“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, women want me to feel them up while they’re sleeping on airplanes.”
Roy Moore, Republican candidate in a special election to fill Jeff Sessions’s Alabama Senate seat, is credibly accused by about half a dozen women of having thrust his attentions upon them when they were teenagers and he was a district attorney in his thirties. One woman says he partially undressed and groped her when she was 14; another says he forcibly groped her in his car. Ivanka Trump, referring to Moore, said there is a special place in hell for pedophile predators. But the Alabama GOP, and many conservatives, lack the moral sensitivity of the first daughter. (President Trump has indicated his support for Moore, though he apparently will not campaign for him.) Moore backers offer various arguments: He deserves a presumption of innocence — but that’s in a court of law, and the public can make its own judgments in life and in politics. The accusers kept silent for 40 years — but how many small-town kids will challenge a local DA? Do you want a Democrat to win the seat? Don’t run a creep, then. It were better for Moore that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. And it were better for Moore’s besotted backers that they show some moral discernment.
Moore is a gift to the Democratic party in Alabama: Democrat Doug Jones has a decent chance to win. But Jones is squandering that opportunity by taking an extreme pro-abortion view. The Democrat would surely be doing much better if he didn’t oppose all restrictions on abortion. Alabama voters are strongly pro-life. But when Chuck Todd asked Jones in September whether he would back a ban on abortion after 20 weeks or some other cut-off, he said that he did not wish to infringe on a woman’s rights. It is completely understandable that voters would be repelled by the accusations against Moore, but Jones cannot be considered a suitable alternative for any conscientious voter who respects human life. It’s situations such as these that write-in votes are made for.
It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes legislation improves as it travels through Congress. So it is with tax reform: The Senate’s version of the bill is mostly an improvement on the House version. The Senate bill offers a real expansion of the child tax credit, where the House bill gave with one hand and took with the other. (Its expansion of the child credit just made up, on average, for its abolition of the dependent exemption.) The Senate bill also abolishes Obamacare’s fines for people without health insurance. Finally, it gets rid of the deduction for state and local taxes entirely; the House bill merely pares back that deduction. The House bill, it is true, has some advantages over the Senate one: It would trim the mortgage-interest deduction so that it no longer rewards high earners for buying larger homes in higher-priced locales. As long as unlikely events are occurring, dare we hope that we will end up with the best of both bills?
President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move in keeping with his general conviction that successive administrations have negotiated bad trade deals. But he did not kill the agreement. Eleven other countries are going ahead with it. Naturally, the agreement now includes fewer provisions beneficial to the U.S. The TPP included protections for the intellectual property of our pharmaceutical industry; it no longer does. Other losers from the new deal include FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. software industry. The new agreement does not include the labor and environmental standards that the Obama administration had sought: That’s a plus from our point of view, although perhaps not from Trump’s. The Trump administration hopes to strike country-by-country agreements that re-create many of the pro-American provisions from the old TPP. Perhaps the dealmaker in chief will succeed in this ambition, but so far deal-breaking has clearly put us behind.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai has scrapped the agency’s “net neutrality” rule, for good reason: The Federal Communications Commission never had the legal authority to make any such rule to begin with but had instead relied on an implausibly broad interpretation of its powers to enact net neutrality on its own, in accordance with the desires of the Obama administration, when Congress declined to do so. “Net neutrality” is a principle under which any given bit of data moving on the Internet is treated in the same way as any other given bit of data, such that no data are prioritized or discriminated against — i.e., more or less the way the Internet works right now and always has. Some Internet providers would like to prioritize some data for practical reasons: A half-second delay delivering an email is virtually undetectable, but a half-second delay streaming a movie can wreck the whole service. Net-neutrality advocates worry that allowing such distinctions will lead to situations in which big gorillas such as Netflix pay providers to strangle their competitors with slow speeds, and that marginalized groups could be effectively cut off from using the Internet to communicate with the wider public. These are not absurd fears, but they are hypothetical rather than actual problems. And if they should become problems that need addressing, there are simpler ways to do so than the FCC’s former approach, which involved regulating Internet providers at an intrusive and intimate level. It’s a bad solution to a non-problem.
