Monday, September 22, 2008

Al, You Make Me Feel Uncomfortable

“…And for 35 years I was a writer. I wrote a lot of jokes. Some of them weren’t funny. Some of them weren’t appropriate. Some of them were downright offensive. I understand that. And I understand that the people of Minnesota deserve a senator who won’t say things that will make you feel uncomfortable…” Al Franken, Accepting the DFL Nomination in June

So it seems Al Franken had a hand in Saturday Night Live's most recent political skit featuring Darrell Hammond as Senator John McCain in a spoof about his approving radio ads for his campaign. There have been varying reports (some from within the Franken campaign itself) as to Franken’s level of involvement in the skit. Some say it was an idle observation he made while talking to an old friend; some say after SNL decided to try to make the idea into a skit Franken was involved, again by phone, in the formation of the skit; and some say Franken was listed as a co-writer on the script. Whichever story you choose to believe, the truth is Franken was involved.

I wasn’t born without a funny bone. I saw the skit and, frankly, I thought most of it was funny. Of course I don’t agree with the portrayal of McCain as an old, crotchety man who will take the word of anyone as truth and then agree to it. But sometimes you have to be able to laugh at yourself, or in this case, your own candidate or political party.

I stopped laughing, however, when the skit turned ugly:

Sarcastic Announcer: Barack Obama has fathered two black children in wedlock.

Hammond as McCain: My friends, I must say, that reminds me of an attack George Bush made on me in 2000.

Staffer: He won that election, right?

Hammond as McCain: (immediately leans into the microphone) I’m John McCain, and I approve this message.

I couldn’t believe it. Okay, so we try to have a sense of humor about ourselves. But to even bring up the horrible incident from the 2000 election concerning McCain’s adopted daughter was going too far. At that point, the skit became offensive.

The skit was referring to a smear campaign against McCain in which his opponents spread lies that his daughter Bridget was his illegitimate child instead of a severely ill orphan adopted by McCain and his wife from one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages. To suggest that McCain would, in order to win a campaign, endorse a message attacking Obama in the way he was attacked in the 2000 campaign is egregious.

The 2000 incident was deeply painful for the McCain family. This excerpt from a Newsweek article titled, “In Search of Cindy McCain" illustrates just how painful it was:

When her husband dropped out of the race, Cindy retreated once again to Arizona, furious. She now admits it took her a long time to get over it, much longer than her husband. "It was my daughter," she says. "I think any mother would agree with me. You can go after me, but stay away from my children."

Cindy decided not to tell Bridget about what had happened in South Carolina until she was old enough to understand. But not long ago, the 16-year-old discovered it on her own when she Googled her name. She asked her mother why President Bush hated her. "I did the best I could to say it wasn't President Bush," Cindy says. "But what she doesn't understand is … how could people say things like that." *

As in the case of Bristol Palin, this subject also involves the minor child of a candidate. Once again, Franken and his friends have shown that they don’t know when to stop or where to draw the line. That’s why Franken has to apologize so often for trying to be funny when he’s not.

His consistent display of faulty judgement is just one of the reasons we should feel "uncomfortable" with the idea of Al Franken as Minnesota’s senator.

* (I highly recommend this article to people who want to know more about our potential first lady. Read it at

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