Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Puritan Life

Foreign Policy has a story on an ongoing sex-sting going on in Russia, targeting the opposition. The most interesting part is the societal reaction to the indescretions as they became public:

Echoing pretty much everyone else I spoke to, Yashin added that Shenderovich may be a public figure, but his private life is inviolate. "What does this have to do with anything? You can also install a camera in the bathroom and catch him pooping, if you want! The only people who can ask him about this are his wife and his daughter. Everyone else -- it's not your fucking business, okay?"  

If only Americans acted this way. Instead we get impeachment trials and tear-filled apologies on Oprah. Move on, people.


  1. I think you are oversimplifying the issue of President Clinton's lies. It would be one thing if the only lies were Clinton's public statements to the media. But instead, he lied under oath during discovery in a civil lawsuit.

    Ah, wasn't the lawsuit politically motivated? Maybe so, but the legal system doesn't have a "base motive" exception to allow perjury. I mean, I could have honestly asserted that many of the discrimination lawsuits I defended when I was in practice were financially motivated.

    Maybe the relevance of the Lewinsky affair to Paula Jones' lawsuit was tenuous. But the judge presiding over the deposition disagreed and ordered Clinton to answer the question. He could have sought to appeal that ruling, but instead he chose to lie . . . under oath. And that a political leader would be willing to have a consensual affair with a subordinate woman isn't completely irrelevant to whether he might have propositioned another subordinate.

    The judge still might have gotten the ruling wrong. But the solution for that is not self-help; it's to use the tools within the legal system.

  2. My point wasn't that it was OK for Clinton to lie under oath, but that it shouldn't have gotten to the point where he was testifying under oath in the first place. And it's not just Clinton. It's Tiger, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, David Vitter, Eliot Spitzer, the list is endless. I just don't get why people care.

  3. Um, but part of my argument is that our sexual harassment laws made it arguably relevant to ask Clinton about his sexual affair with Lewinsky. You can say it's just between him and Hillary whether he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, but if he did, it sure seems probative about whether he might have propositioned Paula Jones. . . . I don't know that it's the right balance, but it certainly doesn't seem insanely wrong to me to say that as between the sexual harassment plaintiff's interest in proving her case, versus the alleged harasser's interest in protecting the details of his illicit affairs, we go with the plaintiff.

    As for Spitzer, I think you're even more off-base. Dude was patronizing prostitutes while he, as Attorney General, aggressively prosecuted prostitutes and pimps. There's serious concerns over selective prosecution -- did he target only those who wouldn't play with him, and protect those who did? It's one thing if a prosecutor essentially decriminalized prostitution and availed himself of prostitutes; it's altogether different to enforce the law, except against your own prostitutes.

    I'll give you Tiger. I don't understand why he was apologizing to me.

  4. I'm nowhere near qualified to argue the finer points of sexual harassment law with a law prof. Maybe my examples are off-base, but I don't think you're actually disagreeing that we, as a country, are way too interested in people's personal lives.

  5. Sure, I think the general point is right -- celebrities, certainly, and even many politicians where lies to avoid getting into details about personal sexual (mis)conduct are titillating but kind of silly and we'd probably be better off not having such media coverage of it. I just think, for the reasons noted above, that lies under oath and abuse of political power to protect oneself from consequences that one imposes on others are special cases that *do* deserve attention.

    FWIW I don't think I would've voted to have removed Clinton from the White House, were I a Senator. I think I might have voted to impeach him, though, were I a House member.

  6. Along those lines, I'm confused as to why John Ensign is a Senator in good standing. He tried to bribe and buy the silence of people to cover up his indiscretions. That's abuse of power, but he's not being drummed out of the Senate...

  7. The lesson here is that if you're a politician in the US, never lie about sex. The only things you're allowed to lie about are war crimes, wiretapping, torture - you know, the small stuff.