* December of 2017…
Both of Illinois’ Democratic senators on Wednesday joined the list of lawmakers calling on U.S. Sen. Al Franken to quit.
In a tweet Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, said, “Senator Franken’s behavior was wrong. He has admitted to what he did. He should resign from the Senate.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the Minnesota senator’s behavior.
“I am deeply disappointed by Sen. Franken’s behavior. He must step aside,” she said. “To all those across America who have come forward to share their stories over the past few months: thank you. Your courage and strength in driving this long-overdue national conversation is awe-inspiring.”
* Jane Mayer at the New Yorker…
It is extremely rare for a senator to resign under pressure. No senator has been expelled since the Civil War, and in modern times only three have resigned under the threat of expulsion: Harrison Williams, in 1982, Bob Packwood, in 1995, and John Ensign, in 2011. Williams resigned after he was convicted of bribery and conspiracy; Packwood faced numerous sexual-assault accusations; Ensign was accused of making illegal payoffs to hide an affair. […]
A remarkable number of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their own roles in his fall. Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told me that they’d been wrong to do so. Such admissions are unusual in an institution whose members rarely concede mistakes. Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in forty-five years in the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp, the former senator from North Dakota, told me, “If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.” Tammy Duckworth, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, told me that the Senate Ethics Committee “should have been allowed to move forward.” She said it was important to acknowledge the trauma that Franken’s accusers had gone through, but added, “We needed more facts. That due process didn’t happen is not good for our democracy.” A
I’ve asked Sen. Durbin’s office if he also has any regrets.
* Back to the story…
For some activists in the women’s movement, Franken’s resignation was a welcome milestone. Linda Hirshman, the author of the recent book “Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment,” told me, “Franken clearly intended to touch these women, and in doing so he violated their right to bodily integrity.” She argues that the Democratic Party has belatedly made up for having excused Bill Clinton’s treatment of women, adding that it’s “finally starting to be the party that protects women from having their asses grabbed.”
Other feminists see the episode as a necessary corrective. [Rebecca Traister, a writer-at-large for New York], who thinks that the behavior described in the media qualifies as sexual harassment, told me, “One of the troubling things about this is that there aren’t easy answers. When you change rules, you end up penalizing people who were caught behaving according to the old rules. But if you don’t change the rules they will never change.”
The lawyer Debra Katz, who has represented Christine Blasey Ford and other sexual-harassment victims, remains troubled by Franken’s case. She contends, “The allegations levelled against Senator Franken did not warrant his forced expulsion from the Senate, particularly given the context in which most of the behavior occurred, which was in his capacity as a comedian.” She adds, “All offensive behavior should be addressed, but not all offensive behavior warrants the most severe sanction.” Katz sees Franken as a cautionary tale for the #MeToo movement. “To treat all allegations the same is not only inappropriate,” she warns. “It feeds into a backlash narrative that men are vulnerable to even frivolous allegations by women.”
…Adding… Possible 2022 GOP opponent…