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June 2017

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Al Franken: Giant of the Senate

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Those interested in a fun (but surprisingly serious) look at how the sausage is made.

In a nutshell: Comedy writer turned senator provides the story of how he got where he is, and what it really means to be a U.S. Senator.

Line that sticks with me: “They’re all extremely conservative Republicans who I’m sure don’t want me to say anything good about them. And make no mistake, I hope they get beat in their next elections. But they’re there right now! And just as part of my job is standing my ground against all the terrible hings they want to do, part of it is looking for opportunities to find common ground, because that’s how stuff gets done.” (p284)

Why I chose it: I’ve read most (maybe all?) of Sen. Franken’s books, and this one called my name from the airport bookstore.

Review: If you like Al Franken, then you’ll like this book. If you don’t, you still might like this. However, if you are looking for nothing more than revolution against all members of the GOP, then you might find Sen. Franken’s pragmatism unforgivable.

Sen. Franken spends nearly half of the book sharing how he got to be a senator. He talks (briefly) about his days working at Saturday Night Live, but spends a lot of time talking about how he came to the idea of running for office, his first race for senate, and then the recount. Man, I forgot about that one.

As interesting and pithy as that half of the book is, the fascinating stuff comes in the second half, when he’s in the senate. Hearing his perspective on why he works with some of these people that those of us on the outside despise is … almost convincing. Of course, he acknowledges that he’s a white guy working in politics, but I think he doesn’t necessarily give enough credence to the fact that as a white guy, he has more wiggle room and is probably seen as less threatening to some Republicans than others.

At the same time, though, I appreciated reading his perspective on his job, and why he loves it, and what it really means to be a U.S. Senator. How you don’t always get your way. How you need to think about the people you represent (in his case, Minnesotans), but also about your own morals.

He started writing this book in earnest in November, and was working on it well into this year, to the point where he can talk about his experience with the Trump administration and his cabinet appointees. He’s as pissed as we are, and he uses the last couple of chapters to both encourage us all to fight back, and to tell the story of a young woman who represents all that is good in the US.

It’s an interesting look at our government that left me a little more hopeful.

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