Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Fair enough. What surprises me is how many think that opinion supersedes due process, a person’s right to impartial justice. In a recent commentary about Al Franken in The Washington Post, Anna Marie Cox, host of Crooked Media’s, “With Friends Like These,” seems to take a cavalier look at trial by opinion. (Click) She argues Franken, charged with sexual harassment, hasn’t been denied “due process” because he has resigned and faces no criminal charges.” So who’s been harmed, she wonders. “It’s time to disentangle the consequences of being a harasser with one’s rights under the law. Besides, his life isn’t over. He’s a wealthy man with many friends who show no sign of desertion.” (“Al Franken isn’t being denied due process. None of these famous men are.” By Ana Marie Cox, The Washington Post, 12/7/17)
So much of this argument is wrong, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Let me start by pointing out: a) that sexual harassment is a crime under the law, and as such Franken is subject to it both in or out of public office; b) That he’s rich is irrelevant; c) Having money doesn’t deprive a person of his or her right to due process; d) that he has loyal friends is nice, but the impact reaches father than that. What about the rights of the people who worked on his campaign and contributed money. Don’t they have a right to see their candidate receive a fair hearing?
Of course, what I really want to ask is when did mob thinking becomes a substitute for justice? Roy Moore deserves a fair hearing, too. I appreciate the timing of the recent Alabama election made that impossible, but he deserves one now. People on the left and right of the political spectrum should agree that we do harm to our democracy when we unmoor politics from justice. The result is a president who says, with impunity, that he’d rather support a child molester for public office than a liberal.
A thirst grows in this country for mob rule, a thirst I admit I’ve not seen in such abundance for many years. It saddens me. And it terrifies me, too, to see how easily respect for our institutions can be discredited, whether it be the media, our career diplomats and those charged with enforcing the law. Of course there are rotten apples within these institutions. That’s why we have due process to sort them out. Deciding who’s guilty or innocent isn’t a matter of personal opinion. When we forget that, we forget what this country stands for.