The Corner

Politics & Policy

Conyers, Franken, Moore and the Psychological ‘Permission Slip’

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

John Conyers, Al Franken, Roy Moore and the Psychological ‘Permission Slip’

The Republican National Committee, like President Trump, is formally supporting Roy Moore again.

Are Democratic Congressman John Conyers and Senator Al Franken giving Alabama Republican voters psychological “permission” to vote for Roy Moore? Is there a similar effect for other Republican party leaders?

The allegations against Roy Moore are as serious as they can get. There’s a decent amount of circumstantial evidence, and Moore’s initial denials were contradictory and unpersuasive. His current insistence that he never knew or met any of these women, and that anything he signed for them is a forgery, is similarly unconvincing. But there’s that nagging sense that his defeat would mean voters would be signing off on a new standard, that accusations of impropriety are sufficient to end a person’s career. Maybe Moore’s guilty as sin, but what about the next guy? If mere accusation becomes the new, universal standard for removal or disqualification, voters will keep some bad men out of office, but they say see some good men’s reputations and career’s destroyed by false accusations.

And if we argue that Moore’s alleged behavior is worse than Conyers… well, Conyers is still pretty darn bad:  

Another former staff employee of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, came forward late Monday to publicly accuse the congressman of sexual harassment, saying he once slid his hand up her skirt in church.

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing Marion Brown, the former staffer who first accused Conyers, 88, of sexual harassment, on Monday night made public on Twitter an affidavit from Elisa Grubbs making many of the same accusations.

She said in the affidavit she saw Conyers groping and stroking Brown’s legs and the legs of other women in the office and that she saw Brown shortly after an alleged event in Chicago in 2005 where Brown said Conyers’ propositioned her in a hotel room. In the affidavit, Grubbs said Brown told her, “That SOB just wanted me to have sex with him.”

She also said she was sitting next to him at church on another occasion when he ran his hand under her skirt and said other people saw him do it.

Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed of Southfield, dismissed the new claims, noting that Grubbs is a relative of Brown’s and calling them “another instance of tomfoolery from the mouth of Harvey Weinstein’s attorney.” Bloom previously represented Weinstein, a movie mogul accused of sexual harassment by several women, before resigning in recent months.

Reed added that Grubb’s claims were “unworthy of any further response.”

Conyers has already been accused by at least six women of sexual harassment or other improper behavior, including showing up in his underwear for meetings. In her statement, Grubbs said she was at his home on one occasion when he came out of the bathroom naked.

The allegation is that he groped her in church.

This morning, Conyers is scheduled to hold a press conference discussing his future. Apparently he will refuse to resign:

Mr. Conyers, 88, who last week stepped aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, planned to announce on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election, according to a family member who wants to run for the congressman’s seat.

“He is not resigning,” Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said of his great-uncle. “He is going to retire.”

Apparently John Conyers’ behavior had been an open secret for years; as Cokie Roberts said on This Week a few weeks ago, “every female in the press corps knew, don’t get in elevator with him.” We’re left wondering how this could be such an open secret, and why Conyers’ creepy, predatory behavior was never reflected in the coverage of him.

(Conyers was the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee back during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and pulled out all the stops to insist that Clinton’s actions were a private mistake and that Republicans were the true villains in the story. Before the committee vote on impeachment, he declared, “if the American people ever wanted strong evidence that the extremists are still in control of this process, then that is it. It is time to give the American people a holiday gift, to end this sordid tale.” Nobody thought it was relevant that he was harassing his own staff and reporters all along? Of course Conyers wouldn’t give Clinton any grief for seeing his own workforce as a personal harem, he was doing the same thing! And once Bill Clinton escaped any serious consequence… what lessons do you think Conyers took from the whole experience?)

If Al Franken stays… does Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim, get to stay? He says he’s going to pay back the government.

If Fahrenthold stays, does Nevada Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen stay?

A woman who worked as the finance director for a promising Nevada Democrat is alleging that he repeatedly harassed and made sexual advances toward her during his 2016 congressional campaign — and like many young people on campaigns all over the country, she did not know what to do with her complaint and didn’t feel comfortable bringing it to the campaign’s leadership.

So she quit her job. And he’s now in Congress.

Samantha, whose last name BuzzFeed News is withholding at her request, began working for Rep. Ruben Kihuen early in his campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in December 2015 and quit by April 2016. Starting in February of that year, Samantha, who was 25 at the time, said Kihuen, who was then 35 and still competing in the primary race, propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections. On two occasions, she says he touched her thighs without consent.

For what it’s worth, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Kihuen to resign. Notice this is, so far, one accuser who remains unnamed. Is this really the standard Pelosi wants?

Should all the creeps go? Absolutely, Congress would be a better place without them. But once a party decides that one of their guys should be allowed to stay, the other party is not going to enforce its own zero tolerance.

The voters, in Alabama and elsewhere, see this cynical game, where standards of conduct are used as a partisan tool to knock out the other side’s officeholders. And they shrug and refuse to play, and decide they’re not going to worry about any of the allegations.

UPDATE: This morning, John Conyers announced that he is retiring and that he endorsed his son to replace him.

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