In 2000 Kirsten Gillibrand, a young lawyer, worked on Hillary Clinton’s first Senate campaign. In 2006 she ran for Congress herself, and both Clintons stumped for her. In 2009 Gillibrand was appointed to fill Clinton’s vacant Senate seat; last year, she strongly backed Hillary’s presidential run. Then, last month, she announced that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. “Things have changed today,” Gillibrand explained, referring to Hurricane Harvey, the post-Weinstein storm of testimony to sexual harassment by the rich or powerful. It’s about time, but it’s also long past time: Gillibrand’s discovery of Bill Clinton’s misdeeds coincides suspiciously with the end of his political usefulness. Gillibrand epitomizes her party’s hypocrisy and opportunism. In some part of his heart Bill Clinton must admire her.
Acting under a rather creative interpretation of federal administrative rules, Leandra English, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, attempted a kind of bureaucratic coup, seeking to install herself as acting director and to block President Donald Trump’s installation of former budget director Mick Mulvaney in that role. English argued that the resignation of director Richard Cordray made the director “unavailable,” and under federal rules the deputy serves as acting director when the director is “unavailable.” Cordray is “unavailable” in the sense that the Queen of England and Joe Montana are “unavailable” — he isn’t the director. That’s what “resignation” means. President Trump has clear statutory authority to name an acting director until a permanent replacement can be confirmed by the Senate. A court promptly found as much. But this isn’t the only live issue relating to the CFPB, whose quasi-independent leadership structure has been found unconstitutional by a federal court. Led by Elizabeth Warren, progressives had hoped to create in the CFPB an autonomous agency, free from ordinary democratic oversight, from which to rain down fire on the financial-services industry. The CFPB almost certainly will have to be reformed to bring it within constitutional norms, and the best reform would be to dissolve it entirely and leave banking regulation to the bank regulators we already have rather than give free rein to an anti–Wall Street political jihad.
President Trump, on his trip to Asia, put in a word with Xi Jinping, to procure the release of three Americans from a Chinese jail. The three, freshmen on the UCLA basketball team, had shoplifted sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to their Hangzhou hotel. One of them, LiAngelo Ball, is the brother of Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, and son of impresario father LaVar Ball. Ball père, whose out-there pushiness resembles Trump’s, quickly got into a Twitter fight with the president over whether and how much he should be thanked for springing LiAngelo and his chums. The president of the United States should do his best for American citizens jailed abroad, especially those jailed by despotisms. But a PR-driven flap over sports brats encapsulates the pointless rancor that attends this presidency.
Sometimes government by tweet is better than the alternative. President Trump posted on Twitter that he was putting on hold his Interior Department’s decision to reverse an Obama-era ban on the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The African elephant population is in a historic decline, having dropped from more than 10 million early in the 20th century to about 350,000 today. Loss of habitat and poaching are the culprits, not legal hunting. But hunting programs need to be carefully managed if they are going to support conservation and not feed corruption, and it’s impossible to believe that the government of Zimbabwe — currently roiled by the aftereffects of a military coup after decades of hideous dictatorship — is up to the task. Also, we have just begun to get China to crack down on its ivory markets, which feed off poaching, and it would send the wrong message to allow hunters to waltz back into this country with elephant tusks. Finally, trophy hunting shouldn’t be a reputable practice. Elephants are one of nature’s marvels, highly intelligent and social creatures that have families and mourn their dead. The very least we owe them is not to kill and dismember them for a thrill and a trophy on an office wall.
A terrible earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, and among the Obama administration’s responses was to grant illegal immigrants from that country “temporary protected status.” The idea behind that designation is that it would be inhumane to deport people to a disaster site. The Trump administration has now announced that it will end this status — in 2019. “I’m disgusted at the president’s heartlessness,” responded DNC chairman Tom Perez. The extended deadline is an obvious way to open the door to including many of the affected Haitians in the amnesty for illegal immigrants who came here as minors that President Trump has already called for. That might be reasonable, depending on the terms of the deal. So is distinguishing between temporary and permanent.
AT&T wishes to acquire Time Warner, in the hopes of combining Time Warner’s content business (HBO, CNN, DC Comics) with its existing telecommunications business, completing its long transformation from telephone company to media powerhouse. Standing in its way is the Department of Justice, which has sued to block the merger. The DOJ argues that the combination of content and distribution would empower AT&T to charge its rivals much higher prices for access to its popular content, and that consumers would end up paying higher cable bills if they wanted to watch Game of Thrones. AT&T argues that the DOJ is singling it out and that the action breaks from recent precedent. In the middle of this is Donald Trump, who has a talent for being in the middle of things. He is a frequent critic of CNN and has threatened to use the levers of power to retaliate against news outlets that displease him. The Financial Times has reported that the DOJ demanded AT&T drop CNN from the deal as a condition of approving it. The president has done himself and the DOJ no favors with his promises of retribution. Antitrust law is complicated, but two things seem obvious here: The DOJ’s discretion in antitrust matters is plainly too wide and too liberally used. As, the president’s lawyers must ruefully think, is the president’s mouth.
