Blogs are abuzz with the news the Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is on a list of people who called a prostitute. Lots of things might be appropriate to say about this, but there's one thing I've been seeing that just isn't one of them. A lot of people have been calling him a hypocrite for being strong on family values politically while having an adulterous relation with a prostitute. This sort of comment derives from ignorance about what hypocrisy is.
According to Merriam-Webster, hypocrisy is "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion". As far as I can tell, there isn't any evidence here that his claim to be in favor of family values was false, i.e. that he doesn't really believe it. He did do something that conflicts with such a belief, but that doesn't mean he doesn't really have the belief and was just faking it to get elected. That would be hypocrisy. Pretending you believe something in order to get elected fits with the Merriam-Webster definition. It's a kind of dishonesty.
On the other hand, many people often have higher standards for themselves than they actually meet. I certainly do. That doesn't make me a hypocrite. It just means that I'm bad. Being bad and being a hypocrite aren't the same thing. If you're bad, and you realize you're bad, you regret it afterward and not just because of the consequences. If you repent of the action and turn from it, then it reveals that you really disagree with the action but did it out of weakness. You're still morally responsible for it, and if it's a serious wrong then you're morally to blame for a serious wrong. But it's not hypocrisy unless you never really believed it to begin with, and committing an indiscretion like this isn't a sign of never having believed it. We do what's wrong knowingly all the time. There's a difference between that and pretending you're something you're not.
(Note: Vitter has dealt with this issue within his own marriage and has been in counseling with his wife because of it. I think that's evidence that he is committed to his marriage and really is in favor of family values, even if he did something that undermines the family and his family in pretty serious ways. So I would think the evidence is even fairly strong that he's not a hypocrite.)
Update: There may be an inconsistency issue here. I may need to think about that a little more, but I would insist that that's a separate issue from whether he's a hypocrite for merely doing something he believes is wrong. That wouldn't constitute grounds for a hyocrisy charge. But that doesn't mean there's no issue here related to his role as a senator passing laws against pornography while engaging in the act and then thinking his repentance and reconciliation with his wife is sufficient while a criminal investigation of the prostitute is taking place. If Vitter committed a crime, and he's been endorsing the prosecution of that crime, and yet he was complicit with the crime, that is indeed a problem, and it might constitute hypocrisy. I'd need to see the details more to be sure, but that's the suggestion. There is a difference between running a prostitution ring and paying to use one of the prostitutes in that prostitution ring, but I think there might be an issue, but it may not be as simple an issue as it sounds.