Last month, during a Senate debate regarding the repeal of DOMA, Focus on the Family affiliate Tom Minnery was taken to task by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for misrepresenting a governmental study on families, claiming that same-sex married couple with children didn’t constitute a “nuclear family”, when the very report he based his argument on clearly and explicitly stated that it did. Sen. Franken correctly concluded that if Minnery couldn’t even present a study without distorting it, it understandably shined a very skeptical light upon the rest of his testimony.
Now, to most people, exposing a dishonest hack as they attempt to manipulate Congress using falsified evidence seems like it should rather be taken for granted as appropriate. But not everyone seems to think so. To quote the title of this piece by Carrie Daklin at MPR News, Sen. Franken instead “missed an opportunity to be kind to a witness”. Seriously. Because Liars for JesusTM just need to be shown some kindness, rather than having their bullshit exposed.
I have testified in a trial. It is not fun, it is not exciting. It is stressful. You are out of your element. Your adversary is salivating to get you to say something he can spin, some little something he can magnify out of proportion and use to his advantage. As an experienced paralegal I knew this when I testified, and I was in hyper-vigilant mode because I knew it. Imagine what it is like for someone who has no knowledge of the courtroom.
I have no knowledge of congressional hearings. I have never been to one. I can only hope that if I did have to testify before the Senate, whoever was questioning me would be kind, would recognize that this was his sandbox, not mine, and that, as a representative of our country, he would not embarrass me for his own purposes.
Sadly, when Tom Minnery testified, that was not the kind of treatment he received from Al Franken.
Right. Because when you’re caught baldfacedly lying to Congress, you’re supposed to be coddled and handled with kids’ gloves, not called out on it. After all, a witness has to be excused for spewing bullshit on the grounds that they’re just out of their element, right? I mean, I know I couldn’t possibly enter a legal proceeding without suddenly turning mythomanic. It would only be normal for the jury to extend me the courtesy of accepting my lies and fabrications without retort, wouldn’t it?
Daklin then attempts to excuse Minnery’s dishonesty with this utter non-sequitur:
A fine performance, Sen. Franken, but here's the rub: In case you missed it in those DOMA hearings, the federal government doesn't recognize same-sex marriage. So I would think it might have been reasonable for Minnery to assume that a federal report had followed federal law.
Except that the issue isn’t whether same-sex marriage is recognized by the federal government. It’s that Minnery lied to Congress. He deliberately mischaracterized what a report very clearly stated in an attempt to make it sound like heterosexual parents were so much better than their same-sex counterparts, and Sen. Franken simply stated the obvious in declaring that this was, well, false, according to the very study itself. Either Minnery had indeed read the whole study, in which case he would’ve seen the section contradicting him and decided to lie about it anyway, or he hadn’t seen it, in which case he had effectively quote-mined the thing without even bothering to check for context. Either way, he was being overtly dishonest in his testimony, and Franken was stating the obvious in declaring that it was unreliable.
I don’t even know what kind of argument Daklin is trying to make in “refuting” this plain fact by stating that, “well, the government forbids same-sex marriage, so there”. What in the world does that have to do with anything? And that’s not even to mention the irony that all this took place in a hearing to determine whether the government should repeal its ban on gay marriage, so really, it’s akin to dismissing any and all arguments made in any and all trials in history because “the law is the law and that’s that”. It’s completely bonkers.
But here is my favorite argument that Daklin advances:
In addition, Minnery looks to be in his late 60s or so -- a generation that grew up with the paradigm that a marriage was between a man and a woman. Is it too much to grant him generational deference? Is it too much to be gracious? The man is who he is, partly because he was raised when he was.
Is she really suggesting that Franken should’ve gone easy on Minnery because he’s old? Can his elderly heart really not stand the strain of being called a liar, even when he obviously had the mental and physical fortitude to actually try to lie right on the Senate floor?
I’ve heard some stupid arguments about how we’re supposed to treat old people with heightened respect or reverence on the sole basis of their elevated number of years spent on this planet, but the idea that you should refrain from exposing lies when they’re made by someone who was raised to believe in that sort of bullshit is just too rich. I don’t give a damn how old you are; if you lie, you deserve to be called a liar. Advanced age does not absolve you of a lack of honesty.
What this is is a case where a typically dishonest religious-Rightist tried to pull a quick one over Congress, but actually got caught and criticized for it. It’s only interesting that Daklin would spin these absurd arguments to try and defend Minnery’s actions from big ol’ bullying Sen. Franken, and not once, anywhere, mention the fact that he lied to Congress. Liars need to be exposed wherever they spew their crap, and Sen. Franken was only doing his job (admittedly in a brilliantly trenchant fashion) in saying that someone who dared to lie before Congress did not actually have much credibility. And neither does Daklin, if she actually thinks that exposing a liar somehow puts Franken in the wrong, here.