Monday, April 30, 2007

Minnesotans got a hard lesson in hypocrisy when local baseball and philanthropic hero, Kirby Puckett, was forced by a sudden onset of glaucoma to retire from baseball. Within a few years, everyone learned that Kirby was an awful human being, abusive and cruel to his wife and exploitative of any number of mistresses. He was a huge hypocrite because, to paraphrase Frank Deford, he knew what a prick he was while he was accepting all those standing ovations (given for more than just his baseball prowess). But, as awful as he made life for the people around him, was it necessarily bad that Minnesota people thought he was a world class husband, father, citizen and baseball player? I don't think so.

I don't think a little hypocrisy is a necessarily a bad thing, or makes a bad person. Someone who displays hypocrisy might be doing so to protect the feelings or ego of someone else. That's usually pretty noble. Never being hypocritical also requires someone to never change their mind, never learn from their mistakes. What one person might call flip-flopping, another might call being older and wiser.

All that is to say, I'm pretty relativistic when it comes to rhetoric not matching behavior.

The Bush Administration, though, has been so moralistic, so unwilling to value relativity, in matters of sex and sexuality, and so willing to benefit politically from homophobia, that I smirk a little whenever some new sexual indiscretion shows up on the periphery of the administration.

There was Ted Haggard, so influential an evangelical that he consulted Bush advisers. It turned out that he also regularly consulted crystal meth dealers and male prostitutes.

There was also the issue involving White House correspondent Jeff Gannon, who, was chief, and seemingly only, correspondent for the Talon News agency. Talon was virtually unheard of and had no physical office space but it was owned by a Republican political action committee. Gannon, it turns out, had previously worked as a gay prostitute. (I have more respect for sex industry workers than for partisan political operatives who get themselves planted in White House press briefings.)

But, as of Friday, the sexual hypocrisy of the Bush administration reaches into the State Department. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias resigned after it was confirmed that he had been a client of a Washington, D.C. based escort service. One of Tobias's responsibilities had been to advocate for attaching abstinence-only sex education to foreign aid packages. Not only that, he supported a proviso that required American aid recipients denounce prostitution.

In his defense, he frames his opposition to prostitution (for other people) in public health terms (that it helps spread HIV) not moralistic ones. He also claims he only saw the D.C. escorts for massages, though I don't know if anyone has asked if they included happy endings.

1 comment:

Fox said...

I can't defend Kirby Puckett's bad behavior, but one of my best baseball memories is seeing him at the 1986 All Star game in Houston. My dad surprised me with tickets, and if my memory is correct, Puckett had a 2 run homer near center (where I was).

Also, I hear that the DC madam is gonna be leaking more names this week...I hate to be so anxious about people's dirty laundry, but I'm curious who else got "massages".