#MeToo strikes in Washington

Apart from a certain president it seems that sexual harassment, assault and inappropriate behaviour has struck Washington, showing signs that it is now politically toxic.

CNN: The #metoo movement comes to Washington

Consider what has happened in the last week alone (in reverse chronological order):

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R) is resigning from Congress, as the House Ethics Committee announced tonight that it will investigate whether he engaged in “conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”

In a statement announcing his resignation, Franks acknowledged that he learned this week that the committee was looking into complaints from two female former staffers.”Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said in the statement.

* Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) announced on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon that he plans to resign by the end of the year after a series of allegations that he groped and forcible kissed multiple women.

* Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D) resigned his seat on Tuesday following a series of allegations of sexual harassment from former staffers.

* Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) was revealed by The New York Times last Friday to have used $84,000 in taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim against him. The House Ethics Committee has established a subcommittee to investigate Farenthold’s alleged actions as well.

And that list doesn’t even take into account the allegations that continue to swirl around Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore as the December 12 special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions draws ever closer.

And that president has chosen to openly back Moore – Trump urges Alabama voters to back Roy Moore:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday voiced support for Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct, during a rally that foreshadowed themes for next year’s midterm elections.

”Get out and vote for Roy Moore,” Trump said ahead of Tuesday’s election.

The race in the heavily Republican state heated up last month with accusations that Moore sexually assaulted or behaved inappropriately with several women when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Moore, a conservative Christian and former state judge, denies the allegations, and Trump formally endorsed him on Monday.

Trying to avoid losing an election is still a priority for trump, going against the growing wave of disapproval of sexual misconduct.

US Senator Franken resigning

A prominent casualty of the wave of allegations of sexual mosconduct and harassment is US Senator Al Franken. Esrlier:

That sounds like a resignation is probably imminent.

Just now:

The push for Franken’s resignation started after a woman came forward last month to say he had badgered her into an unwanted kiss before he was a senator and groped her while she slept.

‘Their patience had worn incredibly thin’: How the dam broke on Al Franken

That allegation set forth weeks of open deliberation about the political future of the unlikely comedian turned progressive darling.

Last month, Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on the AM radio station KABC in Los Angeles, posted her story on the station’s website, saying Franken forcibly kissed her and groped her in 2006 during a USO tour.

Franken apologized in an email statement:.

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine — is: I’m sorry”.

But in the coming days and weeks, more accusers have come forward.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called for a Senate Ethics Committee probe into Franken

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called for Franken to resign, and other Democratic senators posted statements in swift succession. In the span of a few hours Wednesday afternoon, dozens of senators said Franken should go — including Schumer.

Franken seems to have had no viable option but to resign.

Politico: Inside the demise of Al Franken

Female Democratic senators had been talking privately for weeks about how they were losing their patience as harassment claims piled up.

“It’s painful to do it,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Wednesday after urging Franken to step down. “But here are these courageous women who have come [forward]. It’s a fact pattern that is pretty obvious.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sounded a similar note. “I hope that members of both political parties will be guided by sound principles and even when it’s painful,” Durbin said. “And this is painful. Al Franken is my friend.”

Painful particularly for the women who had to come out in public to get some action on this and other cases of alleged abuse.

Confirmed:

 

Stream of revelations of abuse of power and women

The floodgates may not have opened fully on revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct of prominent men in the US, but a trickle seems to have become a stream.

On the current RealClear Politics front page there are numerous stories about men abusing power and abusing women.

The trickle started with Harvey Weinstein: After Weinstein, a Cultural Revolution (National Review):

It’s been nearly two months, and a geologic age, since the New York Times ran its initial report on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation.

It’s difficult to think of any piece of journalism that has ever wrought such an instant change in American life.

First, more allegations against Weinstein flooded in, and then against other Hollywood, media, and political figures, many of them rapidly defenestrated upon credible allegations of sexual misconduct.

A heightened awareness around sexual harassment is roiling multiple industries in what is a low-grade cultural revolution.

But the stage was set last year: Congress Should Investigate Trump’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct (RCP):

Powerful men with long histories of alleged sexual harassment or assault are finally being held accountable — except one. That would be President Trump.

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said on the “Access Hollywood” tape, referring to a woman he had just spotted. “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the [vagina]. You can do anything.”

Thirteen women have gone on the record to say that is how Trump operated, according to a tally by The Washington Post. Eight of them — who say that Trump kissed them, groped them or both, without invitation or permission — have corroboration, meaning they told other people about the incidents before going public. Similar stories told by the other five accusers are not corroborated.

Trump won election despite the allegations, but his victory did not erase his history. Now, virtually overnight, the paradigm for thinking about and dealing with sexual harassment has changed. A kind of Judgment Day has arrived for men who thought they had gotten away with their misdeeds.

