JOHN BRUMMETT: Hypocrisy everywhere

Perhaps without intention, the New York Times op-ed page Sunday perfectly presented the nation's worsening malignancy of political polarization.

It just so happened, I suspect, that the paper chose to publish a guest essay about right-wing moral and sexual hypocrisy on the same day a regular columnist turned in a piece about left-wing moral and sexual hypocrisy.

But it was a serendipitous juxtaposition.

On the left side of the page was a guest column about the right-wing affront committed by resigning Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. He was a preachy professed pro-lifer who, it turned out, had encouraged his pregnant mistress to seek an abortion.

He was pro-life "in the streets" but pro-choice "between the sheets," wrote the guest essayist.

In the middle of the page was this headline--"The Pigs of Liberalism"--over the work of regular columnist Ross Douthat. The subject was Harvey Weinstein, big-time entertainment mogul and donor to political liberalism who, at that point, was trying to deflect revelations of a long pattern of covered-up sexual harassment of women by vowing to do better and support more liberal causes.

Douthat's point was ... not hypocrisy, exactly ... or, well, maybe it was.

He wrote that liberals tend to keep quiet about their sexual predators--Weinstein, Ted Kennedy--as if general policy is more important than personal behavior, which, he said, it isn't.

My takeaway from the two adjoining pieces of opinion writing was that, taken together, they conveyed profoundly a compounding and debilitating scourge on all our politics.

They presented the right's and left's polarized disdain for each other's hypocrisy, which means they can't possibly work together on anything.

They also presented a polarizing distrust by growing numbers of voters in the apolitical center for the whole lot of politicians.

In other words: Those engaged in politics on the right and left despise each other and everyone else is disengaged from politics because of being sickened by both.

These growing numbers in the apolitical center become ever more convinced that there is no connection between what is real or true and what they see pronounced and pretended by the charade of popular culture.

This combination--a mutual partisan disdain and a general distrust--gave us the ironic outcome of President Donald Trump, who boasted of sexual predation and made bogus statements and tweets with daily regularity.

The effect was that the weary public--or a decisive element of it--saw him as a political outsider exposed in behavior common but cynically cloaked in those of the political class.

At least he wasn't a hypocrite, they thought.

It's the "yeah, but" form of political reasoning and argument, which goes as follows: Trump gets caught boasting of being a sexual predator. "Yeah, but" Bill Clinton did as bad or worse and got away with it.

Or it goes as follows: The Republican congressman is a hypocrite and typical of the greater hypocrisy rampant in right-wing rhetoric. "Yeah, but" Harvey Weinstein was a creep and Democrats didn't care, all of which was typical of the greater hypocrisy rampant in left-wing rhetoric.

It is possible--I'd almost go so far as to say probable--that Murphy is not representative of the cultural and political right wing and Weinstein is not representative of the cultural and political left wing.

But it also is possible--I'd almost go so far as to say probable--that some in the respective philosophical camps knew of the egregious behavior of these individuals in their own camps, and, while privately disdainful of it, chose to overlook it for the supposed greater political good of their party's interest.

That's a tradeoff--Weinstein's donations to worthy liberal causes in exchange for pretending you don't know about his treatment of women; and support for tomcatting Republican politicians who at least would oppose sinfulness in public policy if not eschew it in private practice.

One of Douthat's conclusions was that personal behavior must matter anew in politics.

I agree if we are to regain vital public trust in our public institutions. That can't happen if people continue to have their cynicism validated by the slow drip of sordid revelation.

There is true virtue within conservative thought, and there is true virtue within liberal thought. So how about we start seeing more of it?

A little more John Kasich, maybe, and a lot less Tim Murphy.

A little more Joe Biden, maybe, and lot less Harvey Weinstein (overlooking Joe's famous use of the "F" modifier that time.)

The only way back from the disaster of Trump is a politics and popular culture with less hollow talk, more real decency, more evident righteousness, fewer blind eyes and a steady reduction in opportunities for the right and left to chortle about the personal disgraces of the other, and for everyone else to lament the tiresomely predictable disgraces of both.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 10/12/2017


Jfish says...

Good column John, but I doubt that things will improve unless the big money is removed from both sides.

Posted 12 October 2017, 8:07 a.m. Suggest removal

mozarky2 says...

Jfish, do you really see that happening?
I don't.
That's all the politicians care about. Not you. Not me. Just money.
There ain't no virgins in that whorehouse.

Posted 12 October 2017, 8:11 a.m. Suggest removal

hah406 says...

Couldn't have put it better mozarky2. Only most of our politicians sell themselves cheaper than the professionals in the whorehouse.

Posted 12 October 2017, 8:51 a.m. Suggest removal

JakeTidmore says...

