Ah, the hyprocrisy of it all

“Guilt, I mused, has an interesting way of twisting one’s thoughts.” — Sherlock Holmes

If you were a prominent “family values” politician caught making gestures indicative of a sexual proposition in a public restroom to an undercover police officer but you were innocent of any such intent, would you plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a $575 fine hoping to avoid publicity?

If you were a member of the Senate with a wife and family, and running for re-election on a “mainstream conservative” platform, would your name and phone number surface in the address book of the so-called “D.C. Madam”?

If you were a highly visible social conservative in Congress with higher ambitions and a reputation for pushing laws to protect children from sexual exploitation, would you send sexually explicit e-mails to teenage pages?

If you were the nation’s president, always praising your wife in public, would you fool around with an intern in the Oval Office, have phone sex, otherwise tempt fate for weeks on end and then lie about it to a federal prosecutor under oath?

If you were the married governor of a large state, would you have adulterous sex with a male employee while your wife was in the hospital with your newborn?

I could go on. And on. But I’ll stop there. You get the picture.

We voters have a thankless job. Year after year, we are assaulted with the sexual derring-do of politicians who inevitably act outraged that we could possibly misconstrue their actions. (“I did not have sex with that woman.” “I am not gay. I have never been gay.”)

The issue here is not sexual orientation. The issue is why politicians say the absurd things they say when they are caught in hypocrisy, reckless behavior, compromising situations, deception and, sometimes, unlawful activity.

Increasingly, it does not matter to voters whether a politician is openly gay. Usually, sexual orientation is none of our business. Usually, it has nothing to do with job performance or effectiveness in office. Someday a gay politician will not feel that a fraudulent marriage is a prerequisite to being elected.

But it will always matter to most voters if politicians are publicly condemning the actions of others while privately doing the same things or passing laws that they flagrantly disobey or that would make some people second-class citizens.

We will respect a politician who tells us it is none of our business whether he/she is gay, heterosexual, sexually active or goes to bed only to sleep.

But we don’t like having our noses rubbed in someone else’s morality only to find out that person’s public persona is as phony as, well, a $3 bill.

It will always matter if politicians are passing laws to restrict the freedom of others while hypocritically believing such laws do not apply to themselves.

It will always matter if politicians insist on instructing the rest of us how to live our private lives while behaving like Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, or David Vitter, R-La., or Mark Foley, the Florida Republican forced to resign from the House, or Democratic President Bill Clinton or James McGreevey, the Democratic former governor of New Jersey. Or Gary Condit, a Democrat, or Newt Gingrich, a Republican, two former House lawmakers who condemned Clinton for misbehaving in the same way they were while married.

It should always matter if our politicians turn out to be reckless, arrogant or just plain stupid.

Everyone makes mistakes; everyone has secrets. Most of the time, we do not need to know about others’ sins, and most of the time we should not know about them, even when committed by those we elect to public office.

But when they get caught abusing the trust of the voters, lying in public, breaking public oaths, pleading guilty in law-enforcement procedures, endangering minors and stirring up public dissension over private morality, we have a right to protest.

When they act as though we can’t tell a $3 bill from a $20 bill, they have earned our skepticism. They have played havoc with public trust. They have disrespected their colleagues. They have diminished the body politic.

Here’s to the politician who holds a news conference and says: “I made a bad mistake. It was not alcohol or stress or drugs or premature dementia. I acted stupidly. I abused my office and your trust. I apologize to you all. I will resign immediately. I will take my punishment. I am sorry for the grief I have caused. Goodbye.”

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.)


  1. Sandra Price

    It is no different in Washington D.C. than it is in every corporation I’ve ever worked for. Well, maybe it is as our Representatives are now in charge of issuing our moral laws.

    Look at the pressure television and movies play on our self images. Unless we look like Russell Crowe or my old secret love of Burt Reynolds, or the ladies look like Anna Nichole Smith with boobs so out of proportion that it must be uncomfortable to contain them at all.

    We have Viagra ads that impose an impossible amount of male illusions. My emails are filled with promises that I can add inches to my penis. I don’t have even access to one of those, so I wonder why the senders of those emails don’t understand that Sandra Price is not looking to service a nubile 16 year old girl.

    I am not calling for censorship but we must be aware of this oversexed stimulation that even the most austere Christian conservative must fall prey to when it becomes too much for him or her.

    We can’t stop these men (and women) from screwing around but we can take the responsibility of laws out of their authority.

    I’m the first to admit that Christian values are good ones but to enforce them on people who only have to redeem themselves and be forgiven, is ridiculous.

    Actions speak louder than words or laws. Get out of my bedroom and I will get out of yours! My message to the folks in D.C.

