Should Al Franken have left the Senate?

July 23, 2019 • 1:30 pm

There’s little doubt that had Al Franken not left the Senate because he was accused of sexual harassment, he would now be one of the top-polling Democratic candidates for President. In fact, I might have favored him over any of the other candidates. But there’s no chance of that: he’s gone and the accusations against him have rendered him political Kryptonite.

But article below by New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer, which just appeared in the magazine, makes a good case that Franken was not guilty of harassment; if anything, it suggests he was a “huggy” type devoted to his wife and family, and was blindsided by the accusations. And now he regrets resigning. Before your hackles go up because you think he was a predator, please read the article.  If you buy its thesis, you’ll also no longer see Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the call for Franken to resign, as a viable candidate for President, either.

GBJames called my attention to this piece (I no longer subscribe to the New Yorker, but this is free online; click on the screenshot). He also said this, which I quote with permission:

I’m pretty angry about how this went down and I can understand why Senator Gillibrand is having trouble getting much support.
Read on:

Some of the points include Franken’s regrets that he resigned under pressure rather than have a Senate Ethics Committee investigation of the accusations:

When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.” He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press. It is extremely rare for a senator to resign under pressure. No senator has been expelled since the Civil War, and in modern times only three have resigned under the threat of expulsion: Harrison Williams, in 1982, Bob Packwood, in 1995, and John Ensign, in 2011. Williams resigned after he was convicted of bribery and conspiracy; Packwood faced numerous sexual-assault accusations; Ensign was accused of making illegal payoffs to hide an affair.

A remarkable number of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their own roles in his fall. Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told me that they’d been wrong to do so. Such admissions are unusual in an institution whose members rarely concede mistakes. Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in forty-five years in the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp, the former senator from North Dakota, told me, “If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.”

Other points that Mayer makes in her article (note: I am not saying she proves these contentions, but I will say that she makes a strong case that Franken was unfairly demonized).

  • Leean Tweeden probably fabricated her claim that Franken forced a kiss on her on stage or harassed her to kiss him. The famous photograph that did Franken in—his hands hovering over a sleeping Tweeden’s breasts—was actually one part of a USO skit (granted, not a particularly tasteful one) that Franken did on stage (he was on a USO tour when the photo was taken). (Franken admitted that the photo could be seen as “crossing a line,” since Tweeden didn’t give consent.

 

  • Tweeden had lied about other matters. She claimed in her bio, for instance that she turned down an offer of admission to Harvard to do modeling. That apparently didn’t happen.  She also told palpable untruths about her interactions with Franken.

 

  • A lot of the negative publicity about Franken originated with right-wing media like Sean Hannity—people delighted that they had a chance to take down a popular Democrat.

 

  • Franken was, however, “physically obtuse” and “clumsy”, and someone who kissed female acquaintances on the mouth as either a geeky or showbiz thing. He was appalled to find that that could be misinterpreted.

 

  • Franken was “not sufficiently contrite” in his apology.
  • Senate Democrats, many of whom now regret their behavior, were under pressure from the media and women’s groups to explain why they were “castigating Roy Moore but not Al Franken,” and felt they had to ditch Franken to win in Alabama.

 

  • Gillebrand and six other female Senators met with Chuck Schumer to tell him they wanted Franken’s resignation. Schumer apparently told Franken he had to resign, and Gillibrand also demanded his resignation This bit is particularly disturbing:

Gillibrand then went on Facebook and posted her demand that Franken resign: “Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them. While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated.”

Minutes later, at a previously scheduled press conference, Gillibrand added insult to injury: she reiterated her call for Franken to resign while also trumpeting her sponsorship of a new bill that banned mandatory arbitration of sexual-harassment claims. She didn’t mention that Franken had originated the legislation—and had given it to Gillibrand to sponsor, out of concern that it might be imperilled by his scandal.

  • But what about the other seven accusers? That is perhaps the most serious issue to confront, for each independent accusation adds more weight to Tweeden’s initial one.  Gillibrand says there were eight credible allegations, all corraborated by the press corps. That isn’t true; Gillibrand hadn’t spoken to any accusers, and the press was unable to corroborate any of the allegations discussed. Mayer, however, doesn’t go into all of the allegations in detail, some of which appear to have been attempted friendly kisses that were rebuffed rather than sexual assaults. The article describes one friendly kiss that constituted one of the accusations that brought Franken down:

Not long ago, I asked the woman if she thought that Franken had been making a sexual advance or a clumsy thank-you gesture.

