Nick Gillespie’s Weird Criticism of Spitzer/Weiner

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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111 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree. This does not help how I view “libertarians” and reads more lik e standard Republican boilerplate from the perpetually black-leather clad journalist. His piece also reads like standard Republican New York and San Francisco bashing. SF included because I find knocks on one city to imply the other.

    He could have also mentioned Vitter but I notice he did not. Hmmm….

    There are plenty of liberals who are upset about Weiner and Spitzer running for public office again. In terms of celebrity tweets, at least Lena Dunham has voice opposition to both. There are also people who are opposed to Weiner and not Spitzer and vice-versa. People are strange when it comes to forgiving.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      Yeah, it’s a pretty stupid thing for him to say. But it sounds like you are judging libertarians based on this one guy; a bit of confirmation bias, maybe?

      So….how should your doing that affect my view of liberals? 😉Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        I don’t judge libertarians based solely on Nick G but he doesn’t help much. I like Randy Balko, you, Jason K.

        Nick G just seems like a guy that doesn’t like the Democratic Party very much.Report

  2. Avatar Glyph
    Ignored
    says:

    Weiner’s scandal was that not all the sexual behavior was consensual. If all of those women had wanted those photos of “Little Anthony” it would maybe be a different story (though he’d still be a bonehead with so little common sense as to see what a dumb move taking HIS OWN compromising pictures was).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/nyregion/for-women-in-weiner-scandal-indignity-lingers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    ” Gennette Cordova, a 21-year-old college student when she interacted with Mr. Weiner, is still trying to reclaim her identity, online and off.

    In spring 2011, Mr. Weiner sent her an image of himself in boxers, with an obvious erection. Ms. Cordova, who has told The New York Times that she had chatted electronically with Mr. Weiner about politics and not about sex, was shocked by his unwanted advance. ”

    And I am all for legalizing prostitution; but when you make your bones prosecuting others to the fullest for the crime, showboating all the way as you ruin people’s lives; then manage to get yourself caught up in a high-profile hooker sting; you have demonstrated not just hypocrisy, but a level of boneheadedness that should disqualify you from any position higher than dogcatcher.

    Not LEGALLY bar you, of course…but as a matter of common-sense and voting (two words that do not always go together).Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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      says:

      These are good points but why do you think Nick G neglected to include David Vitter (R) in his column?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        If I had to guess, because Spitzer and Weiner are higher profile, and in the news very recently, and were the ones on his mind when he wrote the column?

        But let’s assume he left Vitter off the list intentionally so as to score himself some crypto-Republican points. What’s the accusation then? That he dislikes Democrats a little more than he dislikes Republicans? Even if true, so what?

        If he ENDORSES Vitter, go after him on hypocrisy charges. Otherwise, I am not sure I see the beef with the intro (I mean, other than that seems a little bit of a hacky column intro any way you slice it…and I don’t plan to read the rest of the column).

        I mean, does anybody think that weaselly bozos like Spitzer and Weiner (and Vitter) RAISE people’s trust in government (or democracy, for that matter)?Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
      Ignored
      says:

      I mean, let me see if I can outline what appears to be your imagined “ideal” libertarian logic re: Spitzer.

      1. I believe prostitution should be legalized
      2. Spitzer was the enforcement arm of a regime I believe to be ultimately harmful if not outright immoral, a job he performed with great gusto and showboating glee as he performed that harm and advanced himself
      3. Spitzer got caught DOING THAT EXACT SAME THING, and had to resign
      4. Therefore, he is a politician which deserves my future support (or at least doesn’t deserve my scorn).

      Is that about right?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        As far as I can tell, the liberal commentary is that Weiner is hack and an empty suit and was always about grandstanding and promoting Weiner (the jokes are making themselves!)

        Many liberals tend to believe that Spitzer stood for something and had real ideals. You might not agree with those ideals but that is what I am seeing and hearing. Liberals generally like when people go after Wall Street. They also seem to approve that he spent more time in the “wildnerness” and is trying to return for public office by taking a lesser position. NYC Comptroller is generally seen as a bit of a backwater like Public Advocate.
        Whereas, Weiner is running for a more prestigious position.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer
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          says:

          Your point re: Spitzer and Wall St. makes a lot of sense.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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            says:

            I mean, “sense” in the sense that it helps explain why liberals might be more forgiving of him.

