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The Al Franken shtick

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

The Minnesota Supreme Court has now ended months of vote fraud and other assorted acts of skullduggery to pronounce Al Franken winner of the state's 2008 senatorial race over Republican Norm Coleman. The process was unseemly, and it is conceivable that the court's justices merely acted out of civic pride. They did not want Minnesota's U.S. Senate races to attain the sort of notoriety attached to aldermanic elections in Chicago or presidential elections in Iran.

Mr. Franken is an admitted clown. As such, he will be the only admitted clown in the United States Senate, although he will be seated with such clownish figures as Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. Perhaps his desk will be near that vacated recently by Sen. Larry Craig, Idaho Republican, the lavatorian-conservative now thankfully retired, perhaps to found an intellectual journal for his lavatorian movement. A good title might be, Bathroom Beautiful.

Upon hearing of the court's decision, Mr. Franken joked that he was "thrilled and honored by the faith that Minnesotans have placed in me." That is not a very funny joke, but Mr. Franken is not funny. By "Minnesotans," he is probably attempting irony in referring to his supporters on vote canvassing boards in several left-leaning counties who turned up enough thitherto uncounted votes to give him the edge.

In the Nov. 4 election, Mr. Coleman won by 725 votes. After a recount, he still won by 215. Then Mr. Franken's "Minnesotans" got busy canvassing. They demanded that votes once disqualified in their counties be counted. They found thousands of absentee ballots previously rejected for such indelicacies as fabricated addresses.

Mr. Coleman cried foul and asked that one statewide standard be applied to all recounts. However, he got nowhere with this plea for equal protection of the law, and in the meantime, Mr. Franken's larcenous operatives picked up 1,350 more absentee votes, some bearing the names of pop singers. Ultimately, Mr. Franken's team managed a 312-vote victory from the 2.9 million votes cast.

The Wall Street Journal was not alone in its judgment that "Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election." The Journal reminded Republicans that this is not the first time in recent elections that Democrats overturned an apparent defeat by sending swarms of lawyers and operatives into a state to find once-discredited ballots and claim victory. They practiced the same trickery in 2004 in the state of Washington's gubernatorial race wherein the winning Republican had mysteriously come in second after a third "recount."

In the aftermath of the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision, Mr. Franken deadpanned, "I won by 312 votes," and he went on to josh, "so I really have to earn the trust of the people ... of Minnesota and let them know - not just by my saying so, but by my actions - that I'm going to be working for every Minnesotan" - another humorless joke. What work he will do he did not say. Possibly he will sweep the floors of the Capitol or pick up litter on its lawn. His service in government has been nil. Yet how much service in government has our president had? Increasingly, the Democratic Party is the party of personalities, although Mr. Franken's personality is markedly weird.

He was weird on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970s, where he popularized a goofball character named Stuart Smalley, a self-help guru who repeated over and again, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." The audience laughed. Using lines not a lot more sophisticated, he campaigned for the Senate. My guess is that the Stuart Smalley character is the essential Al Franken, a weirdo.

I experienced his weirdness firsthand when I appeared as his guest on a talk show he hosted for "Air America," the liberals' feeble effort to create an alternative to conservative talk radio. At the time, he was an impassioned opponent of the 1990s "Clinton haters," so impassioned in fact that he could have been called a "Clinton lover." Apparently aware of the American Spectator's role in exposing poor President Clinton, Mr. Franken asked me how I had passed the 1990s, obviously expecting me to boast of my crimes. I stepped around his loaded question, and with my trademark self-deprecating wit (reminiscent, I am told, of President Kennedy) rolled a handball across the desk from my microphone to his, saying merely that I played a lot of handball during Mr. Clinton's years of public embarrassment.

Mr. Franken went ballistic. "What is this?" he asked, holding the little blue ball in his hands and seething. I moved on to other subjects, and not surprisingly, he lost control of the show. After I departed, he remained visibly perturbed. In fact, three hours later, a friend of mine observed him leaving the studio with the ball still in his hand as he snarled about it and my insouciance toward him.

Do you remember the controversy created by liberals with their unsubstantiated allegations of U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton's temper? My prediction is that Mr. Franken will not get through his Senate term without anger-management counseling and that the liberals will cover for him.

From a review of his simple-minded utterances on the campaign trail with regard to issues, it is apparent that he is not a consistent thinker.

He will disappoint the liberals. If they can keep him mad at Republicans, they will have his vote. But if he calms down, anything might happen.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor of the New York Sun and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.