Political Animal


November 08, 2011 10:15 AM Understanding the nature of ‘hypocrisy’

By Steve Benen

Republicans have been pushing the line that there’s something wrong with Elizabeth Warren’s personal wealth and her championing the interests of consumers and working families. Politico took the bait.

Elizabeth Warren may have embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement and the “99 percent” crowd, but public records reveal the liberal firebrand belongs to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

Her financial well-being will likely hand conservatives a new line of attack against the consumer advocate and Democratic Senate hopeful in Massachusetts who has fired up the left and was labeled by one columnist as “the first candidate of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

“I don’t begrudge her own personal wealth. I begrudge her hypocrisy of trying to play the demagogue against those who have achieved and who have created wealth,” said Rick Manning of the conservative group Americans for Limited Government.

Added National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh: “Her poll-tested campaign rhetoric simply doesn’t match reality as voters learn more about who Elizabeth Warren really is.”

I have no idea why anyone would find this even remotely compelling.

Warren has, apparently, acquired a fair amount of wealth, after having been raised by a family of modest means, and putting herself through law school. She is now one of the nation’s leading, and most articulate, voices in representing the interests of the middle class.

The right sees this as “hypocrisy” — Warren is wealthy, but she’s championing those who aren’t wealthy. Maybe Warren could use some of her money to buy dictionaries for her critics so they can look up what “hypocrisy” actually means.

Let me put this as plainly as I know how: when rich people support economic policies that bolster working families, that’s admirable, but it’s not hypocrisy. FDR was wealthy, but he fought for the interests of those without. Ted Kennedy fit the same model. Some recent polling suggests most of America’s most wealthy individuals believe their own taxes should be raised for the greater good.

One can agree or disagree on the merits of those beliefs, and conservatives are free to argue that fighting for the middle class is a bad idea, but when those with considerable personal resources look at the status quo — a growing class gap, wealth concentrated at the top, rising poverty — and want a more progressive approach, that’s evidence of sanity, not hypocrisy.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • T-Rex on November 08, 2011 10:21 AM:

    Well, if she were poor, that would be evidence that she's envious of more successful people. Either you're a welfare bum or you're a limousine liberal. There's no other possibility in GOP Right-think.

    Captcha's comment on all this is "Projection osslin." At least half of that makes excellent sense in this context.

  • Hedda Peraz on November 08, 2011 10:22 AM:

    Warren, Warren- Elizabeth and Buffet.
    Like your FDR, traitors to their class.

  • RSA on November 08, 2011 10:24 AM:

    Unremarkably, Republicans fail to see any hypocrisy in the reverse situation: people in the 99% supporting the current state of affairs.

  • ArchTeryx on November 08, 2011 10:25 AM:

    They call it hypocrisy, but what they really mean is "class traitor". They haven't forgiven FDR for fighting his own class 80 years ago, and won't forgive Warren either.

  • Douglas Lee on November 08, 2011 10:26 AM:

    What they're saying is that she's a 'Traitor to her Class'. But we're not supposed to have those kind of rigid classes in our country, and she wasn't born into wealth. Elizabeth Warren puts the lie to the Republican/Wall Street view of America as something over which they rule, as their right, because of the wealth they have reaped from our country. But they forgot about the other %99 of us, and the likes, thank God, of Elizabeth Warren.

  • c u n d gulag on November 08, 2011 10:32 AM:

    And being one of the 99% and supporting the 1% doesn't make you a hypocrite.

    It makes you a f*cking moron.

    Or a useful tool - if there's any difference.

  • linus bern on November 08, 2011 10:32 AM:

    They would have a point if she was actually against wealth, but she clearly says in her famous youtube speech, "If you built a factory, and you got rich, good for you, you should enjoy it," the "but" is that you got there because of the support of a country that made your success possible and you should expect to pay back.

  • Mudge on November 08, 2011 10:35 AM:

    It's more than just class treason. The Right seems to truly believe that self interest and greed are the legitimate behavioral basis for all who acquire wealth. It would be hypocrisy if they acted like Elizabeth Warren, so they accuse her of it. It conforms to their monolithic definition of people (e.g. all Democrats want big government). They do not understand either nuance or diversity. They cannot understand that a wealthy person could be selfless or care about those less fortunate. Plus they lie every time they open their mouths.

  • Andrew J. Lazarus on November 08, 2011 10:35 AM:

    Abraham Lincoln, hypocrite. Wanted to free the slaves, but he himself was a white man.

