Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Once You Run, You Can't Hide: Hypocrisy Always Finds the Light of Day

Hypocrites piss me off. Especially self-righteous hypocrites. Holier-than-thou prigs who follow the hollow rule of "Do as I say, not as I do." What really pisses me off is when these hypocrites arrogantly try to force their narrow worldview -- their public one, not the one they actually adhere to -- on others. Some hypocrites -- the public official form of the breed -- think so highly of themselves that they will even go so far as to pass laws trying to force the rest of us to follow the dictates of their personal "moral" compass -- even though the true measure of their convictions might be no deeper than a puddle. When this only-for-show morality is further twisted by a warped application of religion -- usually as a way to emphatically underscore their righteousness -- it's particularly nauseating.

Sometimes this double-standard hypocrisy revolves around money, but more often it revolves around sex -- as if this most private of issues between consenting adults can somehow be publicly regulated. They don't call prostitution the world's oldest profession for nothing. When the hypocrisy net snares a televangelist or wing nut Republican -- one who previously seemed to espouse the virtues of a small government, particularly one just small enough to fit inside our bedrooms -- it's especially infuriating.

Now, I know there are no choir boys in politics -- and there's clearly no shortage of powerful men of all political stripes who are congenitally unable to keep it zipped. It almost seems like some kind of rite of passage -- a macho power trip simply to prove to themselves that they are so important that the regular rules no longer apply. In fact, there seems to be this rather unnerving ability among some of the political elite to find a distinction between the laws they write and the actual rules they follow -- as if they are somehow different. But it does seem that the most self-righteous hypocrites often come from the GOP camp. Bill Clinton, horribly flawed though he is, never claimed to be a moral barometer for anyone.

All of this, of course, is part of why the Larry Craig scandal resonated so deeply with me. Oh sure, I know part of it was that whole mysterious world of bathroom cruising for us clueless straight folks to whisper about. There was even a part of me that felt for Craig -- felt for a man who might well be gay but who had been taught to hate that aspect of himself so much he had to resort to anonymity and subterfuge. I certainly felt for his stoic wife, who at the end of the day knows the truth -- but in conservative Idaho her husband's indiscretion is viewed as her shame, her weakness. But I also have to admit to a very human part of me that took a not-so-secret delight in the Craig scandal, because it delivered the most ironic comeuppance to a man who had spent his political career denying equal citizenship and civil rights to one group of people simply because of who they love. Craig literally got caught with his pants down, being revealed as the worst of hypocrites in the most public of fashions -- his trumped up "morality" nothing but a smokescreen to hide his true proclivities.

Mark Foley, the conservative former congressman from Florida caught sexually chatting up male House pages (high school kids), is another good example of boldfaced hypocrisy. He had been the Republican chair of the House Missing and Exploited Children Caucus -- when all along he had been exploiting kids himself. Of course, Foley then claimed alcohol addiction, resigned, checked himself into rehab, and has not been seen or heard from since. Another thing about the Foley incident? It revealed a whole gay Republican subculture on the Hill -- members and staff -- who were forced to stay closeted to keep their jobs or standing in the party; many of these folks were purged in the wake of the Foley page scandal. Unlike Craig, however, Foley was not married -- there was no question of adultery. However, children were involved in his hypocrisy -- this is not just illegal, it's simply unforgivable.

Now lest you think -- other than my mention of Bill -- that I don't think Democrats get caught in the act, au contraire. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick lied under oath about an ongoing, adulterous affair with his chief of staff -- one that was recently revealed through racy text messages and emails. Again, it's the height of hubris to think that you are somehow immune to the very peccadilloes that brought down other politicians. Bill Clinton and his adulterous blow jobs at the White House should have shown everyone the plain truth -- come clean, apologize, don't lie about it, and people will pretty much forgive you -- as long as laws aren't broken. And please, don't lie under oath about it. Do this, and you can survive pretty much any sex scandal -- just as long as you aren't caught with a live boy or a dead girl. But hypocrites typically continue to try to hide their behavior -- not because they think it's wrong, I'm convinced, but simply because they actually believe they can -- that it's their right to indulge in the behaviors for which they happily and publicly crucify others.

And then of course, this week -- Elliot Spitzer. The coup de grace. How the mighty have fallen. Spitzer was often compared to Elliott Ness, the guy who brought down Al Capone using the mundane but effective vehicle of tax evasion. How ironic, then, that Spitzer's own Waterloo also came at the hands of the IRS, and irregularities in his bank records that came to their attention. They thought bribery at first, or kickbacks. But no. The crusader was revealed as having a preference for pricey call girls -- that he'd manage to squeeze in between congressional testimony and television appearances.

Spitzer prosecuted sex rings. Now he's caught up in one. He's done some great work for the public good -- policing Wall Street and the insurance companies -- but folks won't remember that. Is he a wolf in sheep's clothing or merely a man with human foibles? In the end, his arrogant brashness -- why lots of us loved him and others reviled him -- has left him little recourse. Resign, or be impeached -- so says the New York State Legislature. Another promising political career down the tubes on the heels of hypocrisy. The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange -- filled with representatives of the kinds of excess Spitzer so often targeted -- broke out in cheers when they heard of his downfall. Indeed, Spitzer's humiliation is so stark, so complete, it's uncomfortable to watch. But I fear the worst is yet to come -- there will be more prurient revelations and speculation, and I'm sorry for his wife and daughters. I'm also sorry for the rest of us -- who are once again forcibly reminded that self-righteous hypocrisy all too often goes hand in hand with power.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

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