Hypocrisy is the new buzzword and the left is having a field day with it. Even Larry Flynt gets airtime to solemnly proclaim his disgust — (how could anything be disgusting to Larry Flynt?) — with politicians “who say one thing and do another” — (when has that ever happened?) — in matters of sex and morals. A Washington publication recently ran a cover story with pictures of at least a dozen GOP politicians under the “Hypocrisy” headline. According to this view, conservative politicians who “preach” (i.e., support) family values but whose actions fall short of the rhetoric are “hypocrites,” which in turn invalidates the very standards that they support. So family values are a farce.

Not so fast.

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines hypocrisy as, “A feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not, (especially) the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.” Note that the focus here is on intent, a willful attempt to deceive by purposely acting contrary to one’s own beliefs.  Someone who mouths the words but has no intention of living up to them is indeed being hypocritical.

By the way, why isn’t the hypocrite label also attached to people like Al Gore, who preach about global warming but whose elegant lifestyle is anything but green; or Michael Moore, who extols socialized medicine without having to experience it himself? Just asking, but I digress.

What about the politician who believes the words he speaks, but fails to live up to them?  Is he a hypocrite? Most of us believe in the Ten Commandments, but violate them every day. Are we all hypocrites? Or just human? Should not our focus be on our failure to live up to our own standards rather than questioning the standards themselves?

It’s hard not to suspect that there is the agenda here. There is a divide in America between those who believe in moral relativism and social libertarianism on the one hand, and those who hold a more traditional view of societal behavior and morals. The differences are deep and speak to the very nature of our society, ordered liberty and self-government. Indicting the message for the failures of a few messengers can best be seen in this case as a shorthand way to undermine support for the whole range of pro-life and pro-family issues.

So I will not defend the hypocrite who has no real belief or stake in traditional values. I will, however, defend someone who sets high standards, but fails to live up to them. The focus should not be on the failure, but rather on his determination to do better the next time. He is trying to live up to the high ideals he professes, though he doesn’t always succeed.

And we certainly don’t need Larry Flynt or the D.C. Madam to tell us otherwise.