The publication this week of a New Yorker piece sympathetic to former Sen. Al Franken quotes the Minnesota Democrat as saying he “absolutely” regrets resigning in the midst of numerous allegations of harassment. It suggests Franken is angling for a return to politics.
We’re not swayed. We believe, as we did in late 2017, that Minnesota, the Senate, the DFL and the issues Franken cares about were all better served by his departure.
As a practical matter, we don’t see what door Franken, 68, expects to open to revive his political career. Minnesota has two DFL senators. It has a DFL governor. The congressional district in which Franken resides has a DFL representative.
A Senate berth could perhaps open if Sen. Amy Klobuchar finds her way onto the national ticket, but her presidential campaign hasn’t found any noticeable traction. And any attempt by a Democratic president to appoint Franken to a job requiring Senate confirmation will doubtless result in a contentious hearing.
The New Yorker article itself doesn’t really stand up to a close reading. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight put it well: “This article is a master class in biased reporting and editing. There are so many subtle ways that it seeks to manipulate the reader into taking Franken’s side.” While it attempts to undermine the LeeAnn Tweeden allegations — the ones that include the infamous “pretend to grope her as she naps” photo — it barely mentions the others.
Could Franken have remained in the Senate for the remaining two-plus years of his six-year term? Probably; it’s been a long time since the Senate formally expelled a member. But had he stuck it out, the controversy would have consumed him. He would have been in a weaker position electorally — assuming he sought a third term in 2020 — than his successor, Sen. Tina Smith, is today.
The Democrats who called upon their colleague to resign in 2017 drew a clear distinction between themselves and the Republicans, who continue to embrace a president tainted by more serious improprieties than anything Franken was accused of. While there are few if any elected officials innocent of hypocrisy, Franken’s ouster spoke well of the Democrats then, and they should not regret it now.