President Donald Trump says Democrats are playing a "con game" against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Sept. 25) AP
Hugo Drax to James Bond in “Moonraker”: “You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.” So do complaints about “whataboutism.”
Drax was frustrated upon yet again encountering Bond after a series of futile attempts to dispatch the British secret agent. Drax could have been speaking of the increasingly tiresome attempts to use “whataboutism” to cut off political debate.
Here’s how “whataboutism” works: A critic of presidential lying says Trump has told lies about Obamacare’s failures.  A second person explores the Trump critic’s principles by asking, “What about Barack Obama’s repeated falsehood, ‘You can keep your insurance and your doctor?’ If that didn’t upset you, how can you demand I be upset about Trump?”
The critic says, “That’s ‘whataboutism.’ We’re talking about Trump, not Obama, because he’s not president.” That means the critic had nothing, and has nothing, to say about Obama’s multiple promises he knew weren’t true. Nevertheless, “whataboutism” is invoked to evade that side of discussion and to indict the other participant.
The Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and its allegations of sexual assault 35 years ago have propelled “whataboutism” into stratospheric use. As social media has become an ever-larger part of life, arguments in that forum are rampant.
What follows is a social media post of mine responding to the “whataboutism” silencing technique and why it’s a bad, and even dangerous, idea to surrender the field to people who plant their flag in that unloved season.
“I've done a foolish thing on Facebook far too late into the evening, foolish because it has gone on so long. I've been challenging people to explain why they are certain - on the basis of an allegation of a teen-age act - that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of having committed sexual assault. However, these same people will provide no opinion on:
“* The domestic violence charge by his former live-in girlfriend against Rep. Keith Ellison, deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee
“* Sen. Cory Booker's column, written years ago, that he as a teen-ager wouldn't take no for an answer as he groped, and finally reached his "mark." on a drunken 15-year-old girl, which leaves questions how many other of his victims are out there.
“I've also included questions about Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who left a young woman to drown in his submerged car, waiting nine hours to report the accident (after meeting with his advisers) but who served until 2009 idealized as the "Lion of the Senate`; and, of course, how can you talk about politicians and sexual assault without referencing former President Bill Clinton?
“The social media warriors say the subject can't be broached in terms they don't like, citing ‘whataboutism.’
“Their general response is either to call me names or claim that the issue is Kavanaugh, not Ellison or Booker, which means they don't have (or want) to talk about Ellison, Booker, or anyone else.
“I contend the issue is principle: if they are adamant about Kavanaugh it would seem they would be equally or more adamant about Ellison and Booker. One's more recent with a greater ability to prove, the other is admitted. Instead, these folks want to be careful to not criticize Ellison and Booker; they’re in many cases reluctant to even write their names.
“Here's something to which I will never bend the knee: it's the contention that in the court of public opinion an issue like this can only be discussed within the narrow confines demanded by Kavanaugh opponents to avoid revealing their principles, or lack of them.
“That tactic of ‘you can't talk about that’ is a way to try to silence anything that doesn't fit the narrative that one side demands is all that can be discussed. The subject must be pursued in their way, on their terms, with a corresponding ability for them to cry ‘whataboutism’ to avoid any question or challenge.
“As a political tactic it's understandable; however, as a matter of public debate it must be opposed.
“What they're saying, in effect, is, ‘I have no position on those political leaders because I like them, but I have all kinds of negative positions on these other guys because I don't like them. And you can't comment apart from what I allow to be said or you're engaging in ‘whataboutism.’
“This goes as much for Republicans as it does Democrats. It's just that right now Democrats are dominating the side of the aisle that says, ‘You can't say that.’”
“Yes, we can.”
George Korda is political analyst for WATE-TV, appearing Sundays on “Tennessee This Week.”  He hosts “State Your Case” from noon – 2 p.m. Sundays on WOKI-FM Newstalk 98.7. Korda is a frequent speaker and writer on political and news media subjects.  He is president of Korda Communications, a public relations and communications consulting firm.