Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Larry Craig: We Are All Hypocrites


It seems to me that there have been two perspectives on the demise of Larry Craig. One is that it's good that he resigned, because he did something morally wrong. The other is that it's good that he resigned, because he is a hypocrite. Both sides asked for his resignation, each for their separate reasons. I'm not so sure if I'd have asked for him to resign.

The first of these groups says that hypocrisy is okay, but that hypocrites shouldn't be leaders. The second seems to feel that hypocrisy is the meanest of vices. I am a member of the first group. I hope that I understand the perspective of the second group correctly.

In the 1600's Fran├žois, duke of La Rochefoucauld penned the witty--and I think true--statement that "hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." I agree. The failure of Larry Craig was not, in my opinion, that he took moral stands on issues (although he was clearly insensitive and wrong to call Bill Clinton a "naughty boy" during the Monica Lewinsky scandal). Those stands are, in my opinion, correct. Where I think he failed is that he did not live up to those standards.

Carried to its conclusion, those who feel Mr. Craig was a failure because he was a hypocrite do not feel that others who engage in the same behavior are at fault--because they didn't make a public statement that they felt such behavior is wrong. Conversely, those who feel Mr. Craig's failure was a failure of morals also feel that others who engage in the same behavior fail personally, because the social responsibility to be moral should apply to everyone.

The worst thing someone on either side of this issue can do is to make fun of or otherwise taunt Mr. Craig for his failures. We all have our shortcomings, and because nearly all of us at some times or other do not live up to our own personal standards, we are all hypocrites. We shouldn't shun him as he deals with what he feels is a dramatic personal failure. Nor should we shun him because he failed to live up to the standards that he espoused.

I appreciate the sentiments of Glenden Brown at OneUtah, who says

And despite his raging hypocrisy and his long track record of harmful legislation, it’s truly difficult not to feel some sympathy for him.

I don't agree that his hypocrisy was raging, nor that he had a long track record of harmful legislation, but I agree that, regardless of our perspective on this issue, we should sympathize with Larry Craig. We should sympathize with a man who didn't live up to what he expected of himself.

That's all too often part of life. We fall down. We get up and brush the dust off of our clothes, and we move on, hopefully in the direction of being a better person. Mr. Craig, I don't think you're anymore of a hypocrite than the rest of us are.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this. The rampant victory dancing in the wake of this incident left a terrible taste in my mouth (though I did snicker at a few of the jokes).

    You do make some very interesting points on hypocrisy. We have two options: set high standards for ourselves and be comfortable with failing to meet them from time to time or set low "safe" goals that are easy to meet. I'd rather be thought a hypocrite for failing to meet a high standard than "aspire" to something less than what I really want to be.

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  2. There are different levels of hypocrisy. You may have seen the video circulating the internet of Craig speaking out about how much of a "nasty, naughty boy" Bill Clinton was for the Monica Lewinsky affair. We know he's no big gay rights advocate either. It seems like it's always these conservative closeted homosexuals and adulterers who preach most fiercely against it. You'd think maybe they'd play it cool and shut the fuck up, but maybe they're so nervous about being outed themselves that they feel the need to go overboard portraying themselves as the opposite of who they really are.

    Anyway, I think the most disturbing part of this whole affair is how quickly his own party abandoned him and forced him to step down - not simply because of his hypocrisy, but because he did something gay. Notice how Congressman David Vitter is still in office after admitting to using a female escort service. Homosexuality is the Republican party's kryptonite.

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  3. Webster says that hypocrisy is "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion."

    I claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christ taught that we should never sin. But, I do sin. I try to repent. Am I a hypocrite?

    My friend hates smoking. She thinks it's a horrible habit and she encourages people not to smoke. She has tried many cessation programs, but she cannot seem to kick the habit. She clearly believes smoking is bad. Is she a hypocrite?

    From what I can gather, Larry Craig has had a long career of standing against the homosexual agenda. He opposes gay marriage. But if accusations are correct, he attempted to furtively solicit gay sex. Is it impossible for him to be against the homosexual political agenda while still secretly engaging in homosexual acts? Does that make him a hypocrite?

    The claim seems to be that if one chooses to engage in homosexual activity, one must support gay marriage or else be labled a hypocrite. This seems to be an attempt to set a new world record in conclusion jumping.

    I do not wish to defend Larry Craig. Occasionally failing to live up to one's beliefs does not make one a hypocrite; it means one is weak. Grossly or enduringly living opposite of what one claims to believe is hypocrisy. Perhaps Craig's pecadilloes fall into this category. Perhaps not.

    While I find Craig's situation pathetic and rather disgusting, I would not have called for his ouster over his supposed hypocrisy. But I do have a problem with the idea of a U.S. Senator breaking the law and trying to use his office to get special treatment from the police. To me, this is a far bigger issue than any sex scandal.

    If it were simply a matter of a sex scandal, I would have said to let the voters of Idaho decide what to do, since Craig was up for re-election next year. But I think it was right to call for his resignation on the basis of his pleading guilty to breaking the law and evidence that he tried to use his position of power to gain preferential treatment from the police.

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  4. reach upward says "I claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christ taught that we should never sin. But, I do sin. I try to repent. Am I a hypocrite?

    My friend hates smoking. She thinks it's a horrible habit and she encourages people not to smoke. She has tried many cessation programs, but she cannot seem to kick the habit. She clearly believes smoking is bad. Is she a hypocrite?"

    But you openly admit that you yourself sin, you repent, and try to avoid it. Your friend does not pretend that she herself does not smoke, nor presumably does she attack or somehow think less of other people with the habit. Larry Craig on the other hand STILL screams that he is not gay (god forbid!) after getting caught soliciting gay sex. Larry Craig was an outspoken critic of Clinton during the Lewinsky affair. He is a hypocrite and an asshole. The end.

    (This still is not to say that he should necessarily have been forced to step down. I agree with you that he should probably only be forced to step down for any law breaking, but again, you can blame that on the Republican party for dissociating with gay people at all costs)

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  5. For the record, I don't know that what Larry Craig did was worthy of resignation. Even so, I think it points to the fact that those who profess certain values ought to feel comfortable actually following to some limited degree those values.

    It is true, that anyone who has values will ultimately fail to live up to those values. Does that make them a hypocrite? Perhaps. Where I have issues with hypocrites, is when they decide to use the apparatus of the state to impose their values on others, and then show in unmistakable ways that they don't practice what they preach.

    I want Craig, Vitter, Limbaugh, Gingrich, and all of the conservative moral police to be as visible as possible as a reminder, that a profession of virtue doesn't equal virtue. Those who are genuinely virtuous typically don't have to advertise it.

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