06.26.2015 1

Another Clinton cultural legacy

By Don Todd

bill clintonThere, apparently, has been a dramatic cultural shift in the way convicted criminals view themselves. True, the evidence is anecdotal, but it signals a shift in culture that deserves investigation.

In 1974, I managed a Republican campaign for Attorney General of Idaho. During the campaign a riot took place at the Idaho State Penitentiary. My candidate pledged that if elected he would have a member of his staff interview every prisoner to determine what had happened and what the problem was.

So it came to pass that I spent the month of February, 1975 interviewing each and every prisoner at the state pen.  There was a consistent theme. With one exception, everyone in jail was there through no fault of their own. It was all due to some mix up or misunderstanding. The perpetrators of some of the more heinous crimes claimed to have no memory of the events that led to their incarceration, but, by and large, “I did not do it,” was the most common complaint.

Fast forward 40 years to 2014. Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty to contributing more money to a campaign by using straw donors than is allowed by law. He is now a felon for writing a check that did not bounce. He was sentenced to eight months of community confinement. Going in, he was surprised to learn that murderers, rapists, thieves, and other violent thugs were to be his companions and roommates.

Upon his release, D’Souza made the following comments during Megyn Kelly’s show on June 8, 2015, “It was a rough crowd. On the other hand, after an initial period of caution in which I basically kept to myself, I tried to figure out if there were gangs going on in there. I tried to figure out how I would survive over eight months of sleeping you may say with the hoodlums. After a while I figured it out. And then I began to talk to them, I began to learn about their lives. I recognize, Megyn, I was in a very unusual position that very few people find themselves in. Almost like an anthropologist in a strange land. That was a lot to learn.”

Kelly then asked, “You say a lot of the guys in there, even like the murderers, consider themselves small fry, why?”

To which D’Souza responded, “Well, what I realize is there is a kind of — you may say shamelessness among the criminals. We want people to be rehabilitated, and we want them to feel appropriately humbled to accept what they did was wrong. Interestingly, most of these people do. It’s not like in the Shawshank Redemption where they say we’re innocent. No, they admit that what they did was wrong, but they also have this view, it’s an ideology you might say, that they are the small fry that the big criminals are out there. They’re at large. They’re so powerful that the system can’t get them. In fact, they are the system.”

As François de La Rochefoucauld (September 151613 – March 171680) famously said, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” In other words, the prisoners I interviewed knew what they did was morally wrong so they hypocritically lied about it. The prisoners D’Souza lived with felt no such compunction.

Another example of this moral revolution was the eight year soap opera known as the Clinton Administration. At first, Clinton paid his tribute to virtue by lying about it. “I never had sex with that woman…” When that lie fell apart because of empirical, undeniable evidence, Clinton shifted to the more modern, I did it, but so does everybody else so what difference does it make? Everybody lies about sex became the mantra.

Politics follows culture, or, as is often said, people get the government they deserve. This cultural shift does not bode well for our country.

Don Todd is Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government.

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