When You Act As If You Have Something to Be Ashamed Of, People Will Think You Have Something to Be Ashamed Of.

It seems all the congressional Democrats running for re-election this year are running away from health care.

You’d think they’d be proud of having achieved this reform to help hundreds of millions of Americans. But proud or not, they ought to act proud—because they did it, and pretty much everyone knows they did it.

The problem with acting ashamed of what you did is that, funny thing, even people who weren’t disposed to think you did anything wrong will start to conclude you did something wrong. So in running away from what they did, the Democrats are running right into a buzzsaw called human nature.

If I were a congressional Democrat running for office this year, I’d be confidently owning what I did, if only because it’s smarter to do so than to pretend I didn’t do it. Here’s what I’d say to the voters, in pretty much these words:

“Do you want to be denied health insurance because you have diabetes, or had cancer, or some other ‘pre-existing condition’? Maybe you do want to be denied insurance for those reasons—it’s your right to wish for a world in which you’d be denied it. If you do want that, by all means you should vote for my opponent.

“Do you want your insurance company to be able to cut off your benefits because you got a little too sick for their tastes, or because they don’t consider you a ‘good risk’ anymore? Maybe you do want your insurance company to be able to do that—it’s your right to wish for a world in which insurance companies can do that. If you do want that, by all means you should vote for my opponent.”

But the Democrats aren’t presenting the voters with that confident choice. They’re not talking about health care at all, and to the extent it comes up, they’re pretending they had nothing to do with it.

In essence, they’re showing the voters that they’re ashamed of what they did.

The Democrats have one month left to wake up and start acting as if they did something good, even if  (for reasons I don’t understand) they don’t believe it in their own hearts. If they can’t manage for one month even to pretend that they’re proud of their achievements, it will be no wonder when they lose big.

It’s a Good Thing This Book Didn’t Come Out in 2008.


I have been, and continue to be, an ardent supporter of Al Franken for U.S. Senator from Minnesota. (As well as a financial contributor.) I hope the State Supreme Court of Minnesota will someday confirm him, just as I hope for everlasting peace on earth and the complete elimination of disease.

I have to think Franken is grateful that Tom Davis’ memoir Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss didn’t come out until after the election. In fact, I think he’s more than grateful. I think there was a deal to make sure it happened that way.

While the comedy team of Franken and Davis broke up over Davis’ hard-core drug use, the two are friends. Franken contributes material to Davis’ book, and Davis writes of supporting Franken’s Senate campaign (which had been announced at the time of the book’s writing). The ticklish thing for Franken is that while Davis was certainly the harder-core partier of the two, the book portrays Franken as doing copious amounts of drugs in the seventies himself. And a bunch of other things back then he probably would have had to apologize for now, if Norm Coleman had gotten his hands on the material. It could have been fatal — especially in an election that turned on 300-some votes, as this one did.

So, I think that Al said to Tom, “Tom, go ahead and write your book, but do me one favor. Don’t publish it until after the election.” And Tom, doing what a friend would do, complied.

By the way, the book has received some pans having to do with it containing too much material that has nothing to do with comedy, Franken, or Saturday Night Live. Those pans are wrong. Granted, irrelevant material abounds, about Davis’ world travels and Grateful Dead worship and girlfriends, but there is also plenty of good stuff. More than enough of it to make the book a rewarding read for anyone interested in comedy, Franken, Davis, and their SNL cohorts. It is not particularly well-written, but at least it’s grammatical. And while the book isn’t funny (an air of melancholy and regret suffuses much of it), its reminiscences served to remind me of the unique comic genius that Tom Davis brought to the party. I devoured it, and recommend it.




Well guess what and golly gee. When I wrote on January 2, regarding the stated intention of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and senior U.S. Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin to find any nominee chosen by Gov. Rod Blagojevich “unacceptable,”

way to unnecessarily provoke a constitutional crisis and make yourselves look like asses when you lose, Democratic Senate leadership,

I was right!

Question: If I, an ordinary U.S. citizen, knew that according to our Constitution, Roland Burris, being legally appointed by a sitting state governor, had an undeniable claim on this Senate seat, why did it take the Democratic leaders of the Senate ten days to know it?


Stop Calling Me, Al Franken.

I’m for Al Franken for U.S. Senate. I gave him money two or three months ago to help him win his race in Minnesota. As a result, of course, I get phone calls from his campaign, asking for more money. I actually plan to give him another infusion of cash in early October – but not because of the phone calls. Believe it or not, Al Franken for Senate Telemarketers, I know Al Franken is running for the Senate, and I know he can use money!

