Well, Stuart Smalley’s time in the U.S. Senate has come and gone. After eight women accused him of sexual harassment, the Minnesota Democrat decided resign in the coming weeks. Leeann Tweeden, a radio host, first lobbed allegations that he forcibly kissed and groped her during a 2006 USO tour through the Middle East. Lindsay Menz accused him of grabbing her buttocks during a photo op at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Before Thanksgiving, two more women alleged Franken grabbed their rear ends in 2007 and 2008 respectively; both occurred at political events. For a while, Democrats circled the wagons. They refused to say he should resign; a former Hillary Clinton staffer said Franken’s sexual misconduct was benign.
After Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) resigned over his sexual harassment allegations, the dam broke. Scores of Democrats—32 of them—including leadership, called on Franken to go. In a speech yesterday, Franken announced he would be leaving, but he did not apologize in his speech, and he even called some of his accusers liars. As Christine noted, there was little introspection as to why he was leaving. Moreover, he decided to pivot at times, noting the allegations surrounding Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore and President Donald Trump. That’s irrelevant for the time being. This whole fiasco involved you, Al—not Moore or Trump. While some might say that the Left has reclaimed the high ground, I disagree. I don’t think there was any. Ever since the Democrats gave Bill Clinton a pass on his credible rape allegations, the high ground was lost. When they dithered on what to do about Franken and Conyers, the high ground was lost. When they circled the wagons, the ground was lost. And while both Franken and Conyers will be gone by next year, it took nearly a month to reach a consensus that sexual harassers needed to go; that’s not a profile in courage.
Let Al Franken's legacy as a Senator be that we went out calling women liars.— Karol Markowicz (@karol) December 7, 2017
This may be the least contrite resigning in disgrace speech ever.— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) December 7, 2017
This speech by Franken: not a man who is intrested in much introspection about his role in sexual harassment.— amy walter (@amyewalter) December 7, 2017
Franken doesn’t admit wrongdoing as he announces resignation: “Some if the allegations against me are simply not true ... I know who I really am.”— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) December 7, 2017
The default reaction by Franken was to issue a broad apology and think that his voting record could save him, the same way it saved Bill Clinton. They’re both liberal Democrats. It’s fine, right? After twenty years, I doubt there’s been a serious come to Jesus moment. This is all about redirecting attention and pressure on Republicans. Clean house and let the Moore and his albatross—allegations of sexually molesting and abusing teenage girls—hang around Republicans’ necks.
Moving on, here’s a partial transcript of what Franken said to announce he was on his way out, courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio [emphasis mine]:
Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was, I was shocked. I was upset.
But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.
I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven't done.
Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.
I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.
You know an important part of the conversation we've been having last few months has been about how men abused their power and privilege to hurt women.
I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside everyday. I know there's been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.
Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.
Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.
I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.
But this decision is not about me. It's about the people of Minnesota.
Maybe Franken thought he could hang on, maybe he thought his Senate colleagues thought better of him, which could have provided a buffer from which he could survive. No dice. Was it the whole ‘I’m a liberal Democrat’ mindset that kept Franken in a false sense of security? It surely explains where he went in his speech. He was obviously not willing to leave.
For one of Franken’s accusers, Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, she was appalled, and rightfully so, at Franken’s inability to come to terms and own what he did; Kemplin alleges that Franken groped her breast in 2003 (via Washington Times):
“I have to say that I am so sad and appalled at his lack of response and him owning up to what he did,” Stephanie Kemplin told MSNBC, according to a clip flagged by The Daily Caller.
“I feel that he just keeps passing the buck and making it out to be something that we took his behavior the wrong way, or we misconstrued something, or just flat-out lied about what happened to us,” she said.
“Justice to me would be him owning up to what he did and to stop trying to pass the buck to other individuals who possibly did commit the same things, possibly more heinous, than what he’s done,” she added.
We should just be honest here. This isn’t the Democrats cleaning house, owning their past, or trying to change the culture on the Hill. As Liz Harrington at the Free Beacon noted, it was the realization that Franken was expendable—Minnesota has a Democratic governor—and that his loss wouldn’t really reduce their ranks in the upper chamber. On top of that, they can redirect on Republicans without having to man the Franken-Conyers element on their flanks. This is solely about politics and nothing more. I know we know that; this is for the more left-leaning folks out there.