As the herd of Republican lemmings thunders toward its chosen precipice, indignation continues to resound at the abuse of power by then-Gov. William Jefferson Clinton at the expense of Paula Corbin Jones. The recent arousal of Republican interest in the victimization of (yes) Southern Womanhood reeks of Confederate noblesse oblige, a sentiment apparently inapplicable when Anita Hill, lacking certain epidermal prerequisites, made a case against their darling, Clarence Thomas, what seems like 108 and not eight years ago. It’s not that Ms. Hill’s case was ironclad, but that Republicans showed zero interest in taking her side or exploring it–or, for that matter, in exploring Judge Thomas’ claim under oath that he had never had a discussion of, or expressed an opinion about, Roe v. Wade.
Everyone loves a victim, but not everyone loves the same one. Victims abound, but the choice of comrades is what produces a choice of martyrs. Paula Jones is a worthy victim, in the jaundiced eyes of righteous Southern Manhood, and so, these days, it is striking whose plight does not interest guardians of the nation’s morality whatsoever.
Monica Lewinsky, for one. Ms. Lewinsky interests Republicans as a noose around the neck of the man they love to despise, the non-inhaling, Hillary-husbanding, gay-recruiting draft-dodger himself. That is their sole interest in her. She interests them not at all as the instrument of Ken Starr’s yearlong sting and inquisition. It goes without saying that they were unfazed by the ethics of Linda Tripp’s tapes, by her entrapment at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, by Mr. Starr’s maneuvers to keep her lawyer away from their folksy little interrogation last January. To turn Monica Lewinsky into Federal evidence against Bill Clinton was a matter so stunningly imperative for their cultural jihad that they could not be diverted for one moment to consider the fate of her liberties. They had room for only one specimen of young, wronged womanhood, and that was Ms. Jones. So it should not have been surprising when the House managers reached across the continent to summon Ms. Lewinsky for one more affirmation that she had told the grand jury the truth, one more reminder that Mr. Starr could try to pull a Susan McDougal on her. They had happily published her grand jury testimony, along with piles of surveillance gathered from her family and friends and, by the way, her therapist. So much for the solicitude of helpless womanhood! Such affection for liberties!
Consider also Julie Hiatt Steele, Kathleen Willey’s friend who was recently indicted by Prosecutor Starr’s grand jury on charges that, by no stretch of the imagination, touch anyone’s high crimes or misdemeanors. Where are the barely moderate Republicans, so deeply offended by Mr. Clinton’s ostensible abuses of power? Where are the libertarians? More aroused in defense of Internet pornography than in behalf of a citizen who got trapped in the Starr web.
Where is the outrage? So Republicans cry, when it suits them. Jackbooted thugs draw the wrath of antigovernment zealots, but a careening prosecutor troubles them not at all. A finger-wagging President pricks their moral sense, but a subpoena-waving phalanx of investigators, scattering grand juries across the land, holds no interest for them.
Where is the outrage?
And speaking of fundamentalism …
A Note on Fundamentalism in the Holy Land : I write these lines from Tel Aviv, where the intensity of sectarian passions leaves even those of the American left in the shade. On Jan. 25, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, declared to a reporter: “The damage being done to the Jewish nation by Reform elements is greater, numerically, than the damage caused by the Holocaust. According to statistics, the Jewish nation is in the process of disappearing, because the Reform group is encouraging and supporting intermarriage. One has to study the lessons of the Holocaust and do everything one can to preserve the Jewish people.”
The ultra-Orthodox have stiffened their backs now that Israel’s High Court has ruled that Reform and Conservative Jews have a right to sit on local religious councils. The modern-day antimodernists, whose devout schools are cheerfully subsidized by the Government of Benjamin Netanyahu, would rather boycott religious council meetings altogether than sit down with Jews who, in their view, are not only insufficiently Jewish but, in effect, hostile to Jews. This is the atmosphere in which Rabbi Bakshi-Doron complained that Reform Jews exploit his references to the Holocaust, and said: “Tomorrow they’ll be saying that we’ve sanctioned bloodshed.”
If such remarks came from the goyish side of the street, American rabbis and right-minded civic leaders would rush to the pulpits and the press conferences to denounce this trivialization of the unfathomable sufferings of the Jewish people. Yet legions of American Jews have thrown their support, financial and moral, to the Netanyahu government, which bows and scrapes to the fundamentalists at every turn. Mr. Netanyahu’s religious affairs minister, Eliyahu Suissa, threatens to resign if the Government steps on the toes of the Orthodox. “I will not implement even half a measure if it contradicts the position of the rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate Council. If any conflicts arises, I will no longer be religious affairs minister.” I can see why out-and-out theocrats would relish this sort of down-the-line zealotry, but believers in pluralism should shudder at where their enthusiasm for Mr. Netanyahu has landed them.