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Political InQueery: Politics of the Absurd

In the camp of You Can't Make This Shit Up, I'd like to take a brief look—a glance, really—at a few odd stories about the weird things former politicians and lobbyists (and politicians who became lobbyists) do. Honestly, I don't think I should write about this for too long, as something in my brain might start to mis-fire on purpose. Contemplation isn't worth long-term cognitive damage, after all.

Bill and Chelsea ClintonFirst, there's the Bill Clinton weight loss story that I keep pretending isn't there, but like Al Pacino says in The Godfather Part III, it keeps "pulling me back in." The initial reporting that Chelsea had asked him to lose weight for her wedding made me cringe:

"She doesn't think I'm in shape to handle it," Clinton said. "You know, she told me the other day, she said, 'Dad, the only thing you gotta do is walk me down the aisle, and you need to look good.' " Clinton added that when he asked her to specify how much trimming down she felt he needed to do, she said, "Oh, about 15 pounds," an effort he said he's "halfway home" toward accomplishing.

Lest anyone think the story was only carried on non-news websites, let me note that it also appeared in places like ABC News. When I first read about this in the spring, I made an idealist's presumption, namely, that Chelsea was worried about her father's health and thought that by framing it as a health issue, he'd be more motivated to respond by dropping a moderate amount of weight. But as the stories continued, along the lines of how many pounds he had left to drop, I began getting suspicious that what news agencies thought was interesting was how "good" or thinner he looked. Rarely do men get this kind of weight attention, but Bill does have a history of it. Personally, I'd rather see less of a body focus overall than just let men into the fatphobic gaze.

Jack AbramoffNext we have Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who broke one too many laws and actually went to prison. Okay, maybe it was more like many laws, ones for tax evasion, fraud, and conspiracy. Apparently, he's at the halfway house stage and has just started a job at a pizza shop. As ABC News tells it:

After three and a half years at a minimum security federal prison in Western Maryland, he has moved to a halfway house in Baltimore. The halfway house found him the pizza job, where he has been for less than a week. 

Abramoff once owned a kosher deli in DC that the Washington Post described as "truly awful." Here's to crossing our fingers that his "marketing" consulting for the pizza business doesn't run them into the ground. But two points to whoever wrote the headline: Jack Abramoff Rolling in a Different Kind of Dough. I don't know, it makes it sound like gay pizza dough to me.

But for news of the truly, abyssmally awful—well past the line of simple absurdity—we have the unfortunate revelations about Al Gore's alleged sexual assault of a masseuse. The details of this are painfully wrong. Moaning during a massage? For which he paid more than $500? Grabbing her hand so he could move it where he wanted it? He demanded sexual favors with what, his Tennessee accent? I'm so pissed I'm not even going to post a picture of him. 

toy poodlesThe masseuse called him "a crazed sex poodle" and a "big lummox," lummox not being a euphemism in any way. But lest I get too out there with the knee-jerk coping-mechanism humor, let's reflect for a moment on the disturbing revelation-within-a-revelation about this situation: no charges were coming Al's way, even though this incident allegedly happened in 2006. Hmm. He didn't want to run for President in 2008 even though there was much public speculation that he might or should. I wonder if this had anything to do with that decision. And the announcement of his separation from Tipper at the beginning of June now looks a lot more complicated.

Finally, for those looking for a fresh face in news reporting, go no farther than CNN. Starting this fall, as we head down the home stretch for the midterm elections, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kathleen Parker will be hosting a weekly primetime show. Oh, and Elliot Spitzer will be co-hosting. Yes, that disgraced governor from New York Elliot Spitzer. I'm not sure what he'll have to say, but hey, he landed a better job than Jack Abramoff, so he's looking uh, pretty?

CNN is marketing this program as something of a renegade show. Jon Klein, president of CNN/US, remarked on their site:

"Eliot and Kathleen are beholden to no vested interest – in fact, quite the opposite: they are renowned for taking on the most powerful targets and most important causes."