  • burro on November 08, 2011 10:35 AM:

    Ms. Warren wants more middle class folks, and those aspiring to be middle class, to be more like her, financially secure without being a sociopath.

    Her hypocritical insultbots would like the noisemakers to shut up, and it would be nice for Ms. Warren to turn her attentions to setting up a tee off time and acknowledging her place in Valhalla, while darting mean looks at the rabble outside the gates.

    Ms. Warren has money, but she has not gone Galt. The smell of burning wiring and the sizzling sound of short circuiting insultbot worldview pathways is all her fault.

  • Gandalf on November 08, 2011 10:35 AM:

    gulag that was right on.

  • Kevin McKague on November 08, 2011 10:36 AM:

    They do the same thing to Mike Moore. It makes no sense.

    Maybe they believe some in conservative media circles who think that all OWS protesters want "drag out to the street and execute" the one percenters. I suppose if you actually believed that nonsense the idea of a rich person caring about the middle class would seem counter-intuitive.

  • Rathskeller on November 08, 2011 10:37 AM:

    I'd like to third the declaration from ArchTeryx and Douglass Lee that they're really saying she's a class traitor.

    The wealthy right-wing pundits talk all the time about principles, but it's really a tribal distinction they believe in. They think they deserve all the wealth, and everyone else is a lazy parasite. (Cue Rick Santelli's rant that started the Tea Party)

    The rubes in the tea party also think they're part of that tribe. But their deep confusion about public policy makes them easy to manipulate and rile up.

  • Steve P on November 08, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Well, she's an arriviste, isn't she? A counter-jumper. She came from nothing and nowhere, rising through vulgar talent.
    It's only by being raised in privilege, like Romney or the Kochs that one can be regarded as truly elite--although making money for one's betters will ensure a polite reception in the Halls of the Gods.

  • chopin on November 08, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Hypocrisy: When your talk doesn't match your walk. There is no more powerful indictment than hypocrisy. It is self-condemnation. It is the principle behind Matthew 12:37 where the Christ gives the formula for the destruction of xtians in the judgment. Matthew 7:23 captures the indictment of xtian hypocrites when the Christ says he never knew them. Matthew 23 emphasizes just how much the Christ despises church hypocrisy. If there is a xtian god, he despises xtian hypocrites. So do I. And I'm pissed my party has become their home.

  • TheOtherJim on November 08, 2011 10:42 AM:

    If you want to campaign against illiteracy, you must yourself be illiterate. If you want to campaign against hunger, you must yourself be hungry. If you want to campaign against corruption, you must yourself be corrupt. And, finally, if you want to campaign against hypocrisy, you must yourself be a hypocrite.

    I don't understand what all the fuss is about.

  • T2 on November 08, 2011 10:43 AM:

    what a stupid statement by Manning. In his opinion, it would be hypocrisy for a beautiful woman run a leper colony.

  • jcricket on November 08, 2011 10:43 AM:

    It's because the Conservatards are falling for their own line of bullshit.

    The OWS protesters are not upset that the wealthy have money. The whole protest is that for the last 10 years there has been a political wave gaming the system in favor of the 1% being able to avoid paying taxes back into the country's coffers in the same proportions of those who are not wealthy; and gaming the system to strip laws that protect against investment schemes.

    It is about the 1%'s arm of power, Wall Street, concocting the scheme that crushed the value of the non-wealthy's retirement accounts, and more importantly the only asset most of us have: our home.

    Now that we non-wealthy have had the value of our only assets stripped from us, Wall Street sits on cash and won't put it back into the economy so we the non-wealthy can get back to work rebuilding our lives.

    THAT is what OWS is all about, but the Conservatards bathe in their own bullshit that is is simply about the ossession of wealth.

    The only people the Conservatards are fooling is their own, growing ever smaller, base.

  • Judy Martinez on November 08, 2011 10:43 AM:

    I seem to remember another very wealthy woman, a woman from the "top strata" of our Society who fought tooth & nail for America's poor and middle class.Her name was Eleanor Roosevelt. So where's the hypocrisy there ?

  • chi res on November 08, 2011 10:45 AM:

    Abraham Lincoln, hypocrite. Wanted to free the slaves, but he himself was a white man.

    Um, no. More like Thomas Jefferson, hypocrite. Said "All men are created equal", but owned slaves.

    I'll take their money as long as it's green, but I won't trust the rich. Actually glad Obama didn't try to appoint her.

