Heitkamp's #MeToo hypocrisy cannot stand

MINOT, N.D. -- The national tidal wave of sexual misconduct accusations has crashed upon the beaches of American politics and, acting completely to character, our political leaders have responded with self-serving hypocrisy.A particularly acute e...
columnist Rob Port

MINOT, N.D. - The national tidal wave of sexual misconduct accusations has crashed upon the beaches of American politics and, acting completely to character, our political leaders have responded with self-serving hypocrisy.

A particularly acute example is North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Earlier this year she declared herself part of the #MeToo movement, appearing on Meet the Press alongside other women from Congress where she regurgitated a campaign trail yarn about some old sheriff who supposedly told her that men beating their wives was just a fact of life.

Despite telling this story for years Heitkamp has never bothered to name this man. One almost gets the idea that this tale is part of the stable of anecdotes most politicians keep at the ready in case they need to woo the rubes with something poignant.

That Heitkamp, ever the craven opportunist, ran it out as her ticket to ride the #MeToo train is about as crass and calculated a maneuver as I've ever seen a politician make.

Then came Heitkamp's posturing around the plight of Sen. Al Franken.

"I've said before that for decades as a country, we have been far too tolerant and dismissive of past accusations," Heitkamp lectured in her statement joining other Democrats in calling for Franken's resignation this past week.

She's said before?

That sanctimony rings a bit hollow considering it wasn't until Franken faced a 7th accuser that Democrats like Heitkamp gathered the gumption to call him out.

As for Heitkamp attempting to claim the moral high ground on this issue, painting herself as a warrior for the #MeToo cause long before it was cool, remember that she probably owes her Senate seat to serial philanderer Bill Clinton.

During her 2012 campaign Clinton appeared on the campaign trail for Heitkamp not once but twice at high-profile events. He raised a lot of money for Heitkamp and infused a lot of energy to her campaign.

Heitkamp ultimately won that year by a margin of less than one percentage point and it's not hard to see Clinton's intervention as the deciding factor.

Heitkamp was criticized at the time by myself and others for painting herself as a proponent of women (and her opponent, Republican Rick Berg, as part of the so-called "war on women") even as she stumped alongside a man who used his position of power to manipulate a young White House intern into a sexual relationship.

A man credibly accused by multiple women of behavior ranging from harassment to flat-out rape.

Heitkamp and her various mouthpieces brushed aside these criticisms back then, but today the senator would like us to see her as a paragon of justice for women.

Give me a break.

Heitkamp's hypocrisy is no exoneration of Republicans - the Roy Moore situation, for example, is an embarrassment which will leave a lasting stain on soul the party - but it shouldn't be overlooked. Particularly as the senator works hard to revise her own problematic relationship to this issue.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort