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Opinion Al Franken and all the others

Post opinion writers Ruth Marcus, Jennifer Rubin and Quinta Jurecic discuss the political implications of the allegations against Roy Moore and Sen. Al Franken. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Post reports:

Broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden said Thursday that Al Franken “forcibly kissed” and groped her during a USO tour in 2006, two years before the Minnesota Democrat’s election to the U.S. Senate — prompting Franken to apologize and call for a Senate ethics investigation into his own actions.
“You knew exactly what you were doing,” Tweeden wrote in a blog post. “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.”

To their credit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a full inquiry. And perhaps to contrast themselves with Republicans who took days to condemn Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, a flock of Democratic senators came forward to condemn Franken’s behavior. Whether his conduct will require expulsion from the Senate however remains an open matter. Surely if there are other complainants, Franken will be under heavy pressure to withdraw.

Democrats would be wise to take a stance of zero tolerance toward current members and refuse to support candidates who have engaged in any form of sexual abuse or assault. Trying to differentiate between one abuser and another on the basis of the number of women involved, the time passed and other factors will lead them to ridicule and “whataboutism” complaints. They can seize the high-ground and put pressure on the GOP by being as harsh with their own members as they are with Republicans.

Broadcaster Leeann Tweeden said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) “forcibly kissed” and groped her in 2006. Here’s what Franken has said about sexual violence. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Republicans have a bigger problem, of course, starting with Moore. Sure it would be an embarrassment if Alabama voters sent someone accused of multiple acts of child sexual predation to the Senate — that would put them in the uncomfortable position of telling Alabama Republicans their choice is unacceptable.

However, Moore is far from the Republicans’ biggest worry. The elephant in the room (excuse the pun) is the president, whose alleged actions were more numerous than Moore’s and far beyond what Franken is accused of doing.  The Post’s Karen Tumulty reported in October 2016:

Kristin Anderson was deep in conversation with acquaintances at a crowded Manhattan nightspot and did not notice the figure to her right on a red velvet couch — until, she recalls, his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear.
Anderson shoved the hand away, fled the couch and turned to take her first good look at the man who had touched her, she said.
She recognized him as Donald Trump: “He was so distinctive looking — with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows.”
At the time of the incident, which Anderson said took place in the early 1990s, she was in her early 20s, trying to make it as a model. She was paying the bills by working as a makeup artist and restaurant hostess. Trump was a big celebrity whose face was all over the tabloids and a regular presence on the New York club scene.

The long list of Donald Trump accusers detailed accounts of groping and unconsented kissing. Trump flatly denied all allegations. And yet Republicans backed him in 2016 and stand by him to this day.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Franken and Moore aren’t fit for the Senate what is Trump doing in the Oval Office? Well, you say, voters knew of the allegations when they picked him. There are several problems with that.

First, just as with Moore, elected public servants have the obligation to set standards and to refuse support to bad actors. Aside from a brief flurry of upset after the “Access Hollywood” tape, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress saw no reason to oppose Trump’s nomination or election. Second, Republicans did not demand, as is the case with Franken, that there be any independent finder of fact. Just as with Moore, on one side was a slew of accusers providing vivid detail (several describe similar conduct — reaching up the woman’s skirt, surprising a woman by forcibly kissing her, etc.) and on the other Trump’s blanket denial. They’ve never seen fit to ask hard questions, do serious fact-finding or take the women accusers seriously. Third, knowing what they do now why would any support him for reelection? Apart from his abject unfitness, his abuse of power and his financial conflicts and self-dealing it would seem his alleged sexual predation should prompt any decent public official at the very least should object to his serving beyond the current term.

The good news is before 2020 there is the 2018 midterm. If voters want to register their disgust with a party’s acceptance of alleged sexual predation, its unwillingness to investigate financial impropriety and failure to recognize attacks on the rule of law, they will have their chance. So long as Trump is there, Republicans up and down the ballot should be held to account for their support for him.