Franken resigning: How he became a deflated political football

So Al Franken’s career is, for the foreseeable future, over. The Minnesota senator announced on Thursday morning that he will resign in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct. He emphasized that there is a “false impression that I have admitted” to guilt, that this is “not true,” and that he remembers the circumstances of various accusations “very differently.” He insisted, “I am not giving up my voice … as a citizen and an activist.” The latter seems, at this point, dubious.

A bestselling author, he’s unlikely to write another successful book. His first career, as a comedian, is forever tainted by the fact that his initial accuser, Leeann Tweeden, lodged her complaint about events that occurred when he was still performing comedy. The effective end of Franken’s public life has been accomplished via a bipartisan effort. Democrats, led by a contingent of powerful women within the party, decided, after yet another accuser came forward this week, that enough was enough and called in a united front for the resignation they now have. Over on the right, there is glee on Fox News that so prominent a liberal as Franken — who used to make Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others uncomfortable in his close questioning during congressional hearings — has been taken down.

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The sides taken, and the motives for them, aren’t so clean-cut. Laura Ingraham, on her Fox show, The Ingraham Angle, Wednesday night, spoke of a “political calculation” going on in the Democrats’ sudden unity to pressure Franken this week, and it doesn’t require the Fox News mindset to theorize that at least some Democrats are thinking that their party ought to set a good example right now regarding senatorial sinners in advance of the probable Alabama election victory for accused child-molester Roy Moore next week. (And, yes, as Franken also noted in his resignation speech, there’s also the group of sexual-misconduct accusers of President Trump.) Ingraham’s guest Newt Gingrich even said on Wednesday that the kind of offensiveness on display in the photographic proof Tweeden provided to show she was mock-groped by Franken was “the kind of thing people in show business do.” Ingraham revealed the lack of any sort of idealism about justice for harassed women by referring to “the war on women” as “that old saw,” as though it was a made-up wail of complaint and not something palpable in so many tales of media men’s sexual abuse.

Over on Hannity, there was outrage for — who else? — Hillary Clinton. There is absolutely no controversy in America into which Sean Hannity cannot drag Hillary. How does Hillary connect to Franken’s troubles? I need only quote the chyron that ran beneath the segment he did on the subject: “Clinton hasn’t called for Franken to resign.” That’s it — it’s not something Hillary did that’s the problem this time; it’s something she didn’t do. It’s this kind of cynical hostility that has encouraged a few people on the liberal side to be troubled that Leeann Tweeden has long aligned herself with conservative causes and has appeared on Sean Hannity’s show numerous times. Hannity’s conspiracy-theory fever can be contagious.

Here on the sane side of things, the resignation of Franken would seem to conclude his public life in a decisive way. The primary way he’ll live on in the public consciousness now is that his downfall will be used by each side to try to shame the other.

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