The Thanksgiving statement issued by Minnesota Senator Al Franken on ventures in grope and grin photographs poses a test for Minnesota voters and Minnesota media. It is a sort of intelligence test. How stupid are you? Franken is betting that we are on par with the vegetable kingdom’s cabbage and potato. In the annals of false apology, this must set a new record:
I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.
Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.
And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.
I want to believe. I really do. Yet the statement reads like a parody of the ever expanding universe of the apology genre. It evinces either the degradation of the Democratic consultant class or the work of an ironist rebelling against his assignment. The ironist seeks to out Franken as the jerk that everyone who knows him knows him to be.
Given that Franken has just published a best-selling memoir in which he regrets the false apology he served up in his 2008 Senate campaign, the author of the statement must expect readers to approach the text with some skepticism. Only a fool would take it at face value.
Taken at face value, however, it is devastating. In the first paragraph, Franken equates hugs with gropes. He purports to have learned over the past week that some women don’t like to be groped. As I say, this is a test.
In the second paragraph, Franken uses the words “greeting” and “embrace” and “hug” as synonyms for groping the ladies. Having deeply deliberated how anyone might be offended by a “greeting,” he now understands. Enlightenment has dawned. When he grabs the lady’s ass, he doesn’t necessarily have her at “hello.”
In the third paragraph, Franken expresses his commitment to regaining the trust of Minnesotans and apologizes for putting them through “this.” Here a close reading is warranted. “This” undoubtedly includes the statement of false apology. If an ironist is at work here, he may be a master.