“Is there a difference?” she replied. “If someone tries to do something to you unwanted?” From her standpoint, because she was at work—a professional woman deserving respect—his intentions didn’t matter.

Franken has maintained that the woman’s story was the allegation “that killed me.” I asked her if his behavior was bad enough to end his Senate career.

“I didn’t end his Senate career—he did,” she said.

Franken was stricken when I related her comments to him. “Look,” he said. “This has really affected my family. I loved being in the Senate. I loved my staff—we had fun and we got good things done, big and small, and they all meant something to me.” He started to cry. “For her to say that, it’s just so callous. It’s just so wrong.” Rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses, he said, “I ended my career by saying ‘Thanks’ to her—that’s what she’s saying.”

Was Franken a sexual predator? The article suggests that he was not,—not in the least. Was he guilty of trying to kiss women in a way that was misinterpreted? Almost certainly. Should he have resigned from the Senate rather than face an ethics investigation? I don’t think so. But the #MeToo climate was so strong at the time that he was doomed from the moment that The Picture appeared. And although some women, like Gillibrand, have no regrets about forcing Franken from the Senate, others are troubled. The article ends like this.

The lawyer Debra Katz, who has represented Christine Blasey Ford and other sexual-harassment victims, remains troubled by Franken’s case. She contends, “The allegations levelled against Senator Franken did not warrant his forced expulsion from the Senate, particularly given the context in which most of the behavior occurred, which was in his capacity as a comedian.” She adds, “All offensive behavior should be addressed, but not all offensive behavior warrants the most severe sanction.” Katz sees Franken as a cautionary tale for the #MeToo movement. “To treat all allegations the same is not only inappropriate,” she warns. “It feeds into a backlash narrative that men are vulnerable to even frivolous allegations by women.”

I, at least, felt sorry for Franken, for he feels blindsided and unfairly treated, and even became clinically depressed. He’s dropped out of sight and no longer can fulfill his mission to drop the comedy and be a good Senator. If you think he’s guilty, you’ll feel no pity for him and will say he’s gotten his just deserts. But read the article before you decide.

71 thoughts on “Should Al Franken have left the Senate?

  1. I think this was all pretty obvious long ago. Many articles in WaPo, LA Times (NYT too?) have covered this ground. I’m surprised Gillibrand is even running.

  2. For the curious, check Google for “Leann Tweeden” and then click “Images.” Those on display back when the deed was allegedly done are many pages down the screen,just keep clicking down the display. The sort of credibility she might have is fairly obvious. I quit the Democratic National Committee because they did nothing. No one did anything but blame. Franked was one of our best and most conscientious senators. What is Tweeden? Decide for yourself. Where the hell was due process?

    1. Those images show her for what she is: a bimbo. And a Republican operative. And she obviously wasn’t sleeping in the infamous photo with Franken. It was a posed shot for a stupid comedy skit, for Pete’s sake. The whole thing was a political hit job — one that worked like a charm. I was never a fan of Franken as a comedian, but he was an excellent Senator and is sorely missed.

    2. I thought she accepted his apology and was willing to drop the whole thing and it was the mob that went after Franken.

      1. She tossed a match into a pile of tinder then strolled away muttering, “never mind, I don’t need the heat”.

  3. There is no doubt that Franken should not have pulled the pin and resigned as he did. There is also no doubt that Gillibrand and others were way too quick to call for him to do so. Without any investigation or questioning – it was a true witch hunt as Trump loves to call other things.

    I am a proponent of proper investigation of work place sexual harassment and there was none here because the congress does not do proper investigation of these things and frankly, does not have a clue.

    Gillibrand comes across as a crusader of the religious order in this matter and she does the same in her attempted campaign for president. She has neither the talent or character for the job. But then we have Donald Trump so what do I know.

