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The case for, and against, Sen. Al Franken’s resignation

The case for, and against, Sen. Al Franken’s resignation
REUTERS/Gary Cameron
The case for Sen. Al Franken’s resignation revolves around protecting Democrats from accusations of hypocrisy over sexual harassment and misconduct.

In the wake of allegations that Sen. Al Franken groped two women and kissed one of them without her consent, Democrats in Minnesota and around the country are grappling with a question unthinkable just weeks ago: Should Franken resign his seat in the U.S. Senate?

It’s a thorny question for Democrats, and for a multitude of reasons. For one, Franken is no congressional backbencher: He had emerged as one of the party’s brightest stars and most prolific fundraisers, a sharp inquisitor of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members and a buzzed-about possibility for the White House himself.

Democrats are also wary of taking a concrete stand on Franken, as allegations and stories of sexual harassment and misconduct roil Congress and statehouses around the country. Calling on Franken to resign could compromise a Democrat in the future, whenever the next story inevitably reveals a colleague or political ally as a harasser, or worse.

Progressives are also thinking about their moral and political standing in all this. As Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, and President Trump himself, deny allegations of sexual assault and harassment — with the approval of many Republicans — Democrats are thinking about how their stance, or silence, on Franken affects the party’s image as a political force that defends women.

Among Democrats, tough conversations about Franken are playing out in public and in private. Few Democrats were willing to speak on the record with MinnPost about Franken, a man many of them count as a friend and political ally.

In the midst of a difficult moment for Franken and for the party, there does not appear to be a consensus, either in Minnesota or nationally, about what the senator should do. What are the arguments for and against his resignation — and who’s doing the arguing?

Setting an example

The case for Franken’s resignation revolves around protecting Democrats from accusations of hypocrisy over sexual harassment and misconduct — establishing an ethical consistency on the issue, which Democrats argue has eluded Republicans.

Two prominent Democratic women in Minnesota — State Auditor Rebecca Otto and state Rep. Erin Murphy, both candidates for governor — called on Franken to resign. “We can’t have a double standard,” Otto said in a statement. “I believe it’s in the best interest of Minnesotans and of women everywhere for Sen. Franken to resign, and to set an example to powerful men across America that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.”

Since the first allegation against Franken was published last week, a few national progressive groups have called on Franken to resign, echoing the reasons Otto put forth. The most prominent is Indivisible, the anti-Trump activist movement with chapters around the country. (The Indivisible chapter in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, which has been very active, issued a statement that did not call for “any specific course of action” regarding Franken.)

CREDO Action, a progressive organizing network, said it is “committed to standing with women who speak out, holding perpetrators accountable and working to change the systemic and institutionalized misogyny that lets these behaviors continue without consequence.”

It said Franken should “immediately resign from the U.S. Senate, and that Gov. Mark Dayton should appoint a progressive woman to replace him.”

The bulk of enthusiasm and energy in pushing Franken to resign, some Minnesota Democrats say, is largely coming from younger, progressive activists.

These progressives have buzzed on social media about replacing Franken with a progressive woman: An online petition to draft DFL State Rep. Ilhan Omar for Franken’s Senate seat, for example, has circulated. “All over the country, men are being outed for their mistreatment of women. Now, that problem has come home,” the petition reads.

“Franken should resign, and make room for a woman that has inspired people around the globe to fight patriarchy and run for office. And that woman is Representative Ilhan Omar.” (The petition currently has 285 signatures.)

Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee founded by prominent left-wing activists like Cenk Uygur, released a petition calling for Franken’s resignation last week. The PAC called on Dayton to replace Franken with 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison. (The petition has more than 7,000 signatures.)

“It would be profoundly hypocritical for Democrats to stand by Franken in this moment,” Justice Democrats said. “We can’t tolerate harassment or assault.”

Regardless of who might fill a Senate vacancy in Minnesota, some Democrats harbor serious concerns about Franken’s ability to hold on to this seat, should he run for re-election in 2020 — even if no more allegations surface about his conduct toward women.

According to Steven Schier, a professor of politics at Carleton College, Franken’s political future is in real doubt.  The political argument for his resignation, Schier says, goes something like this: “He can help his own party by resigning, and allowing a younger, untainted person to carry the party banner. … He’s unlikely to get re-nominated.”

Franken could also see reduced political clout in the short term. Some Democrats argue that, for the near future, no Democrat or Republican will want to work closely with him on legislation or be seen supporting his initiatives.

A striking example of that effect has already come: For months, Franken had worked with Abby Honold, a rape survivor, on legislation to help law enforcement better respond to sexual violence cases. After the Franken news broke, Honold wrote in the Washington Post that the senator could not lead on her bill; by Monday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar had become the sponsor of that bill, replacing Franken.

2020 ‘a long ways away’

It’s unclear the extent to which Minnesota Democrats — from the political class of operatives and staffers to the activist faithful — believe Franken should resign. One DFLer said they sensed two-thirds of progressives wanted a Franken resignation; another said it was a vocal minority.

Even staunch Franken backers and Democratic partisans, however, are disgusted and disappointed by the revelations of the senator’s past behavior. But many believe that he does not need to step down — at least not right now — for a few reasons.

For one, an investigation into Franken by the Senate Ethics Committee is a certainty. Though it’s unclear what it would reveal, the promise of such a probe gives the impression that Franken could face consequences for his actions — potentially as serious as a censure vote in the Senate.