    Our Constitution was not written to tell us who, where, and with whom we have sex. Americans cannot think for themselves and will ask Big Daddy to tell us what we should not do. Our Federal government should never be asked to legislate these social issues. It is time the American people started living their lives according to their own moral values.

    If they don’t have any moral values, then we sure as hell don’t need to legislate them.

  2. www.nazilieskill.us

    I wonder if the child-sex rings and the Jeff Gannon stuff will ever get mainstream coverage. Crook media hides everything with nothing.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  3. JoyfulC

    I wish I could find that old article comparing the personal vices of Hitler, Stalin and Churchill. Of the three, Churchill was the most depraved — but who would you rather have as a national leader?

    We’ve been sold a crock that the personal and private sexual behaviour of our leaders and representatives somehow matters more than the quality of leadership and service they provide to us.

    We’ve also been sold a crock that it’s hypocrisy for a person to be gay but be against gay marriage or even feel that homosexuality is sinful; that it’s hypocrisy for a person who has an affair to be a dedicated champion and steward of family values in legislation. People who buy this cr*p aren’t tremendously deep thinkers or observers of human beings.

    Our leaders and representatives are human — get over it. Get over it or write computer programs to govern us — nothing but pure 1’s and 0’s! What truly matters is how well they serve us, how well they protect us, how well they lead us.

    I’m not trying to defend the guy — simply to inject some common sense. My guess is that Larry Craig faithfully represented his constituents’ will with respect to family values in his public service. In the end, isn’t that all that counts?

    (Note: I’m not saying I agree with his constituents — only that he seems to have served them as they wanted him to.)

    We need to make a strong statement by refusing to vote on sex. It’s obviously not working for us! Ever since that Clinton impeachment thing … no, make that going all the way back to the Gary Hart scandal … Americans have been making buffoons of themselves the world over by airing their dirty laundry in public.

  4. JerZGirl

    Amen, Ann. As to why it matters, it’s just as she said – if they weren’t telling us how to behave while doing the very things they’re telling us we’re not permitted to do, it really wouldn’t matter terribly much to most of us. If they’re not sacrificing babies, lambs or vestal virgins, I don’t care what they do at home or on their own time. But, if they’re doing it, they’d damned well better not be telling ME not to do it! That’s the point of this story. That’s the ENTIRE point of this story. Mistakes are fine – no one can escape them. We all do stupid and embarassing things. Fine. Then, own up to them. Don’t start debating the definition of the word “is”.

    Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.

    Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.

  5. Sandra Price

    That does not go far enough. I want social issues out of the federal government I want no elected official to have a vote on any social item. States have already made laws strong and we do not have to have our House and Senate make more.

    I will never get over having the GOP answer whether or not they believed in Evolution. Right there we saw the weakness in our entire government system. What the hell difference does it make what those two-faced boobs believe? The next mess will be “When does life begin?” Are we simple minded sheep?

    I doubt that the American voters are qualified to even make decision with the kind of answers our candidates make!

  6. mhregor

    The Holmes quote [“Guilt, I mused, has an interesting way of twisting one’s thoughts.” — Sherlock Holmes] seeems odd. It can’t be from Holmes himself–he’s always (?) written of in 3rd person. Maybe it’s Dr. Watson’s words. Or maybe it’s from a movie or TV or a play? So, please, may we know the source? Thank you.

  7. lexiedogmom

    Lexie Homewood
    I disagree on one point, Sandy. I simply cannot vote for someone as backwards and muddleheaded as to be a creationist. If they buy that story in the face of overwhelming science to the contrary, who knows what else bills of goods they can be sold?

  8. geyser

    United States Senator Larry Craig has been in government all his life. First as a Congressmen then Senator. In a very short time he will no longer be a part of it. Senator Craig will be announcing his resignation. It was a lifetime of serving the people of Iowa, it took a toe tap to see it all come crashing down, in of all places, a public restroom.
    He was arrested for soliciting an undercover Policeman. Senator Craig pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, paid a $575 fine hoping to avoid publicity. He then claimed his innocense of any wrong doing. Unless it was the greatest coincidence knowing the actions he used his feet and hands to the stall next to his, the same homosexuals use to communicate to each other asking to engage in a sexual act or he is guilty as sin.
    What makes this even more disturbing, Senator Graig was very outspoken with distain, toward Homosexuals. It is very obvious, Craig was deep in the closet with the lights out and the door bolted closed. He is a married man cheating on his wife. It doesn’t matter if having an affair or one night stands with another women or another man.
    Senator Craig insisted he was not Gay nor did he do those kind of things.
    Everything that has transpired then and recently, will soon be moot. Senator Craig will become Mr. Craig. He will no longer need to travel from his home in Iowa to Washington D.C. He will not vote on new laws, he will not write or sponser new laws. He will be just like the rest of us, listening to the news, not making it.