Weaponizing claims of sexual harassment for political gain

Summary: James Bowman cuts through the fog resulting from the weaponization of sexual harassment claims by the Left. Democrats, thy name is hypocrisy.

Girl looks into a mirror

Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

— “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church” by Robert Burns (1786).

To see ourselves as others see us!

By James Bowman. From his website, 20 November 2017.
Reposted with his generous permission.

The cynicism is breath-taking — which must mean that it is quite unconscious. That’s what the hyper-partisanship of our government-by-scandal media culture has done to its most enthusiastic participants. Just look at the column in The New York Times by Michelle Goldberg headed: “I Believe Juanita.”

In this #MeToo moment, when we’re reassessing decades of male misbehavior and turning open secrets into exposes, we should look clearly at the credible evidence that Juanita Broaddrick told the truth when she accused Clinton of raping her. But revisiting the Clinton scandals in light of today’s politics is complicated as well as painful. Democrats are guilty of apologizing for Clinton when they shouldn’t have.

At the same time, looking back at the smear campaign against the Clintons shows we can’t treat the feminist injunction to “believe women” as absolute. Writing at Crooked.com, Brian Beutler warns that in future elections, right-wing propaganda will exploit the progressive commitment to always taking sexual abuse charges seriously. It’s easy to imagine an outlet like Breitbart leveraging the “believe women” rallying cry to force mainstream media coverage of dubious accusations.

They are “dubious,” that is, because they are made against people whom those on their side find it politically imperative to protect, as they no longer do the Clintons. The insouciance with which, like Mr. Beutler, Ms. Goldberg simply assumes that accusations of sexual harassment, assault or other misbehavior are to be judged according to their political usefulness or otherwise is so shameless that she can hardly be aware of her own bad faith, presumably because she shares it with so many others on the left.


In another column, this one on the allegations against Senator Al Franken by Leeann Tweeden, she frankly considers the pros and cons of the senator’s prospective resignation by noting that she is free to do so at least partly because “a Democratic governor would appoint his successor.”

I guess the optimistic reading of this kind of thing is that she doesn’t feel she has to pretend to be motivated solely by an outraged sense of decency since everyone now assumes that the media will promote and pursue scandal or soft-pedal it for their own political purposes — as, of course, politicians do too. For example, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

“Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,” Ms. Gillibrand, New York Democrat, told The New York Times when asked if Mr. Clinton should’ve stepped down after his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, then in her early 20s, was revealed. Ms. Gillibrand did tell the newspaper that she believed circumstances are different today, however, and what is now deemed a “fireable offense” was more tolerated in the 1990s. ‘Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction’ …. ‘And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.’” {From the Washington Times.}

The Clintons, of course, could point out, with “former Clinton adviser” Philippe Reines, the obvious hypocrisy accepting donations and endorsements from both Hillary Clinton and her husband for several years,” when they could be helpful to her, and only now that they can be of no further usefulness, turning on them with belated condemnations.

But the rest of us are likely to read comments like hers and Ms. Goldberg’s, as does Byron York.


Editor’s note

Comments on this show that Leftists’ blinders prevent them from seeing what Bowman says. He neither justifies or condones sexual harassment. He condemns the politicization of it, and the hypocrisy necessary to do so. Both make discussion and action much more difficult.

James Bowman

About James Bowman

Bowman is a Resident Scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

He has worked as a freelance journalist, serving as American editor of the Times Literary Supplement of London from 1991 to 2002, as movie critic of The American Spectator since 1990 and as media critic of The New Criterion since 1993. He has also been a weekly movie reviewer for The New York Sun since the newspaper’s re-foundation in 2002. He has also contributed to a wide range of other major papers.

Mr. Bowman is perhaps best known for his book, Honor: A History, and his essay “The Lost Sense of Honor” in The Public Interest.

See his collected articles at his website, including his film reviews going back to 1994.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts by James Bowman, about the Trump years in America, about ways to reform America’s politics, and especially these…

  1. Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?
  2. Our fears are unwarranted. America is in fact well-governed,
  3. The good news: America’s politics are neither polarized nor dysfunctional. That’s also the bad news.
  4. The secret reason for America’s white-hot political rhetoric.
  5. The Left embraces racism. The result could be ugly.
Honor: A History
Avilable at Amazon.

About James Bowman’s great book.

About his book, Honor: A History, from the publisher…

“The importance of honor is present in the earliest records of civilization. Today, while it may still be an essential concept in Islamic cultures, in the West, honor has been disparaged and dismissed as obsolete.