Multiple members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, from both sides, brought up the ethics probe in their statements, while dodging the question of whether Franken’s behavior might warrant his stepping down. None of Franken’s colleagues in the Senate have called for his resignation, either.

Franken defenders note the senator’s responses to the allegations against him: After his initial response to Tweeden’s story was roundly criticized, Franken issued a lengthier, more direct apology, which Tweeden accepted. (She also said Minnesota voters should decide Franken’s political future.)

Women who have worked with Franken in politics and entertainment have come to his defense in recent day — a fact cited by his supporters. Several former political staffers, and three dozen former Saturday Night Live crew members, have all released statements defending the senator.

“We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL). What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public,” the 36 SNL women wrote.

Other Democrats have disputed the notion that Franken is now sidelined in the Senate, and out of contention for re-election. Darin Broton, a DFL consultant, said “2020 is a long ways away … the only person who can determine if Al Franken is going to be effective for the next three years is Al Franken.”

Broton, and other Democrats, made the point that calling for Franken’s head at this point could set a standard that would force Democrats to react the same way as more stories about politicians’ behavior are set to be revealed in the coming weeks and months.

“People are thinking ahead to what happens if there is another member of Congress called out for harassment,” Broton said. “Is every member of Congress or politician expected to resign based on allegations, regardless of intent or circumstances?”

Some on the left have made a more controversial point in response to that question. Feminist author Kate Harding, in a widely talked about Washington Post op-ed, said that Democrats need to tread carefully, lest other harassers in their party be ousted and potentially replaced with Republicans.

“If we set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women,” she writes, “we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.” 

For progressives, a particularly painful element of the Franken scandal is that he was seen as a top ally and advocate for women in Congress: One of his first achievements as a lawmaker was an amendment that withheld defense contracts from firms that didn’t have strong policies on workplace sexual harassment and assault. Just last month, Franken introduced legislation to assist Native women survivors of sexual violence. He had been working on the sexual assault legislation with Honold, too.

As Democrats continue to grapple with what to do about Franken, the senator himself appears to have hunkered down for the Thanksgiving holiday at his home in Washington. Staffers for the senator say he is not planning on resigning; one told the Star Tribune that Franken will be doing “a lot of reflecting” over the holiday.

A new poll from KSTP and SurveyUSA, released Thursday, gave some early indications of the political effect of the sexual misconduct news. It showed that only 22 percent of Minnesotans sampled believe Franken should stay in office, while 33 percent said he should resign. Thirty-six percent wanted to wait for the Senate Ethics Committee investigation to run its course. 

Franken's approval rating has cratered in the past week: It went from 53 percent this time last year, to 38 percent now — five points higher than Trump's approval rating.

“I know I've let people down and disappointed a lot of people — many Minnesotans, my family, and my friends,” the senator said in a statement responding to the poll. “To all of them let me say I'm so sorry. And I hope you know I'm committed to regaining your trust.”

“Is he a dead man walking?” Schier asked. “I think, politically, he probably is. There is a good political argument for him to resign. I’m not sure there’s a good legal argument — we do need some sort of due process and standards of proof before you convict someone.”

“Politically, he’s very much damaged goods,” Schier went on. “I don’t know how he overcomes that damage and rescues his career.”

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Comments (46)

Al Franken should resign

Women should be believed when they say they've been assaulted, harassed or touched inappropriately, and that means that their assaulters and harassers should not be rewarded for their bad behaviors once it has been revealed. Even though I also believe we need more people like Franken in the Senate and that he's been good for MN and the country, at what point do we say enough is enough? Franken should resign.

Believing

What if they are lying? There are some holes in the story here, and the accuser leaked the story to right-wing media before it went public. Is it too much to ask to actually investigate the claims?

About that photo ...

Much is being made of the photo of Franken "grabbing the woman's boobs" but from the angle it was taken, you can't tell if he's actually touching her or just wiggling his fingers in a mock-threatening "ooga booga" gesture to go along with the exaggerated facial expression. And if he IS touching her, note that she's wearing a FLAK JACKET which is as impervious as armor because, well, it IS armor. You could knock politely on that thing all day long and the boobs inside would never even know you'd come to call.

At any rate, "he pretended to grab my boob" is not comparable to "seven women say he forced himself on then sexually." Not even in the same ballpark.

There is a difference

in Franken's case compared to Moore, Cornish, Schoen, and Trump's cases. Those four boys were looking for sex. Fanken was doing as he has always been doing, on radio and on Sat. night live, comedy.
He has been a comedian since youth and comedy boarders on tickling many areas, including, of all things, religion.
I do not feel that Franken should resign.

The issue isn't whether a woman should be believed

But whether her testimony, unsupported by evidence, should be enough to set in motion a process of punishment. And that runs afoul of basic American concepts of justice, eg. innocent until proven guilty. One can certainly argue the issue, and claim that the circumstances are such that women's testimony in these situations should carry more weight. But one needs to make that claim and have that argument, and not rest everything on this facile notion that this is a binary choice: an accuser is always believed or society is discounting her opinion and worth utterly. A similar argument can be made for concepts like proportionality. Eg. if you take what Franken did at face value does this offense merit his destruction? This isn't a men's question. Presenting it as this is an insult to men and women.

