Thursday, November 16, 2017

When Swamp Rats are Dirty Rats

The revelation of sexual misconduct by Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein has transitioned to the District of Calamity.  Accusations of sexual impropriety threatens to swing two Senate seats and effect the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

Much has been made about  allegations of skivvy conduct by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore (R-AL).  These accusations stem from conduct nearly four decades ago that were unreported to authorities, but came to light in the closing days of a special election to fill the seat vacated by now Trump Administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  The alluvia of allegations sound bad, but are past the statute of limitations, based she-said-he-said allegations with little to no corroborating evidence and relies upon the court of public opinion. 



From a political standpoint, Democrats are anxious to make Roy Moore a poster child for Republicans in 2018 and use the hermaneutic that Republicans condone sexual harassment as a cudgel to impeach President Donald Trump if Democrats regain the House of Representatives.  In the near term, the muck about Moore put the White House in a box.  On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, establishment Republicans did not like a loose cannon like Judge Moore to be in the Senate chambers, when it endangers the clubby atmosphere of the Upper Chamber and he could help shake up the leadership.  So many GOP party loyalists were quick to condemn Moore for the alleged but unproven misconduct.

There are concerns that Republicans might lose this previously considered "safe" seat, as Moore is polling with a double digit deficit after these allegations have been publicized.  Since candidate Moore refuses to step aside due to this scandal, the DC GOP suggested writing in another Republican. Apparently, this did not test well and was dropped.  After a careful reading of the Alabama state statutes, centrist Republican Hugh Hewitt claims that the problem could go away if   Senator Luke Strange (R-AL) resigned, creating a new vacancy which would cancel the shaky December 12th election, and Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) could appoint another caretaker Senator until the next general election (in November 2018).  Considering the shaky ground Jeff Sessions is in at the Department of Justice, it is possible that Sessions be appointed back to his own seat.


[L] Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) attending [R] Senator Luther Strange (R-AL) swearing in

Recently, after a pleasant Sunday brunch, we chatted about the troubling news about Roy Moore. As the topic expanded to include sexual harassment by elected officials, two ardent feminists insisted that Congress needed to do something about it and make offenders on Capitol Hill as accountable as the rest of us.  I asked who were their bosses.  The obvious answer was the people.  I maintained that voters get to fire their elected officials periodically and they should decide rather than an insider committee.  That viewpoint was not well received.

Well, it seems that when Congress pushed to make the same rules apply to them as their constituents, there were a few quirks.  Regarding charges of sexual harassment with members of staffers, there is 30 day waiting period before pressing charges.  In addition, the victim making the accusation must undergo mandatory counseling.  That sounds munificent, except the counseling comes from the employer whom someone is accusing.  It would seem that it could be made clear to accusers that going public would not be in anyone's best interests.   If I recall correctly, John Batchelor's news-maker interview indicated that this system has paid out $15 million since its advent in the 105th Congress with nary a word making the press.

Congressional Sexual Misconduct payout ledger


What took party hacks off their sexual harassment game plan was the revelation by a Los Angeles radio personality of Al Franken's inappropriate conduct during a USO mission to the Middle East in 2006, before he was elected as Senator from Minnesota.  The woman reported that she was supposed to do a skit written by Franken that involved a kiss and wanted to rehearse-- she demurred but eventually consented.  During the practice, she alleged that Franken put his tongue halfway down her throat and grabbed her head.  She immediately insisted "Don't do that again!", and she deflected his approach during the skit.

The problem with sexual conduct and Al Franken is about the contemporaneous  photographic evidence. The woman in question wanted to grab some rack time during the 36 hour military flight.  When she was asleep, Franken was seen with a coprophagic grin cupping at her breasts.  No doubt, Franken thought this was funny at the time (and probably a great way to get back at her).  Franken has been known to take outrageous photos for laughs (but the infamous Franken diaper photo was a fake).


Citizen Al Franken takes a picture with a sleeping beauty during a 2016 USO tour.


But this Al Franken moment  was captured on camera. Oops. And the accuser is Leeane Tweeden, a KABC-AM radio personality. Tweeden initially posted #MeToo, but she decided to come forth after hearing Congresswoman Speier's (D-CA 14th)  allegations that members on both side of the aisle have thrust sexual advances while in Congress.

Now this puts a kink into progressive partisans' plans. One of their prominent members stands accused. The public has been primed to always accept the word of victims.  In addition, there is photographic proof. This takes away from the rip the GOP as blanket sexual predator smear.  Rush Limbaugh points out that in this environment, Democrats will have to proverbially throw Senator Franken (D-MN) under the bus to not to seem hypocritical and prospectively use it against their ideological opponents. 

Franken publicly apologized to his victim, claiming that he thought that it was funny.  In addition, Franken submitted himself to scrutiny from his peers.  Maybe this gets it out of the headlines and it gets buried by the press.  If push comes to shove, Minnesota has a Democrat Governor Mark Dayton (D-MN), so Franken would undoubtedly be replaced by another Democrat. 

While justice is a noble pursuit, in this charged environment, the court of public opinion may well condemn non-guilty people just based on innuendo or unproven accusations which are promptly swept under the rug out of convenience.   The reform from the 105th Congress seems to allow members to slide, in a process intended to apply the peoples' law to Congress.  Although there are Ethics Committees to punish members egregious actions, I suspect that the ballot box is still the most efficacious way to punish when swamp rats act like dirty rats. 




Patrick Leahy on Bacon and Judges

Senator Patrick Leahy on Bacon and Judges