Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

No double standards

Jerry Stratton, October 8, 2006

There are lots of things about the Foley case to write about—the perception by those in power that they are invincible, for example. It’s amazing sometimes how little politicians think about the consequences of their actions. At least Foley didn’t dare the press to follow him around. But looking at what he said during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, he came pretty damn close.

But for me, the most interesting aspect is something I’ve written about in the past: partisanship. We, voters, also tend to not think about the consequences of our actions when someone we don’t like gets caught in a scandal. We end up setting precedents we’re going to regret later.

Ignore the Internet Messaging texts. As soon as the Republicans saw those, they cut Foley loose. Look at just the e-mails. These were e-mails from a third party supposedly quoting and commenting on what Foley wrote—not e-mails directly from Foley. The FBI looked at them and declined to follow up on them.

Should they have? Should the Republicans have cut Foley loose based just on the e-mails? What standards do we want for starting an investigation based on that kind of language from a third party?

It looks pretty damning to see the e-mails alongside the Internet messaging texts, but imagine that the IMs weren’t public yet and that e-mails purportedly in response to e-mails from a politician you would otherwise want to stay in office came to the attention of party leadership. Someone on “your side”. Further, the parents have asked that the matter be dropped.

Imagine that scenario, and then write your party and tell them, “this is how I want you to handle situations like this in the future.” You might consider writing your employer as well, asking them if they have a recommended response.

For example, should they go to past and present colleagues and start asking about inappropriate behaviour around kids? Should the Republicans have, for example, gone to all of Foley’s past and current pages and started asking if he preyed on underage kids? What if they were to find this out about a Democrat? This is the sort of thing that comes under two different names depending on whether you like the perpetrator or not: common-sense investigation and witch-hunt.

On the one hand that e-mail certainly looks to me as if it should have warranted at least a minor investigation. But on the other hand, I work at a University and everyone knows at least one faculty member with a reputation. Just last week a faculty member told me how beautiful their students were, and how they’d like to see more photographs of them on the web site.

And I know that having wrote that, everyone from the University who reads it will know exactly who I'm talking about… and at least half of them will be wrong. Some of them will even think I’m talking about them, and except for one of them, they’ll be wrong, too.

Have I reported it? No, it seemed innocuous at the time, only standing out in retrospect because of the Foley scandal. Not so innocuous that I joined in the conversation but they’ve been around a long time, they seem like a nice person, and what’s the issue? What about your place of work? Is there someone there who flirts like a queen? Do you want the management to start asking the people they work with questions about sex with interns? Their family members?

It is too easy to formulate a law or response based on people we don’t like, but it is important to also examine what we want to happen to people we do like.

There are no double standards. If we put up this standard for Republicans, the same standard will apply to Democrats and everyone else. We shouldn’t formulate policy based on what we want to happen to “this guy”, but based on what should happen to everyone.

I get the feeling, as Mark Steyn asserts, that if Foley had not resigned,

his GOP colleagues would have been all over TV deploring his behavior, calling on him to step down, expressing outrage, etc. After two or three days, a few lefties might even have piped up to assail the Republican theocrat sexual McCarthyites tormenting the poor chap. Had he actually had sex with congressional pages, affronted gay groups would have pointed out this was perfectly legal in the relevant jurisdictions and would have complained ferociously about the stigmatizing of gay relationships and Democrats would have declared there should be places for all at the American table… A few quirks of timing and the parties’ respective roles might have been entirely reversed.

Blue Crab Boulevard writes that “wasting all the effort and time on a sideshow, the Democrats are missing a chance to engage on real issues”, but perhaps the worst part is that there are real issues in this sideshow as well: at what point is an investigation necessary? At what point do we start asking embarrassing questions to a person’s colleagues? These are important questions both in and out of politics. But the only answer we’re getting is “when the accused is a political opponent”. That’s not how to build a democracy.

  1. <- Save the ACLU
  2. Victim Experts ->