The contradiction is obvious

Ms, Johnson, do you want women treated as equals to men? Or do you think they are weaker and have lesser standing? Because granting them this "fictitious veil of truth" is really saying they should have a different standard than everyone else in society. That everyone else should be believed based on the evidence available, but women should be believed just because they're women.

I keep going back to, short of resigning, what should Franken do? It seems he's done, or is beginning to do, everything we would expect from someone making amends. It's ridiculous to assume that nothing short of resignation is an affront to women. Time to join the real world and stop holding everyone to impossible standards. There are some offenses that are unforgivable. While this was bad, it doesn't meet that standard.

USO tours in context?

I listened yesterday to the 2004 Terry Gross interview where Franken describes in great detail his USO tour skit (https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1585568). He is open about the kinds of jokes that are in the show. You can even watch a video of the skits uploaded by a soldier (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=458&v=jxYHQ69r4Lk). Should any of that context matter or not? Are the details relevant? I find the USO situation far more nuanced than others that are in the news these days.

Bawdy humor is not an excuse

While Tweenden may have participated in this sort of humor onstage, that is not an excuse for anyone to go beyond what the script involves (ie. adding tongue to the kiss) or to take such a photo of her, without her consent. If she wasn't in on the joke, she was the butt of it, and that is not okay.

I have liked Franken up to now, and hope he can keep his seat, but the USO context doesn't make it okay.

I respect your opinion even if I disagree

To me, the context is important. There was a script that had been used for years that had a kiss in it. It was dumb entertainment for troops overseas, but that's the point of a USO tour in my understanding. I'd be curious what theater people think about it. The photo is especially dumb, but not much beyond that to me. That's my current take on it, and it changed based on learning more about the context.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Issues of taste are not political issues or criminal.

Franken should not resign.

Making a tasteless or risque joke is not on the level of assault, nor does it rise to the level of harassment. Most of us gave up trying to tell jokes when the sensitivities about race, sex, religion became too "touchy". Sven and Ole aren't even safe anymore.

The USO shows, back to Bob Hope and Raquel Welch, rely on a brand of humor associated with all-male combatants and breath-taking beauties parading in front of men who haven't been with a woman for months or years. The comic sketches are based on trying to release the stresses of combat, surely not great places to start up a tryst.

No other pattern of such behavior reinforces Franken as a predator or a bully toward women. His cohorts at SNL thought so and they knew him a lot more intimately and longer than most.

But the main reason Franken's case should allow the Congress to use the ethics committee to process complaints, is to fix the process in the light of day, not short-circuit it for partisan vengeance. Bad behavior in the White House and accusations directed by so many at the President make it all the more important to treat Franken's foibles with strict ethical process and a disposition that clarifies both the crimes and the punishments fro all of us.

Failure to conduct a complete ethics examination will not help us when we need to examine others' ethics who flaunt unethical behavior and deny it, only to seem to get by with it (Trump and Sessions and Kushnar and who else?)

It is my hope that settlements, quiet back-office agreements and a reluctance to even discuss these matters will NOT be the goal, but instead be to restore some better behavior and some trust. The covenant between the governed and their elected officials must be fixed if we are to get better.
.

Meanwhile, back in MN, it appears we will short-circuit investigations with resignations and settlements to obscure the lessons..

That is just more of the same. Men with power need to learn, women need to learn.

We will do it with process, not with mere whacking and shaming.

Middle ground

Surely there is some range of action inbetween "off with his head!" and ignoring the whole thing. After all, while Franken's behavior in these two instances was disappointing and degrading, he is not a Harvey Weinstein, he is not a Louis CK, he is not a Roy Moore. No careers were damaged or interrupted, as far as anyone's saying; no children were harmed. If we were trying Franken in a court of law, there would be a range of penalties available, and to my mind his offense (though offense it was) does not demand the maximum sentence. But some kind of restitution and community service, yes. As the Washington Post columnist suggested, perhaps Franken could do a sort of listening tour, perhaps he could dedicate himself publicly to furthering women's rights and women's causes—basically, there is some kind of atonement possible here, short of resignation.

But first, I agree that we should see what the ethics probe turns up. If there is something worse, or a frequent pattern of this kind of behavior, I'll feel differently.

I concur with Elsa...

As obnoxious and repugnant as the alleged actions of Senator Franken purport to be, they pale in comparison (false equivalency, anyone?) to the egregious, physical assaults and forcible-sex/participation through the exercise of power that others stand accused of, of late... and there SHOULD be gradations of appropriate punishment meted for these vastly differing levels of offense.

In addition, as others have stated - how can we be more offended or injured that the aggrieved parties, themselves? The individual whose initial complaint set in motion these "me, too" revelations has recognized and accepted his sincere apology, and avowed publicly that she does NOT wish to see him resign nor be removed from office.

As far as the subsequent revelations of inappropriate "patting" that Senator Franken genuinely (I believe) professes to not recall, I - from personal experience - can attest to being mortified that innocently-intended gestures might be misinterpreted:

While working on a temporary basis for a medical record reproduction firm, in a busy office equipment staging area I once reached across a cart laden with substantial equipment and placed my hand against the small of a coworker's back, to prevent injury as she backed unknowingly into the cart behind her... an action for which at the time she expressed immense gratitude. This same employee - on a prior occasion - had struggled to don her winter coat, and I (believing it to be the gentlemanly appropriate action to take) untangled her sleeve, holding the coat to assist her in securing it... another instance, for which she expressed gratitude.