            I still think he’s a weasel.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              Also, I have no idea why I keep writing “I mean” at the start of each sentence. It should just be implied.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              Spitzer was prosecuting securities fraud vigorously back when the SEC and everyone else whose job that was was all “Lighten up, dude. It’s a party!” We’d all be a hell of a lot beter off if there’d been more weasels.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              In the end this is just another product of partisan politics that has always existed.

              There will always be politicians in all parties that resign over some kind of scandal including sex scandals. Some will be able to make effective comebacks and others will not. There is seemingly no rhyme or reason dictating who will be in what category.

              When a politician or other public figure attempts to make a comeback, the partisan press will make comments.

              I don’t see this changing in my lifetime.Report

            • Avatar Herb in reply to Glyph
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              says:

              “I still think he’s a weasel.”

              For visiting prostitutes or for being a liberal?Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Herb
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                says:

                For prosecuting people for prostitution, while making his own use of prostitutes. For making his reputation as some moral crusader, while indulging in the very practice he prosecutes. For profiting, professionally, off the ruined lives and reputations of others, while his own life and reputation appears to remain relatively un-ruined by his own indulging in that very same practice.

                Is it that unclear?Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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                says:

                And that’s leaving aside the bit where, though I believe the question of whether the taxpayers paid for the assignations themselves was never fully resolved, it was (IIRC) fairly certain he’d been using taxpayer money for at minimum the plane flights to and from his assignations, as well as (obviously) for his standard multi-man personal security detail.

                And the whole reason he got busted, was that he was doing squirrely money transfers with his bank, trying to cover his tracks – those suspicious xfers are what caused him to get reported to the Fed Investigators, who initially suspected he might be on the take.

                Sounds like he has excellent money-management and accounting skills, and a thorough understanding of the banking regulations that trigger federal reporting – remind me what a Comptroller does again? 😉

                But leave all that aside. The man was acting like the stereotypical example of a hypocritical moralistic Grand Inquisitor, ruining lives while living the high life, all on the dime of others. He’s a boneheaded bum.

                To ward off the inevitable response – to whatever degree Vitter or any other Republican political figure has engaged in equivalent shenanigans – they are boneheaded bums too. Throw ’em out, and don’t let ’em be anything more than dogcatchers in the future.Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to Glyph
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                says:

                “But leave all that aside. The man was acting like the stereotypical example of a hypocritical moralistic Grand Inquisitor, ruining lives while living the high life, all on the dime of others. He’s a boneheaded bum. ”

                Matt Welch at Reason admitted that he gets as much of his healthcare as possible in France, while fighting healthcare reform here. Has he been fired for high hypocrisy?Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Barry
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                says:

                I don’t know – did he break the very laws he was hired to enforce while engaging in that hypocrisy?

                If you hired me for an Animal Control job, to trap and remove raccoons from your property, and instead found me feeding and cavorting with raccoons in your backyard, should you fire me?

                Would you recommend my services to others?

                I must say, I really don’t get this defense of Spitzer.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry
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                says:

                Here’s one that has some explanatory power and is consistent with behavior in the past, current behavior, and is likely to explain future behavior as well:

                TEAM BLUE ALWAYS GOOD
                TEAM RED ALWAYS BAD
                TEAM GOLD CRAYZEEReport

              • Avatar James K in reply to Glyph
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                says:

                The thing that concerns me most about Spitzer’s behaviour is that it evinces an attitude of “laws are for little people”, anyone who has that attitude cannot be trusted with public office.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Glyph
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                says:

                Was he known for prostitution prosecutions? That’s not a point Gillespie seems to make, but I honestly don’t remember much about his term.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fnord
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                says:

                It depends on what you mean by “known for”. He held press conferences in which he announced bringing down prostitution rings.

                Is that sufficient?Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                If it’s a big enough deal that people actually remember it, that probably qualifies. As long there is, as Glyph puts it “great gusto and showboating glee”, and not just a matter of being the head prosecutor in a jurisdiction where prostitution is illegal.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Fnord
                Ignored
                says:

                I was thinking of things like this:

                In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.

