This may be outdated by now, given how fast politics can move, but it’s a worthwhile point.
I think that most people would agree that one of the major problems we face today is that no one takes responsibility for themselves any longer.
However, this exists – at least in part – because taking responsibility can result in punishment that far exceeds the crime. If, of course, it was a crime in the first place. The blame can be a finicky thing sometimes, particularly when there is a politician (or Social Justice Bully) involved somewhere.
Let us imagine, for example, that Bob wants Andy’s job. He hides behind a bush one night and caves Andy’s skull in with a hammer. Can there be any real doubt that Bob is guilty?
OR … maybe Bob can’t bring himself to murder Andy personally. He hires Tom to assassinate Andy. Tom’s the one with blood on his hands, but Bob is the one who paid him and pointed him at the target. Bob is STILL guilty of murder. (Mr. Burns was wrong; he could be held responsible for what his goons were ordered to do.)
But what if things are a little more complex? One drunken night, Clive tells a crowd that Andy is the one who stole their money; Tom, in outrage, goes and kills Andy. Is Clive still guilty of murder?
I would say he wasn’t. Tom made the decision, in cold (or hot) blood, to murder Andy. It doesn’t matter if Andy is actually the thief or not.
Now, the problem here is that some people will almost certainly try to argue that Clive is either the true murderer or bears at least some of the blame. Some of those people will do so because they want to lesson Tom’s share of the guilt, others will do so because they see inflammatory statements (even true statements) as wrong in themselves. The latter people include the sort of cowardly snakes who claim that a handful of cartoonists deserve to be murdered (thus reducing the guilt of the murderers) because of their cartoons.
This leads to another problem. If Clive apologises for what he said, afterwards, he will be tacitly admitting, in our current climate, to a share of the blame. Andy’s family could sue him (even if he couldn’t be held legally liable), he might be targeted by anyone who wants revenge and Tom might even try to blame Bob for leading him astray.
This creates problems for Clive. If Clive apologises, he gets the blame; if Clive keeps his mouth firmly shut, Clive looks bad. There’s no way to win.
This brings us neatly to Donald Trump.
You’ll probably have heard, if you follow politics, that two of his supporters beat up an immigrant, dropping Trump’s name as they did so. Trump’s response is a non-answer that many people, frankly, have found insulting.
But really, what choice does he have?
One of the cardinal rules in politics, these days, is never admit even the slightest shred of responsibility. Trump cannot disown the attackers, even when they step well over the line, for the simple fact that his disownment will become a chink in his armour. Social Justice Bullies will happily take even the slightest hint of weakness as an encouragement to attack. Trump’s non-answer is probably the best move, tactically speaking, that he can make. It is a very poor move, but I honestly don’t see any better one.
The issue here, of course, is that Trump is in the same position as Clive.
Most people would probably agree, I suspect, that the thugs who carried out the attack are responsible for the attack. This does not matter, of course, to Trump’s enemies. Why would they care about justice when they scent weakness? Thus Trump can either allow himself to be bullied into accepting a share of the blame or simply flatly refusing to admit any responsibility (even to the point of refusing to offer condolences to the victim), even though that will alienate some of his potential supporters.
At base, this is simply a reflection of our current political climate. No one dares admit to a mistake for fear they will be expected to commit political hari-kari.