Will the sexual harassment scandals in Congress cause the voters' opinion of members to go even lower than they already are?
“Run that by me one more time, son.” That’s what my father used to say to me whenever I would concoct one of my wild stories in an attempt to explain why I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. Simply put, my reasoning was so preposterous that he could not actually believe I would even offer it up as my excuse.
I was reminded of that comment when all the allegations of sexual misconduct started coming out this past week, and I stress allegations, since little hard evidence has been presented until now. But the comments from the players, supporters of the players and detractors of the players are causing me to shake my head in disbelief.
Let’s face it, Congressional approval ratings are already dropping faster than the scary rides Disney World, but they may seem lofty by the time this mess gets sorted out. The pollsters may have to invent a new scoring system to have something to report.
The gist of the matter is that sexual harassment appears to have been going on in the Halls of Congress for quite some time, and apparently everybody who works there, or covers Congress for the news media, knew it was going on, yet reported nothing, save for a handful of women who tried to buck a system designed to protect the violators.
That was the first jaw-dropper. Congress actually has a system administered by the Office of Compliance in place to make it almost impossible for a woman who has been sexually harassed to bring her case to light. A victim must go through counseling for 30 days, attend another 30-day mediation process, then either face a hearing officer, or request a judicial proceeding in Federal District Court, a process that could take an extended amount of time.
On paper, it sure looks like the victim must go through a body of “impartial” mediators, selected by the cohorts and friends of the accused to have her claim investigated. Certainly no conflict of interest there.
Then we find out that Congress has a “slush fund,” presumably from taxpayer dollars, to pay for settlements reached in these cases. I say presumably, because I can’t imagine the lawmakers contribute to a weekly office coffee can to provide the funding.
Of course, any accused members jump at the chance to have their case presented before the Ethics Committees, the Congressional version of foxes guarding their own henhouses. They know the likely result is for members to circle the wagons, portray the accuser as a disgruntled employee, and issue a slap on the wrist to the member after dragging the case out for years. Don’t know why more women don’t come forward with their stories.
And now, we find out that all female members of the press corps know to not get on an elevator with certain members of Congress because they would expect to be groped or propositioned. I expect long-dead investigative journalists are flipping over in their graves at that revelation.
Not only are members of Congress known for being sexual harassers, but the female reporters who know about it, and are being harassed, fail to mention it other than to each other. The whole thing is mind-boggling, and I can’t even imagine what will be the next thing to come out. Every day brings a new low.
If I was inclined to run for Congress, I would jump in right now for 2018. I can’t imagine that many incumbents can feel their re-election is a done deal. If so, I would like to hear their reasons why we should send them back to Congress.
I probably would reply, “Now, run that by me one more time.”