Al Franken Isn’t Running for President
But as he told Chelsea Handler last week, he may know a few people who are.
A recent event hosted by Live Talks LA where comedian Chelsea Handler interviewed Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was both entertaining and thought-provoking. It must be quite rare that a comedian would interview a senator who also has a history in comedy. The interview was obviously full of laughs, but it also revealed quite a bit about Mr. Franken.
As to not bury the lede, I’ll say this: Franken says he has no interest in running for president, and I believe him. “I have a number of people that I think would be up to the job and who want to do it, and I think that’s better than someone who marginally might be up to the job and really doesn’t want to do it,” Franken said during the conversation. He refused to name who he would support for president in 2020, seemingly for political reasons, but he made it clear he does see multiple candidates out there.
One of the biggest laughs Franken got was when he shared an anecdote about Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC). Franken said during the presidential election, when Graham was running behind most of the pack of seventeen, he saw Graham in a bathroom. Franken said he told Graham that if he had to choose one of the Republicans to vote for, it would be him. Graham responded humorously by saying, “That’s my problem.” Franken is constantly saying he tries to befriend people on the other side of the aisle.
Al Franken is a rare figure in many ways. He’s an honest politician, to start, which is an anomaly in itself. To go further, he had a prolific comedy career, and he details in his new book Giant of the Senate that he spent much of his first term avoiding being too funny so that he’d be taken seriously in the political world. Since winning reelection in 2014, he’s apparently felt more comfortable bringing out the jokes here and there, but recently he’s also shown himself to be an attack dog that the Democrats desperately need.
Perhaps following in Elizabeth Warren’s footsteps, Franken and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have become known as fierce critics of the Trump administration by using hearings for Trump’s federal nominations and the Russia investigation to show they’re going to hold this administration accountable. They’re not fucking around. Like Warren, Franken asks tough questions and doesn’t fear showing he’s outraged about an issue. It would have been hard to imagine Franken grilling a nominee for secretary of education when you were watching his antics on SNL decades ago.
The most endearing thing about Franken as a politician must be his strong distaste for the always creepy and obnoxious Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). In 2013, a Carnival cruise that got stuck off the coast of Alabama was apparently filled with piss and shit after a long wait to get towed to land. It was referred to as the “poop cruise.” Franken’s fellow senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, had written a joke about Cruz around that time for a dinner she was speaking at and asked Cruz if it was okay. She wrote: “When most people think of a difficult cruise, they think of Carnival. But we Democrats in the Senate think of Ted.” Franken interjected after Klobuchar read the joke to Cruz and said he had a rewrite. He said his version went like this: “When most people think of a cruise that’s full of shit, they think of Carnival. But we think of Ted.”
Franken’s interviewer, Chelsea Handler, is another person many never expected would become a prominent political figure. During the 2016 election, Handler started using her eponymous Netflix show to educate people on political issues, and it’s clear she’s learning with the audience. Handler had never really been politically outspoken until fear of a Donald Trump presidency invigorated her, and she’s quickly becoming a prominent voice of dissent. She may be crass, but sometimes we need that.
While he may not be running for president, it’s clear Franken has an impactful political career ahead of him. He has been fighting for issues like healthcare, education, and the environment since Trump took office and put those things at risk. He was fighting for those things before, but like many, Trump has caused him to kick it into high gear. He didn’t rule out being a vice president during the talk with Handler, and if we learned anything from the Obama years, it can be pretty enjoyable to have a funny vice president, so maybe we should start pushing for [Anybody who’s not orange]/Franken 2020. FL