Ron Jackson: Morality vs. Money
In 2016, America elected a businessman. It did not elect a politician or statesman who would uphold our American value of decency but someone who understood our other American value, the dollar bill.
In the first two years of his term, President Donald Trump has demonstrated full understanding of his mandate. The upward trending economy, zero unemployment and consumer confidence continue to support the argument he was the correct choice.
The country needed someone to make tough decisions based on the bottom line. It needed the type of leader with toughness who would not hesitate a mass layoff on Christmas Eve or would not factor loss of human assets into the decision of military conflict if that would help the economy.
Nor would such a leader quash a $100 billion arms deal because a vendor committed a heinous act against one person, especially if that person was not actually an American. Business is business. American government is once again in the business of taking care of America first.
In his first official international trip as president, President Trump visited Saudi Arabia, some historical “bad hombres” and America’s longtime ally. That business trip resulted in a massive arms deal worth $350 billion with $110 billion to take effect immediately. A quick victory for an American value, indeed.
Now, some mere 15 months later, that deal might be put on hold because Saudi Arabia has been accused of murdering a journalist with permanent resident status on the path to U.S. citizenship.
When asked if such allegations are found to be true, our dealmaker president says not so fast. A true mark of business leadership. The buck is not necessarily going to stop.
After a reported accusation made by another country, Turkey, that Saudi Arabia killed and dismembered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the United States has been under the international eye to demonstrate our value of decency. Although Khashoggi wrote for an American paper — as a Saudi citizen —he did not have the freedom of speech he attempted to exercise.
Leadership is at the forefront. Our values of decency and dollar cannot be on display simultaneously.
Inquiring minds want to know: Should America do the decent thing and cancel all business with Saudi Arabia because of the loss of one life? Should America do what is the best thing for itself and protect the financial well-being of thousands of citizens whose livelihood depends upon that arms contract? We elected a businessman, not a Boy Scout.
There is a difference.
President Jimmy Carter is unquestionably the most decent man ever to hold that office. His economic legacy is evidence that decency doesn’t guarantee America safety, put Americans to work or gas in the tank.
His leadership in advocacy for human rights also is unparalleled. His focus on doing what was right for the world did not bring home the bacon. America’s economic vulnerability was his downfall and part of his lasting legacy and is a factor in our current dollar-value-first mentality.
America has taken humanitarian stands before. We have imposed sanctions on sovereign nations to force our standards of decency.
Most notably, the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 called for disinvestment in South Africa to force that country to end its oppressive policies. However, we were not at risk of losing $350 billion directly into our coffers.
How much is one man worth? Is the life of just one person taken by a very wealthy ally even debatable?
What if all businesses set personal behavior standards of every consumer?
The art of this deal is waiting to be painted.