Despite their victories in the House, Senate and White House, Republicans still spend their time lamenting the media’s unfairness and complaining that Democrats are acting hypocritically. The thin-skinned President-elect Donald Trump and his media boosters are no better. They seem to bristle at every criticism, no matter how slight or how valid. They invariably holler: But President Obama did the same thing! A variation on this is: Democrats never complained when Obama was doing X!

Fox Non-News host Bill O’Reilly whines that Democrats didn’t care about Russia until the hacking episode. That’s false, of course. (Both parties have been outraged over Russian aggression. Hillary Clinton spent a good deal of the election mocking Trump for his pandering to Vladimir Putin.) Moreover, the question is easily reversed: Why did Republicans care about Russian mischief until the November elections?

Trump’s bizarre post-election behavior, we grant you, is hard to defend, but “Obama skipped briefings, too” is not sufficient to justify Trump’s dereliction. “Obama treated the presidency like a never-ending campaign” doesn’t justify Trump spending his time at rallies patting himself on the back when he could be getting up to speed on policy.

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This sort of reasoning would lead to all sorts of oddball contentions:

Hillary and Bill Clinton sold access, so it is okay when the Trump sons do the same. (“Prospective million-dollar donors to the ‘Opening Day 2017’ event — slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center — receive a ‘private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,’ a ‘multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team,’ as well as tickets to other events and ‘autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.'”)
The Clintons’ foundation posed all sorts of conflicts of interest when she was secretary of state, so Trump shouldn’t have to worry about his own conflicts.
Obama was tougher on friends than enemies (e.g. Iran), so Trump can do the same (with Russia, for example).
Obama was irresponsible on debt accumulation, so Trump can be irresponsible also.

Republicans don’t really want to go there, do they? Children argue, “But he did it first!” That’s not what we expect from serious adults. Sure, some Democrats are hypocrites, but it is poor form for Republicans to claim that the other side is being inconsistent when they are now excusing lack of attendance at security briefings, ethical lapses, fiscal irresponsibility and appeasement of a foreign power.

Frankly, there are not many Republicans or Democrats who are willing to be as tough on their own side as they are on the other. That goes for voters, media figures and activists who consider themselves to be on Team D or Team R. That’s part of the hyper-partisanship that has gripped politics since the Newt Gingrich era. (Speaking of hypocrisy, impeaching Bill Clinton for lying about infidelities when carrying on his own affair may still be the worst case of political chutzpah in my lifetime.)

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Corruption, inattention and irresponsibility are not the sole provinces of either party, but continually ascribing ill motives to the other side and virtuous ones to your own has a way of skewing one’s judgment. There’s even a psychological term for this: motive attribution asymmetry, as a 2014 study published by the National Academy of Sciences termed it. In simple terms, it’s easy to assume that the other side is motivated by hate and up to no good while one’s own side has only the best intentions. Put yourself in a media cocoon where your own opinions are rarely challenged, and soon it’s hard to notice anything wrong with your own side or anything sympathetic about the other.

To be blunt, we don’t care whether “Obama did it, too” or “Democrats didn’t complain when Hillary Clinton did it.” Clinton is spending her time hiking in the woods, and Obama won’t be president a month from today. Trump and the new Congress should not get graded on a curve. Judge them on their own behavior, hold them to the same standard you’ve used for your “own” team and let the chips fall where they may. Is this really that hard?

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