Later, I was summoned to the corporate office and queried in response to an allegation of sexual harassment - received not from this woman, but rather from her female roommate (also a coworker at this temp firm), apparently - as I subsequently learned - in an intimate relationship with the woman I'd innocently attempted to aid… who had observed and taken personal offense at what she’d witnessed.

After a thorough (read that: exhaustive) investigation, I was cleared of any wrongdoing whatsoever... but I can assure you that to this day, I can vividly recall the angst and utter shock the experience elicited - particularly after a lengthy career in commercial aviation as a field training instructor, customer service specialist, union representative and paralegal... during which I had often encouraged, supported, and represented my female coworkers and subordinates in bringing actions of sexual harassment forward against many male employees.

Although the earnest discussion and the taking of actions to terminate these offensive are long past overdue, we must not rush to judgments like French revolutionaries – insisting “off with their heads!” - through knee-jerk reactions to initially shocking reports, but rather together (both women AND men) judge situations and circumstances individually and in context… then formulate mutual approaches to terminate any and all such unforgivable, offensive actions (both physical and emotional), and establish programs to educate and enlighten males in the proper manner with which they should respect and admire their female counterparts.

Let's not react to fast

While I'm all for believing the women in these cases, we have to have a process and not just react. we should defiantly investigate these stories before we label a champion of women a traitor. Evidence is coming to light that these revelations may have been encouraged by the Trump camp to distract from Roy Moore, the tax bill and Net Neutrality vote.
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/11/21/1717679/-The-Sexual-Harrassm...

If anyone deserves a day in court it's Al Franken.

"Let's wait for the ethics probe" - i.e., stall, delay, & distra

Here's my money on the ethics investigation proving to be a fruitless political exercise. The real point is, ala Dick Morris, a weird kind of triangulation: "Geez, we can't decide anything or form an opinion until the ethics business is concluded, now can we ??"

The Democrats find it impossible to think clearly on an issue involving significant donors, which is what Franken became.

Gov. Dayton could surely appoint a great advocate for women's issues - Al Franken is not necessary. But I think we will see him cling to his seat until there is no alternative but to exit. He is not growing in stature while he stalls, hoping that somehow events will turn in his favor. If he doesn't let go, we are going to see an extremely filthy Senate campaign next time around.

ethics probe

That's like saying lets skip the trial and just convict. I'm not sure why you have a problem with making a decision until the investigation is concluded. There are questions about her motivations, about what is actually happening in the picture, about whether witnesses saw anything that conflicts with her story - how about we figure this out before we decide.

Franken isn't going to run again, but his term isn't up to 2020. If he resigns and is replaced, that person will have to run in both 2018 and 2020. The replacement will not be a great advocate for women's issues. The replacement will spend 10 hours a day on the phone for the next 3 years raising money.

Franken is not necessary, but getting rid of him means that the Democrats have an extra senate seat to defend in 2018. That millions of dollars that would have gone to other candidates will go to the senate race, only to do it over in 2020.

The media has already made a "trial" irrelevant,

...as they have leaped to conviction in their lust for salacious headlines, and the public, in support of the guilty verdict, argue only about which punishment fits the crime.

So: forget trials on these allegations of misconduct, they are so passe'.

And the idea that a political investigation is going to throw no heat, only light, on these matters is laughable. Do you have the slightest doubt how Adam Schiff on one side & Trey Gowdy on the other are going to spin the findings ??

The rest of your arguments are all about defending Democratic party interests, which are not in dispute here. Along those lines, Franken should lay low, not resist, pursue distractions and delay, and call on his actor friends and former employees to speak out on his behalf, but also remind everyone how much MONEY he has given.

Heat and light

Sure, there is always political theater. But there can be fact-finding too. Even Gowdy concluded that Clinton really didn't do anything wrong. The process isn't great, but it is a process. Franken, and anyone else accused, is entitled to that.

Let's Take a Deep Breath

Al Franken, a comedian and writer best known for his early work on Saturday Night Live, and who publicly opposed the US war in Iraq, received a USO Merit Award for his work as a volunteer on numerous overseas USO tours where he entertained US servicemen in Iraqi war zones as well as visiting wounded American soldiers at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

In 2006, Leeann Tweeden, a former Playboy Bunny, was invited on one of these USO tours to entertain the troops. Why? She was then a photogenic and super sexy young woman. A Google search shows that she may have been a “pin up” favorite with titillating poses at that time. If there is a policy against HTML tags please take one minute and google her name to see how she graced covers of many pronograhic magazine covers.
https://www.google.com/search?q=playmate%20Leeann%20Tweeden&tbm=isch

Time has passed.
Al Franken is now a Democratic United States Senator from Minnesota. He has been effective in fundraising and generous in sharing it with fellow democrats, some are in office and some as candidates. Many are women. Leeann Tweeden now works for Cumulus Media’s 790KABC, a Los Angeles AM radio station, which also broadcasts right wing personalities like Rush Limbaugh. I don’t think Rush Limbaugh will ever forgive Franken’s book titled: Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.

