Franken Agonistes

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Al Franken wants his old job back:

At his house, Franken said he understood that, in such an atmosphere, the public might not be eager to hear his grievances. Holding his head in his hands, he said, “I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims.” Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fuelled outrage. He told me that his therapist had likened his experience to “what happens when primates are shunned and humiliated by the rest of the other primates.” Their reaction, Franken said, with a mirthless laugh, “is ‘I’m going to die alone in the jungle.’ ”

And now, a musical interlude:

Regrets, he has a few, which Franken shared with Jane Mayer, last seen going after Brett Kavanaugh for things Kavanaugh hadn't done, but now in commiseration mode with a politician who actually did things:

When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.” He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press.

The piece I've linked, in the New Yorker, is very long and full of attempts at exculpation. Does Franken deserve a second chance? Was what happened to Franken fair?

Well, Franken's not going to get to represent Minnesota in the Senate again, unless Tina Smith were to stand down. Do you see that happening? I don't. Do you think Franken is going to primary Smith, the former Planned Parenthood executive? Do you think the DFL would let him? I don't. If Amy Klobuchar were to retire after her term is up (she's not going to be president, you know), Franken could run for that seat, but he'll have to wait until 2024 to have a chance. Franken will be 73 years old at that time, and there's little reason to believe Klobuchar would give up her seat in any event, unless she runs for president again. If that were to happen, there's a long line of younger DFL politicians a mile long who would want her seat and would not be amenable to standing aside to let Franken assuage his psyche.

If Franken really wants to avenge his situation, there's another solution: move back to New York and challenge Kirsten Gillibrand. Of course, he'd have to wait until 2024 for that chance, too. But if he's got anyone to blame for his fate, assuming he doesn't look in the mirror, Gillibrand is the culprit. Back to Mayer:

Minutes after Politico posted the story, Senator Gillibrand’s chief of staff called Franken’s to say that Gillibrand was going to demand his resignation. Franken was stung by Gillibrand’s failure to call him personally. They had been friends and squash partners. In a later call, Gillibrand’s chief of staff offered to have Gillibrand speak with Franken, but by that time Franken was frantically conferring with his staff and his family. Franken’s office proposed that Franken’s daughter speak with Gillibrand instead, but Gillibrand declined.

Gillibrand then went on Facebook and posted her demand that Franken resign: “Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them. While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated.”

Minutes later, at a previously scheduled press conference, Gillibrand added insult to injury: she reiterated her call for Franken to resign while also trumpeting her sponsorship of a new bill that banned mandatory arbitration of sexual-harassment claims. She didn’t mention that Franken had originated the legislation—and had given it to Gillibrand to sponsor, out of concern that it might be imperilled by his scandal.

For her part, Gillibrand regrets nothing:

I recently asked Gillibrand why she felt that Franken had to go. She said, “We had eight credible allegations, and they had been corroborated, in real time, by the press corps.” She acknowledged that she hadn’t spoken to any accusers, to assess their credibility, but said, “I had been a leader in this space of sexual harassment and assault, and it was weighing on me.” Franken was “entitled to whichever process he wants,” she said. “But he wasn’t entitled to me carrying his water, and defending him with my silence.” She acknowledged that the accusations against Franken “were different” from the kind of rape or molestation charges made against many other #MeToo targets. “But the women who came forward felt it was sexual harassment,” she said. “So it was.”

So Franken got knifed by an ambitious pol who pretended to be his friend. Should we be sympathetic to his plight? You can if you'd like. But as far as I'm concerned, if I'm going to feel sympathy for a former Minnesota senator, I'll pick Norm Coleman instead.