The Polanski case divides liberals.
Too bad the arrest of Roman Polanski didn’t occur last week. The global elite could have paused from its discussions about the United Nations Convention on the Child (which includes teens) to kick the issue around.
“Absolutely horrifying,” said the French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand. That Polanski drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old in the 1970s? No, that he has been finally nabbed for it.
Perhaps the Polanski case could have served as a topic for a break-out session at the Clinton Global Initiative proceedings also held last week in New York. The sexual exploitation of young women has become one of the former president’s signature issues. As he explained to David Gregory in his Meet the Press interview last Sunday, “there’s this whole problem of trafficking, which has gotten worse in the economic downturn, which disproportionately affects young women.”
Whether the Clinton White House adhered to the Tailhook Convention or the UN Convention on the Child remains an open question. But certainly the former president would agree with actress Whoopi Goldberg that judgments in this area require a range of nuance. Goldberg has defended Polanski by saying: “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.”
How does the National Organization for Women feel about rape-rape? Will it now boycott The View? No, as in its embrace of Clinton, who apparently didn’t commit abuse-abuse with Kathleen Willey and company, NOW takes outrages on a case-by-case basis.
Still, while Polanski has enjoyed a robust defense in the last few days from a legion of Hollywood directors and actors, other liberals are treating him like a more vicious version of Austin Powers. Times have changed since the 1970s when Polanski could get 40 days in jail for a crime that would imprison him for 40 years today.
Don’t look now, but a small fissure has opened up between European and American liberals. The Times even said “we disagree strongly” with the “prevailing mood” in Europe. Maybe an Obama-Sarkozy summit in Gstaad will have to be arranged.
Polanski’s only defender on Hardball was Willie Brown, whose defense-lawyer-style liberalism failed to impress his sparring partner, an indignant female attorney. A careful Chris Matthews kept his distance from the bickering.
An Anderson Cooper segment on CNN about Polanski’s fate wasn’t all that favorable to him either. Jeffrey Toobin, its legal expert, adopted a justice-is-justice tone and said that broken plea bargains never justify fugitive flight.
Apparently Polanski has been hoist by his own petard: the recent documentary that he encouraged, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which was supposed to accelerate his rehabilitation, has retarded it, by baiting American prosecutors into tracking him down. Like Austin Powers, Polanski misjudged the new liberal world that he inhabits, with its mixed signals of permissiveness and regulation.
For whatever reason, the indulgence that liberals recently extended to Michael Jackson no longer covers him. Maybe his timing was poor. Had he been picked up during Bush’s term rather than Obama’s, the New York Times editorial would probably have seen it as a “distraction” from the war on terror and “one more example” of run-amok moralism. ACLU liberals would have complained about procedural violations, and the Democrats would have seen it as a needless offense to a favorite ally, the French.