Many progressives want Al Franken to resign and one of the God-King’s DHS officials just did, while ever-defiant Roy Moore demands “moral value.” (More)
“That photo is what Mothers warn their Daughters about”
That’s how Minnesota DFL Feminist Caucus chair Megan Thomas described the photo of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) pretending to grope the breasts of Leeanne Tweeden when the two co-starred in a USO tour in 2006:
When the allegations emerged this morning accusing Senator Al Franken of sexual harassment my reaction leaned toward the “political”: is it true? Is this a setup? We should hear from the Senator. Let’s not rush to judgement. And so on.
But then that photo came up in my social media feed. That photo scares me, in a very visceral way. In a way shared by many women.
That photo is what Mothers warn their Daughters about.
Should Senator Franken resign? The “political” answer is to wait and not overreact. But I also know that the next time I see him in person I will, however fleeting or unneeded, be afraid because of what he is doing in that picture. No one should fear their elected representatives, so, sadly, for me, I think the Senator should resign.
Otto, a candidate for governor in Minnesota, said in a statement that “I believe it’s in the best interest of Minnesotans and of women everywhere for Senator Franken to resign, and to set an example to powerful men across America that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.”
But National Organization for Women President Toni Van Pelt disagreed:
Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, told the Washington Examiner she feels it’s useless to demand his resignation.
“We could ask all of the men in Congress to resign, is that what you’re asking me?” she said. “You know that mostly all men do this kind of thing to women.”
Van Pelt said it’s more important to work toward changing the nation’s culture rather than demand that one senator leave office, though she does describe [Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy] Moore as a different “degree” than Franken and an unacceptable potential senator.
More on Moore below.
“The odd couple showing the potential consequences of the ‘reckoning’ in politics”
Franken is almost certainly going down, and the only question is whether he can somehow tough it out until the end of his current term in 2020. The odds are very low that he can, particularly since his entire career in politics and comedy is now going to come under fresh scrutiny for misogyny and/or hypocrisy.
Under Minnesota law, if Franken resigns, Democratic governor Mark Dayton will fill the vacancy until the next general election (assuming the resignation occurs before then, the election could be in November 2018). Franken does not seem like someone who would defy public opinion and the advice of his political allies to force the issue, but if somehow he did, his expulsion would be on the table more immediately than Moore’s hypothetical post-election case.
Kilgore argues that Franken’s resignation would put more pressure on Moore to withdraw from the Alabama senate race. Frankly, I don’t think it would matter. Kilgore concludes:
But no matter what happens in Alabama, the Franken revelations shows once again that while conservative Republican men may be more prone to justifying piggish and predatory behavior toward women, just as they have a cavalier if not hostile attitude toward women’s rights, sexual harassment and assault occur all over the partisan and ideological spectrum. As New York’s Rebecca Traister puts it, there’s a national “reckoning” under way that will head in unpredictable directions for many individuals and institutions alike. Democrats were already being drawn into a painful reassessment of Bill Clinton’s alleged crimes and admitted misconduct. But Al Franken and Roy Moore are presently the odd couple showing the potential consequences of the “reckoning” in politics.
And he’s right that Democrats also have a sexual harassment problem.
“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office”
Six former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants say that current party Chairman Stephen Bittel has created an unprofessional workplace environment for women that includes persistent inappropriate comments, leering at young women and even inviting them on his private jet.
The women, who were reached independently by Politico and insisted on anonymity out of fear for their jobs, said Bittel never inappropriately touched or threatened them. But he made them feel so uneasy that they didn’t want to be alone with him due to his body language, suggestive remarks and even the breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball he has been known to keep on his desk.
Depending on the circumstance and the person discussing Bittel, they said he would make references about women cooking dinner, showing their breasts, their age, whether they wanted to ride on his plane, come to his hotel room or if they thought he was attractive.
“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” said a woman who was a fundraiser years ago and had to interact with him. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”
It’s been a problem in the FDP for a while. As a county Democratic Party vice chair, I had to counsel several members after they made inappropriate sexual remarks in meetings. I was also warned about a state party leader – not Bittel – who couldn’t seem to figure out that women’s faces are not in our cleavage. And yes, guys, that’s offensive.
