Friday, June 30, 2017

Epic Mar-a-No-No: Al Franken 2020?

Mika Brzezinski's Twitter response
to Trump's buffoonery
After reading about Donald Trump's remarkably juvenile insults earlier this morning aimed at MSNBC Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, I'm officially turning my focus to the 2020 presidential race.    

It's a bit early, sure, but why not?

America's resident liar-in-chief stunned political observers by holding a $35,000-a-plate campaign funding event on Wednesday evening just over four months into his so-called presidency.

An event Norm Eisen, who served as the top ethics lawyer under President Obama, called a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution because it was held at a Trump-owned hotel located in a building he leases from the U.S. government.

Maybe Republicans define "Making America Great Again" as totally ignoring laws that govern ethics?

If you're reading this you've likely heard that Trump's trite misogynistic comments were widely criticized by leading Republican and Democratic politicians - and Brzezinski herself shot back with a tweet (pictured above) featuring a box of Cheerios that served as a not-so-subtle shot at 45's notoriously tiny hands.

The whole debacle was made worse by Scarborough and Brzezinski's revelation this morning that Trump's politically-inexperienced lackey-son-in-law Jared Kushner personally relayed his delusional father-in-law's threat to use his ties with David Pecker, the owner of the company that owns the sleazy grocery store gossip rag National Inquirer, to prevent a piece trashing the MSNBC duo from being published if they would publicly apologize to the astonishingly thin-skinned president.

While most people would consider it beneath the dignity of the office of the president to engage in crass blackmail, is hardly a surprising tactic for Trump.

And for all the outrage Trump's latest tweet has generated, there's little question it was intended to do one thing only - to distract.

Especially given the bombshell report by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday about a May interview in which former conservative political operative Peter W. Smith admitted working with Russian hackers to try and hack Hillary Clinton's email server in order to give the information to Michael Flynn - who was serving as the national security adviser for the Trump campaign.

"Opposition researcher" Peter W. Smith
Political wonks may recall Smith, described by Wall Street Journal reporter Shane Harris as "a private equity executive from Chicago active in Republican politics",  as one of the ideological sleaze-bags responsible for dredging up unproven accusations by former Arkansas State Troopers of marital infidelity by former President Bill Clinton in the 90's.

Did Smith really sink to the same level of partisan obsession to try and actively work with Russian hackers (during the 2016 presidential campaign no less) in order to try and illegally access Hilary Clinton's private emails in order to intentionally torpedo her chances of being elected?

The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch and hardly a bastion of liberal political perspective, certainly thinks so based on Harris' article published on Thursday.

I'm ready to get behind a candidate now.

And based on the political calendar, the 2020 presidential race isn't actually that far off.

Considering the disaster that befell the American people last November and the terrifying ramifications of the loony political agenda of the current Republican-majority House and Senate, 2020 is quickly shaping up to be one of the most important presidential elections for the Democratic Party in decades.

One of the more interesting political profiles I've read lately was Mark Binelli's piece on the progressive Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken in the June 15th issue of Rolling Stone.

From my perspective, the former Saturday Night Live writer and occasional cast-member is quickly shaping up to be the progressive front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Think that's far-fetched?

Remember one of the normal prerequisites of any American presidential candidate (the afore-mentioned Trump excepted) is the publication of a memoir that reveals something substantive about who they are, where they come from, and what their vision for the country is.

Democratic Senator Al Franken
Franken has already checked that box having lately been out and about promoting his appropriately irreverently-titled new memoir Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

The other morning Franken was interviewed on the Brian Lehrer Show to share his insights on the pending Republican healthcare bill, why voters are attracted to Trump and his reflections on the bedrock values of the Democratic Party.

I think this guy is the kind of president this country needs now more than ever.

Franken is a well-informed intellectual progressive policy-wonk who has acknowledged the former Democratic Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone as a political mentor and who knows and understands the minutiae of the policy that lies behind political legislation.

As his deft handling of the questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee during recent hearings on Russian influence in the 2016 presidential elections demonstrates, this guy can hold his own in complex investigations on Capitol Hill.

From a progressive political standpoint this guy is the real deal.

During the Republican-engineered government shutdown in 2013, he donated his Senate salary to a Minnesota-based hunger relief organization called Second Harvest Heartland.

As Mark Binelli wrote in his June 15th Rolling Stone piece, Franken has effectively utilized his more than ten years as a comedy writer for SNL to help "shape the modern comedic voice of lefty dissent - pointed fact-checking as mocking entertainment - that would become de rigueur on shows like The Daily Show and its many spawn."  

From a progressive standpoint he can arguably be called a visionary of 21st century politics.

But more importantly, this is a guy who stands up for the common man, not because he's checking off some box, but because it's the right thing to do, it's what he believes in, and because that's the kind of man he is.

So let me close out the month of June by saying that Al Franken is the kind of man that Americans could get behind as the Democratic candidate for president in 2020 - and for what it's worth I don't say that lightly.

In my next blog, I'll share a story about a personal encounter I had with him in New York City that illustrates his natural inclination to stand up for the little guy.

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