Intelligent and knowledgeable, funny and insightful, and still a pretty good looking guy.
But enough about me.
Let’s talk about Al Franken and his latest book.
This is my 4th read by Franken. It does not disappoint. In fact, there’s something in its tone that, to me, seems to make it more accessible than his previous books.
It’s a memoir. It’s humorous. It’s a scathing expose. It’s an explanation of the mechanics of government. And, ultimately, a book of hope.
We shown portions of Al’s childhood, we go through the years of his SNL involvement, and are brought up to date with his experience as a Senator from Minnesota.
And there are a lot of cool photographs.
One of his previous book titles can really be applied to all of his books: “The Truth (with Jokes).” All of his books are filled with researched, notated, verifiable facts. They also have many laughs (and some occasional groans). It’s hard to find reading that both entertains and educates as much as a book by Al Franken
[Although many of them are short, there are 47 chapters here. So I won’t be doing a chapter-by-chapter review (as I have for some books).]
Early on Franken tells us “Why I’m a Democrat.” “Civil rights, our parents taught us, are about basic justice. And when the news would be full of southern shefiffs truning firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks on demonstrators, my dad would point to the TV and [say] ‘No Jew can be for that!’ Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone. And that’s why I’m a Democrat.”
Later, of course, we get into Al’s run for Senate. An excruciating election that resulted in a 8-month (plus) recount!
Then we gain a whole lot of information about the inner workings of our government.
“My Republican Friends” is an interesting chapter. Al actually has many friends who are Republicans. And he has some positive things to say about Republicans in general. Part of his job is “looking for opportunities to find common ground.” But, being a Senator means having to make friends with people you’re fighting against, and fighting “with every fiber of your being” against people you are friends with.
We also learn of Al’s relationship to addiction. Al managed to never become an addict. “There but for the grace of God go I” he says. But he had to deal with his wife’s alcohol addiction, his best friend’s chemical addiction, as well addictions of celebrity friends like Belushi and Farley. “Addiction can take an unimaginable toll on the people who love addicts.”
The 3 chapters about SNL also discuss Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a show Al did called “Indecision ’92.” And were brought to face the fact that “comedy broadcasts” are often one of the most reliable sources for truth in news. This is also the time-frame where “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” is written, and “shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.”
There’s a chapter on healthcare. The lies, misinformation and obstruction from the Republicans on this issue is amazing. They fought and fought to stop it. Once it became law they’ve fought and fought to repeal it. Sadly, it’s looking like they may have a chance now. “Republicans have voted more than sixty times to repeal the law. They had offered zero plans to replace it.” And of course the “plans” they have offered recently haven’t even met with approval from their own party. That’s because, for all their talk, they’ve never been interested in the “replace” part. Just repealing any progress made by President Obama.
Another chapter discusses education. Which, with DeVos running the department, our children are in genuine trouble. But before Betsy, once again, “Even as we were finding ourselves in agreement on what we needed to do, Republican leadere were working to prevent us from actually doing it. McConnell’s goal was almost always to stop Obama and Senate Democrats from getting thing done, to prevent us from having achievements we could point to.”
In addition to health care and education, there’s a discussion on climate change. “Virtually everyone in the world believes that climate change is real and is caused by human beings, except Republicans. [They] know that if they concede that global warming is real, the Koch brothers will spend money against them.
“The Angel and the Devil” looks at the very important topic of discrimination. “Growing up, my kids read in history books about a time in our country when it was perfectly legal to fire somebody or refuse to hire somebody because they were black or a woman. For them it was a concept they couldn’t understand. I hope that my future grandkids will only read about when it was legal to fire someone because they’re gay or transgender.”
Ted Cruz gets an entire chapter devoted to him. “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz. I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.”
On Trump: [He] quickly showed that he had no knowledge about the details of public policy… no interest in learning the details of public policy… [and] actively scornful of learning. “I know more that the generals,” he would say. No, idiot – you don’t.
We have insights and stories about McConnell, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, The horribly insanely greedy and uncaring Koch brothers, Perry Mason (?!?) and more.
Franken has a lot of stories about learning how to be a Senator and about how important all his staff are: The research, the guidance and critiques they offer. Switching careers from comedy writer (excuse me, “satire” writer) to serving as a Senator had a huge learning curve. He allowed his staff to gently let him know if he was crossing the line, such as the time when one staffer slipped him a subtle note: “You’re being an asshole.” So, Al’s humor often takes aim at Al, as well as others. And he give his wife, Franni, credit for saving his campaign. “There is no question that I would have lost the election if Franni had not [did what she did].”
As humorous and entertaining as this book is, the seriousness of the issues is intense.
This is information every American needs to have. The future of your children and grandchildren is literally in jeopardy right now!
If you vote, you need to read this book! (And if you don’t vote, well…)
Buy the book. Click HERE.
- Between 25 to 40 percent of Americans have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work.
- We all do better when we all do better
- My wife and I have a division of labor. Basically it’s this: Franni’s in charge.
- McConnell and his friends constantly blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
- Until John Belushi’s death, we at SNL didn’t really understand that drugs can kill you. But by the time Chris Farley got in trouble, we at the show understood all too well.
- Abortion services make up (only!) 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. [Planned Parenthood, through many of their services, does more to prevent abortions than anything those against it have ever come up with!!! Just sayin’.]
- Half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.
- Under Trump, we should probably prepare for the worst. This is going to suck for a while. But not forever.
- Just because we’re out of power doesn’t mean we abdicate our responsibility to try to improve people’s lives. That’s what makes us Democrats. It’s what makes us worth electing in the 1st place.
Also read: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”
NOTE: If you are a right-wing friend or family member, and would be willing to read this book, even if it’s to “find fault,” let me know and I will (as finances allow) try to get a copy to you!