All Americans of conscience should speak out against President Donald Trump when they sincerely feel he is acting against the best interests of the United States, at home or abroad. For that matter, every president, no matter who he is or what party he belongs to, should be opposed when people think they are in the wrong.
In 1918, President Teddy Roosevelt famously wrote that, “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 anyone else.”
But people should be careful they don’t become too frequently-critical of Trump. If you make an issue out of everything a president does, the people you’re trying to convince may start to see you as just, to borrow one of the dumber colloquialisms of the 21st Century, a hater. Then, people might stop listening to you altogether. And, when it really matters, your criticism might fall on deaf ears. Think of it as the boy who cried orange wolf.
As my editor is fond of saying, “Save your powder for when you really need it.”
When Trump tweeted on April 21 that Sylvester Stallone had asked him to pardon late African American boxer Jack Johnson, who was basically railroaded by racist authorities, someone in a left-leaning political discussion group wrote, “Next he’ll be pardoning Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.”
When it comes to Trump, if there’s one issue to “save your powder” on, the potential pardoning of a black man convicted because of white racists is probably it. Bringing up people, like Lee and Davis, who actually did something wrong also doesn’t help your criticism. It makes you look like you’re willing to employ any comparison, no matter how silly, to criticizes Trump.
In 1912, Johnson, who was the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, was arrested on the charge that he violated the Mann Act – which forbid individuals from transporting women across state lines for “immoral purposes.”
The Nation writer Dave Zirin also criticized Trump and the notion that he should be the one to pardon the boxer. “Yet what is even more repellent today is the thought that Donald Trump would be the one to “pardon” Johnson. First and foremost, a “pardon” means that Johnson did something wrong and that guilt must be acknowledged.”
Zirin gives off a very strong odor of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. How would liberals have reacted to news of Stallone asking for a pardon for Johnson and Trump ignoring him? Fair or not, liberals would have claimed it was another example of how Trump is racist.
Trump’s strongest bastion of media-support, Breitbart, event held up Zirin as an example of anti-Trump liberal rage. Zirin played right into that narrative.
There is and, sadly, there will be plenty more to go after Trump on. But, picking your battles and only criticizing Trump when it really matters might make the difference between being heard or being drowned out by your own noise.