Thursday, July 02, 2009


I don't know about you, but I'll be sleeping a bit easier tonight knowing that Mr. Franken has gone to Washington.

When he first announced over two years ago that he was running for the seat that was once occupied by his dear friend, the late Paul Wellstone, people laughed. That's okay. Al originally made his name thirty-four years ago as a comedian. Laughter is a tool of the trade. Doesn't it just make you giddy to know that it is he who is having the last laugh? Since this country's founding, the halls of Congress have been littered with unintentional comedians. At long last, we have a true professional in Washington; and not just a comedian, but a humorist (there's a decided difference). Remember this: when Senator Franklin makes you laugh, that will be his intent.

"My dad said be an actor, my son,

Donald O'Connor
"Make 'em Laugh"
from the film Singin' in the Rain (1953)

Franken's victory (FINALLY!) after being elected eight months ago can only be described as poetic justice. The very image of Norm Coleman has always given me the dry heaves. I have never been able to forgive him for the utterly despicable campaign that he ran against Senator Wellstone in 2002.

Paul Wellstone was that rarest of Democrat. Unlike so many in that cowardly, joke-of-a-party, he never forgot that he was the political descendant of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. He was an unapologetic, card carrying LIBERAL and he was never embarrassed to say it out loud. He truly was a man of the people. God rest his soul.

In the final days of that contest, in a fit of desperation, Norm Coleman ran a series of ads which implied that if Wellstone was reelected, he would tax the family farms all over the state of Minnesota out of existence via the so-called "Death Tax". Like most of Coleman's campaign it was a lie. Not a single family farm throughout the entire United States had ever been effected by the estate tax. The only farms that had ever been taxed after the demise of an owner were the huge, corporate mega farms - the very institutions that were, in fact, putting family farms all over the country out of business; the very institutions which, by the way, overwhelmingly donated not only to the Coleman campaign in particular, but to the Republican party in general.

On the morning of October 25, 2002, while trying to keep up with the multitude of last minute appearances the campaign was forced to add to its schedule as a result of Coleman's lies, Paul Wellstone, along with seven other people (including his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia) were killed in a plane accident two miles short of a northern Minnesota airport. You will kindly forgive me for gloating over Norm Coleman's defeat.

Al Franken is, I believe, the very type of person the Founding Fathers had in mind as the ideal public servant when they initiated this bold experiment in democratic self-government two-hundred and thirty-three years ago this Saturday: a concerned citizen who would put aside his plowshares (or in Al's case, his Stuart Smalley costume) and head off to the nation's capital to legislate for the people. The thing that has always struck me when reading his books (and I've read them all) is his almost schoolboy-like attachment to - and belief in - all that is good in this country and its potential to do better.

At the conclusion of his 2005 book, The Truth (with jokes), Al wrote a letter dated October 2, 2015 to his three, yet-to-be-born grandchildren:

"Both my parents worked hard and had to overcome adversity in their lives. Like almost everyone does. My Mom developed rheumatoid arthritis at an early age and was in constant pain most of her life. She was married on crutches. Still, she told us, "It's a great life if you don't weaken." And she didn't. After my brother and I were old enough, she became a real estate agent. At dinner, she made sure we had meat and always - ALWAYS - a fresh vegetable. At the table she would tell us about business and things like "redlining." Banks wouldn't lend money to black people who wanted to buy houses in certain neighborhoods. She told us this was wrong. And that's why your Granddad works so hard [in the Senate] to make sure that banks continue lending money to the poor, to minorities and to women, not just to buy homes, but to start businesses."

Now that's what I call real moral values. That's the kind of person I wouldn't mind representing me in the Senate (Nothing personal, Chuck). By the way, in that same letter he predicted, not only his own career in politics, but also the two-term presidency of Barack Obama. This was a year-and-a-half before Obama even announced his candidacy. How's that for prescience? Not bad, Al! Not bad!

To boil it down to the essentials, Al Franken understands the fundamental difference between Conservatives and Liberals:

The Conservative thinks we're doing just fine. The Liberal knows we can do better.