  4. “Is there a difference?” she replied. “If someone tries to do something to you unwanted?” From her standpoint, because she was at work—a professional woman deserving respect—his intentions didn’t matter.”
    This is incredibly disturbing. One could use this logic to condemn any conduct not matter how trivial that occurred between a man and a woman. This reminds me of the Aziz Ansari incident, guilty of the heinous crime of not being a f**king mind reader, and people talk about the “dangers” of a “backlash”. Ummm yeah, seems like we could use a bit of a backlash against asinine shit like this.

    1. I know this is a couple days old post-
      but about intent: the difference is that someone with benign intentions will change offensive behavior if you educate them…

  5. Gillibrand is a political operator. She defended tobacco executives as a citizen, and when she was a congresswoman she was pro-gun and anti-immigrant, then when she became much more liberal when she became a senator.

    Her attack on Franken was just too politically self-serving. Glad she’s floundering in her primary campaign.

  6. I am not surprised that Franken has been having regret since resigning. He should not have but then, what kind of proper investigation was going to happen. The Congress in both houses does not really have a clue how to properly investigate such things.

    Gillibrand should not have jumped out there and called for him to resign either. She comes off as a crusader of the religious type ready to convict with no proper investigation. Very superficial for many of
    in our congress. By holding to her early reaction on this she just looks stupid.

    1. I thought my first comments had either been lost or I forgot to submit they took so long to post?

    2. “Crusader of the religious type” yep, she is a member in good standing of The Great A-Wokening.

  7. It was a travesty that Franken was hounded out of office. Not just because he did not commit any offense worth his ouster, it also fed the very backlash that Katz warned about. I don’t follow current trends much (it’s a feeble attempt to stay sane) but I reckon that Metoo isn’t yet a discredited movement as a whole. IMO, the Franken injustice most definitely hurt its reputation.

  8. The fact that Franken is no longer in the Senate and Trump is our President sickens me.

    “She contends, “The allegations levelled against Senator Franken did not warrant his forced expulsion from the Senate, particularly given the context in which most of the behavior occurred, which was in his capacity as a comedian.” She adds, “All offensive behavior should be addressed, but not all offensive behavior warrants the most severe sanction.” ”

    And yet Trump is STILL President. This is what happens when the pursuit of justice turns into a race to collect scalps. Have we really made progress because Franken is out?

  9. I wouldn’t put a comeback past him. He’s got time, he’s healthy, and in this case I don’t think his past would hurt him terribly. Probably the biggest barrier to his reentry to the Senate would be the fact that Minnesota currently has two good female senators (Klobuchar and Smith) – so why mess with success? An argument can be made that it would just play into the hands of the Republicans to try and primary one of them, for little to no actual benefit for progressives.

    Second thought; I didn’t see Gillibrand as a top choice (or even top 5 choice) to begin with. There are many as well or better qualified candidates in the field right now. However, before you say “not viable”, consider where your vote should go if it comes down to Trump vs. Gillibrand…

    1. Trump vs Gillibrand: I’d hold my nose, but there’s no doubt about the need to end DT’s career before he puts and end to life as we know it.

  10. I never thought for one minute that Franken was a predator, and I blame the opportunist Gillibrand for this fiasco, along with the other Democrats who jumped on her bandwagon. I wish Franken had not resigned. That was his biggest mistake.

  11. Let me finish this for you

    “…if it comes down to Trump vs. Gillibrand…”

    …it will be time to throw in the towel. Death or exile are then the only options.

    1. Much as Trump believes it, The President is not The State. Trump has gotten away with far more of his own personal agenda than I think any President in modern history because of a fanatical base that many Republican Senators and House members fear; but Gillibrand wouldn’t have that. I’d expect that all her proposed bills would have her spin on it, but that 90% of the bills that made the rounds and came back to her desk for signing would be somewhat standard democratic stuff.

  12. What bugged me was all the claims that he was “grabbing women’s breasts” when the only evidence was a single photo in which he’s not even touching anyone. He’s just making claw hands in the air and obviously as some kind of joke. Call it tasteless, but it’s not evidence that he actually has a habit of grabbing anyone’s breasts.

    1. Leann Tweeden in the photo is wearing a flak jacket. Franken was just “cutting up”, very tasteless, but like all the comics did and were expected to do during a tour. There is a video of Leanne dancing and ad-libbing by rubbing her bottom against a band member during one show. Anything for a laugh.

  13. For those saying it’s Al’s fault for resigning, he was told to resign by 5PM that day or face immediate censure and be stripped of his committee assignments. He would have had to go to war against his own party to remain where he was. And perhaps you think he should have done so, but I’m not going to blame him for not being willing to go through with that.

    Even worse is those on the left who say that because he resigned “voluntarily,” that’s an admission of guilt and the matter is settled. I guess they also think people pressured into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit are also guilty, and damn the evidence that is now exonerating some of those people.

    Gillibrand is just opportunistic trash.

  14. “’The conceit of Franken’s skit is that a nerdy male officer has written a part for a beautiful younger woman, and she has to audition for it. As she reads aloud from the script, she grows suspicious but keeps going, eventually reaching the line “Now kiss me!” To her disgust, the officer lustily does so. The stage directions in the 2006 version of the script say “Al grabs Leeann and plants a kiss on her. Leeann fights him off.” She then reproaches him, saying, “You just wrote this so that you could kiss me!”

    “Yeah,” Franken’s character admits. (In videos of the skit, the audience bursts out laughing.)

    The young woman protests, “If I were going to kiss anybody here, it would be one of these brave men—or women.” Pointing to the audience, she calls a random soldier onstage, who begins reading from the script. When the soldier says, “Now kiss me!,” the stage directions call for “a long deep kiss” from Tweeden. In video footage, she seems to be gamely playing the part, setting off hoots and hollers from the crowd.’”

    “’The U.S.O. skit didn’t end with the kissing scene. In a coda, Franken appears as a doctor who has just had “a cancellation” in his appointment schedule. Tweeden’s character is informed that “a woman your age should have a complete breast examination every year”; Franken then approaches her with his arms outstretched and his hands aimed at her chest. The script calls for Tweeden’s character to protest, “Al! At ease!” Franken, with a dirty-old-man nod to the audience, replies, “I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”

    The joke was not memorable, yet when Shajn Cabrera saw the 2006 photograph of Franken on the plane, approaching Tweeden’s chest with his arms outstretched, he immediately recalled the “Dr. Franken” skit.’”

    There were two people on the 2006 tour and two previous NPR episodes that confirm that these scripts were not written for her at all.

    Tweeden was also working at a “pro-Trump” radio station that broke the story without fact checking first?

    This whole article was extremely enlightening.

    1. Yes, it was. I too hope that from this article, there might be momentum and a chance for political resurrection on the part of Franken. At the very least I hope it brings him as much solace as possible that these details are going into circulation.

  15. Another sad example of high-level government officials not having the interest and gumption to gather and evaluate FACTS before pontificating and acting. Adding insult to the injury, the guilty officials caved to pressure and let political considerations govern their behavior .

  16. This episode is a weird collaboration of left and right political hackery. Franken was set up by right wing political activists and “executed” by a left wing social justice mob that ignored due process.

    Right wing politicos can be incredibly cynical. My side, the left wing side, is amazingly naive and behaved shamefully here. What an f-ing fiasco.

  17. In hindsight, the Franken saga should’ve probably been permitted to play out with a full-fledged senate ethics investigation. But, even had Franken survived such an investigation, any presidential aspirations he may have harbored would’ve been sunk by that infernal photograph — a photo clearly intended as a joke, but a jerk’s joke, and one that patinated creepiness when conjoined with Leeann Tweeden’s forced-kissing allegation and the mounting complaints that he was a notorious ass-grabber.

    Plus, had he weathered a senate ethics investigation, Franken would still have been hung as an albatross around the Democrats’ neck every time there were allegations of sexual impropriety leveled against any Republican, be it Roy Moore or Brett Kavanaugh or the next one down the pike.

    On the other hand, I’ve never cared much for Kirsten Gilibrand; she strikes me as an opportunist and bandwagoner. It would be a condign conclusion to her own presidential aspirations were Al Franken to play Banquo’s ghost blocking her Macbeth from taking a choice seat at the banquet table of the 2020 Democratic nomination contest.

    1. And the personal toll those investigations exact. I think I’d just tell everyone good-bye you don’t deserve me if I had been Franken too.

    2. I don’t doubt that you are correct about the Republican’s using Franken as you say, but I think there comes a point when what the Republicans propaganda response might be just isn’t a valid reason to not do the right thing.

  18. The whole things was rotten from the get-go. Al Franken = sexual predator will never compute for me, and I knew exactly what was happening the moment I heard the allegations. To me it was like the slow motion moments of a car crash.

    The tendency on the Left to eat their own in demonstration of their purity and devotion is its most revulsive aspect. Even the Rights tendency to circle the wagons in defense of wrongdoing is more palatable than that.

  19. TO what I would like is … … a serious answer:

    .WHY. is it so, so difficult to .first. ask someone,
    out loud, IF … … you may touch them ?

    … … .before. you touch them ? … … in any way ?

    Blue

    1. Agreed, but there have been exceptions, such as elderly aunts and so.

      But I don’t like being touched, including hugs, let alone kissed without permission.

      But it seems most of Franken’s situations were in the context of some kind of permission.
      The ones that weren’t don’t seem to have bad internet and may just warrant a warning of some type.

      Nothing he did warranted the dishonest overexaggerated claims and accusations against him.

      But, yeah, essentially, don’t touch without permission should be norm.

    2. I doubt many people would disagree with you. The problem here is that pictures – and human memory – doesn’t always preserve context accurately.

    3. … … to the .why. of my query:

      People who touch without asking ?
      Which is MOST people.

      Do they not have ANY idea of how horridly /
      of how ruthlessly wickedly, over ALL
      of the Time of the World, girls and women
      within their personal and professional and
      school days’ times, have been touched ? !
      Do they truly .not. KNOW this ?

      I believe that they DO know this.
      I believe that these people cannot stand
      their perception … … of rejection.
      They perceive being told no — .not. to touch
      another as … … personal rejection.

      My view ? .That. thinking is stupid.

      Blue

      1. Agreed again.
        Perhaps some see it as personal rejection but that is weak thinking.
        I think others may USE a pretend personal slight so they can touch.
        I don’t know how many are of really bad intent, but enough.

        It is more personal insult being touched when one does not want to be touched than merely rejecting a touch.

        Default should be, no touch.

  20. In hindsight, the Franken saga should’ve probably been permitted to play out with a full-fledged senate ethics investigation. But, even had Franken survived such an investigation, any presidential aspirations he may have harbored would’ve been sunk by that infernal photograph — a photo clearly intended as a joke, but a jerk’s joke, and one that patinated creepiness when conjoined with Leeann Tweeden’s forced-kissing allegation and the mounting complaints that he was a notorious ass-grabber.

    Plus, had he weathered a senate ethics investigation, Franken would still have been hung as an albatross around the Democrats’ neck every time there were allegations of sexual impropriety leveled against any Republican, be it Roy Moore or Brett Kavanaugh or the next one down the pike.

    On the other hand, I’ve never cared much for Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand; she strikes me as an opportunist and bandwagoner. It would be a condign conclusion to her own faltering presidential aspirations were Al Franken to play Banquo’s ghost blocking her Macbeth from taking a choice seat at the banquet table of the 2020 Democratic nomination contest.

    1. Sorry for the double post, but the first one appeared, then disappeared, before I posted it again.

      Thought maybe WordPress took it down because it somehow offended Pakistani sensibilities.

  21. Gillibrand may have thought that her hounding of Franken would not affect her presidential bid since she won reelection to the Senate from New York State with 67% of the vote in 2018. It’s hard to say what the affect is, if anything, but since she is polling less than 1% in most surveys, we can expect her to drop out before too long. Her hubris is backfiring. The fact that she is polling so badly may be an indication that the influence of the #metoo crowd in the Democratic Party may be less than some on the right are trying to portray. Gillibrand’s campaign strategy to portray herself as the feminist candidate has been a big flop. However, if by some miracle she were able to win the Democratic nomination, of course, I would vote for her without reservation. Defeating Trump is more important than anything.

