In addition to being judged by the content of our character, we are often judged by the company we keep. Those we choose to befriend, associate with, or defend can provide a broader window into our moral psyche. As a result, members of the political Left are routinely criticized - and quite appropriately so - by the political Right for frolicking with people of “questionable” moral character. Whether it be Colin Kaepernick hobnobbing with terrorist sympathizer Linda Sarsour, Barack Obama grinning alongside the racist and anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan, or former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” the conservative Right reacted with understandable and justifiable outrage.
Unfortunately, many conservatives fail to apply the same standards of association to their own leaders. Playing into the overused fallacy of “whataboutism,” the Left are able to shrug off legitimate criticism of their absurd associations with bigots, terrorists, or dictators by simply pointing out the obvious hypocrisy demonstrated by some conservatives who ignore this exact problem in their own ranks.
In this context, President Donald Trump has repeatedly demonstrated an appallingly poor judgement of character. His friends include Michael Cohen who received a three-year prison sentence in December 2018, and Paul Manafort who was sentenced to prison in March. Most recently, Trump commuted the prison sentence of his friend and adviser Roger Stone, sparking predictable outrage from the Left.
It’s important to avoid the same whataboutism which is used to justify the Left’s frequent association with terrorists and dictators. Yes, there was no comparable outrage when Barack Obama pardoned Oscar Lopez Rivera, who “was considered a top leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, an ultranationalist Puerto Rican group that claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings at government buildings, department stores, banks and restaurants in New York, Chicago, Washington and Puerto Rico during the 1970s and early 1980s,” according to Fox News. In addition, yes, Roger Stone is not a terrorist, and yes, Roger Stone’s sentence was probably overly harsh for political reasons.
However, these are irrelevant points when we consider that we, as conservatives, claim to pride ourselves on logical, ideological, and moral consistency. It is bad enough that many conservatives celebrated the commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence when they would have reacted with utter horror had Barack Obama pardoned one of his friends. What makes this worse is that Roger Stone waited 8 whole days to prove that Donald Trump’s public acknowledgement of both association and loyalty was drastically undeserved.
Speaking on “The Mo’Kelly Show” on Saturday, Roger Stone was asked whether his relationship with the President was a driving factor behind his commuted sentence. Mr. O’Kelly asked “There are thousands of people treated unfairly daily, how your number just happened to come up in the lottery, I am guessing it was more than just luck, Roger, right?” In response to this objectively reasonable question, Roger Stone muttered “arguing with this Negro.”
Despite protests from Roger Stone, the audio is clear. He used a racial slur. While this is unforgivable for any reason, the fact that it was in response to a fair question makes it even more disgusting. By using such foul language, he provided another bridge between President Donald Trump and those who speak and act in a manner which is antithetical to the expectations of true conservatism. The fact is that, with one word, Roger Stone proved why Donald Trump was foolish to commute his sentence. If Trump cares about the label of immorality which his associates smear across the name of conservatism, then he must abandon his misguided predisposition to reward loyalty above all else, and do his job:
Protect America and conservatism, not his friends.