Phi Beta Cons

Dershowitz Fizzles on Spitzer

I have repeatedly sung the praises here of Alan Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard, for taking what is, relative to the standards of today’s hopelessly wobbly academe, a courageous and informed stand on Islamic terrorism.

But on the federal complaint linking New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to a high-priced, nationally structured prostitution ring, Dershowitz goes wobbly indeed, commenting to the New York Times, “Men go to prostitutes – big deal, that’s not a story in most parts of the world.”
So much for any moral understanding that Spitzer has betrayed the public trust, that sexual behavior, especially on the part of high public figures, can have ramifications far beyond mere individual “choice” and gratification.
But Dershowitz also expressed surprise that Spitzer had previously prosecuted a prostitution ring. “I always thought he was somebody who would come down on crimes with real victims,” he said, adding:

Prostitutes aren’t victims – they’re getting paid a thousand dollars an hour, and the johns aren’t victims. What upset me the most was that they wiretapped thousands of e-mails and phone calls. In an age when terrorism needs to be stopped, they’re devoting these kinds of resources to a prostitution ring?

Legal scholar Dershowitz, like former prosecutor Spitzer himself, knows fully well the ties between big-scale prostitution and organized crime. Spitzer cannot not know, implies Nicholas Wapshott in the New York Sun, that such prostitution is “invariably” backed by the mob and that its “anonymous victims” are “legion.”
Why? Because again, courtesy of the New York Times:

As state attorney general, he prosecuted prostitution rings with enthusiasm — pointing out that they are often involved in human trafficking, drug trafficking and money laundering. In 2004 on Staten Island, Mr. Spitzer was vehement in his outrage over 16 people arrested in a high-end prostitution ring.

Dershowitz is one of society’s leading public intellectuals. How dare he peremptorily breeze over the ethical and legal ramifications of this most unprivate “private matter”? At risk? The rare reservoir of credibility he commands in the academic world.

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