Justice is also investigating Harvard after a group representing Asian-American applicants charged that the college “has unfairly and unlawfully restricted the number of Asians it admits.” Harvard says it uses a “holistic” admissions approach; critics say it uses quotas, and the DOJ says those are verboten for schools that receive federal funding, as Harvard does. Harvard is dragging its feet in complying with investigators’ requests for documents, which does not suggest that it is eager to be forthcoming about the reality of its admissions practices. Harvard isn’t alone: A Princeton study found that Asian applicants had to score on average 140 points higher than whites on their SATs to be admitted to selective private colleges, and the situation is even more dramatic at California’s most prestigious state schools. Harvard says that this is a question of “excellence,” as though the quality of a Harvard education would be diminished by the presence of a few more freshmen named Kim, Huang, or Reddy. Affirmative action was intended as a partial remedy for African Americans who had been collectively disadvantaged by slavery and discrimination. Students on the cusp of admission to Harvard, who might otherwise be consigned to a life of misery at NYU or Stanford, are possibly the least socially marginalized group in these United States. The answer to racial discrimination here is obvious: Don’t do it.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) announced that it has rejected Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo’s request to join the group. Curbelo is a Republican, born in Miami to two Cuban exiles who fled to the U.S. By way of explanation, the CHC said that it represents certain values and that Curbelo’s record is inconsistent with those values. Under the circumstances, Curbelo should take that as a compliment.
“If u support Trump, we don’t have anything to talk abt & we can’t be friends,” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow tweeted the other day. “This isn’t abt parties or ideology; This is abt right & wrong.” Many great friendships would never have formed had the friends insisted on such a high standard of political purity. Consider how great the loss: no colloquies between WFB and John Kenneth Galbraith, no Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg riding that elephant in India. Blow’s sentiment is unfortunate, but take it for its worth. Now you know what to say if he invites you to his Christmas party and you want to get out of it tactfully.
All Americans, pro-choice as well pro-life, should welcome the news that the abortion rate in the United States continues to drop. In its most recent report on abortion statistics, covering 2014, the Centers for Disease Control finds that the number of abortions was lower than in any other year since the 1970s, as were the rates of abortions per live birth and per women aged 15–44. The Guttmacher Institute reports higher numbers across the board, but it corroborates the trend: a sharp spike in the abortion rate from the early 1970s to the late 1980s and then a decline. It’s reasonable to assume that new state laws restricting or regulating abortion have contributed to that trend, but also that the numbers reflect a change in the public consensus about abortion. Most Americans still think that abortion should be legal in some circumstances, but they also think that it should be discouraged. If the Democratic party took the second half of that statement as seriously as it does the first, both it and the country would be better off for it.
A federal judge has struck down a Texas law that bans dilation-and-evacuation abortions, procedures in which a living child is dismembered in the womb before being removed from its mother. The state argues that the law protects unborn children from an inhumane and painful death without placing an undue burden on women’s constitutional right to abortion. The court disagreed, siding with Texas abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, and determining that the law would indeed burden Texas women who seek an abortion in the second trimester. This case is the latest illustration that Justice Scalia was right: The undue-burden standard, found nowhere in the Constitution, is also hopelessly subjective.
A Washington superior-court judge has declared an income tax on Seattle’s wealthiest residents unconstitutional. It was a pretty cut-and-dried case; Washington’s constitution prohibits the tax, passed by the Seattle city council in June, mandating that “all taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property.” Previous attempts to install a progressive income tax failed under the same clause, leaving the judge in this case with a mountain of precedent with which to make his ruling. The city of Seattle’s desperate defense was to claim that the ordinance is actually an excise tax, for the privilege of living and making money in Seattle. As the judge pointed out, the city had made no attempt — before, during, or after the legislative process — to claim that the tax was on anything but the highest earners’ income. If there’s an appeal, maybe the city will claim it’s a sin tax.