  • SYSPROG on November 08, 2011 10:46 AM:

    WTF? Traitor to their CLASS? Have you forgotten what we fought for so many years ago? We fought for the right to rise to WEALTH without the hinderance of CLASS. Honestly, do you think ISSA (the wealthiest man in Congress) has CLASS? Warren (both Elizabeth and Buffett) came from modest circumstances, rose to wealth and WANT THE SAME FOR YOU.

  • Gregory on November 08, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Politico took the bait.

    You don't say.

  • j on November 08, 2011 10:54 AM:

    The conservative capitalist critique used to be that they were interested in growing the size of the pie, resulting in more for everyone; while "liberals" focused exclusively on giving everyone a more equal share of the existing pie. Somewhere along the way, those conservative capitalists were replaced by those who care only about getting/giving an ever increasing share of the pie to the 1/10 of 1%, whatever the size of the pie.

  • Zach W. on November 08, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Piers Morgan tried this with Michael Moore a week or so ago. This argument is so silly it doesn't even get me going. What frustrates and angers me more is what the Republican stooge said about how wealth is acquired. They keep using words like "achiever". It's as if being an "achiever" and being wealthy are mutually exclusive. I know a lot of achievers who happen to work in professions that don't create vast wealth. Nothing embodies class warfare more than implying that if you aren't rich its because you aren't as good of a person. These guys are all just greedy assholes.

  • Danp on November 08, 2011 10:56 AM:

    public records reveal the liberal firebrand belongs to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

    Interesting choice of words by Politico. Is she a dues-paying member, or their property?

  • PhillyCooke on November 08, 2011 11:04 AM:

    We need to turn this around somehow. I'm thinking along the lines of, "Now we understand the Koch brothers. They're afraid of being hypocrites, and that's why they only care about the top 1%." or
    "Of course they see this as hypocrisy. They only care about themselves and can't imagine anyone who thinks differently."
    Neither is very eloquent, but that's the basic idea.

  • Grumpy on November 08, 2011 11:12 AM:

    "I begrudge her hypocrisy..."

    Funny. Just the other day I was pondering how "begrudge" is one of those verbs that's most often used only with a negative. "Nobody ever begrudges anymore," I said.

  • Mr DeBakey on November 08, 2011 11:14 AM:

    "I begrudge her hypocrisy of trying to play the demagogue against those who have achieved and who have created wealth"

    He forgot to mention those who inherited wealth.
    How could that happen?

  • Perspecticus on November 08, 2011 11:15 AM:

    The very same arguments were used against John Edwards before the more compelling, "Can't keep his dick in his pants" arguments took hold.

  • Gregory on November 08, 2011 11:21 AM:

    The whole protest is that for the last 10 years there has been a political wave gaming the system in favor of the 1% being able to avoid paying taxes back into the country's coffers in the same proportions of those who are not wealthy; and gaming the system to strip laws that protect against investment schemes.

    Ten years? Try thirty, at least.

    By the way, notice the subtle separation in the phrase "those who have achieved and those wno have created wealth." The things is, not all those who have achieved have created wealth, as this phrasing tacitly acknowledges. Some who have achieved wealth have done so by manipulating the system to their advantage (and/or inheriting it), which is, of course, what all this is about.

  • Another Steve on November 08, 2011 11:23 AM:

    The reason people on our side of the Great Divide are so nonplussed when Republicans talk this way is that at a gut level, we believe they can't possibly believe their own propaganda.

    Republicans think it's "hypocritical" for Warren to be both well-off and opposed to rising inequality because they truly, genuinely believe that "we are for restoring a modicum of progressivity to the tax code and a modest re-regulation of the financial industry that encourages activities that actually contribute to broad wealth creation and discourage regulatory arbitrage and parasitic rent-seeking" really means "we want to put the top 1% up against the wall, toss their rotting corpses onto the smoldering ashes of the NYSE, expropriate their assets and convert the U.S. into a glorious revolutionary socialist worker's paradise!"

    What we don't get is that Doublethink rules the 21st Century GOP. The Inner Party elites believe this crazy stuff while simultaneously knowing that it's Big Lie propaganda they've manufactured to keep the Outer Party types stirred up into an acceptable state of hysteria. The Outer Party members believe it implicitly until they're told to believe something else.

  • chi res on November 08, 2011 11:29 AM:

    The very same arguments were used against John Edwards before the more compelling, "Can't keep his dick in his pants" arguments took hold.

    Lord Acton suggests that it's a natural progression.

