Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill shot down Thursday the “bizarre and deeply out of touch” accusation that she’s leading a “war on men” for addressing the issue of sexual assaults in the military. “My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice,” wrote McCaskill in a statement published in the Daily Beast.
This comes in response to an essay by Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, who criticized McCaskill being “more than a little histrionic” for putting a permanent hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms nomination to serve as vice commander of the Air Force Space Command. The op-ed also blamed the Democratic senator for waging “a political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality.”
President Obama tapped Gen. Helms for the job in March, but the Democrat put the kibosh on that over lingering concerns about the way Helms handled a case involving Air Force Capt. Matthew Herrera. In February 2012, Helms granted Herrera clemency even though he had been court-martialed and convicted of aggravated sexual assault.
“What she did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one,” said McCaskill, once again explaining her reasons for blocking the nom. McCaskill defended her actions and argued these cases should not be prosecuted within the military chain of command.
“The task of examining the evidence and hearing the witnesses’ testimony doesn’t belong to columnists or elected officials—it belonged to a judge and a jury—two words that you won’t find in Mr. Taranto’s piece,” she said. “A judge and jury had the opportunity to hear the case, and decide if Capt. Herrera committed sexual assault, and they found him guilty. It is also important to note that this was a jury selected by Lt. General Helms.”
She continued, “Mr. Taranto’s arguments contribute to an environment that purposely places blame in all the wrong places, and has made the current culture and status quo an obstruction to sorely needed change.”