Days before the election, someone circulated a flier all over town. It pictured Ravi Bhalla, with his beard and turban. And it said, “Don’t let terrorism take over our town.” Then, Bhalla was elected. He was elected mayor of Hoboken, becoming the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey. “I grew up playing Little League baseball and watching the Yankees,” he said. “My father came here as an immigrant from India with no money in his pocket. He lived in a trailer park, but he had faith in this country and faith that there is no conflict between religion and succeeding in this country.” The election, said Bhalla, “represents the American dream.” It proved that, “in America, if you work hard and you’re qualified, the sky’s the limit and you can do anything.” In these days of uncertainty and anxiety about American identity, a hymn such as this is reassuring.
After an encouraging pause, North Korea has launched perhaps its most powerful missile yet, an ICBM that experts believe brings the U.S. mainland within range. Moreover, a missile of its capacity can likely carry larger warheads, allowing North Korea to deliver nuclear weapons of increasing lethality. Weaponized and deployed, such missiles would make North Korea a true nuclear power. It is now evident that multiple administrations trying different approaches across decades have utterly failed at containing North Korea’s nuclear program. Indeed, the nuclear program is now central to North Korea’s national identity, a symbol of its technological and military prowess. It is often said that North Korea presents policymakers with no good options. Each choice, including the choice to do nothing but condemn North Korean actions and impose marginal sanctions, carries with it extraordinary risks. There is a vanishing window of time before North Korea deploys a working ICBM arsenal. By that time, the choice to do nothing may prove to have been the most perilous of all.
The Turkish foreign ministry announced out of the blue that the United States is no longer going to supply arms to the Kurds. Asked for their reactions, American bureaucrats could say only that this was the first they’d heard of it. Eventually President Trump conceded that the Turkish report was true, though he has not so far given an effective date for the stopping. The Kurds have done more than anyone else to fight back the Islamic State. One more push, the Kurds hope, and after decades of frustrated nationalism, they will have a state of their own on the land between Iran and the Mediterranean. A referendum on the topic gave approval that was as good as unanimity. Since the days of Ataturk, the Turks have portrayed Kurdish independence as a nightmare devised specially for them. Before becoming president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried peacemaking with the Kurds, only to reverse himself when the crackup of Syria and Iraq opened a plausible gateway to Kurdish independence. Friendliness and cooperation between the United States and the Kurds has been a sharp thorn in the Turkish side. For the U.S. to drop the Kurds now in favor of Turkey would be one of the greatest of the many betrayals the Kurds have had to endure over the centuries.
Amazingly, Robert Mugabe has been forced from power — and not by Nature. Everyone thought he would leave only when he died. He was maybe the longest-lived tyrant ever. He ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2017. Today, he is 93. There is an election scheduled for next year. His wife and partner in crime, Grace, had said that the ruling party would run Mugabe even if they had to run his corpse. Instead, he has now been ousted in a coup. The new man in charge is Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed “the Crocodile.” Will his teeth be as sharp as Mugabe’s, and will he break as many bones? Whatever the case, Zimbabwe is in sore need of relief. Mugabe has enjoyed a long life, in addition to absolute power, and he denied long lives, not to mention democratic power, to many.
When Christian Lindner, the leader of Germany’s market-minded Free Democratic party (FDP), walked out of the three-party negotiations intended to forge a new federal government from the fragmented political spectrum that emerged from the recent elections, it seemed he was signaling the end of Germany’s post-war political settlement: one of almost astounding stability. Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats had been negotiating to form a quixotic coalition with the Greens and the Free Democrats for want of alternatives. The center-left Social Democrats (SDP) had been in a grand coalition with Merkel but then campaigned on not renewing that coalition. Merkel had ruled out working with the “populist” Alternative for Germany, a party with unseemly roots that had risen by joining Euroskepticism to anti-immigration politics. Germany was therefore faced with either a weak, directionless minority government led by Merkel or a new general election. But now, unexpectedly, the SDP has agreed to talks about resuming coalition government after all. Though Merkel might limp on to form another government, her prestige, towering only yesterday, is now falling. And Germans have begun thinking about what comes next, when Merkel finally goes. That may not be tomorrow, but it is unlikely to be as long as four years away.