And there’s ample history: Al Gore’s dark past is an inconvenient truth (The OCR):

It seems like every time you open the morning paper, more powerful men are being accused of groping, raping and generally treating their female colleagues in inappropriate and degrading ways.

You don’t have to look any farther than the pages of the New York Times or the airwaves of MSNBC to hear liberal voices openly opining that they blew it in the 1990s by not calling on former President Bill Clinton to step down after he admitted to an ongoing sexual relationship with a much younger intern.

However, one prominent name has managed to stay off of our radar, and I don’t know why. I am, of course, speaking of former Vice President Al Gore.

Back in October of 2006, a Portland, Ore. masseuse accused the former vice president of “unwanted sexual contact” while performing a massage on him in a hotel room.

Students: There Are No Safe Spaces (NewRepublic):

If we have learned anything from the ongoing, seemingly endless tide of sexual harassment allegations against famous, powerful men, it is that there is no space that is truly safe.

It is not a coincidence that this flood has come now, not just with Donald “grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump in the White House, but after years of public denunciations of the very idea of safe spaces. Liberal and conservative commentators alike have written reams of nearly identical columns lamenting the desire, on the part of today’s young people, for a place they might be safe from sexism, racism, and harassment.

A journalist: Charlie Rose, before and after the fall (News Observer):

North Carolina was proud of Charlie Rose. A native, a graduate of Duke University and the Duke law school, and someone who for a substantial two decades conducted perhaps the most thoughtful interview show on television through his own company.

Now, of course, Rose’s career has ended in flames after sexual harassment allegations from several women. It’s hard to imagine the 75-year-old New York-based media and social star will be able to restore his public image.

A Senator:  Al Franken vows to regain Minnesota’s trust after harassment allegations (Star Tribune):

Another politician: Capitol Police investigating whether nude photo of House Republican was a crime (The Hill):

The Capitol Police are investigating whether the unauthorized release of a nude photo of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) online was a crime.

A nude photo of Barton appeared on social media anonymously earlier in the week. Barton on Wednesday acknowledged that the photo was of him but said he did not release the photo and the person who did not only violated his privacy but may have committed “a potential crime against me.”

Barton emphasized that the women he was involved with in the past, one of whom may have shared the photo, were above the age of consent and willing participants.

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” Barton said in a statement.

That may be just embarrassing rather than criminal.

And a candidate:  U.S. Senate candidate Moore’s spokesman resigns as allegations roil campaign (Reuters):

The communications director for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has resigned amid the Alabama Republican’s efforts to combat allegations of sexual misconduct that have roiled his campaign.
News of the departure of John Rogers came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump defended Moore from accusations by multiple women that Moore pursued them as teenagers when he was in his 30s, including one who has said he initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14.

Moore has denied any wrongdoing and has accused the women of conspiring with Democrats, media outlets and establishment Republicans in an effort to tarnish his reputation. Reuters has not independently confirmed any of the accusations.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday, however, that he might yet campaign for Moore, who he said “totally denies” the misconduct allegations, and that Democratic nominee Doug Jones was a liberal who should not be elected.

The president’s stance stood in contrast to the reactions from most Republicans in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have called on Moore to step aside.

Blaming the media and their opponents may be wearing a bit thin, especially when allegations of abuses are spread across the spectrum.

When the rot is defended from the top, and the top may be rotten as well, there is some way to go but the stream may become a floodgate that can’t be held back, even by Trump.

Back to Rich Lowry at National Review:

Now, it is the predators — no matter how entrenched and successful — who are in a precarious position. They can fall from grace within hours of credible accounts of wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter how abjectly they apologize or promise to get therapy and engage in self-reflection. They are powerless before their accusers.

This dynamic can go too far. It is important that accusations always are evaluated for credibility, and the accused get their hearing.

But the model, a disgraceful abuse of power too long tolerated, is ending. Good riddance.

The abuse of power bubble may at last be bursting.

While there are a growing number of accusations those in the firing line are only a small minority of politicians, journalists and movie moguls. The majority, possibly the vast majority, are innocent of abusing their power or abusing women.

But there must be a few others who are waiting, wondering if they will become the next headline.

Trump pot mocks Franken kettle

President Donald Trump has mocked Senator Al Franken after revelations of sexual harassment.

Trump wading into this has raised a few eyebrows given revelations and accusations involving him and harassment. And Franken has at least admitted bad behaviour, Trump attacked rather than acknowledged wrongdoing.

the exposure of Trump’s misconduct during last year’s presidential election campaign was a significant step towards the flood of revelations and accusations over the last month, started with the crash and burning of Harvey Weinstein.

