Culleton: Sex, politics and nepotism in Washington

Sex, politics, religion and nepotism; they make a fierce combination. Let's start with nepotism.

A lawyer who has never tried a case or even filed a motion has been nominated by President Trump for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. His claim to fame is that his wife, also a lawyer, works in the White House. It is not uncommon for presidents to nominate candidates that agree with them politically to judgeships, but heretofore at least some legal experience has been required. The lawyer, Brett Talley, is the fourth judicial nominee under President Trump to receive a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association and just the second to receive the rating unanimously. Since 1989, the association has unanimously rated only two other judicial nominees as “not qualified.”


The Judicial Committee of the Senate has approved Talley’s promotion on a party line vote. It is not certain whether the Senate as a whole will approve him. The Senate Republicans only hold a two-vote majority and, as was displayed in the health care debacle, several of them have both common sense and an active political conscience.

Nepotism is a word based on the Italian for “nephew” and was the polite way to refer to the pope’s illegitimate children and other favorites who were appointed to posts in the era of the Borgia popes during the 15th and 16th centuries. Clearly there is other nepotism as well in the White House, with a daughter and a son-in-law on the White House staff.

Speaking of religion, many Alabama preachers of the fundamentalist variety are urging the election of Roy Moore to the Senate based on his opposition to abortion and his defense of the display of the Ten Commandments on public buildings. There is, however, the pesky matter of obeying those same Ten Commandments. Moore is accused by at least nine women (the list is growing) of unwelcome sexual advances when they were teenage girls and while he was married. That is a form of adultery and also in some instances was against civil law.

A sitting senator, Democrat Al Franken, is also accused and has confessed to unwanted sexual advances while on a USO tour as a comedian. President Clinton had a consensual sexual relationship, albeit an adulterous one, with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. A more serious matter occurred while he was governor of Arkansas when he ordered the state police escort a state employee, Paula Jones, to his hotel room and allegedly propositioned her and exposed himself to her.

Finally we have President Trump who reportedly got his future wife pregnant while still married to someone else and who also bragged about sexual abuse of women on the “Access Hollywood” tape. This was written off as mere “locker room talk.” So he is either a liar or an abuser or both. I vote for both. The voters will have their say on all this starting with Dec.12 in Alabama. As in Virginia recently, the votes of women will be crucial. The days of “blame the woman” are fading fast, at least in this country. Two Republican female senators may have their say on issues like the tax cut for the rich as they did with the attempt to destroy health care.

Overall, I predict that the Republican majority of two in the Senate will be reduced to one on Dec. 12. Hopefully things governmental will start to improve, or at least stop getting worse.

At the moment, the most worrisome issue is the face-off between our egoist-in-chief and the one presiding over North Korea. We spend more on national defense than the next seven nations combined. But that money is spent on weapons designed to fight the Soviet Union of the last century. We have more and better carrier task forces than anyone else. We have the best fighter aircraft in the world. But a war against North Korea will not be fought on the high seas or in the air. It would be fought on the ground in South Korea and more importantly in an exchange of ICBMs carrying nuclear warheads. We can, of course, win such a nuclear exchange. The war on the ground is more of a problem. Our ground forces are scattered around the Earth. North Korea has 1.5 million troops under arms in just one theater.

Congress is discussing legislation to rein in the president’s power to launch a preemptive nuclear strike based on a personal whim. Given President Trump’s erratic behavior to date, this reversion to Congressional authority over war powers is badly needed.