Friday, August 15, 2008

An unfunny look at a funny man

Time profiles Al Franken, Democratic candidate for US Senate in Minnesota, former SNL star, left-wing radio personality, and razor sharp wit. According to the piece, his greatest asset, his humor and his mental acuity, are his greatest weaknesses.

Back when he was trying to be the Bill O'Reilly of the left, ranting as a host on Air America and writing books like Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, Franken didn't have to modulate his personality. Now he has cut way back on the joking and has become a little more boring than people are used to.
To me, it's disheartening that Americans constantly want to dumb down their political leaders so that they seem more accessible. I can't imagine that the French elected Nikolas Sarkozy because he was the one they'd most like to sip cafe au lait with, or that the Germans see Angela Merkel as a matronly grandma type who would cook them schnitzels if she weren't too busy running the country. Time also features a story called "Why Can't Candidates Be Celebrities?" that makes a good point:
What's not such a good thing is the way campaign culture tries to slap down candidates who don't seem to fit the definition of an "ordinary American." One would think the presidency would require a rather extraordinary American, but modern candidates are apparently supposed to pretend to be just like us.

I've said this before, but I don't want to feel like my President is a potential drinking buddy. I don't get inspired by these ordinary guys who reach extraordinary levels of achievement through dumb luck, or because they got handled and marketed to a public too stupid to know better. George W. Bush doesn't do it for me. Rush Limbaugh doesn't do it for me. Hillary Clinton, Dr. Phil, Celine Dion, or Ronald Reagan -- none of these people inspire me.

Instead, I'm inspired by extraordinary guys who fulfill their greatest potential and ascend to the highest levels in our society by being extraordinary, on their own merits, without hype or P.R. Bill Gates is that kind of guy. Oprah is that kind of "guy." Deepak Chopra, Albert Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and John Lennon -- they are all that kind of guy.

In 2008, after nearly eight years or ordinary guys playing shoot-'em-up with the world and wasting hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives, it's time for an extraordinary people to take over. Small-minded, angry little trolls who see nearly everything as a war to be fought need not apply.

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