The Democratic Party is trying to figure out how it feels about sexual misconduct when the accused party is an elected or prominent Democrat. After many years of reflexive excuse-making, victim-mocking and wagon-circling on Bill Clinton's behalf, a number of Democrats and liberals are belatedly coming around to the stance that perhaps he should have been run out of office in the late 1990's after all. Others are forcefully pushing back in his defense, while still others are contorting themselves in order to blame for their own moral confusion and inconsistency on Republican partisanship, or whatever. Presented with 'The Bill Question' on MSNBC, Democratic Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono wasn't too excited about dwelling on the past. Via the Free Beacon:
"Do you agree with your colleague, Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) that if this happened today with Bill Clinton, with his accusers, that he should have resigned back then?" Tur asked. "Well the whole question of resignation, once again, in my view, he went through an impeachment process as a result of his actions," Hirono replied. "I certainly do not defend his indefensible actions. But let's move forward," Hirono continued. "You know, talking about Bill Clinton should not be a shield to the rest of us talking about what we are going to do about this going forward." She went on to say that people should focus on how we are going to "change our culture" with regards to sexual harassment.
What really matters is how we deal with with sexual harrassment and misconduct today, you see. Forget about accountability; the past is the past. (By the way, it's interesting to hear a Democrat frame the impeachment process as something of just punishment for Clinton's actions, considering that the entire party screamed 'partisan witch hunt' at the time). But since Hirono has averred that the emphasis should be on the here and now, and determining how best to "change our culture" on these issues, should Sen. Al Franken resign? After all, he's been freshly accused of groping by two women, and he's currently a sitting Senator. Like, right now. Your thoughts, Ms. Hirono?
“I think that that is a distraction to be talking about resignation, because what’s really at the bottom of this whole issue of sexual harassment is that it is pervasive in our culture,” Hirono said...Most lawmakers have called for an ethics investigation into Franken. Hirono said Tuesday she believes it’s appropriate to let the investigation play out. “I’m glad that this is coming to the fore now because myself and every woman that I know has endured sexual harassment of one sort or another,” Hirono said. “I hope that we’re reaching some kind of tipping point in our country that this kind of behavior not only is acknowledged but comes to an end,” she added. She then attacked President Trump, who on Tuesday downplayed allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Ah. Serious allegations of sexual assault Bill Clinton is old news. We must "move forward." But talking about whether a Democratic politician newly accused of sexual misconduct ought to resign is a big distraction from the real issues (relatedly here's a New York Times columnist backing away from her initial call for Franken to step down). And the 'real issues' are outrageous Republican things like Donald Trump defending Roy Moore. For a lot of people, it feels as though this is just tribal politics, all the way down. Speaking of which, also courtesy of the Free Beacon, here's another Democratic Senator unwilling to say whether Franken or John Conyers (woman number two has come forward) should leave office. Liz Warren is hedging and dodging on Franken, too. As for the Conyers matter, it looks like he lied at first about being unaware of the sexual harassment settlement; Democratic reactions have been mixed thus far, with Nancy Pelosi backing an ethics investigation. By the way, how is it possible that payouts to victims of misconduct from elected members of Congress can be kept secret from the taxpayers who foot the bill? Josh Barro rightly calls that status quo intolerable:
Settlement documents obtained by BuzzFeed show that Conyers is alleged to have made repeated sexual advances on female employees, in one instance directing an employee to come to his hotel room and then instructing her to "touch it." BuzzFeed also reports that two staffers alleged that they were given the task of transporting, at taxpayer expense, women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs. (Conyers on Tuesday denied settling any sexual-harassment complaints with staff members.) But there's one aspect of BuzzFeed's report that makes me concerned the tab for settlements in Congress is much larger than the $15.2 million in payments that have been reported from Congress' designated settlement fund over approximately two decades. (These settlements are not just for sexual harassment; they can be for employment discrimination and other matters.) ... I understand there are non-ridiculous arguments for confidential settlements. Confidentiality may be preferred by victims in addition to the accused. But in this instance, the public interest in disclosure is overriding. We as taxpayers deserve to know how our money is being used, and we as voters deserve to know which elected officials are misbehaving egregiously at work.
Amen. I'll leave you with this:
Republicans are split right down the middle on this question, even though Donald Trump -- accused of sexual harrassment by multiple women -- won nearly 90 percent of GOP voters last year. Democrats break heavily against the notion of a serial harasser (they likely interpreted this as a question about Roy Moore or you-know-who), even though they did precisely that twice in the 90's, then nominated the guy's wife and cheered him lustily throughout the 2016 cycle. As I said, tribal politics, all the way down.