The Right Coast
April 17, 2004
Hanson, hypocrisy and democracy
By Tom Smith
Maimon, as usual (but not always!) is correct, the Hanson piece is excellent and a must read. He obviously is down about the state of the national debate. I used to feel as he does now frequently, but then I realized I was making a mistake about the nature of public debate in democracies.
When one is nearly struck dumb by the idiocy, hypocrisy and imprudence of the arguments public figures make, one has to remember that one is not watching anything like a normal moral or intellectual agent. Does Kerry really think the UN can be trusted to safeguard our national security? Does Teddy Kennedy really think Iraq is another Vietnam? The answer, of course, is, of course not. But not because they are thinking something else. They are not really thinking. If Teddy is thinking about anything, it's "how long to lunch," where lunch means a triple scotch. Kerry has made a calculation that saying the silly things he is saying are his most likely path to the White House, though why he would want to live in that pokey mansion, when he has several homes much grander, is beyond me.
Hypocrisy is the inconsistency between what you say you believe and what you really believe. You can't be a hypocrite if you don't really believe anything. If for some bizarre reason, 25 percent of people who now believe in the right to choose abortion were suddenly to become adamant lifers, then both Kerry and Kennedy would have similar revelations. Similarly, if more slowly, for the New York Times and many other annoying institutions. Hanson is quite right that the Democrats cannot consistently complain about blood for oil, drilling in Alaska, and high gas prices. But they can, of course, in the same way I complain about a ref's calling me for holding, and on the next play grab a facemask and hang on for dear life. Consistency is for losers. This is politics, which is just war by other means.
Poor Teddy. This great liver in a suit stands up and looks for the notes his staff had prepared. Without his very competent staff he could no more be a leading senator than my limping, smelly Labrador could be. As a water dog, he at least would have made an effort to save Mary Jo, but that is neither here nor there. Teddy and John and a lot of Republicans to be fair (Chuck Hagel to take an easy case) are not in the game of attempting to figure out what they really think, or what the truth is, or what is good for the country. If you tried to access that part of their program, you would find it had been overwritten decades ago.
From the outside, as Hanson documents, this looks very bad. But asking democracy to produce consistent, intelligent positions on big issues is like asking the fashion industry to finally tell us what colors look good. It doesn't work that way. Hollow men and women (who bring unique feminine virtues to hypocrisy, posing and position grubbing) want political office for various, mostly alarming personal reasons. What they say and do is a statistical phenomenon. Complaining about their hypocrisy is like complaining that the weather can't make up its mind. It's a mistake, of course, because the weather has no mind.
We have to hope the American people can drag themselves away from Survivor long enough to support the position that we should vigorously oppose this bizarre tribe of desert dwelling robots who want to burn us alive in buildings and make our women were parachutes. I live in San Diego, and having women wear parachutes is just not an option. I sometimes, rarely, wish they would wear more than they do. But parachutes? No.