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Al Franken: Party of One By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 15, 2008

What if a politician held a campaign event and nobody came?

That’s what almost happened to comedian-turned-Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken last week. In what sounds like a sketch he might have written for Saturday Night Live, only one voter showed up for Franken’s roundtable on veterans issues in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

It marked a particular low point in Franken’s quixotic, controversial 18-month campaign to unseat unpopular Republican Senator Norm Coleman. The race should have been the Democrats’ to lose, but a recent poll gives Colman a 15-point lead. Some party members are now questioning the wisdom of choosing Al Franken as their candidate.

On August 12, the Republicans released a TV ad repeating critical public statements about Franken made by his fellow Democrats. One says, “No matter how many millions he spends, it is clear that his history of pornography, degrading women and minorities, and his questionable financial transactions will continue to be the focus.”

That’s a damning litany, but Franken’s critics say they have the facts to back up their accusations.

Al Franken’s bestselling books (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) dig up and “debunk” provocative statements made by conservative pundits. Now that he’s running for office, Franken’s every public utterance is under the same scrutiny, and ordinary Minnesotans are meeting the Al Franken that news junkies, bloggers and authors like Peter Schweizer have known about for years: a mean spirited man given to volatile, foul mouthed outbursts.

Critics reminded voters that Franken’s Rush Limbaugh... book featured a short story in which conservative author Bill Bennett gets shot in the head. Televised GOP ads bring up Franken’s 2000 explicit Playboy story called “Porn-O-Rama” (in which his alter ego encourages his 12-year-old son to download bestiality porn) and his “rape jokes” during a 1995 Saturday Night Live story meeting.

The website FrankenLies.com questions the “facts” in Franken’s books, while YouTube.com features numerous videos of Franken losing his temper, pounding desks, blaming Ann Coulter for 9/11 and swearing onstage at a Democratic fundraiser. Clips of his debate with Coulter show Franken choosing Hitler as the famous figure he’d most like to have been. He promptly adds that he could thereby prevent the Holocaust, but it is doubtful Franken would take that context into account if Coulter had made the statement.

As for those “questionable financial transactions,” they’re of a more recent vintage. After months spent dodging questions about his personal finances, Franken finally admitted in April that he owed approximately $70,000 in unpaid taxes to 17 states.

At the same time, the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Board fined Franken’s personal corporation $25,000 for failing to pay workers'-comp premiums for close to three years.

Norm Coleman’s campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, called on Franken earlier this week to disclose today whether or not his corporation paid its federal income taxes since at least 1998.” She added, "It is time for Al to finally be honest with Minnesotans about why he didn’t pay his taxes and what other tax bills are still outstanding. Minnesotans deserve the truth.”

The New York Post reminded readers that, “Franken's aforementioned previous employer, Air America, bankrolled the liberal radio network's weak launch in part with a $500,000 loan siphoned from funds meant for a Bronx charity serving kids and senior citizens.”

FrontPage asked two well-known Minnesota political bloggers if they thought Franken had any chance of winning the election, given these recent developments. Via email, Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com was blunt: “...he has next to no chance at all.  Only a Coleman withdrawal would give Franken the seat. He may not even survive his primary challenge at this rate.”

Chad Doughty of Frater Libertas has been blogging about Franken since 2003, when rumors first surfaced that the comedian might challenge Coleman. Doughty says state Democrats are worried that Franken’s candidacy might even negatively affect Barack Obama’s run for president.

Doughty told FrontPage via email:

Six months ago, [Franken] was probably an even shot to unseat Coleman. Now, he's a long shot despite all the headwinds against Republicans that Coleman has to weather. His ads are becoming increasingly negative and vicious and there's more than a whiff of desperation coming from his campaign. (...) Franken is becoming a national embarrassment for the Dems.

Unless there is a seismic shift on the Senate race battleground between now and November, Norm Coleman should be re-elected relatively easily.

Then again, Minnesota is the same state that elected a shoot-from-the-hip former pro wrestler, Jesse Ventura, to the position of Governor. So presumably anything could happen.

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.

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