  • DRN0001 on November 08, 2011 11:47 AM:

  • Stephen Stralka on November 08, 2011 11:54 AM:

    It's also worth noting how often Barack Obama reminds us that he's wealthy himself. His calls for higher taxes on the wealthy tend to be phrased in terms like "People like me should pay a little more."

    But yes, all you can really say is that there's something pretty sick in the notion that having accumulated some wealth someone compels you to want to screw over everyone else.

  • Mark Combs on November 08, 2011 12:14 PM:

    No surprise here. Remember FDR was accused of being a traitor to his class. The concept that anyone who is rich could care one whit about those less well off is so foreign to the Republican mind that they assume it can't be real and is, hence, hypocrisy. Remember, the "class warfare" jab proves that Republican projection is nothing new.

  • bobbo on November 08, 2011 12:31 PM:

    "Her financial well-being will likely hand conservatives a new line of attack." I love how our media always does this. Politico is the one handing conservatives a new line of attack; it isn't happening by magic or the will of God or something

  • LL on November 08, 2011 12:53 PM:

    The American Right lost their credibility on the issue of hypocrisy a long, long time ago. It appears those on the Right have no idea what the word means, and this has been the case for at least 40 years, and probably a lot longer than that. They really shouldn't go around using words the meaning of which they so clearly do not understand.

  • Kathryn on November 08, 2011 12:59 PM:

    Gee, do you suppose Politico is trying to appease their reader base after outing the Hermanator? I rarely read Politico and rarer still the comment section but when I do, need a shower after. Hate filled Limbaugh impersonators are plentiful there, very disturbing actually.

  • Gov't Mule on November 08, 2011 1:00 PM:

    Keep in mind that some of the greatest champions of the poor and middle class were not just part of the one percent but the .01 percent. I'm talking about the Roosevelts and Ted Kennedy. This is really a feeble straw man argument: that Warren is both a hypocrite and a traitor to her class. It only works if you distort both what Warren and OWS stand for.

    Warren has spent much of her professional life attacking the unfair business practices of credit card and mortgage companies. Ironically, she started this route when she began studying personal bankruptcies, learning that almost all of them were caused by medical hardships and not the stereotypical RW response that people simply and purposely spent beyond their means and were freeloaders.

    It is for this alleged calumny that the RW is attacking Warren w/ such venom. They have to try to knock down her credibility because she has the ability to explain the unfair and illegal business practices of these corporations in a simple and easy to understand manner.

  • withay on November 08, 2011 1:21 PM:

    for PhillyCooke and Gov't Mule:

    the bumper sticker version:

    Being wealthy does not preclude having a conscience.

    The longer explanations have already been eloquently provided, except to add that wealthy Republicans such as the Kochs DON'T seem to have a conscience.

  • kellgo on November 08, 2011 1:25 PM:

    They mean she should give all of her wealth to the poor and not bother them

  • Max on November 08, 2011 2:30 PM:

    What I find hilarious is that if you turn over a slime-encrusted rock anywhere near a right-winger, you'll find another right-winger demonizing regular people like Graeme Frost for advocating on his own behalf, and unhinged kooks like Michelle Malkin examining your granite countertops.

    The real message of the right is don't you dare speak up on your own behalf unless you're sickeningly wealthy, in which case you should use your enormous financial resources to drown out any dissenting opinions.

    Anyone listening to these tools deserves all the derision and scorn they're going to get.

  • CATMAN on November 08, 2011 2:55 PM:

    Has anyone noted that all the FOX News personalities--one cannot by any stretch call them journalists--are solidly in the 1% and most, like Bill(ous) O'Reilly, at 20 Mill a year are in the top 0.1%, can comment on raising taxes on high earners without the faintest whiff of hypocrisy?

  • Texas Aggie on November 08, 2011 10:51 PM:

    What these people are saying in essence is that any working stiff who votes for the republicans is a hypocrite because he isn't part of the 1%. In other words, they want people to vote their personal wealth. The top 1% vote for Wall St. and the other 99% vote for Elizabeth Warren.

  • Brian O'Connell on November 11, 2011 10:54 AM:

    When in doubt, check your copy of Webster's:
    hypocrisy n. [

    hypocrite n. [see preceding] one who pretends to be pious, virtuous, et cetera without really being so

    Elizabeth Warren really does care about the issue of income inequality. The poster boy for hypocrisy should George W. Bush...born with a silver spoon up his ass, and playing the role of Aw Shucks Real 'Murican...