The other day, a conservative friend (yes, I have them) called and wanted to know what was the “liberal take” on Operation Candyman – the FBI Internet kiddie-porn sting that produced 89 arrests in 26 states, with another 50 suspects expected to be pinched at any moment. I replied with the famous quote by Calvin Coolidge.

When returning from church one Sunday, a reporter asked Coolidge what the minister’s sermon had been about. “Sin,” the notoriously tight-lipped president replied. “Well, what did he say about it?” the reporter persisted. “Say about it?” Coolidge asked incredulously. “He said he was against it.”

And I’m also against it. Big time. Exploiting children – whether for the sexual gratification of a few emotionally twisted adults or for the profits of multinational shoe manufacturers – is one of the most despicable behaviors in the long, sorry catalogue of despicable human behavior.

But what my right-wing friend was really implying was the old canard about liberals and pornography. Everyone knows what that’s about. Porn and permissiveness – blame the liberals, blame the ACLU, blame the Democrats, the atheists, the Jews, activist judges, pointy-headed professors, record companies, Hollywood, the 1960s – you name it – as long as it’s the left-wingers, you know, the “other guys” who might see things a little differently than you do.

Well, I’ve got some bad news for my right-wing friend and any other bozo who signs on to this thesis. If this latest – and biggest – kiddie-porn sweep is any indication, we’ve met the enemy … and guess who he is, she is, and they are?

It could be just about anybody you know. Most importantly, it’s seems to be almost anyone you would never suspect. For those who think Jews and atheists are responsible, please be advised that two Catholic priests, six ministers and other church workers were caught in the net. For those who think it’s a bunch of liberals and ACLU types, you should know that policemen and EMT workers number among those arrested.

If your idea of a kiddie-porner is some lower-class slouch in a dirty raincoat, you may wish to reconsider. It would appear that the overwhelming majority of those busted were good, middle-class Americans. And if you think that all these porn-criminals are located in states that voted for Al Gore, guess again. Search warrants were executed in good Bush states like Tennessee, Nevada, Alaska and Ohio. Liberals shouldn’t take too much comfort either – warrants were also executed in Gore states like New York, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

It’s actually worse than even this. For those who think this sickness is somehow an American disease, guess again. Search warrants were also served in nine foreign countries, including Japan, Spain, Finland, Britain and Switzerland. Twelve arrests and more to follow.

Why should this surprise anybody? I’m on the Internet for hours every day and here’s a sampling of e-mails I’ve recently received:

From some sicko named, “jqpli”: Free TEEN HARDCORE WEBSITE

From another disturbnik named, “returnacct193”: See Teen Aged Girls [expletive deleted]

From whacko, “loretta234”: Free Hot Pics of Teen Girls

Since everybody reading this is already online, I know that you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve also noticed that when I try (as I do all the time) to get off these sicko e-mail lists, the porn mail actually increases!

My point in all of this is that pornography, in general, and kiddie porn, in particular, is a world-wide problem that transcends political ideology, religion, national origin, race and gender (yep, women numbered among the 89 arrestees). The cause of it all can’t be predicted by who you voted for, or what political party you belong to, or where you happen to worship – or don’t worship. If you’re looking for causes, quit thinking politics and start thinking about the darkness concealed in some human hearts – a sad and peculiar darkness that casts its shadow without prejudice as to who it infects and who it afflicts.

Consistent with protecting the First Amendment, here’s what I’d do:

One: There’s not much you can do about porn between consenting adults, but when porn involves children, I’d make the fines and sentences so stiff (for example, lifelong confinement to treatment centers) that anyone thinking of making a buck this way would think twice. No plea bargains allowed.

Two: Quit subscribing! Given the sheer volume of this garbage and the fact that porn is a multi-hundred billion-dollar industry, it’s quite clear that somebody is buying this stuff. Believe me, there aren’t enough liberals in the world to account for those kinds of revenues.

This is one boycott that ought to be popular with liberals and conservatives alike!

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