Friday, November 17, 2017

Al Franken Reconsidered

Compadres Universally,

First, a few words to update.  Everything after this paragraph was composed several weeks ago, when Senator Al Franken was charged by Leeann Tweeden with having menaced her celebrated breasts by posing his cupped fingers above them while being photographed in 2006 on a USO tour.  Franken, a reliable Minnesota liberal, was abruptly under pressure to resign for what seemed at worst an effort to clown around in very bad taste.  Since then, other such incidents involving Franken have become public and on January 2, 2018 he resigned, brought down by a wave of feminist anger which -- in many cases -- may well have been overdue.  Se please read what I wrote several weeks ago:

I know, I issued one of these hypercharged blogs recently, but hear me out with this.  Indignation sparks my creative demons, and public events recently have me jumping around psychologically.

The trigger this week is the brouhaha over Senator Al Franken.  I'd better confess at the outset that I probably tend to identify with Franken, not only his liberal politics but unavoidably his background.  Like Franken, I grew up in the Jewish community of Minneapolis and prepped at Blake, a country day school just outside neighboring  Hopkins, Episcopalian in its orientation and so rigorous that four years at Harvard afterwards seemed like a vacation.  Only Deerfield outranked the place academically among prep schools while I was around.

After establishing a national reputation on Saturday Night Live as a comedian and social commentator, Franken ran for a Senate seat and quickly took his place as a civilized liberal and a telling skeptic when it came to the incoming president Trump.  Now, in the midst of the firestorm around the decades-long performance of Judge Roy Moore as a supposed assaulter of Alabama  teenage girls, the model and sportscaster Leeann Tweeden has charged Franken with having kissed her -- as the script they were using during a USO tour in Kuwait in 2006 while he was still a comedian would require -- and Franken appears to have slipped her a little tongue.  Later, while she was sleeping, Franked had a picture taken of Tweeden, fully dressed, with Franken's hands cupped over her breasts and later sent it to her.  A memento, something funny.

The whole exchange strikes me as the kind of episode that might have happened toward the end of a junior high school Halloween party, but Tweeden -- a onetime Hooters hostess and spokesperson who characterizes herself as a "fiscal conservative" and voted twice for George W. Bush as well as appearing as a fitness model in Playboy and later appearing in a "nude pictorial" (details courtesy of Wikipedia) --  Tweeden claims that the indignity she suffered at Franken's hands has finally become insupportable.  In what reeks of another misdirection maneuver by the Trump handlers, Tweeden went public yesterday after eleven years with the details of the French kiss to which she had been subjected.  Out with it, The Horror, The Horror!!!!

OK, Franken got carried away, he acted badly, he has already 'fessed up.  What concerns me is the extent to which a kind of hard-core retroactive feminism can be misused to undermine an important career.  Roy Moore has a history of dozens of abuses.  Al Franken slipped up and did something most fair-minded women would probably consider objectionable but relatively harmless.  After five decades as a regular in Edward Kennedy's entourage and his principal biographer -- see my Edward Kennedy, an Intimate Biography -- I have had a look at womanizing.  As the acknowledged Lion of the Senate, Kennedy's lifetime of invaluable contributions to our system of laws stands as a memorial we might not have survived without his daily, grinding effort.  We miss him today.

 Al Franken deserves his run at history

Burton Hersh