I put my glasses on and read the sentences over and over. Maybe I needed a hieroglyphics translator — a protractor, even? Because no matter what I did, I just couldn't size up what U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan was saying Tuesday in his grand disclosure that a decades-younger former aide who accused him of sexual harassment was his "soul mate."
I examined every word of what Meehan told my colleague Jonathan Tamari about the New York Times disclosures that Meehan spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to hush the complainant. I also read what the Delaware County Daily Times reported.
It's a mind-boggling recitation, so dubious it almost puts Bill Clinton's infamous Monica Lewinsky defense to shame.
The 62-year-old married father of three would have us believe that a man who once oversaw all federal prosecutions in Philadelphia is actually little more than a 14-year-old boy fumbling through puberty. That a man who spent years deciding who goes to trial for murder had no ability to know better than to put an employed underling between a romantic rock and a hard place of his own making.
Meehan would have us believe he did nothing really wrong because he wasn't technically disloyal to his wife. He'd grown infatuated with his aide — but not sexually. It was all so innocent, and the only reason he told the young woman about it was so that it wouldn't interfere with their working relationship.
Meehan abused his power — and now is offering an explanation that, when you examine its fine print, strains credulity. It may help save his marriage, and his re-election bid this year. But Meehan's account wouldn't pass his own prosecutorial sniff test – let alone that of any woman.
Meehan reportedly grew hostile to the employee last year because she'd done something so awful as — are you ready for this — finding a boyfriend. He'd come to realize he had developed a deep affection for the aide. And, he said Tuesday, he was under the stress of his own party's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
So what did Meehan do to put a lid on all of this?
He could have used the Cadillac health insurance plan that he and others in Congress have ferociously protected for themselves while eroding health coverage protections for the rest of America. He could have found a therapist to walk him out of an understandably fraught emotional web he'd spun for himself.
But no. The man who had run both the Delaware County District Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia decided the best solution as chief executive of his office was to unload further on the woman.
He invited her for ice cream.
Apparently unprompted, Meehan told her "that I was a happily married man and I was not interested in a relationship, particularly not any sexual relationship, but we were soul mates."
Meehan said the aide seemed taken aback. And yet, Meehan hugged her afterward — for a long time.
You can only imagine what it took for this woman to decide, in just a matter of days, to handle this through official channels. Anyone who's ever been put in a tough spot by a boss knows there are no good exit strategies that do anything but damage the employee.
The aide filed an official harassment complaint against Meehan. She took action to ensure there'd always be another person in the room with her and the congressman. Weeks later, she was gone. Meehan shelled out "thousands" of dollars in a confidential payout that no one knew about until the Times broke the story on the day of the second annual Women's March on Saturday.
Meehan should have known better. He'd even been on the House Ethics Committee., until fellow House Republicans yanked the Delaware County political fixture from it a few days ago.
It must have been painful for Meehan to go public even with the "soul mate" stuff. But he seemed intent Tuesday on offering lawyerly distinctions to shield himself from complete ownership of his bad actions.
"I did not seek a relationship," Meehan said. "What I did was try to communicate that I was struggling with the idea that I might if I wasn't — if I wasn't able to keep things in the proper perspective."
Whatever comes of the inhabitant of the nation's arguably most gerrymandered congressional district this year, we know at least this much.
When he, too, was hit by #MeToo, he didn't truly come clean with his constituents, with the nation, or with himself.
Meehan the politician muffled Meehan the man.