Via the Minneapolis StarTribune:
WASHINGTON – Democratic Party leaders united Wednesday in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign from the U.S. Senate, an extraordinary rebuke to the Minnesota Democrat as he faced a new allegation of sexual harassment.
Franken planned to make an announcement about his future Thursday morning on the Senate floor. A top Democratic official told the Star Tribune that Franken planned to resign, but the senator’s staff insisted no final decision had been made.
It was clear that Franken’s political career was hanging by a thread, as a wave of Democrats throughout the day — first female senators, followed by many male colleagues and then other party leaders, said it was time for him to step down from the seat he’s held since 2009.
“I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first of Franken’s Democratic colleagues to come out against him, posted on Facebook.
If Franken resigns, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a temporary replacement. A high-ranking Democratic source told the Star Tribune that the likeliest replacement is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a close Dayton ally who would not be expected to run for the seat in an ensuing special election in November 2018. Dayton is expected to move quickly if Franken resigns.
I’m not going to pile on Sen. Franken about his behavior. No one — least of all Mr. Franken himself — has made excuses, called it “fake news,” or denied it. He’s apologized sincerely many times over, and not tried to say that because he has made an attempt to make amends, he should stay in office. Sometimes the amends include giving up, and it looks like he’s doing it.
But he’s also being used as the bargaining chip in a political battle to claim the moral high ground against the Republicans, Trump, and Roy Moore in Alabama. In order for the Democrats to have a clean road to campaign against Mr. Moore and his history, the Democrats have to show that they won’t tolerate bad — or possibly criminal — conduct from anyone, including a popular and well-liked figure such as Mr. Franken.
I’ve been around long enough to know that this is how the game is played. It’s not exactly “House of Cards” (although the irony of Kevin Spacey losing the gig because he’s a sexual predator proves that karma can be a drama queen) nor “Game of Thrones” because there be no dragons here, but moving the pieces on the chessboard requires a willingness to give up a knight to protect the king. It makes sense politically. The one thing I’m not sure of is how well it serves the people of Minnesota, but that calculus seems to be only a minor factor in the strategy.
The hard truth is that it may all be for naught. The race in Alabama is still too close to call, and if Roy Moore wins, the only thing it will prove is that the Democrats are willing to sacrifice in order to demonstrate their scruples while the Republicans are all too happy to show they have none and win anyway. And we knew that long before the pictures came out.