January 11, 2017

The difference between nominations and jury trials

Sam Smith - Imagine a news account that began, "Barack Obama has denied stories that he once laid in a Moscow hotel bed watching two prostitutes urinate."

If you can't imagine this, it's because nothing you know about Obama would suggest that it is true. While it is always possible that you have been deluded, the overwhelming probability is that one's differences with Obama would continue to be based on politics rather than prostitution.

The fact that this topic has been raised concerning Donald Trump doesn't prove that it is true either, but illustrates that the character of Trump is such that it seems reasonable to consider it. And should it be proved untrue, that merely exonerates him in this instance. It is not evidence, for example, that he should be president or would be a good one.

Similarly, we can continue to argue whether Jeff Sessions, after hours of attempted exculpatory testimony before a Senate committee, is in fact as prejudiced as his record would suggest. But what is
unarguable is that there are tons of lawyers who could have been nominated for Attorney General for whom the question wouldn't even arise.

From Watergate to Clarence Thomas to innumerable other nomination hearings, we - guided by the media - have come to regard many moral decisions not by wise human judgement but by the standards of a jury trial. If the accused can not be found guilty, they are innocent. Thus legal innocence has too often become the standard for judging high officials rather than, say, honor, decency or achievement.

We hardly talk seriously of the latter anymore.


Anonymous said...

In the 1st place, I don't know that you can't be a decent or honorable person and like to watch women urinate. It's not my thing, but I wouldn't condemn a person for it, and it's certainly safer than the sex act itself (gay or straight). I just read a bio on Margaret Sanger, and her social reformer friend Havelock Ellis apparently had just this fetish, and yet by most accounts he was a decent man in other respects.

2nd, Trump's done far worse things and the people knew it when they elected him. I don't like it that we're ruled by a vulgar misogynist, but apparently a lot of people do, and to paraphrase Senator Hruska, aren't a--holes entitled to representation as well? If not, don't we have to concede that democracy is a mistake?

I do agree that his cabinet appointments shouldn't be approved just because the evidence doesn't meet trial standards.


AgustinG said...

It's not what Trump did that's the problem. It's that he did it where Russians could record the act and use it to blackmail him.