Al Franken sat down with a local Minnesota CBS reporter, Esme Murphy, this week and did himself no favors. If you have the time, you should watch it. Franken keeps trying to say he doesn’t remember doing anything wrong, has a different memory than his accusers, etc. But, Franken explains, because he so, so, so respects women, if they feel they were disrespected, that’s bad enough. It’s all too-clever-by-half parsing and dodging, very reminiscent of 1990s therapeutic-culture locutions that emphasized empathy over facts. One great thing about the interview is that Murphy is having none of it. She keeps going back to the actual charge — that he grabbed these women’s butts. How do you not remember that?
But the other great thing is that Murphy actually brings up the point that has bothered me the most about Franken’s gaseous word-cloud pseudo mea culpas: Normally, Franken never puts up with any equivocation from people he doesn’t like. He’s always rolling his eyes and chortling at people who don’t answer questions clearly or, more often, the way he wants them to be answered. He rose to political prominence by writing books that started from the supposition everyone he dislikes or disagrees with is a “lying liar.” As a senator, he assumes that his political opponents are always arguing in bad faith. If a Republican were in Franken’s shoes trying to hide within a fog of bovine fecal mist, Franken would be a dervish of mockery. But now he can barely contain his anger that he’s not being allowed to do exactly that.