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‘Do As I Say’ doesn’t say much

This just in: Michael Moore is a hypocrite. So are Noam Chomsky, Al Franken, Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, among others. So purports Peter Schweizer in his book Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, with a hefty bibliography to back up his claims. In the end, Schweizer’s offering fails to rise above the doldrums of dogmatic punditry, though he does uncover some embarrassing skeletons while digging through the closets of his targets.

To Schweizer’s credit, he sticks to his word, documenting the missteps and inconsistencies of a list of academic and social notables rounded out by Ralph Nader, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, Barbara Streisand, Gloria Steinem and Cornel West.

Schweizer’s errors come in parlaying these facts into a crusade against liberalism. Liberal ideas “just don’t work,” he writes, stating that the people he critiques are forced into hypocrisy because they have “privately concluded, whether they admit it to themselves or not, that liberalism as practiced today does not offer them a road map to happiness.” His polemic falters under the collective weight of countless ad hominems and suffers from the same false dilemma plaguing most political commentaries of late: Everything’s liberal or conservative, so pick a side and know your own.

Along the way, however, Schweizer makes some provocative revelations: Moore bought and sold Halliburton stock; Chomsky has made millions from the Department of Defense; Steinem had elective surgery done. Schweizer readily offers and defends a handful of cherry-picked conservative examples, but maintains that on the whole, conservatives are held to a higher standard than liberals, whose leaders he writes, “live in a near-perfect world because no one has held them accountable.”

But are any of the findings really surprising? Should people be shocked to find that outside of the Senate, Ted Kennedy lives the wild life of … a Kennedy? Or that Al Franken may have lied in a book in which he singled out liars? When did politicians and demagogues become trustworthy?

Perhaps next Schweizer can write an expose about which members of Congress have personal agendas. Some of them may even be adulterers.

Hypocrisy knows no political affiliation, as evidenced by Schweizer’s own concessions. The unintentional theme of Do As I Say seems to be that society’s darlings shouldn’t be put on pedestals, because they’re seldom as reputable as they appear to be. A more meaningful argument on Schweizer’s part might have been to acknowledge this and examine the hows and whys of hypocrisy in American politics rather than settling on the whos and whats. Political hypocrisy is universally nonpartisan; why isn’t intolerance of it? Instead of sitting in glass houses and casting aspersions, why not demand equity in accountability?

Alas, with descriptive chapter subtitles such as “Segregationalist, Commodity Fetishist, Capitalist Interest-Maximizer” and “Environmental Rapist, Tax Cheat, and Oil Profiteer,” Schweizer constructs a clear divide between conservatives and liberals, leaving little question about his personal inclinations. As a source of any redeeming political commentary, Do As I Say falls flat, but as the tabloid-style cover implies, it should be a suitable pacifier for anyone looking for dirt on the liberals they love to hate.