Kathleen Parker

Washington, D.C.

 Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. In 2010, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “her perceptive, often witty columns on an array of political and moral issues, gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions.” A Florida native, Parker started her column in 1987 when she was a staff writer for the Orlando Sentinel. She joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 2006. She is the author of “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care” (2008). 
Honors & Awards:
  • Pulitzer Prize for commentary, 2010
  • H.L. Mencken Writing Award, 1993
Books by Kathleen Parker:  

Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care

Buy it from Amazon
Recent Articles

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Parker clients only)

WRITETHRU: 7th graf, deleting last sentence: "Given that Stier, too, was obviously at the "drunken" party, wouldn't it be fair to question his own condition at the time? "

By KATHLEEN PARKER

WASHINGTON -- The recent fiasco at The New York Times, which last weekend published the latest uncorroborated sexual-assault accusation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was a monument to hearsay and a travesty of journalistic ethics.

The story, since modified to include crucial information, was an adapted excerpt from a book -- "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh," written by two Times' staff writers, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. In it, the authors reported allegations by a Yale classmate that Kavanaugh was at a "drunken dorm party" where "friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student."

Setting aside the logistics of such a feat, more eye-popping was the omission from the original Times' piece that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed for the book -- and, according to friends, (BEG ITAL)doesn't remember any such incident(END ITAL).

Such an oversight is inexcusable.

The Times added these details to the story after they were flagged by The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway, who had an advance copy of the book. The Times' writers, who said that the details had been in the excerpt's initial draft, made media rounds Monday and Tuesday to explain the omission and essentially blamed editors, who, they said, "in the haste" of trying to close out production, had deleted the reference.

The facts that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed by the authors and apparently told friends that she doesn't recall any such incident amount to the very definition of a non-story. For the record, The Washington Post learned of the accusation last year but declined to publish it because the alleged witnesses weren't identified and the woman said to be involved refused to comment.

Indeed, the authors' only sources for the claim were two unnamed officials who spoke to Washington attorney Max Stier, who last year apparently told the FBI and various senators that he witnessed the alleged incident. But Stier refused to talk to the Times' writers himself.

Some Democratic contenders for the presidency immediately called for Kavanaugh's impeachment. They include Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

But let's rewind the reel a bit. With apologies to my grandmothers, the reason The Times' writers likely included the penis-in-hand accusation at all is because it added context to the accusations by both Deborah Ramirez, who alleged last year that she experienced sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh at another boozy Yale party, and Christine Blasey Ford.

Ramirez, for her part, initially wasn't quite sure of events. She has admitted to time lapses and also to having been drunk, but told The New Yorker and the Times writers that she remembers brushing away a penis thrust in her face, allegedly by Kavanaugh.

If these stories are true, then Kavanaugh could have been a creepy, perhaps monstrous, drunk in his youth. But all we have to go by is alleged victims who also were drinking at the time and comments from former classmates, who may also have been inebriated, some of whom corroborate the Ramirez accusation and others who dispute it. The Times' writers reported finding seven people who they say corroborated Ramirez's story, but much of what they documented were second- and third-hand reports, things overheard and, yes, Ramirez's mother, to whom she apparently said "Something happened at Yale."

Not exactly a wrap for justice.

The truth is, Kavanaugh has been the target of a media siege since his name was announced for consideration for the high court. Ramirez's story was first reported by The New Yorker just days before Ford's congressional testimony, which, frankly, was flimsy at best. None of the other four people Ford named as attending the high school party where she claimed Kavanaugh groped her recalled any such gathering. One of them, a close friend and the only other female, Leland Keyser, not only doesn't remember the party -- but says she's never even met Kavanaugh.

What's all too clear is that America's privileged youth had a serious drinking problem in the early 1980s; and boozy memories from high school and young adulthood are unreliable. Far more troubling is that several presidential candidates seemingly would impeach a Supreme Court justice on nothing more than hearsay -- and impeachable journalism.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Parker clients only)

By KATHLEEN PARKER

WASHINGTON -- Watching the Democratic presidential debate Thursday night left one clear impression: Donald Trump won.