“In this lively and authoritative book, James Bowman traces the curious and fascinating history of this ideal, from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment and to the killing fields of World War I and the despair of Vietnam. Bowman reminds us that the fate of honor and the fate of morality and even manners are deeply interrelated.”

18 thoughts on “Weaponizing claims of sexual harassment for political gain

  1. I knew I should have finished that time machine. I finally got the neutrino resonator to work, but I couldn’t get enough plutonium fuel. (I ordered some from these Russian guys on ebay but it never arrived, and i got this visit from the FBI..)

    But seriously folks…OK, so now the Clintons have mostly outlived their usefulness, and they need to get Trump. I’m actually rooting for Roy Moore to win, not because I have any use whatsoever for the guy, but I’m getting tired of this, and if it crashes and burns in a big way, we may see less of it. That’s not an elegant solution to the problem, but on the other hand it’s not an elegant problem.

    What bothers me the most about all this is that it probably drives good people out of politics. They have better things to do than become targets of the paid smear machines. The real dirtbags all think they won’t get caught, or they can ride it out if they do.

    1. Amen. The witches of Salem need to be burned again, because we don’t have any real problems.
      As for hiring women – that’s pretty risky, isn’t it.

    2. One of my favorite political quotes goes one step further than the famous quote attributed to Lord Acton — “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” — and posits that perhaps the real source of the problem is not that power tends to corrupt but rather that it attracts people who are easily corrupted because people who are not corruptible tend be motivated by other things than power.

    1. dashui,

      I too have wondered about these clashing narratives. Women are as tough as men, but damaged by remarks about their bodies or unwanted exposure to dicks.

      Note that in most of these stories the woman says that she neither protested to the guy — however politely (“don’t do that”) nor called the ubiquitous corporate hotlines.

  2. Get it out in the open, I say.
    (1) Why shouldn’t politicians be required to have a minimum of respect for their staffers and others?
    (2) It’s not like there is any other meaningful political dialogue getting displaced by this.

    1. Pete,

      “Why shouldn’t politicians be required to have a minimum of respect for their staffers and others?”

      Wow. Either you didn’t read the post, or did so blindfolded.

      “It’s not like there is any other meaningful political dialogue getting displaced by this.”

      Wow. I guess you are wearing a blindfold.

    1. Ron,

      “This reminds me of the nursery school fiasco.”

      What fiasco? I don’t understand your comment.

    2. Nursery school operators and teachers were accused of various sexual acts with the children under their care.

    3. Ron,

      Got it! A flash back to one of the more insane of our our generation’s (the boomers) many moral panics. Wikipedia has a good article about these.

      Few people will connect a current moral panic with past ones, because a defining characteristic of a moral panic is that denying it makes you one of the guilty (as a supporter). Accusations of witchcraft or rape or commie-symp are presumed true, except for their evil supporters.

      Another characteristic is amnesia about these once the madness passes.

      Of course, I hasten to add, the current news about widespread sexual harassment of women is different than a moral panic — and the sign of a new say dawning. It’s effects on gender relations and American society can only be good.

  3. How many good men and women will be falsely accused? Their reputations destroyed.

    I was a juror in a he-said she-said trial. None of us wanted to be there. There was only she-said he-said (she was pregnant). There was no Solomon moment. None of us wanted to vote. No matter what we decided someone’s life was “destroyed”. I think we were more concerned about the unborn child. We found for the woman. She wanted him to marry her; instead he went to prison.

    1. Virtue-signaling and self-hatred — a toxic combination

      Ben White is POLITICO’s Chief Economic Correspondent, a Morning Money columnist. and a CNBC contributor.


    2. More virtue-signaling and self-hatred.

      A politics editor in TIME’s D.C. Bureau. Part-time journalism teacher at Hoya School of Journalism.


  4. I can’t help but think that if the allegations against Bill had ended Hillary’s political career instead of being brushed aside, then the Dems would be in a much better place today. Gillibrand seems like she has good instincts and it seems like smart politics to go after the giant albatross around the Dems neck that is the Clintons.

    Complaining about hypocrisy in American politics is like complaining there’s too much salt in the ocean.

    1. Pons,

      Now that is a counter-factual history worth thinking about!

      “Complaining about hypocrisy in American politics is like complaining there’s too much salt in the ocean.”

      I disagree. That’s peons’ thinking — we must just accept whatever slop our rulers feed us. Free people — like we used to be — don’t do that.

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