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EDITORIAL: Political hypocrisy erodes confidence

York Dispatch

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.

FILE - In this March 26, 2015, file photo, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murphy who was caught up in affair scandal, announces he plans to retire at end of his current term. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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.

More: Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Tim Murphy to retire after reports of affair

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.

In this photo March, 17, 2017, photo, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., center, finishes remarks as House Republicans to push for unity on the GOP's health care replacement bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murphy is resigning from the House amid revelations of an extramarital affair, according to House Speaker Paul Ryan. Murphy is an anti-abortion lawmaker, but he allegedly urged his mistress to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

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.

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2015, file photo, Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women's access to reproductive health care on "National Pink Out Day'' at Los Angeles City Hall. One of President-elect Donald Trump’s first, and defining, acts next year could come on Republican legislation to cut off taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood. Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization which provides birth control, abortions and various women's health services. He said "millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood," but also endorsed efforts to defund it. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

"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.