bill O'Reilly in his pregame interview Sunday certainly seemed pretty hard to defend. O'Reilly asked him about his friendliness toward Russian president Vladimir Putin and in the course of the question called Putin a "killer." Trump responded by saying that we have killers here, too, suggesting a moral equivalence between United States government personnel and Putin's government in Russia: To draw a moral equivalency between Vladimir Putin's methods of neutralizing his political opponents, not to mention his war-fighting rules of engagement, and those of the United States was shocking to many patriotic Americans. If the president's going to accuse American leaders of being "killers" he has an obligation to adduce some evidence. Otherwise, he discredits himself by making such an outrageous claim, but there's something about the indignation that Trump's words have summoned forth from both the left and the right that's particularly ... odd.
For decades the left has been insisting that the American government is indeed guilty of all manner of murder, mayhem, war crimes, and incarceration of political prisoners. President George W. Bush, for example, was frequently portrayed as a blood-thirsty maniac who went to war in Iraq simply to avenge Saddam Hussein's attempt on his father's life. From the Vietnam era in the 1960s until the dissolution of the old Soviet Union the left habitually refused to condemn Soviet crimes against humanity on the grounds that our hands were just as dirty in Southeast Asia and Central America. For them now to profess to be offended by President Trump, who is essentially agreeing with them, is risibly hypocritical.
On the right, too, there has been a significant percentage of people convinced that President Clinton and/or his wife were responsible for the deaths of almost fifty people since their days in Arkansas. Chief among their putative victims was Vince Foster, whose mysterious death was laid at the feet of the Clintons, as was the demise of cabinet secretary Ron Brown and dozens of lesser-known figures. None of this was ever proven to be more than coincidence, however, and anyone who was nevertheless sure that the Clintons were guilty has no grounds for criticizing Mr. Trump for agreeing with them by making similar, if nebulous, allegations today.
The president was, in fact, simply acknowledging accusations many other Americans on both left and right have themselves made many times during the last three to five decades. Why then should they be so affronted when Trump agrees with them, unless they were never among the leftists, like the young John Kerry, for example, who accused the American government and military of murdering civilians, or never among those on the right who were, and still are, convinced that the Clintons had political liabilities eliminated "with extreme prejudice"?
If one was never in either of these camps then one might well ask the president what in the world he's talking about and why on earth he would talk about it, but only if one was never in one of those camps. Otherwise, they're outraged at Mr. Trump for agreeing with them, which is absurd.