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Volume 23 • Number 4

October 2009



The Abuse of the Hipocrisy Charge in Politics

by Richard McDonough

The charge of hypocrisy has been made in connection with several recent events—namely, the pair of "sex scandals" involving, respectively, Rep. Mark Foley and Sen. Larry Craig, the former, a Republican member of the House from Florida and the latter a Republican senator from Idaho. Foley was accused of sending sexually suggestive messages to teenage boys who had been or who were at the time congressional pages, and Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men's bathroom and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct. Both Foley and Craig faced immediate calls for resignation by their critics on the other side of the aisle. Both were also criticized by members of their own party. For simplicity, the Democratic critics of Foley and Craig are called "progressives" while their Republican critics are called "conservatives." There are, however, significant logical differences between the criticisms of Foley and Craig by progressives and the similar criticisms of them by conservatives. Since conservatives are generally more critical of sexual indiscretion, their criticisms of Foley and Craig are generally consistent with their own values. Since, however, progressives are generally more tolerant of sexual indiscretions, their criticisms of these men are often inconsistent. Specifically, some progressives find Foley and Craig blameworthy for hypocrisy over acts which, had they been committed by progressives, they would not see as blameworthy. This is why progressives shift the criticism to a different level—namely, that these men are hypocritical. Since Foley and Craig had been champions of "family values," progressives cannot consistently criticize them for their sexual indiscretions. The criticism has to be that, since these men had violated their own conservative standards of morality, they are hypocritical.

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ISSN: 2152-0542