Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zephyr Teachout Has A Practical Solution Rather Than A Gillibrand-Trump Type Lynch Mob


Trump is such a detestable excuse for a human being that his ugly criticism of Kirsten Gillibrand makes it impossible for even her harshest critics not to rally to her defense. On the other hand, nothing could have buoyed Gillibrand's opportunistic quest for the presidential nomination more than Trump's deranged and vicious tweet rage Tuesday morning. That said, a far better-- in every conceivable way-- New York political leader than Gillibrand or Trump will ever be, Zephyr Teachout, published an OpEd in Monday's NY Times, I'm Not Convinced Franken Should Quit, imparts both Trump and Gillibrand, each of whom is quite convinced Franken should, albeit for vastly different reasons. Like all progressives, Teachout is a backer of the #MeToo movement and wrote that "women are routinely demeaned, dismissed, discouraged and assaulted. Too many women’s careers are stymied or ended because of harassment and abuse. In politics, where I have worked much of my adult life, this behavior is rampant. I also believe in zero tolerance. And yet, a lot of women I know-- myself included-- were left with a sense that something went wrong last week with the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate. He resigned after a groundswell of his own Democratic colleagues called for him to step down." Keep in mind what Eugene Puryear said last week-- in part, "This moment is bigger than the Democrats or the Republicans, it is bigger than partisan politics. We are seeing truly mass steps towards an extremely necessary, critical, indispensable cultural change in this country. We need to fan the flames. The time to fight to take on (and hopefully crush) the patriarchy is now, women are fighting and leading, we need to join them not lament that some pissed off dudes are gonna vote next year." And now read Zephyr:
Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality. As citizens, we need a way to make sense of accusations that does not depend only on what we read or see in the news or on social media.

Due process means a fair, full investigation, with a chance for the accused to respond. And proportionality means that while all forms of inappropriate sexual behavior should be addressed, the response should be based on the nature of the transgressions.

Both were missing in the hasty call for Senator Franken’s resignation. Some might point out, rightly, that Congress doesn’t have good procedures for dealing with harassment accusations. In fact, the congressional process to date has gone something like this: Lift up the rug and sweep the accusations underneath. It’s delay, deny, pay hush money and avoid the consequences.

Instead, here’s what a fair system might look like: Congress should empower an independent arbiter to investigate complaints-- like a Government Accountability Office, with trained experts in the field. Clearly understood mechanisms for reporting should be established. A timetable should be set that ensures complaints receive a prompt response. Both the accuser and the accused could submit questions and would have access to trained advocates and free legal consultation.

The independent arbiter would then make a nonbinding proposal addressing what happened and what should be done. It could include a call to resign or for censure, or a range of other responses tailored to the findings.

This isn’t just about Senator Franken. Other lawmakers have also been accused of harassment. We need a system to deal with that messy reality, and the current one of investigating those complaints is opaque, takes too long and has not worked to protect vulnerable women and men from harassment. And the current alternative-- off with the head of the accused, regardless of the accusation-- is too quick, too easily subject to political manipulation and too vulnerable to the passions of the moment.

We don’t have the system I’m suggesting. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on process. On Nov. 30, a Senate ethics panel announced the beginning of an investigation into the allegations against Senator Franken. It should run its course, and we should see the results. Then we’ll know whether his planned resignation was warranted.

With time, and the existing ethics procedures, things are likely to emerge that will surprise us all. New facts may put Senator Franken in a better light, or a far worse one, and we should be open to both.

Elections are different. Voters have a responsibility to make a judgment with whatever facts are available on Election Day. In the case of Roy Moore, voters in Alabama ought take the very serious accusations into account. But if Mr. Moore is elected to the Senate, he should immediately be subject to the same kind of ethics inquiry that I am recommending for Senator Franken.

Finally, the nature of the behaviors matter, too. Proportionality means that after investigating, Congress should fully consider the best response to the revealed conduct.

My first job out of law school was representing people on death row in North Carolina, where I often saw the impact of hasty prosecutions. I represented a man on death row whose lawyers had spent all of eight hours looking into his claim of innocence. I met men whose lawyers had never looked into their backgrounds. I also lived in the legal environment that produced the Duke University lacrosse case, in which three students were falsely accused of rape by the prosecutor in the case, who was later disbarred for his conduct. The quick rush to public condemnation of the players, fueled by the media, ended up hurting the accuser and the accused.

As citizens, we should all be willing to stay ambivalent while the facts are gathered and we collect our thoughts. While the choice to fire the television hosts Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer were the choices of private companies, condemning a sitting lawmaker is a public choice and one our representatives should make judiciously.
Not everyone accused by every women is Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Blake Farenthold or Roy Moore.

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At 3:21 PM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

If the body responsible for making the laws rejects the rule of law in favor of political chicanery and/or trial-by-media, it is profoundly corrupt. I know some of us already know that, but perhaps we can hope Sen. Franken's kangaroo-court verdict will rouse a few more of the brainwashed.

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what went on in chambers, but the trial by media was NOT a slam dunk. He had his detractors, for sure. But he also had his supporters.

In the end, Franken CHOSE to bail early, before the findings of the ethics board. And that is his privilege.

Reading between the lines, I kind of think he knew he would be found to be a (one time) douchebag and asked to leave anyway. He chose to head it off at the pass.

The only thing that would make it worse at this point is for him to say, in his best Emily Litella voice, "never mind".

At 6:19 PM, Blogger CNYOrange said...

To Anonymous at 4:42 PM, I don't know what you were watching but Franken was FULLY ready to let the ethics board run it's course that's just a fact and he so in his final speech.

One of his "accusers" said when they posed for their selfie he put his arm around her waist and squeezed twice - are you fucking kidding me, that's sexual abuse? That MAY rise to the level of misdemeanor - if even that. Senator Franken got railroaded pure and simple. I'm done with the demorats, too eager to throw their own under the bus for political expedience.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger CNYOrange said...

A note on gillibrand. This is a senator who has taken more money from the most vicious animals on the face of this planet than any other politician (well except for chuck schumer, but she's close behind)- I'm talking about the wall street predators. This is blood money she's eagerly accepted and wall street has undoubtedly caused more harm to women than anything Senator Franken has ever done. If anyone should resign the senate it's her.

At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CNYO, he did not get railroaded. He bailed. Should have gone through due process but CHOSE to bail. I can only speculate why, but it was HIS choice to go this way.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger CNYOrange said...

Anonymous at 6:34AM you're wrong, you just are, he didn't CHOOSE anything other than getting railroaded by a bunch of slimy demorats, gillibrand at the top of the list.

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