Tu quoque Yogi Berra

There must be something in the water at the venerable Hoover Institution. Just last week, we visited a piece, wherein one of their fellows leveled that most traveled of ad hominem attacks, the tu quoque at former VP Al Gore. This week, as Uncle Yogi once said, is “déjà vu all over again.” V.D. Hanson is concerned, folks—concerned that we, the people, only focus on the failings of right wing politicians, pundits, and politico-religious types. He means to remedy the situation. He says, >But moralist Republicans don't have the market cornered on hypocrisy. If giving into excess embarrasses some of them, for a number of Democrats–supposedly the party of the people–hypocrisy arises from enjoying elite privileges while alleging that America bestows favors unduly on the few. I suppose it’s fun to argue against a position no one has held or even implied. I haven’t heard anyone pretend that Mark Foley’s failings whitewash Ted Kennedy’s. Moreover, it has no bearing whatsoever, as Hanson implies it does, on the populist programs of those prominent Democrats he indicts. Hanson gives us a litany of hypocrisies perpetrated by the left and then pretends that it makes their period as the party in power somehow moot because all politicos are cut from the same cloth. Ye gods. There’s a stark distinction between the duplicity that lead to a war that has cost 3,000+ U.S. lives, along with the lives of untold thousands of Iraqis and the global warming activist who uses the quickest form of transport available to disseminate information. Hanson simply glosses this distinction, because, you know, they’re all crooks and liars, right? >For both liberals and conservatives, the days of the simple-living Harry Truman and clean-living Dwight Eisenhower are apparently long gone–and for two reasons. >First, the country has changed. Globalization, high technology and billions in borrowed money have made Americans in general materially wealthy beyond our parents' wildest imagination. >… >Second, in our world of celebrity sound bites and media saturation, talk, not reality, is what counts. Multimillionaires lecture us about fairness, while sinners rail about sin. Ah, yes—the good old days. Regardless of the fact Pound, err…Hanson, has a point here—we are a society of consumers, more importantly of irresponsible, uncouth consumers and that’s not a good thing—the point is out of place here. Unless we can now impeach all politicos as the very root of avarice and greed, all we’re left with is the conclusion that we’re all just a bunch of hypocrites, in spite of our high ideals. Great story. Really. Compelling and rich. Hanson regroups, however, to deliver another kick to this equine carcass: >The political leaders of this country are essentially too often homogeneous. Republicans may represent constituents of traditional values; Democrats may champion the underprivileged. But their similar lifestyles reflect more a political class' shared privilege than the inherent differences of their respective constituents' beliefs. National figures may talk conservative or liberal, but they both are more likely to act like libertines. Indicting all politicos as hypocritical and wrong adds nothing. In fact, it’s rather banal. Still worse is that Hanson hasn’t argued so as to support the conclusion that the analogous evils of both conservatives and liberals have some bearing on their legislative activity. Beyond his dazzling pithiness, the problems here are evident: one, Hanson assumes, incorrectly, that some causal link exists between how one lives and how one performs in the political arena. Secondly, even if that were the case, he so muddies the waters that it is unclear how the hypocritical similarities between politicos have any bearing on anything. Look who’s pithy now. -pm

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