Thursday, December 7, 2017

Alleged sexual misconduct in the capitol- a Democratic purge and a Republican silence

A Democratic Chorus Rises in the Senate: ‘Franken Should Resign’ reports the New York Times. Franken’s decision on his future is scheduled for today (Thursday, Dec. 7).

Support for Al Franken all but collapsed on Wednesday among his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, with dozens calling for him to resign after a sixth woman said he had made an improper advance on her.

Mr. Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, has scheduled an announcement on his future in the Senate for Thursday, and he pushed back on a Minnesota Public Radio report that he would be resigning. “No final decision has been made and the Senator is still talking with his family,” his office said on Twitter.

By Wednesday evening, there was widespread expectation among senators in the Democratic caucus and aides that Mr. Franken would step down. If he does, he would be the most prominent lawmaker so far to be felled by the swirling allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct sweeping through the Capitol.

So far, I add, a Franken resignation would be uniquely Democratic. Republicans guilty of equally egregious misconduct, or worse, are graced by a political party that’s gone morally silent.

But by and large, Republicans have seemed more tolerant of infractions in their own ranks. House leaders have said nothing since it was revealed Friday that Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas used $84,000 from a secret taxpayer fund to settle a lurid sexual harassment case filed against him. And Republicans are deeply divided over Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate, Roy S. Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls as young as 14, yet has maintained the support of President Trump and other conservatives.

Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the state’s senior Republican, announced last month that he would not seek re-election next year after graphic images that he sent to a constituent appeared on the internet. But he received little pressure to step down.

This apparent tolerance, forgiveness, and acceptance by Republicans of such misconduct by other Republicans should not be surprising. Scriber’s accompanying post today points to plenty of evidence that the GOP, supposedly the party of family values, has sold its soul for a 20% corporate tax rate.

Some have said Democrats are simply too quick to destroy their own, but the party appears intent on holding the high ground as sexual harassment scandals rock politics, entertainment and the news media.

But, Scriber thinks, the Democrats might be doing some cold calculations of their own.

If Mr. Franken resigns, the state’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, could choose his successor from a list of prominent female Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Attorney General Lori Swanson.

That appointee could then run to fill the remainder of Mr. Franken’s term next year, when the Democrats have the political momentum.

That calculus may be playing in Democrats’ minds. After Politico published accusations from a former congressional staff member on Wednesday morning that Mr. Franken had forcibly kissed her, Democrats lunged. Unlike earlier accusations, the newest one involved a congressional employee in the workplace.

I understand the point of those calling for Franken’s resignation. A behavioral correction for men in power is long overdue. For example:

“As elected officials, we should be held to the highest standards—not the lowest,” [NY Senator Kirsten] Gillibrand wrote on Twitter. “The allegations against Sen. Franken describe behavior that cannot be tolerated. While he’s entitled to an Ethics Committee hearing, I believe he should step aside to let someone else serve.”

However, I can’t help worrying that if Dems play the party of purity and cannibalize their own, the Representatives and Senators left in Congress - and the White House - will be those whose equally serious transgressions remain accepted at least by their own political party. By taking out flawed but otherwise good guys, the swamp will become even more putrid.

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