06/26/2009 08:43 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hypocrisy Getting A Bad Rap


Hypocrisy: is the act of pretending that one has beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities or standards that they do not actually have; this is usually done in order to mask their actual motives or feelings; falseness.

Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Rush Limbaugh, et al. Spouting one view, living another. Telling you how you should act, while all the time acting out the role they so publicly despised. And for that the blame is affixed to their hypocrisy.

I have a real problem with Mark Sanford outsourcing his desires to another country when hardworking American women of easy virtue, especially in this economy, are out of work. That, along with his public pronouncements of morality and calls for President Clinton to resign when he does not yet seem to see a need for him to step down as governor makes his hypocritical actions an easy target.

But while we shake our heads and empathize with the casualties of their lies, the real victim of the politicians' defective decision-making is not the wife, not the children, not even virtue. The real victim is hypocrisy itself. Politicians are giving it a bad name.

For so many years hypocrisy has done its job, revealing the foibles and fables of the famous; the reality behind the image, and with our politicos, the truth with which the public is able to make a better decision in the voting booth. In short, hypocrisy is one of democracy's best tools.

Like the bacteria that blossoms into penicillin; like the polio that becomes its own vaccine; like the many failures (see Lincoln's road to the presidency) that become steppingstones to success, hypocrisy made public is the ugly duckling that provides us an honest swan..

Yet, instead of applauding its merits, it seems that every time a politico is hoisted on his own petard, with soured taste, we condemn their hypocrisy.

I say it's high time to appreciate what hypocrisy does for us.

While it ultimately provides the truth, anytime a puffed up powerful politico falls off his self-constructed moral pedestal it makes us feel better about ourselves. Maybe we aren't falling so short of the supposed perfection these guys ascribe to everyone but themselves.

In the least it makes us smarter voters. In the most, it makes for some good clean fun...and we don't even have to leave the country.

Award-winning TV writer Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" and blogs at the appropriately-named