Call me old fashioned, but when a candidate falsely accuses his opponent of being a criminal, I think voters should get outraged. And that’s exactly what Senator Norm Coleman and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) are doing when they falsely accuse challenger Al Franken of “physically attacking a heckler,” which criminal prosecutors like to call “assault,” a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Here’s the background on the Coleman charge: A Star Tribune gossip columnist reported in January that Franken was allegedly rude to a college student asking him questions. To the best of my knowledge, Franken never assaulted this student or other hecklers. And if merely engaging in impolite debate were a crime, I think we all know that the Same Rowdy Crowd would be awash in orange jumpsuits.
But, of course, being impolite is not a crime, something former prosecutor Coleman knows. KSTP-TV has reported that the assault accusation is false, and generously gave the pro-Coleman ad a D minus grade.
But that’s not the end of Coleman’s false criminal prosecutions. Coleman and the NRSC have also claimed that Franken “hasn’t paid taxes,” which is also a criminal act that lands loads of people in jail. However, unless I’m missing something, Franken paid his taxes, but in the wrong jurisdictions, which is substantially different than “hasn’t paid taxes.” That’s why local tax evader Robert Beale is headed to jail, and Franken is merely refiling in the correct jurisdictions.
Other pro-Coleman ads have used grotesque grammatical tricks to imply Franken criminality, such as when they say ‘Franken writes about committing rape,’ which could easily sound to voters like Franken committed rape and then wrote about it. The truth is that Franken told a crude joke in private about an outrageously hypothetical rape, which incidentally is also allegedly true of the Coleman-endorsed John McCain. While the Republicans’ grammatical gymnastics is not technically inaccurate, it has a strong stench to it.
And then, of course, there is the closing of this ad, which MinnPost has pointed out is designed to look as if Franken were in prison.
So, let’s recap. Franken has been accused by the former criminal prosecutor Coleman and the NRSC of committing assault and tax evasion, crimes that would land him in jail and disquality him from service. But Franken has not committed any crimes. Again, rudeness, crude humor and crappy book-keeping are completely different than the crimes of assault, rape and tax evasion.
Coleman hasn’t committed any crimes either. But there should be an electoral penalty for the shameless rhetorical offenses he and the NRSC are committing.
education funding fine