Now, years later, she has accused Al Franken, of acting inappropriately by kissing her forcibly during practice for their skit, and a photo has surfaced of a grinning Al Franken leaning over her and supposedly groping her as she was sitting up sleeping while fully clothed and covered by a flak jacket and helmet. No one takes a photo when groping, unless the photo is a “joke.” Maybe a bad joke, or a sophomoric prank in bad taste.

Senator Franken sent letter of apology to Tweeden who accepted the apology.

What will happen next?

In the wake of powerful men stepping down from past sexual predatory behavior, some are calling for Senator Franken’s resignation, some are pushing for returning the millions of dollars that he raised for other Democrats seeking office. A Congressional ethics committee may be convened to decide what to do about Al Franken, a distraction that will waste more time instead of dealing with the many serious pressing issues facing our country and our world.

The issue here is not about condoning powerful men with a HISTORY of sexual predatory behavior. And yes, many women then and now are still the victims because of power plays. But the frenzied headlines from media coverage in Senator Franklin's case, making no distinction between an “inappropriate” kiss versus decades of practice has become almost hysterical. And highly politicized.

Let’s take a collective deep breath and allow men and women to grow, develop and mature through time? If we chose to accept that Tweeden is now a respectable LA radio broadcaster and did not like Franklin's kiss when she was a Playmate on a USO tour, then can we accept and respect Al Franken has grown from a comedian into a serious political leader and effective United States Senator? I hope Democrats will not commit fratricide out of fear and a new veneer of puritanism and piety in the press and the public.

Tweenden

While I agree with you in believing there is a big difference between Franken and someone like Weinstein, I think your references to Tweenden's work are uncalled for. You are implying that because she had posed for Playboy, etc., Franken's behavior was acceptable—that she did not deserve to be treated with respect. Let's not smear the victim.

Well...

When you acknowledge considerations for classifying perpetrator behavior, Weinstein vs Franken, are all victims equal and in a single class? Is a fourteen year old Alabama JR. HI student indistinguishable from a former Playmate, porn industry veteran, co host of a raunchy sports talk show and participant in USO tours where sexual innuendo is the order of the day?

I do not believe so. Franken is and will continue to take a deserved beating; but, he deserves the opportunity to continue in his job and rebuild his reputation.

The knee jerk, judge, jury and executioner like Rebecca Otto are showing judgement as poor as Franken’s.

Depends

If we are talking about the unwanted kiss (that Franken disputes) then yes, her work and her role on the USO trip are not an issue. But for a staged photo where Franken pretends to grab her breasts, I think it is an issue. Because that is the exact type of behavior (bawdy humor) she and everyone else engaged in during the trip. Maybe that sounds terrible, but that context matters.

seeing is believing

Dear Elsa,
Did you actually google Tweeden and see for yourself the various sexually provocative positions of her literally naked body on all kinds of pronographic magazines? (Playboy bunny would be "classy") I know it is easy to say oh it is trashing her to diminish her accusation. What I am pleading readers to do is to THINK how likely a woman-I personally would say a Pron starlet- would harbor a grudge for decades over an unwanted kiss, and a bad kiss as she said, too wet. And for the media to repeat the headline of Franken groping her while asleep without showing a picture of her sitting up, fully clothed wearing a flak jacket and a helmet. It was obviously to anyone who has a chance to view the photo that it was a prank, a bad joke.
By the way media described her as a former "model". Models in general wear /model clothes, she wore hardly any in pictures I found on the web. Here I am disappointed in the media frenzy in regurgitating the headlines without doing any investigation or putting each situation in context.
I totally understand the excitement for women/victims of male predatory sexual behavior to have their day in court i.e. trial by media and public opinion. In the past sadly they did not get far in the actual courts. But should we repeat the era of McCarthyism?

Your thoughts are so … reasonable.

The main argument against Sen. Franken resigning, yet not mentioned in the piece, is that it may well be that he has engaged in no inappropriate behavior. Not a photo of a sophomoric joke, nor the claim of a kiss more invasive than expected, nor a hand coming to rest on a woman’s buttock and felt by the woman as intrusive, in itself establishes inappropriate behavior, nor even creates a presumption of it. Facts, context and the careful drawing of inferences all must occur before conclusions are reached as to what occurred, and as to its moral significance. The answer may be nothing, and none. Or it may be more condemning.

A second argument against resignation is that if Franken has committed an inappropriate act, how does resignation come to be an appropriate consequence? The public discourse has universally leapt from inappropriate act to resignation as consequence; I haven’t seen a single attempt to articulate the link. It isn’t a simple question. Resignation is a potentially profound disruption of the representation of a large number of people who selected the person in question to represent them, and may substantially disadvantage those affected by legislative matters in which the elected official in question is engaged. Resignation may not be an appropriate consequence for even a serious inappropriate act, sexual or otherwise. I am working through my own thoughts on this question, but I haven’t seen anyone else even recognizing that it is a question.

Sauce for the Goose

When a decent person does something wrong and gets called out on it, they apologize and stick their tail between their legs. Maybe they resign, maybe they just have to take their lumps and get past it.

When a jerk does something wrong and gets called on it, what do they do? Well for Don Trump or Roy Moore, you loudly deny everything and attack your accusers.

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained, Judge Moore denies the accusations so it's case closed.

How long do you think liberals will sacrifice their own in a serf-defeating cycle of resignations if conservatives don't hold themselves to the same standard?

Sophomoric pictures result in the death penalty (career-wise) for one side, while the other side "grabs 'em by the..." wait, MinnPost mods won't even let me say that will they?

