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On the Franken matter — and an important turn in our society

In the Senate Franken has demonstrated a knack for pushing past glib half-truths and insisting on real answers to substantive questions. We need more of that. But I believe the women.

Sen. Al Franken
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

I don’t claim to have much of value to offer in the sad, colossally icky Al Franken matter. I don’t even know for sure, as I write this, whether the announcement he will make Thursday morning will be his resignation, although the odds are good that that’s what he’ll announce.

Certainly, his until-recently rising political star rises no more.

Franken and I aren’t exactly friends, and we had an infinitesimal reporter/newsmaker dustup or two. But I’d be less than candid if I didn’t acknowledge that I’ve come to admire his senatorial self over the past nine years — the way he bores in deeply on issues and doesn’t stop asking uncomfortable questions as, recently, in his questioning of Jeff Sessions — but in other similar instances as well.  

Franken has demonstrated a knack for pushing past glib half-truths and insisting on real answers to substantive questions. We need more of that in the Senate, perhaps more than ever in the age of Trump.

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But I believe the women. Just as was the case with the women who accused Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Roy Moore, who, in my opinion committed far worse acts of sexual predation than those so far alleged against Franken (and they survived politically), even if fairness to the accused man leaves room for a reasonable pause for skepticism when the first accuser comes forward, even if most of the Franken instances known so far occurred before he entered public office, there are just too many women telling similar tales of unwanted touching and kissing to seriously believe that Franken can or should continue in high public office.

I wish Franken well. I hope the women who’ve come forward will also not suffer and will get some benefit or relief out of the denouement.

I hope and trust that Gov. Dayton will appoint a good replacement, assuming that’s the way this goes. (Is it too cynical to wonder whether some of the Democrats who are calling for his resignation might be singing a different tune, or no tune at all, so if he came from a state with a Republican governor?)

I hope Al and Franni Franken’s marriage weathers this. I hope he finds a way to continue contributing. He’s very smart and talented.

And the best news to come out of this and a great many other cases that have flooded the headlines these last weeks and months, is that we have made a very large turn from a society in which powerful men believed they could do these things with impunity and the women mostly felt obliged to suffer in silence, to a much better understanding of the meaning of “consensual.” My wife and I have a daughter and a son, both in their 20s. I believe they have that better understanding.