BIDLACK: ‘Bold hypocrisy’ is on the rise in American politics
Author: Hal Bidlack - August 23, 2017 - Updated: September 25, 2017
Perhaps it was my 25-plus years of active-duty military service. Perhaps it was the values instilled in me by my parents growing up. Perhaps it was the cumulative impact of teachers, friends, strangers, books, and after-school specials. Most likely, it was all of these that gave me a powerful sense that one must live an honorable life, and that at the core of that life must be honesty and integrity. I have not always lived up to that standard, but I try.
As a result, I find that I have a strong abhorrence to dishonesty, and in particular, hypocrisy. This is true for the private sector, but is especially true in public life. Sometimes this hypocrisy manifests itself in what one might call criminal greed. Other times, it can be as simple as a phrase tossed off and then later denied, without a hint of guilt, to say nothing of remorse.
Coming from a military background, I find such behaviors profoundly troubling. My first military assignment was as a “finger on the button” missile launch officer, at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. In that world, you counted on your crew partner, squadron commander, wing commander, and on up the chain to be deeply committed to honesty and the truth. In my military world, your word was your bond (regardless of how trite that sounds), from selling a used car to a fellow ICBM crewmember to decoding nuclear missile orders. Over my 17 years on the United States Air Force Academy faculty (15 as a military officer, and two as a retired civilian), I taught the US Constitution many, many times to the future leaders of the US Air Force.
Over the course of those years teaching cadets about Congress, the presidency, the court system, as well as concepts such as federalism and separation of powers, as well as through my own TDY’s and permanent assignments, I came to the conclusion that most of our elected representatives are honest, hard working, and caring, regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed with their point of view.
Then I ran for the U.S. Congress myself.
In 2008, I was the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 5th Congressional District in Colorado. While that district covers several counties, the vast majority of the population of that district reside in or around the greater Colorado Springs area, one of the most conservative districts in the country. My opponent in the general election was Congressman Doug Lamborn. Mr. Lamborn and I agree on very little – he is one of the most conservative Members of Congress. But I did believe him to be basically honest. Thus, most of my campaign speeches began with something like “Doug Lamborn is a decent and honest person doing what he thinks is best for the country, but is wrong about nearly everything, and I hope he feels the same about me.” I refused to demonize.
Running for Congress is an exhausting and challenging task. You spend countless hours on the phone asking strangers for money and countless days and nights talking to, and more importantly listening to, voters.
Those months of working with, and campaigning alongside of, a number of politicians to include current and former governors, senators, congressmen and congresswomen, mayors, etc., confirmed what I had hoped was true – most people are good. By enlarge, our elected officials respect their oaths and work very hard.
With that earnest defense of most elected officials, it is quite troubling to feel the need to denounce what I consider a new and troubling breed of hypocrisy in our politics
It is disappointing to see a rise in what I call “Bold Hypocrisy.” This new breed of dishonorable behavior often comes in several stages: state a bold lie, insist that those who call you a liar are, themselves liars, and (more importantly) un-American. If caught in an undeniable lie, the solution is to lie some more.
This hypocrisy is deeply un-American. A classic example is Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, who is now calling for Democrats in Washington to, in his mind, stop obstructing President Trump. Senator McConnell stated that “It’s time to finally accept the results of the election,” he said, “and move on.” That, in and of itself, is both reasonable and honest. Regardless of whether one supported Mr. Trump or not, it is undeniably true that he is the duly elected president of the United States. Those words would be both reasonable and honest if they didn’t actually demonstrate a truly vile and dishonorable example of Bold Hypocrisy.
Senator McConnell may seem to operate on the principle of selective amnesia, but happily, the public record is easily checked. On November 4th, 2010, the National Journal quoted the Senator as saying “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
I would argue, as a former poli sci professor, that this notion is both wrong-headed and un-American. But, if Senator McConnell was at least consistent (as Mr. Lamborn tends to be), I could respect his point of view while disagreeing with it. But only six years after clearly putting party before country, he now seeks to appear statesman-like by demanding the Democrats not follow his own example, but rather rally around the new president. Such logic may work for goldfish and other short-memory creatures, but it is challenged by modern thinking and whirling hard drives.