Please don't shoot the messenger. My left index finger recoiled a bit as it reached for the "T" on the keyboard. But it's true for this reason: Democrats are too earnest. They care too much. They're too smart. They know too much.

Whoever says, as California Sen. Kamala Harris did, "The American people are so much better than this" needs to get out more.

This isn't to recommend that primary candidates should be more like Trump, not that they could. But as a panel of candidates, they're missing a key element essential to voter interest. Not brilliant policies or the rote delivery of statistics but a clear and firm message as well as that other thing that Trump had in 2016 -- "it."

We're used to saying "it girl," but boys have "it," too. And it isn't necessarily good. In fact, in men it's probably just a little bit bad. Bad enough to attract attention, to convey toughness, to seduce with dazzle or at least bedevil those around him. Love him or hate him -- or just wish him away -- Trump had the X-factor in spades and jokers.

Yes, yes, many Americans are surely ready for something different. But a Trump-like figure in the mix gives everyone a point of reference for contrasts and pivots.

As elder statesman and Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden was the obvious person to serve this role, but he's the opposite of the brooding, sarcastic, hunkering Trump from the 2016 campaign. Whereas Trump was the impudent scoundrel, dominating the field with the aloof self-confidence of an undefeated bully, Biden is the welcome guy at Walmart who wants to give everybody a great, big ol' hug.

Three years ago, Trump knew nothing, of course, but he made certain that viewers would not be bored. He hurled glib insults and tagged better men with insulting (but largely accurate) nicknames -- and the crowds loved him. Today, Democratic contenders are so busy trying to demonstrate how un-Trump they are that they risk putting everyone to sleep. Be honest. Did you make it to the end of Thursday night's three-hour affair?

Also missing from the mix is a jester to the king. For Republicans in the 2016 cycle, it was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Barely registering in the polls, Graham was so liberated by the impossibility of his nomination that he said only true things, including that Trump was a "race-baiting, xenophobic bigot" and "jackass." We watched the "kids table" GOP debates prior to the top guns just to find out what Graham would say. Miss that guy.

On Thursday, the zany Andrew Yang did offer some comic relief when he said, "I'm Asian, so I know a lot of doctors," thus supposedly making him an expert on health care. Otherwise he was plainly auditioning for a game show of his own. He offered to give $1,000 a month to 10 families for a year to show how his guaranteed minimum income policy would work. He also suggested giving all Americans $100 "democracy dollars" to spend on political causes.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was laughable if not funny when he tried to make Biden look little. Fuming mad in that studied, must-show-passion way, Castro jabbed Biden for "forgetting" what he had just said, which wasn't true, but Castro was brandishing his narrative as the Latino, new-generation tough guy. It backfired.

Honorable mention goes to former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who broke out with his strongest stand yet on gun control: "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," he intoned, sounding very fierce. Also noteworthy, Biden earned a new voter bloc among the incarcerated population when he said, "Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime."

In sum: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was very Bernie. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was A-plus perfect. Harris was prosecutorial. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was bookishly faithful to his narrative. Biden was grown-up. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was emphatically moderate. And South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the Mr. Rogers of American politics, would make everything tidy.

Entertainment value, obviously, should play no part in a voter's calculation. But as all public speakers know, audiences don't remember what you said; they remember how you made them feel. Trump made people feel excited, if for all the wrong reasons. This crew? Serotonin on the rocks without a twist.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Parker clients only)

By KATHLEEN PARKER

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Once upon a time, Mark Sanford might have been a contender, but there's too much water under the bridges that stretch from this city of steeples to his erstwhile home on Sullivan's Island.

The disgraced former South Carolina governor and congressman announced Sunday that he's running against Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. The third challenger to toss his hat into the wishing well of magical thinking, Sanford says he plans to talk about the skyrocketing debt, tariffs, trade and tone. Perfect. That'll ignite the crowds and knock the grand poobah of pomp and propaganda off his game.

