I think I like 1/2 the articles at The Cato Institute. Some days they have excellent commentary on politics, other days I wonder if their hats are on too tight. Today was one of those days.
In today’s “Bush, Kerry, and Partisan Hypocrisy,” David Boaz criticizes the hypocrisy of both parties. While I would agree that hypocrisy is rampant in the almighty struggle to lay claim to the mediocrity of the undecided middle ground, he chooses terrible examples to make his points.
Republicans are criticizing a decorated Vietnam veteran, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, while liberals are denouncing President Bush for avoiding service in what liberals called an illegal and immoral war.
Republicans may be criticizing a Vietnam veteran, but they are not criticizing his war record. He served his tour of duty and earned his Purple Hearts (although there are some unsubstantiated claims about his first one). Nobody is criticizing that – in fact, that’s one of the few things Republicans like about Kerry.
They *are* criticizing his actions after the war. I don’t think it matters what he threw over the fence – medals, ribbons, his own ribbons, somebody else’s medals, used hankies – but he threw something, and whatever point he was trying to make, he made it. He’s anti-war. Got it. He also threw out some wild unfounded accusations that appear to be untrue about the horrors he committed under orders. *That’s* what Republicans criticize. They thought it was in poor character then, they think it’s poor character now.
[…]Conservatives used to think that sexual harassment laws were a good example of big government trying to regulate everything under the sun. Feminists, they thought, wanted to criminalize normal flirting and dating. Feminists pushed a law through Congress that allowed plaintiffs in a sexual harassment suit to examine the defendant’s personal life in search of examples of similar behavior. It was the sort of thing that led Rush Limbaugh to call them femi-Nazis.
Then Bill Clinton — who perhaps unwisely had signed that law — was accused of making sexual advances to a low-level employee of the Arkansas state government when he was governor. Suddenly the conservatives were born-again femi-Nazis. Hang him, they said. It just can’t be lawful for a powerful man to make a vulgar advance at a woman who works for him, however distantly. And then when the legal pursuit of that accusation uncovered a case of actual sexual involvement with a young woman in the White House, they were ready to lynch him.
And the feminists? Suddenly they discovered the virtues of laissez faire. Consenting adults, they said. Intrusive regulation, they cried. No one should be asked such questions, they insisted — the questions they had earlier insisted powerful men must be asked in investigations of sexual harassment charges.
I agree with the hypocrisy of the uberfeminists – I never understood why they supported Clinton, since Clinton was doing everything they despise in men. But the criticism of the Right is unfounded.
Yes, the Right balked at the intrusiveness of government being able to nose around in past behavior. If that behavior didn’t lead to accusations or convictions, then there’s no way to prove it’s true and therefore should not be admissible in court. The Right never swayed from that position. (I’m not going to go into the double standards in the Kobe Bryant case)
The Right criticized Clinton’s early sexual advances as an example of his questionable character. That wasn’t a court where Clinton was being tried; it was just multiple corroborating stories about his misbehavior. The Right wasn’t suggesting prosecuting him for that behavior, just pointing out that Americans should be expecting a higher standard in our President.
And by the time it got to the “blue dress” episode, the Right wanted a “lynching” because Clinton lied on the stand. He committed perjury. The “blue dress” itself was just another example of his poor behavior, another lowering of the standard we expect in the President. There’s no hypocrisy here – the Right wasn’t trying to “lynch” Clinton because of prior infidelity – they wanted him impeached for perjury.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused of serial groping in 2003, conservatives and feminists resumed their old positions. Feminists were shocked, shocked to discover that a powerful and testosterone-laden movie star had touched women without their consent. Republicans, meanwhile, tossed aside both their old traditional values and their newfound quasi-feminism to dismiss the charges.
I think that’s an unfair accusation – Republicans had 4 prominent Republican choices on that California ballot they could have turned to. If they thought Schwarzenegger’s character was questionable, they would have dumped him in a heartbeat. The criticism here was that the 25 year accusation didn’t surface until the weekend before the election, and even then, the L.A. Times held onto the information until the last possible second.
I don’t believe the Right has changed their tune in these examples. The Left has – first, let’s “put Vietnam behind us” when it comes to Clinton, then with Kerry suddenly Vietnam experience is important. (I had a lot more respect for Howard Dean when he was in the race. I wouldn’t have voted for him, but I would have respected his unabashed anti-war position.)
If Boaz is going to accuse the Right of hypocrisy, he’s going to have to come up with better examples than these.