Afternoon Delight

Conniff and Frum

Afternoon Delight

Conniff and Frum

Afternoon Delight
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Aug. 12 1998 4:56 PM

Conniff and Frum

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Gee, David,

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It would be awfully swell if you'd resist the impulse to call my friends and family in Wisconsin "peasants." It reminds me of my debutante roommate in college, who asked if we were "cheese farmers." In return, I shall promise never to refer to you as Lord Frum. Unless, of course, you prefer the title.

Also, I must object to the suggestion that I am an apologist for Clinton. People familiar with the Progressive know that we've been appalled by him from the start. His whole strategy has been to tilt the Party to the right, so it becomes hard to distinguish from the Republicans. A lot of us on the left are dismayed by Clinton's facile lying, his hollow promises, and his betrayal of principal--cutting welfare and food stamps, whoring after big money, etc. etc. Let Dick Morris or Rahm Emmanuel stick up for him. Don't blame me. I voted for Ralph Nader.

Another article in today's New York Times on page A19: A madam sets up shop in exclusive New Jersey suburb, Morris Township. Former playboy bunny Judith Kelly Dempsey renamed her 20-room Georgian Mansion "Afternoon Delight" and starting bringing in johns right under the neighbors' noses. Horrors. I guess you can sweep the sex shops out of Times Square and turn the whole thing over to Disney, but you can't protect even those who flee to expensive little hamlets outside New York from the scourge of the world's oldest profession. Seems to me the problem here is really business run amok for lack of regulation. Who's to say Mrs. Dempsey, who looks like a nice suburban matron, isn't grossly exploiting the prostitutes, while she herself makes a mint. We shouldn't encourage a business climate that allows pimps. Why not treat prostitution as a public health issue, not a crime, provide free health check-ups (sorry), condoms, and let the prostitutes get help if they want it, maybe even find other work, but at least cut out the nasty middle man (or woman). Certainly the police aren't doing such a terrific job, taking advantage of free service from the very brothels they were supposed to bust in New York.

There's also a huge First Amendment problem with the vice squad activity in Times Square. Just as the dirty jokes and pictures in the sexual harassment claims you mention are, and should be, protected. Sexual harassment should be, first and foremost, about job discrimination. The  best article I've read on sexual harassment was by Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker a few months ago. He pointed out that not all harassment is sex and not all sex is harassment. Women in the Mitsubishi auto plants who are subjected to a deliberate campaign to make their jobs impossible and their lives a living hell should have some legal recourse. The college professor who makes an off-color joke in class should not be persecuted. But the current legal trend is just the reverse. Because there's no sex per se and no one's asked for a date at Mitsubishi, an obvious case of discrimination goes unpunished. Because the professor refers to sex, even though no one's hurt, he gets hounded. I am against speech codes, and for women's equal rights in the workplace. This, it seems to me is the only sensible position.

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See you here tomorrow!

Yours,

Ruth

 

Ruth Conniff is Washington editor of Progressive magazine. David Frum is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard. He is the author of What's Right: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America.