He became the first television comedian to win a U.S. Senate seat. And so Sen. Al Franken also becomes the first comic-turned-senator to quit in disgrace over sexual misconduct.
It only fits that Franken (D-Minn.) would note the irony of it, with a perceptible smirkiness his foes grew to detest.
Franken said he’s leaving “while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”
For those who see it all through the lens of the perpetual partisan war, three possible outcomes are in play: Good for Republicans; good for Democrats and indifferent for either.
The first television “reality” show celebrity to become president, Donald Trump, may well think of this as good for himself. Trump began thumbing his nose at Franken three weeks ago on Twitter with the jeering snark of a gossip writer.
“The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words,” the GOP president tweeted. “And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women.”
Congressional Democrats would like to believe their having called in advance for Franken’s departure — and that of departing Rep. John Conyers — will better amplify their message against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
But with the list of Franken accusers growing, the Senate minority caucus led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) may have risked nothing by calling on the nine-year incumbent to quit.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is expected to appoint a close party ally, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, for the vacant seat pending a special election next November.
New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, could actually benefit as she seeks to build her role as a campaign booster for Democratic women in the upper house.
Life in the Republican Party, including Trumpland, is ever complicated.
After the first public allegation against Franken surfaced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an investigation. Moore, an enemy of McConnell (R-Ky.) who defeated the leader’s candidate, Luther Strange, in his state’s GOP primary, denounced this position.
Moore tweeted last month: “Al Franken admits guilt after photographic evidence of his abuse surfaces. Mitch: ‘Let’s investigate.’ ”
“In Alabama, ZERO evidence, allegations 100 percent rejected. Mitch: ‘Moore must quit immediately or be expelled.’ ”
Polls favor Moore to win the seat, vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general, in a special election on Tuesday. Ordinarily, McConnell might prefer Moore lost. But McConnell right now holds only a two-seat majority.
Identifying the losers here — other than Franken and Conyers — remains tricky for now.