Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Al Franken

The comment thread on my "ethnicity" post digressed to Al Franken. I want to direct your attention to a lengthy discussion of the Franken matter by Laura McGann. She understands why people are so pained by his resignation and many still question it. She covers various points of view and all the arguments, but it ends up being very clear that he habitually engaged in behavior that required him to resign. The alternative would have been great damage to the Democratic party, and to women. I urge you to take the time to read the whole thing but I will give an excerpt that, I hope, makes the point.

Journalists also picked up the description, including Sacramento Bee editorial writer Ginger Rutland, who wrote:
At most Franken, who announced Thursday he is resigning, is guilty of boorish behavior — not assault, not pedophilia, not even sexual harassment. But with today’s fast-changing, contradictory and confusing reversal of sexual norms, he’s being burned at the stake, walked down the plank, buried alive. It’s unfair.
This isn’t behavior we should accept. For example, a former Democratic aide told Politico a story (that she had told others over the years): She met Franken in 2006 when her boss appeared on his Air America radio show. Afterward, he attempted to kiss her. When she rebuffed his advance, she says, he claimed “it’s my right as an entertainer.” She got the message: He was important. She was not.
“He was between me and the door, and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick, and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right, and I ducked,” the former aide said in an interview. “I was really startled by it, and I just sort of booked it towards the door, and he said, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer.’”
An Army veteran serving in the Middle East during the Iraq War recounted her experience to CNN. When she was a 27-year-old military police officer and Franken was on a USO tour, she says that Franken put his arm around her for a photo and then cupped her breast in his hand. She was stunned. He was there to lift her spirits; instead, she describes being pushed down, made to feel helpless.
“I was in a war zone. ... You were on a USO tour — are you trying to boost the morale of the troops or are you trying to boost your own?” she said. “I just feel so sorry for that young girl in that picture.”
[Stephanie] Kemplin said she did not say anything to Franken at the time.
”You’re immediately put on the spot. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Your mind goes a mile a minute,” she said. “Who was I going to tell?”
Many women have experienced this kind of behavior again and again — the small caresses on the arm or shoulder, a hand that slides a little too low followed by a startling squeeze, the hand in the wrong place during a photo, a lunge for an unwanted kiss. Women pay a tax for participating in public life. Maybe the tax isn’t always crippling, but it is also extreme to say it is meaningless. As one of Franken’s supporters put it after she says he tried to kiss her on a campaign stage, “I was stunned and incredulous. I felt demeaned. I felt put in my place.”
There is a difference between the actions of Harvey Weinstein (accused of rape) and Franken (accused of forced kissing and groping women). But that doesn’t mean women should have to choose between the two. The ideal is none of the above.


Don Quixote said...

I agree. And therefore the current resident of the White House has no business (let alone the fact that he is a malignant traitor) being in office.

Lock him up! And throw away the key.

John Bachtell said...

No evidence, no witnesses, no due process. Only accusations and finger-pointing. That seems to be the new standard for determining guilt.

Franken got hosed. And he got hosed by the Democratic party who saw him as a liability.

Laura Gann is a weapon. Just ask Glenn Thrush

Cervantes said...

I'm afraid I can't agree with that. There are multiple credible stories, all quite similar, from women who have no reason to falsely accuse him. And he does not really deny anything, he just says he doesn't remember it the same way. I think he didn't appreciate that his behavior was offensive, he thought he was being playful or flirtatious. Again, it's certainly not as bad as Harvey Weinstein, it isn't criminal and nobody wants to sue him, but in the moment it was necessary for him to resign. I feel bad about it too. He wasn't forced to resign, by the way, he made the choice.

Anonymous said...

It takes courage to stand up for our shared American principles and that includes the presumption of innocence in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Be more courageous

mojrim said...

I see where you're going with this, but the linked editorial doesn't really help or explain much of anything. Sure, we all know it was politically expedient (though it had zero effect on Moore vs Jones*) but from a factual standpoint we still have nothing.

1. The GOP has a clear record of ratfuckery, starting with Gary Hart in 1988, which should make anyone cautious when dealing with accusations from republican voters. It distresses me to say this vis sexual misconduct allegations, but no other conclusion is possible. They have weaponized our morality and turned it against us.

2. Tweeden's story doesn't withstand basic examination. The photo doesn't involve touching (shadows) and the bit about forcing a kiss on her is both unsubstantiated and hard to envision. To wit: VIPs in combat zones have 24/7 same-sex minders. Both would have to be derelict of duty to have permitted this. In fact, Franken's minder on that tour came forward to state that the incident never happened. Given Tweeden's long association with Stone, Hannity, et. al we must be suspicious.

3. The remaining accusers were either anonymous or self-identified republicans (the state fair women) severely limiting their credibility. McGann's editorial utterly fails to address any of these inconsistencies, or even acknowledge the other accusers. Rather, she focuses of the moral implications of sexual allegations against powerful men and goes from there to concern troll liberal psyches.

4. What I read in his "I don't remember that" was trying to split the difference. Outright denial sounds harsh and crude to liberal ears. They expect conciliatory "mutual fault/let's talk this over" noises, and Franken was trained in this school. Mutasifane, that doesn't actually work in the human brain when assessing guilt or innocence.

*The Alabama senate special election was won entirely on ground game by black church ladies and the NAACP. White women voted for Moore in their usual "republicans at any cost" numbers. Because white people always be whitening.

Cervantes said...

This isn't a criminal case. And it's not just about Moore/Jones. Franken had the option of staying in office and going through an ethics committee investigation, he chose not to take it. I think that was wise.

Don Quixote said...

