Jonathan Swift, like Al Franken, was a satirist. When Swift suggested the Irish solve their problems by raising and eating their own children, he wasn't serious. While perhaps Franken is no Swift, satire is satire. Satirizing the opinions, actions, and morals of others by hyperbolizing them does not mean you endorse those opinions, actions, and morals. Nor does it mean you think such extreme things constitute "entertainment" pure and simple.
Someone ought to tell Michael Gerson, when he wakes up from his fainting spell at the "vulgarity."
Satire has been called "punishment for those who deserve it." Writers from Erasmus to Jonathan Swift to George Orwell have used humor, irony and ridicule to expose the follies of the powerful, the failures of blind ideology and the comic weakness of human nature itself.
So what is Franken's "provocative, touching and funny" contribution to the genre? Consider his article in Playboy magazine titled "Porn-O-Rama!" in which he enthuses that it is an "exciting time for pornographers and for us, the consumers of pornography." The Internet, he explains, is a "terrific learning tool. For example, a couple of years ago, when he was 12, my son used the Internet for a sixth-grade report on bestiality. Joe was able to download some effective visual aids, which the other students in his class just loved." Franken goes on to relate a soft-core fantasy about women providing him with sex who were trained at the "Minnesota Institute of Titology."
I'd be tempted to say he's taken Franken out of context, but he's has just said that Franken is a satirist. If Gerson weren't so earnest in his desire to avoid "vulgarity," I'd say his op-ed was satire.