Most important causes? What to wear out to his next visit to the Emporer's Club VIP room?

Each of these men has faced or is facing his own scandal, and well, each seems to be doing just fine. I wonder why that is.

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Comments

13 comments have been made. Post a comment.

whatever happened to

whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? If what Al Gore did is true, then that's truly disgusting. But there is no evidence. And there has to be sufficient evidence in order for charges to be filed. And, apparently she refused to cooperate with police when her attorney filed the complaint.

I am just very bothered by the fact that you seem to think he's guilty just because he was accused of it. Men are falsely accused of rape and sexual assault all of the time. You can't and shouldn't automatically assume they're guilty just because someone said they did it.

You know what else happens all the time?

Women's sexual assault stories aren't taken seriously.

Also no where did Everett say Gore was "guilty" of anything, not like the Bitch blogs has any say in the legal repercussions of this incident so I don't know why the relevancy of "innocent until proven guilty" is of such import. I'm actually glad that there is someone covering the Gore story that is actually taking an askew, if not critical, glance at the whole thing, since everyone seems to be falling all over themselves to point out that women are constantly going around accusing men of sexual harassment. Which yes, happens, but what happens more is women are sexually assaulted and then have to put up with such bullshit coming forward with their story (like "there's no evidence" which no, there's no physical evidence, but if her story is truthful, there wouldn't be any, so why would she go to the police?)

and to edgy1004, I can't attest to Gore's innocence or guilt any more than anyone else reading about the story on their laptop, but I found TPM's round-up of the proceedings very telling. I think a lot of people don't want to believe that Gore did this, but maybe because he's such an unlikely candidate to do so made him all the more entitled.

Do you know why it's not

Do you know why it's not taken seriously sometimes? False accusations. It sucks, but it's because of the people who falsely accuse that give other real cases doubt.

the reason this isn't hurting him is because 1) it was 4 years ago 2) there was and still is no evidence and 3) the alleged victim refused to cooperate with authorities. Which is weird.

People who falsely accuse go to the police because they think they can get away with it. Didn't I read somewhere else that she asked for a million dollars from him. If he's guilty, why would she ask for money?

No.

Men are falsely accused of rape and sexual assault all of the time.

No. No no no no no. This is not a "fair" stance to have; it's a patriarchal, victim-blaming one. Rape accusations are extremely trying to make, largely because of harassment and constant assumption that the victim is lying; this is a million times more intense when the assaulter is a public figure. Women do not go around crying rape; in fact, the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are unreported. It takes amazing bravery to come forward.

But there is no evidence.

Excuse me, do you have any idea how difficult it is to prove sexual assault, especially when there was no ejaculation? In these cases, "innocent until proven guilty" is a trope used to push women back into their "place."

I honestly hope this is a troll.

FWIW, the victim (or a legal

FWIW, the victim (or a legal representative) is alleged to have attempted to extort money from Gore and the tabby where the story was placed.

I am very disturbed by this. I am no sexual assault apologist, but I also am fully aware it is a bell that cannot be unrung. As MOC have been lynched, beaten and tortured around this issue, I don't have such an easy relationship extremes on either side of the argument. I know that white women are to be believed no matter what evidence is or isn't present, but that same blanket of protection (which is not much, btw) is not afforded to any other marginalized classes of women. It's a complicated issue and actually we don't personally know anything.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I mean, there's "extorting

I mean, there's "extorting money" and then there's getting a finding or judgment in a civil court which would award monetary damages in a case like this, esp. after a criminal court had found guilt on the part of the defendant. If this woman couldn't get the Portland police to investigate her story/go up against a former VPOTUS/give her the time of day, such a civil appearance wouldn't get very far. She says she has evidence. It hasn't made a difference. If she hoped for money and didn't get any but still went forward with the news story, I think that says something. But sure, I can't know what happened. I only know that it's not improbable, and I'm pissed that once again, the right gets to distract the rest of us from the economy, the oil geyser, and the still-too-high unemployment rate. And either Gore or this woman is going to take a fall in the press. It sucks.

