Opinion: When bias is only reasonable

FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller is back. After a quiet few months in the run-up to the midterm elections, the special counsel’s Russia investigation is heating up again with a string of tantalizing new details emerging this week.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Mueller Investigation into Russian election interference and the possibility of collusion originating from the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump has long faced accusations of bias from Republicans in Congress as well as conservative commentators. Many Trump supporters believe some deep state shadow government is aiming to undermine Trump’s presidency, and two of the people they hold up as evidence of this conspiracy are Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two former members of the Mueller investigation.

In the buildup to and the aftermath of the 2016 election, Page and Strzok exchanged a number of texts on their FBI devices expressing anti-Trump sentiment. At a hearing over the summer, Strzok offered an explanation for one such text, where he said “we’ll stop Trump.” Held up as proof the FBI was willing to take action to prevent Trump from winning, Strzok offered an alternate reasoning. He explained that the text was sent shortly after Trump attacked a Gold Star family during the campaign, saying, “My presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be President of the United States. It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process, for any candidate."

Strzok went on to argue his bias did not affect his work and the various people who worked on any part of the investigation would not allow one person’s bias to actually affect the process. Regardless of whether or not you believe this explanation, something I want to call attention to is the bias itself. Strzok’s explanation of his bias was, well, quite reasonable. It’s entirely logical to think someone is a horrible person for personally attacking the parents of someone who died fighting for the country.

All partisanship aside, Trump is a fairly sh*tty person. Even if you ignore what many consider morally abhorrent policies such as separating children from parents at the border, his attitude toward women (e.g. grabbing them by the p***y), constant use of social media to attack people and participation in the racist birtherism movement are solid evidence that he’s a douche (Peter Strzok’s words, not mine). And frankly, I would be concerned about the judgement of any FBI agent who did not recognize this repugnant behavior for what it was. That said, under no circumstances should bias one way or the other be allowed to affect the work of the FBI or any law enforcement investigation.

We are at a point where bias is not only reasonable but should be expected. Considering what has happened recently I would be surprised if there wasn’t still a sizable level of support for Trump if he actually did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. But affiliation to a political party should not be an excuse for the acceptance of terrible actions, nor dismissal of criticism from the other side of the aisle relating to those actions.

Those who disagree with one another may be quicker to jump down the other side’s throat when there are accusations of misconduct, but their inclination toward accusations does not necessarily make the claims themselves less valid. If Democrats are accusing Republicans of something, the Republicans shouldn’t dismiss allegations just because they come from the opposition, and vice versa. Actions and behavior need to be evaluated on the basis of evidence.

And really, it only matters what one side thinks anyway. Trump will not stop his horrible actions unless his rank and file supporters hold him accountable (and even then I’m not sure he would stop, but a different more rational person in power probably would). It is therefore the supporters of politicians that have the greatest responsibility to identify unethical and malicious behavior and call it out. To bury one’s head in the sand or dismiss all criticism as the mad rantings of political opponents invites nothing less than the moral degradation of our society.


Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.