Reaching the Point of Revulsion

May 28, 2015 by

So what are we to make of the revelations of the Clintons’ finances, the $500,000 speeches, the issues with disclosure, and so on? I’m generally an admirer of Bill Clinton’s presidency and of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, but I must say I’ve flinched at the disclosures. And they inspired my column today.
As I see it, the big problem is systemic: money in politics. This money reflects America’s economic inequality and also magnifies it. It also has a corrupting influence across the political spectrum.
A story: Many years ago, when I was a young reporter based in Asia, the Taiwanese government offered me a stipend “to cover expenses,” even though of course my expenses were covered by The New York Times. I turned down what was clearly a bribery attempt, and others over the years from a Korean company and others. But in journalism and in politics, money is rarely offered as an explicit quid pro quo. It’s more a way to buy access, good will and consideration. That’s what offends me, and that’s my topic for today.
My last column was about rape, and I began with the story of Brian Banks, a California man who spent five years in prison because of a false accusation of rape. In comments on the column, P.J. protested: “I tried to understand why placing the exceptional story first – about a false accusation of rape – rhetorically works. But Mr. Kristof, given how head-on you attack other significant problems, I’m surprised you took that route.” So let me explain. One of the reasons the problem of rape isn’t addressed more seriously, I think, is public concern about false accusations. And it seemed to me important to acknowledge up front that that is a real issue – but one that is relatively uncommon, while the larger problem is impunity. Often in opinion writing, we choose between arguments that we find personally persuasive and those that will win over skeptics. I thought that in this case, acknowledging that this is a legitimate concern would make doubting readers more receptive to my argument. So that’s why I started with the Banks case.

1 Comment

  1. Kate sparks

    I have the experience of being a woman and can tell you that unwanted sexual advances are ubiquitous among woman and I don’t know about your experience as a man but you cannot make the statement that rape is uncommon…it is not….check your statistics…shame on your male ignorance…..correct yourself….

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