Law should be changed so they can find someone guilty of being an idiot

January 14, 1997

It was heartening to see that 11 ministers joined forces to try to bring morality to Williamsport.

It doesn't appear it will happen now in that particular town, but I can't help but wish the ministers of Washington, D.C., would see fit to do the same. Although it might take 11 million ministers outfitted with Kevlar frocks and specially trained church dogs to bring about any semblance of change.

Here, in the space of days, we have the leader of the House of Representatives admitting that his lawyer forced him to violate House ethics, while across the street the president's attorneys are asking the Supreme Court to block the lovely and talented Paula Jones from pressing forward with Zippergate.

I have confidence in government, don't you?

I was reading a book called "Undaunted Courage," which describes a presidency packed with allegations of "juicy scandal full of invective and slander, leaks from men in high places, hush money, blackmail and charges of immoral sexual misconduct."


The year, by the way, was 1802 and the president was Thomas Jefferson.

According to author Stephen Ambrose, the allegations were that Jefferson had approached a married woman while her husband was away (true), had cheated on a debt (false) and had several children with one of his slaves (inconclusive).

Fortunately the civil litigation industry in 1802 wasn't what it is today. I can just see a class-action suit against the powdered wig industry over allergic reaction to talc.

The president and the speaker have enlisted the typical defenses: a) It didn't happen, and b) the lawyer did it. But the speaker, give him credit for innovation, has also enlisted the Food Lion defense.

This, in particular, relates to a cellular phone call where Speaker Gingrich was recorded saying improper things. But the speaker insists it doesn't matter that he was saying improper things because the intercepted recording (over a police scanner) was itself improper.

This is like Food Lion's case against the media: It doesn't matter whether the grocery was selling bleached chicken, outdated meat and rat-gnawed cheese because the journalists used improper tactics to get the story.

Let's bring this theory closer to home. Late last year a lot of Washington County residents were outraged when a judge freed a man caught with a carload of cocaine. The judge said yes, the guy was doing something illegal, but he couldn't be charged because the police didn't follow all the pesky little Supreme Court mandated rules.

So, here's the central thread. "A" was doing something bad, but "B" found out about it in the wrong way, so "A" is held blameless.

That means, if you're consistent, that you side either with police/eavesdropper/media or drug suspect/Gingrich/rat cheese.

This is an especially tight spot for me. As a supporter of law and order, a hater of cell phones and a member of the press, my natural instinct is to side with the police/eavesdropper/media.

But as a self-styled champion of civil liberties, I am duty bound to come out in support of drug suspect/Gingrich/rat cheese.

The answer, I believe, is to change the laws. If you have cocaine spilling out of your suitcase, police should be able to arrest you without a warrant on one count of drug possession and one count of being an idiot.

Same with a cell phone. If you are so insecure that you need the false self-importance booster of a cell or car phone you should sacrifice up your right to privacy. (And if you sit there talking at a green light you should be executed.)

Finally, and I say this without any bias whatsoever, the Constitution should be amended to exempt journalists from any laws whatsoever that are broken in pursuit of a good story about rat cheese.

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