"On the first hour of the first day, we will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office. They will offer more lectures and legalisms and carefully worded denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a stiff dose of truth." – Richard B. Cheney, August 2, 2000
"Just because our White House has let us down in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the future. In a campaign that’s going to restore honor and dignity to the White House." – George W. Bush, September 23, 2000
Ever since President Bush executed his blitz-massage on German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G-8 Summit last week, the blogosphere has been abuzz with what it all means. Predictably there are two camps in this debate. The liberal blogosphere and thinking people believe that this was highly inappropriate behavior from a world leader in the formal surroundings of the G-8. Mr. Bush’s defenders, most of the wingnutosphere and the Fox-WSJ commentators, believe that this was appropriate behavior amongst friends or that Clinton did it too so it must be ok.
Let me first get the Clinton comparison out of the way. First, William Jefferson Clinton is not the President of the United States, George W Bush is. Six years into the Bush presidency it is probably about time to stop blaming Bill Clinton for everything. The conservative love affair with Clinton is kind of touching but not particularly useful in this instance. Second, do conservatives really want to make the Clinton is worse argument? In other words, its ok for Bush to behave inappropriately as long as Clinton is worse if we are being graded on a moral curve. So much for restoring honor and dignity to the White House.
Now let’s look at the appropriate behavior argument coming from the wingnuts. One thing is certain – in the corporate world Mr. Bush’s behavior would have warranted a trip to the Human Resources Department. Most corporations have a zero tolerance harassment policy and neck massages are not tolerated. In fact, every harassment training video I have seen during corporate training has always included a scene showing an employee approaching a female employee from behind and giving her a neck massage very much the way Mr. Bush did. Whether it rises to the level of sexual harassment or not, it is certainly inappropriate behavior. And given the setting, the G-8 Summit where diplomatic protocol applies, it is bizarre in addition to being inappropriate.
President Bush’s behavior at the G-8 was at the very least an embarrassment for the United States. We should expect more from our President when he is abroad. After all, he represents every one of us and has a duty to act with some semblance of decorum. He can feel free to be his folksy touchy feely self on his own private time, but when he is representing the United States in a formal setting on the world stage, he should know better not to behave like a frat boy. Professor Larry Sabato sums it up in an Associated Press article about the incident:
Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, agrees that today, public figures have to be more careful in "a thousand ways." But he maintains sites like YouTube can be revealing.
"If they’re not doing something that’s embarrassing, they have nothing to worry about," he says. "A president ought to know enough not to use an expletive in a fairly open meeting and almost any male alive today knows that you don’t offer uninvited massages to any female, much less the Chancellor of Germany."
Professor Sabato points out something that should be obvious to everyone. Well, almost everyone.
The defenders of the blitz-massage on the right are livid. They can’t see why this is inappropriate. After all they are friends and the Chancellor "smiled". Now travel with me as we take the treacherous trek through the strange world of wingnut reality.
Our first stop on this journey is James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal. He is outraged that Taylor Marsh is "aghast" at Mr. Bush’s behavior. He is in full "attack the messenger" mode on this one. He doesn’t actually try to defend Mr. Bush’s actions. Instead he states that Taylor should have been equally outraged with Mr. Clinton’s behavior. As I noted above I am not particularly sure how Mr. Clinton’s behavior makes it ok for Mr. Bush to sidle up behind the Chancellor and try to sneak one in. I would like to quote Mr. Taranto here, but as is typical of a lot of the confusion coming from the right, there is not much substance to his article outside of the quotes he cites. But, hey, when you don’t have an argument to make, you can always attack the messenger.
The stupidest manufactured controversy of the week, currently making the rounds of the angry left blogosphere: Bush Gropes Germany’s Merkel.
I guess even he found it difficult to defend Mr. Bush’s boorish behavior. So, it was time to resort to using big words like "stupidest". However, from reading some of the comments to his post, it appears that it is his readers who are angry and sometimes confused. Still, there are others who are digging deep to explain Mr. Bush’s perplexing ways. Without further ado, I provide you with some samples.
This particular commenter finds Mr. Bush to be giving and the German to be stereotypically icy:
#14 zombie 7/19/2006 08:16AM PDT
The part that the Left is lovin’ is that she shrugs him off. I think that her reaction was one of surprise, rather than one of revulsion. Another likely possibility is that she had a LOT of tension in her neck and shoulders, and Bush, being sensitive to little details like that, thought she could benefit from a little massage. But the slightest touch to her overstressed muscles shot pangs through Merkel’s body, and her instinctive reaction was to shrug him off.
