* I'm unsure if Hillary would go with Franken (might contend that he wouldn't be perceived as ready to be President should he need to be in an emergency, although that might not in reality be accurate); with that said, I love Franken and hold him in very high regard. I liked him as a comedy nerd, and I respect him as he's become a very serious and very committed legislator. He'd be a not bad choice in this cycle (a former entertainer, like Trump, and a slightly persnickety jewish progressive, like Bernie), and I think he might be ready if they went that way. If they don't go that direction, he's already doing some heavy lifting trying to get the senate to swing back.
* here here! it would be a delight to watch al take apart trump
* He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him!
* Well, we want somebody who's competent so that rules out the entire GOP.
* Thats a really good piece. I'm not fully won over though. I think the republicans could stil make the arguement about a comedian being a heart beat away from the presidency and it would be effective. Would make a great ca[mp]aign though. I think Hilary would destroy trump regardless of who she picks.
* Franken is much more than a "comedian" — the point is that he is a smart, popular, trusted Senator with a great deal of wit & integrity (neither of which Trump has). He would skewer Trump in a debate.
The Case for Vice President Al Franken
This is not a joke: Hillary needs someone like Franken if she’s going to beat Trump.
By Bill Scher, March 27, 2016
This is not a joke. Senator Al Franken should be the Democratic Party’s choice for Vice-President.
If I had said that 10 years ago, or even six months ago, the notion would have been preposterous: a former Saturday Night Live writer, perhaps best known as the mock self help guru Stuart Smalley, Franken became synonymous with left-wing bombast thanks to his best-selling book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.” He took the presidency itself as a joke, writing a satirical campaign memoir, “Why Not Me,” in which Franken wins the White House on a platform of eliminating ATM fees, only to be quickly chased out by the “Joint Congressional Committee on the President's Mood Swings.”
But for a 2016 presidential race that’s already stranger than fiction, his party truly needs someone like Franken if it’s going to win the presidency.
Before Donald Trump, Franken wouldn’t possibly have merited serious consideration. Even though his seven-year record as a senator from Minnesota suggests he’s a genuinely committed legislator, the first rule of V.P. picks is “do no harm” — and pre-Trump, the trove of politically incorrect barbs from Franken’s past would have been far too much baggage for a presidential nominee to want to carry. The spotlight would have been on him instead of Clinton.
Candidate Trump erases the old standards. Nothing that Franken said decades ago would be remotely as incendiary as the insults Trump spews as a matter of campaign strategy. And Trump’s presence demands new rhetorical weaponry. As Trump himself might say, Franken’s “classy” and “elegant” wit is just what the ticket needs to avoid the kind of brawl that drags everyone down to Trump’s level. Clinton will want to stay above the fray, and Franken can provide the buffer.
With Hillary Clinton’s grip on the Democratic nomination firm, and Donald Trump on track to insult his way to the Republican nomination, Democrats will want their vice-presidential choice to accomplish the following:
1. Prevent Bernie Sanders’ energized left-wing youth from snubbing Clinton and flocking to the Green Party;
2. Protect the Rust Belt from Donald Trump’s blustery charms; and
3. Navigate an unprecedented media circus dominated by Trump’s barrage of taunts.
That set of criteria marks a shift from what Democrats were initially expecting. But with the elimination of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush from the Republican primaries, the electoral incentive for a Latino vice-presidential nominee is diminished. Democrats didn’t have many options anyway, lacking any Latino governors and senators, save for the indicted New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez. Speculation has centered on minor Cabinet officials Julian Castro of Housing and Urban Development and Tom Perez of Labor, both a stretch to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
To sate the desire for an economic populist, neither Sanders nor beloved-on-the-left Sen. Elizabeth Warren are likely to fit the bill. For one, neither is likely to say yes, since both can wield more influence as outside agitators than as Clinton surrogates, sublimating their rhetoric to the top-of-the-ticket candidate. And for her part, Clinton would rather have a team player on her ticket instead of constantly worrying that her veep will go rogue.
