Former George W.Bush speechwriter ("axis of evil….") and some kind of fervent Christian Michael Gerson alleges that Al Franken, former writer for Saturday NIght Live and current Senator from Minnesota, is not to be taken seriously.  He writes:

One problem with a political landslide of the kind that Republicans now contemplate in November is that it may also sweep into office various ideologues who become embarrassments — candidates such as J.D. Hayworth and Rand Paul. Democrats are familiar with this possibility, because they have Sen. Al Franken.

In the months since his election, the author of "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot," who has referred to opponents as "human filth" and who once accused Ronald Reagan of supporting the torture and rape of nuns, has tried to control his bile addiction, at least in public. Speaking last week to the American Constitution Society, he relapsed.

Most of the traditional elements of a Franken rant were employed against Chief Justice John Roberts and conservatives on the Supreme Court. The attack on motives: The "Roberts court has consistently and intentionally protected and promoted the interests of the powerful over those of individual Americans." The silly hyperbole: "What individual rights are so basic and so important that they should be protected above a corporation's right to profit? And their preferred answer is: None. Zero." The sloppy, malicious mixed metaphor: The Roberts court is putting not a "thumb" but "a fist with brass knuckles" on the "scale" of justice. Franken was clearly summoning all his remaining resources of senatorial dignity not to say something like Roberts is a "lying liar who lies along with his lying lackeys for his lying corporate lying masters."

You would never suspect from Franken's speech that the Roberts court, in key cases, has sided with employees who allege discrimination and against corporations. It is never enough for Franken's opponents to be misguided or mistaken; they must want women to be sexually harassed in underpaid jobs while their children die of lead poisoning.

In all fairness, which is a kind of Christian attitude by the way–or so the nuns taught me–"Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" is ironic satire, about a fellow whose main mode of argument is the abusive ad hominem.  The same goes for the "human filth" remark about the vitriolic Karl Rove.  Now Reagan, in all honesty, did support regimes that raped and tortured nuns (I mean communists).  Now the point of bringing all of this up of course is to discredit Franken without considering Franken's particular argument (in this case).  It's the tactic of a big fat idiot, or human filth, to denigrate our discourse in this manner.  THAT LAST SENTENCE WAS SATIRE.  What's worse, however, is that Gerson has run out of misunderstandings to blame on Franken, so he resorts to making stuff up.  You can watch Franken's comments for yourself here
Franken doesn't say the "lying liars" quotation above.  That's pure invention.  If Franken had such a habit of bile, you'd think Gerson wouldn't need to resort to making crap up.  But he continues–and attributes more false intentions to Franken.  It is never enough for Gerson that his opponent is wrong or misguided, but apparently he must have some kind of warped personality and (as this dreary pieces goes on to fail more and more) and be a big fat idiot.  But maybe I'll talk about that tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Frankenquotations”

  1. Gerson has singled Franken out for this type of attack in prior columns. When viewed in a larger context, his attacks seem less like misplaced, illogical attacks and more like his quickly coming to heel for Republican Party leaders who want him to make certain attacks without regard for their truth or logic.

  2. Here's the Gerson column in question:

    Gerson has had it out for Franken for a long time.  Perhaps it's professional jealousy, since Franken is a far better writer.  Anyone can watch Franken's (quite good) speech for him or herself.  Gerson badly misrepresents it throughout his column.  Franken backs up his claims about the Roberts court and the powerful by citing several cases and noting a pattern.  Most notably, he discusses the Lilly Ledbetter case and the poor argument offered in the majority decision (which ignored both common sense and the intent of the law as written).  He also points out (unmentioned by Gerson) that in terms of overturning precedent, Clarence Thomas is the most "activist" judge.  (Scalia is #2, IIRC.)  Franken's critique of "originalism" is in part that it's fairly new and hardly tradition, but more importantly, he argues that both "originalism" and the "umpire" analogy are affectations of impartiality and fairness from people with strong biases.  (There are more scholarly dissections of "originalism" out there as well.)  The brass knuckles bit is playing with a familiar metaphor, and Franken makes it into a joke as well (Gerson never seems to like humor).  Whether one agrees with all of Franken's points or not, he offers a pretty comprehensive, substantive critique.  Such as:        
    <blockquote>…The Roberts Court has overturned two principles I believe are deeply ingrained in our Constitution, in our legal tradition, and in our American values.
    First: Judicial restraint.
    As I have noted repeatedly – and in an increasingly exasperated tone of voice – over the last few years, Justice Thomas has voted to overturn federal laws more often than Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer combined.
    They haven't just been activists in their <I>decisions</i>, but also in their <i>process</i>.
    In both <I>Citizens United</i> and <I>Gross</i>, the Court answered questions it wasn't asked, reaching beyond the scope of what they accepted for appeal to overturn federal laws the conservative wing didn't like.
    I mean, I don't speak Latin. But unless <I>stare decisis</i> means "overturn stuff," then maybe it's time for conservatives to stop calling other people "dangerous radicals."
    Second, and more importantly: They've overturned the principle that the law should be a place where ordinary people can turn for relief when wronged by the powerful… </blockquote>
    And so on.  Ironically, after railing against how unfair Franken is in his characterizations, Gerson later writes "in Franken's view judges should be more like the Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution."     

  3. It's the tactic of a big fat idiot, or human filth, to denigrate our discourse in this manner.  THAT LAST SENTENCE WAS SATIRE.
    But accurate nonetheless.

  4. Hi Batocchio et al.

    I was going to follow up to that with pretty much exactly what Batocchio said.  So–what Batocchio said. 

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