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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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May 13, 2005

Hypocrisy, the minor sin

Much is being made of the hypocrisy of Spokane Mayor Jim West for opposing gay-rights bills for years but being a closet gay himself. The P-I made a point of it, and so did we. I think Danny Westneat has a more sensible attitude in this column, in which he says:

I also find troubling this notion that consistency between your personal and public life trumps all else, including the presumption of privacy. Are we now going to out the sexual orientations of all 25 state senators who voted against the gay-rights bill, to see if they are hypocrites, too? Do we ask all female politicians whether they've had abortions, to see if their lives match their voting records? So West is a hypocrite. So what? Hypocrisy is among the most meaningless charges in politics. West is finished, but let's be clear why — potential child molestation and abuse of his office to get dates.

“Hypocrisy” often depends on one’s politics, and it does here. There are gay libertarians and conservatives who oppose gays being added as a protected class under antidiscrimination laws because they oppose all such laws as a violation of the freedom of association. I don’t know whether that was West’s reason, but it is a nonhypocritical one—and one you don’t hear about from the progressives. To them, if you oppose such laws, it’s on account of hate, or some religious belief you ought to clear out of your head.

Another thought: A legislator can oppose a thing from a public-policy view as bad and engage in it himself and not undercut the rationale for his public stand. If a legislator who had voted to penalize methamphetamine were caught using it, it would undermine him but not necessarily his public policy stand. The critics making a big deal of West as a hypocrite speak on the assumption that their public policy stand is correct. And maybe it is, but we should not write as if it were obvious.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at May 13, 2005 05:25 PM



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