Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post, complains today that maybe the conservative culture warrior types have a point about those Hollywood liberals. Some them, so it seems, seems to have come to the defense of Roman Polanski, the Polish director (of the Pianist, among other films) whose his wife (Sharon Tate) was murdered by the Manson gang and who some years later pleaded guilty to sex with a drugged and drunken 13-year old. Prior to sentencing, Polanski fled the country, and has since been living in Europe (pretty well, by all accounts). Unfortunately for him, this week he was picked up by the Swiss Police.
Robinson, I think, ought to look closer to home for people with lax morals. Here is his own colleague Richard Cohen, on the Polanski case:
It ought not to matter that Polanski is a Holocaust survivor. (His mother died at Auschwitz.) After all, countless others survived the Holocaust without committing crimes of any sort, especially ones involving moral depravity.
It ought not to matter, either, that in 1969 Polanski’s wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was horrifically murdered by the Manson family when she was eight months pregnant. This, too, does not excuse moral depravity, although it gives one pause. It ought to give one pause. (Polanski underwent a 42-day psychiatric examination following his 1977 arrest.)
And it ought not to matter that Polanski is a gifted artist. In fact, it ought to be held against him. He seduced — if that can possibly be the word — the 13-year-old Samantha Geimer with all the power and authority of a 44-year-old movie director who could make her famous. If this did not impress the girl, it must have impressed her mother. She permitted what was supposed to be a photo shoot.
There are two extenuating circumstances in Polanski’s case. The first is time. It has, after all, been over 30 years and Polanski, now 76, has been clean all that time — no crimes alleged, no crimes convicted. More importantly, his victim pleads his case. Geimer says, more or less, enough is enough. She does not excuse what Polanski did and does not forgive what he has done, but it is time for us all to move on. “He made a terrible mistake, but he’s paid for it,” she said some years back.
Time does not minimize the crime, which in its details is creepy, but jail would no longer serve a purpose. The victim and the victimizer are united — they both want clemency. The girl is now a woman, and the man is old, spending his dotage making fools of his champions, who cannot distinguish between sexual freedom and sexual assault. Let Polanski go — but first let me at him.
He forgot to mention the "booze" and the "drugs." And here's another Post columnist Anne Applebaum:
Here are some of the facts: Polanski's crime — statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl — was committed in 1977. The girl, now 45, has said more than once that she forgives him, that she can live with the memory, that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children. There is evidence of judicial misconduct in the original trial. There is evidence that Polanski did not know her real age. Polanski, who panicked and fled the U.S. during that trial, has been pursued by this case for 30 years, during which time he has never returned to America, has never returned to the United Kingdom., has avoided many other countries, and has never been convicted of anything else. He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.
"Professional stigma" is but a few short words away from "Oscar." My question at this point is whether there is some kind of prohibition keeping one Post writer from criticizing another. One would expect, after all, that friends and colleagues (Hollywood liberals!) would rally around Polanski; they run in the same circles, have worked with him and known him. Their defense of him ought to be seen through that lens. Justifying such behavior, however, as a newspaper columnist seems rather more worthy of condemnation.