U.S. Sen. Al Franken broke his self-imposed silence over the weekend, submitting to a series of media interviews on the sexual misconduct allegations against him, professing his shame and embarrassment. That was a necessary move — Minnesotans and the country at large deserved to hear from him. But his apology falls lamentably short in several respects.
The Minnesota Democrat said in one interview it was important "that we listen to women," but then refuted the story of Leeann Tweeden, the USO entertainer who accused him of shoving his tongue down her throat during a rehearsed "kiss." He recalls "a normal rehearsal," but didn't elaborate. On the subsequent allegations of women who say he groped them during photos — specifically, that he grabbed their buttocks — Franken apologized, but for what, exactly?
He said he does not recall groping and said he "would never intentionally" squeeze or grope a woman but often hugs people. Is he suggesting these women could not distinguish between a friendly embrace and groping? Or that at his age he somehow groped unintentionally? Can one credibly apologize for acts without acknowledging they occurred?
With a Senate ethics investigation looming, Franken remains on politically shaky ground. It's debatable whether he is, as he said, "holding myself accountable." Without saying he didn't do it, he nevertheless has countered every allegation except the one that carries indisputable proof — the infamous photo of him appearing to grab at Tweeden while she slept.
Under such circumstances, Franken's apology is less a statement of accountability and more akin to "I'm sorry for what you think I did." Franken may just be trying to ride out the storm, as is the case too often these days. After all, President Donald Trump survived multiple sexual misconduct allegations to become president, and it's possible that Roy Moore will become Alabama's next senator despite credible allegations that he molested a 14-year-old and repeatedly approached underage teens. Moore's conduct is in a different league from what Franken is accused of, but none of it is acceptable.
And that's really the issue, isn't it? How much sexual harassment is "acceptable" in our political leaders, particularly the ones in the party we support? Republicans obviously don't give a damn, about that, Trump and Moore prove that beyond any objective doubt.
And yes, I know that it's easy to say "This is another GOP ratfvcking operation, just done by people smarter than O'Keefe and his Project Veritas clowns." Sure, this has Roger Stone's primordial ooze all over it. But as the Star-Tribune notes, Franken's not denying the allegations from Tweeden, and he's not denying that more women may come forward still. No matter how cynical you are about Tweeden's timing, a picture speaks a thousand words, and she didn't deserve to be groped, even in jest. At some point however, we have to be better than the damn GOP when it comes to having morality.
We're not Republicans. We do give a damn. And you'll excuse me for thinking that Al Franken needs to go.
Not before Trump does and Moore too for that matter. But he still needs to go.