No Question At All

There is absolutely no question of Senator Franken needing to resign. He has merely been accused, there is no trial even in progress, except in the witch-hunting media, and what he is accused of is not even criminal. Moreover, his accuser is likely doing this for political reasons. That it is even being talked about let alone raising a question of resignation is an outrage against justice, morals, ethics and decency. If he committed any crime, then it should be in the courts. The media should know better than to engage in yellow journalism, particularly MinnPost. And the Democratic Party should know by now what ethics mean, and that they cut both ways.

Actually, there's a moral, as

Actually, there's a moral, as well as a legal, standard that we must consider. that's where nuance and context come in.

Al Franken seems to have done nothing legally wrong (what's the penalty for a kiss with tongue in mouth?).

Franken has lost a great deal of moral standing, but he has recognized that his behavior was intrusive and offensive and he has apologized. I don't see the other guys apologizing (and that goes to the old man, John Conyers, of Michigan). From Trump on down, they're all denying that they did anything! And, we're told there are others in Congress about whom tales will be told soon.With miuch worse stuff that what Al Franken is accused of doing.

Franken made a morally-damaging error, but I don't think it amounts to anything that would cause him to resign from the Senate, where he can do great good at least through 2020. He has lost some moral standing, but he can still do his job.

Resignation isn’t called for

I do not condone Senator Franken’s behavior or actions.

I think they were were not acceptable by any standards yet I do not think he is a sexual predator or bullies women. Other incidents that have been in the news have involved predatory actions, rape, and under age teenagers. The accusations of Senator Franken do not rise to those levels.

He has apologized and the apology was accepted. Shouldn’t a sincere apology have value in this discussion? More importantly to me, there have been many women who have stepped forward to defend and support him while calling his behavior inappropriate.

He made mistakes and apologized for them. I believe he is sorry for his actions and will learn from them.

Timing is suspicious

Sen. Franken has been a strong advocate for Net Neutrality, back from when the term bored most people to tears. It's interesting that these allegations, from a regular guest on Hannity's show, are surfacing now, right when the Trump Administration is working destroy Net Neutrality. (The second allegation from the State Fair is too ridiculous to believe.) If Franken is bogged down with these allegations, he can't be as strong in defending a level internet. This scandal also benefits Republicans who claim a lazy false-equivalence with teenage-stalker Roy Moore's situation. They are definitely not the same. There is no pattern of abuse from Franken, there are not scores of women reluctantly coming forward with horror stories from decades ago. At worst, Franken's behavior was boorish. He definitely ought to stay in office, and continue advocating for us. I hope that Democrats can take a breath and stop with the circular firing squad, as Republicans prepare to seat a child molester in the Senate, and continue to support their groper-in-chief.

Flawed goods

I find myself at first appalled by Al's immaturity - certainly unbecoming in any United States Senator - but also keenly aware of the impact he has had on the quality of discourse in that august body.

Al has pinned former Senator Sessions to the mat repeatedly, no doubt much to the chagrin of the Republican leadership in that body.

His primary accuser is far too close to the rabid right wing in national politics to be taken seriously.

The second accuser here in Minnesota is right to bring our attention to the senator's foolish behavior but really, is this transgression on a par with the sexual predation we have been discovering elsewhere in the halls of Congress and very likely in the person of the President himself?

Don't be throwing the baby out with the bath water. And to Mr. Franken, "grow up". This isn't that hard if you stop to realize how much of our state's and nation's future is impacted by your adult capacities.

Fred Markus
Minneapolis

Franken

It's pretty basic for me. What Al is accused of, in my opinion, isn't sufficient to justify a forced resignation. But the deeper and secondary political problems are whether Al can still be an effective US senator, and whether his continuation in office is worth the expenditure of political capital it would take to keep him there. It's a problem Democrats face a lot. Lots of positions we take hurt us politically, but we take them because they are the right thing to do, and the positions are a large part of what being a Democrat is about. In the case of Al, standing by him may quite possibly be the right thing to do, but it's a close and disputable issue, and certainly Al Franken himself is not all about what it is to be a Democrat.

Got to resign!

Sorry, but we can not be the party of womens rights while standing by and making excuses for assaulting women! There is picture proof and that doesn't lie. There is also more than one woman saying almost the exact same scenario. I believe the women! I believe he has a serious problem with keeping his hands to himself. I feel he has now become an anchor on the party. Its time to resign.

The party of what?

The party of what?

The two major parties in this country each used to mean something quite different from what they mean today and, although each has some cursory connection to what they once were known for at any point in our history, each is rightly defined today by why, how and for whom they drain funds; the success of each is still largely determined by the bright shiny objects they wave to their various bases, and those objects have been tarnished across the board lately and this, contrived or not, is not what it appears to Ms. Kaiser, but what she perceives is precisely what Republican shills want.

None of what women have brought to light likely constitutes even the mildest example of sexual assault by Sen. Al Franken; disrespectful, thoughtless, or crude, perhaps, but not assault, although the French kiss could well have spread some pathogen, and so comes closest.

One can believe the women and still consider both context and severity of any offense in meting out the remedy and this is what the United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics will do; it will be only the voters of Minnesota or Al Franken who decide whether he continues as our senator and both will decide on things more real than the mis-characterizations of what he did as assault like those spouted above.

