New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has sent every possible signal to the media that she’s at least considering a run for the presidency, assuming she hasn’t privately made the decision already. And if you’re a Democratic voter, what’s not to like, right? The identity politics crowd would definitely love to see a woman on the top of the ticket again (though it would probably help if she wasn’t quite so white). And she’s a vocal critic of President Trump and his policies, despite the fact that she was actually a vocal proponent of many of those same policies when she was in the House of Representatives serving a decidedly more conservative district. She should be drawing all sorts of support.
Not so fast, at least according to liberal gadfly Richard Cohen. Writing at Real Clear Politics this week (rather than his usual home at the Washington Post), the New York-based progressive columnists insists that many of the Democrats he knows are infuriated with Gillibrand. And it all comes back to her calls for Al Franken to resign during the height of the Me Too movement.
Guess what name produces an explosion of outrage if dropped in a conversation with many New York Democrats? Donald Trump? Mitch McConnell? Paul Ryan? Guess again. It’s Kirsten Gillibrand, the political assassin of Al Franken, widely seen as an opportunist who has so sharply changed some of her positions that it’s a wonder she’s not in traction from ideological whiplash.
Gillibrand was the first Democratic senator to call for Franken’s resignation after he was accused by several women last December of sexual misconduct — including posing for a goofy photograph appearing to grope a sleeping woman, a joke intended at her expense…
Gillibrand’s betrayal of Franken continues to haunt her. As reported by Politico, HuffPost and others, many on the left refuse to forgive her. She is now all-but-officially running for president, stalked by a reputation as an opportunist. If she wants to remedy that, she ought to concede she acted precipitously with Franken and denied him due process. For that, an apology is in order. That would show true leadership.
What’s truly amazing about this column really isn’t so much to do with Gillibrand herself and her past actions. Cohen’s arguments about Gillibrand denying Franken “due process” and rushing him out the door before the Senate could conduct a full investigation aren’t entirely without merit. (Though it’s difficult to claim that anyone actually gets their full share of due process in the court of public opinion when #MeToo scandals emerge.) And his critique of Gillibrand’s many 180 degree flip-flops on policy issues mirror opinions I’ve posted here myself.
No, what’s really incredible in this column is Cohen’s unabashed admiration of Al Franken and forgiveness for his perceived sins. When he speaks of the infamous photograph which largely brought Franken down, Cohen states that it “proved that Franken is a comedian who knows a sight gag when he sees one.” Excuse me, but… a sight gag? Groping a sleeping woman’s breasts his high art in the comedy world? Where are all the Me Too activists now when Cohen is saying things like this?
Cohen goes on from there to say that Chuck Schumer’s title as a “Leader” is meaningless because he seconded Gillibrand’s call for Franken to resign. He recites Franken’s many virtues and criticizes Gillibrand for being willing to “betray a friend — and a good man — to advance a career.” He writes wistfully about a conversation where Franken waxed poetic about the call to public service.
More than anything else, this wasn’t so much a broadside launched at a possible Gillibrand presidential bid as a love letter to Al Franken. Cohen is clearly dismayed by the shabby treatment Franken received from inside his own party and in the media at large. Apparently, when it comes to allegations of sexual impropriety (remembering that an allegation is all that’s required in liberal circles), all is forgiven and forgotten when it comes to Al Franken. As the primary battles heat up next year we’ll see if Cohen is in the majority among Democrats or if he’s on the wrong side of history.