It’s easy to be hypocritical, but you need to be a national politician to do it spectacularly.
More examples (from any era) welcomed.
Silvio Berlusconi . 1936- . Italian politician . date and venue to be provided (run up to april general election, 2006?)
source: the Observer
It’s hard to find a truly hypocritical remark from Berlusconi as he so cheerfully and willingly acknowledges his hypocrisy (as above).
Tony Blair . 1953- . British politician . House of Commons statement on discussions with US president Bush over the Middle East (10 april 2002)
source: Hansard, House of Commons 6th series, vol 383, col 23
At the time, Blair was the British prime minister and, presumably under instructions from the White House, was seeking to persuade parliament to join the US in invading Iraq. Given that it transpired that Saddam Hussein‘s regime was not developing weapons of mass destruction, the best you can say is that Blair was careless in his authentication of the allegations.
George W Bush . 1946- . American politician and businessman . speech, Washington DC (5 august 2004)
source: the Guardian
One is tempted to observe “Out of the mouth of babes…” [Psalms 8:2]
David Cameron . 1966- . English politician . speech to Royal College of Pathologists (2 november 2009)
source: n/a, see below
Cameron was speaking as the leader (I use the word advisedly) of the UK Conservative party, six months before the UK general election in 2010. Within days of winning the election, Cameron’s party presented detailed plans for the very top-down reorganisation of the National Health Service he had undertaken not to carry out, one of the largest reorganisations in the history of the NHS.
The reorganisation cost an estimated £3 billion, money the country did not have at the time and still doesn’t.
In 2014, the Conservative party was revealed as having suppressed all documents relating to the Conservatives’ “commitments” made in the period 2000-2010 [sources: the Independent and New statesman ], hence my failure to find a link to an original source, so far.
David Cameron . 1966- . English politician . interview with Jeremy Paxman, presumably 21 or 22 april 2010
source: Daily telegraph, 23 april 2010.
You could argue that raising VAT to 20% as soon as his feet were under his Downing street desk indicated a prior intention, even if the Tories did not have a document called “Plan To Raise VAT” at the moment the words left his mouth. And you’d probably be right.
Bill Clinton . 1946- . American politician . Remarks on the after-school child care initiative, White house (26 january 1998)
source: American presidency project—final paragraph
Not true, as it turned out. Clinton was, of course, US president at the time of these events. As Wikipedia observes, Clinton denied having committed perjury because, according to Clinton, the legal definition of oral sex was not encompassed by “sex” per se. In addition, relying upon the definition of “sexual relations” as proposed by the prosecution and agreed by the defense and by Judge Susan Webber Wright, … , Clinton claimed that because certain acts were performed on him, not by him, he did not engage in sexual relations [Wikipedia].
It’s at times like these that I am so glad the English language has words like “disingenuous”.
Jean-Claude Juncker . 1954- . Luxembourgish politician and (now) president of the European commission . The ‘Juncker Curse’
source: widely discussed on the internet, but I do not have a link to an original source yet . eg, CNN blog on this.
This isn’t hypocrisy so much as a truth revealing a greater hypocrisy below. It is, arguably, one of the most outrageous political statements made in the last fifty years (although, apparently, Juncker thought it was a joke). Juncker is saying that he and his colleagues knew how to fix the economic meltdown that afflicted Europe in the past few years but they also knew that, if they implemented the remedial measures, they wouldn’t get reelected. So they didn’t.
Ken Livingstone . 1945- . English politician . comment piece, The guardian (4 march 2005)
source: the Guardian—second paragraph
The context: Livingstone, London mayor at the time, wrote this less than a month after the following unedifying exchange (City Hall, London, 8 February 2005) in which Livingstone does a good impression of a man declaring another human being inferior:
Oliver Finegold (a reporter): Mr Livingstone, Evening standard. How did it …
Ken Livingstone: Oh, how awful for you.
Finegold: How did tonight go?
Livingstone: Have you thought of having treatment?
Finegold: Was it a good party? What does it mean for you?
Livingstone: What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?
Finegold: No, I’m Jewish. I wasn’t a German war criminal.
Livingstone: Ah … right.
Finegold: I’m actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?
Livingstone: Well, you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard. You’re just doing it ’cause you’re paid to, aren’t you?… It’s nothing to do with you because your paper is a load of scumbags… It’s reactionary bigots… who supported fascism.
[source: the Guardian]
“Your paper… who supported fascism” refers to the support Finegold’s paper’s sister paper, the Daily mail, gave fascism in the 1930s; the “party” Finegold refers to was to celebrate twenty years since the first gay MP revealed he was such [source: the Guardian].
John Major . 1943- . British politician . conference speech, Conservative party (8 october 1993)
source: John Major website—paragraph 23
This is the opposite of the Juncker example. Here we have a “leader” hopelessly out of touch with the activities of his immediate reports and staff. Major was speaking as British prime minister and the phrase was intentionally associated with personal morality.
