On Politics and Hypocrisy

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” love it when ideological folk offer deceptive rationales for their favored politicians. If you ask us, those with deeply held political beliefs vote for candidates essentially for one reason: These candidates’ views most closely resemble their own.

Everything else is just hogwash. “I like Al Gore because he’s more articulate than George Bush,” a committed liberal might have said in 2000. To which we respond: Nonsense. If George W. Bush could speak like Alan Keyes, you’d still favor Gore.

The same is true, we think, for ideological voters across the political spectrum. Thus the same people who blithely plumped for George W. Bush in 2000 despite his comparatively meager political CV will inform you that they can’t vote for Barack Obama because he lacks experience. If you ask us, this is all garbage.

Provided a candidate hasn’t committed any galactically horrible offense–say, murder, rape, or attending a Phil Collins concert–he can count on the support of his ideological confreres. Political partisans of every stripe can justify almost any action, as long as its perpetrator is an ideological soul mate.

We had reason to reflect on this anew when taking in Bill O’Reilly’s recent hectoring of the devilishly handsome John Edwards. According to Mr. O’Reilly, John Edwards is a “phony,” a hypocrite who pretends to care about the nation’s poor whilst living it up in extravagant style.

Quite frankly, we can see Mr. O’Reilly’s point. The recent press clippings on Mr. Edwards–outlandishly expensive haircuts, a well-remunerated hedge-fund gig, lavish fees for speeches on poverty–don’t exactly make Mr. Edwards seem like a beacon of integrity.

Now, in one sense, perhaps the charges of hypocrisy are a mite unfair. After all, any presidential candidate with the faintest hope of winning election will be a rich man. Does this mean that such men and women, by virtue of their backgrounds, cannot bring up the subject of economic inequality? That strikes us as foolish.

At the same time, however, it seems more than a bit dubious of Mr. Edwards to make poverty his campaign’s central focus when, given his staggering wealth, he personally could do more to alleviate it. Does the man really need to live in a home the size of the Koresh compound? Why not give some of that money away to the “Other America”?

Naturally, though, committed liberals will see our criticism as an example of “shooting the messenger.” They’ll make all sorts of justifications for Mr. Edwards’ behavior.

Ah, but they wouldn’t do so for, say, Bill Bennett. You remember the old brouhaha: Mr. Bennett, the country’s erstwhile unofficial morality czar, proved to be a formidable gambler. And, despite the fact that Mr. Bennett had never taken issue with gambling per se, our liberal pals pounced. We recall Michael Kinsley gleefully consigning Mr. Bennett to the dustbin of American political history thanks to his gambling transgressions.

But wait: Weren’t liberals such as Mr. Kinsley merely “shooting the messenger”? Why can’t Mr. Bennett’s criticisms of American culture still be valid, despite their author’s supposed moral failings?

It’s exasperating, but it’s a fact: The leftists who label right-wing virtue-crats hypocrites will be the same people to exonerate liberals for their economic hypocrisy. And the same is true regarding right-wingers.

Can’t we all admit that we vote for those who share our political views, hypocrisy be darned?

(Note: The crack young staff normally “weblog” over at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” where they are currently willing to bet Bill Bennett $400 that John Edwards will not win his party’s nomination. All proceeds will go to Mr. Edwards’ tonsorial fund.)

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