With the two most prominent progressives off the table, the list of presidential-caliber candidates shrinks. Any senator who voted to support President Barack Obama’s “fast track” trade promotion authority, helping grease the passage of the hated Trans-Pacific Partnership, wouldn’t pass muster with anyone feeling the Bern. That strikes Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, long seen as in the running both as a swing stater and Spanish speaker, as well as other less buzzed about purple-state options: Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. The Democrats’ only swing-state governor not running in an election this year, Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, also supports TPP, as do cabinet officials Castro and Perez. And while rising star Sen. Cory Booker voted against fast track, populists remember when he said President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record were “nauseating,” and counseled the president to “stop attacking private equity.” That’s exactly the kind [of] attitude the Democrats have to run against this year.
Many eyes will turn to Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, floated by yours truly last month and by NBC’s Chuck Todd after Sanders’ upset victory in Michigan. Brown was populist before populism was cool. He would easily impress Sanders voters, and as an early endorser, he has Clinton’s trust. Most importantly, he hails from the most pivotal battleground state in the industrial Midwest.
But Brown does come with a big drawback: in Ohio, the governor gets to fill a Senate vacancy. Were he to run and win election as vice president, Brown’s successor would be appointed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. To reclaim the Senate in this year’s elections, Democrats will likely need to win every competitive race; Clinton may not feel Democrats have enough cushion to sacrifice the seat.
Moreover, Brown may be unprepared, or unwilling to stomach, the madhouse that is the 2016 presidential primary arena. Trump’s scorched-earth approach has already turned Bush and Rubio into puddles. Brown hasn’t had many tough races in his career, the hardest being his 2012 re-election, in which he overcame $31 million of attack ads from independent groups. Facing down the Trump buzzsaw is another level of political warfare and mind games.
Outside of Brown, the Rust Belt offers few options for Democrats. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan has only been in the Senate for little more than a year, and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is out of step with the party on abortion. There are no Democratic governors in the heart of the Rust Belt. On the outskirts are Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, who is barely into his first term, Missouri’s Jay Nixon, who struggled to handle the aftermath of the police shooting in Ferguson, and West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin, who leans right on abortion and the environment. Minnesota’s Mark Dayton, one of America’s most popular and most liberal governors, is theoretically another option, but he is far from charismatic and has had some health problems.
There are several Midwestern women senators to choose from: Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin — who would be the first LGBT vice-presidential candidate on a major-party ticket. But the often-misogynistic Trump is likely to drive women into Clinton’s camp anyway, so there is little need for Clinton to double down on gender.
Which brings us to Franken.
His jump from comedian to politician was through a ring of fire. Franken aimed high for his first campaign: U.S. Senator from his home state of Minnesota. After a few years as a talk radio host, Franken aimed to avenge the bitter loss Democrats suffered in 2002 following the fatal plane crash of incumbent senator and liberal icon Paul Wellstone two weeks before Election Day.
Republicans painted Franken as an immoral Hollywood hothead, circulating bestiality jokes from a Playboy magazine humor piece Franken wrote, using out-of-context video clips where he looks deranged, and digging up evidence of his failure to pay back taxes and workers compensation. “We in Hollywood are a bit worried that Al Franken is hurting our reputation,” needled “Cheers” actor John Ratzenberger in one of the Republican Party’s final attack ads.
Yet Franken didn’t just survive the assault: He prevailed. After a recount and months of legal wrangling, Franken escaped with a 312-vote victory. While Franken was already trying to present a more serious face to Minnesota voters, the dead-even outcome was a constant reminder of his precarious political position, spurring him to be a senatorial work horse and not a show horse.
Today, he stands on firm ground. In the 2014 midterms, as the Republican tide was cresting in Colorado and Iowa, Franken scored an impressive 10-point reelection victory. And progressive activists credited his proud populism for his exponential electoral growth. Mother Jones’ Patrick Caldwell, among others, showered praise on Franken for channeling “populist outrage at growing inequality and the hardships of the financial crash.”
If that sounds a lot like a 2016 campaign theme, you’re getting the idea. That year, his sober ad campaign skewered “Wall Street banks” that “were actually paying the credit-rating agencies to give AAA ratings to financial products that were junk. The game was rigged.” He stood for refinancing student loan debt, and closing the tax loophole that favors hedge fund managers. “The Wall Street hedge fund guys may not like that,” he said to the camera in an October 2014 ad, “but I don’t work for them.” Less noted by progressives — but important to sealing the deal — was how he leavened his populist pitch with an emphasis on bipartisanship to pass the farm bill and a Senate amendment to reform credit-rating agencies (Franken left out how his amendment was watered down in the final version of the Dodd-Frank law.)