                “This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. “It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”

                http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/nyregion/10cnd-spitzer.html?pagewanted=2&hp%20_r%200Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer
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          says:

          I don’t know why people are making such a big deal over the fact that he ruined a bunch of people’s lives for doing something that he himself was doing. It’s not like he was in favor of cutting government spending or breaking up labor cartels or anything.Report

        • Avatar dhex in reply to NewDealer
          Ignored
          says:

          “Many liberals tend to believe that Spitzer stood for something and had real ideals.”

          as you point out, he was their “punishment dad” figure.Report

  3. Avatar John Wiser
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    says:

    Since when were libertarians of any stripe
    notable for the pellucidity of their logic?Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to John Wiser
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      says:

      Far more often than left liberals. In fact, the accusations often run the other way, that libertarians are too committed to philosophical consistency since we don’t have to actually govern. In fact, whatever reaosn we have to defned freedom of association and conscience also gives us good reason to defend property rights and freedom of contract. The question that faces left liberals is why they are inconsistent and make exceptions property rights. It is illuminating to see how liberals like Nagel start off with principles of neutrality and then twist themselves in knots trying to show how those don’t count against the extensive regulatory state.Report

  4. Avatar Stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    I remember debates with family members during the 08 primaries where some people expressed distaste for Hilary because she didn’t publicly denounce Bill for his sexual transgressions. That was the reason those folks didn’t support her.

    Others countered by saying that a good wife always stands by her man and her failure to publicly criticize Bill was a sign of character or good breeding or something. But boy did she let him have it in private!, they always added. And that’s why those folks didn’t think her failure to publicly rip on Bill was a legitimate criticism.

    Man, that conversation was like being transported to some alternate universe. One twenty years removed from the one I inhabit.Report

  5. Avatar Jenn M
    Ignored
    says:

    Excellent point. This has been bugging me, too. Regardless of how I feel about Spitzer and Weiner from a policy standpoint, I’m pleased to see so many people able to get the hell over any judgments they have about these men’s personal lives. Come on back, Jim McGreevey! It’s between them and their families, and as long as they aren’t misusing government resources to facilitate their getting off, or being total hypocrites as Larry Craig was — banging men and opposing gay rights — then “every schoolgirl in Seattle” should grow up knowing that the answer to the question “What do you have to do to get banished from government work?” is “fuck up government work.” Having a conventional sex life and stable marriage is not government work, thank Jeebus. Then all the schoolgirls and schoolboys and schoolgendernonconforming kids can Snapchat away, overshare on Tumblr in ways that might embarrass them later, and grow up to have all the consensual sex they want however they damn well please… and when they run for office, I hope voters will only care about their qualifications and policies.Report

  6. Avatar Mo
    Ignored
    says:

    The Spitzer critique is a fair cop, he was AG and governor when he engaged in illegal (though should be legal) stuff. He never spent a day behind bars and would never have let a john get away with what he did. What Weiner did was legal, albeit dumb.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mo
      Ignored
      says:

      Wait, I can send unsolicited pictures of myself with an erection and wearing only boxers to unwilling recipients?

      Can I get your e-mail address?

      I’m, uh….asking for a friend.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        It’s dirtbaggy, but doing it isn’t illegal AFAIK.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mo
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          says:

          Huh. I would assume that was “indecent exposure” or “lewd behavior” or something.

          I know that Mall Security didn’t look too kindly on it, even after I added the trenchcoat to the bit.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
            Ignored
            says:

            If this is true then there are probably hundreds or thousands of guys who should be arrested every day. Possibly more.

            According to my female friends on OKCupid, it is fairly to extremely common to receive penis pics from guys very quickly.

            This strikes me as insane. I’m not the best at the whole dating scene but it strikes me as common sense that there are some basic rules like: read their profile*, write in complete and full sentences, don’t send pictures of your sexual organs, be charming.

            *This is ignored by people of all genders and sexualities though.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    What do you have to do to get banished from government work?

    You can scratch “Cheer for treason in defense of slavery” off the list.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    For the record, my problem with Spitzer is that he busted places for doing what he, himself, was doing. My question is whether he received in-kind payments from various agencies to have him attack the competition instead of them.

    I suppose I can understand the theory that Libertarians ought to be okay with that, I guess… is that something that Liberals are fine with?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I should note that Nick G’s column is a bit hyperbolic. The primaries have not occurred yet. There is a difference between running for office and winning elections. Nick G seems to act like Weiner and Spitzer have it in the bag or have been reelected.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I suppose I can understand the theory that Libertarians ought to be okay with that, I guess… is that something that Liberals are fine with?