As a long-time feminist, I

As a long-time feminist, I must contradict any statement that asserts that what Al Franken did on the USO tour was "assault." He overdid a scripted kiss, and then joked in a many-people-present photo that mimed him groping an armored woman. Not funny. But also not assault (the photo shows he did not touch her).

We also ought to question why two women, late in this attack on Al Franken, have come forward with anonymous claims that he grabbed their ass. I refuse to believe them until they own their claims by saying who they are. What are they afraid of? It's not as if Franken can do them any harm in any realm. But they may be questioned for veracity, and that, in my opinion, is why they won't give their names.

Sorry but you seem to be

Sorry but you seem to be more of a political apologist than a feminist. Read Caitlin Flanagan's article in the Atlantic re. Bill Clinton and how feminists responded to the Clinton's issues two decades ago. Reading your response, things haven't changed too much and that's sad.

I'm willing to give the anonymous women more slack than you do. If I were them, I wouldn't want to subject myself to the scorn and embarrassment of Franken supporters. Look at the abuse suffered by the woman who decided not to have Franken sponsor her bill.

I voted for Franken but I will not condone his juvenile behavior with women and his condescending attitude toward anything or any one who disagrees with him. Even though we may have similar values, I don't really care if he continues in the Senate. I'm sure Gov. Dayton would appoint a appropriate replacement to fill out his term if he would resign. He won't, of course, since I believe he's more interested in the perks (pension, health care etc) that a member of Congress enjoys than in representing the people of Minnesota.

Most committed feminists are

Most committed feminists are political apologists, too. Until we don't live in a society that privileges males.

I do not think that the Republican Party, nationally or in Minnesota, has any claim at all to defending and promoting the rights and dignity of women. Democrats do. Especially Al Franken. So, as a feminist I challenge those two anonymous women to reveal their names (I don't like internet trolls, either, because their garbage is regularly spewed anonymously).

Steve Sack’s Editorial cartoon

Take a look at Sack’s editorial cartoon in Friday’s Strib. In my opinion, it helps put many of these comments in perspective. If you support Franken’s politics, it’s easier to dismiss or downplay his behavior. It’ reminds me of Gloria Steinem’s op-ed piece in the NYT years ago defending Bill Clinton’s behavior or her refusal to support George W.’s initiative many years ago to support a program to help liberate Afghan women. It’s politics first and foremost.

If the senator in question was a Republican, I am absolutely sure many of these comments would not be as easy on the behavior in question.

Steve Sack’s cartoon was right on point (that’s probably why he won a Pulitzer). Look at Franken’s behavior for what it was: juvenile and tasteless. It beats being a political apologist.

Al Franken: The obvious set-up and liberals took the bait

The Brodey piece on Franken really doesn’t do justice to the entire complexity of the circumstances of this case. A lot of DFLers are really getting played for suckers in a much bigger and more dangerous and vicious game than what this post implies. This is working particularly well with Murphy and Otto, candidates for governor, who, it can be inferred from their quick rush to judgment and calls for Franken’s resignation, look to me to be angling for a senatorial appointment as his replacement. Such knee-jerk reactions and, possibly, craven ambitions, remind me of the collapse of Wendell Anderson’s career in the 1970s.

For a more incisive analysis of the “big picture” of what’s going on here I recommend this piece:

https://democracyguardian.com/al-franken-the-obvious-setup-and-liberals-...

Be very careful when picking up what you think is the sword of righteousness--it has two edges to it. This is not only about actual women's rights--other than the fact that Franken has been a strong champion of them and the Republicans would LOVE to get him out of the Senate--in the same way at all as the behaviors of Bill Clinton, Trump, or Moore. This is about power in Washington, power over all of our bodies, work-lives, families, communities, and media--the things Franken has been fighting for ever since he worked closely with Wellstone.

Face Value

Thanks for the link John. And thanks to some well-reasoned posts by Fred, John, RB and others, I’ve changed my mind about investigating this further. I was among those who felt Franken should resign immediately to make the most impact from a bad situation. I had assumed there would be an ensuing flood of accusations. Apparently, I was wrong. There has been one more allegation, and it is far less serious than Tweeden’s.

The additional information that has surfaced warrants a closer review of exactly what has been presented to us.

Make no mistake, it’s bad, but as many have mentioned, there are different degrees of bad.

First, Franken had no direct control over Tweeden. He was not her direct supervisor or hold positional authority of any kind like Clinton and his intern or Moore and a number of high school girls at the mall.
In 2006, Tweeden was apparently a regular on a network TV show. Franken was years away from his latest stint as a featured player on SNL (he wasn’t ever a full cast member).

Second, grabbing Tweeden’s head and sticking his tongue in her mouth during rehearsal is bad. In repeated viewings of Tweeden’s public statements on camera, she says she pushed Franken away and told him to never do it again. She continues by saying she avoided Franken for the rest of the tour.

As bad as that is, it does sound like Franken left her alone after the incident. It’s an unanswered question, but if Franken had continued to hound her, I would assume Tweeden would have mentioned that specifically.

Third, when I first saw/heard Tweeden’s statements, to me it sounded like Franken had written a script specifically with Tweeden in mind so he could kiss a former Playboy model, which struck me as very creepy.

Since then, several people here have pointed out (with links to an earlier interview with NPR’s T. Gross) that the sketch is a stock bit that had been used for some time.

