I have an ethical dilemma over Donald Trump. As a professor, I taught and practiced fairness, accuracy and balance. So how do I handle a president who despises all of these? Intellectual honesty demands I admit that he is more symptom than cause, he did not originate all our current problems, and his supporters have some legitimate grievances.

But such tender-mindedness means I must tolerate ignorance and arrogance that threaten American democracy and civility. Yes, there are several sides to every question, but moral meticulousness can lead to political paralysis.

Reinhold Niebuhr developed a tough-minded morality as World War II broke out. Many Americans, horrified at the First World War’s slaughter that solved nothing, supported isolationism and America First. Theologian Niebuhr, originally a leftist pacifist, reasoned that standing passive in the face of evil is a Christian heresy. One must, at times, fight.

Grappling with unhappy trade-offs may develop one’s sense of tragedy, the subject of a new book by historians Hal Brands and Charles Eder, “The Lessons of Tragedy.” Some — like Eisenhower, who had to send soldiers to their deaths — have tasted tragedy and curbed egotism and enthusiasm. That’s why Ike was a good president. The current White House — and many before — has no tragic sense.

As a young newsman, I witnessed two conflicting, tragic dramas. Working for the AP, I witnessed an execution in San Quentin’s gas chamber in 1960. The “Hollywood shotgun bandit” had blown off a screenwriter’s head during a bar robbery. The killer had been raised badly mistreated. I thought that should have contributed to a lesser sentence.

But the next year in Jerusalem, working for the AP at the Eichmann trial, I heard his German defense attorney’s exculpatory arguments. I concluded that none of them counted and was satisfied that Eichmann was found guilty and hanged. Since then, I support the death penalty in some cases. Should a man get a whole lot better than he has given?

Which brings us back to Trump. He compulsively defames opponents: Crooked Hillary, Lying Ted, Crazy Nancy. Should he not be subject to name-calling? Turnabout is fair play. How about Traitor Trump? Double-Down Donny. Stormy Donald (several meanings). Weatherman Trump. Off-n-On Don. Donald Debt. Yes, childish, but Trump has demonstrated that, repeated enough, it works.

Trump confronts us with ethical ambiguity that requires choosing least-bad alternatives, all of which leave us a bit soiled. In general, I prefer whichever one worsens his chances for a second term. Accentuate the negative.

Suppose you agree with Trump on certain policies, for example, cutting the ethanol requirement in gasoline. Do you wish to trim a foolish subsidy for corn growers or support the subsidy to win over farm-state voters? The first is honest and sound policy, but the second could tip the Electoral College.

Trump tries to negotiate the denuclearization of North Korea, a fine goal. To accomplish this, he must flatter and cover for a murderous dictator. Denunciations (“fire and fury”) mean no negotiations. But the media sound alarms that NorK develops new rockets and submarines. So, do we pursue negotiations or give up on them? To win the next election, amplify the alarms and denounce Trump for “falling in love” with Kim.

Many conclude that China violates rules of the World Trade Organization to unfairly boost its exports and power until it has become a scary competitor. Some support Trump’s tariffs for finally standing up to China. Critics, however, see an unsuccessful policy that rejected a common front with the WTO and Trans-Pacific Partnership. So, support Trump for getting China policy halfway right or criticize him for doing it the wrong way?

Likewise, do we appreciate Trump’s recent rejection of a (bad) deal with the Taliban that would have begun getting us out of Afghanistan? Just-fired hawk John Bolton argued that it would let the Taliban bomb their way back to power and restore lunatic islamism. Do we stay and fight or hold Trump to his word to get out of Mideast wars? Either way, Afghans will suffer. To get rid of Trump, however, we must hold him to his word.

Go-high strategists argue that lowering ourselves to their level costs us the moral high ground. But unrestrained hatred has become normal, a double-edged sword that both sides must wield. The one that doesn’t loses.

Peter Wehner’s erudite new book, “The Death of Politics,” urges trying extra hard to restore civility. Sure, but it takes two. How do you get the other side onboard? They launched the current wave of incivility, gained from it and lack incentives to repudiate it.

I see one way: Jolt them back to civil behavior by showing how incivility is contagious and destroys the institutions that true conservatives treasure. If they play at the abyss, they’ll fall in. Maybe informed tough-mindedness can pull them back from the brink.