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ISSUE 121 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/12/2007

Al Franken speaks frankly

By Tim Collins
Contributing Writer
and Cody Venzke
Variety Editor

Friday, October 12, 2007

As part of his week-long Minnesota college tour, satirist and DFL Senate hopeful Al Franken spoke to a packed lecture hall in St. Olaf's Science Center Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Franken spoke to more than 400 attendees about everything from his upbringing in St. Louis Park to his possible election opponent, Republican Senator Norm Coleman. The event was arranged by the College Democrats.

Controversial for his sharp criticism of conservatives in the Bush Administration as well as conservatives in general, Franken has frequented the public eye as a writer on "Saturday Night Live" for 15 years, a best-selling author and a radio show host from 2004 until the beginning of this year, when he formally announced his Senatorial campaign.

He is currently competing against fellow Democrat Mike Ciresi for the party nomination to run against Coleman.

To those who may doubt his credentials as preparation for the Senate, he said that a satirist "cuts through all the baloney and gets to the truth. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty good training for the U.S. Senate."

Franken also addressed his electability in an interview with the Manitou Messenger before the speech, pointing out he has been endorsed by 43 state legislators, whereas Ciresi has been endorsed by only 11.

"I think that these state legislators that are very close to the ground here in Minnesota think that I have the best chance of winning," he said.

Although he discussed Ciresi only when asked about him during the interview, Franken did not hesitate to criticize Coleman throughout the night. During the interview, Franken described Coleman as a "windsock," and went on to say that Coleman is "everything that's wrong with this country," primarily citing the Senator's role as a "cheerleader" for the Bush administration.

Franken, however, spent most of the evening discussing issues he feels are important, including global warming, universal health care and the war in Iraq.

On global warming, he quoted Al Gore, who said that "there is no silver bullet" for dealing with global warming, "but there is silver buckshot." Franken described some of this buckshot as biofuel, solar, tidal and wind energy.

When Franken mentioned wind energy and the need for more wind turbines, some students shouted that St. Olaf and Carleton already had wind turbines. After the outburst prompted laughter from the crowd, Franken said lightheartedly, "I make the jokes here."

As he moved on to universal health care, Franken was quick to cite statistics, specifically mentioning that the United States ranks 37th on the World Health Organization's evaluation of national health systems, between Costa Rica and Slovenia. "And Slovenia is on the move," he joked.

In the end, Franken argued for universal health care, saying that the richest nation in the world should be able to insure all of its citizens.

When Franken visited St. Olaf in the Spring of 2006, he spoke about similar topics, although the majority of that speech focused on his relationships with his family. But he also mentioned his plans to run for senate and if elected, to make health care a priority. At the time, Franken also expressed criticism of the Iraq War.

This past Tuesday, Franken addressed the Iraq war as well. Although Franken has been outspoken about the war in recent years, he noted Tuesday night that "we need to leave, but we need to do it in the smartest way possible."

He went on to emphasize the failure of the Iraqi government and the importance of international involvement in the conflict. He also underscored the need to care for veterans, stating during the interview that it was one of this Congress' best accomplishments in the past two years.

Franken ended on a note of optimism. "America is the country that rebuilt Europe," he said. "America is the country that saved the world from fascism and communism and still had enough juice left over to invent rock 'n' roll and the Internet."

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