Saturday, March 31, 2007


Lyndon Johnson famously asked his staff to find him a one-handed economist. He was so sick of hearing economists tell him “On the one hand … but on the other hand … .” Clearly, if you were an economist in the 60s, fence straddling was an occupational hazard.

Well if that’s the problem with economists 40 years ago, what should we call the occupational hazard for politicians today? How about extreme hypocrisy! It’s different from the old type of hypocrisy. We’re talking extreme. In fact, it soon might be in the X-games it’s so extreme. And believe me, whoever takes the gold, silver and bronze will have to come up with some pretty impressive feats.

Yes, extreme hypocrisy wasn’t just invented yesterday. Two hundred 31 years ago, a hero of mine named Thomas Jefferson wrote about how all men were endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that those rights included “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Then, when he finished penning those words and watching them used to declare independence for his country, he went back home to live like a king off the fruits of slave labor.

So sure, TJ was an extreme hypocrite. But he wouldn’t come anywhere close to today’s medal stand. TJ, you see, did what virtually every white Southern male did who was born to affluence. So his hypocrisy can at least be understood, if not excused. Today’s whoppers have you shaking your head. What are these politicians thinking? Why are they so blatantly contradicting the positions they’re espousing so publicly? Why are they going out of their way to undermine their public messages?

Consider, for example, two of the leading Puritans of the 90s – Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich. They claim to represent the party of “family values.” They lead the impeachment of a President because he dared to cover up his extramarital sex. And what do they do in their personal life? They schtup on the side, that’s what!

Sure a lot of married guys schtup on the side. But the point is that lots and lots of married guys don’t. And especially if you’re like Newt, and you’re not above changing spouses periodically, couldn’t you put off doing the nasty (and I do mean nasty) until you’re ready to go into your cancer-suffering spouse’s hospital room and tell her that it’s time for a divorce?

Newt is a guy who once said, during the 1992 campaign, “Woody Allen having non-incest with a non-daughter to whom he was a non-father because they were a non-family fits the Democratic platform perfectly.” Ah, but Newt’s and Tom’s Republicans are different. They play hide the salami with women other than their wives and then – and here’s the rub – they lament (in Newt’s words) that they’ve fallen short of “God’s standards.” That’s right, you read me correctly -- this dude’s invoking God in reference to his own little foibles? Are you kidding me? Does he really expect us to believe that he fears a “god?” Or that he cares a whit for that god’s commandments?

Nah, he knows we’re not that stupid. I think he was simply competing to be on the medal stand, that’s all.

But hypocrisy is hardly confined to the self proclaimed “conservatives.” What troubles me even more is what has been revealed about some of my favorite liberal politicians. Take Al Gore. This isn’t just Mr. Global Warming. It’s a guy whose movie about global warming had very little to say about how to solve the climate change problem except to drum into our head the notion that we the people need to conserve, conserve, conserve.

I found that message a little weak. I wanted to hear more about what the Government can do. But hey, it was a movie intended for the masses, and most of us can’t control the Government, but at least we can control our own behavior. We can stop buying SUVs. We can stop leaving the lights on all the time. So fine, I’ve got no problem with some environmental crusader telling us about the need to sacrifice for the greater good. I’m just not sure that crusader’s name is Al Gore.

Al, you see, lives in a 10,000 square foot mansion with a pool house and a heated swimming pool. Could you imagine him sharing those facts with us during his movie: “Now, Mr. Hoi Polloi, after you give up your comforts in support of the cause, please feel free to get in the hybrid you can barely afford and drive to my mansion and visit me living in the lap of luxury?” I don’t see it. Say what you want about all the good he does for the environment, but remember – this is Al’s gig. If he wants us to believe that this is something more than a way of gaining fame and fortune, he’d better set an example that he, too, is willing to sacrifice for the cause. And the fact remains that he burns up many times as much fossil fuels as the average American family, all the while lamenting the high fossil-fuel burning of the average American family.

Perhaps he’s never heard of treadmills and modest split levels. Even so, he has to realize that if he’s unwilling to cramp his aristocratic lifestyle, he can’t possibly ask the middle class to sacrifice one iota for the cause.

But Al’s not the only extreme hypocrite among the liberal politicians. I’m thinking also of John Edwards. Yes, Mr. Anti-Poverty himself. He who is calling on his fellow Americans to redistribute wealth (“from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs” -- OK, that was Marx, not Edwards, but you get the idea).

Mind you, I don’t feel entirely comfortable in speaking about Mr. Edwards in this post in light of the recent news about his wife. One should not generally add insult to injury. Then again, when you run for the White House, you open yourself up to scrutiny – and do so willingly. So I’ll pay Mr. Edwards the respect of not patronizing him, and I will call the facts as I see them.

Prior to the recent revelations about cancer, there was a debate going on between liberals and conservatives concerning Mr. Edwards’s sincerity … and it’s been going on for years. He looks like a surfer, he talks like a game show host, and yet he’s been a consistently outspoken voice in support of the have-nots of our society. Phony or Mother Theresa? That’s always been the key question about the guy.

It was certainly the question a couple of years ago when he sold his house in Georgetown for several million dollars and built his own little place in North Carolina. And what a place it is.

If you think Al’s house is substantial, go visit Edward’s shack: 28,000 square feet of home built on a lot of over 100 acres. That’s right twenty-eight-thousand-square feet! What in the name of Thorston Veblen is that?

My house is 1/10th as large, and I feel my family of four lives just fine. How can you build a 28,000 square foot house and then have the chutzpah to talk about “two Americas”? How can you spearhead a movement to redistribute wealth while you create a monument to material excess? The truth is, we may have three Americas: the poor, the rich, and the Edwardian (i.e., the absurdly conspicuous consumers).

Frankly, it has gotten to the point where every time new American politicians come upon the scene, I’m just waiting for them to demonstrate yet again that the more politicians talk about something in public, the more blatantly they seek to undermine it in private. If they claim they’re big on national defense, they’re probably secretly funding Bin Ladin. If they claim they’re for closing our borders, they’re probably employing illegal aliens. If they claim to be advocates for children’s safety, they’re probably active pedophiles. Oh wait – that was actually revealed in the case of Mark Foley.

Yes, the Foley story was, indeed, quite a doozy … and it was surely responsible for the Dems taking back the Senate. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that Mr. Foley deserves the gold. For those of you who are parents, do I even have to explain why?

And the silver? I thought at first that it was a close call. Then I reflected on square footage: 4,000 is a big house, seven or eight technically counts as a “mansion,” 11,000 gets you a replica of Jefferson’s Monticello, 22,000 gets you a home like Hugh Hefner’s (minus the Playboy Bunnies) … OK, Mr. Edwards gets the silver. His house truly shocked me.

But what of the bronze? There are so many deserving contestants it’s hard to exclude any of them. Is it Tom Delay -- who has given new meaning to the moniker “the Hammer”? Is it Al “The Butterfly is a Stroke, not a Species” Gore?

No. I vote with Newt. He of the morals police. Just the kind of bloke I’d want one of my daughters to marry.

Anyway, to those who were left out, I’m sorry. But you should at least get ribbons, because believe me, you’ve earned them. And to those three on the medal stand, hearty congratulations! Your stature as world class Extreme Hypocrites is now solidified. Remember: no matter what else happens in your lives, no matter what else you can accomplish by preaching the truth to those who have learned to disassociate that from what you practice … nobody will ever take your medals away from you.

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