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Bush Ethics: The New Democrats

Photograph Source Donna Cleveland | CC BY 2.0

Democrat Al Franken agreed to resign from his post as a Minnesota Senator after eight women accused him of sexual harassment. When Franken was ousted I remarked that I would shed no tears for him, and that remains the case. But Franken was perhaps the target of a Republican smear campaign. Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Roger Stone tweeted that it was Franken’s “time in the barrel” hours before the allegations against him became public.

Franken was pushed out because his colleagues and constituents in the Democratic Party care about sexual harassment. Republicans do not have this problem to worry about, with the current President being the most gross example. It is worth pointing out too that the punishment should fit the crime. Men like Harvey Weinstein who are accused of rape are far different from men like Franken who have grabbed a few too many butts. Still, the stories line up as an abuse of power. Sexual harassment is commonplace and rarely punished. Count Franken’s resignation as better than the alternative of such behavior being ignored—as it most often is. Rather than save Franken, we should be focused on making sure men on the other side of the aisle are held to the same standard.

Franken was also just a weird and corny guy—I am much happier with the remarkably bland Amy Klobachar as a personality. When it came to governing though, Franken we have to admit was one of the better senators. This surely made his ousting a whole lot easier. He was one of the strongest advocates for a single payer health care system. He was okay on the environment, voting against Overturning the Oil, Gas and Mining Anti Corruption Rule and Overturning the Stream Protection From Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining. But he also supported the PolyMet copper mine. He even was helpful in reducing sexual assault when he introduced the 2010 Defense Appropriation bill. It perhaps shows how far we are removed from politics when the personal actions of politicians outweigh the laws they make. When it came to war and peace, Franken was still less impressive for the most part. He supported the Iraq war, airstrikes in Syria, Israel’s occupation of Palestine and was one of three cosponsors of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017. Franken is a U.S. Senator, so this is business as usual. Even so, seeing Franken publicly humiliated was surely a great joy for anyone interested in peace.

What is to come in his place though? Was Franken, the imperialist pro-coal liberal really too much? Did the Republicans really feel that this creepy sap was an obstacle? Apparently so. Enter Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer. Painter calls himself a centrist and says that he is running as a Democrat for Franken’s old seat. Oh my. Painter also clerked for Ronald Reagan. Should he even be allowed to run as a Democrat? Given the negligible differences between the two parties, one might be right to not care. But this surely is an insult to the integrity of any Democrat voter who remembers Bush and Reagan.

Painter has gained attention by slamming (and suing) Trump. Which apparently is enough now to be considered left wing. The Democrats seem happy conceding that the Republicans are going to be like Trump now and that they can become the Clinton-Bush center-right voice of sanity. How do we know that both corporate parties are hopeless? Take Painter’s revelation that if Bush would have had the chance to nominate someone to the Supreme Court in his final two years in office he would have nominated Merrick Garland. Barack Obama attempted to nominate Garland before being unfairly blocked by the Republicans. The Democrats are cowardly enough to do Republican things and the Republicans are vicious enough to block it anyways—only to put in something worse.

Bush’s lawyer of ethics? Is there anything worse than George W. Bush’s ethics? His paintings maybe. We should be thankful that the U.S. does not have a secretary of culture to run in these elections. George’s ethics may have been worse than his paintings, if only because they did more damage. Although if Saddam Hussein was harboring these atrocities that W. calls art, what would have been our reaction? It is almost cruel to George’s ethics that his ethics man was named Painter.

Franken for Painter was surely the swap that the corporate parties wanted. Ditch a mediocre wayward Senator like Franken for a serious “centrist” like Painter (aka liberalish imperialist ecocide-inducing corporate hack). Thus we are left with the two party split: the politically correct moralizing corporate suits like Painter on the one hand, the lawless corporate gangster rascals like Trump on the other hand. Still, I am glad to see the former SNL sweetheart Franken gone. Franken’s jokes had to be right up there with George’s paintings for the worst show in town. A bad painter at least has the virtue of causing too many laughs, while a bad comedian makes too few. Given the character of the new Democratic Party, we need laughter more than ever.

 

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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