Do as I say, Not as I do

July 16th, 2009 by Gid

Last week, amid the mêlée of the latest scandals pervading Capitol Hill, I caught part of an interview with Margaret Carlson, editor of The Week magazine. In response to some of the recent news, she reminded me of why I so loathe politics in our so-called democracy: “It’s almost not worth saying ‘hypocrisy’ anymore.” Take a moment and let that statement really sink in. “The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness,”* has become status quo. This is so prevalent among our elected leaders – questionable electoral practices notwithstanding – that it has become acceptable, if not outwardly condoned.

I can console myself somewhat with the fact that most of the current scandals and hypocrisies involve Republicants. In the last month, we’ve become intimately introduced to the private life of John Ensign of Nevada. Ensign didn’t do much, other than have an affair. Not that I care whose bed he shares; the sticky part is that he belongs to Promise Keepers, a Christian group whose members pledge to abide by biblical principles to build strong marriages. We need not ask about his stance on DOMA or gay marriage, of course; being committed to biblical principals. He wants to respect the institution of marriage, hence his 1998 demand that President Clinton resign (and subsequent vote for impeachment), and his suggestion that Senator Larry Craig (of the notably wide stance) resign after his bathroom incident. But press statements indicate that his marriage is stronger than ever – we’ll ignore the fact that his wife was nowhere to be seen at the time. There is no need to discuss that he’s anti-abortion and pro gun rights while touting small-government principles. While it seems that arrangements have been made to pay off his former mistress, that’s not necessarily hypocritical, merely illegal.

Meanwhile, Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, demonstrated his own brand of ethics. Sanford, who firmly believes in the sanctity of marriage, opposes civil unions and adoptions for gay couples – yet believes every child deserves a mother and a father — left his wife and four children on Father’s Day to go AWOL on an Argentinean fling with his soul-mate. Not only did he abandon his elected office to carry on this affair, he neglected to inform his subordinates, failed to arrange for state business to be carried out in his absence, and used state funds to finance his dalliances. He, like Ensign, has made no moves to resign his office, and seems to have some support as well from other sources. Not only did Sarah Palin help by stealing the spotlight to announce her own abdication of responsibilities, but members of the increasingly publicized C Street “Family” of DC seem to have been involved in crisis management for the two adulterers.

Congressman Zach Wamp told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the C Street residence is a place where members (elected representatives) can go and hold each other accountable. In an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, he said that “The C Street residents have all agreed they won’t talk about their private living arrangements… and he intends to honor that pact.” When asked if this was a secretive group, Wamp flatly rejected the notion, and enforced his reasoning by promptly contradicting himself: “It’s not secretive. It’s that that’s the only way something like this can exist.” Ergo, residents will hold each other accountable, but have agreed they won’t talk about it, but this silence is not to be interpreted as secrecy. In his speech to the press after returning from his unannounced absence, Mark Sanford alluded to having been counseled by the C Street “Family.”

Former Republican Congressman Steve Largent of Oklahoma told The Tulsa World newspaper that he, as a former resident of C Street, participated in a discussion among its brethren regarding Senator John Ensign’s recent indiscretions. “Largent said the group who confronted Ensign left unsure of its impact but eventually the meeting produced a, quote, ‘good result.‘” Member Congressman Chip Pickering of MS also enjoyed a good result with a Ms. Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd while at the C Street residence, and is currently being sued by Mrs. Leisha Pickering for alienation of affection. One might think it odd to conduct an illicit affair at a building formally declared as a church, but according to Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, there seems to be a different set of moral values for members and non-members of this establishment. Due to the C Street agreement of non-secretive silence, of course, the public will have no knowledge of the results of the meetings with Ensign, Sanford and possible others. These public servants, therefore, are accountable only to themselves, not to those members of the public, whom they represent.

Largent’s main concern in regard to Ensign and Sanford “is about their personal well being and their families‘ well being. …whether they stay in office or not, I think that‘s a calculation that only they can make.” Would that Largent were as concerned about the quality of representation of their constituents. Largent’s code of ethics seems to have mellowed somewhat over the last decade. In regard to the appropriate course of action for former President Bill Clinton after the Lewinsky scandal, Largent didn’t think “…any reasonable people could say that the president should not resign. I think even reading the president‘s own censure resolution, you can‘t come away with any other conclusion than that this president should resign. It‘s the honorable thing to do.”

I will not say that Jefferson B Sessions is an inbred racist bigot unqualified to question a first grader. I have neither the time nor inclination to verify his parentage, nor do I believe in torturing children. From the start of the Sotomayor judicial confirmation hearings, Sessions and his cronies showed little regard for Judge Sotomayor’s legal record, and instead concentrated on what they felt was most important. Every question seemed to revolve around her ancestry and a few sensational soundbytes taken out of context. Naturally, the judge answered their questions equably and sensibly, while Pat Buchanan sat fuming and muttering inanities about affirmative action and discrimination against white males, who are best suited for everything.

I also caught part of an address today on the occasion of the NAACP’s 100th anniversary by Martin Luther Obama. I have listened to many Obama speeches before, but it seemed that for this particular occasion, he decided to doff his usual aplomb, cultivate a subtle southern drawl, and emulate the impassioned speech patterns for which Dr. King was so well known. Mind you, I agreed with almost everything he said, but the delivery, which so blatantly pandered to the audience, indicates that he’s a little too adept at changing his appearance to suit his needs. Since theater is part of politics, I let this one slide.

But Obama has once again proven that putrid practices are bipartisan. I was surprised and disgusted this week when I learned that our Fierce Advocate in Chief who so vociferously touted transparency is now attempting to repeal not statutes which infringe upon civil rights, but those which try to guarantee them. Specifically, he wants to rescind the requirement of recording interrogation sessions. Though the CIA and military (and possibly the White House) made sure that some of the more incriminatory tapes disappeared, our leader feels it would be much more expedient to skip the tapes altogether. Perhaps he feels that nonexistent tapes are the most transparent, but my next regular missive to the White House is going to suggest that he not try quite so hard to continue the worst practices demonstrated by the previous administration.

One final reminder to the good citizens of Nevada, South Carolina, and Mississippi: If you have opinions about the character and career choices of your elected representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you to contact your elected officials. And to those from all the other states, bear in mind that some Powers That Be are still very much opposed to giving us what we want, such as affordable, clean energy and affordable health care. Regardless of the reason, I’m sure that our representatives welcome the input of their constituents, just as their websites tell us. Who knows? One day, hypocrisy and maintaining the status quo just might give way to popular opinion.

* American Heritage® Dictionary, Fourth Edition