Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Evita Gephardt: Or Are Hypocrisy, Cynicism and Incoherence Bad Things In Themselves?

Richard Gephardt is likely just acting from political expediency - and perhaps desperation - in supporting a Congressional bill that would block Securities and Exchange Commission regulations requiring the expensing of stock options.

I think stock options are a very important way to get employees to think and act like owners ... We had some problems with a few of our corporations, some of which may have involved stock options. The Enrons, the WorldComs have been real disappointments. But I don't think we should just look at that and extrapolate all those problems to every other company.

The fact is that these SEC regulations are very bad law. Yes, yes, Mr. Gephardt is probably being a complete hypocrite and probably doesn't believe a word of his own explanation. Worse, his personal record suggests that Mr. Gephardt has no center and no core beliefs that he really cares about whatsoever - other than obtaining office and brokering political deals. That would make him a bad president and has made him a terrible presence in the House.

But so what? There's virtually no risk that Mr. Gephardt will become president - and he will no longer be a serious force in the House. And, in any event, the Constitution assumes that those in power will often be centerless power-cravers. James Madison crafted a custom fly-bottle for the likes of Mr. Gephardt. Mr. Gephardt's new opposition to options expensing is likely hypocritical, incoherent and cynical. But that is not all a bad thing. Mr. Gephardt's new likely hypocritical, incoherent and cynical opposition to options expensing is a good thing.

Twelve steps. Baby steps.

If he suddenly realized that, say, advocating a flat tax would get him votes and campaign contributions would that be reason for backing away from a flat tax - or from recognizing that he had finally made some progress? Mr. Gephardt began his career in Congress as a relatively conservative Democrat. He changed, Running around, trying everything new
largely to acquire and maintain power, just as Madison expected:

I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at heel
Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun

Cynicism, hypocrisy and personal incoherence probably also played a role in Mr. Gephardt's support for President Bush's actions in Iraq. Does that mean he was wrong to support the President? At one time Mr. Gephardt opposed Roe. v. Wade. Perhaps hypocrisy and cynicism will accomplish what personal morality could not - and undo the transformation his lust for power has worked there, too. Further, his flip-flops are strong evidence that the silly positions assumed by the mainstream Democratic party on so many fronts will in many cases eventually succumb to economic and other hard realities - to everyone's benefit. He should be studied as an example of how those who drift so far might be brought back - at least approximately. He need only complete his options-expensing thoughts to make them more entertaining and subjectively accurate:

Have I said too much?
There's nothing more I can think of to say to you.
But all you have to do is look at me to know
That every word is true

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