From the March 5, 2013, edition of “Viewpoint.”
When Hugo Chavez assumed the presidency of Venezuela, many progressives around the world were filled with hope. Maybe this guy could do something to help Latin American poverty. But the more the world’s progressives got to know him, the more his megalomaniacal nutty side kinda turned people off. Chavez disappointed a lot of his early fans, and they abandoned ship. I’m pretty sure even Noam Chomsky unfriended him on Facebook.
When you choose to be a fan of anybody, at some point they’re going to disappoint you. And it’s always different — John Edwards lost all his fans because he cheated on and abandoned a cancer-stricken wife. Newt Gingrich did pretty much the same thing — he gets to speak at CPAC.
This week a new expose accuses Mother Teresa of Calcutta of actually neglecting the sick who came to her for help, neglecting the nuns in her order and being very shady with the vast sums of money given her. Personally, I think she spent it all on wardrobe.
Now, Mother Teresa managed to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but she was far from perfect, and her sins have been well documented by the late Christopher Hitchens, once my hero, who deeply disappointed me when he supported the Iraq War.
This week we also learned some unfortunate realities about another Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Polish leader Lech Walesa. Turns out this progressive hero is also a massive homophobe. An insanely homophobic homophobe, which is ironic, considering Lech’s mustache just set off NORAD’s gaydar.
Now, does this negate Lech’s heroism of the 1980s? Or does it just prove that heroes are flawed characters too?
Lance Armstrong raised a lot of money for cancer research, but he did it by being the Milli Vanilli of competitive cycling. Dostoyevsky, Ezra Pound, Martin Luther — they all helped change the world and were incredible anti-Semites. Or as Mel Gibson calls them, “Bravehearts.”
Nobody is ever going to pass anyone’s purity test. Liberals support President Obama and they grapple with this every day. They want him to be pure, but they stick with the president because of the bigger picture.
Which brings us to Chris Christie and this month’s CPAC convention.
The tea party’s lost a ton of elections for the GOP and they’re calling the shots at CPAC and they’ve got a very narrow purity test. They’ve invited Allen West, Sarah Palin, Speaker Gingrich and paragon of virtue Donald Trump. But Gov. Christie? Not invited.
Christie is probably the most likable and electable Republican in America. Never mind he wants to ban abortion and gay marriage and killed a tunnel to Manhattan that could’ve helped working people in his state. Not good enough for the tea party — because he committed the sin of working with Obama.
Now, I give the Obama-Christie alliance a 10. And not just because they resemble that number when standing side by side.
It’s one thing for liberals to give up on Hugo Chavez when he clearly let them down. Conservatives are doing the same thing, but in the wrong direction. They’re giving up on Chris Christie — who hasn’t let them down — when they should be giving up on the tea party.