“Whataboutisms”: The perfect defense for the indefensible

“Whataboutisms” are the perfect, all-purpose defense for all wrongdoings.

Yesterday, Donald Trump said he gladly would accept help from Russia in the 2020 election.

That is illegal. From an article in the 6/14/19 issue of the Chicago Tribune:

Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub released a statement Thursday making clear that candidates for public office may not receive help from a foreign government.

Tweeting her statement, Weintraub wrote, “I would not have thought I needed to say this.”

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office,” Weintraub wrote.

“It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch Trump ally, said “I think it’s a mistake of law. I don’t want to send a signal to encourage this.”

Then we come to the “whataboutism,” also quoted in the Tribune article:

But Graham likened Trump’s stance to Democratic support for a research firm run by British ex-spy Christopher Steele that explored Trump’s ties to Russia in the last campaign. (Steele was hired as a private citizen and used his contacts to gather information.)

It’s perfect. The idea is, if you break the law, you need only to find one other entity that has done anything questionable, and that immediately exonerates you.

Just find something — anything, really — that in some vague way approximates, or almost approximates, the illegal or immoral act and bingo, you’re home free.

Let me give you some other examples:

The claim: “Hitler was evil. He sent innocent people to die in concentration camps.”

The “whataboutism” that exonerates Hitler: What about Roosevelt? He sent innocent Japanese to concentration camps.

Hitler is cleared.

Here’s another:

Trump is an immoral, sex-crazed mysogneist. He cheated on all three wives, paid prostitutes to stay silent, walked in to watch naked women dressing for beauty contests, and boasted about groping women.

Whataboutism: What about Bill Clinton? He had affairs, too.

Therefore, Trump is innocent.

Or another: According to the Washington Post:

“It took President Trump 601 days to top 5,000 false and misleading claims in The Fact Checker’s database, an average of eight claims a day.

“But on April 26, just 226 days later, the president crossed the 10,000 mark — an average of nearly 23 claims a day in this seven-month period, which included the many rallies he held before the midterm elections, the partial government shutdown over his promised border wall and the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the presidential election.

“This milestone appeared unlikely when The Fact Checker first started this project during his first 100 days.

“In the first 100 days, Trump averaged less than five claims a day, which would have added up to about 7,000 claims in a four-year presidential term. But the tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.”

And now for the “whataboutism”:

Whatabout Obama. He said, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

Therefore, either Trump is not a liar, or if he is, it doesn’t matter, because Obama was a liar.

You’ll see Trump’s defenders using whataboutisms every day, simply because Trump’s acts are so egregious, there are no true defenses.

Whataboutisms seem to say, “You can’t say anything negative about my guy, no matter how bad he may be, so long as your guy isn’t absolutely pure.”

It’s the perfect, all-purpose defense for the scoundrel.

Trump tried to explain his willingness to accept illegal election help from a foreign government as “opposition research.” They are not the same, and given that he is surrounded by lawyers, he knows it.

(In fact, he actually disputes it with FBI Director Christopher Wray

“Whataboutisms” appeal to the shallow thinkers — i.e Trump followers — who cannot see the inherent illogic.

Watch for “whataboutisms” in tomorrow’s newspapers, TV, and tweets.  “Whataboutisms” are everywhere, perhaps because shallow thinkers and evil-doers are everywhere.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the richer and the poorer.

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.


3 thoughts on ““Whataboutisms”: The perfect defense for the indefensible

  1. People are not rational beings, Malcolm… we are rationalizing creatures. We hold onto our uninformed opinions, instead of consistently dealing with facts. That is because we are basically just big overgrown monkeys (primates), who act largely on emotional impulse and superstition, rather than logic and reason. And that is why we are going to become an extinct species before very long… because we have failed to adapt beyond our primary genetic makeup. And as Darwin pointed out, over time it is failure to adapt that decides which species thrive and which ones are replaced by others.


  2. I had to deal with this exact same “whataboutism” argument with my conservative father-in-law over the weekend. The Christopher Steele argument is ridiculous as the nationality of an individual with respect to agency is irrelevant. Christopher Steele was a British national working for an American company, Fusion GPS, as a private citizen and as such, is considered an American agent under U.S. law. Flynn and Manafort, on the other hand, are both U.S. citizens who were illegally acting as unregistered foreign agents working for Turkey and Ukraine, respectively. How the two are even remotely equivalent is apparently only clear to the Fox News watching crowd.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s