      Well, it’s a pretty complicated issue, no? If we think that the beliefs of an individual flesh-and-blood person ought to map 1:1 onto the beliefs they hold when playing a role in an massive institutional structure, then everyone ought to have a problem with it. But if we realize that institutional structures impose a certain set of decision-procedures on an individual which may be inconsistent with their outside-the-institution beliefs, then no, neither group should have a problem with this.

      The problem is the imposition of institutional decision-making on individuals who only play roles in those institutions. I think that analysis favors libertarians in some respects, and liberals in some other respects, but isn’t inconsistent with either.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        After fixing the tags in the above post, I considered editing the followup “I can’t believe I messed up the tags!” complaint to “Jaybird, please stop texting me pictures of your junk” but thought that the joke would be unwelcome so I just fixed the tags and deleted the complaint.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          This is where I think you’re applying a normative, and not descriptive, analysis to people.

          Why think that they should be more than human just because the accept a role in an institution?

          Aren’t libertarians the ones who like say that imperfect human beings ought not be allowed to make decisions for others? If so, how is the judgment of this particular individual’s flaws justified?

          Oh, and thanks for fixing the tags.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            Aren’t libertarians the ones who like say that imperfect human beings ought not be allowed to make decisions for others? If so, how is the judgment of this particular individual’s flaws justified?

            Zimmerman for Chief of Police!

            Or, at least, the burden of proof is on the libertarian to demonstrate why, maybe, he shouldn’t be in charge of other folks? Do I have that straight?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              No. It’s that you’re complaint against people being acting like human beings is that they should somehow be more than human beings. Not that the institutions which permit them control over the rest of us ought to be dismantled. Because people in those institutions are, you know, human beings.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Is there any act in which a person could possibly engage that would not qualify as “acting like a human being”?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                That comment acts to confirm my point, it seems to me: that you want to hold polticians to a higher moral standard than other people even while you criticize an institutional stucture that permits imperfect human beings to tell the rest of us what to do.

                Of course, maybe I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Given that the answer to the question (it seems to me) is *NO*, it also seems to me that we could substitute *ANY* person with Weiner or Spitzer and you could argue the same points.

                Put Manson in there.

                Why think that they should be more than human just because the accept a role in an institution?

                How about Michael Vick?

                Aren’t libertarians the ones who like say that imperfect human beings ought not be allowed to make decisions for others? If so, how is the judgment of this particular individual’s flaws justified?

                What about Todd Akin?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Uhh, sure. I guess. Absolutely.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yeah, well, Libertarians aren’t Liberals.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Given the amount of power politicians have, it seems kind of nuts not to hold them to a higher standard. If we’re not going to, then why don’t we just fill political offices by drawing names out of a giant hat?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg
                Ignored
                says:

                Why not hold the politicians to a Lower Standard? Why should we expect of them what we will not expect of each other? Let the politicians hold each other to a higher standard, should such a standard exist — they have certain protections under the law.

                How did Wm. F. Buckley put it? I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.Report

  9. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    Gillespie’s article is “weird” only if you categorize him as a principled Libertarian.

    Which is perfectly understandable, given that being the Ambassador of Libertopia is his job description. He earns his living advocating libertarian ideas, writing articles and going on teevee to evangelize the gospel of free markets and individual lifestyle choice.

    But as scientists like to point out, the theory that explains the data is the correct one. In this case, categorizing Gillespie as a Republicanus Embarrassicatus explains the data better than any other theory.Report

  10. Avatar BlaiseP
    Ignored
    says:

    Politicians as a species are hardly exemplars of upstanding virtue, though certain parts of them stand up. We forgive “our” politicians everything, theirs — nothing.

    Nick Gillespie, bless his heart, is just the most well-meaning, earnest political dunce in America. He’s representative of everything that’s wrong with libertarian thinking today. Lots of critique and no solutions. It’s all so simple for Nick and folks, it just isn’t. We all want our politicians to be noble people, strong and sensitive and capable of solving tomorrow’s problems today — well, shit — politicians are nothing of the sort. They are attracted to power because they’re power-hungry. Why do we want to treat any of them as heroes? They aren’t. None of them.

    Bill Maher once talked about Bill Clinton getting his weenie waxed and taking calls at his desk at the same time. Bill Maher thought he should have gotten some sort of public service medal, getting a BJ and doing the nation’s business at the same time.

