Did we fall through some sort of dimensional time portal and land back in 2017 again? It sort of sounds that way because the Democrats on the 2020 primary campaign trail are still arguing about Al Franken and the way he exited the Senate. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was asked about the way his party basically forced Franken out of the upper chamber and he apparently angered the #MeToo crowd by suggesting that they might have acted a bit hastily. That brought the focus back on Kirsten Gillibrand, the first of Franken’s colleagues to call for his head on a platter.
So with more than a year to think it over, has she changed her mind? No regrets, baby! She’d do it all over again. (The Hill)
Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday defended her call for former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign, saying that credible allegations of sexual misconduct are “not too high a standard.”
The statement from the New York senator came shortly after South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg voiced concerns about the pressure Franken faced to resign before Congress learned more about the accusations against him.
“Eight credible allegations of sexual harassment, two since he was elected senator, and one from a congressional staffer,” Gillibrand said in a statement shared on Twitter. “That is not too high a standard, regardless of how the Republican Party handles this behavior, and worse.
As entertaining as this little food fight may be, some Democrats seem to be blowing this way out of proportion. After all, it’s not as if Buttigieg was saying that Franken didn’t do anything wrong and that grabbing the odd woman’s breasts on an airplane was no big deal. All he really said was that he wouldn’t have called for Franken to resign “before having the opportunity to learn more about the claims.”
He went on to say, “I think the way we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us.”
I suppose we might understand how the second statement could be interpreted as saying maybe Franken didn’t need to resign if taken out of context. But looking at his full comments it seems clear that he was retroactively urging more caution and time for investigation, not blanket forgiveness. But Gillibrand probably comes out on top in this exchange, at least in terms of how the Democratic base will see it.
It’s not as if she was out there demanding Franken step down after the first allegations surfaced. By the time she got around to addressing it, there had been more than half a dozen women speaking up in addition to the infamous airplane boob-grabbing photo. All the Democrats had to pick a side by that point and Gillibrand just happened to be the one to jump into the pool first.
The other point where she seems to outmaneuver Buttigieg is her ability to point out the obvious. She didn’t remove Al Franken from office. He made the decision to resign himself. He could have stayed and tried to clear his name, but he gave up the fight, took his marbles and went home. That’s not Gillibrand’s fault. And with gender issues being well up on the priority list for Democrats who are still smarting over Hillary Clinton’s loss, Mayor Pete may have stuck his foot in his mouth on this one. Not that it will likely benefit Gillibrand very much. She’s still stuck at one percent or less in the latest polling and reminding everyone about Franken is unlikely to lift her up much.