EDITORIAL: Political hypocrisy erodes confidence
The suspicion that the rules don’t apply to elected representatives in Washington is one of the chief factors contributing to their historic low approval ratings.
That suspicion was reinforced this month by soon-to-be-ex western Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy, who is exiting the national stage in the wake of a messy sex scandal that spotlighted not only the lawmaker’s moral failings, but his flagrant hypocrisy.
The eight-term congressman admitted a month ago that he had been involved in an affair, which came to light during the woman’s divorce proceedings. But it was the disclosure that the longtime member of the House Pro-Life Caucus had urged his mistress to obtain an abortion when the couple believed she might be pregnant that hastened his departure from Congress.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported a text message exchange between the woman, Shannon Edwards, and Murphy in which she lambastes the congressman for, among other things, his hypocrisy.
"And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options," the newspaper quoted Edwards as texting to Murphy in January.
Murphy’s response, according to the Post-Gazette, was to disavow his long-held public position.
"I get what you say about my March for life (sic) messages,” the paper reported, quoting a message from the Upper St. Clair Republican’s cell phone number. “I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more. I will."
None of this prevented Murphy from voting last week on legislation he co-sponsored to ban most abortions in the U.S. after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Whether voters support or reject legal abortions, this level of craven hypocrisy ought to unite them in opposition. Like efforts to exclude themselves from the effects of clearly detrimental legislation like this summer’s ill-fated effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, such posturing highlights the “do as we say, not as we do” attitude that pervades today’s Congress.
Nonetheless, this latest profile in hypocrisy has failed to register with Republican Party leaders. After Murphy, who initially announced only that he would not seek reelection next year, instead submitted a letter of resignation effective Oct. 21, House Speaker Paul Ryan offered nothing but praise.
And National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers spun the episode — laughably — as a political opportunity in the Republican-heavy gerrymandered 18th District.
"The NRCC is undefeated in special elections this year and I’m supremely confident that will continue," he said in a prepared statement. "In the meantime, we look forward to seeing how national Democrats can spin yet another special election loss into a so-called moral victory."
As opposed to the immoral victory of maintaining a safe seat after it was abandoned in disgrace?
Gov. Tom Wolf has yet to schedule a special election, although he’s likely to coordinate it with next May’s primaries.
That will presumably give the eventual candidates from both parties time to mount their campaigns, tour the district and debate the issues. Among those issues ought to be political hypocrisy.