    1. Also, tomorrow is the Mueller day. Better late than never? I think it is probably too little too late but will see. If the democrats just let him tell the story it will help. Question is, what are the morons, I mean the republicans in the room going to do. If the democrats would go directly to impeachment hearings after this, it could be a good start but I no longer believe they have the guts. So far they have been rolled by the number one bull shit artist in the land. Pelosi has been all politician and no principle. Her plan has been, let’s see if he will kill himself with no help from us.

      1. I have lost all patience and then some with a certain segment of the left who are furious at Mueller despite all he’s done in laying the groundwork for impeachment. To hear them tell it, he ought to single-handedly take down Trump or else he’s just as bad, if not actively complicit. They will trumpet from the heavens his constitutional DUTY to do something.

        Meanwhile, Pelosi has no such duty apparently. It’s not the right time. She’s just ever so smart and playing Nth dimensional chess. And impeachment doesn’t poll well and it’s a bit risky. Better give her every excuse in the universe for having done nothing and planning to do more nothing. It’s absurd and revolting to hear people say this crap.

        1. Yes, I’m sure that we have many arm chair lawyers who want to lay blame on Mueller or others but it is best to ignore them. They also are just pissed that we, the public, have been snookered by Trump and his private law firm called the DOJ. It is simply crime upon crime that never stops. This law firm of Trumps even sent a letter to Mueller telling him what he can and can’t say tomorrow but that just shows how worried and scared shitless they really are. I am disappointed in the democrats in congress and hope they perform better tomorrow. Their mission should be to get this show on the road and moving toward impeachment hearings. That is their duty if they only do it. He may not be impeached with the spineless republican senate but that is no excuse for not trying.

          1. I agree. Do the investigation, and then lower the boom. This guy will go down in history with some of the most notorious thugs. It’s just a matter of timing, it seems to me. I want to see him in an orange jump suit so that the future recognizes that our generation, as a matter of principle, rejected the corruption for their sake.

      2. I doubt Robert Mueller will go a jot or tittle beyond what is in the Special Counsel’s Report tomorrow. But what’s in the Special Counsel’s Report is plenty damning enough to Donald Trump.

        The problem we’ve had so far is that average Americans are as likely to have read a densely worded, single-spaced 448-page legal document as they are to have read all seven volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. And many who haven’t read it have been given a distorted view of what’s in it by the machinations of Attorney General Robert Barr and the Trump-propaganda media bubble.

        One interesting (and potentially entertaining) matter to play out tomorrow is how far the hard-right, Trump-cultists among the Republican members of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — congressmen like Jim Jordan and Louie Gohmert, like Matt Gaetz and Devin Nunes — are willing to go to embarrass themselves by running with their lunatic “Deep State” theories, and to debase themselves by attacking the credibility of a life-long registered Republican, former combat Marine, and man whose every fiber bespeaks personal rectitude like Robert Mueller.

        1. The hope is that a significant segment of the population, not having read the report, will, instead, be curious about live testimony. Remember the popularity of reality TV of which Trump, ironically, was an obnoxious part.

        2. “I doubt Robert Mueller will go a jot or tittle beyond what is in the Special Counsel’s Report tomorrow.”

          Unfortunately, I must agree with your surmise. This afternoon on a local radio station, I heard an interview with Jed Shugerman, a professor of law at Fordham re Muller’s appearance. He made some very interesting points that it seems only lawyers well-versed in such things would be able to tease out of Muller’s investigation and the report. Too complicated for me to go into but it convinced me to give up hope that Muller will come through as hoped, but to hope like heck that the Democrats don’t sabotage themselves expecting him to deliver the goods.

          For those interested in his argument, here’s a link to the interview http://www.kgoradio.com/2019/07/23/the-pat-thurston-show-july-23-2019/, That segment is titled “What Should Congress Ask Robert Mueller?” The interview takes up the first part of that hour. He also doesn’t think that the Republicans will grandstand this time; if his hypothesis is correct, he thinks they’ll have been advised to zip it to keep their advantage.

  22. I thought Franken was one of the best things that ever happened to the Senate, and the nation. I was deeply disturbed by the allegations and always held out hope he’d recover from the flap. Looks like not (at least not yet). I feel Gillibrand is a symptom of a warped interval of overreaction to sex abuse. I thought her role in this was abysmal and purely self serving. She wanted a cause to ride to the presidency. I would vote for her against Trump, but only because…well, you know.

