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Josh, I don't wish to sound like a hard-hearted prick, but the hard-hearted
prick in me doesn't cut Duke much slack.
Why, oh why do conservatives over and over again demonstrate little to no empathy for their fellow man until they themselves are humbled? And even then... their empathy is limited only to those in their own predicament.
Take Dick Cheney (please). This man is quite tolerant of homosexuality (for a Republican), because he has a gay daughter. But in every other way, he is almost the definition of a hard-liner in both foreign and domestic affairs: pro SS privatization; anti-social safety net; and pro-torture.
Rush Limbaugh is infamous for the harsh things he said about drug users... until he was discovered to be one himself. Perhaps now he has the good sense not to talk about drug enforcement... but does anyone believe that Rush's experience and expensive rehab made him in any other way a gentler, more considerate person?
And now there's Duke Cunningham who has suddenly become a bleeding-heart on prison conditions and the criminal justice system.
This says a lot about the nature of the kind of people who tend to be political conservatives; that is, they are solipsistic and selfish to some degree or another, significantly more so than the average person.
When I hear that Duke has developed less absolutist positions on Social Security or taxes or the social safety net or the plight of the middle class or any of several other issues which may not directly affect him, then I might believe that he's a 'changed person'.
Otherwise, he's just being a forceful advocate for his own current position, and nothing more.