It backfired when many ‘senior’ Conservatives were all subsequently obliged to fall on their swords in the period 1993-95: fifteen of them, all men: Jonathan Aitken, David Ashby, Hartley Booth (twice), Michael Brown, Earl of Caithness, Alan Duncan, Neil Hamilton, Michael Mates, Patrick Nicholls, Steve Norris, Graham Riddick, Tim Smith, Allan Stewart, David Tredinnick, Tim Yeo (within three months of Major’s speech). [sources: BBC and Wikipedia].
It later transpired that Major himself, a married man at the time, had had an affair with Edwina Currie, a married woman at the time, between 1984 and 1988 [source: Edwina Currie, Diaries (1987-1992) (Sphere, 2003)].
The sense that Major expected the nation to expiate his guilt, by dumping on it the “Back to basics” campaign (launched in the above speech), seems palpable: It is the one event in my life of which I am most ashamed and I have long feared would be made public (John Major, 2002, after Currie’s diaries had been published) [source: BBC—paragraph 7]
Richard Nixon . 1913-1994 . American politician . television interview with David Frost (taped march-april 1977, broadcast may 1977)
source: edited transcript, the Guardian—first question
On being asked by Frost: ‘Would you say that there are certain situations… where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation, and do something illegal?’
This attitude is slightly less surprising in the light of the following from Dean Acheson. US secretary of state in Truman’s administration (1949 to 1953), he played a major role in defining American foreign policy during the cold war. He retired in 1953 and “during the 1960s, he was a leading member of a bipartisan group of establishment elders known as The Wise Men, who initially supported the Vietnam War, but then turned against it… in March 1968” [source: Wikipedia].
In a speech to the American Society of International Law (1962), Acheson said:
No legal issue arises when the United States responds to a challenge to its power, position, and prestige.
In other words, whatever actions the USA undertakes in pursuit of its foreign policy (ie, responding to challenges to its power, position, and prestige) are, de facto, legal, irrespective of their standing in international law and treaties to which the USA is (or was at the time) signatory. [Source: ASIL Proceedings 13, 14 (1963); quoted by Noam Chomsky here (the Wikiquote reference has disappeared).]
If one believed Acheson’s doctrine of absolute rightness regarding US foreign policy, it is only reasonable to infer that the head of that country equally enjoys absolute rightness in his doings.
Barack Obama . 1961- . American politician . press conference (7 june 2013)
source: the Guardian—second paragraph
The Guardian subsequently wrote, “It’s not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well,” Obama said in a speech at the White House [on 9 august 2013], hours after the Guardian revealed that an NSA loophole did allow for warrantless searches of databases for US citizens’ emails and phone calls [the Guardian].
Being confident is not enough, full stop. One has to ask how president Obama could have been so confident that the situation was one thing when, it turned out, it was palbably something entirely different.
Sarah Palin . 1964- . American politician . speech, Pittsburgh (24 august 2008)
source: Live science
Palin, a nominee for US vice president in 2008, was referring to a contribution of $211,000 made by the US Department of Agriculture to a study, being carried out in Montpellier (not Paris), which was seeking ways to better control Bactrocera oleae, a pest damaging the Mediterranean and Californian olive growing industries.
Margaret Thatcher . 1925-2013 . British politician . interview with Douglas Keay (23 september 1987) . Interview published under the title Aids, education and the year 2000!, Woman’s own, 31 october 1987
source: verbatim transcript, Thatcher Foundation website—question 27. Complete text below.
Here, out of her mouth, is Thatcher saying “there is no such thing as society”, something which her apologists forever assert was taken out of context.
This is the verbatim text of the interview [my emphasis]:
I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate—“It is all right. We joined together and we have these insurance schemes to look after it”. That was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system and so some of those help and benefits that were meant to say to people: “All right, if you cannot get a job, you shall have a basic standard of living!” but when people come and say: “But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!” You say: “Look” It is not from the dole. It is your neighbour who is supplying it and if you can earn your own living then really you have a duty to do it and you will feel very much better!”
There is also something else I should say to them: “If that does not give you a basic standard, you know, there are ways in which we top up the standard. You can get your housing benefit.”
But it went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society.
This is the text printed in Woman’s own [my emphasis]:
I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. “I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.” “I’m homeless, the government must house me.” They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty… [etc, etc] [source: Christian quoter. It is to be regretted this article does not appear on the Woman’s own website.]
Given that the text needed drastic cutting to fit the space available, and is somewhat discursive, I think Keay did an entirely proper editing job in retaining the phrase There is no such thing as society by replacing the text they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! with They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.
(Personally, had it been me, I would not have thrown in a gratuitous “And, you know,…” however typical a verbal mannerism it was of hers.)
This is not quoting Thatcher out of context, and it is tendentious to suggest it is.
selection copyright © 2014 Jeremy Marchant . last extended 25 january 2016 (Acheson) . image: Free images