Olbermann Meghan McCain

This literally might be the nicest thing I ever say about Donald Trump, but no, he is not worse than Osama bin Laden. He has not done “more to damage America than bin Laden + ISIS combined,” as Keith Olbermann recently tweeted and then reiterated in an appearance on “The View.”

Olbermann was confronted by Meghan McCain over the absurdity of the comparison, and Olbermann then got sidetracked into a discussion of the Iraq War, wherein he decried the “wasted” lives of American servicemen there, which Trump has also done worse than, I guess:

Olbermann's defense fails on several levels, including its own internal logic. In one breath, he congratulates America for what it “did not do” following 9/11, but in the next, decries the Iraq War as a tragic and misguided consequence of it. We did that.

He also claims “We did really well after 9/11,“ and that we should ”give ourselves some credit for what we did not do. We did not restrict all the freedoms in this country. We did not single out people."

I guess Olbermann forgot what it was like to be a Muslim in the United States after 9/11, because he will never know what it's like to be a Muslim in the United States. He forgot about the 1,200 Muslims who were rounded up, and the spike in hate crimes against Muslims, and a little place called Gitmo. Thanks to Trump, President George W. Bush gets a lot of credit these days for not explicitly attacking Islam after the attacks, but the rap on him at the time was that his words said one thing, and his actions said “Crusade.”

But at its heart, Olbermann's assertion fails because of the reason McCain identified: It is just absurd. Yes, Trump is terrible in a great many ways, including that he bragged about having the tallest building in Manhattan hours after the attack, but there is no basis to compare anything with the atrocity that was 9/11. The same can be said of many atrocities. Comparing metrics, even tangible ones, fails to take the full measure of it. I'm surprised that anyone who was so close to that event would even try.

In many ways, bin Laden helped to give us Trump, lowering the resistance of many otherwise decent Americans to the type of bigoted fears that propelled him to victory. But that was a ball Republicans had been rolling for decades already. Blaming Trump for the rending of the American fabric missed the point badly.

Trump is terrible in so many ways, and he must be resisted, but it is as big a mistake to make him into a monster as it was with bin Laden. They're both just men (well, one is fish food now — Thanks, Obama!), and both would likely have led mediocre lives if not for inherited wealth. Trump might even have grown into a better human being if he were not so consistently rewarded for terrible behavior, instead of being corrected as he should have been. Both would have been, at best, the loudmouth at the end of their respective bars, harming no one but their own livers.

Instead, bin Laden was able to exploit a hateful facet of human nature that was already there. Trump has exploited hate, as well as the fear that was created when so many Americans' sense of safety was ripped away that day. Believing in monsters keeps us from seeing, and fighting, the very human causes of such misery. When Trump, who is not worse than bin Laden, is finally removed from office, that human nature will remain.

As for Olbermann, his interaction with McCain demonstrates, I think, one of the real reasons “people hate liberals,” as Bill Maher would say, only he would be blaming us for caring about bigotry too much. Liberals mostly agree the Iraq War was misguided and tragic, but there are a few vocal ones who can actually look into the face of someone who knows the sacrifices our military service members make and say that their “lives were wasted.”

John Kerry, a man who earned the right to speak on such matters, once said, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” But I don't think Kerry would ever look at the men who died and say their lives were “wasted.” The veterans I know would say their brothers died fighting for their brothers. Words matter. Most liberals understand this, or at least try to.

Watch the full segment below.

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.

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