It is amazing this headline must even be written. Two days ago Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) made a rather — in context at least — innocuous remark at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Because the political left has decided to take every possible statement from every possible Republican that might be used to perpetuate the idea the GOP is at war with women, the statement has taken on a life of its own devoid of its context and meaning. Saxby Chambliss, who in reality attacked the military for lax standards which have led young men to think they can engage in sexual harassment and assault, is now cast as excusing young men's behavior as hormone driven boys being boys.
It had been confined to liberal blogs and MSNBC and local news, but CNN has now stepped into the mix and, like so many others, has ignored relevant and necessary context to get the full picture of his remarks.
You can hear Senator Chambliss's full remarks starting at 1:54:50 here.
It is helpful, at this point, to understand what sexual assaults Chambliss was, in part, discussing with the military.
As the Senate Armed Services Committee reported, several of the designated sexual assault scandals did not involve physical contact, but, for example:
- Rugby players at West Point engaging in a lewd email exchange in which they rated female cadets and girlfriends according to sexual attractiveness and joked about rape, incest, and homosexuality.
- A battalion commander allegedly condoning adultery and creating an open season climate when it came to sexual activity among the troops.
- A solider at West Point secretly videotaping female cadets.
- Marines creating a Facebook page denigrating women, including suggesting they are "sandwich makers."
- Soldiers getting drunk and having sex in a bar restroom.
There were other even more severe and terrible acts. You can see the most recent of them here.
Now, knowing all this, the sound bite everyone has fixated on is this:
The young folks that are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22-23. Gee whiz -- the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.
Yes, Saxby Chambliss said that. But liberals pushing this story are not willing to note that this remark came during a six minute or so tirade from Saxby Chambliss about how the military had created a passive and permissive culture in which 17 to 23 year old men thought they could get away with things they should not. More bluntly, horny 17 year old boys, when told or taught explicitly or implicitly by their commanders that it is okay to engage in harassment and assault just might do that. Again, one case involved a base commander encouraging soldiers to hook up on base as much as possible. Another case saw the military presume pregnancies were from consensual sex, not assault, and therefore never investigate.
In fact, Chambliss went on to say, and kudos to CNN for at least noting this additional bit,
So we've got to be very careful on how we address it on our side, but guys, we're not doing our job. You're not doing yours, and we're not doing ours with the rates that we are seeing on sexual assaults. As I said to start with, you recognize it. We recognize it, and we got to figure this thing out because we simply can't tolerate it.
Prior to Chambliss making his controversial statement, he said the military needed to do a better job of putting fear into these young people from day one in the military instead of allowing these young people to presume it is okay behavior. He focused on an aircraft carrier that, upon return to the United States, it turned out many of the females on the ship were pregnant. He beat up the military chiefs for going with the presumption that the pregnancies occurred through relationships on the ship and not sexual assaults, which he implied should be the working presumption in these cases.
More than that, Chambliss said the military needs to go beyond just criminal background checks of recruits and see if there are ways to find out about recruits' behavior in their communities. Right at about the 2:00:00 mark Chambliss makes his controversial statement and does so in the specific context for the remark this behavior cannot just be dealt with in the Uniform Code of Military Justice by acts of Congress, but must be dealt with through discipline and stricter, less permissive leadership.
As Chambliss was noting, but not excusing, at that age, with their hormones, in an environment where often their superiors were encouraging or turning a blind eye to bad behavior, they will behave in awful ways. Unfortunately for him, most of the media talking heads and the left pushing this story claim Chambliss was excusing behavior he was explicitly condemning.
Better Georgia, a leftwing group in the state, went so far as to send out a fundraising appeal that began with, "U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss believes that raging hormones are an excuse for sexual assaults in the military." That is a flat out lie. Chambliss was clear that it was no excuse. And, contrary to the Politico, Chambliss did not blame sexual assaults on hormones.
The bad thing here is that in the Democrats' rush to score political points and perpetuate the idea of a war on women, they risk people like Saxby Chambliss and others deciding it just isn't worth the headache to try to figure out real solutions to what has happened.
And yes, my friends, I just spent 853 words defending Saxby Chambliss. Get me some gin.