Do the Means Discredit the End?


April 10, 2013 by liebestropfchen

Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” was a groundbreaking piece of literature. The influence of the book cannot be questioned, regardless if the reader agrees with Machiavellian thought. One of the most instrumental arguments surrounds the question of whether the end justifies the means. According to Machiavellian doctrine, a desired outcome (the end) provides justification for the process used to achieve said outcome (the means).

This line of thinking was used as a scare tactic by a conservative talk radio host today, as it relates to the illegal bugging of Senator Mitch McConnell’s strategy meeting a few months ago, in which McConnell’s staff made disparaging remarks about how to defame actress Ashley Judd if she were to run for a Senate seat. Rather than identifying and speaking to the staffers’ horrible practice of trashing other potential candidates based on their personal beliefs or battles with depression, the talk show host (whose name rhymes with Plush Bimbaw) bashed liberals for illegally bugging McConnell’s offices, and accused all liberal-minded Americans of subscribing to the “end justifies the means” theory.


Therein lies my problem with politics today. Prior to any knowledge of who may be responsible for illegally recording the conversation in question (the FBI is investigating the case) comes the automatic assumption that only a leftist would want to record these discussions in which the right-wing McConnell and his staff engage in very personal smear tactics against Ashley Judd. Far be it from anyone to suggest that even conservatives could see such tactics for what they are and decide to expose McConnell’s staff for engaging in childish and antiquated smear campaigns. Nope, only a liberal would do that, we are told to believe.

Let us assume just for shiggles that maybe it were a leftist who illegally recorded the conversation, and leaked it to the media in an attempt to expose McConnell’s staff. Perhaps someone wanted the public to know what really goes on behind closed doors, in order for the constituents in Kentucky to properly evaluate the senator they elected to represent them, who apparently finds depression and a lack of the traditional views on God to be comedic and worthy of trash-talk. I ask this question: I do not agree that the end justifies the means, but can the means discredit the end?

Human nature leads us to strive to put our best face forward when we know we are being watched by others. Perhaps (theoretically) the only way to really know a person’s character is to see or hear what they do when they think no one is watching. When McConnell and his staffers believed no one was listening, they made comments about their potential future rival candidate’s emotional instability, based on her battles with depression. Don’t the American people deserve to know that?


Depression is a very real, very debilitating disease, and should not be seen as a weakness of character or resolve. McConnell had better tread very carefully, lest he be mistaken for saying every man and woman who fought for this country and battled depression after combat would be seen as unfit for a Senate seat. Or perhaps any mother who suffered from postpartum depression would be considered emotionally unbalanced in such a manner they would be dismissed as unstable. As someone who understands depression, I do not question the trigger for the onset, be it PTSD, childbirth, or whatever it was that triggered Ashley Judd’s battle. Regardless of the reason, depression does not, in and of itself, make a person unfit for political office.

I would argue it makes that person more understanding of the constituents he or she will represent. One who does not pretend to be perfect stands to benefit from understanding the struggles of others, and will likely fight for those they represent more than they will fight for their own pet causes.

While I do not agree with the manner in which we discovered Mitch McConnell’s staffers preparing to discredit Ashley Judd based on personal attacks alone, I do not believe that should detract from the end result – that we discovered Mitch McConnell’s staffers were preparing to discredit Ashley Judd based on personal attacks alone. McConnell has likened this scenario to Watergate, in which Republican operatives broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in 1972 to give an informational advantage to the Republican presidential campaign.

“Much like Nixon in Watergate, this is what the political left does these days,” McConnell said to the press. Yep, in Groupthink style, all leftists like to record conversations of conservatives trying to make fun of depressed non-Christian women across the country, because they have nothing better to do with their time. It doesn’t take long to uncover intolerance and narrow-mindedness when the person is fighting tooth and nail to keep it behind closed doors – it would have happened sooner or later, illegal recording aside. McConnell is just bitter that his true feelings were exposed.


I’m not so sure McConnell wants to remind us that Richard Nixon ended up resigning the office of the presidency due to incriminating evidence found in the conversations Nixon himself had recorded. Would anyone argue, had those conversations been recorded illegally by another party, as opposed to Nixon himself, that the means by which we discovered Nixon was a bigoted and corrupt man would negate the evidence therein?

