There are times in which The New Yorker seems like a caricature of life. In an article dated seven days from now — I must have the mostest awesomest computer to get information from the future; I just wish it worked for sticks and horse racing! — Jane Mayer investigates the forced resignation of Senator Al Franken (D-MN) in a rush to judgement pushed by his fellow Democrats.
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.” Tammy Duckworth, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, told me that the Senate Ethics Committee “should have been allowed to move forward.” She said it was important to acknowledge the trauma that Franken’s accusers had gone through, but added, “We needed more facts. That due process didn’t happen is not good for our democracy.” Angus King, the Independent senator from Maine, said that he’d “regretted it ever since” he joined the call for Franken’s resignation. “There’s no excuse for sexual assault,” he said. “But Al deserved more of a process. I don’t denigrate the allegations, but this was the political equivalent of capital punishment.” Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, told me, “This was a rush to judgment that didn’t allow any of us to fully explore what this was about. I took the judgment of my peers rather than independently examining the circumstances. In my heart, I’ve not felt right about it.” Bill Nelson, the former Florida senator, said, “I realized almost right away I’d made a mistake. I felt terrible. I should have stood up for due process to render what it’s supposed to—the truth.” Tom Udall, the senior Democratic senator from New Mexico, said, “I made a mistake. I started having second thoughts shortly after he stepped down. He had the right to be heard by an independent investigative body. I’ve heard from people around my state, and around the country, saying that they think he got railroaded. It doesn’t seem fair. I’m a lawyer. I really believe in due process.”
Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who watched the drama unfold from retirement, told me, “It’s terrible what happened to him. It was unfair. It took the legs out from under him. He was a very fine senator.” Many voters have also protested Franken’s decision. A Change.org petition urging Franken to retract his resignation received more than seventy-five thousand signatures. It declared, “There’s a difference between abuse and a mistake.”
I’m not one to laugh out loud, especially when there’s no one to hear it, but I’ll admit to a smile. On Octobet 6, 2018, the Senate conducted a roll call vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Of the Democratic Senators noted in the article above, Senators Duckworth, Heitkamp, King, Leahy, Merkley, Nelson and Udall, all voted against Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Among the Democrats, only Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted for Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and only one Republican, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, was going to vote in opposition.¹
Mr Kavanaugh was cruising toward an easy confirmation when a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Christine Blasey Ford, levied unprovable charges of sexual assault, charging that Mr Kavanaugh had attacked her at a high school party in 1982, when he was 17 and she 15. Dr Ford was unable to provide any evidence to support her allegations, while Mr Kavanaugh — who is apparently really anal about saving things² — produced a 1982 calendar which has references to the people Dr Ford said were witnesses to the assault, all of whom have denied witnessing any such thing.
There was no due process for Mr Kavanaugh, simply a kangaroo court hearing in which the Democrats cried rapist! and the Republicans defended him.
Senator Franken? He was out of the Senate by then, but was, of course, replaced by another Democrat who voted against Mr Kavanaugh. Amusingly enough, Mr Franken had written a book, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The book is available on my Kindle for $12.99, which is $27.99 more than I’d be willing to pay for it. It’s schadenfreudelicious karma that the man who accused so many other people of lying lost his job due to a photograph of him reaching to fondle a sleeping woman’s breasts.
On December 1, 2017, seven female Democratic senators—Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Claire McCaskill, Mazie Hirono, Patty Murray, Maggie Hassan, and Catherine Cortez Masto—met with Chuck Schumer to tell him that most of them were on the verge of demanding Franken’s resignation. At least one of them had already drafted such a statement, and the group’s resolve hardened further when some of its members learned of an impending Politico story that contained a seventh allegation, by a former Senate staff member. The accuser, whose name is being withheld at her request, was known to some of the seven female senators. The woman said that, in 2006, when Franken was still a comedian, he had made her uneasy by looking as if he planned to kiss her. The senator she had worked for hadn’t known of the allegation at the time, but vouched for her credibility.
This was about the time of the Alabama special election for the United States Senate seat held by Republican Luther Strange, who had been appointed to fill the seat Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III³ had resigned, and the Democrats were (successfully)n excoriating Republican nominee Roy Moore following allegations that he, as an attorney in his mid-thirties had ‘dated’ and tried to copulate with underaged girls.4 The Democrats could not agree to due process for Senator Franken without doing the same for Mr Moore.
And it worked out for them! They took that Alabama Senate seat, and if they lost Mr Franken, he was replaced by another liberal Democrat.
But the biggest bit of hypocrisy is the Title IX instructions that the Obama Administration sent out to colleges and universities receiving federal funds, which ‘encouraged’ that sexual harassment claims be handled without any regard to due process, and actively discriminated against accused men. Did the Democrats in the Senate raise any due process concerns then?
You know the answer.
Miss Mayer’s article is a long screed defending Mr Franken, and who knows, maybe she’s right, maybe he was unjustly forced out. Too bad, so sad, must suck to be him, but maybe I would have a bit more sympathy for Mr Franken if he hasd said even one word against the Obama Administration’s Title IX abuses.
1 – Senator Murkowski voted Present, as a courtesy to Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), who was going to vote for confirmastion, but was to be absent to attend his daughter’s wedding in Montana, in something called vote pairing, in which two legislators taking opposite positions on a vote agree to cancel each other out by not voting so that one, or both, can miss the vote for an important reason.
2 – How anal? Well, I still have all of my work diaries from 1986, hardbound books which take up an entire bookshelf, and I’ve continued keeping them since I retired. 🙂
3 – Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has the best Southern name ever, and that’s why I always use his full given name.
4 – I have previously stated that since Roy Moore admitted to ‘dating’ underaged girls when he was in his thirties, the claims that he attempted to have sex with some of them are credible.
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