Raising the Standard.

Matt Wuerker’s Moral Equivalence

politico cartoon

Before you read anything I have to say, reflect on the cartoon above. Really let it sink in: the Aztec-style sacrificial pyramid, the troop of orange-clad inmates — the whole grim scene.

An affinity for misplaced moral equivalence has long plagued the left, especially the left-leaning media. The “Is that so different from what we do  /did to [fill in blank]?” line of reasoning is a tried and true media maneuver. Foolishly, I had assumed that the sheer brutality of ISIS would prevent this type of comparison. The repugnant Matt Wuerker has proven me wrong.

Mr. Wuerker is Politico’s in-house political cartoonist. Political cartoons have been a hobby and interest of mine since I was a kid, when I couldn’t wait to flip to Robert Ariail’s latest masterpiece on the back page of The State. Cartooning is a great American tradition, and it exemplifies our freedom to lampoon, criticize, and caricature our leaders and elites. Only in the West — and increasingly, only in the U.S. — can this profession flourish unimpeded.

Mr. Wuerker is an awful cartoonist, not artistically, but in his rigid commitment to Democratic Party dogma. Check out any of his myriad of un-funny Koch Bros. cartoons, and you’ll get the gist. He’s not creative in the least, but hey, the dude won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning, so what do I know. Regardless, I’ve never seen fit to pick up pen to criticize the fellow.

Last week’s Wuerker cartoon changed that. It’s abhorrent. Uncle Sam, atop his temple to Death, is seen jabbing some poor sap with syringes. Meanwhile, across the ocean, a lone ISIS fighter stands. He’s unarmed, and almost seems shocked at Sam’s cruelty. Even as Sam admonishes the jihadist with a favorite conservative epithet, his own barbarism is evidenced by the long line of victims awaiting wonton execution at the hands of the American state.

In case anyone needed a refresher, here’s what ISIS does. They crucify 17-year-old boys. They behead men, women, and children. They shower crowds of innocents with machine gun fire.

In the ultimate irony, ISIS even slaughtered 600 prison inmates in Mosul, Iraq. In one day, ISIS executed more inmates than the U.S. death penalty has since 2003.

Wuerker skates over the fact that in the U.S., the accused have the right to due process. The American legal system has turned out 1,392 executions over the past 40 years. ISIS has murdered at least 5,500 Iraqis in the past year, not to mention untold numbers of Turks, Syrians, ethnic Yazidis, and Christians.

And yet, to Wuerker and others like him, the mere existence of the death penalty is enough to hollow out American criticism of the Islamic State. Because 33 heinous criminals were executed in accordance with law in the U.S. this year, we somehow have no right to resist the medieval bloodthirstiness of ISIS.

Too many on the left are tempted by this shoddy argument. They possess a political instinct that leads them to believe that the United States is, just maybe, as evil as our enemies claim.

Just this week, the Iranian Foreign Ministry demanded that the U.S. “stop police brutality and racist and inhumane treatment of minorities and colored populations in the country.” Instead of rejecting this claim and standing up for the greatest justice system in the world, professional race-baiters (such as Obama confidant Al Sharpton) continue their hearse-chasing grievance charade.

Closer to home, Daily Beast resident moron Michael Tomasky directly impugned his fellow Americans, specifically those residing in the South. Tomasky’s bigoted screed is worth a blog post in its own right. But here’s a taste: “Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.” These are the words of a man who, like Wuerker, instinctively finds fault with his countrymen, and with the nation they comprise.

And yesterday, a pack of opportunistic Democrat staffers released a noxious “oversight” report, purportedly a fair inquest of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation program. Never mind that the report consisted of cherry-picking and biased conjecture — liberals ate it up. In a world where the left has had to face the grim realities of international leadership (and failed to meet the challenge), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report provided a welcome return, if only for a day, to the blame-America-first halcyon days of George W. Bush. The left’s contempt for the men and women of the CIA is palpable, and shameful.

This type of thinking fortifies radical Islamist claims that the U.S. is a toxic nation on the world stage. Wuerker’s previous cartoons indicate that he shares the Islamist view that America and her military are death merchants, whose rapacity justifies retaliation. And with this latest cartoon he has revealed himself as a fundamentally unreasonable man.

Unlike progressives, conservatives don’t measure the success of our movement in scalps collected. Mr. Wuerker is within his rights to produce his sub-par product. But he should know that this cartoon denigrates American values. It makes a mockery of the plight of victims of ISIS brutality. Its moral equivalency is beyond the pale, and it exposes a line of thinking that ultimately harms the entire project of Western liberty.

Comparing the death penalty in America to the hideous acts of ISIS is irresponsible and gives aid and comfort to the enemy. ISIS is a death cult, America is not. If Matt Wuerker cannot grasp that concept, he should stop inflicting his cartoons upon the public.

John Henry Thompson is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE

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