Ratko Mladic ordered mass executions and oversaw years of torture, rape, and genocide in Bosnia during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. As a general for Serb forces in Bosnia, he ordered the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995, in a campaign to rid the region of Muslims and others classified as non-Serbian. After gathering testimony from more than 5,000 witnesses in an exhaustive five-year trial, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia last month found him guilty of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It sentenced him, now 75, to life in prison; fellow war criminal Radovan Karadzic is serving 40 years; Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006, before his trial finished. Mladic’s blood-and-soil nationalism was mixed up with Communism, not Fascism, although at that scale of atrocity, the difference is less political than semantic. It happened in Europe, and only a quarter of a century ago.
A young imam by the name of Mohamad Abdul Fattah was beginning his Friday sermon in the al-Rawda mosque, a well-known and picturesque monument on the Sinai coast, when men armed with machine guns entered and started firing. Witnesses say there were 30 or more of these terrorists, many of them masked, most with the long beards that Islamists are obliged to grow. In about 45 minutes of horror, they shot dead 305 people, 27 of them children, and wounded 128 more. Ambulances were shot up as they arrived. Wilayet Sinai is a movement that in 2014 pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and is most probably responsible for this atrocity. One of the terrorists was carrying the black IS flag. Many inhabitants of Sinai are Sufis, that is to say Muslims with rites of their own, and they pay for it with their lives, because Sunni Islamists see them as apostates from orthodox Islam who deserve to be killed and have their mosques destroyed. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, evidently outraged, has promised to use “brute force” to crush terror. The young imam survived, and from his hospital bed says he will resume his sermon as soon as he can.
A 24-year-old soldier has escaped from North Korea. Crossing the Demilitarized Zone, he was at maximum risk. Firing some 40 shots, four border guards disabled his vehicle and several bullets hit him. A video caught him limping as he reached safety and fell unconscious. Flying him in a helicopter to a university hospital 50 miles away, American medics treated him for a collapsed lung. Examination showed that he was suffering from tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and a bad case of intestinal worms. A surgeon removed at least four bullets, saying, “He’s a quite strong man,” which might well be the understatement of the year. For several days, the defector couldn’t speak. The only personal details known about him so far are that his family name is “Oh,” and that he needs reassurance that he really and truly will not be returned to North Korea. The border guards who didn’t manage to shoot him have been replaced, so it might well be their turn to be shot, in which case this whole story would be a perfect parable about Communism.
What Burmese forces are doing to the Rohingya minority is unspeakable. But here is one woman, a survivor, speaking: “They killed and killed and piled the bodies up high. It was like cut bamboo.” She had been left for dead on this pile, but she woke from unconsciousness. “In the pile, there was someone’s neck, someone’s head, someone’s leg. I was able to come out, I don’t know how.” The Rohingya have endured the usual nightmare of mass murder, mass rape, mass destruction of their homes, and hounding into exile (Bangladesh). The U.S. State Department, which has been cautious, has at last labeled Burma’s actions “ethnic cleansing.” The term has no legal ramifications. But it is a welcome recognition of reality.
Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at a Canadian university, wanted to show a classroom full of communications students that grammar can be politically controversial. To illustrate the point, she displayed a video featuring Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychology professor and YouTube personality, arguing for the exclusive use of gendered pronouns to refer to individuals. Peterson himself has been in academic hot water over his political views and his refusal to use students’ preferred pronouns, and naturally the same fate befell Shepherd. But Shepherd had the last laugh when she gave the media a recording of university officials who accused her of creating a “toxic” environment, said that the Peterson video violated the school’s “Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy,” and falsely asserted that the video violated the law as well — in general, demonstrating that they had no idea how a university or a free society is supposed to function. When Shepherd explained that she taught both sides of the controversy and showed the video “in the spirit of debate,” the response she got (and recorded) was, “Okay, ‘in the spirit of the debate’ is slightly different than being, like, okay, this is, like, a problematic idea that we maybe want to unpack.” Thankfully, nothing like this would ever happen at an American school. Right?
Last summer, the London subway system banned “ladies and gentlemen” in its announcements. The city said that the phrase made some people feel excluded, because they consider themselves neither male nor female. We editorialized, “One by one, the graces die — and we salute them as they go.” Now the New York subway system, too, has banned “ladies and gentlemen.” In virtually every car, there is panhandling, which is technically illegal. But at least passengers won’t have to suffer the indignity of being called “ladies and gentlemen.” One by one, the graces die — and we salute them as they go.