    Put it this way, if the White House Chief of Staff put up a sign in the Rose Garden “The line to fellate the President starts here” that line would be a quarter mile long in about fifteen seconds flat. It’s Washington DC for crissakes.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      It’s all so simple for Nick and folks, it just isn’t. We all want our politicians to be noble people, strong and sensitive and capable of solving tomorrow’s problems today — well, shit — politicians are nothing of the sort. They are attracted to power because they’re power-hungry. Why do we want to treat any of them as heroes? They aren’t. None of them.

      This is a distressingly common mistake. People think everything will work right if just the right people are in charge, failing to appreciate that if the right people have to be in charge the system is a failure. The mark of well-performing bureaucracy is robustness, not excellence. A good political office is one that runs adequately even when the wrong person is in charge.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to James K
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        says:

        Well said.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James K
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        says:

        Madison, but especially Hamilton, had hoped to create a system whereby every politician’s feckless ambition would have been held in check by every other politician’s feckless ambition. He, more than any of the other architects of the Constitution, understood the problems inherent in devolving too much power onto any one man — or agency.

        What we got, instead of a system of Checks and Balances, was a system of Connivances and the Grocer’s Thumb upon the Scales. It’s so bad now, the warring parties can’t even speak to each other over a conference table. Loyalty trumps all other virtues and the system has failed.

        Hamilton in Federalist 15: “regard for reputation has a less active influence when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number than when it is to fall singly upon one.”Report

  11. Avatar trizzlor
    Ignored
    says:

    I can’t believe I’m defending The Fonz, but I don’t see any hypocrisy between advocating for an open, well-regulated sex market and simultaneously condemning politicians who make use of the current illegal sex market. First, because politicians are reasonably expected to respect and follow laws, especially those they personally disagree with*. And second, because the two types of sex markets (open vs. illegal) are completely different in the way they treat the sex worker: their safety, agency, rights under the law, etc. are completely different under the two regimes. In fact, a primary reason that libertarians use to argue for legalization of prostitution is the fact that the current market is so cruel and abusive to sex workers.

    * Civil disobedience being an exception here, if Spitzer was actually staging a “sleep in” to protest our nation’s laws against prostitution then that’s a different story.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Do we know that the women who Weiner sent pictures to didn’t want them?

    Maybe they were communicating that they did want such pictures. If they were acting in such a way that practically came out and said “send me a picture of your junk”, I hardly think that we should condemn him for giving them what they wanted.

    Perhaps we should ask about the women who were being teases. Were they Republican plants? Were they trying to harm him? Were they just looking for a pay day?

    Should society do more to tell women that they should engage in more prior restraint if they don’t want men to act the way that men act?Report

  13. Avatar Russell Hanneken
    Ignored
    says:

    “I thought libertarians were the ones who believed that consensual sexual relations were beyond the purview of the government? If the way we get our kicks isn’t the government’s business, then shouldn’t it follow that it’s not grounds for dismissal from government, either?”

    So because libertarians believe the government shouldn’t lock people up for consensual behavior, it follows that they are hypocrites if they think someone’s consensual behavior reflects negatively on his fitness for political office.

    Have I stated your position correctly?Report

  14. Avatar KatherineMW
    Ignored
    says:

    While Gillespie’s critique may be low-quality, the libertarian basis for opposing Spitzer, at least, sounds like the exact same one liberals delight to use against any social conservative caught in a gay sex scandal – “It’s not about what he was doing, it’s about how much of a hypocrite he is!” If you’re a liberal and don’t like liberals having that attitude, and are quite happy with an anti-gay-marriage crusader who has been caught soliciting gay sex remaining in/regaining public office, then you have space to criticize the libertarian position. Otherwise, you’re being inconsistent.

    Regarding Weiner, unsolicited photos of your junk is sexual harassment, which is against the law, and thus a little different from cheating on your spouse (the more usual type of sex scandal) which, while deplorable and speaking of poor self-control and lack of consideration of others, is not illegal.Report

  15. Avatar Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    His article doesn’t seem weird at all. He’s not the first or millionth person to draw comparisons between Weiner and Spitzer. Both of them failed in their public lives: Spitzer by committing crimes, Weiner by making false denials repeatedly to the press. Now, if he wanted to balance out the party designations, he should have added Sanford rather than Vitter, but the point that the article was making was that those who favor larger government don’t trust it, and Sanford’s return doesn’t address that point.Report

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