In a previous commentary, I predicted that the national dialogue on sexual perdition that ensnared Harvey Weinstein and a growing number of Hollywood celebrities would soon roll over the political world. – another powerful profession where the culture of sexual misdeeds has been an open secret since … forever. Now we have Roy Moore and Al Franken.
Before entering into this political quagmire and further, I must state that I have never been a fan of Roy Moore or Al Franken. I was not even a fan of his comedy in the days before he made himself the joke by entering politics As a libertarian leaning conservative, I have found Moore’s stance on such issues as gay marriage and legalization of marijuana to be anachronistic. He always seemed to harken back to the infamous days when the old south was intolerant, chauvinistic and violent — too often under the guise of religious fervor. Those were the days when both Dixie and Roy Moore were solid Democrat.
My disdain for Franken arises out of that same libertarian leaning conservatism. Unlike Moore, Franken never hits even an occasional right chord with me. I dislike his humor, his personality, and his policies.
If Moore wins the election for the Alabama U.S. Senate seat it may say more about the state of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. Even before his years ago dating habits became public, Democrats cast Moore as the Pied Piper of the deplorables. He wore his religion on the sleeve of his judicial robe. He was the anti-force of almost all elements of identity-based political correctness.
Despite all that – or because of it – he won the Republican nomination from an appointed incumbent who had the endorsement of both Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump. Then along came the ladies with their accusations of various levels of sexual impropriety – including flirting, boorish conduct, inappropriate behavior and even sexual assault. Most of the accusations were less important and less damning than the ages of the accusers at the time. They were all below the age of consent – even as young as 14 — at a time when Moore was a thirtyish assistant district attorney. So far, ten women have come forward to describe their distasteful to frightening experiences with Moore and additional accusers coming forward in the future would be no surprise.
By all measures, Moore should be political toast, but so far all the negative publicity the left wing media could heap on him has moved is polling numbers from a sure win to a possible loss. He could end the GOP’s Alabama winning record that goes back to 1997 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the seat – ending an unbroken string of Democrat victories that went back to 1871.
If Moore prevails there is only one conclusion that can be drawn. As bad as Moore is and as repugnant has been his dating practices may be, the voters of Alabama will have decided that despite his considerable flaws, he is still a better choice than a liberal Democrat.
If that is the case, the Democrats will have been hoisted on their own petard. Over decades there have been examples of leading Democrats acting badly. Ted Kennedy’s messy love life occasionally made the news. This was topped off by his narrow escape from a well earned vehicular homicide charge in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
Representative Gerry Studds’ had a sexual relationship with an underage male congressional page which he argued was consensual. The affair did not get him drummed out of Congress or shunned by the Democratic Party – although it did get him censured.
Accusations surfaced that Congressman Barney Frank’s live-in male prostitute lover was running a gay prostitution operation out of their apartment. Frank was reprimanded in a 408 to 18 vote for using his congressional office to “fix” 44 of his lover’s traffic tickets and for lying about the guy’s criminal background. None of this diminished Frank’s popularity among his fellow Democrats.
Then there was the granddaddy of them all, President Clinton. Not only was he accused by multiple women (and at last one that was paid off in a secret settlement), he used his powerful position to seduce a lowly intern into a bit of on-the-job Oval Office sex. Even the resulting impeachment did not damage his standing among Democrats.
Not only did all four of these bad boys continue as respected members of the Democratic Party, they were actually flooded with the highest praise. That was because the Democrats successfully proffered the argument that public figures should not be judged on their personal lives, but only on their public record. Despite Kennedy’s and Clinton’s predatory practices with women, the ladies of the Democrat left fawned on them like teenagers at a rock concert. It seemed that if you supported liberal women’s issues, you were granted hunting rights on the feminist preserve.
In the true tradition of political hypocrisy, the Democrats now seem to think that a Republican variety personal life is much more important than the policies. That was the failed strategy in the 2016 presidential election and they are hoping it will work in Alabama, and it may.
With Moore as the sole political target, it seemed that the Democrats owned the high ground on sexual misconduct. But, Franken changes all that. So far, the Minnesota senator has only one accuser, but if history is any example there will be more.
According to radio personality Leeann Tweeden, Franken got fresh, as we used to say, while they were doing a joint appearance for the troops. She said he groped her and buried his tongue in her mouth in an unwelcomed forced kiss. Though she shoved him off, he attempted to repeat kiss on stage – perhaps assuming she would be in no position to resist, but resist she did.
In most cases, one accuser may lack credibility, but Franken memorialized his lust with a photo of him holding his hands up to her breasts as she was sleeping on the homebound airplane. Ponder that. This guy actually poses as he sexually abuses a sleeping lady. His defenders argued that it was not as intimate as it might have been because she was still wearing a bulletproof vest. Yep! That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
For Democrats, Roy is a pariah who is guilty of the most heinous sex crimes against vulnerable young girls – a pedophile of the first order. To his defenders, Moore is the victim of an organized campaign of character assassination by political enemies who have orchestrated a series of false accusations. That’s THEIR story and they’re sticking to it.
Unlike Moore, whose fate is up to the voters in full view of the controversies, Franken was elected long before voters knew of his lecherous nature – and in an election in which it was later proven that his margin of victory came from illegal votes. He is currently the only member of Congress who is openly accused of sexual misbehavior – although Democrat Representative Jackie Speier claims to be aware of two more cases – one Republican and one Democrat. She did not name them, however.
Franken has apologized for his behavior and had asked the Ethics Committee to investigate him. That was for public relations purposes only since other Senators – including no few Democrats – had already called for an ethics investigation.
In America, we take pride in our claim that a person is innocent until proven guilty. That may have some legal meaning in a court of law, but not in the court of public opinion. If we truly held to that standard of guilt and innocence, we would have to declare Moore innocent, at least so far. Franken might have claimed that same assumption of innocence if it were not for that incriminating photo. While Franken has only one accuser so far, she has offered up irrefutable evidence.
For Moore, there is no such smoking gun, but there is a substantial volume of testimony that gives an aura of legitimacy to the public charges. Even if enemies were to have plotted such accusations as political strategy, it is unlikely that they could have found so many women willing to lie so publicly. Also, there are too many others who were contemporaneously told of these events – including mothers, boyfriends, future husbands and girlfriends. There were other public comments from people who claim to have been aware of Moore’s predilection for underage girls.
Franken faces the greatest danger in a Moore election. Senate Leader McConnell and others have suggested that he might be expelled from the Senate. They can do that, but it is a high barrier. The will of the voters is almost always the deciding factor in the right to serve. Many politicians convicted of crimes – and who even served time – have been subsequently elected to public office and allowed to serve.
If enough Senate Republicans join with the more than willing Democrats to oust Moore, can the Democrats protect Franken from a similar fate? On the other hand, will the Franken controversy reduce the fervor to oust Moore? Nothing in Washington is simple or obvious.
The fate of Moore and Franken will not be adjudicated. It will not depend on hard evidence. It is all about politics, and politics is a cruel business where the rules of evidence do not apply. In fact, rules of decency do not apply. The entire concept of opposition research is to dig up mud on the opponents. That not only includes any past sins but also anything in the record that can be twisted to appear as a sin.
At a time where the partisan divide seems to be so clearly defined, however, it is a bit refreshing to know that at least bad behavior is bipartisan.