If Sen. Al Franken steps down, he shouldn't be alone
On the same day that outraged critics were called for Sen. Al Franken to resign, Alabama's Republican Party offered its unqualified support to Senate candidate Roy Moore.
What's wrong with this picture?
Franken came under fire Thursday over allegations that he kissed and groped Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio anchor, without her consent in a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East, two years before the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member took public office.
Now, after years of practiced seriousness to dispel concerns about his comic past, his image has been undone in many minds by a photo. It is a shot of his grinning at the camera like a goofy doofus while reaching out in a pantomime grab for the breasts of a sleeping Tweeden. Tweeden says she didn't see the photo until after she returned home and felt understandably angry and humiliated. She also accused Franken of forcibly tongue-kissing her backstage, also without her consent.
Once you see the photo, as the saying goes, you can't un-see it. It may be the most politically damning photo since Gary Hart, Democratic front-runner in the 1988 presidential race, was photographed with campaign aide Donna Rice sitting on his lap on a boat dock -- and Hart was wearing a shirt bearing the boat's name, "Monkey Business." He dropped out of that race.
"You knew exactly what you were doing," Tweeden writes in an online essay. "You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed."
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Franken responded with two statements of apology to Tweeden and agreed with calls from both parties' leaders to turn his fate over to the notoriously toothless Senate Ethics Committee.
Moore, by contrast, continued to deny accusations that he stalked and "dated" high school girls, which allegedly included improper sexual contact with a 14-year-old, while he was a prosecutor in his 30s -- and revelations that he had been banned from a shopping mall in his hometown, Gadsden.
Yet he was endorsed by Alabama's Republican leaders, despite warnings from national GOP leaders that he could lose to Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the deeply conservative state -- or be expelled from Congress if he wins. Ironically, Moore has cultivated a loyal base among the conservative state's evangelicals, which he now rallies by playing the conspiracy card. He claims to be the victim of anti-conservative conspirators in Washington, despite numerous calls from both parties for him to step aside.
His defiance may be reckless, but it also is his right. It also is the right of Alabama's voters to decide if this is the sort of man they want to send to Washington as their senator.