Monday, March 1, 2010

Situational ethics

Hypocrisy is endemic among all politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike. (If you don't like the term, call it "situational ethics.") I might find it easier to find such hypocrisy on the GOP side, you might find it resonates more strongly among the Democrats. A bridge to nowhere in Alaska? A decades-long stream of federal money into West Virginia? It really doesn't matter - keeping score is pointless. This, after all, is a democracy. Making sausage never has been pretty.

But for a perfect example of hypocrisy, check out Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who put a "hold" on legislation backed by both sides, a hold that means an end to many job-sustaining infrastructure projects, stopping some 400,000 unemployment benefits, and so on, because, gosh, we're spending money off the books!

Hey, everybody agrees that it would be better to always pay as we go. But former pro-baseball player Bunning suggested tapping yet-unused stimulus money to pay for the legislative package - even though he's already wept at any stimulus spending at all. And, of course, Bunning somehow managed to keep his feelings in check during the Bush years of wildly off-the-books spending. Now, with Obama in the White House, suddenly it is simply awful.

Giving the finger to an ABC reporter, or being heard saying "tough shit" during Democrats' pleas that he relent, we can put up with. It is the hypocrisy that grates.

I don't know if is there is some law that mandates that former ballplayers have to be right-wingers who care not at all for Americans who are hurting. After all, professional athletics is the ultimate meritocracy, and the athletes who succeed don't spend a lot of time worrying about those they shoved aside. Still, on the ball field, you either grab that hot grounder or you don't. And if you don't, any amount of hypocrisy isn't going to endear you to your fans. Or anybody else. Let alone those 400,000 unemployed, the victims of your situational ethics.

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