In early September, I answered the phone call from the Al Franken for Senate Campaign, and politely told the young man on the other end of the line that I did not need to receive any more phone calls. He said, “Well, what if we agree to call you only once a month?” I said, in the spirit of cooperation and consensus-building that is my trademark, “OK, I can live with that.”

Of course, they have not lived up to their end of the bargain. I’ve received a call from them about every three days since that conversation. I have not answered the phone when this happens.

But the next time, I will. And here’s what I’m going to say:

“If you call me one more time, I’m giving money to Norm Coleman.”

And I mean it. I will.

The aggressiveness of your phone marketing campaign is counterproductive, Al Franken.

Fair warning.


P.S. (added 10/9): I’m happy to say that after posting this, I received no more phone calls from the Franken campaign! Coincidence, or do they read my blog? Impossible to say. In any event, in return, I kept my end of the bargain and made a second donation to the campaign on October 2.

About Last Night.

The best way I can think to sum up last night is that the world seems a different place this morning than yesterday. Not necessarily a happier place, or a more hopeful place–but definitely a transformed place.

The last time the world changed so quickly was almost exactly seven years ago–on September 11. It took seven years for an answer to that, but it came last night. It wasn’t joyous. It was serious. Desperately serious. And frightening in its sheer scale, almost as frightening as the earlier event it seemed in answer to. There was a madness about the enormity of last night, but the hope (if there is one) is that in a world already gone mad, only a response of equal and opposite madness can lead us out.

America’s National Casting Session.

Michelle Obama’s convention speech was a failure in one way, and a grand success in another.

As an attempt to erase the unfortunate aftertaste of that “first time I’m really proud to be an American” remark, it was too transparently calculated to be convincing. If I can see the ropes and pulleys behind last night’s “that is why I love this country”—and I can—then by definition it is unsuccessful as an act of contrition.

However, if you view her speech not as an attempt to persuade anyone of her real convictions, or to present her true self, but rather as an audition for the role of First Lady, it was a stunning success. You could see her as First Lady. She’ll be charming. She’s smart. She’s assertive. Stylish. She has a sense of humor. She’ll be an inspiring example at home, and a great ambassador abroad. You know you can enjoy her in the role for the next four years. Okay, done. The audition was an unqualified success. And the daughters she’s bringing along as part of the deal—they’re great, too.

Good auditions are what we want, not just from our potential first ladies but from our prospective presidents. This isn’t a campaign that’s happening now. It’s a quadrennial national casting session we conduct. And that doesn’t make it superficial. When you cast a movie, everything rides on your choice; will you end up with the blockbuster of the summer, or will your movie go straight to Blockbuster? 90% is in the casting.

We look at candidates and we ask ourselves, “Hmm, can I see him in the part? If I project a few months out, and envision this guy taking the oath of office, do I feel good? Does it feel right, imagining the things this guy will say in his State of the Union addresses? Most crucial of all, do I see a happy ending to America’s movie because of him, and will I want a sequel?” This is not a bad way to choose a president, and it’s a good thing that it’s not, because it’s what we do.

Since our candidates are actors in audition, we don’t ask them to believe the words they are saying. That is irrelevant. We only ask that they make a good show of believing the words they are saying.

As far as I’m concerned, Michelle Obama’s got the part. Next.


In case you find it as useful as I did, here’s a link to the nightly schedule of the Democratic National Convention this week.

I’ll be watching Michelle Obama’s speech tonight, along with Caroline Kennedy’s introduction of a film about her uncle.

(Don’t you love the stage? It reminds me of the opening of a 20th Century Fox film—in CinemaScope®!)

Speaking Frankenly.

I’ve been grappling on this blog with how Al Franken should handle his humorous past (and his humorous talent) in his present run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. Now so is Michael Kinsley of Slate. Good piece.

Discouraging: The Wrong Kind of Ad for Al Franken.

This one takes the wrong tone. Ominous. Dark. Bitter. It has a point to make (though weakened by Franken’s own support for the war for at least two years—I well remember this from his AirAmerica radio show) but makes it in a way that is inconsistent with the witty Franken brand. He ought to be mocking his opponent Norm Coleman over this (mockery is something Franken does devastatingly well), not casting him with sincere conviction as Evil Incarnate, which only makes Coleman seem formidable. Mockery belittles; fear grants power to the object feared.

Encouraging: Franken Wit On Display in New Campaign Ad.

Now that I gave money to Al Franken for U.S. Senate, I’m (naturally) receiving emails from the campaign, and some of these lead to the campaign’s commercials. This one I found encouraging, because it shows that Franken isn’t hiding his wit under a bushel, even when he’s not being funny: