Carol Platt Liebau: The Problem With Standards

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Problem With Standards

This piece in The Politico savors the Republican embarassment in the wake of the revelation that Senator David Vitter was a customer of the DC Madam's escort service.

Supposedly, the Democratic chortling about Republican sexual lapses is based on the hypocrisy factor -- the fact that, because Republicans tend to be more traditionalist than Democrats in their assessment of what sexual mores should be, their lapses are particularly ironic. The advantage for Democrats in this formulation, of course, is that when one adheres to no particular standards for sexual behavior, it's impossible to be labeled a hypocrite. The downside, obviously, is that then one has no behavioral standards, either for oneself or for others.

Just as punning has been labeled the lowest form of humor, the whole concept of hypocrisy is the lowest form of the "gotcha" game. It allows adversaries to attack someone for his behavior without having to take a moral position on the matter of the behavior itself (in other words, one doesn't have to say that patronizing a prostitute was wrong -- only that the person who did it is a hypocrite).

Finally, if hypocrisy is the worst sin there is (as many on the left apparently seem to believe), then in a real sense, anyone who has acted in contradiction to his/her own moral principles is no better than David Vitter. Christians who have indulged in un-Christlike behavior (unlike the Savior they profess to worship), Jews who have broken any of the Ten Commandments in which they profess belief, etc., etc., -- all are "hypocrites." All have acted against what they assert are their most cherished beliefs.

I'm not troubled by David Vitter doing one thing and saying another -- after all, as La Rochefoucauld noted, "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." If I've got a problem, it's the underlying behavior -- not the fact that the behavior is inconsistent with Vitter's stated values.

3 Comments:

Blogger The Very Sane Woman Who Points Out the Obvious said...

Carol,

In the past you've been good about pointing out the hypocrisy of Al Gore (as you should) when it comes to his preaching on reducing our carbon footprint all the while that his personal electric bill rivals that of a small factory.

Why does David Vitters get a pass on hypocrisy?

Methinks thou doth protest too much, and doth protest selectively at that.

What galls me, particularly as a woman, is Vitters blithely dismissing this as merely a sin, a personal matter in which he fell short of the mark. That's not what this is about.

This madam is being prosecuted for running a prostitution ring. If she has committed a crime, then Vitters committed the same crime and he should be prosecuted in the same manner.

I've seen this sexist double standard dozens of times: women being prosecuted as prostitutes while their clients get off scott free.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

Well done, Carol. You summed up the use of the "hypocracy gambit" very well.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Righty64 said...

The reality about Mr. Vitter is that he is a product of Louisiana, quite possibly the most corrupt state in the union. This shows that one thing bipartisan is the corruption and lack of control of politicians in Louisiana. That is no excuse for Mr. Vitter's actions. But, one has to be caught in the act of solicitation to be prosucuted. And, the original madam in question is claiming that she did not run a prostitution ring. Because we hold ourselves to standards, when conservatives do fall, because at one time or another we will, we seek forgivness from those that we have hurt through our actions. Thus, that is what Mr. Vitter claims that he did with his wife. I think that unless all of this can be proven, Mr. Vitter should in fact be left alone. There are really pressing issues that need the senator's attention such as the defeatist attitudes of some of Mr. Vitter's senate collegues about Iraq and the War Against Terror.

8:28 PM  

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