Spend two minutes looking at online comments about any political news story and you'll find yourself knee-deep in whining about who did what first.
- You think Pat McCrory's a bumbling liar? Well what about Mike Easley?
- Why should Republicans clean up coal ash? The whole mess got started under Democrats.
- Extreme gerrymandering? You guys did it first.
The list goes on and on, with every current transgression excused by someone else's past sins. Even Vladimir Putin is using "they did it first" as the public justification for his invasion of Ukraine. Citing the US's military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, he claimed yesterday that Russia is only doing what America has done in the past. And he's right. Under the second President Bush, America did indeed invade and occupy two countries with no justification whatsoever. Thanks for nothing, George.
It's tempting to try to reduce these perennial pissing contests to an easy aphorism. Something like "Two wrongs don't make a right" comes to mind. But the reality is much more dangerous. Not only do two wrongs not make a right, they inevitably lead to a third, fourth or fifth wrong ... an endless spiral of immoral actions justified by the bad behavior of someone in past.
I don't have much use for accusations of hypocrisy and double-standards as the basis for defending one's positions. Make the case on its merits, precedent be damned.