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Monday, January 29, 2007

Mark Gisleson on Al Franken


Despite my initial enthusiasm at the prospect of having a Senatorial candidate who could shred Republican opponents in campaign debates, Al Franken has given me little reason thus far to excited about his inevitable candidacy. The anti-gay jokes from his Harvard years aren't helping, and Andy Birkey has the backstory.

Not a pleasant tale, and one that Franken should respond to very carefully. He was who he was, and it's hardly surprising that a former prep wrestler and comedy writer of that era would say such things. Amateur wrestlers, because of the enormously homoerotic nature of their sport, tend, in this country, to be incredible homophobes. If there is one thing they refuse to associate wrestling with, it's gay sex. [Note: I should have made it clear that I was speaking to MY experience with wrestling which covered the Dan Gable era from start to finish. I've since had some folks tell me that their experience was different. And I certainly have no clue what prep wrestling has been like since Gable, but Franken's wrestling career was decidedly during the early Gable era.]

Add to that the homophobic nature of the early '70s. It's hard to find a guy my age who wasn't thoroughly schooled in homophobic taunts. The question is whether you outgrow that cruel idiocy, or if you cling to the beliefs of your youth. Hardly a single politician of the WWII generation could credibly claim to having never said the n-word, but that doesn't mean that many of them didn't work heroically to put an end to institutionalized racism.

Franken needs to respond to these allegations, and he would serve himself well if he did so openly and candidly, and in front of a GLBT audience. It would behoove him to speak well of Knight, and to show real regret over his previous insensivity. And then, he needs to issue a statement affirming gay rights.

And that's just to remain viable. If he wants to be the frontrunner, he has a very long way to go because I'm just not hearing much good news about him from friends who encounter him at DFL and related functions. Right now, in a head to head with Amy Klobuchar, I think I might support Klobuchar. I'm not looking to run an assclown against Coleman, and it's about time Franken started proving that there's more to him than jokes and talk radio invective.

The Drama Queen makes the astute comparison to the Twinkie Defense. His commenters don't seem to get what the Twinkie defense was about.

While I think Andy Birkey is giving Franken too much slack, I do agree with him on this:

We can learn from this, however. Whether homosexuality agrees with you or not (the complex religious and social issues attached to the topic are intense), the issue of ending violence against people because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is one that most people agree with. I challenge those who are angered and blogging furiously about this joke to start debating how we end violence based on sexual orientation.

I'll disagree on this:

I expect the silence from conservatives and GOP operatives to be deafening.

If Andy would substitute "leviticus crowd theocrats" for "conservatives and GOP operatives", I would agree with him. For the record, from what I've seen, GOP party chair, Ron Carey falls into the theocrat category.