Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Obsession

Writing for the Jewish Daily Forward this week, Alan Dershowitz made some excellent points here about the squandering of governmental resources to investigate and bring down New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer. Commenting on the government's use of arcane laws to pursue Spitzer , Dershowitz remarked:
Throughout our history, men in high places have engaged in low sexual activities. From Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton, great political figures have behaved like adolescent boys in private, while at the same time brilliantly and effectively leading our nation in public . . .

The back pages of a good number of glossy magazines and local newspapers openly advertise what everybody knows to be expensive call girl services. They’re advertised on television, in tourist brochures and on the Internet. Millions of people around the world use prostitutes and call girls. . .

The trade can be tawdry and sometimes exploitive, as when young girls are enslaved and prostituted against their will. But adult women who make the choice to sell their bodies for sex for $5,000 an hour are not victims, and if the trade is tawdry, it certainly doesn’t warrant 5,000 overheard phone calls, 6,000 intercepted emails and the use of surveillance and undercover agents — all of which could have been put to better use in seeking to prevent acts of terrorism or predation against innocent victims.
The point is well taken. We know intuitively that illicit sexual activity is "sinful" but when does it become "criminal" enough that we invest thousands of dollars to investigate? Alan suggested our Western democracy is simply obsessed with the private lives of public figures from Larry Craig to Rush Limbaugh. He suggested Spitzer would have paid the price at the polls and in his family life, rather than falling victim to vague criminal statutes used to prosecute him for federal crimes for which no one is prosecuted. The criminal law should be reserved for serious predatory misconduct.

This dovetails with Brian Cuban's comments yesterday about the laughable congressional investigations into the New England Patriot's taping scandal, Barry Bonds perjury trial, and Roger Clemens suspected steroid use. What a waste of time. I want my government spending its resources making my family safer. From a law enforcement resource point of view, I don't care about the illicit sexual activities of the rich and famous. It's nothing new. If some investigative reporter from the New York Times wanted to root-out the Spitzer story, more power to him. Knock yourself out. But don't waste my money doing it. Rather, find some terrorists. Clean-up the mess in Iraq. Build more oil refineries so I'm not paying $5.00/gallon at the pumps. Let Spitzer ruin his family and professional life. But don't use my money to help him do it.

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