This brings me to what I consider the most offensive recent demonstration of this Bold Hypocrisy, both because of the audacity factor, but also the danger to the United States. There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton was not nearly as strong a candidate as many expected. But in addition to her own shortcomings, during the election we saw a steady stream of damaging leaks, many from stolen files at Wikileaks , which inevitably chipped away at her favorable ratings, and which made her appear both weak and dishonest.
People with good hearts and differing opinions can disagree on her merits, but one thing that I would hope would trouble every patriot would be the notion that a foreign government would intervene in our electoral process and help pick the next president.
During the run up to the 2016 election, the Republicans managed to generate no fewer than eight different congressional “investigations” into Secretary Clinton’s actions regarding the loss of life in the Benghazi attack. These committees spent north of $20 million of our tax dollars to ultimately conclude that while there are always things that can be done better, there was no effort to mislead the public, nor any fundamental corruption or other malfeasance by Clinton.
Now, one might excuse such multiple and (ultimately) imprudent investigations if they were a part of an overall oversight effort by Congress that was both bipartisan and balanced. The problem, of course, is Bold Hypocrisy. The committees’ claimed that they were investigating embassy deaths because of the importance of such attacks to our national security. If that was actually the case, these Republican elected officials should have a ready explanation as to why they conducted no investigations of the (at least) 13 embassy attacks that resulted in at least 60 deaths under President George W. Bush. It is difficult to therefore conclude that the GOP was truly interested in refining embassy defenses, and not as part of an attempt to derail the candidacy of the likely Democratic nominee.
Which brings us to the most important issue, in my view, in the 2016 election: the Russian government’s efforts to subvert the election, and tilt the results toward Mr. Trump.
One point that must be made, because there are a number of partisans currently seeking to obfuscate the Russian hacking issue: we are not talking about manipulation of the actual voting machines or vote -count results on Election Day itself. The diversity of methods of vote counting, to say nothing of the challenge of reaching into the 3141 counties in the US, makes such direct vote-count meddling virtually impossible.
No, what we are talking about are the actions taken by the Russian government in the months, weeks, and days leading up to the general election. In a stunning report, we learned that 17 US intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was behind a variety of efforts to subvert our election, and to tip it in favor of Mr. Trump.
As someone who spent 25 years in the military, and who had the opportunity to read intelligence agency reports on a number of subjects during my various assignments, I can assure you that the intelligence agencies (especially the military ones) are not known for their politically liberal points of view. To have this many intel folks say that a foreign power was working to sabotage our election should send a chill through every member of Congress.
Yet, in the House, we have a chorus of crickets. Under intense pressure, the Senate (under GOP control), now appears to be slowly moving toward at least some form of an actual investigation. Fingers crossed about how vigorous any such investigation will be. And, I would argue, the Clarion call for an investigation should be coming, loudly and clearly, from the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If anyone should be worried about a foreign nation engaging in election sabotage, it should be the President.
I worry that we are in a new and untested period of American governance, with little in the way of useful historic precedence to guide us.
I despise hypocrisy in any case, but I am especially frustrated by such bold aversion to the truth in an area wherein our actual national security is at stake. From the perspective of a career military officer, I am stunned at the notion that so many would put party before country.
During my own campaign, I was once asked why I was, as a military guy, a Democrat instead of a Republican. My response was that it took far less hypocrisy to be a Democrat than the alternative. Not hypocrisy-free, but less burdened by a false narrative.
It’s not hard to reject Bold Hypocrisy. One need only demand that our elected officials work in a world where we agree on the actual facts (as opposed to “alternative facts”) and disagree about what we should be doing, rather than arguing that white is black, up is down, and the words spoken yesterday no longer exist.
You can hold your elected representatives accountable by writing, calling, and most importantly, voting for or against. Remember that you the voter are the employer, not the employee. You represent the ultimate decision of what direction this nation will head, and who will be at the helm. You hold the power to create a political revolution every two, four, and six years – not with a bullet but with a ballot. We the American people must always demand honesty and punish Bold Hypocrisy.
Lastly, I call on Senator McConnell and President Trump to remember the words of that great Republican president Teddy Roosevelt, who said:
“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”