Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Clinton, Hypocrisy & Me

On my personal blog Snipes, Logomancy & So So Psychosis I recently posted the following regarding my own political leanings...
As for myself, in case anyone is wondering, my politics tend to the progressive end of the spectrum, but only because I remained more or less the same as our country swung wildly to the right. Until 2000 or so, I was a declared Independent and voted for Clinton who was as Republican a President in my book as Bloomberg is a Democratic Mayor. Happy to answer more if asked..
Sara responded: "'...the United States as a moral example for the rest of the world to follow...'...if you can explain to me how you voted for Clinton and still believe in the above statement without sounding like a hypocrite..."

Those were thinking words. So I thought. And I responded...

Well, first of all Sara, I believe uncouth use of cigars in the Oval Office and cover-ups resulting therefrom do not necessarily present the same degree of threat to the nation as, oh, I don't know, leading an administration that allegedly leaks our own intelligence assets to the press during a time of war? But we're not sure about that of course, because, as the special prosecutor put it, he had sand being thrown in his eyes by the object of his investigation.

That said, you have a fair point, as the President serves as national point man for morality in some sense and Clinton, seemingly, failed on that count. Again, however, to my way of thinking, you've got to look at this all as a question of degree.

Would you rather have a President who cheats on his wife or one who seeks to cheat on the Geneva Convention by changing the very definition of torture and, in any case, codifying torture into law? One who disparages and insults the Oval Office or one who disparages and insults half a continent specifically ("Old Europe") and almost the entire world generally by saying, essentially, "do it our way or you're irrelevant"? One who misleads his family and the country about a matter of the heart or an entire family of nations about one of life and death for thousands of Coalition troops and innocent Iraqi civilians?

More to the point regarding your challenge, however, Sara, as opposed to simply saying "Oh, well, at least he was better than the other guy!" I think you've got to look at it in a "render unto Caesar..." kind of way. Or at least I do. Clinton failed his family morally perhaps, but I do not believe in my heart of hearts that he failed the country or the world in a similar manner. The distinction between man and mantle is not at all minor.

Which is not to say Clinton made no mistakes. He himself chided his failure to intervene in Rwanda. He rued his inability to make peace in the Middle East. I suspect mistakes were made in Kosovo, but any mistakes were made during a mad rush to save a population, a Muslim one at that, from an ethnic cleansing at that point in time then in full swing.

I don't know, Sara, whether you come from the left or right side of the equation. But this much I do know. At a certain point in time one need look inside one's own heart and ask these questions: Does a pragmatic approach to idealistic objectives constitute a moral breach if an unreconstituted idealistic approach is destined to fail politically? Does immoral personal conduct that breaks a personal trust rank on a same scale with state conduct that breaks a global trust?

Clinton, as far as I'm concerned, knew none of us were perfect and wanted us all to be better; and to to be better together. And Bush? Well, with Bush there's no room for us to get better because he's already the best. He doesn't believe he's made any mistakes. He is already perfect. And we, as a country, are trapped by that perfection whereas Clinton's imperfection and his own striving to be better helped make us all better.

And maybe that's why I would choose Clinton over Bush in a heartbeat. Because if this is the best we can be, I want none of it. That would be about the saddest thing I could imagine.

At the end of the day, I guess, I doubt I can prove to you that I'm not a hypocrite. To some extent I believe we all are. As with "threats to the nation," as with "morality," hypocrisy is and always will be measured in degrees, not by its presence or absence. And, that, perhaps, is exactly the voice of the Lost Center I so desperately miss: the voice that embraces the myriad shades of gray that reside within us all. Every time we deny that truth in ourselves and in those who lead us, we step one step closer, not to failure, but to a failure to be better.

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