City Pages Snaps a Towel at Al Franken

In a world where everyone, especially celebrities are free roaming targets for everyone with a cellphone camera, Al Franken ought to be thankful City Pages’ newshounds don’t have his workout routine up on YouTube. Maybe tomorrow.

City Pages posted a tiddy by writer Ben Westhoff describing Franken’s goofball antics in his condo work-out room. Reaction ensued. Now, CP editor, Kevin Hoffman, has added a comment defending, one assumes, his decision to run the piece.

From the comments I gather the piece hasn’t played all that well with Friends of Al and/or more sober-minded news consumers.

As a person-in-the-public-eye of long-standing I gotta believe Franken is used to this sort of thing. And if he isn’t, God help him if doesn’t start getting used to it. Every politician today is one click of a YouTube upload away from a “macaca meltdown”.

The City Pages thing is a silly little “gotcha” item, probably of greater risk to City Pages’ currently re-coagulating reputation than Franken’s. (If Steve Perry were dead he’d be churning.) But when you’re a celebrity/senate candidate you’re fair game for damned near anything anyone wants to show or tell about you.

That said, isn’t there a code of something about work-out behavior and gawking or telling tales of grunting, sweating, whatever? Isn’t it understood among, um, people of quality that what happens in the gym stays in the gym?

I’m in no position to chastise anyone else for engaging in sophomoric silliness. Rather, my beef with this incident is with the underlying suggestion/assertion from both Westhoff and Hoffman that Franken — a career cut-up — is engaged in some kind of contrived struggle to transform his true self into a serious-minded student of political issues. Clearly, Franken is working, maybe too hard, at impressing Minnesota voters with his command of serious topics. But it is something else to insinuate that he is, you know, maybe, uh, faking it.

If anything, Franken’s radio show floundered because he wasn’t funny or goofy enough. Too often he had his policy wonk dial yanked past 11. Some of that may have been for show. But anyone who listened understood the guy had done his homework. Put another way, anyone who thinks he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he wades in to Iraq or health care or whatever isn’t paying attention.

Beyond that, I think there’s an argument to be made that Franken the candidate has to find a balance between the glib, wise-cracking smart-ass most of us enjoyed, and a guy who strikes us as knowledgeable and committed enough to drive more enlightened policies through the U.S. Senate than Norm Coleman. That shouldn’t be too tough. Not among the Twin Cities literati, at least.

Speaking as an elitist liberal who’d vote for my hydrangea bush before Norm Coleman — WAY too much rubber stamp work, Normie — my advice to Franken is to loosen up on the stump a bit more. These past seven years have been one long, sick joke. Laughter, whether rueful or mocking, can only be cathartic.