A lot of paper and writing time has been spent talking about Al Franken and his entertainment writings. At the DFL Convention, he apologized for things he had written years ago. Everyone was “appalled” at that past language and thought it a good thing that he apologized for it. Shame on him.
Well, I say … shame on us.
Al Franken shouldn’t have to apologize for what he wrote. He has a First Amendment right to publish whatever he wishes to. The writings that have recently been criticized were never meant for the general public anyway. The fact that they are being pushed into our living rooms can be attributed to Republican opposition researchers, not Al Franken.
Franken’s satire on pornography was written for Playboy — not exactly typical coffee-table literature. Al Franken wrote it for Playboy and it was meant for Playboy readers. The fact that the general public can pass judgments on descriptions of this article (copyrighted material) is due to Republican opposition researchers, not Al Franken. The “joke” about rape which has caused so much justified ire came from one paragraph in a 13-year-old New Yorker article written about “Saturday Night Live.”
Not written by Franken
The skit in question was not written by Al Franken, but discussions about the skit, which Al Franken was part of, were thrown into the public domain. His words made it into the story because the reporter was granted full access to the normally nonpublic mechanics of making a “Saturday Night Live” show. No one would have thought to hold a press conference on it or even bothered to read it again, if it hadn’t been for Republican opposition researchers.
That’s because opposition researchers think the average voter is stupid. They think that regurgitating old, sometimes decades old, language can distract us from using our own judgment on whom we vote for. Opposition research doesn’t look at the marriage of 32 years, the wonderful family, the charity work, the radio career holding the Bush administration accountable …. No, the opposition researchers want to focus on the “bad” words of Al Franken.
Writers, especially comedians, are always testing societal norms. Often they will step over the line, and they will pay a price for it. It has happened to Al Franken; it will happen to others. But Al Franken is applying for a different job here. He is running for senator from Minnesota. Do we think Norm Coleman’s antiwar protest years at Hofstra University are relevant to who he is now? Do we expect that Coleman’s positions as a former Democrat should be what we hold him accountable for now? Of course not. They are part of his life history but not qualifications to use as criteria for the job he seeks at the present time.
So it is with Al Franken. Satirist and comedian are on his job résumé and, again, are part of his life history, but they are not the items we should use to judge his qualifications for U.S. senator. We, as Minnesota voters, need to judge these two men on their ideas and where they want to take Minnesota moving forward. Biography is certainly a part of it, but the true judgment must come on their vision of where we go from here.
The way the Republicans have criticized Al Franken is almost reminiscent of the grade-school tattletale who gets caught cheating on a test, and when confronted tries to divert the attention by saying, “Did you hear the bad word Bobby said?”
Sen. Norm Coleman supported this war and supported this president, and he will support Sen. John McCain to continue those policies. When Coleman had the opportunity, as chair of the Senate Investigations Committee, to hold the government accountable for lack of body armor, to examine waste and fraud by Halliburton, and to investigage the disappearance of billions of taxpayer dollars in the corrupt practices of the Iraqi government, he decided to go after Kofi Annan and the United Nations.
Now, as he wants Minnesota to give him another term, Coleman doesn’t focus on the specifics of saying, here, examine my record, judge me by what I have done. No, he’d rather say, “Did you hear what Al Franken said?”
David Mindeman of Apple Valley is a community activist and a blogger for mnpACT!.