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.

Gore will not fall. This

Gore will not fall. This woman will and that is what angers me the most. He might have the whiff of "sexual misconduct" or whatever, but essentially he's insulated. That really chaps my ass.

The media tends to cherry pick which sexual misconduct cases it covers for ones they feel demonstrate (at least to them) the claims of the victim are dubious in nature. It supports the whole rape culture in US society by reinforcing the "see, women LIE about this." I mean that's easy to do if you only cover stories where this is a possibility. (not saying that's the case here). I don't like the media coverage of these kinds of cases, because it does victims of assaults no favors and suggests there's no kyriarchial component or power dynamics at work at all.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

It does happen. And because

It does happen. And because it happens, real accusations of rape and sexual assault aren't taken seriously. Just because it's an accusation of rape or sexual assault, you shouldn't automatically believe it's true. We want to, but you cannot ignore the fact that people are falsely accused.

I never assumed the alleged victim is lying (and at this point, it's still alleged). Whether or not you like it, the accused has rights to. And yes, many sexual assaults go unreported; I was sexually assaulted in college and didn't report it because I knew I had no case unless he admitted guilt, there was no evidence and I didn't want to look at his face ever again. People also don't report it because they fear they will be accused of being a liar, mostly because people have falsely accused in the past.

You can't just sit there and say that women are innocent, all of the time, and are victims, all of the time. And that we should believe every single person automatically whenever they accuse someone of rape or sexual assault.

Well, as a general rule I

Well, as a general rule I try to stay away from generalizations. While I would never argue that "women are innocent all of the time," (and honestly, I'm not sure what you mean by innocent here), I also am taking a careful stance to give people who say they've been assaulted the benefit of the doubt over the defendants. This is because:
1.) I'm not a judge or juror, and I can do things differently than people working within the criminal justice system. This is not to say that I'd like to "convict" Gore in the "court of public opinion," but I think that without the limitations of law imposed on my thinking process, I have reached the conclusion that my interpretation of being feminist means that people (male or female) who come forward saying they've been assaulted will get my initial faith. There are more than enough spaces in our society that will give them initial and perhaps continual, doubt. I'm quite aware, personally and politically, that the accused has rights. And I'm also confident that defendants will have plenty of supporters talking about those rights. I don't need to be one of them. So yes, I do automatically assume someone is telling the truth when they come forward. And everyone else should feel free not to do this.
2.) There are all kinds of reasons people don't report rape and sexual assault, way beyond fear of being called a liar. I'd also like to note here that it strikes me [sic] that it's not really the being called a liar people fear so much as the consequences of having people insist one is a liar—being shunned, loss of livelihood, friends, personal security—so let's just not oversimplify the label of "liar" when it is publicly ascribed to someone. People are also afraid of being seen as sluts, asking for it, having their romantic lives dragged through the courts, being bankrupted for need to defend themselves against slander charges, etc. People don't want to have to recount traumatic experiences 6 and 7 and 20 times to insensitive or careless cops, therapists, judges, and juries, and especially the defendant, and especially especially when they suspect said defendant will use listening to the retelling to get off on his power trip all over again. And those are just a few of the reasons people don't come forward. I haven't named custody or fear of retribution. Well okay, I just did. And still there are more reasons. So let's not reductively reduce the entire conversation about one woman's allegations down to truthiness. Nor should we extrapolate so much from this one case.
3.) I completely disagree that because some people falsely accuse, real accusations aren't taken seriously. That is a fast ride to letting outrageous assessments about women's behavior control the conversation and reality for women. Real accusations aren't taken seriously because people have a vested interest in not taking them seriously, and because in the greater context about women's voices, WOMEN aren't taken seriously. False accusations happen with such rarity that to say they're the cause of denying people's complaints is to fester a huge illogic. And I don't want to do that, obviously!

Lastly, this post was about four men and their lives during/after scandal. I would love to hear people's thoughts about the other three folks in this post.

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.