It used to be offensive to suggest that different racial groups have distinctive characteristics; now it’s offensive to suggest that they don’t. Not long ago Denise Young Smith, Apple’s “vice president of diversity and inclusion,” remarked that “twelve white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room” could still exhibit diversity because of their varying backgrounds and experiences. For stating this self-evident truth, Young Smith, who is black, was subjected to severe criticism from inside and outside Apple. She underwent the standard ritual self-abasement: “I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it. For that, I’m sorry. . . . Diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities.” But it wasn’t enough, and she soon announced she was leaving the company. Now Young Smith has been replaced — by a white woman. How this newcomer can overcome the handicap of her skin color is unclear — though since whites make up 72 percent of the U.S. population but only 55 percent of Apple’s engineering staff, perhaps they can be considered “underrepresented” as well.
In the Girl Scouts, young women learn to protect themselves against many threats, from woodland creatures to schoolyard bullies. Now the organization is taking on an even more dangerous predator: Grandma. “Holidays and family get-togethers,” the group warns, can “be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.” Specifically, “telling your child that she owes someone a hug . . . can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.” Instead, the Scouts suggest “a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss”; no word on what happens if all she’ll consent to is a distant nod. The cookie-pushers’ assumptions are far-fetched, to be sure, but even if they came anywhere near making sense, the conclusion would not. At any time of year, we’ll take a household where kids learn to hug over one where relatives are afraid to touch each other.
Charles Manson’s life was a dank subway station where twisting lines of the Sixties and Seventies converged. He ingratiated himself with Beach Boys songwriter Dennis Wilson; he brooded on the hidden meaning of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter”; followers of his personality cult, the Family, brutally murdered, among others, Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski; their deed was praised by Weatherman Bernardine Dohrn; a late-blooming follower, Squeaky Fromme, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. One look at Manson’s eyes should have told anyone that he was mad as a hatter. But in the atmosphere of post-bourgeois California, lunatic prophets were common as dirt. This particular lunatic had the soul of a killer. In 1971 he was convicted of nine counts of first-degree murder, for his inspiring role in the crimes of his acolytes. After a California supreme-court decision abolished the death penalty, he spent the rest of his life behind bars. Dead, age 83, decades older than those whose lives he ordered cut short.
What a difference a Hollywood rape scandal makes. If the trial of Bill Cosby was the overture, the fall of Harvey Weinstein was the five-act opera of moral and physical coercion. In its wake, titans of entertainment and business, journalism and politics, have been toppled.
The pattern is remarkably consistent. A rich, powerful man, often a gatekeeper to career advancement, gets the attention of a young woman (occasionally of a young man). The latter often hopes for advancement or approval, only to discover that it comes at the price of unwanted exposure, touching, or actual sex, sometimes forced. The aggressor calculates he will either have his way or, failing that, enjoy silence, since the intended victims who escape will be too intimidated to complain.
Modern free-for-all media and — it must be acknowledged
– decades of feminist pressure have created a new world, in which accusers can now expect a hearing, in the widest public forum. So the floodgates have opened.
As in all revolutions, there will be excesses and blurred distinctions. Representative Joe Barton unwisely sent a picture of his member to a lover while he was separated from his wife; the lover put it online; Barton is the victim of revenge porn (and of his own imprudence). Journalist Glenn Thrush stands accused of propositioning a colleague in a bar after a night of mutual drinking. Boorish certainly, but a hanging offense? Three women have accused Senator Al Franken of groping their butts, and he let himself be photographed miming a lunge at another of them while she slept. She also says he forced a kiss on her. He says he is embarrassed, but intends to stay in the Senate. This conduct is particularly galling given his liberal sanctimony. Representative John Conyers seems to have run his congressional office as a harem: grotesque behavior, compounded by senility. The case of Charlie Rose is painful, but clear. Rose was always hospitable to conservative guests, especially WFB, whom he deeply admired. Yet off-camera he exposed himself repeatedly to junior colleagues. It was time for him to go, as it was for Matt Lauer.
Nature itself supplies a brutal base for male aggression, recognized in myth and art throughout history, from Zeus and his mortal victims, to the rape of the Sabine women, to Don Juan and Faust. (Feminism, for all its achievements, gave predators another protective mask: Hugh Hefner and Harvey Weinstein were big donors to women’s causes.) Judaism, Christianity, chivalry, and bourgeois morality have all tried, in various ways, to moderate and harness the male will. May the modern media storm do some lasting good, and not just flow away in sensationalism.