We haven’t done anything on the rather salacious allegations of sexual harassment made against Secretary of State Tom Schedler last week, mostly because the Schedler business sprung up Thursday when I was on the road to Shreveport for the Hayride dinner there, and with driving back on Friday and a busy weekend and first part of this week I just didn’t get around to it.
But with a couple of calls for Schedler’s resignation yesterday, including one from Gov. John Bel Edwards, I guess we now have an opportunity to visit this affair for the first time here.
It was Edwards and state senator Sharon Hewitt, along with a couple of the Usual Suspects (namely, State Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Regina Barrow, plus State Rep. Helena Moreno) who called for Schedler to go. Previously the only demand he resign had come from the Democrat Party’s executive director Stephen Handwerk, who used to work for Barney Frank – the same Barney Frank who was running a gay brothel out of his Capitol Hill apartment and got caught doing it in 1989 – so that’s how sincere the outrage was.
Why Hewitt rushed to be first to the post on the GOP side where Schedler is concerned, I can’t say. She certainly seems to be flexing her ambitions a little and her name has come up as a gubernatorial candidate, though at this point she’d have to be seen as a long shot there and to run for governor would mean giving up that Senate seat – strategically it would appear to make a lot more sense if Hewitt were to run for re-election and then take a poke at succeeding John Alario as the Senate President. And to be fair, Hewitt has been front and center on the sexual harassment issue in the past – so it might just be that she’s being consistent here, if perhaps a bit hasty to judgement.
But if Schedler were to resign, we’d have a special election this fall and a Sharon Hewitt could run for Secretary of State without giving up her Senate seat. If that’s what she’s thinking, then sure – why not toss out a press release seeing if it’ll work and open up some opportunities?
But for Edwards, it’s a lot easier to see what he’s doing. It’s also a lot more obvious he’s about the “Washington Politics” he and his crowd constantly accuse their opposition of.
First of all, the governor knew when his people put out the press release calling for Schedler’s resignation that he needed something to distract the media from what was going on at the Capitol, where the special session he stupidly called was collapsing. Edwards lost the Legislative Black Caucus last week, and the LBC walked out on him on a key sales tax renewal bill which was the only shot at raising taxes to undo the budget deficit Edwards has been squawking about for months. His legislative agenda now lies in ruins and by any objective measure at this point Edwards appears as a total failure in office. Something, anything, to deflect attention away from the special session and the inevitable recognition that his administration is a shambles had to go out yesterday, which is why six days on from the disclosure of that lawsuit against Schedler Edwards’ demand for his resignation hit the media.
Second, John Bel Edwards’ hands are anything but clean on the subject of sexual harassment. Johnny Anderson, after all, is on Edwards’ head. Anderson was the deputy chief of staff Edwards hired due to the former’s political connections; he was a muckety-muck among the black preachers in the state. He was also a former assistant chief of staff to then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the chairman of the Southern University Board of Supervisors back in 2007, and got himself in a royal mess at that time by sexually harassing Southern’s female employees – and this is documented in court findings of a resulting legal case. John Bel Edwards had to know Johnny Anderson was a lecher and a time bomb waiting to go off and hired him anyway, and it went off in November when Anderson shortly got back to his old tricks while under Edwards’ employ. So no, we’re not really interested in John Bel Edwards, Former West Point Cadet And Honor Code Adherent, waxing indignant over Tom Schedler’s situation.
And third, just like Hewitt might well be angling for political advantage with a special election potentially coming out of a Schedler resignation Edwards’ call for his resignation is a pure partisan play. The Democrats think 2018 is going to be a wave election for them and the midterms are going to be a great opportunity to win races they otherwise wouldn’t. In Texas next door there are reasons to think that might happen; that’s less true here. But if a Democrat were to capture the Secretary of State’s office it’s a lot more likely it’ll happen this year than next year when the full statewide election cycle is on order. So get Schedler out now and run somebody for that seat – a Walt Leger, let’s say, or a Caroline Fayard, if Edwards wants to make his peace with her – and maybe the midterm anti-Trump wave will materialize and you can win the race.
There’s a special bonus to that, by the way, which is that the Secretary of State is the person who handles the elections in Louisiana. Put a Democrat in that job and now you have somebody who oversees the voter rolls and makes decisions about how things like voter registration drives are conducted. Play fast and loose enough with the voter rolls and you end up with outfits like Organizing For America bombing registrars of voters in places like Orleans Parish with registration cards from Marvel’s Avengers, the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line and the denizens of the local graveyards, and in the next election you get voter turnout that exceeds the adult population of the parish.
Which is the best way for John Bel Edwards to get re-elected.
Is this a defense of Tom Schedler? No. I don’t have an opinion on the lawsuit filed against him last Thursday, because I don’t have enough facts to properly form one. And neither does Sharon Hewitt, neither does John Bel Edwards and neither do you. Schedler undoubtedly has a side to this story, and he ought to be afforded the right to tell it before we make demands that he resign or anything else.
I’m told Schedler had a romantic relationship with the woman in question and that it was common knowledge among people in that department the two were dating (Schedler and his wife have been estranged and separated for a very long time). I’m told that it was Schedler who broke off the relationship and proceeded to strike another relationship up with another woman who’s older and richer than the one who’s suing him. And I’m told that the State employee, who has been promoted in her job even after the relationship ended (so exactly what are her damages? I can’t understand what those might be), reacted to Schedler’s new relationship by demanding money from him, which he refused. And it’s obvious by her hiring of Jill Craft, who’s been described as a poor-woman’s Gloria Allred – which is not to say none of Craft’s clients have a case or that she isn’t good at what she does – that Schedler’s accuser’s main focus is to try this case in the public eye and use media attention as a tool of leverage.
It all fits the narrative of a woman scorned (the salacious nature of the complaint, the vast majority of which can be dismissed as an attempt to get media attention by throwing out the wildest charges possible, further contributes to that narrative), and it also is in line with the current #MeToo hysteria, which while that might be unearthing some bad behavior in need of address is also a serious societal case of playing with fire. Again, though, we don’t have enough facts, or any third party documentation or testimony yet supporting either side of the argument, to know who’s telling the truth.
But Schedler’s ordeal, deserved or not, is already a cautionary tale about dating anybody you work with – and frankly, if that’s off the table there are a whole lot of people in America who are never going to find love in this world. We need to seriously think as a society about what kind of rules we’re going to impose on these kinds of relationships and whether it’s a good idea to put every man who dates a co-worker or employee in the stocks.
But John Bel Edwards hasn’t bothered to think about those things. All John Bel Edwards really cares about is what’s good for his flagging political career. And because of that we should give him zero credibility on this issue.
Shut up, John Bel. Mind your own business.