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Politics of Virtue

Time Enshrines......what again?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 04, 1996.

America is again thrilled to see cruise missiles being launched against someone. Such a perfect war, delivered at great distance with pin-point accuracy. Setting aside that the military now says that sixty to seventy percent accuracy is about right for a cruise, and that this a dramatic lowering of proclaimed accuracy since the Gulf War, we can all relax in comfort that a squalid little nation’s squalid leader is momentarily inconvenienced while an even more squalid set of tribes continue to slaughter each other joyfully. War will be great fun in the 21st century, you can just tell.

Meanwhile, life in civilization’s Mecca, the US, came under the scrutiny of Time Magazine this week. In a rare six page spread that attempted to justify excessive coverage of the Dick Morris scandal with a deep think piece on the politics of virtue, Time did the impossible: it managed to sustain the entire essay on American public virtue without once using the word “hypocrisy.” Who’d have thought? You don’t have to uncover many rocks to find the putrid stench.

For example, Bob Dole condemned the cruise missile assault as evidence Clinton was a weak leader. Why this would be so, he doesn’t say beyond suggesting that a strong leader would have prevented Iraq from attacking the Kurds in the first place. Dole, whose military insight and genius was instilled when he was once shot, made his verbal attack while wearing a toy uniform at an American Legion Convention. The American Legion, light-weight heirs to the Grand Army of the Republic’s post civil war hay day, has insisted that its members are virtuous by simply having been drafted and serving in the military. Bob Dole implies he is virtuous by having been wounded. This notional virtue conspires to allow both to condemn their enemies, yet Dole has back-pedaled away from his initial condemnation which makes him both a fool and a hypocrite. Further, there is no clear compatibility between bourgeois virtue and competence. There is a direct correlation between virtue and hypocrisy, however.

Time, long a Republican mouthpiece, chooses to see no correlation between blatant, private hypocrisies and the ethics the same people would bring to public life. Dole, who left his wife and daughter, married a younger woman, and dyes his hair to look younger, talks incessantly about family virtue and his personal devotion to truth, although there is no evidence in his life of either.

He contends in his campaign ads that he is the ethically superior person to Clinton, and that these ethics make him a better leader. In his response to the Iraqi attack, Dole threw it all aside and simply implied evil with no basis. A hypocrite, based on his current announcement of support.

A story in Time about political hypocrisies - and Dole and Clinton abound in them - would suffice better than a cover story on a man who preferred a whore to his wife.