The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
09 February 2017
I didn't expect to take Senator McCain's side against President Trump very often, but I was overestimating the Trump administration. McCain and Trump are in another spat already, this time over the raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL and several Yemeni civilians were killed. One objective of the raid was to take out an al-Qaeda leader, and because that target survived while a SEAL was killed, McCain says, reasonably enough, that the raid was not a success. He hasn't learned yet that you can't tell Trump that he didn't succeed in something, while Trump and his press secretary have learned to use the troops as human shields defending the President's narcissism. To say that the raid failed, they claim, both emboldens the enemy and insults the memory of the dead SEAL. In other words, "winning" under Trump means taking the attitude of totalitarian nations, whose armies, according to their propaganda, won at everything they tried. But for Trump to pick a fight on this subject with McCain, who's probably more gung-ho about such operations than most other Senators, looks like the opposite of winning. It also goes against American principles as best expressed by Theodore Roosevelt. During the George W. Bush administration Teddy was much quoted by people defending their right to criticize the President during wartime. Much of the time those people quoted him out of context to defend their right to criticize the war itself, while T.R. did not believe Americans had any right, legal or moral, to repudiate a war once the country had committed to it. However, he did believe that Americans had the right to criticize the President's conduct of the war. His words from 1918 are always relevant, but they're arguably more relevant on his own terms now than they were in Dubya's day: