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Franken goes back to work — but can he still get work done?

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Sen. Al Franken addressing the media outside his office on Capitol Hill on Nov. 27.

On Wednesday evening, Sen. Al Franken was, as promised, back at work in the U.S. Senate.

The chamber was in the midst of a massive battle on taxes, as Republicans began to push through a sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code. Franken was in the midst of a battle of his own: fighting off an ongoing sexual harassment scandal, in which four women — to that point — had come forward to say that Franken had groped them or, in one case, forcibly kissed her.

Minnesota’s junior senator is typically a gregarious presence on the Senate floor, freely dispensing back slaps and his trademark machine-gun cackle. As senators voted on a procedural motion to advance the GOP tax plan, Franken flitted about the Senate floor tentatively, registering his no vote on the measure, making a quiet effort to socialize with his colleagues. A few of his male colleagues put their hands on his shoulders as they briefly chatted. Franken had an animated chat with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall.

Some of his female colleagues were more circumspect. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who returned $30,000 in donations from Franken’s PAC after the first allegations hit, did not acknowledge Franken for several lingering moments as she talked to someone else. New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Ethics Committee that is investigating Franken, simply arched her eyebrows at Franken as they passed each other.

For Franken, his promise to get back to work in the Senate and slowly regain Minnesotans’ trust — and the trust of his colleagues and others in Washington — is easier said than done. And that’s before factoring in the two new allegations of misconduct that surfaced against Franken on Thursday, including one from a woman who was then serving in the U.S. military in Iraq.

Observers of Franken, and the senator’s own allies, say the ongoing scandal diminishes his standing in Washington and in Minnesota, decreasing his value as an advocate, fundraiser, and campaigner for Democrats and for Minnesotans.  

A missing giant of the Senate

The most striking example of Franken’s diminished clout came soon after Leeann Tweeden posted her account, on Nov. 16, that Franken forcibly kissed her during a USO tour in 2006, and released a photo showing a grinning Franken with his hands hovering over her breasts.

For months, Franken had been working with Abby Honold, a student at the University of Minnesota and a rape survivor whose experience with law enforcement after her rape prompted her to advocate for reforms to help police better assist victims of sexual violence.

Honold asked Franken earlier this year to lead her legislation in the Senate. Shortly after Tweeden’s story came out, Honold asked Franken to take his name off the bill, which he did. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is now its lead sponsor.

“It was really crushing to have this change up,” Honold told NPR, “and especially, so many of the amazing people in Senator Franken’s office that I’ve worked with. But I’m trying to remind myself that the most important thing is that victims are helped with this legislation.”

Franken had long positioned himself as a champion for women, a claim he has reiterated in the wake of the allegations against him. One of his first moves as a U.S. senator in 2009 was to push for legislation prohibiting the government from giving contracts to defense firms without strong workplace harassment protections.

Franken has also found himself on the sidelines of other policy fights he has relished in the past.  Net neutrality — the idea that the internet should be regulated similar to a utility, with minimal restrictions on access and no discrimination of content — is an illuminating example.

On Nov. 21, the Federal Communications Commission issued a proposal that would overturn a landmark rule from the Barack Obama administration that codified net neutrality protections into law.

This prompted widespread alarm and concern among net neutrality advocates in Congress. Franken, at one point, was perhaps the Senate’s loudest and most prominent advocate for net neutrality, and frequently spoke on the chamber’s floor and sent out press releases on the topic.

In the wake of the FCC’s significant policy move, Franken’s office did not send out any press release with the senator’s response to the news. Since Nov. 16, his office has only sent out statements related to the allegations against him. (MinnPost has made multiple requests for an interview with Franken.)

Net neutrality proponents in Congress noted Franken’s absence. First District Rep. Tim Walz said he was concerned that the scandal has made the senator unable to be an effective advocate at a critical moment for the issue.

“The senator’s voice on net neutrality was one of a champion,” Walz told MinnPost. “I looked to him on that. … That voice in the Senate is louder than my voice in the House.”

More broadly, Walz said, “The senator’s going to have to decide if he can be effective.”

Is the damage permanent?

There have been other instances, too, illustrating the degree to which Franken has been diminished by the scandal. The day Tweeden’s story came out, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, moved to ignore Franken withholding his “blue slip” of approval for David Stras, a Minnesota Supreme Court justice up for appointment to the federal bench.

Franken withholding the blue slip — a tradition granted to senators for judicial nominees from their state —  had held up a hearing for Stras for months. On Wednesday, Stras appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was questioned by Franken, his first significant committee appearance since the allegations broke.

Grassley was likely to bypass Franken anyway, but the timing of his move was not lost on some observers.

Franken has also been absent from more routine Senate functions. A Tuesday letter from the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan group of senators who advocate on Great Lakes issues, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bore the signatures of all Democratic senators from Great Lakes states — except Franken’s. His name had been on a Task Force letter to the Office of Management and Budget just a month ago.

Few were expecting Franken to be at full force in the immediate aftermath of the harassment allegations against him. But his decision to stay in office and return to work has prompted observers to wonder when, or if, Franken can return to his former capacity.

Many Democratic operatives and staffers remain reluctant to speak on the record about Franken at this stage. The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party did not comment for this story.

According to Steven Schier, a professor of politics at Carleton College, it may be a long time, if ever, before Franken, the outspoken progressive hero, returns.

“I don’t think you’ll see him being an issue leader in committee and on the Senate floor as he was in recent years, at least for the time being,” he said. “He’s not going to be viewed by colleagues as an asset, as a conspicuous co-sponsor.”

Referencing the Stras hearing this week, Schier remarked that “the red-hot Franken” from past committee questionings was notably absent.

“He’s hoping that, by lying low, memories will be short, he can become more effective in the Senate and more visible, and he’ll weather the storm. The real issue is whether the damage is permanent or not,” Schier said.

“There’s a fair chance this is permanent.”

Comments (38)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/01/2017 - 10:09 am.


    He just has to plug away. It won’t be easy, but it isn’t necessarily impossible.

    This is something I have been thinking about. Charles Dickens at the age of 45, when he was married with 10 children began an affair with an 18 year old woman who was more or less in his employ. Does that mean the Guthrie should suspend it’s remaining performances of “A Christmas Carol”?

    • Submitted by Howard Salute on 12/01/2017 - 12:46 pm.

      Consensual relationship?

      You fail to tell us if Dickens affair was consensual. Let us not confuse consensual relationships (illicit or not) with predatory non consensual relationships.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/01/2017 - 03:34 pm.

        What the Dickens?

        First we are talking about single events, not relationships.
        Second, in Franken’s case, the women involved were mostly colleagues, not employees.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 12/03/2017 - 08:15 am.


        Dickens was 45, a world famous author who employed allegedly 18 year old Ellen Ternan. Whether she was capable of giving consent is problematic. I have no problem applying the word predatory to the relationship.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/01/2017 - 10:44 am.

    Franken – here to stay….

    Senator Franken’s effectiveness was further devastated by his incomprehensible WCCO TV interview. I almost felt sorry for the guy but now feel embarrassed for the great State of MN.

    Obviously, the Bill Clinton defense that endeared him and ended up entrenching his democratic support will not publically work for Franken. However – we all know privately that Franken will not lose the vast majority of the votes cast by the principled DFL voters.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/01/2017 - 11:40 am.

      Trump – here to stay….

      Is the better approach to deny it all and call the women liars? Even if – like in the case of Donald Trump – the allegations are much more serious and numerous?

      If you aren’t calling for Trump to resign, you really have no business criticizing anyone for their position on Franken.

      • Submitted by Howard Salute on 12/01/2017 - 12:08 pm.

        One sexual predator deserves another?

        I wish we could keep all sexual predators out of public office. But your point seems valid. If sexual predator Trump is elected into office, why shouldn’t sexual predator Franken be allowed to serve? And are there people that think State Sen. Dan Schoen and Rep. Tony Cornish are chumps because they resigned over allegations?

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/01/2017 - 12:47 pm.

          Hard questions

          Where do you set the bar for resigning/staying out of public office? Are allegations enough, or does there need to be proof? Should there be due process, or is it different with politicians? Do we differentiate between different types of misconduct – is a groping allegation treated the same as a rape allegation? How many is too many – can you ignore 1 or 2, but when there are 5 or 10 does that make it a problem?

          The hardest thing to do may be to analyze each case without taking political preferences into account. I think, well, Al Franken is really good senator and votes the right way, but that is the same justification that Republicans in Alabama are using to support a man who preyed on teenage girls. Or is it the same?

          Based on the number of allegations and his response, I think that Al Franken is a groper – women know the difference between a misplaced hand and copping a feel. In a vacuum, I think that makes him unfit for office. But in calling him to quit, are Democrats taking the high road? Or are they being chumps because Republicans like Trump and Moore ignore their allegations and get away with it?

          I really don’t know.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/01/2017 - 02:27 pm.

        Franken admitted his abusive behavior. There are photographs.

        Trump is guilty of nothing more that running his mouth. There is no evidence…none. Same is true of Moore, in fact, two women have come forward to refute one of his accusors, and the other refuses to allow her “evidence” to be inspected by a third party AND her lawyer has said she cannot verify it’s authenticity.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/01/2017 - 03:37 pm.

          No evidence?

          I realize that as a lawyer I probably have a better understanding of evidence than non-lawyers, but I simply cannot understand how someone can say there is no evidence against Trump. Seriously, what reality are you living in?

          16 women have gone on the record accusing Trump of sexual assault. Some of the accusations are actual rape. How can you say there is no evidence? The “running his mouth” was Trump talking about how he sexually assaults women – describing the very behavior that he has been accused of by these women.

          The picture of Franken was of him pretending to touch her breasts. There is a video of Trump talking about sexually assaulting women.

          Franken has been accused of grabbing butts and breasts. Trump has been accused of rape. Moore has been accused of statutory rape and stalking teenage girls while in his 30s.

          To be clear, the Franken accusers are telling the truth, but the more numerous accusers of Trump and Moore are lying? Was Bill Cosby innocent? Jerry Sandusky?

          • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/01/2017 - 06:45 pm.

            16; 25;200…who cares? Not 1 has proven a thing. Not. One.

            Moore’s accusors have been refuted by credible witnesses, and the sole piece of evidence, the year book, has been discredited by the accusors own lawyer.

            In America, we are presumed innocent until proven guilty As a lawyer, you probably knew that…but just forgot. Right?

  3. Submitted by Peter Gove on 12/01/2017 - 10:57 am.

    Brody Franken article

    As someone who grew up with the Franken family in St. Louis Park, I am biased in favor of Al.
    He was reelected by a substantial making in 2014, albeit his opponent earned 48% of the vote, a testament to a politically divided Minnesota at that time and certainly more so today. He earned a 6 year term and deserves the opportunity to serve it out, including dealing with these allegations, the most prominent of which, in timing and intent, is clearly politically motivated. The Ethics Committee needs to do its job here, notwithstanding that the majority of these allegations are prior to his election to the U.S. Senate when he was a comedian. My lens on those who are calling for his resignation is essentially political, including who would benefit by his departure from the Senate. The White House, RNC, RSCC, MN GOP, Koch funded organizations, et. al. cheer on (and likely encourage) those who want Al out of the Senate. What a great diversion this story is from likely Senator elect Moore and the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania. Let’s remember if Franken leaves the Senate, Minnesota will have two Senate seats up for election in 2018. The DFL will likely lose a seat and it will be more difficult for a DFLer to succeed Gov. Dayton. PS, read Paul Krugman’s column on the ‘rot’ in the GOP in today’s New York Times. Al Franken, even if ‘weakened’ by these allegations, is just the Senator to call out this rot going forward..

    • Submitted by Margaret Houlehan on 12/03/2017 - 08:39 am.

      The fact that he is

      Willing to subject himself to an ethics investigation speaks volumes to me. Can’t say the same about his GOP counterparts. And I’m not defending Conyers either.

  4. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/01/2017 - 12:38 pm.

    Wrong Playbook

    Sen. Franken is using the wrong playbook. The Trump/Moore playbook is much better. First, loudly deny the accusations, then go after the accusers. Last, throw in something about a biased corporate media that is entirely owned by Fortune 500 outfits.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/01/2017 - 01:50 pm.

      More from Moore

      If he’s going to follow the Moore playbook, Franken needs to throw in some biblical justifications for polyamory.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/01/2017 - 02:30 pm.

        A couple of women to refute his accusors is necessary to use the Moore playbook. Oh, and a refutation of the authenticity of evidence from an accusors lawyer…….Franken doesn’t have that, does he?

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/01/2017 - 03:40 pm.


          The “refutations” are so lame, only the most shameless partisan would take them seriously, especially given there is evidence that the girl and Moore were in court at the same time. Indeed, Franken has not stooped that low.

          • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/01/2017 - 06:39 pm.

            The refutation come from 2 WOMEN, unconnected to Moore, who worked at the diner the assault supposedly happened at. Both say they didn’t k ow the accusor at the time she claimed to work there, dispute the physical layout of the diner as described by the accusor.

            They both say they never even saw Moore in there…AND the second accusor’ s LAWYER refused to vouch for the authenticity of the accusors evidence.

            Only the most shameless partisan would discount any of that.

            Franken had no room to stoop lower. Moore has no reason. To stoop at all.

        • Submitted by Margaret Houlehan on 12/03/2017 - 08:33 am.

          I believe

          a former law enforcement officer verified that creepy Moore was barred from the mall. It was also verified that police officers were ask to keep an eye on more around young girls cheerleading at football games.

          And the Frank and stuff has Roger Stone written all over it.n how about I anonymously accuse politicians I don’t like of groping me? Anyone can make an anonymous accusation. I think we’re over correcting and assuming all these women are virtuous and innocent and truthful.

          And yes, I have been groped and worse. I can and did handle it.

          • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/04/2017 - 01:07 pm.

            And yet, as to the accusations regarding Moore, there is no corroboration of any of that. None.

            No police records, no public records, no business records…nothing.

            Making accusations like this, with the same lack of evidence against a “non-public” personality would likely land someone in court to defend a slander charge.

            But of course, Moore is running for public office; carry on.

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 12/01/2017 - 12:42 pm.

    Seen. Franken’s chickens merely came home to roost,

    …and I don’t feel sorry for him. Rather, I feel sad that the valiant Ms. Honold, incredibly believing she can guide national legislation, had to separate that effort from our MN Senator, as his presence on the team might detract from its integrity.

    Sen. Franken’s recent humility, despite its apparent sincerity, is a response to the negative consequences of his behaviors. We’ve seen very little of that humility previously, so it seems reasonable to view its purpose as an attempt to save his seat.

    Al Franken is not necessary to promote the issues he has espoused. Gov. Dayton can appoint an effective advocate for those causes, and add another woman to the Senate. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    If Sen. Franken would take a big step back in detachment from his personal woes, he could see it this way too, and work on restoring his image and reputation in private life, which he WILL accomplish over time. He should not waste Minnesota voters’ political capital invested in that Senate seat in a personal question for redemption. I have compassion, but we need a new Senator.

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 12/01/2017 - 01:32 pm.


      We’ve seen very little of that humility previously? Are you serious? I don’t think anyone could name a more down to earth US Senator. Franken spent the first 4-6 years in the Senate keeping a low profile. Its only lately that we’ve seen him coming into his own.He’s been on of the most effective questioners in Senate hearings and panels that we’ve seen in a long time. You may be mistaking the confidence that comes from being prepared as arrogance. Of course there are those, mostly on the Conservative side, who lack a sense of humor and mistake Al’s sarcasm for arrogance. Maybe that’s it.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 12/01/2017 - 04:34 pm.

        humility: “a modest or low view of one’s own importance”

        Sorry, but Al Franken’s behavior over time hardly fits the profile of “humble”. This has absolutely nothing to do with conservative views or lack of a sense of humor, but then it appears you didn’t intend to answer with substance, but rather, extend an insult.

        The fine column here by Sam Brodey asked the central question: “Can he be effective?” For me, the Senate seat is too valuable to risk its devaluation by refusing to move on in favor of Al clinging to his seat.

        For the true-blue neo-liberals, though, they decry sexual aggression EXCEPT when it involves one of their favorites. That is why progressives are largely demanding the Democratic party and its neo-liberals be CONSISTENT in their approach to these matters. It’s a question of integrity.

        Mr. Terry (below) makes a good point in rebuttal, but it’s a matter of judgement which is worse – extra election cycles, or a sitting Senator in disrepute. I’m not so sure, but lean towards a new Senator.

        • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 12/02/2017 - 08:02 pm.

          Clearly my response was not to the article

          but your unsupported comment about Kranken’s humility, or lack there of. I’m sorry you felt insulted, but again, the only folks who share your opinion are those on the Conservative side, those that lack a sense of humor or both. For instance some people in these groups look at the title of his latest book “Al Franken Giant Of the Senate and see it as arrogant, totally missing the sarcasm. Almost like missing the point of someone’s comment. Not many know that he once wrote a letter of apology to Mitch McConnell after he was rebuked for rolling his eyes at McConnell’s comments during a Senate hearing. As I said Franken spent the first part of his career in the Senate keeping a low profile, building relationships and educating himself. He has good relationship with Senators on both sides of the aisle. He is a flawed individual, like all of us, and anyone who runs for office has to have a certain level of self confidence, but until reading your comment, I’d never heard anyone say he lacked humility. Except those in the groups I’ve already mentioned.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/01/2017 - 01:42 pm.


      If Franken resigns now, his replacement will have to run Senate races in 2018 and 2020. She won’t be an effective advocate for anything – she’ll be campaigning and fundraising non-stop for the next 3 years. Tens of millions of dollars that would have gone to other races will get spent on the extra 2018 race.

      Maybe Franken does need to resign. But understand that replacing him won’t be easy or painless.

  6. Submitted by Joe Smith on 12/01/2017 - 12:56 pm.

    Don’t agree with 1 single thing about

    Al Franken, his principles or politics, but he was elected to serve 6 years and should not be forced to step down with current accusations. Unlike Conyers, who used tax dollars as hush money, Franken has just lost his credibility when talking women’s rights (clearly he doesn’t respect women), not his credibility as a dishonest broker of tax payer money who used his stature to force himself on women, as Conyers has.

  7. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 12/01/2017 - 02:21 pm.

    The answer is simple: No.

    He’s already been pulled as a sponsor from several bills, at the authors request. At this point, it simply more “Al for Al”, just as it was during the Gloria Wise scandal.

    That said, if Minnesotans are satisfied to have a pariah, banished to a dark corner for 1/2 of their Senate delegation, I’m good too.

  8. Submitted by Carrie Preston on 12/01/2017 - 02:23 pm.

    Ted Kennedy didn’t resign over Chappaquiddick nor did he get kicked out of the Senate.

  9. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 12/01/2017 - 04:35 pm.

    We are all being played for fools.

    While we’re arguing over Franken, Conyers, Pelosi, racism, and sexism, the GOP is gleefully advancing its agenda.

    Say Franken does step down. How long will it take for dirt to be dug up on Franken’s replacement?

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 12/03/2017 - 10:05 am.

      Yes, of course. Thank you for your comment.

      My spouse and I were joking (sardonically) that if someone photoshops Mueller’s head onto Franken’s body in the Tweeden photograph, Democrats will all rise and demand that Mueller resign.

      Al Franken cannot regain my trust, because he has not lost it. The question is not whether the “scandal” has damaged Franken too greatly, but whether the way in which the media have chosen to cover the matter, and the way in which liberals have leapt to their own self-immolation, have damaged Franken too greatly. The Democrats seem to have decided that losing on everything else decent in our society is adequately compensated by prevailing on some elevated standard of sexual harassment. A friend jokes (even more sardonically) that at least when we’re all being marched off to the cattle cars, the guard won’t touch her rear end.

      We have a photo taken as a joke and included in a souvenir “memory book” given to all of the participants in a bawdy USO tour, and thus understood by all in the troupe, including Tweeden, as capturing the spirit of the tour in good humor. And we have a few women out of many thousands who received Franken’s contact with them as too intrusive. Even if we assume that these women, even the anonymous ones, are honest & sincere, whether in these several contacts Franken knew his hand was in an intrusive place, or intended it to be, is the crux of the matter to which the subjective perception of these women cannot speak. There is no evidence of ill intent either in the acts themselves or in Franken’s character, which always has been deeply humane.

      And again, how is this linked to Franken’s fitness for office? One’s difficulty in keeping one’s hands to oneself, even if true of Franken, is a character flaw, but there are infinite forms of character flaw and we each have our expansive portfolio. If we learn that a Senator regularly barges thru the express checkout line with well over 10 items, is that Senator unfit for office? If he tips poorly, and also doesn’t pick up his dog’s poop? Humans are imperfect, and frankly elected representatives probably are worse than the average run of folks, because of the ego and drive needed to get there. What is the relevance of personal behaviors to fitness for office? I don’t elect a Senator to be a role model, not only because no one would qualify, but also because an elected official’s duty is to advance sound policies for our society with honesty and integrity, and the correlation between that talent and personal virtue is too loose to serve as a standard. My plumber may have any number of personal flaws but the important thing is whether he knows the plumbing code and tightens the pipes properly.

      Moore isn’t unfit for office because of his sexual depravity, he’s unfit because he would advance a grotesque and destructive platform. His sexual violations are cumulative evidence of his absence of integrity, but if you needed them to convince you that he is unfit for office, you shouldn’t be injuring the rest of us by exercising your voting franchise. Conversely, what is alleged as to Franken is not cumulative evidence as to his integrity, but wholly at odds with his demonstrated character over years. For me at least, unless and until facts are found and inferences drawn in a proper forum, this is relevant to whether Franken’s integrity is so called into question that I no longer should vote for him.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/05/2017 - 09:36 am.

        This This This!

        Even assuming that the allegations against Franken aren’t a hit job with less-than-credible accusations (really? This guy regularly grabs rear ends in large crowds with cameras and there’s no evidence of a hand on a butt??? I’m sorry, but if someone grabbed me as a picture was taken, my smile would not be so natural, and if someone grabbed my breast just prior to a picture I wouldn’t move CLOSER!), there is little indication that any of the supposed “assaults” were intentional with the exception of the posed photo during the USO tour–and even that account appears to be consensual. Yes…for adults, consent is consent. You cannot consent and then accuse someone of wrongdoing so long as the act is legal.

        I am a woman who has been subjected to all kinds of insults due to my gender, ranging from gross stares and comments to public masturbation. And yet, it’s not hard to believe that a comedic picture does not rise to the level of assault, and that if any butt or breast handling happened, it was happenstance and not intentional. Something that Franken explicitly stated was that IF he did touch a rear or a breast it was wholly unintentional. That is not an admission of wrongdoing. At the very least, a badly thought-out photo (which, by several accounts was consenting–and if nothing else, one must question whether any of the men that Tweeden grabbed or thrust her butt against consented) is NOT the same as a 30+ year old man who habitually stalked, harassed, and threatened teenagers. Even if you could assume that teenagers can give consent and it wasn’t predatory behavior to go after them as a much older man, given that the man was unbenched because he couldn’t follow the rule of law, it would seem that Moore is unfit for office.

        Nor do the accusations against Franken come even close to those against Trump, which include RAPE. More than a dozen women have PUBLICLY accused him so far. Trump did, indeed, admit to sexual assault–at least 2 kinds–and predatory behavior against women. It is not far fetched at all to believe that the women are telling the truth.

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/02/2017 - 05:35 am.

    My 2¢

    While I won’t be devastated if Franken resigns, and initially thought he ought to do so, upon reflection I’m more inclined toward the views of Pat Terry and Peter Gove (though I don’t have that community connection with Franken that Gove apparently does). Franken’s apologies seem genuine, though everyone reading these comments knows that an apology doesn’t really undo the wrong. We still can’t do time travel, so it’s not possible to go back and choose **not** to do something that one **did** do, but later regrets. I agree that the groping Franken has been accused of hardly makes for a great character reference, but in degree and kind, it’s quite a bit different from grabbing a woman by her crotch, then bragging about it.

    And speaking of that, of course, Pat Terry seems to have the most trenchant comment. I can support the notion that public figures are likely to be held to a somewhat higher standard of behavior than ordinary citizens—though a good case can be made that that’s not a reasonable expectation, either—but a “higher standard” isn’t the same as perfection. The number of perfect politicians, much like the number of perfect police officers, perfect teachers, perfect city council members, perfect judges, etc., is vanishingly small. Our population is not generously sprinkled with saints, whose perfect language and behavior serves as inspiration for us all.

    More to the point of some of the Franken critics, if you’re going to insist that Franken’s behavior merits resignation and public condemnation, then you should likewise insist that the Current Occupant resign his office and endure the public condemnation that he obviously deserves, and further, that Roy Moore not be allowed to take a seat in the Senate even if Alabama voters elect him. It’s not a surprise to me that those commenters above who call for Franken’s resignation give a pass to the Current Occupant, and seem willing to tolerate Roy Moore, as well. To the degree that that’s true, their objection to Franken is not moral, it’s political, and its moral tone dismissed.

  11. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 12/03/2017 - 01:17 pm.

    It might be helpful to consider…

    What is the essence of the broader discussion? It’s not about whether to believe women; I don’t think anyone has suggested that accusers are making up the various kinds of physical assaults that have been asserted in recent weeks. (That is NOT to say that many of the women don’t have political motives.)

    I also don’t think it’s primarily about “cleaning up” the various kinds of organizations that employ the men who have been accused, be they entertainment-oriented, governmental bodies, broadcast media, or whatever. Who could doubt that there will remain persons who have behaved in unacceptable ways, either because they haven’t been outed or because their actions are clandestine, and that there will be more in the future?

    I think it’s about making a statement, a very loud statement, that reflects the anger that has been building for a long time among women as they have felt that they were disrespected in many ways. That’s an extremely large amount of anger, and it’s been felt for reasons that far exceed having experienced various kinds of inappropriate physical contact. (That is not to say that groping doesn’t deserve a swift and appropriate response.)

    But if the real problem is that for whatever reason(s), this society has allowed women to be treated unfairly simply because they are women, I think we would all, men and women, serve ourselves better by calling a halt to the ever-unfolding “me-too” pseudo-validations and resolving that from now on, things will be different. So if a film company executive is known to require that his sexual needs be serviced in order that women are cast in career-building roles, he needs to be reported and dealt with appropriately–probably, fired. If a man puts his hand on a portion of one’s anatomy without invitation or consent, we should do what feels appropriate in the context–simply remove it; tell him with a look and/or with words to stop; or, if the anatomical part that he’s “grabbing” is one that couldn’t possibly be accidental and is extremely inappropriate, scream at him, hit him, or do whatever else we think is appropriate in the case of an extreme violation. Although it’s not possible to stop all disrespect by such direct and immediate action, it will be significant to stop physical disrespect as it occurs.

    Writing this has forced me to recognize that my own inclination to say that the Current Occupant should be removed from office is, alas, also influenced by considerations other than the despicable statement he was caught making by a live mic: politics aside, he’s just not qualified to serve as the chief executive of this (or any) country, and the possibility that we will all pay more dearly than we can even imagine is truly terrifying.

    But as for Senator Franken, I don’t think that anyone could objectively characterize him as a predator or one who victimizes women. I think he behaved irresponsibly for one stupid posed photo, and was likely too casual in posing for others. But in terms of seriousness, this pales by comparison. To deprive his constituents of his considerable talents–and his hard work–would not advance the cause of women at all. In fact, given the qualifications he has demonstrated in all other respects, it would almost certainly affect it negatively, because he would be such a tough act to follow. If what Mr. Brodey is saying is that others will hold his admitted misbehavior against him to the extent that he will be rendered incapable of functioning as our senator, there must be something else at work besides a thoughtful evaluation of the behavior, the context, and the issue.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/05/2017 - 09:47 am.

      This too

      Men, don’t grope, harass, degrade, exclude, rape, or otherwise treat women as inferior. It is not ok to take out your anger about your perceived lack of power on my body or mind. If you do not have consent, you do not have consent.

      Women, don’t play along if men grope, harass, degrade, exclude, rape or otherwise treat you as inferior. Don’t smile when they get handsy. Don’t giggle when they try to assert dominance. Don’t consent to what you don’t want to do.

      Dems, get a grip. We are in very dangerous times. Maybe even a constitutional crisis. #metoo is and was never meant to be a war on men. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Franken/Tweeden photo was considered funny in our society. Maybe it shouldn’t have been, but it was. It did not involve assault, and by most accounts, both parties were aware and consented to the photo. Are we willing to give up political power for a stupid photo when an admitted sexual predator and well-documented misogynist is in the WH? When women’s rights are literally at stake, and that’s not even the least of it? If we sell out everyone for the sake of momentary purity, we will not earn any sort of praise for our children and grandchildren who are going to have to deal with stuff a whole lot worse than a politician in a tasteless photo.

  12. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 12/07/2017 - 07:25 am.

    Bringing morals to a knife fight

    People who feel all will be fine and dandy if/when Franken steps down are fooling themselves. It will only be a matter of time before other Dems get picked off like ducks in a shooting gallery.

    To paraphrase The Art of War, if you’re not willing to use the enemy’s tactics against them, you will lose every time. A pyrrhic victory, that — keeping one’s morals while being permanently regulated to the minority party. It’s a good thing JFK ran when he did. He’d never be elected today.

    And Rachel Kahler — your words should be inscribed in marble for all present and future legislators to contemplate.

  13. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 12/07/2017 - 11:03 am.

    If we want to change the culture of this country, Senator Franken would do more to make that cultural change happen by staying in office, contributing to that change by personally speaking to and for the rights of women in our political institutions and elsewhere.

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