Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Regarding Franken

A thought or two about Al Franken and the race to unseat Norm Coleman.

I wrote advertising for Paul Wellstone in 1990, and again in 1996. I am told that the Wellstones framed the storyboard for one of my commercials – and that they’d hung it in the living room of their Washington apartment. I hope it was so.

I went to the memorial service at Williams Arena when they died, and, in the days that followed, I watched the Republicans, main stream media, and right wing radio butcher the intent of the event and the memory of the Wellstones, their daughter, and the others on the plane. I will never forget (or forgive them for) the way they belittled the genuine agony and tears of a lot of really good people.

For that alone, Coleman, Richard Cheney’s hand-picked candidate, deserves to lose. He also deserves to lose for his votes – hundreds of them – in support of the Bush Administration. Further, he deserves to lose for the disingenuity with which he is now trying to sidle away from his record and distance himself from the albatross that is now and forever will be around his self-saving neck.

But Coleman isn’t going to be easy to beat. If Al Franken is the candidate, the same vicious people and the same millionaire money and the same media outlets that denigrated Wellstone (dead or alive) are going to go all-out to present Franken as nothing more than a second-rate comedian.

They will depict his campaign as being as flukey and far-fetched as Ventura’s. They will scrutinize his every word, looking for chances to tar him with John Kerry-like, out of context misquotes.

They will script the Teflon-esque, blow-combed chameleon Coleman with catch phrases. They will do everything they can strip Franken of gravitas.

And it may well be easy for them to do so.

After all, Franken has been, first and foremost, a comedian. And, while Franken was truly wonderful on Air America Radio, (where he se served up a unique mix of humor, policy wonkage, insight and interviews) the sound byte and catch-phrase nature of main stream media is not going to favor long, insightful answers or more cerebral debate.

Coleman, on the other hand, has made his living off the public’s notoriously short-term memory. He is at his best making preposterous contentions in front of interviewers who are either too shallow or too paid-for to cut off the ring and corner him with follow up questions. He is his own made-for-TV event, complete with an entourage of rich pals and a bunch of dumb middle class guy types who haven’t yet figured out hat they’re going to have to pay for his follies from tax cuts for the wealthy to hockey rinks for the wealthy.

Then there is Franken’s face. He looks as if he is playing for laughs – even when he is deadly serious. Just standing there, listening to Coleman’s inanities, he will look like he’s double-taking the audience. He will be vulnerable to misinterpretation or plain old misrepresentation.

I love Al Franken, and I admire him for wanting to rid us of Norm Coleman. But I am sincerely afraid that, without the proper funding, the right handlers, and the right coaching, he may turn out to be the perfect opponent for an incumbent Senator who never should have gotten to Washington in the first place.

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