As the Minnesota DFL Party holds its nominating convention this week, questions are mounting whether the Party will continue to turn a blind eye in the direction of a Senatorial candidate that has become untenable as a contender against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. The bigger question, however, is how the DFLers ever managed to mangle things so badly to begin with.
Two weeks ago, an operative in Mr. Coleman's re-election campaign camp produced a column for which Al Franken, the current front-runner for the DFL Party's endorsement for U.S. Senator, had offered his thoughts on sexually related matters. No matter one's views on the subjects about which Mr. Franken opined, the content of the article clearly fell outside the bounds of what the average voter could be expected to take in good humor at the polls.
The revelation raised eyebrows among DFLers who were convinced that Mr. Franken was the Party's best prospect for defeating an incumbent who has changed allegiances with the Bush Administration more times than John Kerry changed his vote on funding for the war in Iraq.
The initial revelation was disturbing to DFLers. Mr. Franken deflected criticism within the Party and from Republicans by noting that the comments were part of who he has been--a frank, blunt, though often merely satirical muse--and arguing that the Republicans were making much ado about nothing. The explanation seemed to mollify DFLers who were intent on seeing through Mr. Franken's nomination so close to the nomination deadline and with no well-established candidates left in the chase.
New revelations this week about Mr. Franken's past satirical work raised more than just eyebrows, however, with leading members of Minnesota's congressional DFL delegation strongly hinting at the obvious--that Mr. Franken's body of work, no matter how satirically intended--did not stand the test required of DFL nominees.
The second of Mr. Franken's cited works brought to light this week was most damning for Mr. Franken as it included suggestions for an SNL skit in which a network anchorwoman would be raped. Mr. Franken suggested the raping of anchormen, as well, but the gender neutral violations appear to be lost on the DFL.
The Minnesota DFL has no option at this point but to nominate someone other than Mr. Franken, as nominating Mr. Franken simply would appear too hypocritical given the Party's long history of advocating for women's rights and supporting legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act. That might not be fair to Mr. Franken, who argues that his words are being taken out of context and out of their proper historical backdrop, but it is the field that the DFL has sewn. And now the DFL must find a new candidate or risk essentially conceding the Senatorial election--an election that the DFL expected to win just two months ago--to a candidate that the Republican Party, until recently, viewed as vulnerable.
Mr. Franken, of course, is no less to blame for his predicament than is the DFL Party which seemed far too eager to rush a somewhat unvetted politician through the nomination process. Not only has Mr. Franken had issues with his word choice, he also has had tax problems, a failed political radio experiment, and relishes living in the politics of the 20th Century, preferring divisiveness over coalition building. That's not good for Minnesota or the Nation.
What's most puzzling about the recent revelations regarding Mr. Franken's past is not what Mr. Franken said or that the DFLers remain uncertain at this late point how to respond, but that the Republican operatives who brought the stories to light did so prior to the nominating convention. There is far too much time remaining in the current election cycle for the DFL to find a more compelling candidate than is Mr. Franken. And if they do, they will have the Republican Party to thank for outing Mr. Franken early, rather than late, in the process.
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