I'd also like to note here

I'd also like to note here that it strikes me [sic] that it's not really the being called a liar people fear so much as the consequences of having people insist one is a liar—being shunned, loss of livelihood, friends, personal security—so let's just not oversimplify the label of "liar" when it is publicly ascribed to someone. People are also afraid of being seen as sluts, asking for it, having their romantic lives dragged through the courts, being bankrupted for need to defend themselves against slander charges, etc. People don't want to have to recount traumatic experiences 6 and 7 and 20 times to insensitive or careless cops, therapists, judges, and juries, and especially the defendant, and especially especially when they suspect said defendant will use listening to the retelling to get off on his power trip all over again.

In much of the ER bedside rape advocacy that I have done, what you've written here is the barrier most often cited by victims who decline to press charges. The courts might be there to sort things out (at least that's supposedly their job), but it's a little fucked up when the system makes the defendant's life a lot easier by putting up so many traumatic roadblocks for victims of sexual assault they avoid redressing their complaints via the court system.

Also, it's worth noting the burden of proof is substantially less in civil trials, which is a far more likely reason for victims to seek them out to get some damn justice, as most likely they'll never see a cent (Have the Goldman's ever gotten a penny from OJ?) when there have been terrible crimes, which have not been properly handled by the criminal courts.

And still some victims - gasp - donate whatever piddly amounts they are award to help OTHER victims of sexual assault by supporting advocacy groups (like the one I volunteer for) and providing safe, supportive direct services for others.

Gore's gonna have him some protection, that's for damn sure. So there's nothing wrong with Ev opting to provide some to the woman who is in all likelihood eviscerating her own life to seek some damn justice. Can there be a few places online not dragging her through the mud.

The point about victims being untruthful is duly noted.
"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I acknowledge that this is

I acknowledge that this is an alleged incident in the post. But I do presume that complainants are telling the truth. The only thing that makes me skeptical are complaints involving custody, and even then I think taking a stance of disbelief is problematic. Our legal system of innocent until proven guilty doesn't interface well with the power dynamics involved in sexual assault, so since jurisprudence will take care of itself, I'd rather have an eye on alleged perpetrators.

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.

Convicted in the court of opinion.

Just because people are not willing to grab their torches and pitchforks does not mean they are victim blaming. I really hope that there can be a legal investigation into this incident and if Al Gore is guilty he is punished. If he is not guilty then why should we still hate him with all our feminist venom just because we don't want to be victim blaming. It is always easier to beat some one in the court of public opinion than a real court and it is extremely hard to convict people of sexual assault, even right after the event, and even when the person is not a celebrity and becomes even harder when the accused is famous (athletes anyone?). I completely understand not wanting to go through the pain of an investigation and trial if you think no one will believe you. But then 3 years later, she went to the National Enquirer and asked for money.

I would really like to hear someone explain to me why they believe he is guilty. I read the details and I don't have a conclusions yet. Please someone, make an argument not an accusation. I am a feminist, and I have worked with assault victims, and I know that the problem of "We don't believe you." is big but I am not ready to crucify someone with out being convinced.

I hope justice is done, and that this women gets the help that she needs.

Absolutely, this is an

Absolutely, this is an alleged incident, which I believe I said in the blog post. That said, the woman who has come forward hasn't in fact, received any money for delivering her story to the National Enquirer, even though she did ask for $1 million. I'm not sure if after years of my case going nowhere I wouldn't try to get some money along with some news coverage. I don't think that asking for money—since she won't get a civil court to take her seriously—means ipso facto that this is a bogus claim.

I'm not about to throw Al Gore under the bus, but honestly, so many politicians lose perspective and get shenanigany after years of so much privilege, I don't think it's shocking for anyone—even Gore—to do something like this.

And women really don't tend to lie about sexual misconduct and assault. It's just a myth—speaking of evidence, there is no evidence to support the idea that a sizeable portion of complaints are false.

An alarming mix of humor, politics, pop culture, and queeritude. Author of Bumbling into Body Hair: Tales of an Accident-Prone Transsexual.