A gloss on Jazz’s post earlier about Franken’s latest non-apology. Becket Adams is right: The only misbehavior to which Franken has admitted is his pretend grope of a sleeping Leeann Tweeden, and he only admitted that because there was photographic evidence of it. Even then, all he would cop to is that it was a joke he regretted in hindsight. At no point has he confessed to having done anything prurient despite the fact that now no fewer than four women have accused him of groping or an unwanted kiss. He’s not attacking his accusers as liars, as Roy Moore’s campaign is, but rather as sort of … stupid. He’s hugged a lot of people, he says. If sometimes incidental contact was made in those hugs that women interpreted as a grope, well, he feels awful about the misunderstanding. But his intentions were pure. If you thought Al Franken was grabbing your ass during a photo op (“It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek”), maybe you just don’t know what it’s like to have your ass grabbed.
But never mind that. From a standpoint of raw political self-interest, it’s bananas that Democrats aren’t pushing Franken hard to resign right now. My hunch is that as accusations pile up against him, John Conyers, and other Democrats in Congress over the next two weeks, the more it looks like they’re all going to skate the more likely it is that Alabama Republicans who are on the fence about Moore will decide it’s okay to vote for him after all. Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, is on the air every day now demanding that voters punish a politician for alleged sexual misconduct and yet the papers are filled with stories of Franken groping women and weirdness like this:
Sloan told the Free Press that she never saw any inappropriate sexual touching but that Conyers — who is the longest-serving active member of Congress, having been elected in 1964 — seemed to have a lot of what she characterized as girlfriends around. Conyers has been married to his wife, Monica, a former Detroit City Council member who did prison time for bribery and other corruption charges, since 1990…
But she said that on one occasion, she was called to Conyers’ office in the Rayburn House Office building for a meeting and, when she got there, he was in his underwear.
“He was just walking around in his office, not dressed,” she said. “He wasn’t doing it to hit on me. It was more like he could do what he wanted. I was quite shocked by it and left quickly.”
Conyers’s lawyer said on Wednesday that he won’t resign. Franken seems to have no intention of resigning. Bill Clinton not only didn’t resign, the sudden Democratic reckoning with whether he should have resigned conveniently came a year after his wife lost the presidential election and was no longer of use to her party. If you’re a Republican in Alabama who’s disgusted with Moore but reluctant to vote for a Democrat, especially one who supports late-term abortion, you may look at all of that and decide to stick with your party’s nominee. Some may back Moore out of spite, as a middle finger to Democrats who like to lecture about the “war on women” but won’t do anything to purge abusers in their midst. Some may back Moore out of pity, that he’s being held to a standard as a Republican, a Christian, a southerner, and/or a candidate that sitting members of Congress who mouth “progressive” platitudes aren’t held to. And not just by Democrats:
Everything Mitt says here applies to Franken.
But Romney hasn’t Tweeted about Franken. Hasn’t said a word.
It’s almost as if all the moralizing about Moore is an establishment ruse playing Alabama voters for suckers.
Maybe that’s crossed AL voter’s minds. pic.twitter.com/2OcXExMfZd
— I Aver🌲 (@i_aver) November 24, 2017
Some Alabama Republicans may have every intention of voting for Moore regardless of what Democrats do but feel guilty about it and are searching around for a way to make their conscience clear. Watching Franken and Conyers wriggle free of trouble will provide it. No unilateral disarmament for Republicans! We’ll behave as badly as Democrats do, if not worse, in the name of winning. Trump’s embodiment of that — ruthlessness without apology — was key in the primaries. It’s going to get Moore elected now, I’d bet, as Alabamians’ revulsion at Moore is overtaken by their revulsion at Democratic hypocrisy. Which is precisely what Trump calculated when he decided to stick with Moore himself.
The punchline is that Franken and Conyers are both highly expendable members of Congress for the left. As has been noted repeatedly over the past week, Minnesota has a Democratic governor who would appoint Franken’s replacement if he quit. Normally you’d prefer a long-term incumbent in the seat when it comes up again, but Democrats may be better off with a short-term appointee running for a full term next time than with a wounded Franken in a state that’s been drifting red. Conyers, meanwhile, comes from a solidly Democratic district (he’s held the seat for 52 years!) and checked out mentally long ago according to Politico reporter Tim Alberta. His successor would surely be a Democrat too. The party loses nothing by replacing both of them and stands to gain a crucial Senate seat in Alabama by setting an example of zero tolerance for voters there. It’d be no guarantee that Jones would defeat Moore but it remove the fears of unilateral disarmament and the annoyance at left-wing hypocrisy among Republicans. Some might even treat the purging of Franken and Conyers as a goodwill gesture to be emulated, advancing the idea that basic good conduct in America’s leaders should matter more than partisan interests. In a tight race, is that enough to engineer a momentous upset of Jones over Moore? Not definitely. But possibly.
Here’s Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice calling on Conyers to quit. She’s the only Democrat in Congress to do so thus far.