Chat With Satirist and Shadow Convention Participant Al Franken

It seems to me that the delegates at least seem to be very confident. I remember coming out of Atlanta in 1988, and as a Democrat I was very confident. I think we were ahead by 17 points coming out of Atlanta. That was Dukakis, by the way.

SanDiegoTop says: Who do you think offers the most satire potential, Gore or Bush?

Al Franken:

I think I answered that one... it's Bush. Bush has done some good things in education. For example, thanks to George W., 60 percent of high school seniors in Texas read at a higher level than the governor, which wasn't true when Ann Richards was there.

Sean Gaffney asks: Al, when looking at George W. Bush's record as governor and Dick Cheney's voting record in the House, these guys look to be very conservative, not moderate or "compassionate" conservatives at all. How do you account for Gov. Bush's popularity among moderate or centrist voters?

Al Franken:

I think if you talk to these delegates, what you saw last night does not reflect these delegates. They've all agreed that they'll present this facade until the election. So we'll see how well this plays.

There's a lot of contradictions in what they're saying. You'll notice that when Colin Powell says, "we have to spend more money on schools and teachers," there was no applause. And it's hard to square "leave no child behind" with a running mate who voted against Headstart.

KidCruize says: What did you think of the convention yesterday? Anything enlightening come out of the convention?

Al Franken:

I like the kids and the desks. One of the moments I noticed, which I'm sure nobody else noticed, was when Bill Frist, the junior senator from Tennessee, spoke in the afternoon, and said the Republicans want doctors and patients to make the medical decisions, and not large bureaucracies.

What he DIDN'T say was that the Frist family are stockholders in one of the largest HMOs in the country, and he's voted against every attempt to extend patients' rights to ensure they have more control over their medical care.

By the way, Columbia HCA in May agreed to pay a settlement to the Justice Department for defrauding Medicare and other federal insurance programs.

GHB says: Do you think that the Presidential race has degenerated into a popularity contest?

Al Franken:

I think that there is an aspect of that this year. I believe Clinton is making it look easy to be president. Gore seems stiff; I'd like to have a drink with W.

Moderator:

Have you gotten a chance to speak to any of the demonstrators outside the convention hall?

Al Franken:

No, I haven't, actually. I have been at the Shadow Conventions a few times, and I spoke there twice, but I haven't here. I've been shuttling back and forth between there and the Republican convention.

Moderator:

Do Americans not take politics seriously enough?

Al Franken:

Not enough Americans take politics seriously enough. I believe less than 50% of voters voted last time. We had an incredibly low turnout, largely because of cynicism. I think people don't care.

Pete Stahl says: Could this be the most content-free convention ever? There seems to be a total lack of drama. Even Gen. Powell's soft-on-crime, let's-bring-back-affirmative-action speech was greeted warmly. The major networks are right to ignore it, no?

Al Franken:

The major networks are right to ignore it because there are at least three 24-hour cable stations that cover it. Or four... MSNBC, CNN, C-SPAN and Fox.

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