Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lying is a Virtue for Republicans

As soon as South Carolina Governor was discovered arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta last Wednesday, thus having his "hiking the Appalachian Trail" cover blown, the news media ran with the story. He had to call a press conference in which he confessed to having spent the last five days (which included Father's Day) "crying" in the arms of his Argentine lover. Automatically, this conjured up that famous song from the musical Evita: "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." His wife was probably relieved that she no longer had to keep lying for him for the sake of his political career. She had apparently known about the affair for months and asked for a separation, though they kept up appearances for the sake of his job.

It wasn't long before vigilent critics of the Fox News Propaganda Network noticed that the station once again put the "(D)" after his name (see photo above) to indicate his party affiliation. This happens practically every time a Republican politician gets caught in an embarrassing sex scandal. They did the same for Louisiana Senator David Vitter who paid a prostitute to put him in a diaper, for Idaho Senator Larry Craig who was caught trying to solicit sex from an undercover police officer in an airport men's room in Minneapolis, and for Florida Congressman Mark Foley who sent sexually explicit IM messages to underage Pages. Its laughable that they always do this because it only adds to the increasing amount of evidence that Fox News is not an unbiased news source. In fact, it is the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

People should be disturbed about this blatant deception. The loyal viewers of Fox News should be outraged because the lie is so obvious. When someone lies to you, that means that they don't respect you. Or they think you are too dumb to figure it out. Or they want something from you (unquestioning loyalty to the Republican Party, in this case). If a news channel I watched pulled a stunt like this, I would stop watching them because they would lack credibility. To me, credibility is everything and once its lost, its too late. There are far too many competitive news sources to get information from, so I would have no problem dropping any network or newspaper that blatantly did what Fox News constantly does. By contrast, when Governors Spitzer, McGreevey, and Blagojevich along with former Senator John Edwards (all Democrats) had their recent scandals, Fox did not change their "(D)" to be "(R)." It appears that Fox wants its viewers to associate sex scandals with the Democratic Party, even though it is far worse when a Republican politician is caught.

I've read opinions by conservative people about the unfairness of how Democratic politicians are treated versus Republicans when caught in a sex scandal. This is especially true in Portland because our liberal, Democratic and gay Mayor was recently relieved to learn that criminal charges will not be pursued against him regarding his inappropriate relationship with a borderline legal teenager in 2005. Critics say that if the Mayor was a conservative Republican, he would've been forced from office or if he was straight and the teen in question was a 17 year old girl, there would have been enough outraged parents that his career would be over as soon as news broke in January. Because he's the first openly gay politician to become Mayor of a Top 40 U.S. city, he "gets a pass."

I understand the criticism, but conservatives don't seem to understand several things. Though Clinton did not get removed from office for his affair with an intern, he was impeached (which was politically motivated. No president deserved impeachment more than George W. Bush). He was also disbarred from the National Bar Association. Its in the historical record that President Clinton is the second U.S. President to be impeached (President Andrew Johnson was the first, and that impeachment is also regarded by historians as politically motivated rather than substantial). New Jersey Governor James McGreevey resigned after his sex and lies scandal. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after his. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois Assembly and removed from office. John Edwards was effectively marginalized in the Democratic Party and most likely will never serve in political office again.

Contrast that to Republicans. Senator David Vitter is still in office. Senator Larry Craig remained in office. Florida voters threw Congressman Mark Foley out of office by voting for the Democratic opponent in 2006. Now, we will see if Governor Mark Sanford has the decency to resign. He was widely expected to be one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. Now that's unlikely to happen (Mitt Romney still looks like the odds-on favourite at this point).

So, conservatives who claim that Democrats get a pass while Republicans are judged more harshly are incorrect in one way, correct in another. They are incorrect because when Democratic politicians find themselves in a sex scandal, it usually ends their career. This was true of Gary Hart, the odds-on favourite to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1988 until he was caught with his mistress on his lap on a boat appropriately named "Monkey Business." Clinton is the only one who found success despite his adulterous ways, but I think its more reflective of his amazing political gifts (he is super smart regarding politics and interpersonal relations). Other Democrats weren't able to maintain their political office (as noted above).

In contrast, Republicans keep their office even after the scandal breaks. I see this reflection as an indication on how little the people have a say in the hierarchal Republican Party (its truly a top-down organizational structure). The powers that be don't care about sexual impropriety, so they keep their damaged politicians (better for blackmail and control). The loyal shock troops can be easily distracted by focusing on abortion or some other sideshow issue. That the low party members and volunteers don't demand accountability shows just how insignificant they are in that party.

Conservatives are correct about Republican politicians being more harshly judged than a Democratic politician regarding a sex scandal. However, it doesn't suggest a "liberal media bias" as they like to claim. The reason for this "double standard" is the involvement of hypocrisy. That's the main difference between the two parties. Democrats don't run on family values issues. Republicans do. They put themselves on a higher moral pedestal and smear Democrats for being "immoral" when all the Democrat wants to do is focus on the issues that matters to voters, rather than the personal life of the politician. When you put yourself on a moral pedestal, of course the media is going to have a field day if its revealed that you do not live the values you preached. That's common knowledge. Hypocrisy is distasteful and deserves to be punished more harshly than a crime of passion.

I once told a fundamentalist woman I worked with: "I'd rather be a sinner like Clinton than a hypocrite like Gingrich." She used to get angry when I said that because she liked Gingrich and hated Clinton. Gingrich was a conservative "family values" Congressman from Georgia, despite his having divorced two ladies, including one when she was in the hospital, and was having an affair on his second wife during the time he was traveling the country trying to make the mid-term 1998 election a national referendum on Clinton's sex scandal.

A friend of mine once told someone that "the problem with electing Democrats is that you don't get morals." He's not a partisan (he was equally strong in his dislike of President George W. Bush), but I was shocked to hear him say that, so we discussed the issue. I asked him, "would you rather vote for the politician who does not talk about family values but lives a moral life or the politician who runs on a family values platform yet is revealed to have committed adultery?" To my shock, my friend said that he would support the family values politician, even if he does not live the values over a candidate who does not talk about family values but lives it. To me, that told me everything I needed to know about the conservative mindset.

Interestingly enough, last year, he decided to vote in the Democratic primary instead of the Republican one and voted for John Edwards over Barack Obama. I don't know how he felt about Edwards after the affair was revealed last summer, but I find it funny that my morals obsessed friend voted for the wrong candidate. Out of all the candidates on the Democratic side, Edwards tried to paint himself as a strong morals person. Another hypocrite who fell on his sword!

That's why I don't identify with conservatives (even though my personality is generally pretty conservative). I believe that it is important to live your values. Because we've seen time and again politicians who preach values on one hand while failing to live them on the other, it does make one cynical any time a politician talks about morality. After the experience of the 1990s in seeing the way so many of the Gingrich Republican Revolutionaries of 1994 fell by the moral wayside, no Republican will ever convince me that he or she has any greater sense of morals than a Democrat who doesn't speak about morality issues or attacks an opponent in personal terms.

Its interesting to me that Republicans who love to talk about the Bible seem to fail at learning the main point of Jesus' teachings. In passage after passage, Jesus was most critical of hypocrites than sinners. He even saved a woman from being stoned to death because hypocritical men were making the judgment about her sexual immorality. Jesus advised followers that praying to God in secret was preferable to the public prayers offered by the Pharisees, who "love to be seen by men." Reading the New Testament, its just baffling how conservative evangelicals simply cannot seem to understand why hypocrisy is such a bad thing and even worse than the sin itself.

In 2000, when I got back in touch with an old high school friend of mine who was conservative and went to Oral Roberts University, we discussed the whole Clinton versus Gingrich sex scandals. He and his wife didn't understand why Clinton got a pass while Gingrich ended up resigning. Both were guilty of adultery. When I brought up the issue of hypocrisy and how Clinton never personally attacked an opponent (he always ran on the issues), I also explained the best definition I could come up with about "hypocrisy." The word is highly charged and most people (even those who most certainly are) don't see themselves as hypocrites. However, to diffuse the charge of that word, I told my friend Ben that "all hypocrisy means is that you don't really believe what you claim to believe." In explaining further, I said that if you make a moral stand about something and condemn your opponent for not sharing that same stand, but it turns out that you don't even live what you claim, why should anyone listen to what you have to say? If you can't even convince yourself that the moral stand you take is the right one, how can you convince someone else?

