Dueling honor codes

Jon A. Shields titled his recent guest essay in the New York Times (which the NYT teased as What Donald Trump Understands About Honor) How Trump’s Brutish Code of Honor Explains His Feud With Liz Cheney. He contrasts the strict honor cultures of the orange brawler from Queens and Liz Cheney, the well-born daughter of (the embodiment of human evil) the aptly named Dick Cheney. To Trump, any defeat is a humiliation that must be avenged to the death. To Cheney, the eyes of history are watching and honor demands a principled response to something like the drumbeat of treason.

Beneath the surface of their honor feud lurk clashing understandings of political ambition. Unlike Mr. Trump, Ms. Cheney is seeking the esteem of future generations by doing what’s in the public interest even if she is cast out of office for doing so. Ms. Cheney told a Wyoming paper that just moments before her fellow Republicans pushed her out of House leadership, she warned them “that history was watching.”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is so loyal to his narrow code that he lacks even the theory of mind to understand Ms. Cheney’s ambition. For him, losing any contest is always dishonorable because it tarnishes his reputation as a strongman. Hence, his enduring fixation with ratings, polling and the “stolen” 2020 election. It’s also why he asked Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” as they stood over the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, according to reporting in The Atlantic.

What Donald Trump Understands About Honor

It’s not intuitive to picture a man without honor living by an inviolable, if crude, honor code, the “honor code” of a lying, vindictive sore loser, but there you go. The guest essay provides pretty good description of dueling honor codes representing higher and lower motives for two ugly, largely similar worldviews. Two sides of a very grim honor coin.

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