“Not all offenses are the same”
There are two problems here. The first is that too many liberals feel that they have to respond in a maximal way to every possible incident of sexual harassment, partly to maintain their own woke credibility and partly because they want to make sure conservatives can’t accuse them of hypocrisy. The second problem is that we don’t seem to have any good way of talking proportionately about this stuff.
All I mean is this: Not all offenses are the same. Shoplifting is not as bad as grand theft. Assault is not as bad as murder. Saying this doesn’t imply approval of either shoplifting or assault; it’s merely a statement of uncontroversial fact. Likewise, not all sexual abuse is equal. Harvey Weinstein’s rap sheet includes dozens of accusations of groping, forced massages, and possibly rape. Louis C.K. masturbated in front of actresses multiple times. Roy Moore routinely chased after high school girls when he was in his 30s and appears to have aggressively assaulted at least two of them.
By contrast, Franken thought he was joking around but went farther than he should have. Once.¹ It’s no whitewash to say that this is a considerably lesser offense. But if the only response we have to any kind of sexual abuse is to insist on resignation from office and expulsion from public life – mostly to protect our own reputations – we are not acting with any sense of proportionality. We need to start. Listen to Leeann Tweeden, folks.
Do you think Al Franken should step down or be expelled from the Senate?
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) November 16, 2017
In that footnote, Drum adds:
There’s allegedly a second accusation coming out later today, something that Roger Stone tweeted about last night. It is, for now, suspicious in the extreme and appears likely to be a conservative ratfuck. We’ll see.
I agree with Drum’s analysis of the second accusation, made by a conservative talk show host who said Franken “obsessively” argued with her about a federal budget analysis after their 2000 appearance on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, including calling her at home to continue the dispute. And the conservative pile-on is more about Franken’s political views than allegations of misconduct.
“A stance of zero tolerance”
To their credit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a full inquiry. And perhaps to contrast themselves with Republicans who took days to condemn Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, a flock of Democratic senators came forward to condemn Franken’s behavior. Whether his conduct will require expulsion from the Senate however remains an open matter. Surely if there are other complainants, Franken will be under heavy pressure to withdraw.
Democrats would be wise to take a stance of zero tolerance toward current members and refuse to support candidates who have engaged in any form of sexual abuse or assault. Trying to differentiate between one abuser and another on the basis of the number of women involved, the time passed and other factors will lead them to ridicule and “whataboutism” complaints. They can seize the high-ground and put pressure on the GOP by being as harsh with their own members as they are with Republicans.
But Rubin has a bigger target in mind:
However, Moore is far from the Republicans’ biggest worry. The elephant in the room (excuse the pun) is the president, whose alleged actions were more numerous than Moore’s and far beyond what Franken is accused of doing.[…]
The long list of Donald Trump accusers detailed accounts of groping and unconsented kissing. Trump flatly denied all allegations. And yet Republicans backed him in 2016 and stand by him to this day.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Franken and Moore aren’t fit for the Senate what is Trump doing in the Oval Office? Well, you say, voters knew of the allegations when they picked him. There are several problems with that.
First, just as with Moore, elected public servants have the obligation to set standards and to refuse support to bad actors. Aside from a brief flurry of upset after the Access Hollywood tape, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress saw no reason to oppose Trump’s nomination or election. Second, Republicans did not demand, as is the case with Franken, that there be any independent finder of fact. Just as with Moore, on one side was a slew of accusers providing vivid detail (several describe similar conduct – reaching up the woman’s skirt, surprising a woman by forcibly kissing her, etc.) and on the other Trump’s blanket denial. They’ve never seen fit to ask hard questions, do serious fact-finding or take the women accusers seriously. Third, knowing what they do now why would any support him for reelection? Apart from his abject unfitness, his abuse of power and his financial conflicts and self-dealing it would seem his alleged sexual predation should prompt any decent public official at the very least should object to his serving beyond the current term.
