June 8th, 2008
by Kevin Duchschere
It's been a while since a U.S. Senate race in Minnesota has drawn so
much national attention, and it's all because of Al Franken. Not
often does a professional entertainer and author of Franken's
celebrity run for high office, and stories about him have appeared in
the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly and most recently in the
U.S. News and World Report.
Another indication that the race is being watched closely across the
country came Friday, when the Star Tribune received an e-mail from a
longtime California political activist by the name of Tom Hayden.
Hayden, 68, has been keeping track of Franken's efforts with the help
of Bob Lamb of Minneapolis, an activist who served as a coordinator
for the Chicago Seven in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
According to his message, Hayden isn't too much bothered by Al
Franken's sex jokes. What troubles him more, he says, is that Franken
hasn't been a hardliner when it comes to withdrawing U.S. troops from
Iraq a point that the Franken campaign disputes.
Hayden commented on Franken's U.S. Senate prospects the day before
state DFLers in Rochester endorsed the author and comedian to run
against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. He was responding to a Star
Tribune story on the race that Lamb had sent him.
"Bob, I am following this insanity from LA with the expectation that
Franken will get through the hazing, and be elected on the Obama tide
this November," Hayden writes. "Franken certainly needs to realize
that it's hard for many people to take joking about rape as satire,
though it is. Sounds like a spear being used by internal factions.
"What should concern progressives about Franken is his perpetual
inability to go beyond criticism and say whether he favors
withdrawing all American troops from Iraq. Instead, he seemed
somewhat supportive when the war began, then went on to criticize the
handling of the war, but never came out for ending it. In that sense,
he has been weaker
than Sen. Obama when he should be a Minnesota voice for withdrawal
and turning to diplomacy."
Hayden concludes that he doubts Franken will be "reliable" in the
Senate if he didn't really oppose the war when he hosted his talk
show on Air America, a liberal talk radio network.
"Once again, a political candidate is using public opinion to vault
into power, and public opinion will have to make him do the right
thing when in office. He's better than that old SDS radical Norm
Coleman, but he's not Paul Wellstone," Hayden writes. "I know that I
am not alone in these concerns."
Andy Barr, a Franken campaign spokesman, said the contrast between
Franken and Coleman on the Iraq war is clear: Coleman is a
cheerleader for the war, he said, while Franken "believes it's time
to end the war and bring the troops home" after setting a timetable