An amazing parallelogram of a paragraph

[ by Charles Cameron — or if not, a single sentence paragraph about politics that Levi-Strauss would have loved to diagram, plus Yikes ]

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Orin Kerr, writing in WaPo today for the Volokh Conspiracy, in a piece titled If I understand the history correctly… wrote:

If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

Yikes.

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I’ve provided the full text of the piece so you’ll get the links Prof. Kerr included.

What interests me here, though, is the elegant concision of the piece, with its four parallels and various antitheses or oppositions.

Consider:

It begins with a frame:

If I understand the history correctly,

It then offers its prime example of an errant politician:

in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair

followed by its reversal, as the antagonist takes on the protagonist’s role:

by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair

followed by a third exemplar of political purity, his ascent to power aborted under parallel circumstances:

who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair,

and a fourth, parallel both by succession and similarity of (alleged) conduct:

which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

— with the frame closing on the one-word paragraph:

Yikes.

**

Between the careful formality of “If I understand the history correctly” and the squeal of “Yikes” we see the distance this recital of, yes, historical events has taken our good professor: from mind to emotion, observation to morality, head to heart.

Bravo!

And the (non-partisan) moral of this story is?

8 comments on this post.
  1. Cheryl Rofer:

    Yes, Charles, a nice parallelogram.
    .
    May I suggest as a moral

    Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    Seems like the obvious one.

  2. Justin Boland:

    “Sexual blackmail is the currency of political power.”

    These events aren’t anomalies – the system selects for weak people who are easily (and totally) compromised. Nobody in DC wants another Nixon.

  3. larrydunbar:

    How about: if all congressmen were required to live in glass houses, the public would soon demand the houses to be painted black.

  4. zen:

    The hypocrisy among Republicans then was deep, but they were not alone.
    .
    Actually, President Clinton was impeached for perjury. His lying about sex under oath however was due *entirely* to a new law his administration championed to make it easier for women to bring sexual harassment suits (i.e. on flimsier grounds) against men like…well…President Clinton. Evidently, the theory of the bill’s sponsors had been that only old, white, Republicans like Bob Packwood sexually harass women. What was previously considered “justice” became an outrageous abuse of government power for Democrats only when a prominent liberal figure was subjected to it.
    .
    So, in addition to “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” we might also add “Look before you leap” and “be careful what you wish for”.
    .
    [Incidentally, I thought it was a really bad idea at the time that a sitting POTUS be subjected to nuisance lawsuits of this kind and I still do, for reasons that should now be obvious to all]

  5. Charles Cameron:

    Justin:

    Nobody in DC wants another Nixon.

    Another Nixon is not on offer! Another Bush, another Clinton, however?

  6. zen:

    “Nobody in DC wants another Nixon”
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    Yes, but that’s not because Nixon was corrupt or criminal but because he was competent.

  7. morgan:

    Agreed Zen, he was competent and he also stirred up, at times, irrational hate from what would today be called “progressives”–back then were called “liberals.”–reminds me of the “Bush-Hitler” attitude of today’s “progressives.”

  8. Justin Boland:

    We are very much on the same page, Amen.