Moral Immunity

New York media have been absorbed by two stories this past week: Governor Chris Christie's mea culpa on Thursday, and the departure (also on Thursday) of Indian consular official, Devyani Khobragade, after indictment by the U.S. attorney for violating federal and state laws.

The humiliated, unknowing, and flabbergasted govenor apologized for the GWBridge lane closings that snarled Fort Lee, NJ, traffic for four days in September. His staff and various political operative were getting even, apparently, with the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for failing to endorse Christie's reelection in November. Christie says he knew nothing about it.

Consular official Khobragade, behaving as she might in India, was arrested and indicted by the U.S. Attorney for lying on a visa application for Sangeeta Richard whom she hired as a housekeeper and for violating New York labor laws. The scandal was brought to a conclusion by Ms. Khobragade's departure from the U.S. On leaving she said to the U.S. State Department official accompanying her: "You have lost a good friend. It is unfortunate. In return, you got a maid and a drunken driver. They are in, and we are out.” Actually only Ms. Khobragade is out; her husband and children remain in New York. Times story.

Does political immunity, which Christie has enjoyed, or diplomatic immunity, which Khobragade claims, bestow moral immunity? It seems so.

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.

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