Al Gore — aging, rotund, white, male, and southern-accented — made nearly a billion dollars. By any classical definition — the house in which he lives in, the transportation that he prefers, the accusations of sexual harassment he has incurred, the modes in which he made his money — Gore is an abject hypocrite. But we do not live in a classical society of reason and logic, and so Al Gore is hip and therefore exempt from such charges. He has become more associated with worrying about poor stranded polar bears trapped on melting ice flows than junketing to his next corporate, profit-maximizing conference on a carbon-spewing Gulfstream V.
Bill Clinton gave us the notion of offsets — one nod to a piece of feminist legislation and, presto, one piece of a young intern subordinate becomes OK.
Do we care that Andrea Mitchell and Chris Matthews are multimillionaires, live in exclusive districts, or embrace a lifestyle unknown to most Americans, when they so loudly each week warn us about racism, sexism, and the pathologies of the rich white male establishment of which they are such a part? Apparently Ms. Mitchell climbs on her soapbox haranguing about “rednecks” from 9-5, and then goes home to her Ayn Rand-reading, uber-capitalist, stock-buying and selling husband Alan Greenspan without a blink in between.
Again, the one is not so much at odds with the other as explains the other.
If Katie Couric were a spokeswoman for GM or Chrysler, would we resent her $15 million salary, and cite it as an example of the growing divide between the relative compensation of management and labor? But trash Sarah Palin, and Couric is no longer an overpaid one-percenter. Is CBS hip and therefore exempt in the way the New York Times fights tooth and nail against unionization, or Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio are not dubbed parasites for raking in $30 to 50 million per year?
How did David Letterman survive serial affairs with subordinate employees, after creating the classic “hostile workplace environment” that feminists are otherwise so quick to pounce on? Apparently, he is hip enough to be able to slander 14-year-old Willow Palin as a veritable prostitute.
In the Obama world of zero-sum economics, does LeBron James’s $15 million a year come at the expense of an extra dollar or two on the ticket of the hard-pressed fan? Or does the fact that LeBron is hip exempt him from association with his fellow fat cats? Could the Tea Party just change its name to Occupy Washington?
Barack Obama baffles his detractors. How can one who golfs so frequently, or who vacations in only the most tony resorts, keep haranguing the nation about the transgressions of the one percent? When he sees them stroll by on Martha’s Vineyard, does he jump up and shout out at their mansions: “You didn’t build that!”?
How did corpse-man not win the NPR vitriol that nu-cu-lar had in the past?
How could Obama in 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling, in 2008 call Bush unpatriotic for deficit spending, upon entering office promise to halve the deficit by the end of his first term, and then oversee some $5 trillion in new borrowing? Hip: borrowing became “stimulus”; entitlements, “investments”; and paying it all back became “paying your fair share.” In Obama’s case, he is not just black, but black with an exotic name and a liberal ideology, unlike a Clarence Thomas, who is most unhip — being right-wing, not of mixed race, with an ordinary American name (Clarence?), veteran of the prejudices of the pre-Civil Rights south. Could not Thomas shorten his name to just the single Tomré? Or perhaps go the Van Jones made-up route — Van Thomas?
In a shallow and superficial America you can make all the money you like without being dubbed selfish or greedy, frequent all the most exclusive resorts without being a one-percenter, and commit all the politically incorrect sins you wish without being tagged a reactionary — but you better try to be hip first.