Al Franken, My Hero

Posted: Nov 12, 2003 12:00 AM

Sen. Al Franken? Don't laugh. The liberal liar who wrote "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" is "intrigued" by the possibility of running against Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota) in 2008. "I used to say I'd never run because I'd be a terrible officeholder. Now, I don't want to say that, because it would look bad if I ever did run," Franken notes. Coleman's response: "I have no comment. I don't do comedy."

A former "Saturday Night Live" comedian as a senatorial candidate? Stranger things have happened (see Ventura, Jesse, and Springer, Jerry). "Republicans always say, 'How dare Susan Sarandon and Martin Sheen get involved in politics!'" Franken whined to Newsweek. "Then, Arnold showed up, and it was 'Oooh! Arnold's running! Oooh! The Terminator!' Well, 'F' you!"

But seriously, folks, Mr. Laugh Riot would make a great candidate. He's got all the goods. He's witty: "(Rush Limbaugh) is very, very fat. The guy is enormous. He is very, very, very fat." He's photogenic, in the mold of Noam Chomsky, Yoda and other prominent lawn gnomes. He's loved by those on the left and those on the far left, speaking before cheering throngs of pot-smoking hippies everywhere.

Plus he's a truth teller. At least according to him. "Telling the truth is something I take seriously, and I try to hold myself to an impossibly high standard," he says.

Except when he's breathing. In April 2003, using Harvard University stationery, well-qualified Harvard Kennedy School of Government fellow Franken mailed a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft. In the letter, Franken asked for Ashcroft's "abstinence story" for a non-existent book titled "Savin' It!" "So far, I have received wonderful testimonies from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, William J. Bennett, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Sen. Rick Santorum and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. (I'm still hoping to hear back from the president!)" wrote Honest Al. This was a lie. After getting caught in his "high standard" of truth, Franken sheepishly apologized for misusing Harvard stationery.

Franken will personally work hard for his constituents -- just witness his deeply researched book. Fourteen Harvard graduate students were assigned to do research for him. After working his fingers to the bone sipping coffee and overseeing his minions, Rail-Splitter Franken compiled the information, slapped it into a glossy cover and sold it for $24.95. What a work ethic.

He'll bring religious diversity to the Senate. "I'm the New York Jew who was actually raised in Minnesota," Rabbi Franken avers. The great Jewish poster boy intermarried 25 years ago, although his non-Jewish, non-Jewish educated children "think of themselves as Jewish." He was never bar-mitzvahed and attended Jewish "Saturday school" for approximately two years -- he "hated" it. He doesn't believe in the veracity of the Bible or in Israeli settlements, which he describes as "religious fundamentalism."

Franken doesn't belong in the category of entertainers like George Clooney, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Barbra Streisand, who use their glamour to forward their political views. Franken is a legitimate politico, a real party hack. The only candidate in recent memory who parallels Angry Al is Arianna Huffington, who used her husband's cash to build up her reputation before running for the carny vote in the California recall election. Franken will get more votes than Arianna -- presumably he and his wife will vote for him -- but he ain't Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Still, Al's my candidate in 2008. All he needs is some catchy material. Slogan suggestions: "Not Quite Norm-Al." "Why Not Me?" "Stuart Saves His Family, But Al Saves Minnesota." "I'll Stand Up for the Smalley Guy." "Help Al Buy New Glasses -- Vote Franken." "I Never Lie, Except When I Feel Like It." "I May Be Ugly, But At Least I'm Not Republican."

It's a pity that Franken didn't gain the popularity he deserved before this presidential cycle. It would have been fun to see him on the same platform as Howard Dean, John Kerry, Richard Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Al Sharpton, Carol Mosely Braun and Dennis Kucinich. His anti-Bush rants would fit in nicely with the other candidates. He could have used Al Gore's old presidential campaign bumper stickers. And Michael Moore would have been the perfect running mate.

For now, we'll have to be satisfied with the prospect of a Coleman vs. Franken matchup in 2008. But don't bet on it. As much as Franken likes to babble, he just isn't willing to risk his image. The truth is, he's not good enough, he's not smart enough, and doggone it, most people don't like him.