As for Franken’s insistence that Tweeden rehearse the scene, the extent to which that constitutes badgering depends on how much of a stickler Franken is about rehearsing in general – another unanswered question.

Finally, for reasons already discussed at length, the photo is juvenile and demeaning even if he’s not actually touching her. The context of the photo is also an unknown, but my guess is that it involves some guys making sophomoric jokes.

Tweeden said seeing the photo made her relive her experience at the rehearsal all over again. No one can disprove how she felt, which is probably why Franken apologized even if he also claims he didn’t remember the rehearsal the same way.

I think I covered all the main points here. Both Tweeden and Franken made pretty concise public statements.

Every person has a right of due process

Before we decide whether or not Franken is guilty of the charges against him, we must remember that the US Bill of rights guarantees everyone the right to due process. That, in part, means an opportunity to face their accuser, to hear testimony from witnesses, and the opportunity for cross examination, all before an impartial "judge" and before a penalty is given out. Most of the comments here reflect a judgment either for resignation or against. For those who have called for his resignation are acting as judge and jury, prematurely before he has received due process.

Difficulties

It's a difficult situation. And I am very much aware of the dangers of being caught up in the hysteria of the witch hunt. I don't really think what we know so far justifies Al's resignation. But that isn't quite the issue. What is issue, going forward is whether Al can continue to be an effective legislator and an effective leader of our party. And if he can't, what is the alternative?

Al, in recent years, has positioned himself as a hot, moralistic politician. He has gotten a lot of attention with his very direct attacks on Jeff Sessions from a moral perspective. His stands on issues like net neutrality have taken on a similar tone. That outspoken moralism for Al is now a thing of the past. No one will want to hear that sort of thing from Al for quite some time, if ever. What replaces that? What is the point of a silenced Al Franken? Does Minnesota really benefit from having one of it's only two US senators time serving as an invisible back bencher? Maybe, but I would like to hear the argument.

Al says he wants to rebuild the trust of Minnesotans. I would like to know what his plan is for doing that. And I would like to know in these critical times why Minnesotans when our need for effective political representation has never been greater, why we should expend the patience and the time and the political capital necessary for him to do that. Why shouldn't we simply move on?

Moralistic?

I don't see how Franken's "attacks" on Jeff Sessions or his stance on net neutrality would be undermined by this situation, nor how they are "moralistic". The accusations make it harder for Franken to be out front on women's rights questions, that's true. But what does that have to do with the Russia investigation, or Sessions's near-perjury, or net neutrality? Franken has been an important voice in those discussions and I hope he continues to be.

I don't see how Franken's

I don't see how Franken's "attacks" on Jeff Sessions or his stance on net neutrality would be undermined by this situation, nor how they are "moralistic".

I do. Al, will for the foreseeable future be attacked as a hypocrite any time he addresses any issue in moralizing terms. It reduces his effectiveness at a time when we need our leaders to be as effective as possible. Now that's not a problem for me, Al has always had and always will have my vote. But it makes it more difficult for Democrats to extend beyond that base.

How is it any different?

Beyond the torch and pitchfork crowd, (generally consisting of fellow liberals, confoundingly delighted to be eating their own) who exactly would consider Al a hypocite now, who didn't already hate him before? Its not as if conservative opinion is now suddenly credible. With Al's strong ideological bent, its not like there are a great deal of fence sitters to lose, his political career has been rather polarizing from the beginning. As for the "moral standing" of the party, will we be righteous to a fault, punish ourselves unilaterally, and lose everything? Or conversely, recognize that the opposition has no such impulse to self admonishment, quit holding to a high road that only we care about, and keep our power when we get it? Time will tell I guess.

Al Franken

Al Franken is a prime example of, "The Generation That Never Grew Up". A snickering, errant little boy drawing nasty pictures with a magic marker. No longer SNL's darling, Franken has lost track of time. Today's Millennnials see him as an old pervert and they are now the up and coming generation.

Whether you are for his resignation or not...

A consistent and ethical approach is a must IMO, otherwise this is another issue that can descend into partisan bickering. I lean toward the view that it is in the best interests of our citizens and Franken himself that he resign. Think he has 5 accusers now. He will be facing a different sort of harassment, especially from the media and women's rights groups, if he tries to stay in the job until 2020. It could be a serious distraction, to say the least. I still appreciate the views shared by those who disagree.

The real test of anyone's ethics on the issue is this. Plug the name of a Republican into the exact same scenario (Erik Paulsen or Jason Lewis for example) as Franken. Pretend they had done the USO tour instead and treated Tweeden in exactly the same manner.

If you believe Al should be allowed to stay in Congress, then you MUST also agree that Erik or Jason should stay, too. If you believe that Al should resign, then the same thing for Erik or Jason. If however, you believe Al should stay and those two should resign under identical circumstances, you are ethically flawed and hypocritical IMO. Then the partisanship gets in the way of resolving the issue. Fwiw, I am a Democrat, but will always consider myself an American first. Let's resolve this ethically.

If you are consistent in this ethics "test", I can accept a difference of opinion. Agree to disagree.

Additional food for thought: There are millions of American parents with young daughters and you can bet that most are very happy about the changes taking place since the Weinstein revelation and want that progress to continue. I predict the resignations of Conyers and Franken will occur after the tax bill vote.