Franken has also won over younger Bernie-loving progressives by being, as The Nation once deemed him, “one of the Senate’s most impassioned champions of net neutrality,” the Federal Communications Commission regulatory approach which activists argue protects online free speech from corporate profiteers. Similarly popular with the “netroots” community was Franken’s successful grassroots campaign to block Comcast from buying Time Warner Cable. An early Clinton endorser, Franken could serve as a bridge between the grassroots left and the Democratic establishment.
Democrats may have a more tenuous hold on Sherrod Brown’s Ohio than Al Franken’s Minnesota, but Minnesota’s tint is light blue — in 2012, the state gave Obama his 10th smallest margin of victory. If Trump can’t win the relatively diverse mega-swing states Florida and Pennsylvania, or the western swing states Colorado and Nevada, he’d have to sweep the upper Midwest, including Minnesota. Franken can be a firewall. Though he has a celebrity background, he has real experience connecting with the white working-class Midwest constituencies whom Trump will be lavishing with attention.
All that puts Franken in similar company with Brown. But Franken distinguishes himself in two key places. First, Minnesota’s governor is a Democrat who will presumably replace Franken in Washington with another Democrat. Second, Franken can match wits with Trump, and then some.
What most unnerves Democrats about facing Trump is the sheer unpredictability of a candidate who gleefully breaks all rules of decency and decorum. He laid waste to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, getting in their heads and taking them off their game. Clinton would certainly do her best [to] avoid their plight and remain above the fray, but Trump’s capacity to turn every news cycle into a smoldering train wreck would test any campaign’s ability to remain on-message.
Franken has worked hard to prove he is a detail-oriented, issues-driven senator, not a political novelty act. But he has decades of experience skewering factually challenged conservatives.
He wrote an entire ... book called “'Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” slapping Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on the cover and earning the host’s seething ire for life. On Franken’s Bush-era radio show, he turned the NPR quiz game into his own “Wait Wait Don’t Lie To Me,” challenging callers to distinguish between “lies,” “truth” and “weasels.” He’s publicly debated conservative celebrities such as Ann Coulter, countering her desire to have been FDR “so that I could not introduce the New Deal” by offering, “I would be Hitler. You get to call off the New Deal; I’d like to call off the Holocaust, World War II … but I’d keep the Volkswagen.” He will not be flustered by the intensity of the national spotlight.
Furthermore, his style of humor is deadpan and wry, the perfect tonic to Trump’s coarse broadsides. He’ll have no need or inclination to get sucked into the gutter, the way Rubio did, just to get a piece of the daily news cycle. While HBO’s John Oliver has been racking up YouTube clicks with satirical Trump fact checks, Franken can do same in real time and make sure they end up on broadcast TV’s nightly newscasts. But any attempt to trivialize Franken as a gimmick who could never fill the Oval Office chair will only set a low bar to clear when he shows off his policy acumen in the vice-presidential debate.
Franken even works superficially; he’s an inch shorter than Clinton and practically screams “second banana.” Franken will attract attention, but with a clearly defined role that will mitigate concerns about overshadowing the top of the ticket. No one will demean Clinton by musing about whether the ticket’s positions should be reversed.
Now fully comfortable after nearly seven years in office, Franken is more willing to use his comical side to serve his serious ends. Last week, he cheekily tweaked Republicans for refusing to vote on a Supreme Court nominee in President Obama’s last year in office, suggesting the standard should also apply to senators: “The 28 senators who are now in the midst of their re-election campaigns and the six senators who are stepping down should be precluded from casting votes.”
He delights in debunking conservatives to their faces, like when he called out an anti-gay marriage witness during a Senate hearing for misrepresenting federal data on two-parent families as only covering heterosexual couples. “I would think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife,” the witness claimed. “It doesn’t,” Franken scolded, with just the right lilt to spark rare laughter in the Senate hearing room.
And he’s already lending his wit to the Clinton campaign, reading the “mean tweets” he received after making his endorsement, and turning it into an opportunity to sell skeptical liberals on her platform. “Franken is plugged into the establishment matrix,” reads one. Franken retorts, “That sounds painful. And it was. That was part of the enhanced interrogation techniques they did during the Bush administration.”
The best reason for Clinton to pick Franken is this: it would make the entire fall campaign bearable to watch.