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Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

October 13, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 130




Joe Feuerherd Foolish Inconsistencies

By Joe Feuerherd, NCR Washington correspondent

California's gubernatorial recall election saw some conservatives swooning over Arnold Schwarzenegger, the pro-choice and gay-tolerant Hollywood mega-star whose not-so-private behavior, according to the 15 women who told their stories to the Los Angeles Times, ranged from the indisputably boorish to the possibly criminal.

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan (a presenter at a recent closed-door meeting where some conservative Catholics scolded a group of bishops for not being tough enough on pro-choice Catholic politicians) was positively ecstatic over Schwarzenegger's victory. A triumph of the little people over the elites, she said.

Pointing out hypocrisy in American politics is too easy; in military parlance, a target-rich environment.

God knows there's enough liberal hypocrisy to go around: witness the pro-war Democrats who now complain about Bush's handling of Iraq (what did they expect?), or California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante's shameless solicitation of campaign funds from Indian tribes, or a desperate Gray Davis' sudden recognition (after two vetoes) that illegal immigrants should have driver's licenses.

Still, it's been a bad couple of weeks for conservatives in the consistency department.

Take the case of right-wing pundit Robert Novak, who revealed the name of undercover CIA operative Victoria Plame. The leak was part of an effort by Bush administration officials to discredit Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson made the mistake of coming up with the wrong answer after undertaking a fact-finding mission that was supposed to prove that Sadaam Hussein was seeking nuclear materials in Africa.

There aren't too many rules a Washington journalist must follow. But one that gets learned pretty quickly is: don't print the names of CIA agents. It's a real no-no -- right up there with never turn down a ticket to a state dinner.

Truth be told, most Washington journalists never get the opportunity (to reveal a CIA's agents name or attend a state dinner), but it's pretty well understood that outing the nation's spies in a syndicated column is, at best, bad form, and at worst an action that might provide some aid and comfort to those who wish the U.S. ill.

Imagine Novak's reaction if a left-wing pundit or liberal journalist had revealed the name of an undercover agent. Novak, well-wired in the Washington power structure, is getting off easy by comparison.

And then there's Rush Limbaugh, drug addict. In 1995, the king of talk radio offered this prescription: "Too many whites are getting away with drug use the answer is to ... find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river."

Our prisons are full of non-violent drug offenders like Rush Limbaugh. One can only hope, both for his sake and for the cause of prison reform, that Florida prosecutors require treatment and not punishment for the king of talk radio.

But in the hypocrisy sweepstakes, Noonan, author of Character Above All and When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan, wins going away. If the vast right wing conspiracy existed, and if Limbaugh was its megaphone, then Noonan was its stenographer.

In her 1998 Clinton-bashing column, American Caligula (perhaps the sequel could be based on Schwarzenegger's now famous 1977 Oui magazine interview), Noonan wrote of Clinton that "it is not tolerable that such a person be in such a position, and have such power."

But, apparently, it's okay for California's 35 million residents.

Character above all? Yeah, right.

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