As Rachel Maddow recently discussed on her show, President Lyndon Johnson found out days before the 1968 presidential election that Richard Nixon had sabotaged Johnson’s effort to end the Vietnam War on October 31, 1968, by convincing the South Vietnamese not to take the deal with the North Vietnamese that Johnson had helped to administer. Nixon likely did this because the anti-war movement Nixon depended upon would become a moot point, and possibly would throw their support to Johnson for ending the war. Nixon’s best bet to win the election would be to prolong the Vietnam War so Johnson would lose the election. The reason Johnson did not expose Nixon was because the information was obtained through illegal wiretaps of the South Vietnamese Ambassador (by the FBI, nonetheless). Johnson felt in this case the end would not justify the means, and he accepted defeat at the polls a few days later.

Please do not misunderstand me – I am not a fan of Lyndon Johnson, and I would not have trusted him one bit. However, had he decided to expose Nixon for who he was, regardless of the means by which we obtained the information (and the possible fallout for wiring the South Vietnamese), there would have been no Nixon presidency and subsequently no Watergate break-in for Mitch McConnell to liken his little scandal to. McConnell should probably refrain from comparing anything of his to Nixon, it’s just bad P.R.

Then again, the downside to no Nixon presidency would have been that we wouldn’t have had President Ford, which would have taken away some of Chevy Chase’s material on Saturday Night back in the day…ford

So we return to the question: do the means discredit the end? I certainly do not condone the illegal recording of conversations. Whoever recorded the session committed a crime, and should be punished appropriately. However, the illegality of how the information was obtained is a sad excuse for claiming “McConnell is the real victim”, as conservative leaders are saying. Once the information is leaked to the media, and can no longer be hidden from public scrutiny, can we then be asked to ignore what McConnell said?

What has been heard cannot be unheard.


7 thoughts on “Do the Means Discredit the End?

  1. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a consummate politician, knowing what could be used to his advantage and what couldn’t. (Coming up in the rough-and-tumble of Texas politics probably was the cause of this.) He knew that the end did not justify the means, nor did the means justify the end. Nixon and his ilk, on the other hand, recognized no limits to their actions.

  2. Jim Schwan says:

    Getting back to the core premise, that of “the end justifies the means”, I would submit that this approaches a logical fallacy, in that it is assumed that once the desired end result is identified, whatever it takes to achieve that is – de facto – right, necessary, and justified. Not necessarily so, as the incident with McConnell proves. In a world of fallen humans, the propensity to engage in less-than-moral activities and utilizing them as means to an end is ever-present.

    Was what McConnell did justifiable? Absolutely not! Neither is the well-documented “politics of personal destruction” often engaged in by the left, (and sometimes the Right, to be fair). Making an election about personal failures and flaws that have little to do with their ability to do the job they are running for is reprehensible, it is really dishonest, and as such, it is a means that cannot be justified, no matter what the end.

    So, do the ends justify the means? Not really. The flaw in the reasoning is that there is no consideration of right and wrong, i.e. morality, in the equation. It is a logical fallacy to believe that faulty premises can lead to true conclusions. If the only way an end can be realized is found to be by immoral means, then the end itself must be re-considered, as it is faulty. You cannot engage in deception, in order to arrive at truth.

    • Very good assessment. I would say, though, that the Right engages in personal attacks more than just “sometimes”. It happens just as much as the Left.

    • Hubert says:

      Third Flower My wife and i are already now dgltehied that Albert could execute his research due to the suggestions he had by way of your web page. It’s every now and then perplexing to just usually be freely giving ways which lots of people could have been marketi

  3. adamjasonp says:

    Rush’s defense of McConnell and staff: “All they did was read from articles and her book.  It was not things they made up.  I feel like an idiot having to explain, ’cause you all understand it. You all know exactly what happened.”

    No, I do not know exactly what happened.  And I never do, ever listening to Rush, or anything else ruined by politics.

    The ends only justify the means when it’s not even called means that need to be justified.  Things work out better when doing the right thing, not fearing the consequences.  “Ends that justify the means” is just another way of saying “brute force,” putting your conscience aside.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: