Are Female Politicians’ Sex Lives Off Limits?

Is benefitting politically from romantic liaisons different than other relationships?

WaPo columnist Monica Hesse makes a case for “The unique harm we cause when we dissect a powerful woman’s love life.”

As of this week, women are running for president — multiple women — and lo, the country has been awarded the chance for a do-over. This time, we swear, we won’t order them to smile more if they really want our votes. This time, we’ll stop using phrases such as “likable enough?” when what we really mean is, “too many ovaries?”

While I agree with Hesse on the merits here, she’s begging the question. While there’s substantial research demonstrating that we apply gendered frames to political analysis, often unconsciously and usually in ways detrimental to women, it’s also true that we apply a “likability” framework to and comment on the physical appearance of men. Regardless, it’s a distraction from the question at hand.

Our collective consciousness has been raised and so we’ll begin by . . . excavating one of the candidate’s decades-old love life?

Sigh.

The candidate in question is Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), whose past relationship with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown was confirmed for the national media when Brown published an op-ed: Yes, they’d dated. And, yes, he “may have influenced her career” by appointing her to two commissions. But then again, he’d boosted the careers of a lot of people, he wrote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom were examples. Kamala Harris? She was unique, Brown claimed, only in that, “after I helped her, [she] sent word that I would be indicted if I ‘so much as jaywalked’ while she was D.A.”

The two things were separate, according to Brown. 1) They dated. 2) He helped her career. The latter didn’t have anything to do with the former.

Whether you believe that probably depends on whether you believe one can separate someone’s professional qualifications from their dinner companionship. Plenty of critics did not believe this was possible: “Hey @KamalaHarris given that you’re so vocal about the #MeToo movement, what are your thoughts on sleeping your way to the top of your political career?” queried right-wing pundit Tomi Lahren in a representative tweet.

Is this just politics as usual? Is this just politics for women? Politics for men and women who knew Willie Brown — whose career was dogged by accusations of patronage?

Plenty of us have, after all, spent an awful lot of time discussing Bill Clinton’s willie and Anthony Weiner’s wiener: it’s not that we don’t talk about the sexual predilections of male candidates.

But we do talk about them in a different way. We talk about men abusing power. We talk about women not even deserving power. The distinction matters, because the conversation isn’t really about sex, it’s about legitimacy. It’s about who we think has earned the right to be successful, and what criteria we’ll invent, and who we’ll apply it to.

[…]

Does it help your career, to date someone powerful? I’d assume so. Does it also help to play golf with someone powerful, or smoke cigars with someone powerful, or belong to Skull and Bones? I’d assume that, too. But for decades we’ve accepted those relationships — many of which benefited only men — as standard procedure for how executives and politicians get ahead. In August, ProPublica published a story about a trifecta of Mar-a-Lago members exerting influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs. None of them had military or government experience, but they did have long-standing acquaintanceships with the president.

Was Harris the only appropriate candidate for the commissions to which Brown appointed her? I don’t know.

I do know that by the time she met Brown, she’d already graduated from Howard University, where she’d been elected to the student government and the lauded debate team, and she’d already graduated from law school, and she was already working as a deputy district attorney in one of the most populous counties in the United States — and maybe, just maybe, she was already going places on her own?

He wasn’t her boss. The relationship was consensual. Dating a technically still-married man 30 years one’s senior might not be the relationship choice that most of us would make, but it’s understandable that smart government officials in San Francisco’s political scene would end up socializing with each other. Was Harris supposed to date only morons with whom she had nothing in common?

Welcome to the 2020 campaign. I’m not saying there are easy answers to all of my questions. But the only way a woman is ever going to be elected to the top of anything is if we stop making insinuations about how she got there.

So, again, gendered analysis is a problem. In an ideal world, we’d judge the conduct of a woman the same as a man. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not allowed to scrutinize the conduct of women seeking high political office—let alone the Presidency of the United States—just as we do that of men.

The relevant portions of Brown’s op-ed:

Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker.

And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco. I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians.

The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I “so much as jaywalked” while she was D.A.

Hesses’ retort, “Was Harris supposed to date only morons with whom she had nothing in common?” is unworthy of a junior high debater. There are an incredible number of smart, well-educated, unmarried professionals for a young assistant DA to date in San Francisco. It’s absolutely reasonable for voters to consider why it is that Harris chose to date a married man 30 years her senior who just so happened to be one of the most powerful men in the state. And, yes, it’s reasonable for them to wonder whether Brown would have given her the career boost of appointing her to two statewide commissions had they not been sleeping together.

Given that she was successfully elected D.A. of San Francisco—with whatever help Brown may have been able to provide—and then not only re-elected to that office but elected twice to serve as California Attorney General and later U.S. Senator from California, I don’t find those questions particularly interesting any more. But others are free to disagree. And we frequently go back more than twenty years in examining the behavior of aspirants for high office.

Hesses’ larger argument is actually much more interesting:

Does it help your career, to date someone powerful? I’d assume so. Does it also help to play golf with someone powerful, or smoke cigars with someone powerful, or belong to Skull and Bones? I’d assume that, too. But for decades we’ve accepted those relationships — many of which benefited only men — as standard procedure for how executives and politicians get ahead. In August, ProPublica published a story about a trifecta of Mar-a-Lago members exerting influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs. None of them had military or government experience, but they did have long-standing acquaintanceships with the president.

So, on the one hand, this makes my point: we in fact routinely ask questions about these connections with respect to male politicians. We were asking about Skull and Bones thirty-plus years ago when George H.W. Bush—decades out of college and with the most impressive political resume of any presidential aspirant since the Founding generation—was running for President. We are and should be asking about the qualifications of Trump appointees with whom he has business ties.

It’s certainly fair, then, to ask the same kind of questions about former sex partners. But that raises two, related questions.

First, is a sexual relationship different than other types of relationship with respect to politics? One presumes a greater intensity of affection for a sex partner than a golfing buddy or fraternity brother. But do we naturally presume more malign intent on the part of the beneficiary of the favoritism if garnered through a sexual relationship that other bonds? Probably. Is that fair? I don’t know.

Secondly, given the direction these things tend to work—powerful men are far more likely to have sex with younger, up-and-coming women than powerful women are with younger, up-and-coming men—women are going to be far more likely to be criticized on this front. But, of course, this works both ways: men simply have far less opportunity to advance their careers in this manner. So, the fact that the question is asked more of women is hardly shocking.

At the end of the day, I can’t imagine this issue will have a significant bearing on the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election. The Democratic field looks to be quite large, with a plethora of well-qualified candidates. While Harris is relatively new on the national scene, having been in the Senate only two years, that’s exactly where Barack Obama was when he began his successful 2008 campaign—and Harris’ state-level experience is far more impressive than his. Other candidates and presumptive candidates—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren—have considerably more name recognition but they’re also generationally older. We’ll see how that plays out.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Gender Issues, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    The next successful politician who had no help at all in their career will be the first.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    The next successful politician who had no help at all in their career will be the first.

    Sure. But we treat different kinds of “help” differently. The question here is whether help received pursuant to a romantic/sexual relationship is a special category that should either 1) be off-limits for discussion entirely (per Hesse), 2) treated exactly the same as golfing buddies and frat brothers (implied by Hesse as perhaps a fallback option), or 3) viewed more suspiciously (implied: by a sexist culture).

  3. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think Hesse calls for the romantic/sexual relationship to be 1) off-limits entirely as much she is saying 3) likely unwarranted suspicion is what we almost always get in our persistently sexist culture.

    Tomi Lahren’s vile tweet, in absence of any evidence, is an egregious example, but if it is only “natural” to “presume more malign intent” from a sexual relationship (by your words), isn’t it inevitable that the bolder, more crass commentariat will sordidly insist on drawing suspicion.

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  4. Robert in SF says:

    The discussion about treating women differently (more harshly? to a ‘higher standard’?) reminds me of the gender politics in the business world.

    I remember reading in “Disclosure” by Micheal Crichton, the woman-on-man sexual harassment, corporate politics novel from the 80’s, a dialogue between the male protagonist (i.e., the harassment victim) and a mentor of his about how the harasser had manipulated her boss into liking her and treating her preferentially in her career.
    It really opened my eyes to how people have different ways to connect and leverage their relationships, and not just because they want to, but because culturally (and maybe innately) they have limited choices.

    “I’ll tell you why I’m outraged,” Sanders said. “Because this is the kind of sneaky shit that a woman can pull but a man can’t. She changes her appearance, she dresses and acts like Garvin’s daughter, and that gives her an advantage. Because I sure as hell can’t act like his daughter.”
    Dorfman sighed, shaking his head.

    He turned his wheelchair to face Sanders. “Stop talking this nonsense, and face what is true. Young people in organizations advance by alliances with powerful, senior people. True?”
    “Yes.”
    “And it is always so. At one time, the alliance was formal-an apprentice and master, or a pupil and tutor. It was arranged, yes? But today, it is not formal. Today, we speak of mentors. Young people in business have mentors. True?”
    “Okay . . .”
    “So. How do young people attach themselves to a mentor? What is the process? First, by being agreeable, by being helpful to the senior person, doing jobs that need to be done. Second, by being attractive to the older person-imitating their attitudes and tastes. Third, by advocacy-adopting their agenda within the company.”
    “That’s all fine,” Sanders said.
    “What does it have to do with plastic surgery?” “Do you remember when you joined DigiCom in Cupertino?”
    “Yes, I remember.”
    “You came over from DEC. In 1980?”
    “Yes.”
    “At DEC, you wore a coat and tie every day. But when you joined DigiCom, you saw that Garvin wore jeans. And soon, you wore jeans,too.
    “Sure. That was the style of the company.”
    “Garvin liked the Giants. You began to go to games in Candlestick Park.”
    “He was the boss, for Christ’s sake.”
    “And Garvin liked golf. So you took up golf, even though you hated it. I remember you complained to me about how much you hated it. Chasing the stupid little white ball.”
    “Listen. I didn’t have plastic surgery to make myself look like his kid.”
    “Because you didn’t have to, Thomas,” Dorfman said. He threw up his hands in exasperation. “Can you not see this point? Garvin liked brash, aggressive young men who drank beer, who swore, who chased women. And you did all those things in those days.”
    “I was young. That’s what young men do.”
    “No, Thomas. That’s what Garvin liked young men to do.”
    Dorfman shook his head. “So much of this is unconscious. Rapport is unconscious, Thomas. But the task of building rapport is different, depending on whether you are the same sex as that person, or not. If your mentor is a man, you may act like his son, or brother, or father. Or you may act like that man when he was younger-you may remind him of himself. True? Yes, you see that. Good. But if you are a woman, everything is different. Now you must be your mentor’s daughter, or lover, or wife. Or perhaps sister. In any case, very different.”
    Sanders frowned.
    “I see this often, now that men are starting to work for women. Many times men cannot structure the relationship because they do not know how to act as the subordinate to a woman. Not with comfort. But in other cases, men slip easily into a role with a woman. They are the dutiful son, or the substitute lover or husband. And if they do it well, the women in the organization become angry, because they feel that they cannot compete as son or lover or husband to the boss. So they feel that the man has an advantage.”

  5. Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    Given that she was successfully elected D.A. of San Francisco—with whatever help Brown may have been able to provide—and then not only re-elected to that office but elected twice to serve as California Attorney General and later U.S. Senator from California, I don’t find those questions particularly interesting any more.

    I totally agree. I am sure plenty of male junior associates have sucked up to their male senior mentors in every possible way other than sex only because that was not available to them for the sole reason of getting ahead through networking. And I agree that it’s always OK to ask how someone got where s/he got and whether s/he is qualified for the job currently being used as resume material. But I think anyone who tries to use this connection against Harris at this point in the game will be doing nothing but grandstanding on an extremely sexist argument.

  6. Teve says:

    @Joe: If it’s baseless and sexist we can expect to see it used early and often by the GOP.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Robert in SF: I saw the movie a long time ago but never read the book. I agree with the thrust of the quoted dialog. Still, (and looping in @Joe here) I would consider having sex with a powerful person in a different category than playing golf with them. Again, in this case, Harris is several moves up the career ladder, negotiated without Brown’s help. But it would have been a perfectly valid concern had we been assessing the validity of the initial appointment at the time.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    We can’t have the discussion because we see men and women differently.
    A guy that sleeps with six or seven women a year is a rock star.
    A woman who sleeps with six or seven guys a year is a slut.
    That will always color our thinking.

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  9. grumpy realist says:

    Also don’t forget that an accusation of “oh, she’s just sleeping her way to the top” typically has run the rounds whenever a female has “won” a promotion against rival males. If you can knock out your (female) would-be competition by convincing them to never even try in the first place going up against you because of fear of such gossip, so much the better…..right?

    Best retaliation is to be incredibly competent so that they look silly.

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  10. CSK says:

    Trump used his sexual escapades to promote the notion of himself as Mr. Macho for decades, so other men would envy and look up to him. It was part of his brand-boosting operation.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    This isn’t complicated. Does the person in question have a track record of their own? If so, evaluate them on that. And if their only qualification is the recommendation from a romantic partner, than consider that the partner might be biased.

    But yes, it is out of bounds to question Harris’ qualifications today because many years ago a boyfriend helped her get her start. Sure the Bernie Bros and Trumpers will continue to bring it up to try to generate controversy, but have we learned nothing from the Birther era? Giving air to sleazoids because they have successfully generated controversy is to invite a sick and twisted feedback loop.

  12. Kathy says:

    If sleeping with a California politician got voters in that state to elect her to statewide and federal office, we should ask what are the powers of this Mr. Willie Brown are, and what kind of lab accident gave them to him.

    There is a small number of prominent Republican women, too, like Collins, McSally, Haley and a few others. Whom did they sleep with and when? Don’t we have a right to know?

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  13. Joe says:

    When, James, you say that

    I would consider having sex with a powerful person in a different category than playing golf with them

    you are attributing to the junior in that relationship different motives when, as Robert in SF‘s quote explains its primarily only a difference in available strategies. I quibble with you, James, because the outcome is to make the junior women look more nefarious than the junior men.

  14. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    If sleeping with a California politician got voters in that state to elect her to statewide and federal office, we should ask what are the powers of this Mr. Willie Brown are, and what kind of lab accident gave them to him.

    That’s my position on this as well. Again, though, I think it would have been perfectly reasonable to question Brown’s having appointed someone he was sleeping with to a prestigious commission. But, obviously, there have been so many intervening steps at this point that it’s absurd to suggest Harris hasn’t gotten to where she is on her own merits.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Joe:

    you are attributing to the junior in that relationship different motives when, as Robert in SF‘s quote explains its primarily only a difference in available strategies. I quibble with you, James, because the outcome is to make the junior women look more nefarious than the junior men.

    I’m not attributing different motives; I’m attributing different judgments as to the proprieties of the strategy. Sucking up to the boss deserves some opprobrium but it’s of a whole different category than, say, bribery. If I said “Giving the boss a set of expensive golf club is simply a strategy available to rich subordinates,” you’d presumably laugh it off as absurd.

  16. Robert in SF says:

    @James Joyner: You should read the book…it’s quite good. The technology is outdated now, of course, but the main topic is still relevant, even if ‘gender-flipped’.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: So, during the 2016 campaign we learned that Trump, in a conversation well over a decade earlier he thought was private but was actually being filmed, made some repugnant comments about women. I thought they were worth considering in my evaluation of him; others did not or thought them not disqualifying. It’s not obvious to me why voters don’t get to decide how to evaluate any information that’s available to them.

  18. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, though, I think it would have been perfectly reasonable to question Brown’s having appointed someone he was sleeping with to a prestigious commission.

    Would that be a failing on Brown’s or Harris’ part?

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    Would that be a failing on Brown’s or Harris’ part?

    Both, but primarily Brown’s. It would certainly be cause for scrutinizing the appointment and deciding whether she was so obviously qualified as to make the relationship irrelevant. Those posts were to the “California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and then to the Medical Assistance Commission – positions that paid her more than $400,000 over five years.” I’d say that raises my eyebrows. But, again, that had next to nothing to do with her subsequent elected offices and is, in my judgment, water under the bridge.

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Should it be an issue? No.

    Will it be an issue? Yes.

    Does that incline me to look elsewhere for a candidate without baggage? Of course. Sorry, but I don’t really give a damn about Ms. Harris or any other candidate, they are tools to be used to achieve goals. If the Kamala Harris hammer is rusted and I have an otherwise equal rust-free hammer, I’ll go with that one because this is about banging the nail.

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  21. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s not obvious to me why voters don’t get to decide how to evaluate any information that’s available to them.

    I’m in agreement and if you took this as a condemnation of your post, then I wasn’t being clear. A post questioning how we should process this type of information brings about a useful discussion. In contrast to a post such as “Some people say Candidate X is a lying skank. Discuss.”

    Compare it to how Birtherism was handled. I had no complaint with articles explaining Obama’s unusual history and noting that some cranks were using it to manufacture questions on his citizenship status. But what we got was endless discussion panels from “reputable” news organizations that pitted Tea Party Cranks and paid liars against, well, against actual reality. These lazy ratings grabs may as well have been bought and paid for by the Koch’s and the Mercer’s.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    with the most impressive political resume of any presidential aspirant since the Founding generation—

    WTF??? Hyperbole anyone?

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    WTF??? Hyperbole anyone?

    The man had two terms as Vice President, in an era where that office was much more significant than it used to be. He’d also had stints as Member of Congress, UN Ambassador, Ambassador to China, CIA Director, and Republican National Committee chairman. That’s an extraordinary range of experience.

    Who would you nominate as more experienced?

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I would note that 30-some years ago no matter how powerful Willie Brown was, he would not have been able to appoint a woman to a government post simply because he was banging her. Black politicians were still under potential attack for “doing X while black” under just about all circumstances and Speaker Brown was too smart to risk political injury to himself for that kind of a payoff. In many ways, the attack is as insulting to him (“what kind of idiot horn dog to you take me for?”) as it is to her.

    As to the possibility that there was “a better qualified [i.e. whiter] candidate,” I will call bs. At this level, the routine is a competition among equals. Not being qualified is a non-starter to begin with. Even in more traditional mentoring situations, “qualified for the job” is still the starting point.

    While I would prefer greater morality in our political servants, we need people who can do the jobs effectively. Immoral Clinton was a more effective President than (more conventionally) moral Dubya. Immoral (divorced his first wife after getting his mistress of the time pregnant) Reagan was a more effective President than either moral Carter or immoral Nixon. Immoral Eisenhower (affair with his aide in WWII–both sleazy and maybe sexual preditation) is probably the most fiscally responsible President of my lifetime. I could go on. It’s rare to get both, as we did with Obama.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: Don’t have a dog in the fight. But THE MOST (unqualified)? No such thing. SINCE THE FOUNDERS?

    I repeat: Hyperbole anyone?

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    And my reward for replying to Dr. Joyner is a trip to the moderation queue.

    ETA: And so instead of deciding to be neutral beyond still thinking it’s hyperbole, allow me to nominate Theodore Roosevelt as equal to Bush in overall (though different) resume. That what I mean by hyperbole.

  27. wr says:

    It’s an interesting philosophical question James poses here. Too bad it won’t stay in the realm of philosophy. Especially since we’ve already had one regular here insist that the only reason she has a career is because she gave Brown blow jobs. (How our favorite “civil rights are for white men only” liberal the Q knows what sex acts went on between them will stay a mystery…) And now one of our wiser members has decided this is enough for him to drop her from consideration, as if there won’t be “rust” to be found on every single candidate…

    Either she’s not likable or she’s a slut or she’s arrogantly refusing to get out of the way of pols who’ve been waiting their turn — there’s always a fatal flaw with a woman candidate.

  28. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    allow me to nominate Theodore Roosevelt as equal to Bush in overall (though different) resume. That what I mean by hyperbole.

    TR was indeed impressive. But he was only 42 when he became president and never ran for the office before finding himself in it by the sudden death of the elected president. By the time Bush ran in 1988, he had decades of high-level public office.

  29. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    As to the possibility that there was “a better qualified [i.e. whiter] candidate,” I will call bs. At this level, the routine is a competition among equals. Not being qualified is a non-starter to begin with. Even in more traditional mentoring situations, “qualified for the job” is still the starting point.

    Again, I think the question vis-a-vis Harris is rendered moot by her subsequent accomplishments. But there was nothing obvious in her resume up to that point that made her particularly qualified to serve on either the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board or the Medical Assistance Commission. She was a young attorney with a degree from a mediocre law school and experience as a criminal prosecutor. She’s bright, charismatic, and has obvious leadership skill. I’m sure she was fine. But hardly an obvious choice for the posts.

  30. Joe says:

    @James Joyner:
    cracker took the name right out of my mouth. I don’t have time to go dig it out, but I think you are understating TR’s pre-presidential experience both in New York state politics and federal politics in addition to his academic work. HW Bush might still win, but I don’t think it is quite the cake walk you make it out to be.

  31. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m the last person to defend Harris, but … no, this isn’t relevant. Harris’s past might have had relevance … in 2015. But I think the GOP has effectively extinguished that line of debate. One might take issue with the way she got into politics but is that any worse than the rank nepotism we see all over the place? The current President has filled his White House with people whose entirely accomplishment in life is either springing from his loins or being married to someone who did. And this is not really that unusual. Throughout America history, politicians have appointed their kids, dads, cousins, friends, drinking buddies, war buddies and business cronies to positions of power. They only reason they didn’t appoint girlfriends and wives was because women in power was frowned upon.

    And frankly, I’m a little bit more concerned right now politicians abusing power to get sex rather than abusing sex to get power.

  32. Gustopher says:

    At the end of the day, I can’t imagine this issue will have a significant bearing on the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election.

    Barring time traveling shenanigans, I suspect you are right.

    Alas, I suspect that it will be an issue in the 2020 campaign. And, dealing with it early and effectively on the national stage is going to be one of the first big tests of Kamala Harris’ political skills.

    There will always be some people who are convinced that she slept her way to the top, and this is going to be dredged up over and over until she either drops out of the race or has been dead for 30 years. The only question is how frequently it is brought up outside of the right wing fever swamps that are still obsessed with Hillary Clinton.

    We could all be walking around in pristine white jumpsuits in the renamed Kamala Harris Utopian States Of America, living to 300 in wealth and prosperity, and there would still be a bunch of troglodytes saying “I don’t care that she solved world hunger, war and poverty, she’s just a whore who slept her way to the top. Who did she have to blow to cure cancer?”

  33. the Q says:

    As I previously noted, because Harris frankly has done zero of note accomplishment-wise, of course the Willie Brown “how did such a pedestrian performer get so far ahead” connection is going to resurface. Willie being one of the most corrupt pols in Cali history.

    As far as the “she’s the same as Obama” experience-wise…this is fatuous. Obama had made a name for himself by being an early critic of the Iraq war, going against virtually all the Dem Senators and had given a stirring, “put me on the map” speech at the Democratic convention which was a harbinger of the leader he would become.

    I see nothing of the same with Harris. She is the right candidate (gender, ethnic) at the right time.

    California, especially LA, is a cesspool of corruption. Name one probe Harris in her tenure as either SF or CA DA that she carried out to expose this corruption.

    I don’t mind if she becomes POTUS or VP, she is infinitely preferable to any wingnut, but for chrissakes, let’s be honest about her achievements otherwise we are all just mimicking the self delusion of the trumpettes.

  34. Kari Q says:

    @the Q:

    California is a cesspool of corruption? That’s the first time I’ve heard that. Corruption happens everywhere, of course, but I’ve never heard that it’s particularly prevalent in California. Or Los Angeles.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Are Female Politicians’ Sex Lives Off Limits?
    Is benefitting politically from romantic liaisons different than other relationships?

    The misogyny is rich. I can’t even get past that. Really James, you need to stop and reflect.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    But I think the GOP has effectively extinguished that line of debate.

    As if that will stop them from trying to attack her using that line of debate…and not to excuse hypocrisy in politics in general, but as evangelical support for Trump shows, Republicans swim in a rather thick special muck of hypocrisy…

  37. the Q says:

    Kari Q, (no, we are not related)…..Garcetti, Wesson, basically the whole LA city council. Corrupt to the core. I am not sure where you reside, but I know most of these people personally and done much business with the City. FBI just raided the offices of one of our crooked councilman in December looking at the “pay for play” zoning variances given to billionaire developers. (for example, approving a huge development sitting directly on an earthquake fault!!! The state geologist had to intervene to stop it btw). DROP program forking over $1.5 billion over the last 20 years to cops who claim injury but then run half marathons while collecting over a million dollars in salary. Garcetti, a clown, refusing to kill the program due to the huge contributions made by the LAPL union.

    I could go on but I won’t….really Kari, the corruption is rampant..just pick up the LA Times….

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kari Q: The difference is that the Q was probably alive and maybe even lived in LA during the time the movie Chinatownis set in. You weren’t. Don’t feel bad, I wasn’t either.

    I guess that he could be talking about the Rampart scandal, but that was roughly 20 years before she became AG, and I suspect most people don’t remember that one either unless they were fans of The Shield. I know I don’t.

    ETA: I should have read his follow up comment first. My apologies. Even so, the stuff he’s citing seems pretty arcane to me, and the connection to Harris as AG seems missing.

  39. the Q says:

    Just notha,

    You don’t need to go back to the 1930s, the corruption today is almost as bad. Seriously, Huizar’s wife (coucilperson whose home and office was raided by the FBI) was collecting donations to his high school from company’s which had business pending before his planning and land use commission. Give 25k, 50k, 150k to Salesian High and voila, your billion dollar development gets approved.

    Garcetti same thing. One big developer gave Garcetti’s pet “charity PAC” 150k, – gets his land rezoned.

    Google Sea breeze, Garcetti. Google Millennial Holdings (builders of the sinking SF tower) and Hollywood earthquake fault. Google Garcetti DROP program. Google garcetti ripinski

    Geez, you people think that only wingnuts are crooks? I have a bridge to sell you. The biggest joke in LA is Garcetti running for POTUS which he gave up last night since the guy is all shine and zero substance.

    Look at our DA Jackie Lacy a Harris wannabe.. How many LAPD, Sheriffs cops has she prosecuted? Zero. She turns a blind eye.

    LA sheriffs? 182 million dollars in settlements the last decade. LAPD last year alone paid out over 200 million in lawsuit settlements. Folks, that is the money paid to the victims. That does NOT include the legal fees.

    200 million!!!! The teachers strike, which the city said they couldn’t afford was over 600 million for increased salaries.

    Maybe if our crooked officials would have some balls and rein in the LAPD, the school district wouldn’t be so broke.

  40. Kari Q says:

    @the Q:

    Actually, my question was about California state, not LA city or county. I grew up in LA county and lived there until my late 20s. I’ve seen corruption come and go in the city. But since I moved away I don’t follow their local politics any more, I knew that they could be the most corrupt city in the U.S. and I wouldn’t know about it. I wasn’t asking about local corruption.

    It was the state government that I was asking about. It’s entirely possible there’s something going on that I’m not aware of, but I did some looking and couldn’t find anything indicating that California has a particular corruption problem at the state level.

  41. Kari Q says:

    It’s absolutely reasonable for voters to consider why it is that Harris chose to date a married man 30 years her senior who just so happened to be one of the most powerful men in the state.

    I have to address this.

    First off, Brown’s marriage was over long before he started dating Harris. He and his wife are separated, and had been so since more than 10 years before he dated Harris. In spite of the fact that they didn’t officially divorce the relationship is over and calling him married doesn’t really jibe with the situation.

    Why would she date him? Why would she not? Willie Brown is flamboyant, witty, larger than life, an extremely engaging and attractive man. It’s easy to understand why a woman would want to date him, even if she had no political ambitions at all. He’s a man who would certainly show a woman a good time. He would take you to the best parties, introduce you to the most interesting people, the best restaurants would open their doors to him. Dang, I think I want to date him, and I hate parties.

    Brown has been at least as much of a hindrance to her career as a help. It has certainly hurt her electorally, it’s been something she’s needed to overcome rather than something that gave her a boost.

  42. MarkedMan says:

    @Kari Q: Facts don’t matter. Bernie has decided Harris is a threat so the Bros will smear her no matter what.

  43. James Joyner says:

    @Joe:

    I think you are understating TR’s pre-presidential experience both in New York state politics and federal politics in addition to his academic work. HW Bush might still win, but I don’t think it is quite the cake walk you make it out to be.

    My declaration about GHWB was an aside to point out that we’ve asked similar questions about people whose service in the national spotlight were exponentially more examined than Harris’. I concede that we’ve had some very qualified people run for President and that TR was among them. But, again, he was only 42 and had been Vice President just a few months when McKinley died; GHWB had spent 8 years a VP in an era where it was a much bigger job. I don’t think low-level state and local politics translates much to the big leagues, so the only jobs TR had that count in my book are Assistant Secretary of the Navy (13 months), Governor of New York (2 years), and VP (6 months). I’d say two ambassadorships and CIA Director trumps ASECNAV. NY Gov was and is a big job but it’s not 8 years as VP.

  44. Tyrell says:

    Have the same standard for men and women. It’s either get into their private lives or not. I say not. But the same for both.