Nathanial Frank busts out the old Psych 101 textbook for some thoughtful analysis:
What are we to make of a reigning conservative regime that lists the following inglorious claims to fame: Strom Thurmond, a notoriously racist senator who turned out to have a black lover; a Republican indictment of President Clinton's sexual license headed up by a team of philanderers; a Congress full of divorces passing an anti-gay law known as the "Defense of Marriage Act"? In the pundit corner, we recently saw three giants of conservative moralizing unmasked as incapable of restraining their own vices: William Bennett turned out to be addicted to gambling, Rush Limbaugh to drugs. Meanwhile, Ralph Reed, the hand-picked youthful leader of the religious right, was quietly helping the corrupt lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, enable everything that religious conservatives oppose: casinos on Indian reservations and compelled abortions and sex slavery in the Northern Mariana Islands, an American territory. And this is not even to mention the Catholic Church's strident indictment of sexual freedom as it shuffled its own cadre of child-molesting priests from parish to parish.Bush has a word or two about terrorists and Islamic fascists, doesn’t he? What are you covering up, Mr. President?!
For answers to the puzzles that seem to infest the conservative worldview, we might dust off our old Freud texts. From the father of psychoanalysis, we learn the concept of "reaction formation" which describes how we react to our own unacceptable impulses. Reaction formation is a classic "defense mechanism"-an unconscious behavior designed to ward off uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes we react to our discomfort with ourselves in harmless ways, such as when a man cheats on his wife and brings her flowers to ease his guilt. Other times, the reactions can be punitive-we judge and condemn others who exhibit the very impulses that we, ourselves, cannot control. This is frequently the case when dealing with lust or greed. "Sooner or later," writes Michael Warner, a Professor of English at Rutgers and a leading theorist of sexuality and politics, "we all lose control over our sex life. As a result, we try to control someone else's sex life."
Er… Nevermind. There’s not enough time in the world.