One of the lessons you can learn from any Woodward book, dear reader, is the answer to the question: "Why have I not been more successful in my Washington career?" From his books, you can draw a composite profile of the powerful Washington player. That person is highly circumspect, highly risk averse, does not make waves, eschews new ideas, flatters his colleagues to their face (while trashing them to Woodward behind their backs), and is always careful to keep avoid career-threatening confrontation. We all admire heroes, but Woodward's books teach us that those who rise to leadership are precisely those who take care to shun heroism in themselves.
And all you have to do to know the truth of this keen observation is to think of both political parties and both houses of Congress. This country's political elite are seriously deficient in the heroism department--which is to say they are about as far from being heroes as it is possible to be.
In fact, the only heroic striving we see in most of the leaders on both the Democratic and Republican side is in their continual attempts to outdo each other in hypocritical behavior and rhetoric.
I am not someone who happens to believes hypocrisy is confined to one side of the political spectrum or the other. It is clear that it exists on both. But there are distinctions that can be made.
In particular, an interesting observation was made last year during an interview with Peter Schweitzer , author of the book Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy. Schweitzer makes a distinction between liberal vs. conservative hypocrisy:
Yes, we are all hypocrites and I talk about that in the book. But liberal hypocrisy and conservative hypocrisy are quite different on two accounts. First, you hear about conservative hypocrisy all the time. A pro-family congressman caught in an extramarital affair, a minister caught in the same. This stuff is exposed by the media all the time. The leaders of the liberal-Left get a complete pass on their hypocrisy. Second, and this is even more important, the consequences of liberal hypocrisy are different than for the conservative variety. When conservatives abandon their principles and become hypocrites, they end up hurting themselves and their families. Conservative principles are like guard rails on a winding road. They are irritating but fundamentally good for you. Liberal hypocrisy is the opposite. When the liberal-left abandon their principles and become hypocrites, they actually improve their lives. Their kids end up in better schools, they have more money, and their families are more content. They're ideas are truly that bad.
This observation seems to hold true with the recent Foley scandal that is getting big play in the media. So it is worth remembering certain Democratic hypocrisies--which somehow never seem to receive the prominent play in today's media or reach the level of public awareness that those involving Republicans do. SC&A has helpfully put together a list of such scandals and the people involved; and many of the examples seem to follow Schweitzer's rule.
In fact, what we begin to see is a sort of "meta-hypocrisy" that defines Democratic behavior. Gagdad Bob notes:
The left has been at the leading edge of the mainstreaming of every deviancy and perversion into society over the past 40 years, to such an extent that they would be offended at the idea of calling someone a deviant or a pervert, because it implies a standard of sexual maturity. Yesterday, for example, I heard Bill Maher sneer something to the effect that Foley would not be chasing after young men if only we would allow him to marry. How then to explain 50 year-old Maher’s preference for dating porn stars, hookers, and Playboy bunnies, and substituting dogs for children?
Maher clearly regards himself not as pathetic or immature, but “sophisticated” and far beyond the narrow minds of cultural conservatives. He has even made the idiotic statement that Republicans are only concerned with sexual propriety “because they’re bad at it.” Here is the actual quote: “This is always what happens with that Republican party. They are somehow able to conflate real morals and values with sex. Because they're Republicans, Larry. They're bad at sex. They're pasty, unattractive white people, and if you had to have sex with them it would be over in an excruciating three minutes. So what they always like to do is conflate sex with morals." That is typical of the “sophisticated” attitude of the left. Only those who are moral relativists and who have no standards at all, are fit to pronounce on those who do.
The meta-hypocrisy, or the rampant hypocrisy over their own hypocrisy, becomes evident when you realize that even as they "mainstream deviance and perversity" of all sorts, the Democrats very badly also want to be the party of "family values" in America.
Thus, they claim to support Gay Rights and want to advance the Gay cause in all social areas, but at the same time they just happen to have a certain list coyly mentioned by David Corn and described by Vanderleun thusly:
...the rich and full aroma of deep irony revolves around what can only be seen as a Democratic initiated and driven effort to purge Congress at all levels of homosexuals because they are, well, Republicans or work for same. Coming from a party that is first and foremost about advancing gay and lesbian rights on all fronts, it seems especially shameful that -- to settle all their old scores and gripes and grievances -- they are going willing to sacrifice the lives, careers and reputations of their fellow Americans on the altar of their derangement.
It is extremely ironic, isn't it? On the one hand there is a certain kind of hypocrisy, defined as not living up to the values that one espouses; and then there is what I would call meta-hypocrisy, or not having any real values to live up to in the first place, but self-righteously appropriating some when it is expedient to do so.
UPDATE (10/6): Jonah Goldberg has this to say:
Overnight, Nancy Pelosi has emerged as the nation's soccer grandmom, leading the mob alleging a GOP cover-up of a supposed sex predator and pedophile. (Foley may or may not be a predator, but pedophiles don't dig post-pubescent teens; ephebophiles do.)
Almost as instantaneously, Democratic candidates denounced their opponents for taking money from Foley, as if acceptance of such funds constituted support for pederasty.
Let me be clear: I carry no water for the House GOP. Less than a month ago, I wrote that it would probably be a good thing if the Republicans lost the House, so I'm hardly inclined to rally to their flag because of their handling of this Foley mess. But let me make a prediction: Despite the moral panic sweeping Washington right now, this will backfire on Democrats, liberals and the gay left.
Self-described progressives are great at whipping up a moral frenzy when it serves their purposes, and hilariously indignant when moral majority types return fire. Remember the national St. Vitus' dance over sexual harassment in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Liberals made sexual harassment their signature issue, rending their clothes and gnashing their teeth over Sens. John Tower and Bob Packwood and Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, among others. The puritanical zeal of these inquisitions cannot be exaggerated.
Then came Bill Clinton, who was, by any fair measure, a worse womanizer than Thomas or the rest of them. The Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit led, inexorably, to revelations of alleged rape and scandalous behavior with an intern. Forced to choose between power and principle, liberals and feminists held an impromptu fire sale on principles.
Just what I was saying. Read it all.