When the president announced he was sending the U.S. military to help secure our southern border, he received bipartisan praise from members of Congress. The Washington Post reported that the move was seen as “smart politics.” The year was 2011, and the president was Barack Obama. The National Guard troops Obama sent to the border as part of “Operation Phalanx” helped apprehend nearly 18,000 illegal immigrants and seized more than 56,000 pounds of illegal drugs.
He was not the only president to deploy troops to the southern border. In 2006, President George W. Bush launched “Operation Jump Start,” in which U.S. National Guard troops assisted in 176,000 immigrant apprehensions, as well as the seizure of almost $900 million illegal drugs. Before that, in 1994, President Bill Clinton launched Operation Gatekeeper, deploying military personnel to help regain “control” of the San Diego-Tijuana border. Before that, in 1989, President George H.W. Bush established Joint Task Force: Six, deploying the U.S. military to the southwest border region.
But now, when President Trump announces that he is doing precisely what four of his Republican and Democratic predecessors did — sending troops to help secure the southern border — the liberal outrage machines crank into action, as 108 House Democrats sent a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declaring “this effort is nothing short of a militarization of the southern border to score political points and stoke misleading fears among Americans regarding immigrants.”
Funny, they didn’t say that about Obama, Clinton or either Bush.
Trump’s critics say pointing out this history is simply “whataboutism.” Sorry, if there was not so much rank hypocrisy among those castigating Trump, there would be no need to say “what about?”
Similarly, when Trump’s critics declare he is an anti-Semite because he criticizes liberal billionaire financier George Soros (who happens to be Jewish), it is perfectly legitimate to point out that they had no problem with Democrats’ attacks on GOP financier Sheldon Adelson (who also happens to be Jewish). Bernie Sanders castigated “billionaires like Sheldon Adelson buying elections,” and Elizabeth Warren declared “Sheldon Adelson can’t buy us off.” Are they anti-Semites? How about when Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid castigated conservative billionaire financiers the Koch brothers? Reid referred to them as “shadowy” and called their political contributions “un-American.” Can you imagine if Trump said that about Soros? Why is Soros immune to criticism because he is Jewish, but the Kochs are fair game because they are not?
And it is perfectly fair to point out that these critics were silent a few weeks ago when former president Clinton shared a stage with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has declared “Hitler was a very great man,” and warned Jews “Don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!,” and most recently compared Jews to “termites.” Some even defended Clinton by saying he was simply attending Aretha Franklin’s funeral and could not control the guest list. Would Trump’s critics have had the same reaction if Trump had attended a funeral where he shared the stage with David Duke? And where was the outrage when Obama took a smiling photograph with Farrakhan, reportedly joking that “He is much better looking than I am”?
Democrats have no problem attending and supporting the Women’s March, whose leaders include Linda Sarsour, who declared American Muslims should not “humanize” Israelis, and Tamika Mallory, who has called Farrakhan “the GOAT” (Greatest of All Time). Yet they have the temerity to accuse Trump of anti-Semitism.
The list of liberal hypocrisies goes on. Pointing these things out does not absolve Trump of anything. We can debate whether sending troops to the border is the right thing to do. And the fact that Democrats condone anti-Semites in their own ranks does not release Trump from his responsibility to condemn the bigots in the alt-right.
But if Trump’s critics want to be taken seriously, they might want to show some intellectual consistency and hold their own side to the same high moral standards they demand of the president. Otherwise, Americans may get the impression that they are simply using accusations of racism and anti-Semitism as a weapon to silence their political opponents.
Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter @marcthiessen.