With Al Franken Resignation, Democrats Seize The High Ground. Over To You, GOP.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken says he'll resign in the coming weeks. He's repeatedly apologized as several women accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior, and as his support from fellow Democrats evaporated. (Dec. 7) AP

'Not an accused rapist' is not the standard by which we should measure our leaders.

Sen. Al Franken.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

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Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has told the nation in an extraordinary address that he will resign from the Senate in coming weeks. The dramatic announcement Thursday came after eight women accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from groping in photo lines to forcible kisses, and amid an avalanche of calls for his resignation by his Democratic Senate colleagues.

Republicans have adopted the talking point that Democrats only called for Franken to resign so they could gain the moral high ground to bash Republicans when Roy Moore wins the Alabama Senate race next week, as is widely expected.

Which raises the question: Is there something wrong with the moral high ground?

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What twisted times we live in that this is an actual argument. It’s also not based on any facts. A person with direct knowledge of how Democrats came to call en masse on Franken to resign told me the decision was driven by female Democratic senators who believe the accusers against Franken. Because they like and respect Franken, they gave him the space to do the right thing, but were growing increasingly aggravated with his refusal to take responsibility and to resign. When the sixth accuser came forward, they agreed it was time to apply public pressure.

But even if the Democrats were taking the moral high ground for the wrong reason, that would hardly excuse Republicans for refusing to take a stand against the credibly accused predators in their own party, from Donald Trump to Roy Moore to Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (who used taxpayer dollars to pay an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement to his former communications director).

Some Republicans say it’s different because Franken admitted his wrongdoing, while Trump and company deny all accusations against them. This is false. The only thing Franken has admitted to is a lewd photograph (which would be hard to deny). As for the other accusations, he has variously said he doesn’t remember them; or if he does, he remembers them differently, or he has flat out denied them. He said that again Thursday. But Democratic senators have made a judgment based on the allegations, which they have deemed to be credible. Republicans need to do the same thing.

What about due process? Due process is for court proceedings. Harvey Weinstein didn’t get to go before a judge and jury to plead his case. Charlie Rose didn’t get to cross-examine his accusers. In these cases, what was determined was that the accusations were credible.

Some Democrats are worried that Republicans will find women to make false accusations against Democrats, now that they know the Democratic Party will hold the accused responsible. While false accusations are incredibly rare, it’s not unreasonable to be concerned about this.

But we know what happens when false accusations are made, because The Washington Post recently discovered that a person making accusations against Roy Moore was a plant from a conservative group trying to tarnish the Post’s reputation.  Through that effort we were able to see the rigor of the process that reporters use to determine the credibility of accusers. In the end they were able to figure out this accuser was a fraud.

So to suggest that women just make accusations that aren’t carefully examined and investigated is inaccurate. Moreover, in the Franken case, many are Democrats who don’t have a political axe to grind.

What about the argument that we shouldn’t lump Franken with people like Weinstein? The fact that he is not Weinstein is irrelevant. “Not an accused rapist” is not the standard by which we should measure our leaders. What’s particularly concerning is that people making this argument have been suggesting that while what Franken did was wrong, it wasn’t bad enough to ask for him to resign.

If the eight women are to be believed — and they should be — Franken is at a minimum guilty of sexual harassment and at maximum of sexual assault. Groping and forcibly kissing women grows out of the same mentality as Weinstein and other powerful male sexual predators. It is based on the assumption that women’s bodies are not their own and that men can do with them what they please, for the pleasure of the man and at the expense of the women. It’s about humiliating women and abusing power. The idea that 10 years ago anyone, let alone Franken, thought that this kind of behavior was acceptable (the “it was a different time” argument) is laughable. 

This doesn’t mean Franken is rotten to the core or that he should be banned from public service in perpetuity. It’s true he’s not Harvey Weinstein. But he did seem to have an attitude about women that the #MeToo movement is systematically discrediting and dismantling, hopefully once and for all. He should be held accountable. It’s not worth stalling massive societal change to protect one man because you like him personally or politically. 

It’s incredibly frustrating that while Democrats are holding Franken (and also Conyers) responsible, the Republican Party has no interest in policing the accused sexual predators in their midst (an irony Franken noted). For that matter, Republican voters apparently don’t see sexual assault accusations as a barrier to voting for a presidential candidate. If Republicans want to have no morals or values when it comes to the sexual harassment or assault of women, that’s truly unfortunate for them and for womankind.  But it isn’t a reason for Democrats to lower their standards.

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One last point. If you are a Democrat who is convinced that the Franken accusers shouldn’t be believed (and I’ve had a few Democrats say this to me), ask yourself why you never doubted that the Donald Trump and Roy Moore accusers were telling the truth. There should be one standard for all people, regardless of party. 

Democrats made the politically expedient decision with Bill Clinton and paid a price for it in terms of moral authority on the issue of sexual misconduct. Women who accused Clinton of groping and assault were dismissed, disbelieved and degraded not just because Clinton was a Democrat, but also because he was was beloved by voters and his colleagues.

The same can be said about Franken. Calling on him to resign was not a decision without potential political and personal consequences — Franken is a beloved Democratic icon and a friend to his fellow senators — and yet his female colleagues acted nonetheless. They made the hard decision when it cost them something. If this isn’t evidence of a sea change in society, I don’t know what is.

Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, writes often for USA TODAY. Previously she worked for Fox News and is now an analyst for CNN. Follow her on Twitter @KirstenPowers.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @USATOpinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

 

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/07/al-franken-resigns-and-democrats-seize-high-ground-over-you-gop/930224001/

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