Senator Franken, President Trump and Roy Moore – Why Facts and Context Must Matter.

IMG_0217I have recently been on social media railing, as more courageous women share how they were sexually assaulted and harassed by Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in Alabama. I think the number is now at eight women, many of whom were teenagers when he assaulted and harassed them while he was a licensed attorney working for the District Attorney’s office and in his 30’s.

One of the allegations of sexual assault involves  a 14 year old child. Moore also dated teenage girls while employed as an officer of the court. Think about that. He reportedly was so taken by a high school girl that he actually called the principal’s office and had them call her out of her math class to talk to him. He then asked her out on a date. Creepy with a capital “C.” Oh, he also was said to have been banned from a local mall for hassling young women. Really? Who does that? Not anyone who should serve in public office, much less the United States Senate.

Roy Moore has called the allegations “fake news,” whatever the hell that is. To me this has now come to mean something reported that casts someone in a bad or compromising light. Moore also did make sure people knew he did not date these girls – without their parent’s consent. Like that made it alright? It did not. Clearly, Moore still does not get it. Then,  Moore turned to his bullying style and threatened his accusers with legal action. I’m guessing he may have learned that bullying bravado from President Trump, who had threatened to sue the dozen or more women who have accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment after he was elected.

Apparently, the President has been too busy banning Muslims and trying to build a wall on the Mexico border to keep the rapists and drug dealers out that he has not yet found time to sue these women yet. Don’t hold your breath.

There is no small irony to be lost in the President’s inability to chastise Moore’s illegal pedophile behavior or call for him to withdraw from the Alabama Senate race as the President faces  allegations he raped a 13 year old girl, attempted to rape his ex wife and a former business associate and over a dozen claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The President, you’ll remember, had been caught on tape bragging about his own sexually assaulting of  women by grabbing them by their genitals. Even so, he has denied all of these women’s claims. Think about that. The President, who has proven to the country during his 10 months in office to be a serial liar, is calling these dozen plus women who have accused him of sexual assault or sexual harassment,  liars. My money’s on his accusers.

The President tries to point out the difference between his situation and Al Franken is that well, Senator Franken has admitted the harassing behavior and he has not. That’s Trump illogic at its finest. Except we have heard the President brag about grabbing women by their genitals. But then later he said he really did not do such things, and said it was just locker room talk. He’s a liar. That’s a character flaw he and Roy Moore share.

An article in the New York Times quotes Bill Willard, a longtime lawyer from the community and a professional colleague familiar with Mr. Moore’s history. Mr. Willard is quoted as saying that Mr. Moore “was really immature socially” and “so it might kind of make sense,” in referring to Mr. Moore’s reputed attraction to teenagers.  It might well explain it, but it does not excuse it. It also adds credibility to the claims of Moore’s accusers, many of whom were teenage girls at the time of the sexual abuse and harassment.

Does anyone honestly think that all of the 20 or more women who have now come forward and  accused President Trump and Roy Moore of sexual assault or sexual harassment are lying? Of course not. They are all lying because? Because they want their 15 minutes of fame. . . which consists of being shamed and humiliated . . . all over again? This kind of specious argument deserves to be called out over and over again until the President is finally held accountable for his behavior. This is how woman who are courageous enough to come forward and confront their accusers have often treated in this country. Remember the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991?  Anita Hill was vilified by an all male Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing her of lying or inviting now Justice Thomas’s sexual harassment. It’s about power, white male power. It must stop.

Believe it or not,  these brave women coming forward and telling their stories of how they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by President Trump or Senator Moore is actual evidence that the assaults or harassment took place. It’s not “fake news.” The hollow denials by Trump and Moore do not make these detailed allegations non evidence as Trump and Moore and their blind supporters seem to pretend in their fairy tale worlds. But that fairy tale is truly a nightmare for the women (and children) victims.

The President was brazen enough to try and call out Senator Al Franken for his sexually harassing behavior that recently came to light. Franken was accused of forcing a kiss on Leann Tweeden, a woman  he was performing with as part of a USO tour he was part of as a professional comedian back in 2006, as well as orchestrating a picture of him where he appears to grope Ms. Tweeden’s  breasts while she was asleep on the plane during their return trip. Creepy? Absolutely. Wrong? No doubt.

Yet,  I will also refer you to the President’s brazen Tweet, calling Senator Franken “Senator Frankenstien [sic]” and wondering “where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?” Again, the President’s questions in his Tweet go down the creepy Trump road that apparently now our country just accepts from this morally bankrupt President who routinely lies and lacks a much needed moral compass. We cannot allow such behavior to go unchallenged or become acceptable.

The President tries to point out the difference between his situation and Al Franken is that well, Senator Franken has admitted the harassing behavior and he has not. That’s Trump illogic at its finest. Except we have heard the President brag about grabbing women by their genitals. But then later he said he really did not do such things, and said it was just locker room talk. He’s a liar. That’s a character flaw he and Roy Moore share.

What was Senator Franken’s response to the accusations? He apologized for his behavior. He sent a personal letter of apology to Ms. Tweeden. She has accepted his apology and his invitation to meet with him about it. Senator Franken has requested a Senate Ethics investigation of his behavior. Ms. Tweeden is not demanding Senator Franken resign. Does that make what Al Franken did alright? Of course not; yet he does acknowledge the harm and wrongdoing and take responsibility for his actions. That matters. It has to.

Should Senator Franken resign?  Maybe. I’m inclined to say let’s see what the Senate Ethics Committee recommends. I am a Minnesota resident and had been proud to call Senator Franken my Senator. His actions are inexcusable and disappointing and will undoubtedly hurt his effectiveness for causes important to women, my Minnesota neighbors, and Democrats should he remain in the Senate. But he is replaceable.

To my fellow Democrats who say that since the sexual harassment occurred before Franken was a U.S. Senator it should therefore be looked at in a different and more forgiving light, the same can be said of President Trump. The allegations made against him took place while he was a businessman. Do we give President Trump a pass? Is it relevant at all that Franken has two incidents of sexual harassment with one woman and Trump has 15 plus incidents with multiple victims, including much more serious allegations? It may have to be, unless we are willing to have a no tolerance bar for any male elected official who sexually harasses a women. Good luck getting male dominated government bodies to adopt such a standard. Maybe that’s yet another reason why we need more women in elected office?

The President is quick to suggest that somehow the difference between his situation and Senator Franken’s  is that well, Senator Franken has admitted the harassing behavior and he has not. That’s the Trump illogic at its finest.  Except Trump conveniently forgets he bragged about grabbing women by their genitals. That sounds like an admission to me. But then later Trump tries to take it all back, saying he really did not do such things and said it was just “locker room talk.” I think what this proves is that the President is a liar.  That’s a character flaw he and Roy Moore  appear to share.

The President and Roy Moore, unlike Franken, are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility and apologize.  We need and want our elected leaders to have the integrity to own their mistakes, apologize, and learn from them.

The President lamely suggests that somehow Al Franken’s admission and his and Roy Moore’s shameless hollow denials should explain why he thinks Al Franken should resign and why he and Roy Moore should not. Both Trump and Moore are each facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment and they have continued their baseless denials. This does not prove their innocence. Rather, it only serves to provide more evidence of a President and wayward judge that are both unable to accept responsibility for their own moral and human failings and shows their continued white male privilege and power that facilitates and permits their blaming of their female victims.

At some point,  this is on us for allowing such abuses to continue and not demanding, as a society of moral and responsible adult citizens, their resignations or removal. We have now reached that point. At a time when women and our entire country need men to step up and do the right thing, what they get is a continuing disgusting display of boorish and outrageous behavior at the highest levels of our political leadership that insults and demeans not only all the women in this country, but also the men that love them. Our silence makes us complicit.

Senators and Congressmen are now demanding Roy Moore withdraw from the Alabama Senate race because, they now say,  they believe his accusers and that he is morally unfit to serve in the Senate. I agree. Yet those same Republican leaders owe it to the American people to explain why they don’t also believe the President’s accusers, find him morally unfit to serve, and demand that the President, a member of their own party, resign the presidency.  Hypocrisy needs to be called out regardless of party affiliation. Will we have the moral courage necessary to demand that our leaders have a moral compass? What happens if we don’t?

This should not be about politics. It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. The facts matter. An employer rightfully takes a different course of disciplinary action against one of its employees who their investigations have shown to be a serial harasser  than they do against someone who has committed a single act. The seriousness of the harassment matters. Under the law, employers are required to take prompt and appropriate action to meaningfully address the sexual harassment, up to and including termination. Under the law, our society has determined  it is a crime for a 32 year old man to engage in sexual activity with a 14 year old girl. And that’s the way it should be. Anyone who does that should not be a United States Senator, they should be in jail.

We must be able to say some things are worse than others and require a different penalty, even in what’s demanded of our elected officials who screw up. Because that’s the human condition and it will continue to happen. We need to be capable of navigating nuance.. Hopefully, we are able to learn from it as voters and our own moral compasses will compel us to replace offenders with folks with a better moral compass. Our track record does not lead me to be optimistic. . . as long as men continue to be in control.

Alabama’s female Governor, Kay Ivey, who said she has no reason to disbelieve the women who have accused Roy Moore, has said she will vote for Moore, because Alabama needs a Republican in the United States Senate to keep their majority and to vote on Supreme Court justices and other matters. She’s picking a pedophile to serve over the Democratic candidate. And therein lies a lot of what continues to be wrong with America, picking party over politics and an inability or refusal to come together and do what’s right.

I still am yearning for that day where we demand  our politicians follow the sage  life advice provided by author and arm chair theologian, Anne Lamott, which is to “follow the rules and don’t be an asshole.”