Franken’s Resignation Speech: The Lost Opportunity

Senator Al Franken took to the Senate floor to announce that he would be resigning his seat.  It was Harry Truman who said,

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.” 

What did we learn about Franken’s character today?

Part of me feels that we shouldn’t be too hard on Franken. He is a human being, and this entire scenario for him must be humiliating, frustrating, and infuriating. Yet he is also a U.S. Senator, and knew that he had, perhaps for the only time in his life and professional career, an opportunity to talk when everyone would be listening, or at least interested in what he had to say. Under these circumstances, and in his high elected position, Senator Franken had a unique opportunity to accomplish great things. He had the bully pulpit, essentially, with nothing to lose except the opportunity before him. Nathan Hale had that opportunity minutes before he died, and found the character to make a statement that has rung out in the minds of patriots ever since. Even Richard Nixon, who had blown such an opportunity 12 years earlier when he thought his political career was over, made the best ethics statement of his life when all eyes were on him as he prepared to leave the White House forever. He said in part,

“Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”
Al Franken couldn’t muster the character to say something memorable, inspiring, beneficial or important. He couldn’t even bring himself to apologize: there was no apology anywhere to be found. Given the opportunity to be a statesman, an ethics leader, a role model, Al could only show us the real Al, a petty, small, angry little man. Good to know, I guess, though we already knew it.The Washington Post mercilessly handed the job of annotating the Senator’s speech to Amber Phillips, who could reliably be expected to give no quarter, and she didn’t. She was fair, however, and Al deserved what she gave him.

Franken began by virtue-signalling, saying that he had been excited that

“We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.”

Then the first accusation came his way, and Franken, despite his supposedly sincere statement at the time, didn’t say he was “embarrassed,” or “sorry,” or that there “was no excuse,” that he was “disgusted with himself,”  or that his conduct was “completely inappropriate.” He says he was upset. Says Phillips in her notes,

“Upset” is a pretty strong word to use on the Senate floor, suggesting he was really angry that these women would accuse him of sexual misconduct.”

Franken’s whole demeanor today was angry.  Next he went off the ethics rails:

“But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”

We have talked about this before. Franken had smugly joined his progressive colleagues in promoting the unethical, dangerous, irrational concept that any woman who accuses a man of sexual assault must be believed, even without evidence. It was this anti-American radical feminist claptrap that had led the Obama administration to issue the vile “Dear Colleague” letter extorting colleges and universities into putting young men accused of sexual assault before biased and unqualified Star Chambers, to be labelled rapists without due process or representation. This was also the most hypocritical stance imaginable for the party that had rescued a President from impeachment by airily arguing that “everyone lies about sex.”

So his convoluted argument was that he chose to bolster the dangerous party cant by pretending that the accusations against him had merit–that is, not challenging whether they were true—when in fact he doesn’t believe they were true. Yes, this is what his second apology sounded like he was doing, and it was obvious: I rated it cynical doubletalk.

And today, Al literally said that cynical doubletalk was “the right thing to do.” In reality, you see, all those women that good progressives should believe were in fact shouldn’t be believed. Got it.

Bye, Al.

Then he said, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.” Phillips pounced:

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It’s Too Late Now, But Here Is The Apology Senator Franken Should Have Made…

The hypocritical Left is discrediting itself for the foreseeable future by contriving ways to pretend that what Al Franken was credibly accused of doing to a fellow performer during a 2006 USO tour wasn’t so bad, and what about Roy Moore and Donald Trump? As Ed Driscoll wrote today,

The media’s ability to pivot on a dime in the same week from throwing a dissipated Bill Clinton overboard and attacking Roy Moore to granting Franken a very ‘90s-era one free grope rule is amazing to watch. Decades of these sort of power politics by the left (see also: supporters of Kennedy, Ted) explain why many continue to circle the wagons around Moore. Or as Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics tweeted on Tuesday, “I don’t think you can underestimate the degree to which many conservatives have this attitude: (a) we fought a battle over whether character counts, and got our asses handed to us and (b) liberal leaders always circle the wagons around their guys, and ours always cave.”

Franken was in a position to make such embarrassments unnecessary, and to show how responsible elected officials expected to be role models should conduct themselves when accountability knocks. Instead, he made not one but two unethical apologies, the second worse than the first. The fact that his enablers in his party and the media rushed to accept them doesn’t make either less awful. As I explained, in his ultimate apology he 1) never specifically apologized to Ms Tweeden, lumping her into a mass apology to thousands 2) simultaneously said that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual misconduct, and undermined Tweeden’s account by saying that he didn’t recall it as she described, and 3) said there was no excuse for his conduct while excusing it as just another joke that misfired, an occupational hazard of being a comedian—remember folks, I was a comedian then!

At the risk of repeating myself, I designated Franken Apology Take Two as a #10 on the Apology Scale, and I am convinced that was fair. (The final straw? Asking for a Senate ethics investigation that could only prove Tweeden’s account unsupported, or simply confirm what we were already told. Why couldn’t Franken just accept the account of his accuser? The reason is that he wants to discredit her without appearing “not to believe the victim of sexual misconduct.” Yechhh.) This is the description of a #10, the bottom of the barrel:

10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

It didn’t have to be this way. Senator Franken could and should have delivered a Level 1 apology, and would have been better served by it, as would our culture, political system and all of us:

1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

Here is the statement he should have issued. Continue reading

Franken’s Accuser Presents: A Perfect Rationalization #42, The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”

I haven’t seen such a perfect example of Rationalization #43 since Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down, a blue dress within range and a good cigar.

In case you haven’t perused the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List lately, and if so, shame on you, Al Franken’s accuser’s interview today on “Good Morning America” (if you don’t watch “Good Morning America,” good for you) laid the foundation for a virtual #43 orgy.

This rationalization description one is fun to read now, written as it was long before Hillary’s two candidacies for President, and the current Washington, D.C. leg of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”

This is a complex, hybrid rationalization that draws upon the warped and corrupting logic of “Everybody does it,” the Biblical rationalizations, Comparative Virtue (“there are worse things!”) and a few others to reach an absurd argument that nevertheless sometimes carries the day.

One example that will live in infamy, and the inspiration for #42’s title, was Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, which exposed him beyond all doubt as a liar, a power abuser, a hypocrite and, incidentally, an adulterer, not that anyone was surprised at that. His wife, First Lady Hillary Clinton, prominently defended her husband, somehow keeping her feminist creds at the same time, a neat trick. She knew which side of the bread her butter was on, as the saying goes: her loyalty was going to pay off more than righteous indignation. Thus she obfuscated, spun and lied for Bill, and gave his defenders this jaw-dropping argument, which they used liberally:

“If Hillary is willing to forgive him, why shouldn’t we?”

Let us count the ways. Why?

1. Because her relationship to him is as a wife to a husband, and ours is as citizens to a national leader. The standards are different, the stakes are different, and the consequences of the betrayal of trust are different.

2. Because the seriousness of an ethical or legal violation is not defined by who chooses to tolerate or forgive it.

3. Because her decision to ignore, forgive or tolerate may be the product of bias, self-interest, or other non-ethical considerations that make the decision unreliable, untrustworthy, and a poor template for the response of others, as well as societal standards.

4. Because she may be wrong, mistaken, or a fool.

5. Because we each are responsible for making our own ethical judgments, and to delegate those judgments to a third party, especially to a third party who is not objective or likely to be affected by conflicts of interest, makes neither logical nor ethical sense.

[Hmmmm. Caught two typos there, and also needed to make an edit. I guess I haven’t read the list lately. Shame on me.] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/17/2017: Groping And Griping [Updated]

GOOOOOOD  Morning!

1 Well THAT took an excruciatingly long time! Ethics Alarms finally reached its high water mark in followers this week, and has held the line for a change. Traffic has been disappointing in 2017; this will be the first year in which visits have fallen from the previous one. I blame the anomalous lack of any viral posts, which usually number two or three a year, (and are completely unpredictable), and the Trump-and-Hillary-driven polarization of the web. I have seen a significant net drop in followers every time Ethics Alarms unequivocally criticizes one “side” over the other, no matter how richly the ethics criticism is deserved.

People really do prefer echo chambers. It’s dispiriting.

Update: Right after I posted this, EA lost a follower.

2. Speaking of echo chambers..It is incredible how quickly the Democrats and progressives on Facebook  started defending Sen. Al Franken in the exact same terms, excuses, rationalizations and fallacies used all week by Roy Moore’s unprincipled defenders. The timing is suspicious…it’s only one time…this is politically motivated…we need his vote regardless…I believe him, not her…it was a long time ago…why did she wait so long?…he wasn’t in politics then…What about Trump?...everybody does it. In many cases they  mocked virtually the exact same statements by Republicans spinning for Moore that they are now making themselves.

