Presumably Tina Dupuy, the eighth accuser, will be the last one to go public. Franken will almost certainly be an ex-senator as of tomorrow morning and any other woman who’s been pawed by him and stayed silent thus far for fear of unwanted media attention will have little incentive to pile on once he’s gone.
I wonder if he’ll finally admit to having a problem in his resignation announcement or if he’s going to keep insisting that somehow eight different women misinterpreted his perfectly innocent displays of affection as something more sinister. My guess is he’ll walk a line, not flatly confessing to anything but allowing that he needs to “examine how my behavior caused these feelings of distress” or whatever and resigning in light of the fact that he’s lost the confidence of his Senate colleagues. Alice Lloyd, assessing who will and won’t survive the fury of the Pervnado, wrote of Franken today that he “has enough partial-defenders disappointed to see him, a documented groper, lumped in with Weinstein that the generic line among right-thinking people too easily boils down the slippery suggestion what he did wasn’t THAT bad.” He’ll lie low for six months, reemerge contrite on Colbert’s show next summer, and be back to some liberal media gig within the year.
Dupuy says she met him in 2009 at an Obama inauguration party thrown by Media Matters. Another Democratic accuser, undermining any potential defense that this is a partisan hit by the right.
Then I saw Al Franken. I only bug celebrities for pictures when it’ll make my foster mom happy. She loves Franken, so I asked to get a picture with him. We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice.
I’d been married for two years at the time; I don’t let my husband touch me like that in public because I believe it diminishes me as a professional woman. Al Franken’s familiarity was inappropriate and unwanted. It was also quick; he knew exactly what he was doing.
It shrunk me. It’s like I was no longer a person, only ornamental. It said, “You don’t matter—and I do.” He wanted to cop a feel and he demonstrated he didn’t need my permission.
A hand on the waist isn’t illicit the way a hand on the ass is, which Franken has been accused of more than once. The squeezing is, however, illicit. Offhand I can’t think of a scenario where one stranger could squeeze any part of another stranger’s body and not have it come off as prurient and weirdly possessive. But this is Franken’s M.O., right? Correct me if I’m wrong but after eight accusers there hasn’t been a single case where he allegedly assaulted a woman without some pretext to spin his behavior as innocent. He squeezed your waist or put his hand on your ass? Come on. You were posing for a photo together and friendly incidental contact was made. Happens all the time. He kissed you on the lips after a radio interview? He was just thanking you for stopping by, no different from a friendly hug. He kissed you with tongue during a USO rehearsal? That was *in the script.* It was a pretend kiss. It was comedy. He was just playing. You’re left to wonder whether these pretexts were intended as a defense to potential accusations or to his own conscience. Was Franken justifying this stuff to *himself* as harmless because it always took place in some sort of “performance” context? He was getting his rocks off, but so long as he could semi-plausibly view his actions as ambiguous, maybe he thought that didn’t cross any lines.
It remains a mystery why Al Franken, among 100 U.S. senators, had so many “misunderstandings” with women during photos and interviews when none of his colleagues have had any. So far.
Democrats have done well to make an example of him, however belatedly and opportunistically, but there’s no going back now that they’ve set this precedent. Lloyd is right that “he’s not as bad as Weinstein!” is a “slippery suggestion,” one that potentially would excuse alleged minor assaulters like Franken on grounds that what they’re guilty of isn’t terribly harmful, but the fact remains that Franken’s conduct is on the lower end of the Pervnado scale of offenses. As I say, not one of his accusers has claimed an assault that wasn’t ambiguous in intent, even if that was by Franken’s design. Any Senate Democrat who’s accused of misconduct in the future will face the Franken Test: “Is what he’s done worse than what Al Franken was accused of?” If the answer is yes then he’ll have to go. Imagine, as more women come forward about powerful men in Congress, Senate Dems forcing out two, three, four, or five of their own while Senate Republicans sit by, twiddling their thumbs. The Democratic base, woke or not, will grow increasingly uncomfortable with that spectacle of “unilateral disarmament,” especially if polls don’t show Republicans paying any real political price for their tolerance of Trump and Roy Moore. How many more Frankens would need to be purged before Democrats recalibrate the rules for forced resignations?
While Schumer and his deputies are trying to figure that out, the president has apparently convinced himself that all of Roy Moore’s accusers are lying and that the inscription in Beverly Young Nelson’s yearbook is forged. So, interesting times ahead!