Monday, October 30, 2017

A Case Of Very Bad Timing

Maybe the behavior of the 41st President of the United States of America wasn't so bad, although The New York Times reported last week

Three of the four women — Jordana Grolnick, Heather Lind and Christina Baker Kline — have told similar stories about their encounters with Mr. Bush, the general outlines of which echo what is described in the statement, but which also convey more graphic and disturbing detail.

On Friday, The Portland Press Herald reported that a fourth woman, Amanda Staples, had come forward, alleging in an Instagram post that Mr. Bush had touched her inappropriately in 2006. Ms. Staples had been running as a Republican for a seat in the Maine State Senate when she said she posed with Mr. Bush for a photo, which she published on Instagram alongside her written post.

Mr. Bush “grabbed my butt and joked saying ‘Oh, I’m not THAT President,’ ” Ms. Staples wrote, according to The Press Herald’s report.

It wasn't rape, and what usually is not to as "sexual assault," though the meaning of that phrase is not consistent throughout all news reports and from one individual to the next. However, we shouldn't be subject to what the media is referring to as an "apology," the statement from Bush's office which read

At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures.

To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.

While Bush undoubtedly did not intend to cause the women to suffer emotional distress, the honorable intent of "a good-natured manner"is insufficient. "Some have seen it as innocent" is a suggestion that it may have been appropriate without having the backbone to ascribe that opinion to Mr. Bush.  "To anyone he has offended" is a classic, trite response implying that the problem lies not in the act nor in the person committing it, but rather in the peculiar response of the victim.

Moreover, an individual may "apologize most sincerely" only if he himself is apologizing or the person issuing the statement was himself can legitimately take responsibility for the behavior. With GHWB evidently now unable to apologize on his own, the statement should not have passed it off as an apology.

The Bush camp might be able to maintain legitimately that the alleged actions are trivial.  They could be put into context, recognized as not nearly as serious as sexual assault or even some other cases of sexual harassment. However, issuing a statement and passing it off as an "apology"- unfortunately, successfully- is reprehensible.

Still, it's tried and true public relations strategy and hence unsurprising. But it is both reprehensible and  surprising that

Former President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial pitch during Sunday night's World Series Game 5, while his father, former President George H.W. Bush, cheered him on the sidelines.

Before the game between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, the elder Bush handed his son the ball, who then threw the ceremonial first pitch.

Afterward, the 43rd president handed his father the microphone so he could announce "Play ball!"

Even with last week's allegations, it is legitimate to honor George Herbert Walker Bush.   But it should take place quietly, away from cameras, or in at least a more dignified, restrained venue.  Doing so in the presence of tens of thousands of fans and tens of millions watching on television delivers one of two messages: (a) this is something we're going to ignore or (b) sexual harassment is acceptable, maybe even what sports is all about.

Or perhaps, with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States of America, it sends a different message.   When charged with bad behavior, blowing off the seriousness of the accusation simply works better than falling on one's sword.

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