The Jeffrey Epstein affair lays bare deep and malignant disgraces in American life.
They include that modern political partisans on the left rush without evidence to implicate Donald Trump in a sex scandal and that modern political partisans on the right rush without evidence to implicate Bill Clinton in the same.
We've grown to so hate politicians on the opposing side that we're reduced to the irrationality of pre-judging or assuming or hoping or praying that they have engaged in relations with minor girls bought for them by a hedge-fund billionaire and mound of human sleaze.
Trump and Clinton have plenty to answer for merely in their professed or demonstrated one-time chumminess with this horrid creature.
There's an old quote from 2002 from Trump about what a great guy he found Epstein to be and that Epstein likes women as much as he does and seems to prefer women on the younger side. Trump now says he and Epstein fell out sometime after that, which would accrue at least to his partial credit.
There's an old magazine piece about Clinton Foundation activity that says foundation officials worried about Clinton's palling around with Epstein in activities that extended to Clinton's frequent traveling with Epstein on his private plane.
It's bad enough that two men who either had been or would become president didn't possess enough strength of character or good sense to steer clear altogether.
Epstein had massive amounts of money, which Trump tended to respect in a Manhattan and Palm Beach colleague. Clinton enjoyed that a kid from backwoods Arkansas could grow up to move in that rarefied financial circle.
Clinton, even back in Arkansas, sometimes got a kick out of rogues and rascals. He knew he couldn't openly behave colorfully while maintaining the asset most important to him--"political viability." So, to his handlers' eternal fretting, he'd sometimes hang out on the periphery with characters his handlers preferred that he avoid.
But we must not at this point rush so far afield as to declare Trump and/or Clinton statutory rapists, or speculate hopefully to that effect, simply from what would be our own failing--insane political zealotry.
There is enough that is known from this affair--about money, behavior and breathtaking criminal justice corruption--to keep us sufficiently sickened until and unless we learn more.
There is Epstein's alleged abuse of vulnerable minor girls. There is his arrogantly manipulative band of high-dollar, all-star lawyers including Kenneth Starr, the smarmy, sanctimonious hypocrite who moralistically wanted to impeach Clinton for receiving oral sex from a willing partner.
Starr participated in negotiating a pre-emptive bargain of world-record insider favoritism for this alleged sex-trafficker of children.
The deal that only wealth could buy shielded even Epstein's associates from identification and prosecution, kept victims in the dark in violation of law, and was blithely endorsed by a Republican U.S. attorney who is now Trump's Labor secretary.
That Cabinet disgrace, Alexander Acosta, says Epstein received an everyday deal that prosecutors deemed a satisfactory resolution. Epstein would be labeled a sex offender and do a stint of overnights in a special VIP wing of a local jail on deeply reduced state charges of soliciting prostitution.
You're not soliciting prostitution when you buy little girls to be sex slaves.
Perhaps prosecutors thought Epstein guilty of soliciting prostitution by retaining Starr as one of his lawyers.
Acosta's explanation is absurd. We've seen lately on both the national and state scenes how federal prosecutors normally behave when they get a scent of high-level corruption.
Take Jeremy Hutchinson, for example.
Federal authorities didn't agree to some pre-emptive, euphemistic plea bargain taken to a state court that could offer him special jail accommodations.
Instead, they gathered up all the charges against Hutchinson they could find and filed them separately in multiple federal prosecutorial districts, clearly to leverage his acquiescence. They forced him to plead guilty to charges stemming from those publicly enumerated, not to any euphemisms newly conceived by his lawyers. They did so, it is clear, in exchange for what he can tell them about others.
Epstein's deal, quite to the contrary, specifically protected unidentified associates.
I'm not saying Hutchinson should have been coddled as Epstein was. I'm saying Epstein should have been railroaded more severely than Hutchinson was.
I'm also saying we need a morally reborn America that values justice more than money; that protects children with at least as much intensity as it applies to protecting perverted billionaires; that demands better and more discreet people as its presidents; that insists on integrity and decency in presidential associations; that limits its political pronouncements to what is known; that eschews political judgments based on what it merely wants or hopes the truth to be, and that benefits from a respected, down-the-middle news media that can detect and explain the difference to consumers who can recognize and respect it.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 07/11/2019
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: An American disgrace