I can see both sides ... Democrats are in an untenable position. They're expected to "do the right thing" while Republicans engage in the worst possible forms of hypocrisy and treachery. The system is broken because one party has lost its ethical and spiritual mooring. The Republican party as it is needs to be finished. They are now the party of incipient fascism. Normal mores of "presumed innocent until guilty" don't work when the rule of law is being vaporized. Hopefully, the Mueller report will be disseminated in its entirety and our would-be dictator, who is nothing but a criminal, mentally ill con man, will spend the rest of his highly unnatural life in prison.

mojrim said...

@Cervantes The problem with that "he could have stayed and fought" narrative is exactly as I laid out: political expediency. Besides which, the party had already turned against him. Regardless of any investigative outcome he was dead in the water, politically. While this is not a criminal trial the analogy holds in that thousands of innocent people plead guilty every day because the cost of fighting is just too high.

@Don Quixote That's really my point in the end. Regardless of Franken's actual culpability the Dems made a tactical decision to push him out. I'm not completely certain it was the right one, given how it will only embolden more ratfuckery going forward (e.g. Virginia) but that's what we have.

The problem with mainstream Dems is that they can't wrap their collective head around current reality and still think the GOP is a political party when it's become a mass movement for the benefit of billionaires. No examples of their bad faith (Shirley Sherrod, ACORN, Merrick Garland) seems to penetrate the weird, purple bipartisan haze they have been living in since the 90's.

mojrim said...

I need to add Ilhan Omar on this. Apologizing/pleading mea culpa under pressure is pretty much standard human behavior.

John Bachtell said...

All of this is a problem of the Democrats' own making.

Instead of arguing policy differences with their political adversaries, it's been more expedient to try to find something in their past that makes them appear to be a horrible human being, a policy of personal destruction. Now, they're also being held to this new standard of purity.

Republicans knew Trump was no choirboy. They voted for him based upon his policy proposals and not his past. That's why this hasn't worked on him.

Mark P said...

John Bechtell -- I'm not sure what you mean by "this problem." Do you mean the problem of holding people responsible for their behavior? The problem of how to deal with unsubstantiated accusations (of which there are certainly examples)? The problem that Democrats are holding themselves to a higher standard than do Republicans? The problem that Republicans are perfectly willing to ignore virtually any type of behavior, even the possibility that the current president has used Russian influence to win the presidency, and almost certainly has large unpaid debts to the Russians, in order to get court appointees who will advance their plutocratic and undemocratic agenda?

It is more than absurd to say that Democrats don't argue policy differences. If you truly believe that then you have not been paying much attention. Democrats don't need to try to find something in someone's past to make them appear as a horrible person, the horrible people in question do that quite well all by themselves. As to why Republican voters ignore personal behavior, I have no idea except that it is irrational. I have long said that especially in Alabama, if the Democrats nominated Jesus and the Republicans nominated the devil, Republicans (including all the good christians) would vote for the devil. The last senatorial election came close to proving that.

And, again, it is more than absurd to argue that Trump has true policy proposals. He has nothing that can quality as a policy proposal because he is too ignorant and stupid to understand policy.

Cervantes said...

While it is true that Orange Julius doesn't understand policy, I wouldn't say that he doesn't have any proposals. The travel ban and the wall are certainly proposals. He has also drastically reduced refugee resettlement, and taken measures to damage the ACA. And he went along with the Republican tax bill although I agree he didn't have any particular role in shaping it. Also he withdrew from the Iran nuclear treaty and the Paris climate accord. He's doing plenty of damage.

But on the point, it's true that Democrats hold themselves to higher standards of personal conduct and political honesty. That may often be a disadvantage in the short run, but I think we need to have higher aspirations and that in the end, selling out principles is going to do far more harm than good. And in fact, some people are sufficiently repelled by Trump's personal behavior and corruption that they are regretting their vote in 2016.

mojrim said...

Cervantes - I was with you until the last sentence. Some people regret it because of their 2019 tax return but that's it. Dollars to donuts they'll still vote for the orange shitgibbon in 2020 if he's not in prison. The republican party has ceased to be a political party capable of, or even interested in, governing. It is a mass movement with all that implies.

Mark P said...

It's true that Trump has done some things, but I'm not sure they quality as the result of a coherent policy, at least the way I would define a policy. I don't think he cares about immigration or abortion or any of the other conservative goals he seems to be pursuing. I think he does them because he knows that the people who like him like him because he does them. If you remember the interview before the election where he said that women who get abortions should be prosecuted. He said that, in my opinion, because he did't know that abortion opponents don't say that. Everything he does is pandering, not policy.

Don Quixote said...

I'm in the work world. The blue collar work world. I walk my dogs every day and I see the TV screens that have switched from Fox Propaganda Network to CSNBC. Even people who were raised as Republicans have bullshit detectors deep down somewhere.

There is a popular narrative that we don't have a real choice in presidential elections, and that we have to choose "the lesser of two evils." While many people can't see that Shitler is infinitely more evil than Clinton, all the Dems have to do is run someone of ideas and integrity, and Shitler will be voted out.

The only incentive for him to remain in office at this point, as he never wanted to be president in the first place, is that the president of the US is the least prosecutable person in the country. But after 2020 that will change because the Dems will control the Senate too. I wouldn't be surprised--and yes, I know how surreal this sounds--to see Shitler flee the US for Russia, where he can consort with Vlad and Edward Snowden (who may not want to have anything to do with Shitler). We are living in bizarre times.

mojrim said...

You're right on all points, Don Quixote, but not because people are switching votes. There are no more unaligned voters, I helped hunt them to extinction in the 90's. Modern US elections are won by turning out your base, not vapid centrist appeals. That, in turn, is driven by energy and ideas. You have to get people excited, give them something to fight for as well as against. The GOP figured this out in the 90's, the Dems still haven't.

Don Quixote said...

So true, mojrim. So true. The Dems have been spineless and part of the club. Time to bust a move.