Al Franken, Giant of the Senate


As any of my friends can attest, I've immersed myself in politics over the last year. However, I admit that prior to the 2016 election, my knowledge of politics was limited to the stuff that made headlines. I paid a lot of attention to Trump, but largely glossed over Hillary's specific platforms. I figured her campaign was headed toward an Obama 2.0, and that was good enough for me. My broad support for Obama turned into broad support for Hillary. Even after the election, after I dug into her specific policy proposals, I found that I stand by that original position: I supported Clinton 2016, and I would all over again.

But that lack of full understanding prior to the election made me wonder: what else don't I know about the politicians running the country? What's up with Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Deval Patrick, and Al Franken? What's going on with these 2020 contenders, and shouldn't I get to know them a bit before all the hustle and bustle of a campaign kicks in?

So I picked up Al's book. And let me tell you, folks, it's a true delight.

It's funny and clever without being obnoxious. It's honest and straightforward without being mean-spirited. It's personal and endearing without being cloying. It's smart and expansive without being condescending. It's wonderful.

He's got a chapter about how Ted Cruz is an ass -- and how they bonded over bad jokes. He's got a chapter about how Chuck Schumer screwed him over in his first election bid -- and how now they're pals. He's got a chapter about Mitch McConnell being an absolute scumbag -- and how he learned to respect the Senate Majority Leader.

He talks about his wife's alcoholism with the same charisma and engagement as he talks about the trials and tribulations of Native Americans, veterans, and the mentally ill. He talks about gun control in a common-sense way, and acknowleges that his personal views don't necessarily map to the views of his constituents. He talks about the ins and outs of Washington politics, and all the missteps he made along the way.

And throughout it all, he sprinkles in hilarious jokes. Incidentally, one of his spiels is about a Republican device known as the De-Humorizer, which takes any joke out of context and strips it down into a form that is no longer funny. You can't joke about the elderly without right-wing media painting you as a monster that wants to toss old people off cliffs, he complains.

It's fantastic. It's wonderful. It's heart-warming. And it's funny. If you pay attention to politics at all, you'll enjoy it.