Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Suddenly serious

It took no time for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to respond to the news that Al Franken was giving up his comedy routine (USO performances of late) and radio hosting to run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, drafting what promises to be only the first installment of “Frankly Franken,” an examination of the funnyman’s “record.”

And if you thought former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway was outspoken last week when it came to homosexual players on the basketball court — referring to retired NBA center John Amaechi stepping out of the closet — get a load of what Mr. Franken once told the Harvard Crimson:

“It’s not preppies, ‘cause I’m a preppie myself. I just don’t like homosexuals. If you ask me, they’re all homosexuals in the Pudding. Hey, I was glad when that Pudding homosexual got killed in Philadelphia.”

Mr. Franken, a 1973 graduate of Harvard, was referring to Harvard’s Hasty Pudding theatrical club.

Those remarks were made back in 1976 when Mr. Franken, like former Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen and others, was a careless young man blurting insults that he now lives to regret.

This first “Frankly Franken” installment also features the new Democratic candidate’s previous thoughts on Ronald Reagan, as well as who he feels was responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Finally, for somebody with no political or public service record suddenly entering a campaign for national office, the NRSC recalls Time magazine asking Mr. Franken in 2003 whether he was “ever tempted to run for office yourself?”

His reply: “Oh, no! First of all, if I took one vote away from a serious candidate, it would be a sin.”

Regulation run amok

The American Medical Association (AMA) was holding its annual conference in recent days at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, practically a stone’s throw from the White House.

Heading to the same hotel to attend a dinner was Patrick J. Cleary, senior vice president of communications for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), who also served in the Reagan and Bush administrations, including as chairman of the National Mediation Board.

While in the lobby area, Mr. Cleary ran into a friend who works for the AMA. He joked to his friend by saying, “Is there a doctor in the house?” The friend just shook his head, Mr. Cleary now recalls, and related an incredible anecdote that the NAM vice president has posted on NAM’s official Web site, ShopFloor.org:

“Because there is a crowd of several hundred people, District of Columbia government regulations require that they have a paramedic (which they must pay for) on duty and on the premises. Nevermind that this is a room of over 600 physicians, a paramedic is still required on the scene.

“Rules are rules, after all. Even when they don’t make any sense. Somebody call a doctor.”

Endless morass?

That was a major 1984 speech on “The Uses of Military Power,” delivered by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger at the National Press Club, that Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii is now resurrecting to provide what he calls an important perspective on the use of military force in Iraq.

The speech is long, among other points calling attention to U.S. tensions that stretched from the Soviet Union to Central America. But it’s summarized best by the following two paragraphs:

President Reagan “will not allow our military forces to creep or be drawn gradually into a combat role in Central America or any other place in the world. And indeed our policy is designed to prevent the need for direct American involvement. This means we will need sustained congressional support to back and give confidence to our friends in the region.

“I believe that the tests I have enunciated here today can, if applied carefully, avoid the danger of this gradualist, incremental approach, which almost always means the use of insufficient force. These tests can help us to avoid being drawn inexorably into an endless morass, where it is not vital to our national interest to fight.”


“I think it’s because people want to be over with [President] Bush. And psychologically, if the next race has started, in our head, we kind of think, ‘Oh, OK, we’re done with President Albatross, and we’re on to the next thing.’ ”

Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” commenting that the 2008 presidential campaign has begun in earnest a whopping 21 months before Election Day.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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