One of the most difficult magazines for me to read every month is Commentary. While I, like most of its editors, am both Jewish and conservative, the magazine’s decidedly neocon bent strikes a tone of disharmony with the times.
But a recent editorial by Peter Wehner proved to me once again the worth of my subscriptions. Contrasting the conservative opprobrium heaped on Bill Clinton for his infidelities with the defense waged by the same conservatives of Newt Gingrich, Wehner barely hid his disgust:
The examples of sanctimonious hypocrisy are almost endless. And truth be told, we all engage in it to one degree or another. None of us come at these things from a position of perfect objectivity. Our personal histories, dispositions, and preferences in all kinds of areas—from politics to faith to our favorite foods and athletic teams—cause us to view the same set of facts through different lenses. The question isn’t whether hypocrisy occurs; the question, I think, is how much we strive to minimize it. Do we even try to employ a single standard, or are facts and events simply tools to be used in a larger ideological battle?
Moral and ethical standards are not relative, and where the American political system is failing is where partisans of one side or the other apply their standards only to the enemy.
The sweetest fruits of party loyalty are sour poison if they are attained via relativization of our values. It is time we all articulated those moral and ethical standards that ring to us most true, then stood by them. To do less is naked hypocrisy, political prostitution of the basest kind.