Jonathan Chait

A Lawyer On Every Street Corner

By

If you haven't seen it, some young-right-wingers started questioning Congressman Bob Etheridge on the street last week, and he grabbed the wrist of one and demanded he identify himself:

Glenn Greenwald demands that Etheridge be arrested for assault:

That's a clear case of assault and battery (the unedited video from the first camera is here).  There is some speculation that the individuals questioning him have some connection to the right-wing organization of Andrew Breitbart.  I hope it goes without saying how irrelevant that is.   The only reason I think this is worth noting is this:  imagine what would have happened to those students if this situation had been reversed, and it was they who had physically assaulted Rep. Etheridge, rather than the other way around. How quickly would they have been arrested and prosecuted?  The application of our laws isn't supposed to depend upon who is perpetrating the crime and who the victim is.  Obviously, there are few principles, if there are any, more discarded than that one in Washington, but it would be nice to see its being applied in this instance by having this Congressman, obviously inebriated with an extreme sense of entitlement, arrested and charged.

It's probably true that the law is going to get enforced more harshly and literally if the victim is a member of Congress. I think the proper remedy is to treat Congressmen like everybody else, not to start treating everybody like a Congressman. If you were walking down a random street and started firing questions at some random person, and they grab your wrist for a few seconds and demand to know who you are, they're probably not going to be arrested and charged with assault and battery. Normally such an encounter would stay clear of the legal system, even if a cop was standing right there. I could see how the notion of prosecuting this kind of scenario would appeal to a lawyer like Greenwald, but Greenwald's beau ideal of society is probably a lot more legalistic than mine.

Loading Related Articles...
Article Tools
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Show all 7 comments

You must be a subscriber to post comments. Subscribe today.