NY Times: In Mocking Franken Over Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Trump Joins a Debate He Started

Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about.

A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him.

In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself.

Indeed, Republicans on Friday were more than happy to talk about Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who apologized this week after a radio newscaster said he forcibly kissed her and posed for a photograph a decade ago appearing to fondle her breasts while she was sleeping.

Democrats, for their part, sought to keep the focus on Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama who has been accused of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple women going back even further, including one who was 14 at the time.

It has embarrassed both Democrats and Republicans, with both being guilty of partisan attacks while turning a blind eye to their own transgressors.

But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight.

But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.

White House aides labored on Friday to distinguish Mr. Trump’s case from those of others, arguing that the president’s conduct was not at issue because he won the election last year after voters had a chance to evaluate both the claims against him and his denials.

That’s typical of the excuse making for their own, something that has more than tacitly approved of and enabled ongoing sexual harassment going back at least fifty five years to the abuses of President Kennedy.

“This was covered pretty extensively during the campaign,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “We addressed that then. The American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president.”

She added that Mr. Trump still maintained that the more than a dozen women who have said that he kissed or groped them against their will were all lying. And she acknowledged no double standard in the president chastising others for sexual misconduct.

“Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn’t,” she said. “I think that’s a very clear distinction.”

Yes, it is a clear distinction. Franken has admitted what he did was wrong, happening in an area that allowed it.

Of course Hillary Clinton has waded in to this.

But Democrats saw the distinction differently. Hillary Clinton said Mr. Franken’s apology and call for an ethics committee investigation “is the kind of accountability I’m talking about — I don’t hear that from Roy Moore or Donald Trump.”

Speaking with Rita Cosby on WABC Radio, Mrs. Clinton added, “Look at the contrast between Al Franken, accepting responsibility, apologizing, and Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who have done neither.”

There’s a high degree of irony there given that tacl of apology and accountability of her husband, Bill.

For her own part, the sexual harassment conversation has been uncomfortable for Mrs. Clinton as well. Conservatives defending Mr. Moore point to various allegations made against Bill Clinton when he was president, including sexual assault, and even some liberals said they should rethink their defense of the 42nd president.

On Franken versus Ttrump she has a valid point.

But the condemning of opponents alongside defending of their own politicians by both Democrats and Republicans is evidence of a morally corrupt political system in the United States.

Trump’s denials, now alongside his mocking of Franken, looks distinctly like a socially corrupt president. The worst rot, whether it be Kennedy, Clinton (Bill) or Trump, is clearly at the top.

Accusations and trials in public by media are far from ideal, and will be manifestly unfair to some.

But this rot has been allowed to continue for a long time, and actions outside the old way of doing things (blind eyes and under-carpet sweeping) needed something drastic and unconventional to break the cycle of harassment and abuse.

And apart from the nonsense of “the president’s conduct was not at issue because he won the election last year after voters had a chance to evaluate both the claims against him and his denials”:

RCP average Trump approval:

  • Disapprove 56.9%
  • Approve 38.4%

The US voters did choose a president with a highly suspect past, but that was over an opponent with her own suspect past plus the known poor sexual behaviour of her husband. That’s not a strong position from which one can claim the moral high ground.

There is evidence at least of Trump having an appalling attitude to women in the past. The pot should start by addressing that adequately.

Senator next target, sexual harassment reckoning floodgates

The Harvey Weinstein revelations and accusations seem to have opened the floodgates of accusations of sexual harassment in the US. Kevin Spacey has also been publicly disgraced, Republican candidate for the Senate Roy Moore is under fire and now  a Democratic senator, Al Franken, the latest to be accused publicly.

Sexual impropriety by politicians is nothing new in the US, with prominent examples John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, and the current president Donald Trump, but it now seems that accusations are being taken seriously and are getting traction.

The GOP has just been rocked by a string of accusations against a Senate candidate – Trump has distanced himself as more accusers emerge – Two more women describe unwanted overtures by Roy Moore at Alabama mall:

Gena Richardson says she was a high school senior working in the men’s department of Sears at the Gadsden Mall when a man approached her and introduced himself as Roy Moore.

His overtures caused one store manager to tell new hires to “watch out for this guy,” another young woman to complain to her supervisor and Richardson to eventually hide from him when he came in Sears, the women say.

Richardson says Moore — now a candidate for U.S. Senate — asked her where she went to school, and then for her phone number, which she says she declined to give, telling him that her father, a Southern Baptist preacher, would never approve.

Richardson says Moore asked her out again on the call. A few days later, after he asked her out at Sears, she relented and agreed, feeling both nervous and flattered. They met that night at a movie theater in the mall after she got off work, a date that ended with Moore driving her to her car in a dark parking lot behind Sears and giving her what she called an unwanted, “forceful” kiss that left her scared.

