- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sen. Patty Murray was quick to condemn Sen. Al Franken last week after he was accused of sexual harassment, but she took the opposite tack 24 years ago with another Democratic senator dogged by accusations of lecherous behavior.

She and the four other Democratic women serving in the Senate after the widely hailed 1992 “Year of the Woman” election used their newfound clout to come to the rescue of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as reports of drunken debauchery threatened to sink his re-election bid.

At a Boston fundraiser on Nov. 15, 1993, Ms. Murray was joined by fellow Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois in what marked “the first time the five senators have traveled together on behalf of a fellow senator,” according an Associated Press report.

“We’re going to be here for Ted because Ted has always been there for us,” Ms. Mikulski was quoted as saying in the Nov. 17, 1993, edition of the Lowell [Massachusetts] Sun.

They helped save Kennedy, who prevailed in his 1994 race against Republican Mitt Romney in Massachusetts; but in doing so, they set a precedent under which feminists proved themselves willing to suspend their outrage over sexual harassment in service of powerful pro-choice Democratic men.



Exhibit B came in 1999, when Democratic women helped President Clinton fight articles of impeachment stemming from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Of the five Democratic women who stumped for Kennedy, only Ms. Murray of Washington and Mrs. Feinstein still hold seats in the Senate. Neither immediately returned requests for comment.

Both have expressed indignation over the recent deluge of sexual harassment accusations involving celebrities and politicians, most recently Minnesota’s Mr. Franken, who is shown in a 2006 photo groping a sleeping Leeann Tweeden as they flew home from a USO tour.

“This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing,” Ms. Murray said Thursday in a tweet. “I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter.”

This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter.

Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) November 16, 2017

Mrs. Feinstein predicted Saturday that “we are going to have another Year of the Woman,” thanks to the rash of sexual harassment accusations surrounding politics and the entertainment industry.

She joined the #MeToo campaign last month on Twitter, saying, “We will never end the harassment and abuse of women, especially in the workplace, unless we speak out and stand together.”

Is it fair to judge lawmakers by today’s standards for events that occurred decades ago? The decisions by Democrats to defend Kennedy and Mr. Clinton happened in a different political era, long before this year’s uprising against powerful men accused of victimizing women.

That said, the irony of feminists stumping for the boorish Kennedy was thick enough even back in 1993 to astound conservatives, including Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby.

In a column published two days after the fundraiser, Mr. Jacoby accused the five Democratic women of hypocrisy for championing the lawmaker he described as “the most notorious womanizer in American politics.”

“I’m not a woman. Nor am I a Democrat. But if I were, I think I’d be a little ashamed of Senators Murray, Boxer & Co.,” Mr. Jacoby said in the op-ed, dated Nov. 17, 1993.

“I think I’d feel betrayed to find that women senators aren’t a different kind of senator after all,” Mr. Jacoby said. “And I think I’d be disgusted by their willingness to compromise their principles and look the other way, just like the men they railed against with such righteousness just one election ago.”

Certainly sexual harassment was already on the political radar. The 1992 Senate victories of the four Democratic women — Ms. Mikulski took office in 1987 — were propelled in part by the backlash over law professor Anita Hill’s testimony against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings.

A ‘Galahad’ of the Senate?

Mr. Thomas denied harassing Ms. Hill and was ultimately confirmed, but Ms. Murray said it was the specter of the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee grilling Ms. Hill that prompted her to enter the Senate race.

Once elected, Ms. Murray promptly led the charge against Sen. Bob Packwood, Oregon Republican, who faced accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation from two dozen women, making her defense of Kennedy all the more confounding.

The proclivities of Kennedy, who died in 2009, were more than just a rumor. In February 1990, GQ magazine ran a devastating piece by former New Republic and Atlantic editor Michael Kelly detailing the senator’s years of booze-fueled depravity, titled “Ted Kennedy on the Rocks.”

The article cited sources who said Kennedy invited teenage congressional pages to party with him, had a Senate staffer act as a “pimp” to “procure women” on his behalf and threw a waitress onto a table and rubbed his genitalia against her, leaving her “bruised, shaken and angry.”

“Giving Kennedy the benefit of the doubt, it’s quite possible he did not intend an assault but meant to be funny, in a repulsive, boozehead way,” said Kelly, who died in 2003 covering the Iraq invasion.

International playboy and writer Taki recounted how he agreed to set up Kennedy on a date in the mid-1970s in Greece, only to be awakened later by the woman after she became hysterical when she “saw Ted Kennedy coming naked at her.”

“[T]hat would scare me too, and I would like to say I am a pretty brave man,” said Taki.

A year after the report appeared, Kennedy’s image took another hit when nephew William Kennedy Smith was charged with rape after a night of bar-hopping with his Uncle Ted in Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. Smith was acquitted in 1991.

All this came in addition to the scandal for which Mr. Kennedy is best known: the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, in which he managed to escape his vehicle after driving off a bridge but left young campaign staffer Mary Jo Kopechne to drown.

Given that backdrop, it’s virtually impossible to imagine that the five Senate Democratic women were unaware of Kennedy’s sketchy reputation when they set out to salvage their colleague’s political career.

No matter. “Ted Kennedy has been our voice, and now he is our partner,” said Ms. Boxer at the 1993 fundraiser, which drew about 1,200 mostly female supporters. “He’s powerful in the Senate not because of his name, but because of his convictions.”

Ms. Moseley Braun praised him as a “beacon of light and hope for all of us all these years.”

Ms. Mikulski referred to the Massachusetts Democrat as “one of the Galahads of the U.S. Senate,” which struck Mr. Jacoby as particularly tone-deaf because “Galahad was the chaste knight at the Round Table.”

No senator was more closely identified with the fight against sexual harassment than Ms. Murray. Her decision to enter the 1992 primary helped end the career of Sen. Brock Adams, who exited the Democratic race amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, including rape, which he denied.

From the start, Ms. Murray held Mr. Packwood’s feet to the fire, calling for the Senate to subpoena his diaries and hold ethics hearings in public. Mr. Packwood resigned in 1995 after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics recommended expulsion.

“Even here today, I am shocked and surprised that the nature of this debate appears to portray the senator from Oregon as the victim,” Ms. Murray said in a Nov. 1, 1993, speech on the Senate floor. “I remind my colleagues that more than two dozen women have brought their allegations to this body. Clearly they see themselves as the victims in this debate.”

Two weeks later, she hit the campaign trail for Kennedy.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide