Shamelessness is worse than hypocrisy

“Hypocrisy,” noted the French writer La Rochefoucauld, “is a tribute vice pays to virtue.” In political life, charges of hypocrisy are commonplace; yet there, of all places, hypocrisy should be much preferred to the most common alternative, which is sheer shamelessness.

Compare, for example, the sordid tales of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Craig, as everyone knows, was caught misbehaving in a restroom in the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct; but it’s universally assumed his real crime was an unsuccessful attempt to engage in homosexual relations in a public place.

The story of Craig’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea occasioned a veritable tsunami of horror and disgust among conservatives. He announced his resignation last Saturday.

Craig’s political career is over. Meanwhile, Giuliani is the current front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. But in what sense has Craig’s behavior been worse than that of the self-anointed Saint of 9/11?

Craig, it seems, has lived his life in the grip of what he sees as a shameful desire to have sex with men. (It’s somewhat inaccurate to refer to Craig as “gay,” since people who identify themselves as such generally don’t consider their sexual desires shameful.)

Craig sees his deepest sexual desires as shameful because he subscribes to a moral code in which homosexual relations are considered inherently immoral. This has left him with three choices: he could completely repress his deepest sexual desires; he could indulge them, but try to keep his behavior secret; or he could openly acknowledge them and come out of the closet.

Those who share Craig’s moral code will agree that the first course would have been best; but, given that this turned out to be impossible, would it have been better for the senior senator from Idaho to engage in furtive, shame-ridden liaisons, or, by contrast, to “come out” and embrace a new identity as a gay man?

It seems the cultural conservatives who are most horrified by Craig’s behavior, and who make up much of the activist base of the contemporary GOP, would agree that it’s better for someone like Craig to stay in the closet, if the alternative is for him to treat their moral code with open contempt.

Which brings us to the current darling of the GOP presidential nomination ball. Giuliani has been married three times, yet his willingness to indulge in what historians of marriage refer to as “serial monogamy” is by no means the most colorful chapter in The Erotic Adventures of Rudy.

Giuliani, after all, is a man who literally held a press conference to inform Donna Hanover, his second wife and the mother of his children, that he was dumping her for his then-mistress. Hanover eventually had to try to get a court order to keep her husband from bringing his mistress into the house in which Hanover and the children still lived.

This was the culmination of several years of increasingly scandalous behavior, which included a barely hidden affair with one of his own employees and marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with his mistress of the moment — an act that one New York columnist compared to “groping in the window at Macy’s.”

Stay classy, Rudy. Keep using the phrase “9/11” in every other sentence, and maybe your supporters will forget that they’re supposed to consider a man who shamelessly flaunts his adulterous affairs to be far more reprehensible than someone who tries desperately to hide his failure to live up to their moral code.

(Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)


  1. Sandra Price

    Our Congress and Senate should not be in the business of making social laws. Nowhere in the Constitution is this authority given to the Federal government. Being a homosexual is not illegal but voting against homosexuals is unethical.

    Our Federal Government wastes too much time and effort sorting out social issues and allows the White House to act like the Vatican when it comes to making laws. If the State of Minnesota has a problem with Craig’s actions, let the state handle it. Our candidates for Congress and the White House are having to jump through a phoney Christian hoop that often removes the most ethical of our candidates to be overlooked.

    Professor Campos has no problem issuing moral labels on our government officials and judging them on his interpretation of what is moral. I would call it a typical Catholic upbringing judging others on his childhood training in hypocrisy. America has been reeling under this hypocrisy for too many years. I wonder how Professor Campos justifies his perverted child-abusing Priests?

  2. bryan mcclellan

    It’s pretty clear Sandra that they move their pedophile buddies to a new parish like pieces on a chess board with little regard for the damage done and the ensuing risk that they pose to a new group of children.He’s one of us ,give him a break.This attitude is mirrored by politicians,police,doctors etc.etc.until the public gets wind of wrong doing and then they all act like a bunch of chickens and peck each other to death with their bloody beaks of false indignation.Mankind is a terrible beast,and I often reflect that this would be a wonderful earth if it were not for us.PMFOT’s

  3. Helen Rainier

    Good government should be based on what our Constitution allows the federal government to do on a nation-wide basis. It should NOT be based on the emotions of political and personal ideology that is many times based on organized religious beliefs.

    I do NOT want anyone deciding what I can and can not do with my own personal life as long as I obey and respect the general laws of what is right and wrong. For example, I do not WANT anyone telling me I have no right to make personal medical decisions that affect me, I do not WANT anyone telling me who I can or cannot have sexual relations with in the privacy of my home domicile, I do not WANT anyone telling me what my personal religious beliefs, if any, should be. I do NOT want anyone deciding that I cannot choose to end my own life if I am terminally ill and there is no hope of recovery or a decent quality to my life.

    What I DO want my government to do is to provide for a national defense in the event this country is directly attacked, I DO want my government to ensure that all of its legal citizens have equal benefits without caveats based on religious moral beliefs, I DO want my government to ensure that all its legal citizens have a right to decent health care.

    Governance should be based on the law — not on personal organized religious beliefs — if we want government to be based on personal religious beliefs then we are no different than the religious theocracies that we believe are so bad if that religion isn’t Christian.

  4. scandals

    Wow. There is no confusion as to the motives of this author. He hates Juliani. O.K., but don’t try to hide that fact with random nuances of a bathroom perv.
    What a waste of virtual paper. Next time, just write an article that says…”I hate Juliani, and I want him to fail”. I don’t like him either, but I just say it.