"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

My button's bigger than yours!

The fair questions that Franken’s defenders—and as I noted in my previous column on this, I’m not just his defender but a friend since the time we were both Shorenstein fellows in 2003—are these. 

Maybe Al Franken is better off staying out of politics:

But that isn’t the main point. The main point is that Franken didn’t have a chance to defend himself. He has maintained publicly that he didn’t do most of the things he’s been accused of. Democrats are supposed to believe in things like a fair process and hearing both sides and letting a person defend himself. In this case, they did not. They will face, and deserve to face, very tough questions of their own, starting with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who started this Queen of Hearts-ish avalanche. She came in for a lot of heat on my Twitter feed, and elsewhere, I’ve noticed. And props to Pat Leahy for being the only Democrat to come forward and admit on the record that he was wrong to call for Franken’s resignation. It would help, a little, if more of them had the courage to do the same.

Except courage is apparently a fungible good:

 It’s easy, only these few weeks later, to forget what it felt like when the fifth then sixth then seventh woman came forward. It looked pretty indefensible. And as for the Alabama connection, it might be this. Until Franken announced he was quitting, Democrats on Capitol Hill were being asked daily by reporters, ‘But what about your own problems?’ Once Franken and Conyers were out, those questions stopped. The “both sides do it” narrative was cut off at the knees. The media focus returned solely to Moore, and while these things are definitionally unmeasurable, it may have had an impact on that outcome.

Well, only if media writes the narrative and that narrative is then reality.  But no matter how hard the empiricists tried, perception is still not reality.   Joe Trippi, campaign manager for Doug Jones, helpfully points out that:

“The day before the Washington Post story came out, we were behind by one point, 46 to 45,” says Joe Trippi. “And the day before the election, we were ahead in our own survey by 2 points. We ended up winning by 1.8.”

If anything, Trippi argues, the WaPo articles rallied Moore's supporters.  Jones didn't win because of those stories; he practically won in spite of them.  But who needs process when we have a narrative, right?  Like the narrative of  7 women accusing Al Franken of inappropriate conduct.  Where there's smoke there must be fire, right?  We don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, right?  The times they are a-changin', and even if Kirsten Gillibrand did start a "Queen of Hearts-ish avalanche," there must be something to the accusations, eh?  We don't need no steenken' badges, we've got the news!

So Al Franken deserved due process, but at the same time, 7 women!  What if it turned to 8?  What good is due process in the face of so many accusers, whether they were telling the truth or not? (and a quick reminder:  none of them were actually alleging rape or even genitals grabbing).  I mean, process is all well and good, but 7!  Which is to be the master, the process or the narrative?  Well, obviously.....

And so we continue to react the way Donald Trump does.  Good to know he's back at work, eh?  We don't need no due process, no investigations, no evidence!  FoxNews reported on a story from the Daily Caller and that's good enough!  Off with their heads!  In fact, it's a deep state conspiracy!  Off with everybody's head!  Surely Sen. Gillibrand would approve! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of correct behavior!  Or at least there's a conspiracy afoot, a deep state to thwart!

What could possibly go wrong?  If appearance isn't reality, it should be, right?

When Dan Rather ended his news broadcasts with "Courage," it was just an empty word, no matter how much inflection he put on it.  It still is.  Acting it is one thing; but talking about it is just lips flapping.


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