Ethics Dunce: Sen. Al Franken

In the midst of the increasingly tense and contentious Senate debate over its health care reform bill, Sen. Joe Lieberman asked for unanimous consent to extend his remarks “an additional moment.”  Sen. Al Franken was taking his turn presiding over the Senate, and to  Lieberman’s amazement, refused.

“In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object,” Franken said.
“Really?” Lieberman chuckled.  “Okay…Don’t take it personally.”

Observers thought Lieberman’s last comment was directed at himself, though intended to make a point. For Franken’s churlish and uncivil conduct was personal, and as typical of the comedian-turned-politician as it was inappropriate for the floor of the U.S. Senate. Franken, like many Democrats, are furious with Lieberman for almost single-handedly scuttling the proposed Medicare buy-in provision, and for questioning health care reform’s effect on the exploding deficit. He can be furious if he likes, but the traditions of courtesy in the Senate are critical to maintaining order and some hope of cooperation, as well as being a institutionalized reminder of the importance of putting ideological rancor aside in the interests of public service. Senators’ requests for a minute or two of extra time are virtually always granted as a matter of mutual respect and comity.

Al Franken has often shown himself to be mean-spirited and arrogant, even when he was funny.When he was a politically active performer, his preferred method of rebutting anyone with whom he disagreed was to shower them with invective, and his civility only marginally improved when he entered politics full time. Sen. John McCain leaped to his feet to object to Franken’s spiteful treatment of Lieberman, which, while not quite in the “You lie!” category, nonetheless is another ominous sign that the hyper-partisanship infecting our public discourse has reached dangerous levels.

Some wise old Democratic senator who understands the importance of not making policy disagreements “personal” should take Franken aside and teach him some manners. If this doesn’t happen , and maybe even if it does, it won’t be long before Franken is calling Republican senators “big fat idiots.”

One thought on “Ethics Dunce: Sen. Al Franken

  1. My opinion of Franken, put respectfully and mildly, is that he is a poor choice for U.S. Senator for a variety of reasons.

    Worse, all too many Democrats applauded Franken. To be fair, the GOP has applauded similar, but I’m of the opinion that two wrongs have never made a right.

    I would also point out that this wasn’t the only unethical behavior by Franken recently, as he shouted down Senator Thune

    Well, I suppose hyper-partisanship is here to stay, and neither party seems the least bit interested in backing away from it.

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