Brooks and Nocera

Who better than Bobo to discuss Hillary Clinton?  (Well, there’s always MoDo’s foaming, gibbering rage but we’re trying for minimal coherence…)  In “Hillary Clinton, the Great Defender” Bobo gurgles that she has been playing defense most of her political career, and that’s given her strengths. But that mind-set also hurts her.  Of course there’s no mention of the fact that she’s been playing defense because of a series of trumped-up “scandals” ginned up by people that Bobo loves…  Mr. Nocera, in “Baylor, Football and the Rape Case of Sam Ukwuachu,” says the university didn’t let on about the accusation for nearly two years, but with its player’s conviction, it’s suddenly indignant and taking action.  Here’s Bobo:

Hillary Clinton has obviously had a bad summer. She’s losing in New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders, even among women. She’s barely leading him in Iowa. In a Quinnipiac poll of potential general election matchups, she’s beating Donald Trump by only four points, 45 to 41, and she’s beating Marco Rubio by only one point.

The conventional Democratic muck-a-muck view is that she horribly mishandled the private email server issue. That’s part of it, but the polling shows a much more pervasive personal set of weaknesses. In an AP/GfK poll, only 40 percent of Americans think she is compassionate. Only 30 percent say she is honest. In a variety of polls, many voters say she just doesn’t get people like them, usually the key Democratic strength.

Not all of these troubles are her fault. It’s tough to run as a member of the establishment in this time of popular disgust with establishments (ask Jeb Bush). But Clinton’s campaign nonetheless has a distinct aura. Maybe next to Michael Dukakis’s, it is the least romantic, poetic and uplifting Democratic campaign in decades.

All descriptions of her campaigns have to start with the fact that for most of Clinton’s political career she has been playing defense. Sometimes she’s had to defend herself from critical barrages amid scandal: Whitewater and the Rose Law Firm records straight through to Benghazi and the email server. Other times she’s had to endure emotional and media exposures sparked by her husband’s escapades.

Even when she ran for president in 2008, she was on the defense against the Obama tide. She campaigned best when the Obama tide was strongest and she was forced to struggle against it.

This pattern of playing on the defensive side of the ball has given her real strengths — she has endured and persevered and rarely bent. But this defensive posture has given her, at least in public, an embattled combative posture, and sometimes an air of reactiveness.

In her campaign speeches she describes a political, economic and global world that is red in tooth and claw. The main traits required to survive in this struggle against the contemptible foes are tenacity, toughness and calculation. There is a pervasive us/them assumption in her speeches, and the need for armoring up. The defining verb in her political campaign is “fight.”

In speeches she is at her best when describing people who have been pushed to the wall by circumstances — the single mom who is trying to find a way to pay for day care, the college student deluged with rising tuition costs. She can be quite funny in her speeches, but her humor is the humor of the counterattack — mostly sarcastic humor aimed at Republicans, the press and her critics.

The ironic fact is that she now bears the subliminal weight of scandals more heavily than Bill. That’s in part because he at least gives the appearance of putting any resentments he might have about them in the past. He seems emotionally loose, open and trusting. She often does not give that impression.

Even the campaign posture bears signs of this defensive mind-set. The walls around her inner circle are high. Gov. Martin O’Malley is certainly right when he says it is shocking that the Democratic primary process will feature a mere four debates before the first four states complete voting — a wall of protectiveness to seal off the front-runner.

This linebacker mentality means she is strong when she talks about defending, say, Social Security, and she has no illusions in foreign affairs. But there is little of the high-minded earnestness of the Adlai Stevenson campaigns, the futuristic aspiration of the John Kennedy campaign, the grand ambition of the Lyndon Johnson campaign, the new generation emotionality of Bill Clinton’s campaign or the uplifting hopefulness of the Barack Obama campaign.

We live in anxious times. You can respond to those times with a more radical political program, as Bernie Sanders is doing. You can answer with an anti-establishment burn-down-the-house campaign, as Donald Trump is doing. Or you can create a resurrection story, a creative narrative that builds a working majority on new grounds.

When Clinton was secretary of state it wasn’t clear whether she could go on offense and define a creative initiative in an open field. She hasn’t done that yet in this campaign, either. She hasn’t given voters a sense of an epic quest, an exodus to some promised land.

She’s still the prohibitive favorite to get the nomination, but we have yet to see if she can play offense. Campaigns do have to have some creative romance to them, an uplifting mood if not a new agenda. So far Clinton has not creatively defined a new field in front of the country. Instead, she’s left a void others are filling.

