Franken shushing Lieberman makes big news

Let’s call it the Shush Heard ‘Round the World. It seems like a minor incident: Al Franken was presiding over the Senate Thursday during debate over health care reform, a discussion that, as you might imagine, risks getting bogged down. Under what he describes as orders from Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep the speeches to their allotted 10 minutes (as reported by Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Weber), Al Franken denied Joe Lieberman when the senator requested extra time to speak. Chris Steller from the Minnesota Independent reports the video and the transcript, which are brief and to the point: Lieberman requests, Franken says no, Lieberman seems surprised, says he will try not to take it personally, and then requests to submit the remainder of his comments in writing, which Franken allows. No big whoop, yeah?

Except it turned into a very big whoop indeed. Part of this may have to do with the unintentional comedy that resulted, in which Sen. John McCain took a moment to express bafflement and chastise Franken, saying, “I must say that I don’t know what’s happening here in this body, but I think it’s wrong,” as recounted by CBS; McCain was immediately informed by Sen. Carl Levin that such a thing had, in fact, happened before, earlier that day, when John Cornyn was denied extra speaking time.

But there’s more to it than that. Firstly, Franken has been on a sort of a shushing roll recently, such as Monday, when he went after Sen. John Thune for Thune’s presentation on health care. Franken pilloried Thune for misrepresenting the facts, saying, “We are entitled to our own opinions; we’re not entitled to our own facts“; Franken vociferously rejected Thune’s attempt to respond (a summary and video of the exchange can be found on The Raw Story).

And then there’s the fact that it was Lieberman, who has placed himself in the odd position of making unilateral decisions regarding health care reform and forcing them with threats of filibuster, which would, of course, involve him talking and talking and talking; David Simon, creator of HBO’s “The Wire,” sums up a lot of people’s feeling about this in an interview in Vice Magazine, saying, “Let me understand this: One guy from a small state in New England is going to decide on a singular basis what’s good for the health care of 300 million people? That’s our form of government, and I don’t get it.” Democrats have been shy about strong-arming Lieberman, for some reason, and so it’s likely the popularity of Franken shutting down Lieberman on the Senate floor was because a lot of people have been just waiting for somebody to tell him to be quiet. Or, as Gawker puts it in their headline: “Live Vicariously Through Al Franken as He Tells Joe Lieberman to Shut Up.”

One guesses that Michele Bachmann was not expecting this short exchange to have such thunder-stealing powers; after all, Thursday was the day of the “prayercast” against health care reform, during which she led a prayer, reposted by Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent, in which she begs forgiveness from God, on her behalf and on the behalf of other politicians, for not following God’s will, which is apparently opposed to health care reform. No mention is made of the fact that Jesus traveled around healing people without charge, but, then, Bachmann believes health care reform to be socialism, and Jesus wasn’t a socialist, even if he and his followers occasionally acted like it. Of course, the bugaboo of socialism is tricky, as David Simon points out in his interview: “What do they think group insurance is, other than socialism? Just the idea of buying group insurance! … because when you get 100,000 people together as part of anything, from a union to the AARP, and you say, ‘Because we have this group actuarially, more of us are going to be healthier than not and therefore we’ll be able to carry forward the idea of group insurance and everybody will have an affordable plan…’ That’s socialism!”

Of course, Bachmann already had her moment in the sun this week when she told tea party activists on Tuesday, “This is the Charge of the Light Brigade,” accidentally comparing them to one of the best-known military blunders (Keith Olbermann mocks her for this, to nobody’s surprise). MinnPost’s Derek Wallbank was kind enough to inform Bachmann of her error, prompting an “Oh, what did I say this time?” from the congresswoman. Once she had been filled in on the actual history of the Light Brigade of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, she said, “I can only hope that this won’t be a failure.”

Did somebody mention Jesus? He has a birthday coming up, and, appropriately, WCCO is full of tales of giving: They offer a tale of a 7-year-old who raised more than $400 to buy presents for children in need, as well as a story about The Pohlad Foundation giving a gift of $1 million a year for the next five years to 19 Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. WCCO also looks at the Cops and Kids initiative, in which St. Paul police officers bring gifts and companionship to hospitalized children in the company of Kriss Kringle. In similarly cheery news, Minnesota received the gift of 2,000 new jobs in November, lowering the state’s unemployment rate, as reported by FOX9, while MPR reports that St. Paul is planning to open several emergency shelters in the next few weeks, providing the gift of shelter to those in need.

It seems like the only one feeling Grinchy at this time of year is Garrison Keillor, who wrote an irritable editorial in Salon telling Unitarians to back away from the song “Silent Night,” which for him is an explicitly Christian seasonal tune, and he is rather annoyed that the Unitarians seem to have rewritten it to edit God out of the lyrics. “Christmas is a Christian holiday — if you’re not in the club, then buzz off,” he writes. In theory, then, Keillor might want to steer clear of “White Christmas,” which was written by a Jew, Yule logs, which have their origins in Germanic paganism, and, come to think of it, Christmas itself, which only falls in December to usurp some pre-existing pagan holidays. Sorry, Keillor; Dies Natalis Solis Invicti is a Pagan Roman holiday, so you might want to buzz off.

In sports: The Gophers lost to the University of Texas in the NCAA volleyball tournament Thursday, but one commenter on the Star Tribune site isn’t letting this get their charitable holiday spirits down, writing, “Good job ladies! The Gophers have NOTHING to be ashamed of. Great season! They accomplished so much … Looking forward to 2010!”

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Andrew Hine on 12/18/2009 - 11:18 am.

    Thanks for standing up for the tired, poor, and huddled masses, Senator!

  2. Submitted by Bunnie Watson on 12/18/2009 - 11:20 am.

    Thanks for the paragraph on the curmudgeonly Mr. Keillor. He seems to have rediscovered both his fundamentalist roots and his adolescent libido in his dotage. Both undercurrents make his program hard to listen to these days. I’m not surprised he came out with this screed. He’s an educated man, so I am surprised he is not aware of how little about the celebration of Christmas is scriptural. As you pointed out, even the date was usurped from longstanding pagan celebrations to coax heathens into the fold. The tree, holly, mistletoe, gift-bearers – these and so many traditional elements of the holiday came from pre- or non-Christian origins.

  3. Submitted by Don Calton on 12/18/2009 - 11:36 am.

    Franken is a very unlikable person who stole that Senaate seat with the illegal help of ACCORN. He is not worthy to tie Sen. Lieberman’s shoe’s. He is crass and has no class.

    He is destined for failure,as is the rest of the Democratic Party. The American people hate them with a passion in very large numbers.

  4. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 12/18/2009 - 12:13 pm.

    Franken seems to be getting frustrated with all the processes and rules in the Senate — and I can’t say I blame him. I say Good for Him for not going with the flow and telling it like it is. Maybe if he sticks around, he can start to change the status quo in that chamber.

  5. Submitted by Justin Bigelow on 12/18/2009 - 12:19 pm.

    @ Calton

    Initially, I didn’t support Al Franken (I backed Jack!). But Al has certainly earned my respect as a Senator standing up for Minnesota.

    Whether he’s pushing for employers receiving federal contracts to treat their employees reasonably or simply demanding people use facts when discussing bills; he’s done an outstanding job. I only hope he and the others Dems at the Federal level can USE the super majorities given to them by the electorate to put in place long-lasting reform (or change… if you please)!

  6. Submitted by Max Sparber on 12/18/2009 - 12:21 pm.

    It’s rather astounding how little of what you just wrote is factually true.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/18/2009 - 12:28 pm.

    This was actually pretty tame for Al. I’m surprised he’s managed to be as civil as he has…the effort has to be very draining for him.

  8. Submitted by Danny McConnell on 12/18/2009 - 12:34 pm.

    Yes Senator Franken, thanks for standing up for the tired, poor, and huddled masses. Now besides being tired, poor and huddled, they also have to pay a fine for not having insurance.

  9. Submitted by lda applda on 12/18/2009 - 01:36 pm.

    It’s a standard courtesy for senators to grant others the extra “moment”. Franken, who STOLE his seat with fraudulent ACORN registrations, behaves like the immature commedian he is. I hope that Minnesota can do better than this in future elections by guarding against ACORN fraud.

  10. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/18/2009 - 02:19 pm.

    During this Holy season (at least for us Christians and our Jewish friends and neighbors), perhaps God will bless some of us with a splash of reality strong enough to bring the blessings of mental clarity as surely as cold water in the face at 30 below zero might.

    With such a blessing, some of our Republican friends and neighbors might finally be able to stop clinging to last year’s Republican campaign commercial talking points (i.e. “Angry Al” and similar B.S.), long since debunked by every reliable source in the universe including God, and actually contribute something toward discovering solutions to our state and national problems (and just a quick note for reference… we’ve tried the ideas you’ve continued to recycle ad nauseum ever since the days of Reagan/Stockman and they are exactly why we have the problems we have).

    If you can’t think up something more based in reality, mathematics (instead of Wall Street bankers gambling) and a sound knowledge of the realities of human nature, and human behavior (including your own) then kindly get out of the way, sit back and let the more functional adults take over.

  11. Submitted by anita Ford on 12/18/2009 - 02:56 pm.

    I was thrilled to see somebody finally respond to all the shenanigans, and think Franken did a great job!
    I also agree with comment #10 here, which I thought was nicely writte.

  12. Submitted by Max Sparber on 12/18/2009 - 02:59 pm.

    My statement about factual truth was intended for Mr. Calton. Apologies if there was any confusion.

  13. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 12/18/2009 - 03:37 pm.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2009/12/18/mccain-hypocrisy-franken/

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator’s time has expired.

    Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.

    Mr. McCAIN. I object.

  14. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/18/2009 - 03:40 pm.

    Now that the courts have found unconstitutional the Congress’s ban on letting a single penny reach the organization that helps poor people register to vote (and has NOT committed any fraud), TWO commenters are presenting a brand new charge of corruption against ACORN and Al Franken?

    Where can it have come from?

  15. Submitted by Max Sparber on 12/18/2009 - 04:01 pm.

    I believe one of the charges was against something called ACCORN.

  16. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 12/18/2009 - 08:46 pm.

    This whole episode is a tempest in a teapot. Isn’t there something more interesting to talk about than a little exchange between two U.S. senators we should all ignore much more than we do?

    Lieberman loves the attention. If we started ignoring him, he might zipper it.

  17. Submitted by Peter Soulen on 12/20/2009 - 02:22 pm.

    anita Ford says: “I also agree with comment #10 here, which I thought was nicely written.”

    I agree Ms. Ford. That was well written. Something about those initials… GK…

    Garrison, was that you?

    Unlikely, I know.

    Hey, I’m glad I worked for Al and Frannie. Senator Franken has done well in a short time.

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