Franken efforts to reinvent himself as a hard working, bipartisan sort of senator have been dropped in his reversion to the behaviors he exhibited as a comic, author and liberal radio talk show host -- sharp-tongued, anger and arrogance .
Al Franken, the Democrat from Minnesota who won election to the Senate after a successful career as a comic and author, has begun to show the sharp-tongued side of his personality by ripping into GOP staffers behind the scenes.I was somewhat surprised by the amount of self discipline he exercised during the campaign in his efforts to persuade Minnesota voters that he wasn't the mean spirited liberal author and talk show host. I started to wonder if he in deed had really reinvented himself for his new career as a US Senator, especially if he had national political ambitions. (Those ambitions seem to present in some of the books he previously wrote on policy issues and him picturing himself as president.)
Franken has worked diligently to keep a low public profile in Congress while focusing on wonky policy debates. But he has been unable to completely repress the fiery passion that made him a hero of the Democratic Party’s liberal base.Franken has teamed up with GOP colleagues to introduce a variety of legislation, something that may surprise fans who read his books, such as Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.But he has also pummeled Republican senators and their aides, showing a glimpse of the pugilistic style of his best-seller, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations.
"The Hill" article notes some of his recent activities.
Franken has surprised some of his colleagues behind the scenes by getting into heated tangles with GOP staffers.I think the quote from Minnesota political observer, Professor Larry Jacobs probably hits the nail on the head.
One such exchange took place in Franken’s office during a recent meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and his aides.
Franken invited Corker to his office to discuss an op-ed that Corker penned in a Tennessee newspaper opposing an amendment Franken offered to a defense bill. The measure gave the employees of defense contractors who suffer rape or sexual assault at the workplace the right to sue in court.
The meeting quickly deteriorated when Franken began berating one of Corker’s aides, according to GOP aides familiar with the incident. Franken’s sally was so harsh that Corker told Franken to lay off his aide and direct the comments at him instead.
Franken’s tough approach came as a surprise because Corker scheduled the meeting to mend fences after Franken confronted him about the op-ed during an angry exchange on the Senate floor.
Another GOP staffer, an aide to a Senate Republican leader, found herself at the sharp end of Franken’s wit at a recent reception in the Senate’s Mansfield Room. The tongue-lashing took place at an event to celebrate the swearing-in of GOP Sen. George LeMieux (Fla.).
After the conversation began ordinarily, Franken started to grill the aide about what he sees as the failings of the GOP. Franken demanded to know why it had become the "Party of No" and had exaggerated facts in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, according to another GOP leadership aide....
In addition to chewing out Corker over the op-ed, earlier this month Franken clashed loudly with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on the Senate floor. The dust-up was spurred by Thune’s claim that Democratic healthcare legislation would impose new taxes immediately but fail to implement benefits for several years.
Franken derided Thune’s floor presentation and implied that he had fabricated some of his facts, a more personal confrontation than usual in the clubby Senate. An irate Thune walked off the Senate floor after Franken revealed a private conversation they had on the topic.
“I asked if he mentioned any of the benefits that do kick in [immediately] and he said, ‘Uh no,’ ” Franken said in front of C-SPAN television cameras.
“We are entitled to our own opinions; we’re not entitled to our own facts,” Franken said, raising his voice. “Benefits kick in right away, and if you’re going to hold up a chart that says when taxes kick in and when benefits kick in … you better include the benefits that do kick in right away.”
Franken later apologized to Thune.
And last week, Franken cut off Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) during his speech on the Senate floor. Lieberman, who has drawn the ire of liberals over his opposition to the public health insurance option, asked for an additional moment to finish remarks about amendments he planned to offer, but Franken, who was presiding over the Senate, refused to grant the routine request.
"In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object," Franken said.
"Really?" replied Lieberman.
A spokeswoman for Franken said that the senator was just trying to move along with the legislation, but at a press conference late last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed disgust with Franken, saying that Lieberman's request for more time to extend his remarks was "objected to by the newest member of the United States Senate in a most brusque way ... We've got to stop this kind of behavior. I have never seen anything like that and I hope that I don't see it again."
“There is a war within Al Franken,” said Lawrence Jacobs, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. “The Al Franken head tells him to steer away from the limelight and build his reputation. Then there is his heart, which is quite fiery."
Jacobs said Franken must be careful not to engage in too many political brawls, or it could “reinforce for independent voters what they feared about him, that he’s a hot-headed partisan.”