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If I had the power to administer truth serum to politicians, liberal or conservative, I would ask them three questions:
- If your personal principles and values were the opposite of the majority of voters, would you pretend to believe what the voters believe?
- If you didn’t care one way or the other about an issue important to voters, would you pretend it was one of your most important issues?
- Do you pretend to believe that God wants you to run for public office, has told you the issues to support, or has forgiven you for past transgressions after you were caught?
Those who would answer “Yes” to all three would score 100% in my hypocrisy test, not a value I prize. Since I don’t have a truth serum to administer, I just make educated guesses about politicians.
During the 2008 primaries, I awarded my “hypocrisy” prize to Mitt Romney. He was for gay rights and abortion rights when running for Governor of Massachusetts. As a Republican candidate for President, he claimed his positions had “evolved.” One could say he was for equal rights before he was against them.
I agree with would-be American president Newt Gingrich’s comment about politics to a group of Christian pastors: “If you don’t start with values, the rest of it doesn’t matter.” But that’s about it for my agreement with Newt. At least Romney’s hypocrisy was not the butt of late-night comedians. Perhaps Newt Gingrich has even less respect for Pat Robertson’s television network than I do, since he assumed viewers were gullible enough to believe that he committed adultery in the 1990s because he was working so hard for the country. Newt then claimed that God (if not the American public) understood and forgave him for his excessive patriotism.
Gingrich has a long track record for political pandering and hypocrisy. My state of South Carolina is home to Susan Smith, who in 1994 tragically drowned her two children and blamed it on a fictitious black carjacker. Three days after the drowning, Gingrich took the opportunity to say that such violence somehow arose from a Democratic-controlled political system. However, Susan Smith’s stepfather, Beverly Russell, hadn’t been campaigning for depraved Democrats, but for Newt Gingrich. Russell had been a Republican leader in South Carolina and local organizer of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, championing “family values” and “school prayer” as partisan Republican issues. Gingrich, however, remained silent during Smith’s trial, when it was revealed that Russell had molested her since she was fifteen, and she had attempted suicide twice by age 18. That’s a hard one to blame on Democrats.
Back to my three-question quiz. While it’s scary to have hypocrites like Romney and Gingrich as viable candidates, I’m even more worried about potential candidates like Bachman, Palin, or Huckabee, who might actually believe what they say about God telling them what to do. I like my values to be based on evidence, not on supernatural voices; I also like my science to be based on the latest findings, rather than on a book written a couple thousand years ago in a pre-scientific era.
When it comes to values, no political party or politician has the right to define them for the rest of America.
Image via Gage Skidmore.