Of Private Vice and Public Virtue

Of Private Vice and Public Virtue

As the Lewinsky scandal unfolded, the New York Times was chronicling how New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani was straying from the straight and narrow path of political morality. The mayor’s actions deserve more attention than they have attracted, because, though less titillating, they raise the same questions of character and morality and are more consequential for the integrity of a political democracy than the president’s misbehavior. Despite all the blather about how Clinton has damaged “family values,” Giuliani is the more subversive figure.

The Giuliani story begins, curiously enough, with a Times report from Beijing. On September 9,1998, Joan Robinson, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, was to deliver a speech at the Beijing Hilton on “democracy and freedom.” Chu Hailan, the wife of an imprisoned dissident, was waiting in the lobby to speak to her on behalf of her husband. But before she had a chance to approach the commissioner she was grabbed by police and security guards who “bundled her, screaming through the lobby” to a police station. Later a Foreign Ministry spokesman stated, “Security guards removed a woman from the entrance of the Hilton Hotel because she was disturbing order at the hotel.”

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Lima