If only Al Franken had left a woman to die in an air pocket in his submerged Oldsmobile instead of striking a grope-pose for laughs on a sleeping woman protected by a flak jacket, then his fellow Democrats might have called him “the lion of the Senate” instead of called on him to resign.
Speaking of those calls for Franken’s resignation, they sounded as real as Stuart Smalley’s faux-confident insistence that people liked him. His female colleagues demanded — demanded they did! — his resignation this week after staying silent on the matter for weeks. A dozen of them experienced the same epiphany at exactly the same time, strange behavior that itself sparks epiphanies.
Do you think maybe the decision to resign preceded the decision to call for his resignation?
In his 11-minute resignation speech, Minnesota’s junior senator called serving in the body “the honor of my life.” But Franken going from comedian to author to talk radio host to politician to the unemployment line represents a consistently downward career trajectory. Name the program sponsored by any of his Senate colleagues that brought the country more happiness than the program on which he starred sponsored by Schmitt’s Gay, Mom Jeans, Little Chocolate Donuts, and the Bass-O-Matic.
You take Theodore Bilbo. I prefer Garrett Morris.
“I am proud that during my time in the Senate,” Franken noted in his speech, “I’ve used my power to be a champion of women.” That sentiment might have saved his job in another era. Remember Nina Burleigh writing on Bill Clinton, “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal”?
But we live in an age of zero tolerance (and zero discernment) in which Al Franken is Charlie Rose is Kevin Spacey is Harvey Weinstein. Nuances, such as the difference between behaving like a jerk and raping a woman, get lost in a torch-and-pitchforks environment. So, Franken, who insists that some of the allegations levied against him — the ones, presumably, leaving no photographic evidence — hold no truth, announced his resignation.
And rather than tamp down the fires of hysteria, Franken’s dramatic announcement aims to stoke them. He notes “some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”
Like Franken, those men insist, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember quite differently.” In the case of the “man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault” — let’s join Franken in leaving this “man” anonymous — no woman came forward to charge that he did what he claimed a celebrity could do with impunity. The other unnamed guy — the one “who has repeatedly preyed on young girls” — gained this reputation roughly four decades after the disputed fact and nearly two decades after he became a well-known political figure.
If proof affirms his guilt, he should resign before he takes office. Certainly if accusations of happy hands and unwanted passes on women merit resigning, then proof of happy hands and unwanted passes on girls merits resignation. But accusations, particularly ones oddly coinciding with a heated political race, do not mean guilt (they do not mean innocence, either).
In the past, guilt did not mean guilt to many of the same Democrats joining the frenzy. Bill Clinton? Gerry Studds? [Insert any male name here] Kennedy? But as Time magazine informs, “the silence breakers” speak over all others this year.
And what matters this year matters to Democrats because of what happens next year. The party plans on running not against the Republicans on the ballot in 2018 but the “man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault” and the “man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls.” That strategy does not work with Franken in the Senate. So, Franken announced his intention to resign his seat so that Democrats could take other seats.
Rather than a Robespierre-at-the-guillotine moment, the resignation strikes Democrats as more like The Wicker Man’s virgin Sergeant Howie, sacrificed by the sex-obsessed in the inferno so that next year yields a bountiful crop. But with the “silence breakers” unlikely to press mute in the coming year, other Al Frankens may jeopardize that plan. And given that Matt Lauer followed Charlie Rose, who followed Glenn Thrush, who followed Mark Halperin, who followed Leon Wieseltier, only a big fat idiot or a lying liar maintains that this ends with Al Franken.
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