Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / December 28, 1997 / 29 Kislev, 5758
Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
(Or, the true meaning of Bill Clinton's underwear)
IT WAS A SMALL but significant incident.
A few days before Chanukah, I left the Rockingham Mall, just over the border from Massachusetts in what is widely advertised as "tax-free Salem, New Hampshire."
The car next to mine in the parking lot bore the usual array of self-congratulatory bumper stickers -- "Pro-Choice And I Vote," "I May Be Straight But I'm Not Narrow," "If You Think Education Is Expensive, Try Ignorance" (as if education spending is actually an antidote to same) and "The Arts -- Not A Luxury."
The vehicle had Mass plates.
Weak person that I am, I couldn't resist. I penned the following note and slipped it under the windshield wiper: "If you're so progressive, why are you coming up here to avoid the Massachusetts' sales tax? Just think of all the arts subsidies and education funding your taxes could buy if you shopped back home in the People's Republic."
In retrospect, the taunt was needlessly cruel.
That liberals are hypocrites is established beyond reasonable doubt; but it's not entirely their fault. For them to exist in the real world, there must be a pronounced dichotomy between their words and deeds, their advocacy and actions.
Take our president, who despite grumbling on the left, is actually a very good liberal. Clinton is possibly the sleaziest character to ever occupy the Oval Office. And yet, no president in recent memory talks more about morality.
Rarely does he miss an opportunity to display his sensitivity and concern -- to lecture us smugly on the need for racial reconciliation, to bleat for education, the environment and child care, to restate his commitment on what are designated women's issues.
Can this be the man who, Arkansas State Trooper bodyguards have testified, consumed women like Big Macs? Can this be the '90s guy, unafraid to publicly blubber, who, Paula Jones maintains, exposed himself in a hotel room to a woman he barely knew and requested that she perform a sex act? Did I mention that he controlled her employment?
The president has been rationalizing his conduct -- lying to himself -- for so long that it's become second nature. Clinton (who dodged the bullet of another independent counsel) is all for campaign finance reform; yes he is.
He's also for leasing the Lincoln bedroom, providing plots in Arlington cemetery for political contributors, doing photo-ops with drug dealers and sucking up campaign cash from individuals who could be fronting for hostile regimes with interests adverse to America's.
The perfect representative of the boomers, a generation that's raised self-deception to an art form, Clinton is also an exemplar of the politics of empty rhetoric.
He's the champion of public education, who -- given an opportunity to demonstrate his personal commitment to the institution -- chose an exclusive prep school for Chelsea upon his arrival in Washington.
During the 1992 campaign, he and Hillary railed at the "decade of greed," until a perusal of their income-tax forms disclosed that they'd taken charitable deductions for donations of used underwear. At times, liberals take self-interest to embarrassing extremes.
Still, few of them can live their creed. Even geriatric hippies running Marxist bookstores in Harvard Square have tax-deferred retirement plans.
Imagine wealthy suburban liberals moving to integrated inner-city neighborhoods. Think of middle-aged editors (secure in their careers) resigning their positions to make way for minorities, demonstrating their belief in quotas in the most tangible fashion.
Picture all of those advocates of the poor actually writing checks. In late November, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published a study of charitable spending based on itemized tax returns. It found that liberal New England stands last among the regions in contributions to worthy causes, notwithstanding its relative affluence.
Massachusetts (which sends such paladins of the needy as Sen. Edward Kennedy to Washington) ranks 44th among the states in its support of charity. Mormon Utah is first, followed by Bible Belt states of the South and Midwest. It makes perfect sense.
Liberalism is premised on a denial of reality in the political realm. But when it comes to their own lives, liberals' old survival instinct kicks in.
They do carry it a tad far, with their Scroogian meanness. But far be it from me to complain. Their hypocrisy serves as a more eloquent refutation of their politics than anything a conservative columnist could write.