Well JB, you "seem" to have a united audience on this one. Another sign that Armageddon is nigh??!!
Excerpt from: "Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right: How One Side Lost Its Mind and the Other Lost Its Nerve" By Bernard Goldberg
In fact, there’s an old joke that pretty much sums up the character of these “profiles in courage” and the “high esteem” in which they’re held: “Don’t tell my mother I’m in politics. She thinks I play the piano in a whorehouse.”
Excerpt from "A Disquisition on Greed in Politics" by Sam McClure, Alabama Political Reporter
When the wild man of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, spoke on greed, he held no punches: “The world is one big whorehouse, completely submerged in greed,” where the “big thieves hang the little thieves.” Jesus himself reserved his harshest words for the political rulers of his day, the Pharisees, who loved to look polished on the outside, yet “inside [were] full of greed and wickedness.”
'Politics is a whorehouse... A brutal world there's no place for the thin-skinned,' says Peter Capaldi, who is famous for his role of spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in the BBC series "The Thick of It." He continues:
'Personally, I have as little to do with politicians as possible. The ones that I've met I've found very boring. They're extremely egotistical, incredibly self-important. If I can help it, I try to stay as far away from them as possible.'
If only they had an off/on switch. Am sure Trump's advisors are thinking this right now!!

Posted 12 October 2017, 9:08 a.m. Suggest removal

gohogs17 says...

Neither McConnell nor Schumer really give a hoot about this country. All they want is power and their re-elections.

Posted 12 October 2017, 10:42 a.m. Suggest removal

mrcharles says...

Moz you are on to something. Seems they all do quite well financially.

Appreciate your comment. A few devil's in the details but real close.

Posted 12 October 2017, 10:46 a.m. Suggest removal

Packman says...

What people detest is the tribalism exhibited by political elites. A symptom of tribalism is "yeahbutism" and "whataboutism". For example when the Weinstein story broke, the first thing you heard from libs was "whatabouttrump" as a way to deflect from Weinstein's decades long sexual predation facilitated by the silence of the Hollywood elite because he gave lots of money to Planned Parenthood.
The disgust with tribalism is also a major reason people voted for President Trump instead of elite politician Hillary Clinton. That vote is being affirmed as you see President Trump lash out at members of his own "tribe" (Little Bobby Corker, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, etc.). President Trump's willingness to pow-wow with Chuck and Nancy is more evidence he isn't a tribalist.
Hey moz - Not true. President Trump doesn't need or care about lobbyists' money. He also has no allegiance with the traditional ruling class which explains why he's disliked by pols on both sides of the aisle. President Trump may be a thin-skinned, opinionated, blowhard, New Yorker who too often says something before he thinks but he's no tribalist. As such, the guy's turning out to be a tremendous POTUS.

Posted 12 October 2017, 11:19 a.m. Suggest removal

drs01 says...

This is the hypocrisy that results from years of ignoring what goes on in Hollywood, or Washington, or even Arkansas. You must add to the list the names of Bill Clinton, Dale Bumpers, and Hillary Clinton. Naive Americans need reminders that:
1. All politics is a blood sport played by deceitful, ambitious slugs
2. The entertainment business is filled with folks who owe their success to the time they spent on their back or their knees
3. Moses dropped the third tablet containing the 11th commandment. It read " Thy shall not be a damned hypocrite"
4. # 11 is the most under-reported and abused of them all.

Posted 12 October 2017, 11:21 a.m. Suggest removal

RBear says...

A rare moment of unity and kumbayah int the comment boards broken by the ever ungrateful Pack. I agree with those on the left and the right on this subject and their comments. Agree with you both moz and gohogs.
One thing I used to do when I would analyze elections in San Antonio and TX was to pull up the campaign finance reports of the candidates and incumbents (they keep taking money after the election). Both jurisdictions had electronic filing systems so you could see who was buying the influence with who. AR is finally getting a system and it's online now. Just head over to the Secretary of State's website and you can eventually find the link to the system. Pretty good implementation based on what I remember in TX.
Take Jason Rapert for example. Primary contributors to his campaign are Stephens Investments, Witt Stephens, Wal PAC, and AR Conservative Legislative PAC. The vast majority of his money is PAC based, which is pretty sad. It shows people don't really support him, but he's in the pockets of special interests including Garver, Cella of Oaklawn, and Shelter Insurance.

Posted 12 October 2017, 11:47 a.m. Suggest removal

hah406 says...

RBear, ease up on Mr. Cella. He pays all 135 members of the legislature in this state fairly and pretty evenly. The only politics involved there is protecting his monopoly in this state.
Packman, I agree today with most everything you said, save one. In mine and many peoples eyes, Trump being a thin skinned blowhard who speaks before he thinks is the primary thing keeping him from being a good POTUS. If he would shut up and think before he speaks, and get out of the petty tit for tat twitter rampages fueled by his fragile ego, he could actually do some good for the country.

