Wissot: Hypocrisy was never more hilarious than in today’s political battlefield (column)
The First Lady mounts a public campaign to combat cyber bullying while her husband tweets bullying insults to his critics when he wakes up each morning. She calls her campaign “Be Best”; we have substantial evidence to suggest we could call her husband’s daily tweets “Be Worst.”
President Donald Trump rails against what he terms “chain migration” (officially called the family reunification program) while his wife’s parents are immigrants from Slovenia who enter this country via the same maligned program. (“Melania Trump’s parents will soon be citizens. They can thank ‘chain migration.’” (The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2018)
President Barack Obama was accused repeatedly while he was in office by our current president of spending too much time playing golf. “Before taking office, Trump was highly critical of Obama for frequently hitting the links. After 1,275 days in office, Obama had enjoyed 102 rounds of golf. Trump completed the same number of rounds after being in office for only 493 days.” (“President Trump’s visits to the golf course outpace Barack Obama’s,” John Parkinson, ABC News, May 28, 2018)
Our president also held a “Sports and Fitness Day” in late May of this year. What’s hypocritical about that, you might ask? Obama regularly held similar events during his presidency. Yes, but Obama didn’t share Trump’s decidedly negative views on the value of exercise.
In one published report, the president is quoted as believing, “the human body is like a battery, with only a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.” He is also on record of having said, “All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster.” (“An exercise in hypocrisy? Trump lectures America on fitness,” Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian, May 30, 2018)
We are all hypocrites to some extent. We say one thing and do another. We follow the practice of telling people to “do what I say not what I do.” We are oblivious to our own hypocrisy but acutely aware of the hypocrisy we find in others.
What’s that old expression: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
When it comes to hypocrisy, we all live in glass houses.
But not all of us are public figures. Our hypocritical sins are only observed by a select few. Not so with politicians. Their prior statements are videotaped and replayed for them every time they commit a hypocritical act. The world sees their hypocrisies in real time.
I agree that some of the examples I have just shared with you are silly, not consequential.
Who cares about hypocrisy when it comes to matters of golf or sports and fitness?
But cyber bullying isn’t a trivial matter, nor are the administration’s immigration and family separation policies.
Perhaps the most extraordinary of hypocritical claims coming from this White House are the ones the president made on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp” in Washington and hire only the “best people.”
The resignations of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, for reasons related to lavish and excessive spending, point to the fact that if Trump drained the swamp, he quickly replaced the old swamp creatures with ones closer to his liking.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, has remarked, “The Trump Cabinet is to a normal Cabinet the way the Addams Family was to a real family. It’s a mockery of the norm.” (“Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp.’ So what’s happening with his Cabinet?”Astead W. Herndon, The Boston Globe, April 17, 2018)
I don’t have a solution for the problem of political hypocrisy. But I do know that the only recourse we have in a democracy is for the voters to hold elected officials accountable for when they say one thing and do another.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.