In her Dec. 8 op-ed, "Is Al Franken's punishment fair?," Ruth Marcus was right to question the fairness of Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) punishment. As she wrote, "If senators have the patience to let the ethics process proceed in the [Bob] Menendez case, why not with Franken?"
The cases are different in that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted on federal corruption charges, including bribery, fraud and making false statements; Mr. Franken faces accusations of sexual harassment. But there's another big difference: Many governors have the power to replace senators from their home states who resign or are removed. The governor of Mr. Franken's home state of Minnesota is a Democrat; the governor of New Jersey at the time of Mr. Menendez's indictment was a Republican.
So the question emerges: Do Democratic senators consider sexual harassment — even the buffoonish sort allegedly practiced by Mr. Franken — more serious than political corruption, or is this a matter of expediency? And if the former, will they remove a Democratic senator facing harassment allegations even if he could be replaced by a Republican? Not doing so would look like hypocrisy. Doing so would unconscionably weaken the opposition to a government that many of their constituents regard as a threat to the country.
Gary Norton, Charlottesville
Contrary to the Dec. 8 editorial "Mr. Franken steps down," the senator's resignation suggests that as a society we have lost the ability to address serious issues in a rational and proportionate manner. Societies under stress, such as ours, experience a kind of mass hysteria that distorts how they deal with threats, whether real or perceived. Examples such as the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism come to mind.
It is important that safeguards be strengthened so that no one is importuned for sexual favors in the workplace, fears violence or suffers a hostile work environment. Basic fairness, however, should have allowed Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to respond to the accusations. The facts and their seriousness could have been evaluated in the Senate Ethics Committee and ultimately by his constituents. Instead, we are on a slippery slope in which puritanical zeal is likely to become the political weapon of choice.
Stuart Endick, Burke