Tale of Two Erics
Democrats Show Zero Tolerance; Republicans, Eh, Not So Much
Democrat Schneiderman was out of his job as attorney general in three hours. Republican Greitens? Three months later, he’s still governor.
The #MeToo movement is a dramatic awakening, with moral victories to be celebrated and inevitable misjudgments to be corrected, but with one thing becoming clear: Democrats have zero tolerance for alleged sexual misconduct among its members. Republicans, not so much.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the response to the alleged misconduct of two of its rising political stars: Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was accused in a well-documented New Yorker article by four women he dated of choking and slapping them to the point of requiring medical help, one silenced with the declaration “I am the law.” He initially denied the allegations, claiming consensual role-playing out of Fifty Shades of Grey. Within three hours, when he saw he would get no support from the governor or other Democrats, he resigned.
Contrast that with the ongoing saga of GOP supernova Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who sees support no matter what. Republicans have protected him for months amid grisly revelations about an affair with his hairdresser who accused him of binding her arms, coercing her into sex, and threatening to release a nude photo if she told anyone. You would think the party would be too ashamed to keep backing him after a damning report last month by a state House committee with sworn testimony from the victim. You would be wrong.
This is not an aberration for the party of family values. The party’s leaders, evangelical Christians included, are open about countenancing behavior that once sickened them. A dozen office holders have hung on well beyond proof positive that they’d engaged in sexual misconduct, some having their settlements paid for by the taxpayer.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders blithely plows on from the White House podium in the face of an admission by President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that, contrary to what the president swore on Air Force One, he did know of Michael Cohen’s payment to Stephanie Clifford to stay quiet and reimbursed Cohen for it. What’s more, Giuliani revealed, the president could have paid off other women as well, and, well, doesn’t everybody. It’s a strange trickle-out strategy. Still the party repeats the mantra “No one cares about Stormy Daniels” in the same way they said it was only “locker room talk” when Trump bragged he was so famous he could do anything to women he wanted.
Hypocrisy didn’t begin in 2016. Democrats are censuring their own now but didn’t when multiple women claimed Bill Clinton sexually harassed them and when it came out that he had an affair in the White House. Yes, Monica Lewinsky was a willing partner, but no one thinks it was right for the most powerful man in the world to have his way with a star-struck intern.
Democrats know better now. Schneiderman was doing God’s work, suing Trump, suing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, crusading for women, a future governor or president. It didn’t matter. He was a man without a party Monday night.
The highest-ranking Republican to accord a woman credibility against an errant Republican is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said “I believe the women” when four came forward to accuse Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual contact when they were in their teens. Sure, he wanted to avoid the spectacle of an accused pedophile being elected to the Senate and appearing before the ethics committee before he even found his desk. Still, it was progress to hear him depart from Trump, use the language of #MeToo and possibly his wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, to condemn a fellow Republican.
Of course, Republicans have the additional pressure to ignore or defend Republicans accused of sexual misconduct lest they be asked why they aren’t calling Trump to account as well. Why wouldn’t Greitens hang on as long as his party is hanging in? Pre-Trump, accusations like those against the president, without proof to the contrary stronger than the women are liars and too ugly to bother with, would fell not just a president but also your doctor, your dentist, your candlestick maker.
Instead, the response of Republicans is to bear hug the president, grind it out, and call Democrats politically correct, not morally superior, when they punish their own. Democrats gave credence to that point when they raced to push out former Senator Al Franken when the complaints against him were of a lesser order than those against Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and other prominent men. They could have easily granted Franken due process before the existing ethics committee. Showing up Republicans and scoring a point was more important than making it fair.
The opposite prevailed with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who was accused of physically abusing two wives, with an FBI report, denying him a security clearance, documenting it. For months, chief of staff John Kelly and others protected him, arguing he was the model of good behavior in his job. This ignores the facts that bad sexual behavior doesn’t take place in public, that a predator chooses his victims carefully, that a bank robber doesn’t rob every bank. As one of Schneiderman’s accusers pointed out to bolster her charges, he was a classic Jekyll at home and a Hyde publicly.
What also protects the Porters among us is that with midterms to be won and tax cuts to be enjoyed, a Republican doesn’t want to call out one bad actor and risk having to explain why they don’t apply the same standard to everyone else. To the contrary, in a GOP love-in on the steps of the White House just before Christmas, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a hymn-singing Christian, said that Trump’s was “the greatest presidency we have seen not only in generations, but maybe ever.”
Republicans complain privately that liberals have pushed the pendulum too far. The movement is still finding its footing, but there are few instances of going too far. There’s no avalanche of accusers as predicted. No one’s been shown to be lying. Victims still risk being victimized again. With Schneiderman, it was the prospect of one woman being out there alone that prompted the others to speak out.
Yet the system in Congress to protect its members is intact. Women who complain on Capitol Hill are largely unemployable while the taxpayer ponies up for member’s settlements. It took 12 years to convict Bill Cosby of violent acts against women who looked up to him. Yet the backlash is in progress. Men openly threaten not to hire women, as if that will teach us to take sexual harassment lying down. Charlie Rose is shopping around a new show devoted to showing how he and others were railroaded.
And Eric Greitens, who tied up a woman, is still governor. Democrats are trying to impeach him. We’ll see if the public find that politically correct or the right thing to do.