Monday, August 18, 2008

Al Franken: A Revue




I recently finished reading Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. It's a book by Al Franken. In my defense, I actually purchased it several years ago, at a significant discount, at Barnes & Noble. I love books. I love reading them. And because I love owning them, the range of my interest is broadened significantly when faced with free and/or significantly discounted books (see, for example, the entry on Cornel West, that fucking cad).

Much like the product of the aforementioned Mr. West, I didn't initially pick up this book expecting to really enjoy it. I don't know that much about Al Franken, other than his comedy career. On the other hand, I know about his comedy career. You see what I'm getting at? * I simply figured that, with Franken on the ballot in November, I should at least make an effort to read the one book by him that I own. If not now, when? It was sort of like reading Bernstein's biography on Hillary Clinton before the Minnesota primary.

* SAM: Look, I really like her, and she’s not what you think.
JOSH: The only thing I know about her is she’s a call girl. Is she a call girl?
SAM: Yes.
JOSH: Then so far she’s exactly what I think.

Unlike the Bernstein biography, however, which only provided a more resourced foundation for many of my negative opinions about Hillary Clinton and thereby permitted them to blossom, Franken's book won me over. Not to say there weren't some things I disagreed with. For example...

Franken on Affirmative Action:

I had a baseball coach pose this question to me: "You have two guys run down to first. They have equal times, but one has much better form. Which one do you choose?"

You choose the one with the bad form. You can coach him to use good form and he'll beat the other guy. [See also: The West Wing, Episode 5.5, "Constituency of One," teaser --Ed.]

In the same way, blind adherence to SAT scores and GPA is ridiculous. Take two kids, one white and one black. The white kid's in private school, has educated parents, opportunities to travel, intensive SAT tutoring. He takes the SATs three times and submits his highest score--1,280. The black kid is brought up by a single mom who didn't graduate from high school. No books in the house, works after school, shares a room with two brothers. No SAT tutoring, takes it once, gets 1,120. You'd take the black kid, right?

No, because in your own hypothetical the white kid still got to first base first.

From the same chapter, Franken on the Confederate flag:

I was talking to a Southerner about this the other day, and he said, "The Nazis were bad. But we drive around in Volkswagens."

I said, "Yeah, but we don't put a Volkswagen on top of the state capitol."

I think you meant to say: Yeah, but we don't put a swastika on the state capitol. I'm actually agree with Franken here, I'm just wishing he had had a more opportune comeback.

But, and this is my larger point, Franken wins me over quite easily in this book because most of it is focused on explaining why the Talking Shrieking Heads of the conservative movement are a bunch of assholes. Yes We Can Yes They Are! This is a book that takes it's time and uses factual support to outline just some of the many ways in which the trickle-down trinity (Coulter, O'Reilly, Hannity - the titular "Lying Liars"), and the Fox News that made them, are so outta-control outrageous. Seriously, they should put a picture of Sean Hannity in the dictionary next to the word "bloviate."

And while in a vacuum I might not think Al Franken is All That, his demonstrated willingness to put to task the same people I dislike makes me like him. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

So here comes the larger point. I don't necessarily disagree with the ultimate merits of everything Sean Hannity says. I completely and utterly disagree with the juvenile manner by which he goes about expressing it. By dismissing and demonizing those who subscribe to the Opposing View, he's redrawn the lines, and somehow I ended up on the same side as someone who I might otherwise be a little more reticent of.

Oh yeah, and Norm Coleman is kind of a jackass. I can take my politicians sarcastic and condescending. I can't stomach them self-righteous.

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