Puppethead reminded me yesterday that it was Al Franken’s birthday. Sorry I missed it, Al! I figure I’ll try to make it up to Al by talking about how he seems to have grown as a candidate and a person in the two years he’s been on the campaign trail.
The specific incident that started Al Franken off on his quest to become Senator was how the Republican Party and their friends in the traditional media took and spun and lied about the memorial event for Paul Wellstone that was held at Williams Arena, and thus allowed Norm Coleman to eke out a win over Wellstone’s last-minute replacement in the race, former Vice President and Senator Walter Mondale. That raised Franken’s ire. But his interest in politics, an interest that has been lifelong, was combined with a gritty determination and a first-class brain. This, and not just anger, is what got him to do the hard work of forging a campaign through months of door-knocking in the snow and of facing hecklers at town meetings, and learning when his native abrasiveness works and when it doesn’t when talking with the voters. In short, it took the man who made his fortune as a comedian and showed him to be as serious and sober-minded and thoughtful and professional as they come.
His responsible demeanor, particularly in the first days after Election Day when Norm Coleman was still trying to pretend he could whine his way out of an automatic recount, impressed even the editorial staff of a rather conservative rural Minnesota newspaper, the Fairmont Sentinel: "It’s hard to believe we’re writing this, but it’s clear that Franken – known for his over-the-top humor and partisan antics – is the one acting with class in this serious situation."
His professionalism also shows in the people he chose to argue his case. Whereas Norm Coleman went at first with local Republican legal fixtures Fritz Knaak and Tony Trimble and their entourages, and then brought in Bogus Ben Ginsberg to be the public face and mouthpiece of his legal team, Franken went with persons from the law firm of Perkins Coie, an enterprise with offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C. and one of Fortune magazine’s top 100 firms to work for in 2009. (His lead lawyer, Perkins Coie’s Marc Elias, was the chief legal counsel for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign.) The irony was that the out-of-townies working for Al seemed to have a much better grasp of state law than the local folks working for Norm. They also had a much better handle on things such as the rules of (photocopied) evidence and on not committing witness-tampering as was done by the Coleman camp with Pamela Howell. The superior quality of the Perkins Coie personnel is a key reason why Al Franken is going to be our next Senator.
In short, Al Franken has shown that he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, he’s tough enough, he’s determined enough, he knows how to pick good people to work for him, and gosh darnit, people respect and often even like him. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Paul Wellstone’s old seat.