And now here’s Mr. Nocera:

On Aug. 21, a Baylor University football player named Sam Ukwuachu wassentenced to six months in the county jail and 10 years’ probation for sexually assaulting a freshman soccer player two years ago.

Although Ukwuachu pleaded not guilty to the charges, there wasn’t much doubt that “Jane Doe,” as she is referred to in court documents, had been raped. When she went to the hospital after the encounter, the examining nurse found “vaginal injuries, including redness, bleeding and friction injuries,” according to a powerful account in Texas Monthly. Jane Doe had been a virgin.

Her testimony during the short trial was nothing short of chilling. “He was using all of his strength to pull up my dress and do stuff to me,” she testified. “He had me on my stomach on the bed and he was on top of me.” Her head caught between the bed and a desk, she was “screaming ‘stop’ and ‘no’ ” as Ukwuachu raped her.

The day of Ukwuachu’s sentencing, Baylor’s president, Ken Starr — yes, the same Ken Starr who 17 years ago authored the lurid Starr Report about President Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky — issued a letter to the Baylor community denouncing “this unspeakable tragedy.” He insisted that Baylor works “tirelessly” to provide a safe environment and that perpetrators of sexual violence “will find no shelter on our campus.”

And then on Friday, Starr issued another statement, in which he announced the university would hire outside counsel to conduct an investigation. He also said Baylor would hire a full-time official to oversee “all student-athlete behavior.”

I will address the absurdity of the latter role shortly. But first, it’s worth taking a closer look at the case, which says a lot about the relationship between Baylor and its football team, very little of it good.

Is football big at Baylor? You bet it is. Its beautiful new McLane Stadium, opened last year, cost $266 million. The town of Waco, Tex., where Baylor is located, pretty much stops during a Baylor football game. Baylor’s top spokeswoman, Lori Fogleman, ends her voice mail message with an enthusiastic, “Sic ‘em Bears!”

The importance of having a good football team — and many prognosticators believe Baylor will be very good indeed this season — may help explain why it was willing to accept Ukwuachu in the first place. A talented defensive end, he had been dismissed from the Boise State team for undisclosed reasons, and conflicting accounts over the past two weeks have failed to clarify what Baylor knew about Ukwuachu at the time of his transfer.

During the trial, Ukwuachu’s former girlfriend at Boise State testified that he had been violently abusive with her, and records recently obtained by ESPN show Boise State officials were alarmed by Ukwuachu’s erratic and even suicidal behavior. According to the records, three days after he was given a diagnosis of a major depressive disorder, Ukwuachu was dismissed from the team. (Boise State insists it had no knowledge of the domestic abuse allegations at the time of Ukwuachu’s move to Baylor.).

In October 2013, while sitting out a year as a transfer, as required per N.C.A.A. rules, Ukwuachu raped Jane Doe. To be blunt, Baylor seemed mainly interested in protecting its football player. According to Texas Monthly, after conducting a few cursory interviews, and not even asking to look at the hospital rape kit, the school “cleared” Ukwuachu, as his lawyer later put it.

Not that anybody knew this, because Baylor said nothing publicly, not even after Ukwuachu’s indictment. In fact, when he failed to suit up for the 2014 season — and reporters began asking why — Baylor said only that he had “some issues.” Even with the indictment hanging over him, Ukwuachu was allowed to do conditioning work with the team.

As recently as this June, just two months before the trial, Baylor’s defensive coordinator said he expected the defensive end to play during the 2015 season. It was only as the trial was about to begin that The Waco Tribune-Herald reported Ukwuachu’s “issues” included a rape accusation.

Ken Starr was as complicit in the two-year-long silence as anybody in the Baylor athletic department, which makes his current “anguish” seem like little more than P.R. posturing. If you Google Starr, you’ll find plenty of pictures of him on the Baylor football field, cheering on the team.

But it’s at moments of crises like this one when people discover how a university, and its president, prioritizes athletics. Baylor, a Baptist school that professes to adhere to Christian principles, appears to have “sheltered” a “perpetrator,” to use Starr’s own words, because this particular perp might be able to help the team win a few games. It happens way too often.

As for the idea that someone has to be hired to monitor the behavior of the school’s 500 athletes — how, exactly, does Baylor propose to do that, send chaperones on their dates? — shouldn’t the real issue be who the school admits in the first place, and how forthrightly it acts when problems emerge? By this standard, Baylor’s response has been abysmal.

Indeed, judging by the Ukwuachu case, it’s not so much the athletes who need to have their behavior monitored. It’s Ken Starr’s administration.

Politeness forbids me from saying what I’d like to say about Ken Starr.


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