When confronted with liberal whataboutism during the Cold War, conservative icon William F. Buckley put things in context. “To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices,” Buckley declared, “is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.”
Of course, one doesn’t need to hearken back to Reagan and Kirkpatrick and Buckley to find examples of cries of a false moral equivalence. As recently as a couple of years ago, conservatives were (in some cases fairly, in other cases unfairly) criticizing President Barack Obama for similar, if lesser, transgressions. Today, Obama’s dithering weakness feels almost quaint. Trump’s foreign policy worldview eschews Reagan’s moral clarity—and embraces the “Blame America First” mantra of The Gipper’s liberal critics. How can Trump supporters square this?