The good news is before 2020 there is the 2018 midterm. If voters want to register their disgust with a party’s acceptance of alleged sexual predation, its unwillingness to investigate financial impropriety and failure to recognize attacks on the rule of law, they will have their chance. So long as Trump is there, Republicans up and down the ballot should be held to account for their support for him.
Yes, they should.
“I now see things much differently”
This isn’t only about sexual harassment and misconduct. Yesterday also saw the beginnings of a reckoning about the GOP’s racism and bigotry:
Rev. Jamie Johnson, who was appointed the head of the DHS’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships in April, appeared on the program in 2008. The comments resurfaced Thursday after CNN published a report about them with audio snippets.
Johnson’s incendiary comments about black people came on the show The Right Balance, on Accent Radio Network, CNN reported. An unidentified speaker on the show said “a lot of blacks are anti-Semitic” and asked Johnson why.
Johnson extolled the economic successes of American Jews and said “it’s an indictment of America’s black community that has turned America’s major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity,” according to a recording posted by CNN.
Johnson was active in Republican politics in Iowa for years, working for presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Donald Trump in the state, CNN said. He was a regular guest on conservative talk radio shows.
As a guest host on the AM radio program Mickelson in the Morning, in Iowa, Johnson spoke harshly of Muslims, saying radical Islam was “faithful Islam.”
“I never call it radical Islam, if anything, it is obedient Islam. It is faithful Islam.” Johnson said, according to audio posted by CNN.
He later said he agreed with the conservative author Dinesh D’Souza that “all that Islam has ever given us is oil and dead bodies over the last millennia and a half.”
Johnson now claims he’s learned more since he made those comments:
“I have and will continue to work with leaders and members of all faiths as we jointly look to strengthen our safety and security as an interfaith community,” Johnson said. “Having witnessed leaders from the entire faith spectrum work to empower their communities I now see things much differently.”
He’s either a fast learner … or a very slow one:
Rev. Jamie Johnson was appointed in April by then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to lead the Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships at the department.
In radio appearances from 2008 to as recently as 2016, Johnson was critical of the black community and painted Islam as a violent, illegitimate religion.
Yes, we’re supposed to believe that Johnson’s eyes were opened in April when he came to DHS and began working with a more diverse group of religious leaders. Uh huh.
“We need moral value back in our country”
Moore didn’t rebut any of the allegations against him. Instead, he brushed them off as “untrue” and positioned himself as a victim fighting against persecution.
“There’s been comments about me taking a stand,” Moore, said. “I’ll quit standing when they lay me on that box and put me in the ground.”
In the most jaw-dropping moment of the press conference, Moore signaled that he would stay in the race because someone needs to bring the truth to Washington, DC and restore our nation’s moral compass.
“We need moral value back in our country,” Moore said.
Moore claimed “the Washington Post is not evidence,” but y’know what is? Court records:
A careful review of court records and an interview with an attorney who was present suggests the lawyer who attacked pieces of Roy Moore’s accuser’s story on the Moore campaign’s behalf may have misrepresented one of his contentions.
An attorney associated with Roy Moore, Phillip Jauregui, spoke at a Wednesday news conference and called into question details surrounding the account of a woman who says Roy Moore violently sexually assaulted her in 1977 when she was 16. Jauregui says the accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, had contact with Roy Moore after the alleged incident through a divorce case, despite her account being that there was no further contact.
However, court records and an interview with the attorney who represented Nelson during the court proceedings in question suggest that’s not true.
Nelson filed for divorce in 1999, and Moore was assigned as the judge in her case. But Nelson and her husband moved for a continuance while they underwent counseling. That motion was granted by another judge and, after the couple reconciled, the divorce case was dismissed without a hearing. So they never appeared in Moore’s court.
Meanwhile, a Fox News poll shows Democrat Doug Jones leading Moore by 8%. Oh, and that same poll found likely voters in Alabama have a more favorable opinion of Barack Obama (52%) than of the God-King (49%). Numbers like that, along with generic ballot polling, are why the Cook Political Report‘s Amy Walter says a Blue Wave is coming in 2018.
That’s what I call “moral value.”
Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)