I think it shows that Bush is human and giving, and Merkle a bit too icy and Teutonic.
But really, there’s only one response:
This commenter apparently wants to be groped by Mr. Bush because he is a good guy:
# 45 WriterMom 7/19/2006 08:33AM PDT
I personally can’t think of a world leader I would rather be "groped" by. A bear hug from Bush, have a beer with John Howard-give Stephen Harper a high five.
THESE GUYS ARE THE GOOD GUYS FERRRGOODNESSSAKE!
LOL! Good one.
This commenter is apparently very huggable, but doesn’t like being hugged by liberals:
#110 Fatal 7/19/2006 01:22PM PDT
Oh come on!
Every lefty hippie love-fest / protest has so much "touching" and "feeling" going on that if this was "groping" or "sexual harassment", we wouldn’t be seeing anymore lefty gatherings because they’d all be locked up! Heck, I thought these folks were all about "feelings" and "humanizing" and "love" and . . .
Sheesh, my doctor, my attorney, and most of my friends hug me, slap me on the back, etc (in a very manly manner of course) whenever I see them.
We even had a woman here at work who would routinely walk around and give everyone that little neck rub like the President did. My reaction was usually like Merkel’s, but that’s because she was so far left she made Kos look like a moderate and it totally creeped me out to have her hands anywhere near my neck.
Surprisingly, I ran into a voice of reason in one of the comments (but he was promptly derided):
#104 Tim in PA 7/19/2006 11:03AM PDT
While the uproar about this is rather stupid, if I did that at work I’d be fired on the spot. Bush should have known better.
This commenter is a very touchy feely kind of person, like Mr. Bush:
#112 extrabob 7/19/2006 01:58PM PDT
I wouldn’t last long where you work. Sometimes I touch people in greeting, after getting to know them for awhile and developing a friendly relationship.
Overall, I was unimpressed by the defense put on by the commenters at LGF. So I moved on to Riehl World View for a stauncher defense. None was to be had.
As far as I can tell, his defense is a two-pronged one. He is saying either its a left-wing conspiracy to do a hit job on Mr. Bush with edited video or, failing that, the German Chancellor actually enjoyed it:
Crooks and Liars, in a post called Presidential Groping, with help from Bild, is attempting to do a hit on Bush that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. No wonder they are only using a four second video. I doubt they want you to see the rest.
The usual useful idiots are all a twitter, but if one looks closely at the video, you’ll find that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is actually smiling at the very end. What was perhaps a fond exchange, perhaps a bit of a jest (maybe Bush told her to lighten up, given her previously tense look) who knows. Unfortunately, some are trying to turn it into something it obviously wasn’t – something we might have expected from Bill Clinton, perhaps? Interesting, I thought the Left didn’t have any problem with that?
Anyway, not the right software at work, but I’m sure someone will do a screen cap to prove my point. Otherwise, I’ll do it tonight.
I think I can help this guy out. As luck would have it, CNN has released 46 seconds of video of the Presidential massage. I think it makes Mr. Bush’s actions even more perplexing. He seems a little confused and makes a last minute decision to grope the Chancellor. I think he is still awaiting a screen cap that will prove his point that Angela Merkel enjoyed the "fond exchange". We are waiting with you.
Finally there is AllahPundit at Hot Air. I think his post was supposed to be funny, but I had trouble making much sense of it. I think he is employing the "they are friends" defense. But, I can’t really tell so I urge you to go read it yourself if you really are so inclined.
Overall, I am rather disappointed with the wingnut defense of the blitz-massage. I expected a more robust defense. Oh well, maybe next time Mr. Bush gropes another female foreign leader they will be better prepared with the talking points.
I leave you with an excerpt from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial on the subject:
The act was demeaning to the leader of another nation. It also demonstrates insensitive (if not out-of-bounds) workplace conduct. Since this was an international summit, we’ll cite the United Nations’ sexual harassment guidelines. "Unwelcome behavior is the critical word," the document says, followed by a listing of objectionable actions. About halfway down the list: "Neck massage."
My sentiments exactly. Ewwww.
[Crossposted at Taylor Marsh]