- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

This must be a supremely disquieting time for Lt. Gen. Claudia Jean Kennedy, who has been the U.S. Army's golden girl, sterling role model and now scorned woman, ironically putting her own expertise in sexual harassment to its ultimate test.

Gen. Kennedy is on full battle alert with her own conscience as well as the service she loves. She is knee-deep in unwanted media attention, but about to retire after 31 years in uniform.

And she retires with a big noise.

In a story in The Washington Times on Thursday, the world discovered that Gen. Kennedy had filed a sexual harassment claim that sounded like a bad movie.

A polished general the Army's highest ranking woman and member of a top sexual harassment task force was groped by another general right in her study at the Pentagon.

Such bold insolence was compounded by Gen. Kennedy's character. This single woman was so scrupulous about gossip that she made sure her male aide was married and that the two were never alone in her house together.

It all happened four years ago, when she was 48 a time when many women are pondering estrogen replacement therapy or empty nest syndrome. The lady in question made a few well-placed complaints and the incident seemed quelled.

But wait. Three years later, the same mystery general lands a plum assignment he an officer but not a gentleman, in her mind. Righteous indignation rekindled, Gen. Kennedy filed a formal complaint in late 1999.

Already riddled with sexual misconduct scandals of every persuasion at one point there were 1,200 complaints on file the Army kept the mother of all sexual harassment claims under wraps.

Until last Thursday.

One thing is for sure, though. The perpetrator must have given Gen. Kennedy the "creeps" one of her own terms.

In an interview three years ago, she articulated the oft-hazy parameters of unwanted attention in earthy terms.

"His hand lingers on your back, he touches you on your upper arm and you can't tell if he's a touchy-feely person. All you know is that he gives you the creeps," she said at the time.

Which is an extraordinary statement from a straight-arrow Army careerist. When young philosophy major Claudia Jean joined up in 1969, it was still called the Women's Army Corps. She joined, in fact, after reading a tiny, intriguing little Army ad in the back of Cosmopolitan magazine.

In the years to follow, she tenaciously went through the ranks here and overseas, eventually commanded three battalions and honed her prowess in the intelligence community. She has always been drawn to training and combat operations a fast-track way to win a fourth star.

Despite such mettle, Gen. Kennedy has not been shy about sharing her own experiences with the advances of men, touchy-feely and otherwise.

In the last three years, she has openly offered her opinions to USA Today, CNN, Vanity Fair and ABC, among others, even as the Army struggled to make sense of complex gender issues. "This is not your father's Army," Gen. Kennedy noted in a Vanity Fair interview.

She pointed out that sex itself was all about "lust, affection, passion, love." Sexual harassment, though, was all about "power, control, dominance."

Men could be sexually harassed too. "They think their manhood is in question," she said at one point. Men believe they are "the butt of a joke."

She took another tack last year that set Army traditionalists growling everywhere. Gen. Kennedy suggested that soldiers needed sensitivity training along with target practice, and even assigned it a snappy acronym. Her concept of Consideration of Others (COO) training came complete with encounter sessions.

But Gen. Kennedy was no old Army war horse, apparently. Blonde, blue-eyed, well-liked, engaging, she once said she would consider marriage, then playfully suggested that her phone number be published in the interview.

Meanwhile, Gen. Kennedy circulated in some high-profile circles.

She is said to be one of the "favorite generals" of the Clinton White House and has been lauded by feminists, women's magazines and lesbians, who mentioned her in Pink Ink, an on-line journal of lesbian issues.

She was awarded the 1998 "Living Patriot Award" by the Women's International Center and named one of America's top 10 role models for girls by Ms magazine, along with Oprah Winfrey and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

She was ranked fourth in a well publicized poll of 100,000 Americans about women who would make a good president just behind Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Dole and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Gen. Kennedy was featured as a topic in collegiate female study groups. New Mexico State University, for example, cited her as someone who "believes her success sends the message that male and female soldiers are equal players on the same team."

Perhaps not. The fact that her amorous fellow officer got the promotion and she did not has boiled down to one very old adage: Do not underestimate the power of a woman scorned or an Army with its back against the wall.

So far, neither has had a comment in the case.

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