What was Eric Schneiderman thinking? That as the very ambitious attorney general of New York, he could turn himself into the patron saint of the #MeToo movement while physically abusing women, as four women have alleged?
We are not talking about bad jokes or awkward compliments or any of the sort of things that a man might think were welcome (even if he were wrong). There can be no claims of confused signals, generation-gap issues or a lack of fair warning when the charge is literally beating up women.
Not OK now or ever; not OK before #MeToo or after; not OK if you knew the woman, if she consented to see you, date you, even sleep with you. The attorney general of New York, of all people, should know that there is no such thing as a consensual beating. Unless, that is, he is totally blinded by extreme arrogance. Which seems likely.
Of course, Schneiderman says he “contests” the allegations. That’s a surprise. Usually, when you contest serious allegations, you take more than a few hours to resign. Surely Schneiderman knows that. The surest way to convince people you are guilty is to run out the door as fast as you can — which is precisely what Schneiderman did.
What was he thinking — that he was untouchable? An attorney general above the law? That the women wouldn’t dare speak out? There is no good answer to that question.
If you can’t control yourself with women, if you think that pushing them around and actually beating them, as these women have alleged Schneiderman did, is your privilege as a male, then what are you doing wrapping yourself in the #MeToo movement? With friends like that, who needs enemies?
He has made a mockery of everything he supposedly stood for, and that doesn’t just hurt him.
After months, years, of attacking all things Trump, Schneiderman has succeeded in doing what most of us thought impossible: making Trump look if not good then at least better. At least he didn’t beat up Stormy Daniels.
Schneiderman didn’t just hurt himself by his apparent stupidity and alleged brutality. He hurt everything he purported to stand for, and everyone he claimed to be helping.
You don’t think this will be used by Trump and his macho pals to make a mockery of the rest of us? Of course it will. It already is beginning to happen. The Drudge Report could not be more thrilled. Hypocrisy laid bare is a powerful weapon, and right now it’s being pointed at all of us who, until today, considered Schneiderman to be a smart and decent and promising public servant. Wrong and wrong and wrong.
Smart? OK, maybe he got good grades in law school. Maybe he knew how to write a brief or make an argument. But smart is about more than grades. Smart is about understanding your strengths and weaknesses, holding yourself to the same standard that you hold others to. To beat up women — Schneiderman denies doing so, but the four women described incredibly similar violence — while holding yourself out as an advocate of women isn’t just hypocritical; it is stupid, plain and simple.
Decent? Don’t get me started. Decent men rarely find themselves facing allegations that they physically and violently abused not one, not two, not three, but four women. Are all of them lying, and coincidentally coming up with virtually the same story? Methinks not.
Promising? Not anymore. But that’s his problem. The harm he’s done to a cause, a movement, to those who trusted him and supported him, not to mention thought they were involved with a future governor or even president, is sadly our problem. Shame, shame, shame.
Susan Estrich is a columnist, commentator and law and political science professor at USC.