Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill says The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto is wrong: she is not on "a crusade to 'criminalize male sexuality,'" as he claimed the other week, so much as a mission to "criminalize violence," as she works to change the military criminal justice system to take away a commander's right to throw out a jury's conviction in a sexual assault case. Taranto is thrilled. "I have succeeded in reframing the debate," he tweets.
McCaskill and Taranto are fighting over the Democrat's hold on President Obama's nomination of Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan Helms to be vice commander of the Air Force Space Command. McCaskill did so because Helms threw out a jury's conviction of Capt. Matthew Herrera for aggravated sexual assault. Instead, Helms found Herrera had committed an indecent act, because, even though she did not watch the trial, she found Herrera's accuser to not be credible. Earlier this month, Taranto said McCaskill's hold was unreasonable, her complaints "histrionic." He says both Herrera and the accuser were reckless, because she got into a car with him while drunk, and sent him texts later. "The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal," he wrote.
In a Thursday op-ed for The Daily Beast, McCaskill writes that "comparing the recklessness of sending a text message or having a drink, to the 'recklessness' involved in sexually assaulting another person" is wrong. But "the task of examining the evidence and hearing the witnesses' testimony doesn't belong to columnists or elected officials—it belonged to a judge and a jury—two words that you won’t find in Mr. Taranto's piece." When Helms threw out the jury's sentence, she made an "error," McCaskill says. And that's why she's placing a hold on her nomination:
Many of us answer to our employers or supervisors. I answer to the voters of Missouri. And the Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, the position for which Lt. General Helms was nominated, answers to the U.S. Senate in the form of a confirmation vote. My “hold” on this vote, which Mr. Taranto finds so objectionable, means that I object to her nomination being unanimously and silently confirmed, and that a vote on her nomination should proceed only with the support of three-fifths of the Senate.
McCaskill says, "My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice."
Taranto seems happy McCaskill felt compelled to address his argument, saying the debate is now on his terms. But it's odd he wants to reframe the debate this way — not that we shouldn't change the military justice system, but that aggressively prosecuting sexual assaults is some kind of campaign against the natural instincts of males. Most men don't want to sexually assault women — implying they do is Andrea Dworkin territory.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.