Senator Dianne Feinstein has made quite a name for herself as a hypocrite. During the Clinton-era campaign to ban assault weapons, she became notorious, especially in conservative circles, as the author of the bill and a vehement opponent to private gun ownership while being in possession of one of the few concealed carry permits issued by the city of San Francisco. Now, as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a lead critic of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, she has showed a profound lack of principle on the matter of the right to privacy.

A prominent promoter of the NSA’s domestic spying programs, Feinstein seems to consider it a matter of extreme importance that the government have the uninhibited power to spy on American citizens. But she has objected strenuously when similar government activity has impinged on her personal power. Specifically, Feinstein claims that during the Intelligence Committee’s investigation that produced the recent report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, the Agency conducted a “smear campaign” against the Committee by alleging that they had attempted to hack into the CIA’s computers in order to obtain incriminating information, and that the CIA had been monitoring the Committee’s own computers. Yet her objections may be regarded as almost petty when compared to what she would have the American people suffer in the name of “national security”.

We shouldn’t blame her. Feinstein is, after all, a politician—a member of the political class, for whose existence hypocrisy is absolutely necessary.

Political power rests on the assumption that those who have it are in a different moral category than those who do not. While the average person would never consider himself worthy to make decisions on the behalf of even a handful of complete strangers—far less, millions of them—and then require those strangers to comply with his decision under the threat of force, a politician must possess that quality. The political means brings the opinion of the legislator into reality by ensuring that those who effectively disagree with it are censured, silenced, quarantined, and ultimately killed if necessary.

In order to be elected in the first place, a politician must make promises that could never realistically be fulfilled. She must ascribe to herself the powers of a minor god—the ability to effect economic, social, and moral reality, often without ever having studied those subjects prior to assuming office. Despite the awareness of the voting public that those promises are made in vain, they must be given nonetheless. After all, nobody would vote for a politician who admitted her essential impotence to remake the world in her image.

In other words, politicians must be expected to lie. Imagine what would happen if a politician were completely honest about himself in his campaign speeches. He would admit to what amounts to a pathological sense of self-importance and lack of respect for almost everyone else, and a tendency to utterly dehumanize those who inhibit his ambition. The public would have no choice but to put him into an institute for the criminally insane rather than into office.

And let us not pretend that the average person is above the same kind of hypocrisy! Do we not turn out in droves to endorse the lies that we know we are being told? Do we not create the moral double standard by raising on a dais those who make them? If we were to fault Senator Feinstein for her hypocrisy, we would need to commit to solving our problems and meeting our needs without involving the political process, a special category of “necessary hypocrisy”. We would need to stop depending on those who promise to get us what we want at the expense of our neighbors, even those against whom we would never personally raise a hand in violence.

And that would be crazy, right?