The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto argued Tuesday that the discussion about sexual assault in the military has become “a war on men.”
Taranto brought up the case of Capt. Matthew Herrera, an Air Force officer accused of sexual assault by a fellow servicewoman, in a column as an example of Congress’ “effort to criminalize male sexuality.” Capt. Herrera was ultimately not convicted of sexual assault by his commander, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms—but as a consequence, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) put a “permanent hold” on Helms’ nomination to serve as vice commander of the Air Force Space Command, a career setback Taranto laments.
Capt. Herrera had testified before Helms that his accuser “flirted” with him, and a lieutenant who was present at the time of the alleged assault agreed. Therefore, Taranto reasons, Herrera’s accuser was equally at fault.
“It’s fair to say that Capt. Herrera seems to have a tendency toward sexual recklessness,” Taranto wrote. “Perhaps that makes him unsuitable to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. But his accusers acted recklessly too. The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal.”
James Taranto, who not only writes a column for the Wall Street Journal but also edits its opinion website, rightfully became the most hated man on Twitter yesterday afternoon for questioning whether former congresswoman Gabby Giffords could have possibly written the New York Times Op-Ed she published last week shortly after a gun control bill died in the Senate, considering how injured she remains after getting shot in the head two years ago.
Here’s Taranto parsing the forensics of her column-writing abilities on an NRA radio show Friday, caught by Media Matters’ Timothy Johnson yesterday:
TARANTO: One fascinating thing about this is this piece was published no later than 9:03 PM on Wednesday evening, because that’s when it first appears on the New York Times’ Twitter feed. The last Senate vote on amendments to the gun bill was a bit after 6 [PM]. Giffords appeared at the White House at 5:35 [PM] when we saw that enraged rant by the president. The Manchin-Toomey [background check] provision was the first vote. That was at 4:04 PM. So if you read this piece it’s presented as a cry from the heart, as Giffords’ personal reaction as somebody who’s been wounded by gun violence to the betrayal of these Senators. So we are supposed to believe that somehow in less than five hours a woman who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions was able to produce 900 publishable words and put in an appearance in the White House in the course of it. So I think that’s a little bit odd.
Ironically, in a column Thursday, Taranto wagged his finger at Giffords for practicing “incivility and unreason.”
But it’s not just Taranto. From Sen. Rand Paul to small-time radio hosts, gun rights absolutists seem eager to dismiss gun violence victims and condemn them for daring to speak out.
The National Review’s Kevin Williamson criticized Giffords in a particularly ugly way, saying, “It should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions.” A Washington Times editorial said that Obama was “exploit[ing] the grief” of the Newtown families by “using them at every opportunity as props to make a political argument.” Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro likewise decried Obama for “exploitation of victims of violence using guns.” Another conservative blogger accused Giffords of “emotional bullying.”
James Taranto is worried about bigotry in America. Bigotry against white people. He starts his editorial with a quotation of wingnut blogger William Jacobson of legalinsurrection.com:
“Everytime [sic] I think the Democratic race card players could not get more vile, more deranged, more patronizingly demeaning to blacks, someone manages to defy even my vivid imagination,” thunders blogger William Jacobson. He’s referring to a passage in a Washington Post editorial about critics of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice—a passage that in our view is useful for its clarity.
He’s apparently a regular reader at Jacobson’s site.
Here’s the passage from the Washington Post editorial that upset Jacobson, and now Taranto:
Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.
Taranto says it’s racist of the Washington Post to suggest that white males from Confederate states might be racist. Then he says it’s racist for Obama’s campaign organization to ask, “Which constituency groups do you identify yourself with? Select all that apply.” without offering a ‘white’ option. After some snarky speculation about the reason for this, he gives the one he believes:
The reason for the absence of a “Whites” category is that white identity politics is all but nonexistent in America today. That wasn’t always the case, of course: For a century after the Civil War, Southern white supremacists were an important part of the Democratic Party coalition. They were defeated and discredited in the 1960s, and the Democrats, still the party of identity politics, switched their focus to various nonwhite minorities.
Obama’s re-election was a triumph for this new identity politics—but the Post’s nasty editorial hints at a reason to think this form of politics may have long-term costs for both the party and the country.
Among the dangers of Democratic minority outreach is inflammation of the all but nonexistent white supremacist movement:
This seems likely to weaken the taboo against white identity politics. Whites who are not old enough to remember the pre-civil-rights era—Rep. Duncan, for instance, was born in 1966—have every reason to feel aggrieved by being targeted in this way.
Ultimately the danger of minority outreach, and the reelection of our black president, is that it brings out hostility. He’s not specific about who is getting hostile, but I can read between the lines.
The danger for the country is that a racially polarized electorate will produce a hostile, balkanized culture. In 2008 Obama held out the hope of a postracial America. His re-election raises the possibility of a most-racial America.
This is one more reason I think the Republicans are doomed, even though Mr. Taranto sees it as a reason the Democrats are doomed.