This Isn't "Hypocrisy"

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. This isn't it.

Hypocrisy is good.

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. It is one of the guardrails against nihilism.

Example: Senator Hornswaggle says, “I believe in family values. A man shouldn’t cheat on his wife or live a double life where he’s a husband and father sometimes and a carousing lout on Saturday nights.”

And then we find out that Senator Hornswaggle has been catting around and living a double life.

That’s hypocrisy. And it’s a good thing.

Why is it a good thing? Because it’s a sign that the culture still has ideals and norms which people are ashamed to violate in public. It’s a sign that we believe in virtue.

What if we lived in a world where Senator Hornswaggle felt liberated to say, “Yeah. I like strippers and I’ve got some shorties stashed on the side and so what? LOL nothing matters.”

That’s nihilism. That’s a sign of a culture that’s circling the drain.

So I’m in favor of hypocrisy from people in the public square. Of course it would be better if these people were actually virtuous. But if they’re not going to live their lives honorably, it’s better that they at least pretend that honorable behavior is a good.

All of which is the wind-up to talk about Sen. Rob Portman.

Here is Portman coming out in favor of voting on a Supreme Court nominee before the election:

In 2016, when the vacancy occurred following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I said "the president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice … But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee." Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposing-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.  In contrast, when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party, the precedent is for the president’s nominees to get confirmed. In the 19 occasions that a vacancy has occurred when the President and the Senate are of the same party, the Senate has confirmed the nominee and filled the seat in every instance but one.  I look forward to seeing who President Trump plans to nominate and thoroughly assessing his or her qualifications for this important role. [emphasis added]

Okay. Here’s what Portman actually said in 2016:

The president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and I’m certainly willing to meet with his nominee. But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee. For the reasons Biden described above, it has been common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it has been 80 years since any president was permitted to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.

I have concluded that the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in and to have the confirmation process take place in a less partisan atmosphere. Awaiting the result of a democratic election, rather than having a nomination fight in this contentious election-year environment, will give the nominee more legitimacy and, as then-Senator Biden pointed out, better preserve the institutional credibility of the Senate and the court. [emphasis added, again]

So you see, this isn’t Portman being “hypocritical.” These are not the words of someone trying to uphold the appearance of a virtue they are not practicing.

Instead, what Portman is doing is deploying situational ethics in a nihilistic pursuit of power.

I’m sure the Germans have a word for that, but I don’t think we do.

At this point, we probably need one.

2. Legitimacy

The entire argument in favor of confirming a new justice before the election is basically: “Might makes right.”

The high-minded version of this is, “What is permissible is required.”

I don’t buy that.

The law makes a nearly infinite number of actions permissable.

It is legal for the president of the United States to say that the coming election is rigged and his successor will be illegitimate.

It is legal to mock disabled people.

It is legal for Senator Hornswaggle to cat around on his wife.

That doesn’t make any of those actions prudent, moral, or likely to result in good outcomes.

So let’s stipulate that the black-letter of the law does in fact allow Senate Republicans to hold a vote if they so choose. This legal allowance is not tantamount to it being a wise decision that is likely to maximize good outcomes for either the nominee, the Court, or the country.

Another example: Last week we talked about whether or not it would be a good idea for the next Democratic administration to pursue criminal charges against Donald Trump.

Such a prosecution might be entirely legal. But my contention is that even a legal prosecution would be likely to result in very bad outcomes for the country. So the next Democratic president should decline to pursue one.

The next time a Republican tells you that of course there has to be a vote on the SCOTUS nominee, because it’s allowable, ask them if they believe that the next Democratic president has an affirmative duty to launch a criminal prosecution against Donald Trump.

3. Look in the Trunk of the Car?

This entire thread from a priest friend is amazing.

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