Human Error

There’s something about the sexual exploitation of children that pushes a denial button. Too often friends, family, and associates of both the perpetrators and the victims avoid acknowledging the truth. Of course the perpetrators don’t want to admit to what they’ve done, but often the victims lock their victimization into the darkest corners of their minds and never speak of it, either. I don’t know why this is true, yet it happens time and time again.

We might be shocked that the Catholic Church covered up the pedophilia of some priests rather than deal honestly with it, but the same behavior can be found in families and any other group where adults and children form relationships. Nearly always the first reaction to evidence of sexual abuse is to pretend it isn’t happening. And even when there’s an acknowledgment it might be happening, the next reaction is to protect the perpetrator. People like to believe they would protect the child, but when confronted with reality they often hesitate to do so. This may be because they sincerely like the perpetrator and can’t believe he is some kind of predatory monster. Cognitive dissonance wins out over taking action to protect the child.

We’ve learned that Speaker Dennis Hastert was told of of allegations against Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) of improper contact with a young male page, which contradicts what Hastert said yesterday. Today Hastert and other Republican leaders are full of thundering indignation about Foley’s alleged acts. The lawmaker who oversees the page program says he knew about Foley’s “funny” emails a year ago. This fellow claims he “took immediate action,” even though the action seems to have had no effect or follow up. And in spite of all the thundering indignation, Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio blocked a vote on a resolution offered by Nancy Pelosi “asking the House Ethics Committee to begin a preliminary investigation into Foley’s conduct and the GOP leadership’s response to it,” says CNN.

I sincerely hope that Foley’s conduct amounted only to inappropriate emails. Whatever it was he might have done, however, we’re likely to find out that lots of people either knew or suspected Foley’s behavior was inappropriate, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to confront him. Or if they did speak to him, they still covered up for him. This isn’t a Republican thing, it’s a human thing.

Today there’s considerable rib-nudging activity on the Left. As much as we all like to see hypocrisy outed, this isn’t something to joke about. Some on the Right are facing up to what happened, but others sniff about a setup or engage in some weird denial of the denials. I suggest it would be more helpful if everyone resolved to notice, acknowledge, and act upon inappropriate behavior between adults and children and not ignore it or cover it up. This doesn’t mean engaging in vigilante witch hunts; just stop the denial.

Update: Could somebody explain to Don Surber that sexual exploitation of a minor is not equivalent to alleged sexual harassment of an adult?

Ex-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey made life hell for Golan Cipel, who became the object of his unwanted attention. Like Foley, McGreevey resigned. But unlike Foley, McGreevey’s resignation was timed to allow a Democratic successor without an election; looks like Republicans will lose Foley’s seat.

And unlike Foley’s target, Cipel was not a minor. Far from it.

Is Surber implying that, since Cipel was not a minor, what McGreevey allegedly did was worse (note that Mr. Cipel’s claims are uncorroborated)? How weird. I’m not saying either one is OK, but they are hardly equivalent. Adults don’t sustain the same kind of emotional and psychological damage and ought to be able to stand up for themselves better than a child can.

Also, I’m not aware that other Democrats in New Jersey had any idea that Mr. Cipel was feeling victimized until McGreevey spoke out about it, meaning that the New Jersey Democratic Party was not covering up for McGreevey. (I could be mistaken on that point; let me know if I am.)

I’d also like to point out to Mr. Surber and the other righties who are whining about a “setup” that had other Republicans in Congress dealt forthrightly with this matter a year ago, when they found out about it, it wouldn’t be coming up six weeks before an election.

Don’t blame the Dems for this mess, dude.

Update update: See John Nichols at The Nation for a different perspective.

Out of the Memory Hole

While wandering around the web today I came across this Lawrence Kudlow article that accuses Democrats of living in fantasyland.

This coming from Larry Kudlow is equivalent to a sewer accusing the Dems of being full of shit.

The whole article is a ghastly exercise in projection — accusing Dems of everything Republicans are guilty of — but I want to narrow my comments to one part of the article. Kudlow says:

And then there’s Sen. Hillary Clinton, who recently stated: “I’m certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report titled ‘Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States,’ he would’ve taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team.”

The Democrats must be held accountable for such statements.

Mrs. Clinton neglects to tell us that the subject of a Dec. 4, 1998, brief received by President Clinton was “Bin Laden preparing to hijack U.S. aircraft and other attacks.” This material comes courtesy of the 9-11 commission, which President Clinton himself cited during his now infamous interview with Chris Wallace.

You can find the text of this memo on this page (scroll about two-thirds down the page). Following this, you can find what the Clinton Administration did in response (e.g., airports put on high alert; Generals Shelton and Zinni came up with military options; etc.). Larry Kudlow doesn’t seem to understand that the significance of the August 6, 2001 memo was not that Bush was given a memo, but that Bush was given a memo and blew it off.

The Clinton Administration did take steps in response to the December 4, 1998 memo. Perhaps they could have done more, but something (what Clinton did) is more than nothing (what Bush did).

Keep in mind that less than four months earlier, in August 1998, President Clinton had initiated a series of cruise missile strikes on al Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan and had issued an executive order freezing assets owned by bin Laden and al Qaeda and stipulating that U.S. citizens and firms could not do business with them [source]. Also in 1998 President Clinton authorized the Hart-Rudman Commission on national security. You know, the commission that issued a final report on January 31, 2001, predicting terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The report Bush ignored.

The 1998 memo was written during an ongoing antiterrorist effort. The 2001 memo was written while Bush was on vacation.

Back to Kudlow:

Additionally, terrorist expert Richard Clarke, whom the former president also cited in the Wallace interview, made it clear in an August 2002 press conference that the Bush administration had stepped up the anti-bin-Laden effort during its first eight months in power. Clarke said Bush shifted the anti-terror effort from a rollback strategy to an elimination strategy. The Bush administration also increased the anti-al-Qaida budget fivefold. Translated, Bush was tougher on al-Qaida than his predecessor.

Wow, did Richard Clarke really say that? I was drawing a blank. A bit of googling refreshed my memory. Fred Kaplan described Clarke’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission:

Three of the panel’s Republicans tried to throw some punches Clarke’s way, but they didn’t land.

James Thompson entered the ring with a swagger, holding up a copy of Clarke’s new book in one hand and a thick document in the other. “We have your book and we have your press briefing of August 2002,” he bellowed. “Which is true?” He went on to observe that none of his book’s attacks on Bush can be found anywhere in that briefing.

Clarke calmly noted that, in August 2002, he was special assistant to President Bush. White House officials asked him to give a “background briefing” to the press, to minimize the political damage of a Time cover story on Bush’s failure to take certain measures before 9/11. “I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done and to play down the negative aspects,” Clarke said, adding, “When one is a special assistant to the president, one is asked to do that sort of thing. I’ve done it for several presidents.”

Nervous laughter came from the crowd—or was it from the panel? The implication was clear: This is what I used to do and—though he didn’t mention them explicitly—this is what Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley are doing now when they’re defending the president.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is Clarke’s 2002 press briefing, and here is a PDF of Clarke’s testimony to the /11 commission. The press briefing, read casually, certainly gives an impression that the Bushies had stepped up to the plate. But if you know the details you can see that Clarke is doing a soft shoe. Right off the bat he says “that no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration,” but we know for a fact that Clarke had passed a plan to the Bush administration. It appears the Bushies were forcing Clarke to lie for them.