Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, deserves no parade for his decision Thursday to step down from the office he has held for the past nine years. Given the allegations that he touched women inappropriately, he deserves no tears either.
But he does deserve a tip of the cap for doing what many others in power who have been accused of similar or worse accusations have been unwilling to do — the right thing.
In stepping down at a time when Democrats need every vote they can muster to stand against the president’s anti-middle class, anti-immigrant and anti-common sense agenda, Franken sends the message that there’s some things that are more important than political outcomes. They are honor and accountability.
Franken said his resignation wasn’t a validation of the growing number of charges made against him. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.” He said the Ethics Committee “was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits.” But, he said, it had become clear to him “that I can’t both pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator.”
He also pointed out the elephant in the room. He noted that there “is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of the 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.”
It is a sharp and sad contrast indeed.
Despite publicly apologizing 14 months ago for the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording of him making vulgar comments about women, President Donald Trump reportedly has been privately questioning the authenticity of the video, which lowers the bar of his conduct to new depths.
As for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, far from apologizing for the conduct described by women who were mere teenagers at the time of their interactions, he has attacked them instead. Moore has said the allegations, including that he made sexual contact with a 14-year-old, are “unsubstantiated” and “fake” despite the evidence that some have presented. Moore has refused interviews about the charges, aside from one with Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity.
“If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you,” read a statement from Moore’s campaign about the allegations.
At least at the beginning, the Republican National Committee had the sense to withdraw its support for Moore after the allegations surfaced. But that ended ignominiously on Monday as the national committee gave Moore its full backing, hours after Trump did the same.
Apparently integrity matters — as long as a Senate seat is not at risk.
Franken’s resignation may be a loss for Democrats, but it is another victory for those who have been identified as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year — the “Silence breakers,” individuals, most of them women, who had taken a vocal stand against sexual assault and harassment.
“Nearly all of the people TIME interviewed about their experiences expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up,” the magazine said.