The Punishment Should Fit The Crime

Men everywhere are running for cover as women begin to speak out about the sexual assaults they and their fellow females have suffered, until now mainly in silence.

There is a general sense with which I agree that the transgressors should be punished. There is no statute of limitations for being a pig!

But what’s a fair punishment? Surely not the cry as is heard now in some quarters of “off with their heads,” no matter who, no matter what, no matter when!

In today’s chase of yesterday’s pigs, are there no distinctions, no levels of punishment, no sense of individual punishment fitting the individual crime?

In the case of Harvey Weinstein, the answer in easy. He is publicly accused of acts that are already covered by the criminal law and if charges are brought to court, as seems probable, he will be tried by a jury or judge and if convicted sentenced on the basis of both guidelines and individual factors outlined in his probation report. Others who may be charged with criminalized conduct will be treated in the same way.

But what about just the “pigs?”

What about Kevin Spacey, Michael Oreskes, Roy Price, John Best, Mark Halperin, Roy Moore, Al Franken and scores of other men whose accusers have come forward to demand justice? Should they all lose their jobs, their livelihood, their homes and family, forever cast out from societies embrace?

Take the case of former comedian, now Senator Al Franken. All the readers of this blog surely know the acts he committed against Leeann Tweeden, a former model and news anchor in Los Angeles when they were together on a USO tour in 2006, when Franken was still only a comedian.

What Franken did he admits was wrong and he is ashamed of his conduct. Certainly, confession of wrong doing does not excuse it.

Question: Should he leave the Senate, either through voluntary resignation or expulsion? Michelle Goldberg, in her New York Times column today thinks he should.

Ms. Goldberg says until this incident came to light, she was totally on Franken’s side because of his liberal views, particularly his work on behalf of women’s issues. He was the type of person she says she admired and was very glad to see in the Senate. Then she heard the accusation and saw the picture and that all changed.

She says she considered the question of fairness, weighing the old “good” against the new “bad,” confessing that for a time she waivered but finally came to her decision, as written at the end of her column:

“The question isn’t about what’s fair to Franken, but what’s fair to the rest of us. I would mourn Franken’s departure from the Senate, but I think he should go and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat. The message to the men in power about sexual degradation has to be clear: we will replace you.”

Whoa. Ms. Goldberg is certainly welcome to her view on what’s fair but to hold that Franken should not be considered in the matter of fairness is wrong. When she says the question is what’s fair to the rest of us, who does she mean by the word “us” – men and women or just women? Is she trying to teach powerful men a lesson or exact a revenge for their misdeeds?

If resignation for Franken’s past misdeeds is a fair price, what about another federal office holder named Bill Clinton?

New York Democratic Senator Kristen Gillebrand says he should have resigned the presidency because of his affair with Monica Lewinski. Well, he was Impeached and Tried in the Senate on charges stemming as a result of that affair and acquitted in the Senate because the public (including the majority of women) didn’t want him out.

And what about Donald J Trump who bragged that he often grabbed women by their (most private part)? Franken planted a sloppy, unwanted kiss and took a picture of his hands on a woman’s clothed breasts. How does that equate with grabbing many women’s most private part?

If Franken is forced to resign shouldn’t Trump go also? Never mind the fact that in the 2016 presidential election Trump received forty two percent of the female vote. What were they thinking? And what do they think about Franken?

The ramifications of all this are many and not easy to square but “all of us” should beware of over zealousness with a “one size fits all” attitude toward punishment for all past sexual misdeeds. I repeat, an individual’s punishment should fit an individual’s crime.

And for goodness sakes, women are not best served by becoming “avenging angels” on behalf of their gender as Ms. Goldberg suggests when she says the message to men in power about sexual degradation is that we women will replace you.

I believe (without having taken a poll) that the vast majority of American men – fathers, husbands, sons, brothers – join women in wanting this permissiveness of sexual assault on them stopped and those who have committed it be made to pay a price.

But if somehow this turns into gender class warfare, I’m afraid many men will know which side of the barricade they will want to be on. And that would serve none of us – men or women – any good.

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