Opinion

Al Franken isn't sorry

Here's the one word the senator did not say once in his resignation speech

It's a comfort to know that today was perhaps the very last time that any of us will have to see the self-satisfied visage of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) leering contemptuously from the floor of the Senate. What I do not understand is why.

No one who listened carefully to Franken's remarks this morning could walk away from them with any notion of why he is bothering to resign. He stood there in his purple tie grinning smugly, explaining, as if to a sensitive child, why he had done nothing wrong. Without referring to any specific incident of sexual misconduct or even mentioning the names of any of his accusers, he calmly insinuated that all of the eight women who "have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them" are liars or victims of confusion.

He is "shocked," he said, by their stories. He is even — the poor man — "upset." But he is also "respectful," so respectful indeed that he worries that he might have given "the false impression that I was admitting to having done things I haven't done." What a pity. Franken should rest easy. I for one was not under any such impression. His conviction that he is wholly innocent of any crime or misconduct is perhaps the only aspect of this affair about which I am utterly certain.

He also reminded us that he is "a champion of women," a man with a "reputation as someone who respects women," something to which the rest of us must surely aspire. "All women," he said, "deserve to be heard and have their experiences taken seriously," except, presumably, those whose stories must be dismissed out of hand. Who could disagree?

Franken regrets nothing except the fact that he can no longer be an "effective" politician. He can, he tells us, hardly bring himself to "walk away from this job with so much work left done." His decision to abandon his political career was motivated not by personal guilt but out of selfless concern that a thorough investigation by a Senate ethics panel would exhaust his ability to fulfill his obligations towards the people of his home state. "Minnesotans," he said, "deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day."

He spoke with wistfulness and yearning of a Senate career which would appear to be the source of no little pride, of the "long hours and late nights and hard lessons" of those magnificent years he had spent in self-denying labor, years in which this noble public servant who "did not grow up wanting to be a politician" was forced to "learn a lot on the fly." "It wasn't easy and it wasn't always fun," he said. How lucky we are to have such altruists and humanitarians serving us in the world's greatest deliberative body.

In the sage tones of the infinitely patient schoolteacher, he also reminded the American people that they "too will experience setbacks, defeats, and disappointments." He offered words of advice and encouragement for his colleagues, who, he hopes, "will find the political courage necessary to keep asking the tough questions" even though "there is no guarantee that all your work and sacrifice will ever pay off." He waxed poetically about the hopes and aspirations of the middle class, of whom, he reminded us, he has long been a tireless and often thankless champion.

He found time to thank members of his staff, volunteers, mentors, advisers, sources of timeless inspiration. Above all, he thanked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), his senior colleague, for "her guidance and wisdom."

Al Franken said all these and any many other things over the course of his remarks this morning.

One word he did not say even once? "Sorry."

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