Reader Stan Brown has this to say about charges that the Republicans are guilty of hypocrisy in reacting to charges that Arnold Schwarzenegger engaged in multiple instances of “groping”:
“Ten years ago, the appropriate standard for judging sexual conduct by a politician was generally accepted and well-known. Liberals forced Bob Packwood to resign because he asked a number of women to kiss him. The general consensus agreed that Justice Thomas would not have been confirmed had his accuser been believed (for talking about sex!). A few years later, it was clear that Bill Clinton had violated this standard on multiple occasions. Conservatives demanded that Clinton be held to this standard and pay the price.
“Liberals, however, argued that the standard they had so recently applied to Packwood and Thomas with such righteous indignation was no longer in force. Times had changed. They argued that Clinton’s sexual behavior should be considered private. According to the left, that a politician was a sexual predator was no longer the least bit significant. In effect, liberals took their case to the American people and petitioned the people, sitting as the court of public opinion, to establish a new precedent. They wanted the American public to reverse the old precedents and agree to a totally new standard in judging a politican’s sexual misconduct.
“Both sides wrote extensively on the issue. Both sides argued the merits fully and completely. The people were well aware of the issue and the argument. And the people rendered their judgment. The liberals won. Clinton’s actions were deemed to be merely private sex and, henceforth, this new liberal standard on sexual misconduct would be applied to American politicians.
“And then the liberals tried to smear Arnold. They argued that the old precedent still applied. The very same LA Times, which edited George Will’s opinion piece by removing a reference to Bill Clinton as a rapist, printed all kinds of anonymous accusations of groping. Mouths agape at the incredible hypocrisy of liberals, conservatives properly pointed out that the left couldn’t have it both ways. What happened to the new rules the liberals had established? Of course, conservatives didn’t like the liberals’ new rules, but elementary fairness dictated that both sides play by the same rulebook. How can it possibly be hypocritical for conservatives to insist that liberals abide by the same rules that the liberals had worked so hard to put in place? Anyone who reviews the recent history on this issue and thinks that it is the conservatives who are hypocrites is clearly incapable of impartiality.”
I understand the outrage at liberals over this issue. Their hypocrisy, as Mr. Brown eloquently demonstrates, is manifest and highly offensive. However, some may find his analysis too legalistic. At the end of the day, voters must decide for themselves what weight, if any, to attach to well-founded allegations of improper sexual behavior. In doing so, they need not, and probably should not, be guided by “precedent” in the form of arguments by pundits and voter reaction to those arguments. Thus, I will continue to view unwanted fondling of women as a negative factor when assessing the fitness of candidates for office.
HINDROCKET adds: I think everyone would agree, in principle, as to unwanted fondling. The question raised by Arnold’s case is how much 1) credibility and 2) weight should be given to anonymous accusations from decades ago. There is also a difference in most peoples’ minds, I think, between the decorum to be expected on a movie set and in a Senator’s office. But in principle, unwanted fondling is disapproved of pretty strenuously by everyone.
The area where people still disagree is that of “wanted” fondling, what used to be called womanizing. Clinton’s defenders either denied or–more often–simply ignored charges that he raped Juanita Broadrick, exposed himself to Paula Jones and groped Kathleen Willey. The “private acts” that Stan Brown rightly says have now been declared out of bounds were the ones with Monica Lewinsky. So to a large extent, Clinton’s critics and defenders have always talked at cross purposes.
What made Clinton’s conduct so exasperating to his detractors, to the extent it involved consensual behavior, was that it was so egregious: in the Oval Office, with a White House employee, in an open and obvious manner, while talking on the telephone about matters of war and peace. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the public to expect that someone elected President should put aside that kind of crass, selfish, unseemly behavior and conduct himself in a reasonably dignified manner while conducting the nation’s business. Which is why, even though most Americans concluded that committing perjury shouldn’t be impeachable as long as it’s about sex, most Americans also respect George Bush a lot more than they did Bill Clinton.
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