Using power and position to subjugate and objectify one’s underlings is nothing new. Undoubtedly distasteful and despicable, whether the perpetrator of such devilment is either an elected or appointed official, this dynamic should never be tolerated. Yet, political history has shown the antics of many a scoundrel ignored or even justified in favor of the importance of his position.
Many presidents and politicians have had wandering eyes and illicit relationships which could easily be seen as predator and prey incidents. Since the “Me Too” movement has started its juggernaut of revelation, the public is being made aware of how widespread this social problem is.
What was originally thought to be a small difficulty among a certain group of creepy cavorting clowns, who were immediately vilified in the press, is now an awareness of a pervasive problem. Those of us who believed American society had progressed beyond the corporate attitudes of the 1960s have been unpleasantly surprised.
Legislative hearings and new prospective laws are being generated out of this new awareness.
The long ago permissiveness of the bawdy and naughty official is waning under an electron microscope of closely examined social mores.
Actions that were once never reported and only spoken of in whispers are now indictable in the fourth estate. Further, repercussions will now perhaps be realized in the possibility of adversely affected political careers.
So, with this newly uncovered knowledge, what new standards should we have in society? And along with the courageous victims coming forward with their stories of abuse, do men have a new schematic to follow in their interactions with women? Furthermore, has the belittling of women always existed and we are simply now more aware of this dehumanizing practice because of the evolution of social media?
During the presidential campaign of 2016, it was revealed that Donald Trump had told Entertainment Tonight reporter Billy Bush that, if you are a celebrity, you can indiscriminately grab a woman’s private parts. This revelatory moment was caught on videotape. Trump dismissed the decade old utterance as “locker room talk.” As shocking as this disclosure was, Trump still prevailed in the presidential election. Thus begging the question – is the electorate willing to overlook the reprehensible character trait of the easy diminishment of women if they believe a future office holder can benefit the country?
The 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, was a well-known bounder and cad long before he gained the Democrat nomination for president in 1992. As governor of Arkansas, he used to have state troopers facilitate his adventures with female supporters. Slick Willy’s numerous dalliances were often public fodder, most notably a long time affair with model Jennifer Flowers. His documented crude and lewd advances to myriads of women, including preying upon a widow, Kathleen Willey, were indecent and well known. Still, Clinton ascended to the presidency and defied impeachment.
Even after the reprobate Bill was caught receiving a sex act from a youthful White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Clinton’s poll numbers were soaring sky-high. Clearly, Bill Clinton’s actions were the very definition of the sexual harassment that is the heated topic of today. Yet he was still grandly supported. Clinton left office with an approval rate in the sixtieth percentile; substantially higher than the average Commander N’ Chief leaving the Oval.
Therefore it might be easy to conclude that there are circumstances in which we as a society excuse such ribald behavior providing an official performs positively in his governmental duties.
A few decades earlier, the immortal John Fitzgerald Kennedy also had a well-earned reputation for being a cavalier. Several women have come forward to say they were scurried to a private audience with the young president where offers were made and illicit deals struck regarding clandestine bedroom encounters. Young female staffers could not resist the Boston playboy, nor could starlets and singers and virtually any woman he met.
Many press reporters of the era wrote later on in their memoirs about how they suppressed the information about JFK’s roving eye. Some of Jack’s conquests were atrociously young, yet the covenant of silence was kept.
A few decades before the rascal exploits of JFK, our 29th President, Warren G. Harding, involved himself in a great deal of debauchery in his scant two years in office. Harding enjoyed the company of youthful “flappers.” These were free spirited women of easy virtue. His White House was once characterized by a reporter of the era as “A non-stop poker den and whorehouse.” The greatest scandal of his administration, “Teapot Dome,” was rumored to have occurred because Harding spent all his time lifting “bloomers and bottles.”
Seemingly, tolerance of obscene behavior is now waning in the modern day. Or is it? Alabama Republican nominee to the United States Senate, Judge Roy Moore, allegedly preyed on teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his thirties. Known as a potential predator, he was put a watch list at a shopping mall. Many women have come forward to relate their expositions of Moore’s depravities.
Nevertheless, President Trump has sidestepped the issue of Moore’s questionable morality and defined the issue politically. (In regard to Moore’s opponent Douglas Jones) “The last thing we need in Alabama and the US Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime, weak on order, bad for the military” and “Jones would be a disaster.”
Jones has been a successful Attorney General who has convicted KKK members, church bombers, crime bosses and white collar leeches. Once again Trump’s remarks are totally erroneous.
However, the more important point here is prompted by the president’s comments. Do Moore’s sexual transgressions eliminate him from voting consideration? Or should his potential as a senator supersede all other concerns? Whereas Moore’s poll numbers have dropped, he is still within winning distance of election. And with a looming tax reform bill which is significantly beneficial to the highest wealth earners, a Democrat victory for the Alabama senate seat becomes more onerous to Republicans.
The GOP may have to disregard the heinous behavior of their potential new brethren.
Since the tattletales have been revealed about the scummy exploits of Hollywood pig Harvey Weinstein, a whirlwind of social discourse and potential institutional change has erupted. The “Me Too” movement has cultivated a nationwide discussion on what needs to be addressed and what should be tolerated from our elected leaders.
Marginally talented comedian and quizzically elected senator from Minnesota Al Franken had recently been revealed to be a groper of long standing. Apparently, this talentless hack thought it was funny to intimately touch his fellow USO performers while they were napping. Apparently, he also likes to feel female stranger’s posteriors for kicks, as victims have come forward to retell their experiences. Franken has issued hollow apologies. Democrats have tried to justify his actions by saying he earnestly said he was sorry. Thus begging the question, has Franken’s performance in the senate been so proficient that he gets a pass on his vulgar assaults?
American society and its legislature are becoming proactive. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) has called for a revamping of the sexual harassment policy in the U.S. House of Representatives. To that end, she has proposed the “Me Too Congress Act.” This legislation would strengthen standards and ease reporting of abuse. She was moved to act after the revelations about liberal icon Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan). Attorney Melanie Sloan accused Conyers of “increasingly abusive” behavior, “sexual harassment” and “sexual discrimination.” Other accusers have come forward and apparently $27,000 in hush money was paid to an aide at one point. Conyers’s eccentricities were an open secret in the capital for decades. Although despicable in his actions, his perceived importance to Democratic leaders in the House gave him license to abuse and annoy women.
Sadly only one conclusion can be logically arrived at. Politicians can be forgiven their dastardly behavior if they serve the nation in some other way.
Personal character is no longer a significant enough consideration in choosing our leaders – if it ever was. If a male office holder acts in villainous manner by objectifying or belittling or harassing a woman, so be it. As long as he serves his office in a beneficial way, the electorate gives him license for depravity. Harding, Kennedy, Clinton, Trump, Franken and Conyers will not ever face in historical review or modern evaluation a moral trial.
Despite the current firestorm of sociological conscience, these discussions will sadly and inevitably fade in favor of political expediency.