Yeah, I'll be sleeping really well tonight knowing that Senator Al Franken has gone to Washington DC. The Far Right's main talking point today is that the Democrats have sent a comedian to the Senate - as if that were something to be embarrassed about. If someone is foolish enough to make this argument in your presence, be sure to remind them of this fact: Any jackass can be an exterminator (remember Tom Delay?) But the ability to make people laugh requires an intellect that is rare. If you don't believe me, look back on the history of American literature and try to name one dimwitted humorist. Think about it: Robert Benchley, Mark Twain, George Carlin, Fred Allen - all of them - have been exceptionally bright and perceptive human beings. Al Franken is in pretty good company. The people of Minnesota are damned lucky to have such a man in their corner. The Senate is fortunate to have him in their midst.

Now begins the Al Franken Era. He is not your father's politician, that's for sure. Watching the loony Right Wing trying to portray this as a great tragedy for democracy is amusing to say the least. Just remember these three, crucial facts: He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him!

Somewhere, I am sure, Paul Wellstone is smiling.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot (and Other Observations)
by Al Franken

LIES And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
by Al Franken

THE TRUTH with Jokes
by Al Franken


At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, cool post it possible to get a conservative version of Mr. Smalley?

You know your shit so I would be interested in your input.

Harry from Mass

At 4:47 AM, Anonymous shaidrules said...

i cant believe the amount of money the republicans spent to try to keep al franken out of the senate..glad it is over

At 6:08 PM, Blogger jasondylan said...

Great job Tom.

I remember Al from the old SNL too. He is a real funny guy and can stand up to the O'Reillys of this world.

I thought Stuart Smalley was hilarious and Al can take a large chunk of credit for exposing the lies and hypocrisy of the right.

Now that the Dems have the super-majority we are going at least going to see a change in tone from the Dems? I am not holding my breathe.

Reid and Pelosi? Come on. That is the worse tandem since 'Tango and Cash'.

I love the tone of this one. I love your point about the intelligence of humorists.

I love populists like Al Franken. They have that down home nature that allows them to get to the heart of the matter, usually by just using a little common sense.

Al Franken is a true American Hero and this article does him justice.


At 10:42 PM, Blogger Prairie Waif said...

Speaking with my Mathematics hat on (my minor), I am proud to say that Al Franken is one of the club. And what a clubhouse he comes from! A Mathematics degree from Harvard.

See 1+1 = big laughs at SNL and a seat in the US Senate, if you do your statistical analysis and strategizing from your mathematical logic.

Al did all of it and brought it home for us "nerds" with the calculators always near and a love for the pencil and numbers.


At 10:13 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Do you remember "Franken and Davis"? Probably the last comedy team ever. I can only describe it as "zen comedy". Weird, indefinable and wonderful all at once!


At 9:29 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm really glad that the challenge to Franken's election is over. I'm a fan of his work from before he ran for office as well. Odd how Republicans could find fault with an entertainer aspiring to office--guess IOKIYAR, since the GOP have had Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood (or is Eastwood a Libertarian?), Fred Thompson and Ronald Reagan, just to name a few. Of course, when Arnold got elected, who could have guessed that he would have difficulty administering the 6th largest economy in the world? /snark\. Ironically, the economy in CA is in worse shape than it was when the conservatives initiated the special election to get Gray Davis out of Sacramento.

But I'm glad that Coleman threw in the towel.

Now I hope that more people in Congress get on the president to promote a public option (though I'd prefer single payer & Congress should just cut the crap already on health care!)

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Lauren! I had almost forgotten about Sonny Bono!

It is probably my hesitancy about speaking ill of the dead (with the exception of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, J.Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy, George Lincoln Rockwell and Lawrence Welk) that made me forget the fact that he was once voted "The dumbest member of congress".

I got you, babe.


At 11:17 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...



Tom Degan

At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al's first vote was against President Obama. That's proof that he is not a rubber stamp. That's what you want from a true Progressive. It's a very hopeful sign - I think.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He won't be perfect. No one is. But we have much to be grateful for. Just think of what the alternative would have been.

Two words: Norm Coleman.

'Nuff said?


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