From the June 18 edition of WSJ Live's Opinion Journal Live:
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MARY KISSEL (host): President Obama is fond of talking about the war on women, but what about the war on men? We've got Best of the Web Today columnist James Taranto here to talk about an especially perverse example of this war. James, who is Lieutenant General Susan Helms and how is she a victim of a war on men?
JAMES TARANTO: Well Susan Helms was a female pioneer, she was the first American military servicewoman in space. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980, became an astronaut in 1990, flew on the space shuttle six times, four times as a crewman and twice as a passenger en route to the international space station, where by the way she set, along with a male astronaut, the record for longest space walk. She was working on a docking device known as a pressurized mating adaptor. And they were out in space for 8 hours and 56 minutes.
KISSEL: I see. But your op-ed in the paper today says that she's somehow a victim in a war on men? How is that?
TARANTO: That's right. Well, this goes back to the effort to combat, the political campaign against sexual assault in the military. And this seems to be turning into an effort to criminalize male sexuality, much as we see with sexual conduct codes on campus. And so what happened was, the general exercised her authority to grant clemency to an officer under her command, a man named Captain Matthew Herrera, who had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault, in a case in which the factual underpinnings were quite thin. The general wrote a long memo explaining why she made this decision and it's very convincing, and Senator Claire McCaskill has put a permanent hold on the general's nomination. She was nominated by President Obama to serve as vice commander of the Air Force Space Command. Claire McCaskill says she's not going to let her through, because she wants to callattention to this problem of sexual assault in the military.
KISSEL: So the women are always victims, regardless of the facts?
TARANTO: Well here's what happened in this case. It was a drunken sexual advance in the backseat of a moving vehicle, involving Captain Herrera and a female officer who was a lieutenant. They differed on whether it was, on who initiated it and whether she consented. She claimed that she fell asleep, woke up to find her pants undone and his hands on her genitals, he claimed that she undid her own pants, he touched her and she responded to the touch by putting her head on his shoulder. Now the officers in the front seat didn't even hear this going on. But the officer who was driving, the designated driver, who was also a woman and by the way the only one who was sober, on several other disputed points corroborated his testimony and contradicted hers. In addition, there were text messages exchanged between the accuser and the defendant, after the incident. She claimed only a couple of times, then she changed her testimony when they looked at the logs of the text messages. And it turned out there were 116 of them, of which 51 were sent by her. So, it was pretty clear that this guy was overcharged, he would have ended up on a sex offender registry for the rest of his life if this had stood, he was still discharged from the military.
KISSEL: What a perverse outcome here. So you have this really accomplished woman, in this lieutenant general who's up for promotion, and getting held up by another woman because of the war on men. James, when did this war on men begin? Can you pinpoint a starting point?
TARANTO: Well, it all goes back to the beginning of contemporary feminism in the early '60s. You know, women wanted to be equal to men, they wanted to be able to do all the sort of professional things including the military that men could do, and --
KISSEL: Was there anything wrong with that, though, James? I mean, that sounds --
TARANTO: Well, that's too long to go into now, the question of what's wrong with that, but in addition they wanted sexual freedom. Well what is female sexual freedom? It means, for this woman, that she had the freedom to get drunk, and to get in the backseat of the car with this guy. There was another woman who accused him, he was acquitted in this case, of sexual assault. This so-called assault happened in his bedroom, to which she voluntarily accompanied him, even the jury said that was consensual.
KISSEL: James, 30 seconds left. Is there any chance that Senator McCaskill's going to reconsider this hold?
TARANTO: Well I certainly hope so, I mean that's why I wrote the article. But I hope that her constituents will turn up the heat. Because Lieutenant General Helms lived up to her oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. She really gave this guy the protection that anyone accused of a serious crime deserves. And McCaskill took the same oath, and she ought to uphold it.