Moore’s campaign did not directly address the new allegations. In a statement, a campaign spokesman cast the growing number of allegations against Moore as politically motivated.

There is a possibility some accusations may involve political motivations but the number of people being exposed suggest the tip of a much bigger iceberg, an insidious iceberg.

And a sitting Senator has also just been accused: Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It:

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Unwanted advances are not uncommon at all levels of society, but it seems like the male political and media elite in the US are finally being exposed.

Prior to now acceptance and tacit approval of the actions of Kennedy, Clinton and Trump have been swept under political carpets, with power being seen as more important for both Democrats and Republicans than confronting and dealing properly with sexual harassment.

Jeff Greenfield writes: How Roy Moore’s Misdeeds Are Forcing an Awakening on the Left

Years of excusing Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct suddenly seems morally indefensible.

Watching the political contortions of Republicans to defend a candidate accused of sexually molesting teenage girls, Democrats and liberal pundits are reckoning publicly with their own history of fervid rationalizations on behalf of a recent president. But this should be just the beginning of a painful re-examination.

This new consciousness was glimpsed first in a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, a commentator of a stoutly progressive persuasion. “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is,” he wrote, “it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”

It was glimpsed in passing in a New York Times editorial, Ground Zero of conventional liberalism. “Remember former President Bill Clinton, whose popularity endures despite a long string of allegations of sexual misconduct and, in one case, rape—all of which he has denied,” it said.

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, where coastal elitism is a badge of honor, acknowledged the elephant in the room this way: “That so many women have summoned the courage to make public their allegations against Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly—or that many have come to reconsider some of the claims made against Bill Clinton—represents a cultural passage.”

These allegations have long been a part of the right-wing media’s talking points. Sean Hannity invoked them on an almost daily basis during the 2016 campaign, and they were used by Donald Trump as a protective shield, to ward off the charges of serial sexual harassment and the boastful confessions of same on the “Access Hollywood” tape. During the 2016 campaign, Trump brought these three women to a presidential debate, as living, breathing arguments for “whataboutism.”

But from the political center leftward, those allegations never reached critical mass. Maybe it was the very way the Right not only seized on the stories, but made them part of a much broader, far less credible series of accusations. The late Rev. Jerry Falwell spent years peddling “the Clinton Chronicles,” a series of videos that charged the Clintons with complicity in any number of murders. A congressional committee chair used a rifle and a watermelon to try to show that White House aide Vince Foster had been murdered, rather than taking his own life; As late as last year, the fever swamps were rife with stories of a pedophilic sex trafficking ring operating out of the basement of a popular Washington pizza parlor. Any one of these flights of lunacy acted as the 13th stroke of the clock, casting doubt not only on itself, but on every other allegation.

So what changed? Three people: Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

At the height of the Lewinsky impeachment melodrama, Clinton’s defenders always argued that the president’s behavior was a private matter. To this day, you can find references to Clinton’s “dalliances” and “peccadilloes.”

People have long excused sexual impropriety and harassment as normal ‘red-blooded male’ behaviour, which has allowed what I think is a small minority of males to continue as sexual predators virtually unchecked. That seems to have suddenly change.

In the end, though, neither Clinton nor Kennedy can escape the “reckoning” of which Hayes and Flanagan refer. In the case of Kennedy, his treatment of women was not simply callous, but jeopardized his presidency. In the case of Clinton, his public policies cannot erase the serious doubts about whether a sexual predator occupied the White House for eight years. And even measured by partisan concerns, Clinton’s behavior materially, perhaps fatally, wounded the campaigns of Gore and Hillary Clinton.

For many of us, it is easy to look at Weinstein, Trump and Moore as case studies in pathological behavior. Looking closer to home is a lot more painful; it is also compulsory.

Unless and until partisans across the board stop justifying unconscionable behavior out of political self-interest, the more likely it is that the pervasive cynicism about the process, and everyone involved in it, will fester and grow.

Emboldened victims (mostly but not all female) may stem the festering. The dirty most male non-secret may finally be addressed.

There are risks of course – trial by media, false or exaggerated accusations, political agendas may all play a part in some cases of unfairness and injustice.

But they are likely to be small degrees of shall we call it collateral damage. For a long long time unfairness and injustice has been allowed to continue virtually unabated, creating a large number of victims. This has had a profound and damaging effect on our society.

While the direct victims are obviously the worst affected there has been a lot of damage done to families and partners and others too. Innocent males have been indirectly affected by association and suspicion – it is understandable that victims become suspicious of and can have difficulty with relationships with far more than the actual perpetrators.

Addressing this insidious problem properly – with some inevitable unfair damage – is overdue, and may have a massive effect on our society in the future. We will all benefit.