Posted 12 October 2017, 12:46 p.m. Suggest removal

drs01 says...

RBear - the Stephens family supports dems-repub-liberals-right wingers etc. They have for years starting with Jack and Witt. Stop painting with such a broad brush trying to make that fit your convoluted narrative.

Posted 12 October 2017, 1:05 p.m. Suggest removal

3WorldState1 says...

A couple of things:
1. Most all of the "left" has denounced Weinstien(sp). Maybe it took some a day or too extra. But they did. However, when this happened to Roger Ailes and Bill o'stupid, there was I think two Republicans that came out and denounced them. They still havent.
2. I have known some politicians and would be politicians. Most politicians HATE begging for money. It is the part of their job they HATE the most. They would love it to be out.
3. We would need to change the constitution, which we could with the states. The Dems had a guy running last year and that was his main platform. The R's didnt and never would.
Big business and the wealthy don't want it changed. That's how they get their way. Somewhere, we as a people, will unite and take money out of politics. How about this - Anybody can give up to $100. That's it. Then some Fed "sharing" etc. No more dark money. No more "legal bribes". I just don't see the Republicans stepping up. They are weak, and not only do they have no leadership, they are unwilling to be lead. Which sometimes, is what being a leader is about.

Posted 12 October 2017, 1:06 p.m. Suggest removal

RBear says...

drs, you COMPLETELY miss my point on this discussion. I picked on Rapert because he's one I know and one who reported electronically. I actually applaud him for reporting electronically since some are taking the "I don't have the means to report using technology" cop out which is STUPID in this day and age. If you can't use a computer and don't have access to the Internet, why are you running for office? "You must be this high to ride the ride."
I'm not rapping lobbyists. I'm just pointing out that this kind of reporting allows the average citizen to see which politicians are skewed more to special interests and which are skewed more to the voter. Rapert is more in the special interest category. I mentioned NOTHING of his politics in that comment. You are the one with the convoluted narrative in this thread.

Posted 12 October 2017, 2:25 p.m. Suggest removal

Packman says...

Hey hah - You're right. I went a little overhead praising President Trump. His pettiness is not only not presidential it's plain bad manners. He also oftentimes makes bad jokes with poor attempts at hyperbole. I still like the guy because he's not a tribalist. And wasn't Steve Forbes' unofficial campaign slogan: "Too rich to steal too ugly to date".
As to this Weinstein sadness the more layers are peeled back and the more America learns it will become obvious Weinstein operated in a culture where this sort of thing was the norm and not the exception. Are we to believe Harvey Weinstein was the only powerful man in Hollywood taking advantage of young women desperate for their big break? Don't be surprised if the culture indicated sleeping with a Harvey Weinstein was merely the cost of doing business. Yes, such rogue behavior exists in too many other industries/situations but Hollywood will be exposed as having a culture of tolerance for sexual predators. We are only seeing the tip of this iceberg.

Posted 12 October 2017, 5:05 p.m. Suggest removal

PopulistMom says...


I'm afraid that you are right about Hollywood and this being the tip of the iceberg. Too many women are too desperate to be cast in big pictures that Weinstein probably was successful. Hitchcock and many others in Hollywood have acted similarly. I encountered one sexual harasser in the practice of law. I'm pretty sure that there were three women who had sex with him. My attitude was that he was gross, and I could practice law elsewhere. The practice of law is demanding enough; I was not going to sleep with somebody gross for the privilege of doing it. I just got another job and moved on.

Posted 12 October 2017, 6:53 p.m. Suggest removal

carpenterretired says...

Well Trump may not need lobbyist cash as Donald Jr. bragged about all that cash they got from Russia, but what if Putin decides Trump is such a bad investment property that he dumps Trump ,but the catch 22 for everyone right or left a mentally ill POTUS is no bargain.

Posted 12 October 2017, 11:03 p.m. Suggest removal

Packman says...

Hey Pop - Making matters worse, we are only hearing from the women that told Weinstein "NO". Understandably, the women that accepted his advances will remain silent. What current star wants to admit they gave Weinstein or any other Hollywood bigwig a bj for their first starring role? As a matter of culture involving many men that transpired literally for decades, the number of abused women could be in the thousands.
A not insignificant consequence will be Hollywood moralists like Ashley Judd and her pink pu$$y hat at the women's march have lost all credibility to speak on women's issues due to their enabling of the Hollywood culture of sexual abuse. From this day forward anytime they speak about that sexist Donald J. Trump they will be slapped in the face with the hypocrisy of Harvey Weinstein. The sooner the DNC distances itself from Hollywood the better for Democrats. And vice-versa, which means I would like to see the DNC continue to embrace the Hollywood elites.

Posted 13 October 2017, 10:02 a.m. Suggest removal

Slak says...

Embrace? LOL, you mean grope?

Posted 13 October 2017, 10:34 a.m. Suggest removal

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