New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg wants to “cancel” Kirstjen Nielsen. She wants corporate America, think tanks, and academia to shun and ostracize the recently departed Homeland Security chief for the “crime” of enacting President Trump’s immigration policies of separating migrant families at the border.
In her April 8 column titled “Cancel Kirstjen Nielsen,” Goldberg wants Nielsen to not only become a “permanent pariah” but for this to be an example to “other people in the administration as they decide whether to just follow orders.”
She cites a coalition of progressive groups who’ve signed a petition asking “corporate America to blacklist senior people in the Trump administration, including Nielsen, who took part in crafting, enacting or defending family separation.” It almost sounds like a fatwa of some sort.
Encapsulated in Goldberg’s sentiments are a bunch of things that drove people like me away from the Democratic Party: dishonesty, hypocrisy, selective and shifting standards, lack of basic fairness, and a Manichean way of looking at our politics.
Let’s start with the dishonesty. The left ignores or glosses over the fact that the Obama administration started the practice of separating migrant families at the border. As has been pointed out ad nauseam, the oft-shown pictures of children in chain-link cages were taken in 2014, during the previous administration.
Also, as Samantha Vinograd, a national security analyst on CNN, pointed out recently, the Obama administration separated children from the adults accompanying them for the kids’ protection: to check if trafficking or another kind of harm might have occurred. So, when Obama does it, they’re doing it for the children’s safety, but when Trump does it he is a monster.
No one likes separating migrant families at the border. But the root problem here is the utter dysfunction both at the border and in Congress, which refuses to deal with the immigration issue and come up with comprehensive reform.
If we take Goldberg and other progressives’ concerns at face value, it comes to this: they are anguished that an American policy harmed and traumatized vulnerable foreign children, and they want to punish those who enacted the policy. The problem is this concern is filled with selective outrage and double standards.
If their motive is concern over traumatized foreign children, then it’d be hard to ignore the list of American leaders and officials whose thoughtless actions have harmed countless foreign kids. Take the Iraq War, for instance. This war of choice, that is now widely acknowledged to have been started with lies, ended up killing, maiming, orphaning, and displacing tens of thousands of Iraqi children.
By Goldberg’s logic, we’ll have to “cancel” dozens and dozens of American leaders and officials who initiated and participated in the Iraq mess. It’s a long, bipartisan list. Where do we begin? With George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and on and on.
Among pundits too, the list of those who promoted the war is a long one, including Bill Kristol, David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Max Boot, and Fareed Zakaria. Were all these prominent public figures “canceled” because their reckless policy harmed a large number of Iraqi children? Of course not. They all faced no accountability for their disastrous, destabilizing foreign policy advocacy and decisions.
Disagreement over any administration’s policies is fine, even vehement disagreement, but the left has currently taken things to a level that’s dangerous. They want to put a target on all those who served in the Trump administration, brand them as evil people who should not only be shunned but prevented from living a private, peaceful, and productive life. That not only doesn’t sound right, it goes outside the bounds of ordinary fairness.
I’d caution Goldberg that this policy of canceling Trump administration officials may be satisfying in the short term, but may end up rubbing the American people the wrong way. They’ll see it as vengeful and vindictive. Instead, here are some helpful directives to today’s increasingly unhinged left: Cancel these “cancel” pushes. Instead, work with the Trump administration to formulate and enact common sense, comprehensive immigration policies.