Wednesday, February 01, 2006

READER RESPONSE -- "Fan" mail . . . .

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:19 PM |  

on today's column. People do love to pile on conservatives.
Even if your so-called "hypocritical liberals" are guilty of your accusations, they at least make some attempt to better society for those of us who are struggling to make ends meet. I don't see any of that effort coming from your fat-cat conservative friends.
Schweizer talked about a perception like that expressed in the writer’s first sentence. Example -- union leaders overlook Pelosi’s failure to use union labor because she makes the right noises in Congress. Liberals have an "end justifies the means" complex. That Pelosi doesn’t practice what she preaches is okay, as long as she preaches. “Virtue” for a liberal lies in intention and motive, not action.

It’s Schweizer’s contention that’s why the mainstream media is quick to jump all over the non-story that William Bennett likes to gamble but doesn’t delve into the hypocrisies of powerful liberals. Liberals advocate the appropriate worldview, so what they actually do is ignored.

You can say that’s simply hypocrisy upon hypocrisy, but the real issue is much greater. Pelosi is actually encouraging union members to put their faith in a system that she knows is ultimately unworkable in a competitive economic environment. As Schweizer notes, the real tragedy of liberal hypocrisy is that while the elite advocating liberal policies realize those policies do not work and ignore them, millions of people try to live by them and are consequently hurt.

Take the Northwest strike/bankruptcy -- doesn’t the union share some of the blame for deceiving its workers that Northwest’s dysfunctional business model could go on forever?

Here’s another bit a wisdom from a reader --
When conservatives betray their public principles they don't do so for personal gain. This is what you said. Have you ever heard of Tom Delay {DeLay], Jack Arabahoff [Abramoff], [and] the California congressmen [sic] who sold his house for a huge gain to a lobbyist?
Let’s not confuse “hypocrisy” with “corruption.” That’s not a defense of either DeLay or Abramoff, but the actions of these men have nothing to do with violating conservative principles. They broke the law. They didn’t say one thing and do another. In fact, both DeLay and Abramoff were brazen in their actions. Bad guys, yes; hypocrites, no. And to the larger point, their actions do nothing to invalidate conservative principles.

Contrast with Pelosi who broke no laws. There’s nothing wrong with hiring non-union labor. Her hypocrisy stems from the obvious fact that she advocates one action publicly and then outside the public eye disavows it. Asked about it, she avoids the question. That’s not a crime; that’s hypocrisy.

The same writer in a second email (slow day at work?) wrote --
President Bush wants to wiretap America with no legal oversight. He states this is to fight terror and protect America. Then Bush took the bi-partisan 911 commission recommendations and tossed them in [the] garbage. Ask your self this question and we will see if you are a hypocrite. Is President Bush a fiscal conservative?
Again, one shouldn’t confuse “hypocrisy” with every decision one doesn’t like. Is Bush right on the wiretapping issue? That’s a legal question. Did he lie about what he was doing? Maybe. Is he violating the civil rights of U.S. citizens? Likely. But when it comes to the principle of protecting America and fighting terrorism, Bush is anything by a hypocrite. Liberals criticize the president because he both talks the talk and walks the walk on the terrorism issue. Completely opposite of liberals that say one thing and do another, Bush does pretty much what he says he is going to do and makes no bones about it. He’s definitely no hypocrite.

The fiscal conservative question is a little more involved, so lets look at in the context of a more thoughtful, libertarian, letter.
One bedrock conservative principle is fiscal restraint and accountability and yet we have had multiple corporate scandals brought to us by conservatives and each one has harmed hundreds, thousands and in some cases perhaps 10s of thousands of people. We also have our elected conservative leaders claiming to care about fiscal restraint and control while they have presided over the largest run up of federal government spending in our history and doing so while they accumulate the largest increase in national debt ever. No matter how you measure it, either as a percentage increase or a simple count of the dollars this conservatively controlled congress has run up more debt than anyone before them and have a real shot at doubling a debt that took over 200 years to be accumulated. At least with the liberals I know they want my money, the conservatives claim to not want it but mortgage our future and structure the tax picture in such a way that the very wealthy (top 1%) increase their percentage of the nations total wealth while everyone else sees their piece of the pie drop.
Let’s get the corporate scandal comment out of the way first. Again, don’t confuse “hypocrisy” with “corruption.” Bad guys. Deserve to be punished. Hurt lots of people. All givens. But those actions had nothing to do with the principles these folks were uttering. Beyond the scope of this post, but I would argue that scandals in government occur because of the power in government, not the party in power, which is why the most powerful party always seems the most corrupt.

