Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part VI

I don't often agree with Mitch McConnell.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for an immediate ethics review of Senator Al Franken in light of allegations that Franken committed sexual assault.

I don’t often agree with McConnell, but he’s right.

For all the wrong reasons, of course. But, still the allegations against Franken should be investigated.

On the face of it, the allegations are highly credible. There is photographic evidence and Franken himself has admitted that at least part of the accusation is true. The incident in question happened before Franken took office and while he was working as an entertainer on a USO tour and may in fact have no bearing on his office.

I don’t know. That’s why it should be looked into.



Did somebody have a question? Hello?

Ah, yes, I see you there in the back. Put your hand down. Let me finish before you start yelling.

Senator Franken should be investigated by the Ethics committee.

He’s a Senator. He’s a representative of the people. He should be held to higher standards.

Look here, I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I don’t owe any politician any slack whatsoever. I’m a citizen of the United States and it's not my job to make excuses for shitty behavior by politicians of any party. Even if I was so inclined – which I emphatically am not.

Senator Franken will have to answer for his shitty behavior and accept whatever consequences result.

I don’t know how it will shake out for Franken, but that said, for Mitch McConnell of all people to make this statement while blithely ignoring Trump's massive laundry list of admitted sexual assaults is ...


You again? What now?

Oh, right. Yes. I know. Please, hang on for a damned minute. Let me finish.

Sexual assault isn't relative.

Franken's shitty behavior isn't made less by Donald Trump's shitty behavior.

There may be degrees of heinousness, but sexual assault isn't a game of comparison.

But that is exactly what happens when politics are involved.

It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to diminish the failings of our own by pointing out the egregious actions of those we don’t like. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing.

No. No. Just sit down. Let me finish.

Both sides do it. We all do it.

I see liberals right now doing it.


Well, yes. That’s true.

Comparing what Franken supposedly did to what Judge Roy Moore (or Donald Trump) allegedly did is a false equivalency.

Because there is no comparison.

But that doesn’t in any way excuse Franken. Or Trump. Or any of the Hollywood creeps that have been recently outed.

But there’s more to it than that. And it does no good whatsoever to identify a logical fallacy and then use that same error in reasoning to make another – i.e. to diminish sexual assault by attempting to quantify it in relation to other heinous behavior.

But that's exactly what's happening here.

Because that’s what always happens.

Take Fox News conservative pundit Sean Hannity today:


"Liberal media finally sees Bill Clinton for what he is, 20 years too late."

Hannity is course predictably dredging up William Jefferson Clinton and his infamous reputation as a horn dog.

Now here's the problem:

I can point out to all of you that

  • Liberals never excused Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct or tried to use the Bible to justify it.
  • She (plural, because there were many) wasn't 14
  • Bill Clinton was held to account. He was. He was held to account in court and paid nearly a million dollars to settle the case. And he was impeached for his behavior – even if he wasn't convicted in the Senate (Yes, he was impeached for perjury, not sexual misconduct. But you're just arguing semantics here. If there wasn't any sexual misconduct, there wouldn't have been any perjury).
  • He's not running for office

I can point all that out to you, to Hannity and his followers (and did, on Twitter to the predictable result), but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because it's a dodge.

It doesn't matter if what I say is true.

Hell, it doesn't even matter if what Sean Hannity says is true.

Because the whole thing is a non sequitur. Bill Clinton's shitty behavior has nothing to do with Roy Moore's or Donald Trump's shitty behavior (Yes, yes, I see you back there. I am deliberately setting aside, for the moment, the larger context of a culture that promotes, excuses, enables, and turns a blind eye to sexual assault in general. Yes. Hang on).

And while liberals' behavior regarding Clinton sure as hell isn't without fault – particularly the trashing of his accusers – the Left has always known who Bill Clinton is. What they did or did not do about it, is, well, part of the point here.

In a better world, if the Left had done more to condemn Clinton’s behavior back in the day, their condemnations of Moore and Trump et all would be virtually unassailable today.

In a better world.

But, of course, that’s not how it works and Whataboutism is a lousy argument no matter if you’re standing hip deep in the swamp or holding the moral high ground.

As I've previously noted here and elsewhere: the act of sexual assault has nothing to do with political parties.

Sexual assault isn't political. It’s not a Left, Right, Republican, Democrat, Liberal or Conservative thing. Sexual assault spans the spectrum. The ranks of both sides have more than their share of scumbags. And there are plenty of apologists to go around.

So, pointing to sexual assault by members of the other side to justify, excuse, or diminish sexual assault by members of your own side is not only a logical fallacy, it's just plain bullshit.

Whataboutism is a lousy argument.

Each individual case of sexual assault must be judged on its own merits (merits in the legal sense, not that sexual assault itself has any merit).

The damage done to the victims isn't lessened because something terrible happened to somebody else.

Those that survive rape, their pain and trauma isn’t diminished because somebody else was raped even more violently. The goddamned dumbest thing you can say to a sexual assault survivor is, “Hey, it could have been worse. Just look at…”

That’s not how it works.

Sexual assault isn't relative.

No matter the behavior of Al Franken, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, et al, if the allegations against Roy Moore are true then he is unfit for office because of his own actions.  His own actions and nobody else’s.

Donald Trump is unfit for office because of his (admitted) actions and his alone.

And perhaps Franken is too. I don’t know.

The only way to find out is to look.

So, McConnell is right – even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

And yes, before you ignore everything I just said and pull a butwaddaabout in my comments section, I do think Bill Clinton is unfit for office – and if he was running I would be opposed to him exactly as I am Roy Moore and Donald Trump and for the same reasons (the same reasons of sexual misconduct. I’m opposed to Moore and Trump for other reasons as well).

How our society regards sexual assault shouldn't be about counting coup.

It shouldn't be about balancing some political book.

It shouldn't be about comparison.

Sexual assault isn’t relative.

This should be about the behavior itself and holding each individual accountable for their actions regardless of what anybody else has done.

This should be the one thing we all – left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberal and Conservative – all people of good conscience and intent, can agree on.

But, of course, it’s not.

Of course not.

And unfortunately, regarding the world as it should be instead of as it is can also be a cognitive bias and while the act of sexual assault itself isn't dependent on political party, how we often deal with it most certainly is.

And so here we are.

Senator Franken should be investigated for ethic violations.


Democrats should be held to high standards.

In fact, they should be held to higher standards than they are right now.


So should the president. So should the Judges. So should every Congressman and Senator. So should every office holder. So should every cop and Priest and dog catcher. 

So should we all.

You want a better nation? A better world? Then you have to be better citizens.

It starts right here.