  23. I’ll start by saying I don’t think Franken is a sexual predator. Full stop.
    I’ll continue by pondering how someone as smart as him, as successful as him, could be the kind of person who thinks mouth-kissing women he is not in an intimate relationship is a good idea.

    Franken was, however, “physically obtuse” and “clumsy”, and someone who kissed female acquaintances on the mouth as either a geeky or showbiz thing. He was appalled to find that that could be misinterpreted.

    This sort of thing makes me question him more than anything else. He was appalled it ‘could be misinterpreted’? He should have seen that it could be misinterpreted from miles away! Everything we do as public people is scrutinized. Our actions at work should be held to professional standards. Hell, I’ve had huggy clients (women and men) and I find it very uncomfortable – and they aren’t being hailed as would-be presidents. I think Franken made some poor choices at a time when they made a bigger splash than anyone would like. All in all, I can’t help but think he ought to have known better. A firm handshake and direct eye-contact is about as close as I’ll get to someone I don’t know well.

    1. “Our actions at work”, that seems to forget that he was a comedian doing entertainment for a career. If his behavior was less than exemplary it should be seen in context. He was not an office worker making inappropriate advances at the water cooler. He was a gifted comedian who’s ability to separate family values from trenchant, and incisive malarkey may have wandered from time to time. Think of the straitjacket so many politicians are encumbered with and think of how cowardly and conventional their opinions are. What a breath of fresh air he was. Do we need a congress completely filled with ambitious hardware store owners and salesmen? Let a hundred flowers blossom.

    2. “Our actions at work should be held to professional standards.”

      Do you have any idea what theater/drama/comedy is all about?

  24. “There’s a difference between molesting someone and being friendly. But there may not be a difference between feeling molested and feeling that someone’s being friendly.”

    That. Mayer makes a strong case that Franken was unjustly condemned (and, thank you, PCCE, for demanding that we read it), but if you go around assuming that uninvited physical contact is really of no consequence, then maybe shit’s gonna happen.

  25. Al Franken came over as intelligent, so it is hard to understand why he acted so demeaning (USO skit photo) and disrespectful (forced kissing) – my respect for the man is gone.

    The above problematic behavior he seems guilty of, whether or not I feel pity.

    1. Generally speaking a professional comedian on tour with a troop of entertainers is likely to behave with a certain amount of incaution because of the creative nature of comedy and to atmosphere of the tour environment. Comedians often try to run along the edges of what is generally considered appropriate. Franken’s decision to become a politician entailed the risk that his long history as a comedian might, at some point, come back to bite him.

  26. The degree to which casual physical contact is accepted is very culturally relative. Perhaps we will enter an era where physical contact is highly regulated and policed. I don’t know. In the article the opinion is made that for things to change, eggs must be broken. It’s never discussed whether this is actually a good thing.

    I live in the state of Hawaii (one of PCC’s favorites!) Here you become used to people hugging and kissing, mostly cheek kissing, even by strangers. The alternative is cultural isolation. Now, you can choose to cling to a comfort zone. That is your right. It really boils down to a collective decision that individuals and communities make.

    I can tell you that a certain level of casual intimacy becomes more “normalized” the more you’re immersed in it. But my sense is that American is going to head in the opposite direction.

    Shifting direction: Ultimately I think this was a hit on Franken. He had made plenty of political enemies and enemies in the media. Hannity and O’Reilly hated him with a passion. (Watch some of the youtubes of Franken and O’Reilly on book tours.) Trump detested him, and they all saw him as someone gutsy enough to challenge them on the senate floor. Politics is a dirty, rotten, backstabbing game. On his side, Franken had senators too gutless to defend him, even while knowing it must have been a setup, and too afraid of the specter of appearance over the facts of reality.

    Scared money don’t make money, and scared politicians don’t get elected.

    Perhaps Franken’s only “guilt” was not knowing how much of a threat he had become.

      1. Snopes says no. She properly supports vaccine use. She complains, however, about “big medicine”.

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