#TermLimits4Celebs: Al Franken and Death of the Celebrity Politician

al franken

Refusing to resign his U.S. Senate seat over multiple allegations of adolescent fantasy behavior, Al Franken issued a constipated statement of contrition, whereby the comedian-turned-senator apologized for making people feel badly, stopping short of simply acknowledging, and apologizing for, his actions,

I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again. And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.

Franken’s inability or unwillingness to offer a simple and straightforward apology for his actions reflects a pattern of other public predators, who can only manage I’m sorry my hand on your butt made you uncomfortable. Despite one’s politics, it speaks volumes about the patriarchal privilege under attack in the current cultural climate.

Not funny

What’s notable about the reporting, and social media reactions about Al Franken’s incident with Leeann Tweeden is how it’s settled fact that Franken was simply working as a comedian at the time. According to the NY Times initial reporting of the Tweeden account,

Ms. Tweeden published a first-person account of the incident on KABC Radio in Los Angeles on Thursday. She wrote that it occurred in December 2006, not long before Christmas, when she was a performer for the tour alongside Mr. Franken, then a well-known comedian. Ms. Tweeden was then a Fox Sports Network correspondent and model. U.S.O. tours are meant to boost morale among American troops abroad and typically include celebrity entertainment.

I’m assuming that there’s a allowance being made here, whereby Franken’s behavior as a comic, rather than public servant, somehow lessens the act and potential harm. But what if Franken was not a simple comic schmuck in 2006, but also the marquee personality on the former liberal talk radio network, Air America? And what if Franken was using the show as a way to transition from comedian to politician during the U.S.O. tour in question?

 

And then there’s the farewell message from Randi Rhodes, one of Air America’s voices who was actually there to inform and inspire, unlike personalities looking first and foremost to feather their professional and political bona fides. According to Rhodes,

But other people were not there for that. Some people saw, you know, a chance to be in a Cabinet and other people saw it as a chance to go to the Senate and other people saw it as a chance to national television. Everybody was using it for their own reason…

The Newsbusters article continues,

While she didn’t specifically name them, it’s obvious that Rhodes is alluding to Air America co-founder Al Franken, who was elected to the Senate in 2008, and Rachel Maddow, who began dividing her time between Air America and guest appearances on MSNBC that same year. In September 2009, MSNBC started airing “The Rachel Maddow Show” as part of its weeknight lineup.

Cool at home; a dick abroad

Many of Al Franken’s defenders point to his liberal/progressive voting record as cause to overlook his roaming hands, and keep him in the Senate. But, like many liberals, while funny Al leans left on domestic affairs, his foreign policy compass is all screwed up, as Tom Hayden pointed out back in 2005 about Franken’s views on the Iraq War,

Is anyone else disappointed with Al Franken’s daily defense of the continued war in Iraq? Not Bush’s version of the war, because that would undermine Air America’s laudable purpose of rallying an anti-Bush audience. But, well, Kerry’s version of the war, one that can be better managed and won, somehow with better body armor and fewer torture cells.

The then radio host fessed up to as much in a 2007 appearance on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country,

 

While, in 2008, Franken ran on Obama’s anti-war coattails, by the time reelection came along in 2014, he rivaled his friend Hillary Clinton as a warmonger, as pointed out by the Daily Caller,

Now, as Franken runs for a second Senate term and as the Obama administration bombs areas in Iraq and Syria held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, also called ISIL), Franken has suddenly become a hardline warmonger.

As Politico notes, the senator’s current foreign policy positions are vastly different from the ones he took in 2008 when he enthusiastically insisted that the United States must withdraw from Iraq.

And what about Libya? Had our Harvard educated funny man found contrition for his initial support for the Iraqi debacle? Was he prepared to stand up to Hillary in her imperial insanity? According to his own press release at the time, he supported intervention.

#TermLimits4Celebs

His foreign policy record aside, my argument for holding Al Franken to account, resulting ultimately in his resignation, has less to do with politics than with entitlement. How does someone leap directly from showbiz to the Senate? While Barack Obama launched quickly into the presidency, he did serve as a state senator before his run for U.S. Senate. Unlike Franken, Obama didn’t have the varnish of celebrity that could allow a leap directly into the highest levels American politics and government. And despite his recent denials about designs on the White House, Franken is top dog on many liberal wishlists.

Only America’s demented relationship with celebrity allows for an over-baked comic like Franken to use his platform on Air America to transform directly into a United States Senator. While a healthy sense of ambition is one thing, it’s celebrity entitlement that tells a comedian he can rise directly to the highest offices in the land. And it’s the same sense of entitlement that tells people like Franken that a little ass-patting is a titillating job perk, rather than a violation of another’s body.

By | 2017-11-25T09:34:16+00:00 November 24th, 2017|Categories: #TermLimits4Celebs, Columns|

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Craig Gordon
Craig Gordon comments on the perverse state of American society, and is the publisher of this website.

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