With a nitpick here and there, the economic picture painted in the letter is pretty accurate, MHO, but again are we talking “hypocrisy” on the part of conservatives -- they realize the conservative principles they espouse are unworkable -- or is it something else?

Two factors come into play. The first is the belief expressed by President Bush in the SOTU last night that his policies ultimately will reduce the deficit and balance the budget, make the U.S. competitive, energy independent and so forth. Is he right? Doesn’t matter for this discussion. He believes he is right. He’s open about his beliefs. He openly acts on his beliefs. He doesn’t go out of his way to protect himself from the consequences of his own actions. That’s hardly “hypocritical.”

As for horse-trading pork projects -- I vote for your bridge to nowhere; you vote for my ethanol subsidy -- one could call such deals “hypocrisies,” but they are not made because the conservative principle of fiscal responsibility is invalid; they are made because legislators simply lack the character to live up to it. They are more akin to giving in to temptation (Limbaugh's addiction) than a pattern of behavior designed to avoid the consequences of one’s own policies (Pelosi and unions). In fact, unlike liberal principle that knows no restraint, conservative principle acts as a sort of “hypocrisy line.”

Allow me a metaphor. You’re walking down a country road. You’re hungry. Passing by a fenced orchard you come to a tree with a branch, loaded with ripe apples, that grows out over the fence and over the road. So you pick an apple and eat it. Maybe there is no branch leaning over the road, but there is a branch you can reach by standing on the middle fence rail and leaning over the fence. No, well maybe you can just hop over the fence, grab an apple off a nearby tree and hop back over. But if you have to run into the middle of the orchard? No, that would be stealing.

The point of the little story is that conservative principles, like the fence, act as sort of a "hypocrisy line." Conservatives might argue that what’s really a “tax” can justifiably be called a “fee” in order to balance the budget, or what is really a “subsidy” to ethanol is an “investment” in alternative fuels. And once again, these actions are not taken in secret and the personal consequences avoided. Further, these actions don’t void conservative principles, which like the fence, are always there to remind conservatives when they stray too far.

The letter writer goes on --
Another bedrock conservative principle that gets lip service is individual responsibility and the basic right to not have government intrude in your life. While it is true that liberals attempt to use government to impose their view of how life ought to be on the rest of us it is equally true that conservatives do the same thing and frankly have been much more successful at it. Does the name Terry Schiavo ring a bell?
While I disagree with the government action taken in the Schiavo case (I do not believe it followed conservative principles) the actions of the individuals acting in Terry's defense was about as far from hypocritical as one can get. They acted openly and saw themselves following the higher principle of protecting Terry Schiavo’s life, not interfering with the family. In the view of those acting, they were doing nothing different than passing a law that says your spouse can not shoot you for failing to take out the garbage. Were they right? Again, doesn’t matter for this argument.

The Chinese have a saying to the effect that there is no remorse in making a mistake, misapplying one’s principles, for example, as I believe was done in the Schiavo case. However it is great misfortune once a mistake is realized not to correct it.

That liberals realize the policies they advocate don’t work in their own lives yet they continue to endorse them in public while denying them in private is not only hypocrisy, it is a great misfortune.

Update: Doug writing at Bogus Gold provides a succinct summation of my ramblings above.
The other interesting angle - and one that seems to be flying over his critics heads - is the personal versus the public. . . . Almost all Craig's critics are pointing to examples that are public/public - a politician campaigns on one policy position, but enacts another - rather than public/personal examples - like a politician insisting certain industries should hire union labor, but refusing to do so in their personal business dealings.
Category: Reader Response, Liberal Hypocrisy