Franken crosses a line of meanness regularly in his new book, which should be expected from the man who also wrote "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot." With that book, Franken claims, he established a difference between "fair mean" and "unfair mean," defined as a difference between knowing satire and vicious lying. But Franken doesn't try to stay on the "fair mean" side. For example, Franken treats it as obviously true that George W. Bush snorted cocaine in his youth. That may seem like an odd, unproven salvo in a book about nasty conservatives who make odd, unproven statements.
To recount the 2000 election fiasco with panache, Franken creates a fictional tale around real-life GOP lobbyist Mac Stipanovich and Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State. In this mini-novel of a sordid sexual affair mingled with Republicans stealing the election, Franken writes Stipanovich "knew where the bodies were buried. Hell, he had buried more than a few of them himself."
The most visible example of tastelessness is the comic strip that runs from pages 313 to 323: "The Gospel of Supply-Side Jesus." Franken's fictional preacher explains to the masses in Israel that "the only way to gain entrance to God's kingdom" is to "become a Supply Side Jesus Pioneer and have access to me at our annual Yom Kippur 'Break the Fast' Dinner." So there's shades of Bush in this ersatz savior, and he's about to be betrayed by an apostle "with a gambling debt," which brings us to a caricature of "William Bennett Iscariot."
If you didn't like that example, there's always Franken's trip to Bob Jones University with a fake son (his real one wouldn't play the gag) to try and trip up the wacky Christians and suggest that maybe they could bend their wacky rules for some major donations. Their college guide wouldn't bend from his "path to Christ." Franken summed up: "A good honest day's work done, lying to God-fearing people. We'd sleep well tonight."
The sales numbers suggest Franken's poisonous satire must be hilarious to someone, people who hate the president and think Christians are a freakish menace to society. But it's worth hoping that if a majority of Americans read this book, they would conclude that Al Franken is not qualified to judge anyone else about lying, the "tone" of public discourse or just plain mean-spiritedness.