I heard on Wednesday, July 1 that comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken won the election for senate in Minnesota over incumbent Republican Norm Coleman on a close recount. Actually I think this result should’ve come sooner, even though I don’t like the outcome. I was feeling in May that the legal wrangling had gone on too long and Minnesota deserved to have two senators representing it. Just get it overwith. It was looking like any further legal action on Coleman’s part was futile, but he went forward with it anyway. I guess he was carrying water for the Republicans in their effort to disable the Democrats a little bit. It doesn’t look like it worked. You’ve got to have a better strategy than that, guys.
In terms of government experience, Franken is like Hillary Clinton was when she became a senator from New York. Both have degrees from prestigious universities (hers from Wellesley College, his from Harvard), and both had no government experience before coming into office. Clinton turned out fine as a senator, as far as I can tell. I didn’t hear any complaints. The one complaint I had was, like with Obama, sometimes she would say things that made no sense to me. It was always a comment that was clearly (to me) out of context with the situation at hand. The fact that she and Obama can get away with doing this shows how little the public is paying attention to what’s really going on in our government.
I think there’s definitely a difference in temperament between Clinton and Franken. I watched this panel discussion (video–click on the link and then click on the “f” in the red circle on the right side of the page to watch) at BookExpo America on C-SPAN back in 2003, and I thought it was very revealing about Franken. He was there along with Bill O’Reilly and Molly Ivins. Franken had just come out with his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. He had a picture of O’Reilly on the cover and said he had a small chapter on him in the book. He may very well have gotten his facts right about what he says. I have no way to judge, but what I particularly noticed was how he relished trying to humiliate O’Reilly who was sitting right there. O’Reilly was restrained while Franken was prodding him with delight. O’Reilly got irritated (who wouldn’t have in that setting?) and threw some barbs Franken’s way at the end of Franken’s part of the presentation. The back and forth between O’Reilly and Franken escalated, and Pat Schroeder, the host for the event, clearly thought it might come to blows despite the fact that both O’Reilly and Franken stayed in their seats. She came between the two of them nevertheless.
O’Reilly and Molly Ivins had a spirited but thoughtful debate about the role of government and the private sector. I enjoyed watching them both. Franken acted as an agitator–more like a child–trying “to be heard” as if he deserved it. Ms. Schroeder probably didn’t manage her role as moderator as well as she should have. Franken got out of his chair and came over to where O’Reilly and Ivins were sitting to try to interject his infinite wisdom.
At one point Franken said, “Unlike Molly I’m a liberal,” after she had just associated herself as a liberal. She just didn’t like being lumped into a faceless “Left”. Franken did comment about the whole “government vs. the private economy” debate, but it was not up to O’Reilly’s and Ivin’s level of discourse. The best he could put forward was a story about a family that at one time was down on its luck and how thankful they were for government assistance. O’Reilly had already said he liked the idea of a government safety net, but Franken characterized his position as being in opposition to O’Reilly’s on that issue, when it really wasn’t.
I agree with O’Reilly when he said that Franken is vicious. I thought it was quite obvious from this video. Franken has a way with wit and rhetoric, and I can tell he is sharp, but he tried to parlay this into a persona that’s “knowledgeable”. On careful examination one can see that despite the mirage he was outclassed in the discussion, and was really no better than acting as an interesting side show in the whole thing.
I think Minnesota and the U.S. Senate can look forward to more of the same from Franken. I don’t think he has it in him to be anything more than he has already shown himself to be, despite the judgment of Minnesota’s voters.