I used as an example another friend of mine, who had always claimed to be against co-habitation. Yet, when he met the lady of his dreams, he ended up co-habitating. When I brought this up with him, he got angry and accused me of holding him to a higher standard. To which I replied, "I'm only holding you to the standard you set for yourself." I had several other friends who co-habited before marriage and did not raise the issue with them because they (like me) don't believe that co-habitation is immoral. My conservative friend who did believe co-habitation was immoral ended up doing it. After he got married, I asked if he still thought co-habitation was "immoral." To my surprise, he said "yes." Its frustrating to me that conservatives I've talked to do not seem to understand hypocrisy. They make moral pronouncements even though they obviously don't agree with their own moral arguments, yet they judge others who don't believe those "moral values." It all boils down to honesty and self-awareness.

That's the difference, I guess, between a liberal mind and a conservative one. To a liberal, morality is a personal choice we allow others to make without our judgement (so long as no one is harmed). To a conservative, morality is something that should be forced on everyone and it doesn't matter if the person making the moral standards lives up to it or not. Morals are morals and apply to everyone.

The funny thing about co-habitation is that while I don't believe it is morally wrong for a man and woman to live together before (or outside of) marriage, I don't see myself doing that. I rather like the idea of moving in together after the wedding, thus enjoying my own place up to the moment of matrimony. When I was at BYU, I moved out of the dorms into a house where the landlord was a woman (also a BYU student. Her parents owned the house and she rented the basement rooms to three guys). At BYU, I was assigned to an LDS ward (for the point of hoping that I'd convert) and when I moved, I supposedly changed wards, but I continued to attend the same ward I was assigned to while I lived in the dorms. Anyhow, the Bishop's wife found out about my move (I don't know how, as I did not tell them) and knew which house I lived in and who owned it.

She said to me, "I heard that you are living in a house with women in it."

I replied, "That is correct, Sister Trowbridge."

Then to my surprise, she said, "Nicholas, sometimes I worry about you."

I was shocked. I kind of played it off as nothing for her to worry about, but in my mind it only confirmed how controlling the LDS Church is about personal business. What I wanted to tell her but didn't was that I can live in a house with women in it because I'm not attracted to every women I happen to meet and get to know. I do have my standards! Besides, if the Bishop's wife could have seen what the landlord and her sister looked like, she would not worry at all. I believe at BYU, the appropriate term for those women is "sweet spirit." Even more amusing, one Mormon guy had the room next to mine and sometimes, I could hear him and his girlfriend having sex. I certainly didn't get any while at BYU...so, who's the sex crazed morals obsessed person and who's the celibate, liberal monk?

For the record, though, I don't believe sex before marriage is wrong or "immoral." I've had so many arguments with conservatives who claim that it is, yet they engage in it without realizing that they are undermining their own claims of morality. Get real! Your actions reveal what you really believe, not what your mouth claims to believe. They think we're too dumb to figure it out. If I'm not mistaken, I think Dante placed hypocrites near the core of hell in his literary masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Why Republicans can't seem to understand the distasteful nature of hypocrisy is infuriating. They would solve their credibility problems if they just admit what their actions reveal: what two consenting adults do with each other is not immoral, so long as no one is harmed in the process.

The above photo is from Fox News that correctly showed the appropriate party distinction for Governor Sanford. He was a darling of the right during his "principled" stance of not accepting any of President Obama's bailout money (along with his participation in the whole Tea Bagging nonsense). I guess that's the power of Fox. If you fail to live the conservative values, they will brand you a Democrat. I guess that's to be admired. Fox doesn't tolerate hypocrisy and they have the power to change a politician's party affiliation without the politician's consent. And if it's on Fox, I guess you can believe it because they are "fair and balanced", right?

Jon Stewart summed up the affair best. He said something to the affect of Republicans having "a conservative mind but a liberal penis." Maybe they should work on some kind of consistency. It'll be far healthier in the long run and more credible.

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