Political News

Hubris, hypocrisy and (former) NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Posted May 8, 2018 12:02 p.m. EDT

— What really separates the Eric Schneiderman #MeToo scandal from the rest of them is the truly astounding hypocrisy of it all.

Given what we've learned from reporting about the Democratic attorney general in The New Yorker, that's not even a very subjective statement.

That the man taking the lead in prosecuting a civil case against Harvey Weinstein would himself stand accused of abusing women is... well... unbelievable.

Schneiderman may now face prosecution himself, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The fact that women Schneiderman is accused of striking felt he would use his office -- the same office he pledged to use against Weinstein and President Donald Trump -- against them takes the hypocrisy to disturbing levels.

Indeed, the picture of the hard-charging lawman standing up for women does not square with the secretly abusive and controlling boyfriend described in the magazine.

This passage from The New Yorker, in which Schneiderman's former girlfriend Michelle Manning Barish discusses him, paints a picture of a man with power who is not afraid to use it.

Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow write in the magazine:

Since the #MeToo movement began, Manning Barish has been active on social-media platforms, cheering on women who have spoken out, including those whose accusations prompted the resignation of the Minnesota senator Al Franken, a widely admired Democrat. Once, she made an oblique reference to Schneiderman on social media, in connection with a political issue. He called her and, in a tone that she describes as "nasty," said, "Don't ever write about me. You don't want to do that." Manning Barish says that she took his remarks as a threat, just as she took seriously a comment that he'd once made after she objected to him "yanking" her across a street. She recalls saying to him, "Jaywalking is against the law," and him responding, "I am the law." Manning Barish says, "If there is a sentence that sums him up, it's that."

The passage suggests a number of very disturbing things, including that Schneiderman knew he had something to hide. He was pursuing Weinstein and putting Trump on notice all while he knew there were abuse allegations against him. It also suggests that Schneiderman felt his own position was so important that he might be willing to use it to keep his accusers quiet. That's what makes his sudden downfall so incredible to so many people.

The prosecutor with something to hide is something out of a pulpy crime novel. The prosecutor with this to hide at this time in US history is enough to be nauseating even though Schneiderman resigned from his office within hours of the report posting. Read Chris Cillizza's pieceTuesday on the difference between politicians who resign quickly and those who hang on after reports of alleged abuse, from President Donald Trump and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to former President Bill Clinton.

The difference between someone like Trump and someone like Schneiderman is that Trump as publicly identified with men even as the #MeToo movement uncovers the difficulties women have faced.

When staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorenson were both forced out of the White House following accusations of domestic abuse, Trump questioned the allegations.

"Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation," Trump tweeted. "Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"

Last November, when multiple women said Alabama US Senate candidate Roy Moore had tried to seduce them as young women, Trump sided with Moore, pointing out that the candidate denied the allegations.

"He says it didn't happen," the President told reporters. "You have to listen to him, also."

Give Trump points for consistency. Schneiderman was using his office to try to go after rape suspect Harvey Weinstein while privately telling women he'd allegedly abused that he'd use his office against them. That's a special brand of hubris.

Republicans have quickly pointed out this hypocrisy, and rightly so. Of course, one enormous difference is that Moore stayed in that Senate fight. The White House was trying to make him a senator even after the allegations about his history with young women came out.

That's not unlike Trump going after former Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who resigned his seat after allegations of unwanted and forcible kissing by multiple women.

He believed the accusers against Franken, his political rival, in other words, but wanted to believe Moore, his political ally. Politics should probably not even feature in this debate, but the evidence now is that politics can feed it.

There's hypocrisy. There's hubris. And then there's this.