The Corner

The Art of Hypocrisy

Barack Obama once trumpeted public campaign financing only to be the first general-election candidate since the law’s inception to renounce it. His condemnation of super PACs as dangerous to the republic was a prerequisite to announcing that he had one of his own. After loud sermonizing on the evils of the revolving door and lobbyists, his own appointees are emblematic of just those insidious relations. Trashing Wall Streeters as “fat cats” and “corporate-jet owners” does not seem to synchronize with appointing three successive chiefs-of-staff from Wall Street, all millionaires who made lots of money quite rapidly, in some cases while being connected to Freddie and Fannie. These ethical hypocrisies could be magnified by policy flip-flops ranging from the War on Terror to “unpatriotic” massive deficits.

There are lots of possible explanations for these contradictions that seem to go beyond the normal politician’s two-facedness, none of them mutually exclusive: He is bewildered and self-absorbed, and so has no idea of or worry about contradicting himself almost weekly as he simply talks in stream-of-consciousness fashion. He is an abject hypocrite, who in deliberately cynical style feels that preaching one thing is a good way of excusing another. He is a narcissist, who really believes that consistency need not apply to one so exalted. He is so convinced of media adulation that he assumes that such stark about-faces will be either excused or little reported on, and so won’t matter. He is an ideological zealot who really believes that his noble ends justify any means necessary in achieving them. And he is a medieval bishop dispensing exemptions, convinced that all his smears and slurs of wealthy people are forgiven for those rich who join his cause.

Critics will say, “Oh, how about Gingrich’s or Romney’s turn-abouts?” Point taken, but what makes Obama’s hypocrisies so glaring was that they were all accompanied by such messianic and self-righteous declarations — that he was not just not another politician, but almost a religious figure that all at once would end politics as we had known it before him.

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