Those who aren’t quite so hypocritical nonetheless praise Franken’s deceitful and manipulative apology. I guess Al’s supporters and journalists are exactly as dumb as he’s betting they are. The news media has also swallowed that apology whole. If they would just read Ethics Alarms, they wouldn’t embarrass themselves. Well, not so much and so often anyway.

(I’m sorry. The traffic stuff is getting to me…)

3. Read this, and get a surprise! Here’s an interesting website: Your Morals. Org. It has a list of studies you can participate in online—there’s a registration process that isn’t too time consuming— that gather data while purporting to measure your values, political leanings, tolerance for opposing views, and “morality.” I took the political orientation and attitudes survey.

I scored almost exactly in the center, leaning juuust a smidge…Democrat!

4.  NOW they tell us! I’m sorry, but I don’t care to hear Democratic politicians say  that Bill Clinton should have resigned during the Lewinsky scandal. Senator Gillibrand, who brought “Mattress Girl” to the State of the Union, has the immense gall to say that, 20 years after the  issue became moot. Of course he should have resigned. He lied under oath, lied to the American people, directly, calculatedly and intentionally, and obstructed the investigation, legally and illegally. But Democrats and feminists threw their principles into a big bonfire for political expediency, and it is a cheap, transparent and nauseating tactic to reverse themselves after all the damage Clinton’s pass for his “personal conduct” —I remember all the doges and rationalizations–did to the culture.

Paul Mirengoff,  a prominent Maryland-based lawyer who handles labor and employment-law cases, does an excellent job debunking a current Democratic talking point being used to explain why the party’s disgraceful posturing and enabling for Clinton was the result of sexual harassment “not being taken as seriously as it is today.”  He concludes,

Given the history I’ve just described, the argument that feminists and Democrats shrugged off claims of sexual misconduct against Clinton because of “the times” is unsustainable. The argument that, if Bill Clinton were president today, feminists and Democrats would believe Clinton’s accuser, or even just treat them with a modicum of respect, is unpersuasive.

The claims against Clinton were brought at a time of intense consciousness of the problem of sexual harassment. If anything, that consciousness subsided after Clinton’s presidency, thanks to the unwillingness of feminists and liberals to take his sexual misconduct seriously.

That unwillingness cannot be defended on the theory that times were different.

An aside: I saw that Move-On.Org has called for Franken to resign. Hilarious. The organization was created to argue that the nations should “move on” from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and let Bill off the hook. I invoke the Ethics Alarms principle of Ethical Estoppel. This group, of all groups, may not argue that any politician should resign after allegation of sexual misconduct. Ever.
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And The Witch Hunters Come Calling At Al Franken’s Door…Desperately, He Tries To Explain Away The Pointy Hat, The Black Cat, And The Broom He’s Been Riding

Al Franken!

Of course! Why didn’t I see that coming?

Homely guy, gets involved in the theater club as the class clown to meet girls, moves through the sex and party culture of Harvard theater, on to the hedonist crisis culture of Saturday Night Live and Hollywood, where anything goes, where Harvey and Woody are gods, where sexual harassment and assault are a tradition and everybody does it…after all, it’s just sex…

Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio news anchor and former Playboy model,  accused Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) of sexual assault and harassment when they were both on a USO tour in 2006. Her story was accompanied by the photograph above, which takes it out of the “he said-she said” category immediately. Within hours, a second woman, a conservative who argued with Franken on an edition of  Bill Maher’s old Comedy Central show, Politically Incorrect, reported that he had harassed her as well, though not sexually, in 2000.

Franken immediately issued a non-apology apology, saying, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

In other words, ‘I don’t believe you about my pushing myself on you when you were awake, and feeling you up while you were asleep was obviously a joke, but I apologize anyway, because you obviously can’t take a joke, and my apolologing  the easiest way to get out of this.” On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, this is a hybrid bad apology with elements of Level #7…

“A forced or compelled version of [a legitimate apology] in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .”

and the even worse #9…

“Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.”

This was lousy, and the reviews were immediate and negative. So Franken came back with a second version, this time in a formal statement:

If you examine it closely, the second apology was more unethical than the first one, but a lot more sneaky about it. Continue reading