Scandal mania has gripped DC this week.
We’ve seen wall to wall coverage of 6-month-old emails regarding the critical topic of Sunday show talking points. A possibly overly broad, but lawful investigation of a leak that last year Republicans demanded be aggressively investigated. And the activities of some low-level civil servants who used improper criteria to scrutinize groups that deserved scrutiny.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have been awfully busy grilling Eric Holder…again. Sending out letters straining to tie the incident with the low level IRS bureaucrats to some broader scheme of the administration to “chill the speech of political opponents.” Calling for people to be thrown in jail. Impressively, they even managed to squeeze in a vital 37th vote on repealing Obamacare. An effort that has consumed no less than 15% of their time on the House floor since 2011. Well done guys.
All of this calls for a reality check. A reality check for everyone, but in particular for Republicans, D.C., and the media. Because there is a real scandal this week. A scandal that is a national disgrace, goes to the core of our character as a people, and hurts our ability to keep our country safe. It doesn’t have anything to do with the AP, or the IRS, and lord knows it’s got nothing to do with 6-month-old talking points.
This week, while people were generally running around setting their hair on fire, we learned that for the second time in two weeks, a military member who was specifically tasked with preventing sexual assault in the military, had himself been charged with sexual assault.
Unfortunately, this is no isolated incident or random horrible coincidence. Thursday, President Obama met with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey to discuss the growing epidemic of sexual assault in the military. A new report estimates about 500 of our military men and women were assaulted every week last year. That pace means that 71 of our brave men and women will be sexually assaulted today.
Worse perhaps than the abuse itself is that after being attacked they will have nothing but bad options. Do they report the abuse to their commander who likely knows their attacker and who may even be their attacker? Do they undergo the second trauma of telling the horrifying details of their story only to be disbelieved and for their attacker to face no consequences? After all, out of an estimated 26,000 incidences of sexual assault last year, only 1,714 service members were charged, and only 238 of those were convicted. Or do they make the choice that 9 out of 10 servicewomen who were sexually assaulted last year made, which is to keep silent and try to quietly cope with the trauma that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
We are failing on a basic level to protect and honor our men and women in uniform. Thousands of men and women are being forced to undergo sexual assault with little to no legal recourse. That is a scandal worthy of action, attention, and setting hair on fire.
Is our political system so far gone that if a crisis can’t be tied, no matter how tangentially, to a political opponent, than it’s not really worth talking about? If so, that’s a real scandal.