McCain Continues To Court The Women’s Vote

1 comment October 21st, 2008at 11:38am Posted by Eli

McCain sure has a strange way of reaching out to those disaffected Hillary voters…

On October 29, 1991, Senator John McCain went to the floor of the US Senate. The former Navy pilot was angry and disgusted. In recent days, the news had broken that the previous month Navy airmen and others had gone wild—engaging in sexual molestation, out-of-control drinking, and other misconduct—at the Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, an annual gathering of retired and active-duty naval aviators. “I cannot tell you,” McCain proclaimed, “the distaste and displeasure that I have as a naval aviator…concerning this incident.” He bemoaned the fact that senior ranking naval officers and civilian leaders had been at the meeting. He called for an investigation and urged the Navy to suspend its traditional participation with the Tailhook reunions. “There is no time in the history of this country that something like this is more inappropriate,” McCain said, “and we cannot allow it. It is unconscionable. And we in the military…should be ashamed and embarrassed…that this kind of activity went on. And there is no excuse for it.”

Now, McCain has placed one of the men responsible for permitting—and encouraging– loutish activity at the Tailhook meetings in a powerful position: heading up his transition team.

McCain recently named John Lehman to oversee his transition effort and figure out how a McCain administration ought to get started—and whom it ought to hire for the most senior jobs—should McCain win the November 4 election. Lehman, now an investment banker, was secretary of the Navy during the 1980s, and he played a R-rated role in the Tailhook scandal.

Lehman was no longer Navy secretary when the Tailhook scandal exploded. But in 1991 and 1992, as military investigators and journalists probed what had happened at the 1991 convention—which included the so-called Gauntlet, a line of rowdy and drunk junior officers who harassed and assaulted women passing by–they learned that the events at the Tailhook convention of 1991 were predated by similar behavior in early years. And they discovered that Lehman, as Navy secretary, had been an enthusiastic participant.

In his 1995 book, Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, Greg Vistica, the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter who broke the Tailhook scandal, described a scene from the 1986 Tailhook meeting:

When the door to the suite at the Las Vegas Hilton opened, a prominent member of President Ronald Reagan’s administration and a naked woman were clearly visible. He was lying on his back, stretched out in front of a throng of naval officers. There were probably one hundred men watching him, laughing with him….

Several of the Navy and Marine officers now crammed into the room…knew him personally and worshiped him. Many knew he was married and had three children. Almost everyone knew who he was, which made the show that much more fascinating….

Most of the officers in the room, including the man on his back, were hard-drinking renegades. Some had been partying for days, others for hours. The carpet was spongy and damp from alcohol spilled on it by drunken military men. The room itself reeked with the odor of booze and sweat. But nobody seemed to care much. All eyes were on the man and the naked woman standing over him, wagging her bare rump in a teasing motion. The men in the room went into a throaty uproar at the site, and their cheers and laughs grew louder as the show went on.

The man on the floor was Lehman. And this was the example he was setting at this particular Tailhook convention. Another account of the Tailhook scandal–The Mother of All Hooks: The Story of the U.S. Navy’s Tailhook Scandal by William McMichael–noted that Lehman ate whipped cream out of the stripper’s crotch.

Lehman, who had once been a Navy pilot, left his post as Navy secretary the following year—four years before Tailhook would become a controversy. But the 1993 report on Tailhook ‘91 conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general concluded that the 1991 convention was “the culmination of a long-term failure of leadership” in the Navy. According to the report, “the nature of the misconduct at the annual convention was well-known to senior aviation leaders….We were repeatedly told that such behavior was widely condone by Navy civilian and military leadership.” A footnote in the report stated:

Throughout our investigation, witnesses told us remarkable incidents at past Tailhook conventions. Incidents related by witnesses included a high-ranking Navy civilian official dancing with strippers in hospitality suites.

The IG’s report noted that Tailhook had spun out of control during Lehman’s tenure as Navy secretary: “By many accounts, the increase in rowdy and improper behavior culminated at Tailhook ’85.” After that convention, one Tailhook Association board member privately complained to the group, “Dancing girls performing lurid sexual acts on Naval aviators in public would make prime conversation for the media.” But no steps were taken—by the association or the Navy–to rein in the Top Gun aviators. And Lehman’s antics at the 1986 gathering sent an obvious signal: party on, men.

1n 1996, Lehman, appearing on ABC News’ This Week with David Brinkley, downplayed the Tailhook affair. Asked if he had participated in public lewdness at one of the conventions, he said that was unimportant and railed against “gutter reporting,” insisting that Tailhook ’91 should have been nothing more than a minor story. Speaking more broadly about the military during the Clinton years, Lehman added, “This is not a touchy-feely bureaucracy here. It has to have a macho, tough, warrior culture, and that’s what’s being eroded.”

Dammit, if our aviators can’t harass women and cavort with strippers, they’ll turn into ineffectual pansies!  That is just the kind of bold, outside-the-box thinking that we need in a presidential transition team.  Maybe there will be lots of strippers and prostitutes on hand during the transition, you know, to keep morale up.

And plenty of whipped cream.

(h/t Jenn)

Entry Filed under: Elections,McCain,Politics,Republicans,Sexism

1 Comment

  • 1. Dollface  |  December 14th, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    It’s a moot point now, but great post. It’s telling that McCain would appoint someone like Lehman to an official post in his would-be administration.

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