You can just see it: The boyish Sanford -- an itinerant stranger in his own strange land -- going toe to toe with the swamp-menacing Trump. It would be worth the price of a ticket. Trump's other two GOP opponents, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, may as well grab one while they last.

Nevertheless, the buzz does what buzz does. In the days following Sanford's announcement and a series of cable-TV appearances, you'd have thought the former governor were the deus ex machina of the GOP. Recent commentary from conservatives has been dripping with so much honey you don't know whether to build a hive or kill the drones.

The narrative-shmarrative is that Sanford is an old-school Republican whose concerns are focused on a strong, bootstrap economy and, well, that's about it so far. Also, BIG HEADLINE, he believes in climate change and legal immigration because, what life form other than Trump's most fervent supporters doesn't?

Further to Sanford's coronation as GOP savior, according to Republican strategist Liz Mair writing Monday in The New York Times, he's a bigger threat to Trump than his co-challengers because he was never a "Never Trumper." Unlike Walsh and Weld -- a strong law firm name if things go awry, as surely they will -- Sanford appears to be uninterested in making the race all about Trump, even though Trump's anti-endorsement in 2018 led to Sanford's congressional primary defeat.

Plus, wrote Mair, Sanford is more "nuanced." Perhaps she was thinking of the subtle differences between Argentina and the Appalachian Trail, where in 2009 the then-governor Sanford told everyone through a spokesperson that he'd be hiking for a few days but instead found himself in South America with his mistress?

Mair insists that the tryst that ended Sanford's governorship, as well as his marriage, was "the least-scandalous scandal in modern political history" because, after all, he only had an "extramarital affair because he fell in love and got engaged to the woman."

This confection would be news to South Carolinians who were appalled by his deceit and repulsed by his weepy news conference to confess his sins. Such a cavalier dismissal of a family betrayal would also be news to ex-wife Jenny Sanford, who wrote a book, "Staying True" about it. While you're browsing, by all means pick up "The Speechwriter," by Barton Swaim, Sanford's speechwriter for the latter part of his administration. It's hilariously funny and a poignant memoir of a tenure of absurdity.

It is absolutely true that Sanford, 59, is a time-tested conservative on budgetary matters, as my Washington Post colleague Jennifer Rubin argued under the banner headline "Mark Sanford might be the Republicans' last chance." No one can accuse him of being a fake conservative, she wrote.

Indeed, not. As governor, Sanford was such a budget cruncher that he brought two baby pigs, one under each arm, to the statehouse to make his point about -- get it? -- pork.

It is quite possible that most or many Americans don't care what Sanford did in his personal life, but the nicknamed "Luv Guv's" philandering meanderings were public matters by virtue of two facts: The highest-ranking official of the state lied about his whereabouts and was unreachable. He simply slipped the reins of government and followed his passion, which was concerned with "issues" having nothing to do with matters of state.

It's not the economy, it's character. Only someone as despicable as Donald Trump could make a man like Mark Sanford palatable. Sanford's well-reasoned concerns about the unfathomable debt, his low-key, soft-spoken style and his cool Southern manner might have made him a terrific presidential candidate in another time, especially alongside his tough, accomplished wife and central-casting sons. But that time has passed.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

About
Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. In 2010, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “her perceptive, often witty columns on an array of political and moral issues, gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions.” A Florida native, Parker started her column in 1987 when she was a staff writer for the Orlando Sentinel. She joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 2006. She is the author of “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care” (2008).
Books
  • Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care
Awards
  • Pulitzer Prize for commentary, 2010
  • H.L. Mencken Writing Award, 1993
Reviews
"In a media genre that's all too often predictable, Kathleen Parker almost never fails to surprise – with her passion, her wit and her creativity. She's an independent thinker and her viewpoint is often so fresh and original, you can't help but be moved even when you disagree." – Sharon Grigsby, deputy editorial page editor, The Dallas Morning News

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