By any measure, 2008 seems destined to yield a bumper crop of political hypocrisy.
Democratic lawmakers in Madison have joined with the anti-smoking Gestapo to push for a statewide smoking ban, warning that failure to get on board will turn Wisconsin into the "ashtray of the Midwest."
Several upper Midwest states have enacted statewide smoking bans, so apparently it's now our turn. It recalls every mom's question: "If Jimmy jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?" In Wisconsin, the answer is "Yes."
Which, of course, raises the next question: If 48 other states have a concealed-carry law on the books, why shouldn't Wisconsin? Seems the new "Wisconsin Idea" says it's right for government to take action to "protect" citizens from themselves, but wrong to let citizens protect themselves against criminals.
But I digress.
If Democrats believe tobacco is undeniably bad for one's health, why allow it to be used at all? Rather than debating where it can or can't be used, why not debate whether it can be used? That would be a more intellectually honest discussion.
Of course, this won't happen because Wisconsin expects to receive about $479 million in tobacco-related tax revenue in 2007-08 and another $565 million in 2008-09.
One addiction feeds another - nicotine provides the revenue for Madison's spending habit. It's a beautiful thing.
But Wisconsin Democrats are rank amateurs in the arena of doublespeak. The real hypocrisy pros are national Democratic leaders.
It's been particularly enjoyable watching big-name Democrats like Pennsylvania Gov. (and Hillary Clinton superdelegate) Ed Rendell claim Sen. Barack Obama's significant lead in pledged delegates and votes cast in the Democratic primaries could be set aside when determining the Democratic nomination for president since Hillary has won primaries in the "more important states." Rendell also says caucuses are inherently "undemocratic" because some voters have trouble getting to the caucus sites.
Does Rendell also think election day voting is "undemocratic" since some voters may have trouble getting to polling places? Is bad weather on election day "undemocratic?"
Isn't this the same Democratic Party that alleged Florida was "stolen" from Al Gore in 2000 and Ohio from John Kerry in 2004? Now the party, after screaming that "every vote should count" in 2000 and 2004, may set aside the results of its own presidential primaries. Holy hanging chad!
In 2008, Clinton Inc. is actually advancing the remarkable claim that Democratic primary voters really don't count, their collective judgment shouldn't be considered decisive, and the Democratic nomination should be decided by unelected superdelegates accountable to whoever applies the most pressure to leverage their vote. So much for small "d" democracy in big "D" politics.
Someone should remind Democrats that they've spent the better part of the last eight years claiming votes do count and that elections do matter. Or is their 2008 message going to be, "Hey, we were only kidding"?
The whole world is watching.
Lest we forget, it was also Gov. Rendell who played the race card a few weeks ago when he suggested a black presidential candidate might have trouble attracting votes from white folks in Pennsylvania. Thereby giving birth to a new state slogan: "Pennsylvania, Proud to be Racist."
On top on it all, we now have the truly breathtaking hypocrisy of Eliot Spitzer, the crusading (now former) governor of New York, getting caught in a high-priced prostitution ring.
Spitzer, a.k.a. "Client 9," rode a career of being tough on criminals (including prosecuting high-class-prostitution cases) all the way to the governor's mansion. In his January 2007 inaugural speech, Spitzer pledged to clean up corruption and set high ethical standards in New York.
Perhaps that's what "Client 9" was discussing with his paid assistant in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel. According to federal investigators, Spitzer paid $4,300 for about two and a half hours of advice and consent from said assistant, whose qualifications included "petite," "brunette" and "105-pound." If my math is correct, that works out to around $1,719 an hour. Nice work if you can get it.
And we all thought Mayor Quimby was a fictional politician seen periodically on The Simpsons.
Worst of all, Spitzer was one of those aforementioned superdelegates pledged to Hillary Clinton. Looks like Hillary will lose another delegate from the great state of New York. Score one for Obama.
Then there's the "darkening" of Obama's skin color in an ad run by Clinton Inc. So much hypocrisy, so little space.
For all this and more, Republicans say "thank you" to those Democrats who, at all levels, are committed to making the fall campaign more competitive. Thank you for overplaying your hand. Thank you for taking the stench of scandal from Republicans and putting it on yourself. Thank you exposing the deep chasm between your words and your actions. Thank you for photos of Room 871 at the Mayflower.
Last, but not least, thank you for making John McCain a serious contender for president of the United States. Sen. McCain appreciates your help more than you know.
Rick Berg is a Madison writer and observer of politics.